How to Grow a Podcast with Nicole Walker

In our 31st episode, Sofie is joined by Nicole Walker, creator, host, and producer of WinHers United. Together, they explore effective strategies for podcast growth, stressing the importance of seeking support and utilizing your community to amplify your message. Nicole also shares valuable insights on harnessing data to fuel your podcast’s expansion, making this episode a must-listen for aspiring podcasters eager to enhance their reach and impact.

Our next episode will be released on August 29th at 6 am Eastern time.

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About the Guest

Nicole Walker

Nicole is an Award Winning Podcaster, Global Influencer, International Speaker, Growth Strategist, and Women Empowerment Advocate. Nicole started podcasting in 2018, and her podcast, WinHers United, literally changed her life. Nicole has been named a Top 50 Mom in Podcasting, a 2020 Top Influencer, and was nominated for the 2021 Excellence in Audio Media Award. Nicole’s podcast is within the Top 5% of podcasts worldwide, won the 2020 Best Black Business Podcast Award, and was nominated for the 2022 Moment of Entrepreneurial Inspiration Award.

Nicole’s podcasting expertise has been featured on various platforms including Afros & Audio, Blk Pod Festival, Pod News, Podcast Movement, Podfest, WOC Podcasters, and Time Magazine. Nicole helps established podcasters and podcast conferences with sponsorship acquisition via data analytics, pitch deck creation, and sponsors identification and outreach.

Nicole enjoys helping others grow. She has spoken on numerous stages about various topics around business, mindset, and podcasting. Nicole is Certified in Women’s Entrepreneurship from Cornell University, has various certifications in training design and delivery, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Business Administration. She is also the proud mother of two children, and when she is not working she enjoys eating, scrapbooking, and traveling.



Sofie: Hello everyone and welcome back to Claim Your Potential, the empowerment podcast. I’m your host, Sofie, and for this episode, we are joined by Nicole Walker to explore the dynamic topic of growing your own podcast.

In twenty eighteen, Nicole embarked on her podcasting journey, propelling her into the ranks of the top fifty moms in podcasting and a twenty-twenty top influencer. Her show now stands proudly among the top five percent worldwide, achieving awards like the twenty-twenty Best Black Business Podcast Award, also being showcased on prestigious platforms including Afros & Audios, Black Pod Festival, and Time Magazine.

Beyond podcasting, Nicole is on a mission to empower women, guiding established podcasters and conferences to excel in sponsorship acquisition and more. Today, she joins us to share her invaluable insights into podcasting and its profound potential for positive change.

Please welcome, Nicole Walker. Thank you so much for being with us today, Nicole.

Nicole Walker: Thanks for having me, Sophie. I’m super excited to be here.

Sofie: We are super excited to have you on! This is our first time, or maybe our second but definitely we very rarely do we get a podcaster on our show. So this is super exciting for us – uh, podcaster to podcaster. There’s always such a fun conversation and I’d love to start our conversation off with hearing a little bit about your journey. When did you first realize that podcasting was the path you wanted to pursue?

Nicole Walker: Yeah. So that actually came about not by anything of my own doing surprisingly. Right? So back in twenty seventeen, I actually decided to hire a business coach and my business coach is the person who suggested podcasting to me. Prior to that I had not listened to a podcast, did not even know what a podcast was. And this was actually towards the end of twenty seventeen and then fast forward to March first of twenty eighteen, I had launched my podcast. Right? So yeah, taking advice or a suggestion, doing some research, and voila.

Sofie: I love that and that is so interesting to me because I know that for a lot of podcasters out there, it’s something that they’ve been wanting to do for a while and it’s, you know, always been something on their mind so it’s always interesting to hear of someone that kind of fell into it so to speak. So that’s – that’s super cool to hear. And I know that you – your podcast When Her’s United, what inspired you to start When Her’s United?

Nicole Walker: Yeah, so when I hired my business coach – it’s so funny because I actually wanted to do a scrapbooking business because I love to scrapbook. Right? And this person knows me from years before, like we were actually friends in high school, and when I told him scrap booking he’s like no. He’s like I see you on stages, I see you talking to women, I see you even having a focus for women of color. And then by him saying that, it actually ignited something in me because I did have the inkling, so to say, to want to do like motivational conversations, mindset conversations, leadership development conversations. Right? So if I could be honest, I would say that it actually started happening before I realized it was happening. I was in grad school for my masters, I took a class called leadership and that leadership class literally chewed me up, spit me out. It just really spit me around. Right? Because it helped me to realize that the leader I thought I was being was not the leader that was necessarily showing up every day all day.

And once I found this information, I actually had this desire to want to help other people understand that information. But it’s not like it was something that I was actively, you know, going after but it was like deep down inside. So in having that conversation with my business coach and him actually saying, “I see you doing this, that, and the third,” it was kind of that permission that I needed to allow myself to not want to hide and actually stand in a front and give people that information. And then also another caveat to that was that I actually had aspirations of being an entrepreneur. I had done some entrepreneurial things in the past but I hadn’t really taken myself seriously so I wanted to take myself seriously this time around. So for me deciding to interview women of color entrepreneurs, was a way for me hone my skills as an entrepreneur, and learn some of the secret sauce from all of these amazing women. And then use that for myself but also give it back to the world.

Sofie: And oh my goodness. I love that and I’m definitely – I’m connecting to what you’re saying in the sense that, you know, that taking away of knowledge from all these conversations that you’re having. I think that’s something that I – I definitely feel speaking with so many women on Claim Your Potential. Every episode I’m walking away with a new piece of wisdom or a new practice to employ or – or a new idea about a different sector that I might not be exposed to all the time. So you know, I definitely understand what you mean by just being around all that knowledge and – and the joy of talking to so many different people and really just like a sponge absorbing it all. So definitely relating to that in terms of – of starting your podcast and growing your podcast and perhaps this is just me trying to pick your brain a bit here, but what were some of those strategies that you found were helpful in really growing your podcast and achieving such recognition?

Nicole Walker: Yeah, so I would definitely say for me education is key. Right? So I actually moved. Right? So that was actually part of my beginning story too. I used to live in New Jersey, born and raised and I moved down to Florida right before I started my podcast. And then moving to Florida, I learned that it was a big podcast and community out here. So after learning that, I would go to different workshops. They would have meetups. Like monthly meetups and I would go there and I would learn different things. I would go to conferences and learn different things there. Right? So that honed in on me, learning the information actually growing. Right? Because when you get to network and meet with people you introduce yourself and hopefully, you’re also saying that, “hey I have a podcast. Right?” So that is allowing you to grow listeners. There are also strategies as far as like social media. I think social media is a great tool to use to grow your podcast. Right? And that could look like anything from joining different groups, I know Facebook as well as LinkedIn. They’re great as far as having those groups and utilizing those groups to introduce yourself as a podcaster, to introduce yourself as a subject matter expert, and possibly gain a following from that. And then not also say like TickTok as well as IG are very good for you know, utilizing those hashtags and allowing yourself to be found in those ways. Right?

Another way that you can grow your podcast that I’m not sure a lot of people really understand is it’s more feel like, I want to say lucrative but it’s a smart decision. Right? To actually be a guest on other people’s podcasts because if you think platform to platform, you know, like it’s super cool to tell are your social media friends that you have a podcast but getting a person to leave their social media platform to go over to listen to a podcast may not be as successful as talking about your podcast on another podcast because you’re already talking to podcast listeners. Right? So getting them to actually add another podcast into their rotation, is a higher probability of that. So that’s a great resource to use to grow your podcast as well.

Sofie: Yeah, that last point there is definitely something that I really undervalued when I started podcasting. I just – I promoted it to Instagram and Facebook and LinkedIn and – and that was our gross strategy for a while. And then I went on someone’s podcast just because I was in the mood. I was feeling like I kind of want to talk to someone today. So I went on someone’s podcast and as soon as that had released, we had such a spike in listeners. We had a spike in followers on our different social media accounts and so it was from then that I realized that – that is such an effective method that I feel like a lot of people really undervalue and really underutilize is being on other people’s podcasts because as you said, you’re already connected on that platform that you want people to go to. It’s a podcast to a podcast rather than as you said, hopping from a completely different app or website or whatever to a different form of consuming your information. So for sure, I definitely to all of our listeners out there, that’s such a great strategy to employ if you’re starting your podcast and you’re struggling to grow. Reach out to some people. There’s plenty of – of sites as well that you can go to that are free to use that you can find shows that are looking for guests. So absolutely there. And –

Nicole Walker: I do want to plug another like high level –  

Sofie: Yeah. 

Nicole Walker:  – tip. Yes, So another thing like, you know, once you do that and get yourself out there on social media and you go on other people’s podcasts. Right? Like you begin to grow these relationships and nurture these relationships. Right? So another hack is to connect with those other podcasters. You know grow those relationships and then you all can possibly do promo swaps. Right? So let’s say you swap promotions on each other’s social media platforms because this other person has a podcast. They may have a engage audience. Right? If you do some research into the statistics of podcasting because podcasting is such a personal platform, the listeners of podcasts actually really trust the host that they’re listening to. So a lot of times if a host says, “this is a great product to buy or a great podcast to listen to,” their listeners are more likely to do that. Right? So you can swap promotions on social media with different podcasters. You can choose to run ads on each other’s podcasts and swap that or another amazing thing, it’s like if you all actually decide to swap episodes. So you work with a podcast that of course is like in the same realm as yours you guys have the same target audience and you actually decide to swap out episodes for each other that is a great way to increase those listeners.

Sofie: Yeah. And speaking of ads, I know that part of what you do as a growth strategist is you assist podcasters in securing those sponsorships and generating revenue. And so going into that ad conversation, what are some effective approaches for podcast monetization that you recommend to fellow podcasters?

Nicole Walker: Yeah, so I like to tell people because I think a lot of people because there’s such a low barrier of entry into podcasting, you know, a lot of people want to become podcasters and they wanted to instantly be successful and instantly give them all of this money. Right? And I like to tell people that a lot of times podcasting is a long game. Right? And a lot of times podcasting is a funnel and when I say it’s a funnel, it’s usually a way to get people into your orbit to possibly sell to them other things. Right? So some ways to make money in podcasting could be to create a membership group. Right? And the people that are listeners to your podcast can then become members of your group. Another way is if you have products that you sell advertising, those products on your podcasts as your call to action for your listeners, “hey if you love this episode about how to bake a cake then purchase my ebook about how to bake a cake. I go really in depth more than I did on this episode about how to bake a cake in my ebook.” Right? Another thing that podcasting is great for is to get you speaking engagements. Right? So it’s a great platform to launch you in that direction as well as coaching as well as consulting. Right? So basically, showing yourself as a subject matter expert and getting yourself out there.

In relation to that now as far as getting advertisers or advertisements on your podcast, I would say what I tell my clients is the first thing I like to do is to start with your podcast data. You know, like what does that data look like and actually I take it a step further than podcast data. Right? Because the way the podcast in the world is set up, unless you have thousands and thousands of downloads per episode, you know, you traditionally the – the way it’s set up, you’re not going to make a huge amount of money. Right? But people often fail to take into consideration their entire ecosystem. Right? So, you know, you may not have thousands and thousands of downloads per episode, but you have a loyal following for your podcast. You have a decent following on your social media. You have a decent email marketing campaign going with a decent amount of subscribers. Your web site gets a decent amount of hits per month. Every quarter, by annually, or annually you host an event. Those are all outlets that you could put together and create packages to offer to a potential sponsor. Right? So I tell people to look at your entire ecosystem and put that together as a package as opposed to just looking at your podcasts. Right? So yeah, looking at that data, also creating a media kit. Right? So that’s something that I help people with as well. It’s like ok, you have all of this amazing things going on, how are you showcasing that in bite size chunks? You know, so that a person can look, understand, and make a decision. Right?

So creating that media kit, having it polished and professional to the point, you know. And giving people the information they need to decide if they want to do business with you. Then you have to decide what companies you want to work with. What companies actually want to get in front of your listeners. Who are your listeners? So taking a time to understand who’s my audience and what makes my audience valuable. Then what other companies also value my audience so that I can position myself to show that my podcast, my social media, my web site, my email list, my events is a viable option for this individual company. Right? Then you take it a step further and once you decide those companies, you actually have to figure out who’s the go to people in those companies. Who’s in the marketing department? Who’s in a partnerships department? Who’s in the growth department? And a strategy that I use is not to just reach out to you know the administrative assistant. Right? Because they’re not the person that makes the decisions but to actually reach out to management. To reach out to see, if the company’s not that large. Right? But to reach out to those people that can actually decide to spend the dollars that you’re looking for them to spend. Right? And then there’s you know, investigation into finding that person’s email address and then once you find that you know having a persuasive pitch email that you send out to these companies.

And you know one of the number one keys that I think a lot of people get hung up on is that the fortune is in a follow up. Right? Like a lot of people, you know, may send one email or make one phone call or send one DM and feel like, “oh, this person doesn’t like me. Oh, my podcast is not good enough or my brand is not good enough.” But no, oftentimes you have to reach out and continue to reach out and I’m not talking every day five times a day. Right? Because it gets weird then. Right? But you know a decent schedule of reaching out and reminding that person, “hey, you know, don’t forget I have this opportunity for you,” and also realizing that it’s an opportunity for that company. Not that you’re going begging for anything but you have an opportunity for them to get in front of your loyal listeners, fan base, followers. Whatever you want to call them. Right? Understanding that you have an opportunity for them and reaching out and continuing to reach out until you get a yes or until you get a no.

Sofie: And right it falls under that that umbrella of it never hurts to ask and that’s something that I think a lot of podcasters, especially women struggle with. Is I – I feel like women, we never really want to ask for help. And this is just something that I’m trying to work on and I see so many other women struggle with it. But we usually don’t want to ask for help and the thought of reaching out to someone that we’ve never spoken to before in our life, that we have no connection with whatsoever, to ask for money essentially, I think is such a scary feeling. Or just even thinking about it right now is – is making my heart palpitate and my hands sweat. So it’s – it’s definitely something I think a lot of us are scared of, but again, as you said it never hurts to ask because we don’t know. 

Nicole Walker: Right.

Sofie: You know and it’s – there’s so many people in this world. There’s so many companies in this – in this world that does it really matter if you get a hundred no’s because at some point you’re going to get a yes.

Nicole Walker: And you know what? You just made me think of two different things. Right? So the first thing you made me think of is something that I also have to remind myself of. It’s a – I guess it’s a quote. I forget where I probably learned it from someone on my podcast and it was the answers always no, until you ask or unless you ask. Right? Like the answers always no if you never make the ask. Right? So you have your initial no because you’re not reaching out to see if it’s anything other than a no. Right? And then the other thing that actually a teenpreneur – right? She’s so amazing. Oh my goodness she started her business I think when she was like seven years old and like she’s just reaching such amazing heights in her business. She said to her, no is not no, no just means not now or not right now. Right? So oftentimes, even if you get a no, that doesn’t mean reaching out to this person next year, six months from now or whatever to see if anything changed with the decision that they made at that previous time.

Sofie: Yes, oh my goodness. Yes, I cannot agree more with that. I think that’s such a great way to think about it too where – and props to her because I that’s definitely what I’ve seen in – in the times that I have reached out and I’ve gotten a no back. You know, maybe a couple months later I’ll reach out again and I’ll check in and say, “hey, you know it’s been a while since we’ve spoken last time we talked. You know, I asked if you wanted to get involved with this. Just wanted to check in to see if, you know, if this is still something that might interest you.” And usually, I will get a yes back where I’ll get a, you know, what send me another email in two months and we’ll talk then. But at least again, it’s not a no, that’s the end of discussion. It’s a no for right now. So I definitely love that there. I think that is such a great way to think about it. I know I definitely need to go into some of my sponsorship conversations more like that and less of, “oh, they said no. All right moving on to the next person.” So absolutely there. And I want to take a moment to kind of talk about the – the content aspect of podcasting. I think a lot of newer podcasters, and I know I’ve definitely struggled with this as well, is trying to figure out how do you create engaging and valuable content that can grow your podcast. So are you able to share your process for brainstorming planning and delivering episodes that really resonate with your audience and get that engagement?

Nicole Walker: Yeah, so something that I give in one of my talks so and it actually comes from data is to if you’re already a podcaster is to take time and dig into your data. Right? So dig into what episodes of your podcast are most popular cause that’s your audience telling you what they like the most. Right and once you do that if you want to pull and actually decide to give them more episodes that lend themselves to the episodes that are more popular, that’s a way that you’re directly giving your listeners what they have shown you that they want to listen to by way of numbers. Right? So for me and what I do in podcasting, it’s a little tricky. Right? Because I interview women of color entrepreneurs, similar to what you’re doing right now. You know Sophie, interviewing me. Right? So it’s like ok, but we talk about for us is, you know, a little different. Right? Like we talk about more mindset stuff and leadership stuff. Right? So it’s like that per se may not be able to tell me what they want to listen to. It may more likely be based on the popularity of my guests. But if your topics range and vary based on whatever your overarching message is, then that’s a great way to determine another way is to actually create a survey and find out from your listeners. What do they want to hear? Ask people to jump in your DMs like ask the people to tell you what they want from you. Right?

Ask the people to tell you what they want from you. Right? That’s a great – great way for you to do that, you know, and then I would also say utilizing like SEO – SEO options. Right? So there’s a web site – oh my goodness, is not coming to the top of my mind. I haven’t used it in a while but there’s a web site out there that you can search different keywords. Right? So you know, whatever your topic is let’s say is business. Right? Like you search business and then you can find out the kind of questions that people are asking Google or all of those search engines about business. Right? So that and it’s – it’s a long, it gives you a long list. Right? So utilizing that data, that gives you exactly what’s most popular in the world, you know, and you can streamline and pull-out different pieces from that and create episodes that directly attribute themselves to the questions that individuals are typing into the search engines. Right? I would say also paying attention to the trends that are happening in your industry. Right? Like if there are emerging topics or emerging trends within the industry then it’s in your best interest to pull in those topics and talk about them on your podcast. And those are a few things that come to my mind off the top and I’m so bummed I can’t think of that website. I’m gonna try to think of it for you.

Sofie: Yeah, I’ll definitely look into it on my end as well because I think that something that would be great for – for Claim Your Potential and definitely something that we’ve struggled with in creating content is really figuring out what our listeners want to hear and so for us it’s just been a lot of trial and error. And we’re still trialing and erroring so to speak. So it’s definitely, you know, a lot of it comes down to don’t be afraid to try new things. Don’t be afraid to, you know, get out of your comforts zone a little bit and so, you know, maybe throwing out an episode that you haven’t done before that’s not at all, you know, still fitting in your theme of course but not like any of the other episodes that you’ve done yet. So you know, definitely trial and error is so important and just actually quite a fun process.

Nicole Walker: Right? 

Sofie: It might not be fun when you look at the stats. But it’s fun actually recording new episodes and – and just seeing where you can go with it.

Nicole Walker: Right? And if you don’t do those things, how will you know what works or what doesn’t work? Right? So I think it’s such a valuable tool, you know, a lot of people look at things as failure but failure quote unquote, because I don’t like to use that word, it teaches you lessons. Right? So to me, learning a lesson is a major win and I actually did remember the web site. It’s called answer the public dot com.

Sofie: Oh, thank you. Yeah, I’m going to go look at that right after this because I would love to know what people are asking, especially when it comes to women’s empowerment because we have our financial empowerment, academic, emotional, and professional empowerment pillars at Claim Your Potential. So, I’m always curious to see, you know, what the questions are in each areas? That’s fascinating. And to really connect everything together, what is one thing that our listeners should take away from this episode?

Nicole Walker: Yeah, so I feel like what popped in my mind as I was listening to some of the things that we were talking about and that you were saying in response is that in relation to podcasting, persistence is key and consistency is key. And that’s actually something that I forgot to say which a lot of people underestimate in relation to growing your podcast. Right? Like really being consistent, creating a schedule, sticking to the schedule, telling your listeners when they can expect you, when not to expect you and things like that. Like that is an amazing way to grow your podcast. Right? So in that it ties into, you know, reaching out to sponsors and all of those things. Right? So I would say consistency is key, you know, and being persistent is the way that you grow your podcast and be around for the long run in relation to podcasting.

Sofie: Yeah, persistency just being and being consistent for sure. Definitely two pieces I’ve noticed. My – my family, my friends will tell you that it doesn’t matter what’s going on in my life rain or shine, I will always publish a new episode right on schedule because of that consistency, you know, you don’t want to let listeners down. You know, you don’t want them to be waiting and following your show and waiting for those new episode reminders only for it not to come out and then same thing with that – that just being persistent. Right? Because it takes a while to get growth on a podcast and, you know, your first few episodes, even for us our first twenty episodes, we did not see the type of traction that we wanted to see. And so I was very close to – to giving up and saying, “you know what? Let me cut my losses. I don’t want to deal with this anymore.” But I decided to keep going and then now I’m starting to see some of that –that response from people. So for sure just be persistent and be consistent. I love that and for all of our listeners that don’t want to stop hearing your amazing wisdom, how can they connect with you?

Nicole Walker: Yeah, so if you want to learn more about me and When Her’s United in relation to my podcast, you can go to Win Her’s United dot com and that’s Win Her’s United dot com. Right? If you’re looking for help in relation to creating a media kit, analyzing your podcast data, or getting sponsorship for your podcasts or events, you can go to Win Her’s United dot come forward slash book a call. And if you want to follow me on social media, I’m at When Her’s United and I also have links to my social media on my website.

Sofie: Wonderful. Thank you so much for coming onto the podcast, Nicole. It’s been an absolute pleasure and I am going to be sending this episode to our podcast team as soon as it is released that they can take some of the notes that you’ve talked about so that we can apply it to our own podcast and hopefully – hopefully grow on our end as well. So thank you so much for coming on to the podcast, Nicole.

Nicole Walker: I love that I was – it was awesome to be here. Thanks for having me. 

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