Having created @onehungryjew and @brosbeingbasic, respectively, Rayna Greenberg and Ashley Hesseltine had large enough followings to have been invited on a press trip for social media influencers. They met in Aruba and had the same first impression: “She is funny as hell.” Fast friends, they started Girls Gotta Eat, a comedy podcast about relationships, a few months later.

That was two years and more than 100 episodes ago. Now, Girls Gotta Eat is one of the top comedy podcasts on iTunes. Ashley and Rayna recently visited our office and shared their success story, much of which is applicable to retail marketers. Here are four takeaways:

Ellen Terchila, Marigold Engage by Sailthru’s SVP of Customer Success, with Rayna Greenberg and Ashley Hesseltine of the Girls Gotta Eat podcast

1. Understand Your Brand…

Podcasts are exceptionally popular at the moment. As that popularity continues to skyrocket, its ad revenue follows. PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Interactive Advertising Bureau project that podcast revenue will surpass $1 billion by next year. Girls Gotta Eat has a sales representative who helps the podcast find advertisers — but not just any advertiser.

“We treated the podcast like a business from day one and our goal was obviously to make money eventually, but we didn’t expect or attempt to monetize it early on. We built the audience first and really built a base around what the vibe of this is,” says Rayna. “We’re not going to push something that doesn’t make sense to a millennial female audience. All of our ads are effective because we use the products so we can speak about them in an exciting, organic way.”

The same goes for guests. If they’re not a natural fit for Girls Gotta Eat, they probably won’t make a great guest, no matter the size of their social media following.

For a marketer, this means… everything. Your language, your content, your promotions: They should all fit in with the greater context of your brand. Valentine’s Day is a lucrative day for many retailers, but that doesn’t mean a Valentine’s Day sale is a natural fit for all of them. Doesn’t one of these make more sense than the other?

2. …And Understand What Makes Your Brand Different

Disney is synonymous with fun; Apple, innovation; Amazon, selling everything that’s ever existed and getting it to your doorstep in 48 hours. It’s no surprise that all three are in the top 10 of brand consultancy firm Interbrand’s list of 2019’s “top 10 global brands.”

What are you known for? What sets your brand apart? One differentiator for the Girls Gotta Eat podcast is its live shows. The first live show was initially conceived as a regular episode, just IRL. “We did think we were going to record it because that’s what you do; it’s a live episode,” says Ashley. A week before the show, they changed their minds.

The live shows are more of an interactive comedy experience. Like the podcast, Rayna and Ashley tell stories and read the funniest emails they’ve received. There’s also a ton of audience participation; for example, guests go on stage and share their dating apps, while the audience collectively decides who to swipe right on. “It’s a full-blown circus. We don’t want you to leave with anything except that you laughed for two hours,” adds Ashley.

From a retailer standpoint, think about Best Buy. Once on track to be decimated by Amazon, Best Buy focused on something Amazon can’t offer: expertise and human connection. That’s an ongoing theme of Best Buy’s marketing communications, such as post-purchase messaging that teaches customers how to use their new products.

3. Create a Community

Every morning, Rayna used to spend an hour going through her direct messages, responding to each one. The podcast now has 157,000 Instagram followers and Rayna has more than double that on her own account; writing everyone back is no longer feasible. However, that avalanche of messages highlights the strong community that the Girls Gotta Eat podcast has created.

And the community factors into every episode, not just the live shows. Girls Gotta Eat regularly features crowd-sourced content, such as listeners’ emails and their responses to podcast’s questions on Instagram Stories. “Our listeners are so funny and clever and quick, and it’s a great way to incorporate our audience into the show,” says Rayna. “A lot of people tune in to see if their thing was read on the show.”

This tactic easily translates to retail. Every year, Sailthru evaluates and ranks the personalized marketing capabilities of 250 retailers, cross-referencing that with customer sentiment. The undefeated champion of the Index, Sephora is also one of the brands with the strongest communities. The brand’s website has a section for Beauty Insiders to follow topics, discuss tips and products with other members, and share their own photos. Similarly, but simpler to execute, you can include user-generated content in emails.

4. Think About Your Evolution

That first live show was in September 2018. By the end of February, when Ashley and Rayna are touring in Australia, there will have been 66 of them. Ashley says, “The show is 100% different from day one. I’m always thinking about how we can outdo the previous one in terms of entertainment.”

Every live show has an opening act, which epitomizes the podcast’s evolution. One entrance involved the Boston Celtics dancers. Another lampooned the “Jingle Bell Rock” performance from Mean Girls. If there’s extra revenue, it goes toward taking the opening act to the next level. But however over the top it may be, it’s ultimately consistent with the vibe of the podcast. That’s important for retailers as they think about their growth, which should still reflect the brand’s original iteration.

Following the success of brands like Rent the Runway and Stitch Fix, it seems like every retailer is launching its own subscription model. But like Valentine’s Day sales, this isn’t as natural a fit for everyone as it is for, say, URBN, the parent company of Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters, which launched a rental service last summer.

Whats next for Girls Gotta Eat? Ashley and Rayna would love to become the first podcast duo to have a comedy special. Either way, the live shows are going to keep evolving. Will there be more entourages of dancers? One of the New England Patriots cheerleaders recently liked one of Rayna’s Instagram posts so don’t rule it out.