BackTable / Sponsor / Media
The Benefits of Podcast Advertising for Medical Device & Pharmaceutical Companies
Rachel Garcia • Jan 18, 2022
Podcasts have become a popular advertising platform because they allow brands to reach highly engaged audiences with targeted messaging. While podcast advertising has helped several emergent brands become household names in recent years, podcast advertising is not just for business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing. Podcasts are proving to be an effective advertising channel for business-to-business (B2B) healthcare marketing as well, owing to the fact that podcasts are able to explore in-depth medical topics in a way that other media cannot. Podcasts geared towards physicians often explore the latest guidelines for specific conditions, what to prescribe in different patient scenarios, what equipment to use, and even how to perform specific procedures. The unique educational format of podcasting allows medical device and pharmaceutical marketers to reach physicians while they listen.
In 2021, the number of U.S. podcast listeners reached roughly 117.8 million people. That’s about 40% of internet users, which significantly surpasses Twitter’s 37 million daily U.S. users in the same year. Considering that medical device and pharmaceutical marketing now relies heavily on LinkedIn and Twitter for content distribution and reach, podcasts are another opportunity for the same companies to get brand and message exposure to specialized physician decision makers.
Today, only a fraction of medical device and pharmaceutical companies are capitalizing on the targeted reach that podcasts can provide, while the majority of companies continue to invest heavily in print, webinars, and other mediums that have become commonplace in medical device and pharmaceutical marketing. Because podcasts are a relatively new channel, many industry marketers are hesitant to put their budget towards podcast advertising or have trouble securing approval from the many stakeholders in their organization (regulatory, legal, product management, senior management, to name a few). To overcome these hurdles, let’s break down podcast sponsorship and the benefits for medical device and pharmaceutical companies.
Table of Contents
Podcast Sponsorship 101
How To Get Started with Podcast Advertising
Tracking and Measuring Success with Podcasts
Frequently Asked Questions
Podcast Sponsorship 101
Podcast sponsorship provides a way for businesses to advertise on episodes that cover specific topics, similar to a radio show with commercials and endorsements. In the healthcare space, podcasts are a rapidly growing platform that physician and other medical professionals utilize for on-the-go content consumption. This makes sense given that healthcare professionals often have limited time at their computers and resort to audio feeds during their shifts and downtime.
For marketers, podcasts are a cost-effective advertisement option with a quick return-on-reach for highly specific audiences, especially when compared to the cost of medical device and pharmaceutical magazine ads, trade show advertising, and even exhibitions. These types of channels compete with other sponsors and only attract a broad net of healthcare attendee roles. They are often difficult to track and have a short shelf life. Even though podcast advertising began around 2003, it is still considered a non-traditional, evergreen channel. Considering the content approval process for medical device and pharmaceutical businesses, and the time it takes to get content out the door, podcasts are a win-win channel to consider.
Who should and shouldn’t advertise on podcasts?
Podcasts are much like trade magazines where they offer content for a niche audience. Only, podcasts are different from trade magazines in a couple of key ways. Podcasts do not have the risk of a reader skipping pages or the unknown of whether someone viewed the advertisement. Also, they give a brand an opportunity to expand their marketing mix with more channel touchpoints and fewer advertising contract commitments.
Podcasts offer additional benefits such as:
Traceability: Because podcasting is a digital channel, marketers can receive metrics like episode clicks, downloads, engagement, traffic, and more.
Access to highly specific audiences: Podcasts attract subscribers and loyal listeners.
Brand credibility and exposure: Host-read endorsements become part of the podcast content and drive brand credibility.
External linking opportunities: Specific episodes that feature promoted brands or products can externally link in online content or collateral, which helps with SEO.
Evergreen materials: So long as the episode stays online or is active, so is the advertisement or commissioned content, allowing it to be leveraged again in future campaigns.
Amplification: Marketers and KOLs can amplify the reach of commissioned content via social media and other digital channels.
What to look for in a podcast partner?
The perfect podcast partner is similar to finding the right influencer or key opinion leader (KOL) for content development and social media. Here are some helpful tips when looking for the right podcast partner for B2B healthcare marketing:
Demographics - Does the podcast show offer demographics that align with the target audience you want to reach? Demographics are becoming more accessible every year and currently include geolocation and medical specialty. All you have to be ready to provide is who you want to target or reach and the right podcast partner can help from there.
Context - What type of topics and content are routinely focused on by the podcast show and its episodes? Do these episodes support your brand image? Context goes hand-in-hand with your target audience. Be sure to listen to the show’s episodes and determine if running an advertisement or sponsoring those specific episodes would resonate with your brand and the audience.
Media Kit - Does the podcast partner provide different tiers or podcast sponsorship packages in their offer? Without an established media kit, your marketing strategy and budgeting for podcast advertising rates become a moving target. If you work for a small medical device or pharmaceutical start-up company, this flexibility or “start-up” workflow may work ideal for your marketing needs. But if working for a mid to large company or trying to scale, this type of pricing ambiguity may become a barrier to your KPIs and in your annual planning. Regardless, be sure to create a standardized agreement or set pricing that helps support your marketing goals and ROI.
Size and Budget - How much budget are you willing to spend to support your strategy but also secure a higher share of voice? If your budget is on the low end, consider investing in frequency over audience size. This will help when tracking your reach and smaller shows or investment can always grow over time with the metrics.
Downloads - How many times is the podcast show or episode downloaded by a unique IP address each month? When considering the share of voice, podcast popularity or podcast effectiveness, and reach goals, this is a key metric to understand with your podcast partner. And, even if the downloads are lower than ideal, consider the current plays or subscriber types. For example, if the podcast has 1,000 monthly subscribers, 70-80% may be active listeners and consist of a channel-specific target audience. This is far better than having 1,000 monthly subscribers from a generalized channel - where only 5% are active listeners and from your target audience.
Quality - Would you routinely listen to this podcast and does the podcast audio or approach impress you? This ties into brand image and reputation management. Sound, music, host credibility, professionalism, branding, and content should be important to any company, not just the highly regulated medical device or pharmaceutical companies. Just because the offer or investment is cheap doesn’t mean it’s the best for your brand and image. Consider the quality of output - from audio to promotion - when it comes to selecting the right podcast partner.
Ad Types - What type of ads are being offered during the podcast? Aside from pre-, mid-, and post-roll standard ad placements, there are other types of ads to consider. For example, host-read ads are read by the podcast partner/host and gain trust by podcast listeners. According to Statista 2021 research, host-read ads are the highest ad types with the highest ad revenue. There are also podcasts where you can commission topics (suggest the podcast topic or sponsor a KOL on a podcast) or get a 3-6 minute commercial feature. Although the latter options are not as common right now with healthcare podcasts, they are emerging and may elevate your marketing strategies or campaigns even further. You can listen to some podcast advertising examples here.
Measurement - Does the podcast partner provide podcast advertising stats or metrics? If you are not measuring your marketing you will not know if the investment is working for you. But measuring performance on platforms not owned by your own company is not easy or accurate and requires your podcast partner to supply this routinely. The easiest method of measurement is through a real-time dashboard tracking your specific metrics across any sponsorship activities. Here’s an example of what a dashboard could look like:
If your podcast partner does not have the capabilities to provide a dashboard of tracked data, they should at a minimum provide the key metrics over an agreed frequency. This can be supplied over slides or summarized in an email. If these options still aren’t possible, depending on your podcast strategies or level of desired investment, consider tracking your own metrics using tools like Podsights or Podtrac. If your podcast partner supports this, you can leverage these tools for any specific sponsored episodes.
How to Get Started with Podcast Advertising
Podcast sponsorships and advertisements start with exposing yourself to industry-relevant podcasts. Identify your target audience and find healthcare-relevant podcasts that attract your target audience. Other steps recommended to take are as follows:
Research podcast shows: Listen, listen, listen to a variety of podcast episodes. Also, look into the prospective podcast partner’s social media presence, website, and where they promote or post their podcast episodes. Any sentiment or social proof you can find online (or offline via colleagues or referrals) is a bonus.
Identify your marketing goals and objectives: Although not an inclusive list, here are some examples to get you started: increasing brand awareness, improving targeted reach, generating influencers or brand advocates, delivering a message or product promotion. In any case, it’s important to understand whether or not your potential podcast partner has the audience to help you achieve your objectives.
Understand budget, costs, and pricing: Get a handle on your budget before speaking to potential podcast partners, and also consider that it may require some level of effort on the part of your organization to coordinate with your podcast partner even after the agreement is signed. Established podcasters will likely have a small variety of sponsorship offerings with different value propositions, so approaching them with a spend target in mind will help you arrive at the sponsorship plan that makes the most sense for your budget.
Contact podcast partners: The easiest way to contact prospective podcast partners is via direct inquiry. This lets you see how they communicate, what they offer, and allows you to explore their full catalogue of offerings, which may not be listed on their website. Established podcasters will likely have a comprehensive media kit and set pricing for their sponsorship programs, and if they do not offer this, consider whether this is a pro or a con in your review of an ideal partner.
Tracking and Measuring Success with Podcasts
Tracking and measuring success is vital in any marketing effort. At a minimum, we recommend tracking the following podcast metrics to ensure that your podcast campaign is meeting your expectations:
Podcast plays: Podcast plays (also called “downloads” in the podcast advertising measurement world) are the primary KPI in podcast advertising, as play counts are the best indicator of how many times your messaging is heard by your listeners. Typically, podcasts are hosted on multiple platforms simultaneously (Apple, Spotify, YouTube), so it’s important to have valid tracking and reporting across all platforms to get the full picture. It’s also worth noting that some audio hosting platforms count plays with measurement standards that are not accredited by a recognized advertising authority. Ensure that your podcast partner uses accredited measurement methods in their tracking, or else you’re probably at risk of over-counting the real number of plays.
Unique listeners: If you’re sponsoring multiple episodes on the same show, the number of unique listeners across your sponsored episodes can help you understand the reach and frequency of your messaging, and how engaged the audience is with your commissioned content.
Ad Impressions: Impressions count the number of times that your specific ad is heard, independent of the number of podcast plays. Impression tracking isn’t necessary if your messaging plays within the first couple minutes of the podcast episode, but if you’re buying mid-roll or post-roll placements, impression reporting is essential to understand how many listeners stick around for your ad.
Additional Support and Resources
For more support and resources on growing brand awareness and identifying ways to deliver on marketing goals with podcasts, we recommend these resources:
Frequently Asked Questions
Why should you sponsor a healthcare podcast?
Podcasts reach a highly specific and targeted audience in a budget-friendly way, allowing sponsors to get brand and message exposure to specialized physician decision makers. Podcast sponsorship increases brand and product awareness and can be used to educate listeners around major product milestones, including product launches, clinical results, and feature iterations.
How effective is podcast advertising?
According to a 2016 Edison Research Podcast Advertising Study, 65% of podcast listeners are willing to consider purchasing products or services they learn about during a podcast.
How does podcast advertising work?
Brands develop and pay for the placement of their advertising in various ways. Podcasts can be plugged into an audience network that automatically sources advertisements based on listener demographics and interests. Advertising can also be bought directly from the podcast partner based on established podcast advertising rates and media kits. The former is more common for B2C podcast advertising where audiences are large and diverse, whereas the latter is more common in B2B podcast advertising where audiences tend to be focused and niche.
How much does it cost to advertise on a healthcare podcast?
Costs vary across industry and podcasts. The best way to identify pricing for podcast sponsorship is to inquire directly or to locate a media kit from the podcast provider.
For over four years, BackTable has provided the medical community with an on-demand podcast platform of peer-to-peer education to improve healthcare and promote industry innovation. Reach physician decisions makers at home, in their cars, and between rounds, visit https://backtable.com/sponsor to learn how.
About the Author
Rachel Garcia is a marketing executive in the life sciences and healthcare industry. She has worked with small, mid-sized, and large medical device companies including TriSalus Life Sciences, Materna Medical, and Terumo.