Podcasts require a lot of time and effort. You have to constantly come up with new content; good content! How many people will listen, or in-turn, buy your products as a result? Despite these concerns, there are solid reasons why you should consider producing a podcast for your business or organization.
This article is the first in a series concerning online business and marketing. I had intended it to be the last (with why you need a website being first!), but since it is National Podcast Day (1)In the USA, but it is being celebrated internationally within the podcast community. Also check Twitter hashtag #podcastday I decided to start with podcasting. Watch for upcoming topics: Why your business must have a Website, Why your business should have a blog, and Why should a business care about social media?
Why does this matter? Don’t you make Websites?
Yes, we create Websites at cgWerks, but we also do a whole lot more. We want your business to succeed, thrive, and flourish. Accomplishing this takes more than creating a website and putting it out on the Internet. A website should be only one component of your communication and marketing strategy. Blogs, podcasts, and social networking layer into this big picture of your online presence – which is yet a segment of overall communication and marketing.
Wouldn’t a podcast be expensive or time-consuming?
On first glance, it does seem unlikely to pay off. Producing a good – or better – worthwhile podcast will take some resources. While it can be done on a minimal budget, it is going to be a considerable time investment. Most businesses or organizations, especially small ones, would seem to have far better things to do with their time. And on some level, I agree.
I see a podcast as something you add after you have done a reasonable job with your website, blog, and some social media interaction. If you can’t find time or money to do these, you’re unlikely to be a successful podcaster either. And all of these components tie together. While you could create a killer podcast, if you don’t have a website, blog, or a basic understanding of social media, growth will likely be slow. Even if you gain popularity on iTunes or Stitcher, such interest will be greatly diminished when listeners go looking for you online and come up empty.
So, how much time and money?
First, the cost at getting started podcasting can be quite minimal. Assuming you already have a reasonably capable computer, I’d recommend you have a decent microphone. And once you’ve produced your podcast, you’ll need to host it somewhere. This is going to cost you less than $100 in hardware and $5-$15 per month in hosting fees. While I could make recommendations here, you’ll find the advice you need by following the experts at any of the resources listed at the end of this article. Of course, you can buy all sorts of fancy gear to up your game, as well as software and services. If you do interview based podcasts, you’ll need another mic, maybe a mixer, and/or software. But, the cost of entry should be a non-issue for most businesses or organizations.
Time, however, is another matter. Most experts indicate approximately a 4:1 ratio of time producing a podcast to the actual run-time of the podcast. (2)For example, I know Daniel J Lewis of The Audacity to Podcast recommends this calculation. This means that a typical hour-long podcast is going to take 4 hours of work. And, this is after you’ve gotten over the initial learning curve and have your format down. (3)Note: that initial learning curve can be greatly reduced – and costly mistakes avoided – by learning from the pros through their podcasts and websites, or by paying for their educational services! And great content will likely require even more time in research and preparation before the production even begins.
Most experts also recommend a consistent release schedule, typically weekly. While a few podcast daily, and some monthly or less, the most successful (within reasonable time-constraints), are the weekly podcasters. And, that is a pretty big resource commitment.
So, why podcast?
Unless you already agree with me that podcasting might be an important aspect of your online communication and marketing strategy, you’re probably wondering why anyone would put in such effort. Podcasts don’t seem to make much sense to bean-counters. Very few podcasts directly earn any income.
But, in the big picture, it might be the single most important marketing move you ever make! Podcasting is about building trust, relationship, and authority. In the end, that’s really what good business boils down to. Podcasting is also incredibly important in terms of communicating your brand and ideology. In fact, I’d argue there is no better medium for doing so!
But before we even get to the relationship building aspect, it is good to realize something about visibility of your message and content. There are literally hundreds of millions of blogs on the Internet. There are only a couple hundred thousand podcasts. While both sound like a lot, once you get into a particular niche or industry, both numbers greatly reduce. But just a simple calculation indicates you’re looking at thousands of times less competition in getting noticed through a podcast. Cliff Ravenscraft refers to this as shrinking the haystack. (4)Referring to the concept of finding a needle in a haystack. If the haystack gets small enough, you’re much more likely to find it.
People these days dislike – and are often skeptical of – being sold to, cold-called, or pressured into anything. Podcasting lets your customer come to you on their terms, after they have already decided they like you, your company, and products.
I listen to a lot of podcasts, and I often find myself wanting to justify buying something from many of these folks. They have given me so much great information. I’ve gotten to know them. I want to be their friend and help support them. If their product is useful to me and within my budget, I’m almost a certain sale.
The result is that the audience you draw has great potential to become very invested listeners and customers. Even a small audience can bring about much larger results than their numbers would indicate to traditional marketers. I heard one podcaster say they would rather have 1 dedicated podcast listener than 1000 blog visitors.
Once someone trusts you, it is much easier to build a lasting relationship. While it is a bit different in business than our personal lives, it isn’t as different as is often portrayed. Business today depends more on relationship than ever.
Many years ago, relationship was crucial. The problem was that with limited communication, the snake-oil salesman could just move to another area. During the Industrial Revolution until the recent Internet Age, communication just couldn’t keep up with the scale of business. An effective marketing effort and PR campaign could often outweigh a lot of bad business practices.
This simply isn’t the case any longer. A business with poor customer relations will soon be having business difficulty. On the flip side, those with the best customer relations can hardly keep up, if they can effectively communicate and demonstrate this attribute. Remember the old adage that a happy customer tells 2-3, while an unhappy customer tells 8-10 or more. With today’s communication abilities, this old adage can be greatly amplified – for better or worse.
Podcasting leverages that happy aspect. It becomes a voice to let your audience know how excellent your customer service is, by demonstrating it. It separates you, moving you from the good-company pack, to the excellent company pack. And when you are excellent, people begin to tell others; they are happy to do so.
This is the often missed benefit of podcasting. If you are a smaller business or organization in your industry, it can be the great equalizer. When you put your knowledge and expertise out there, people begin to take note. You don’t necessarily have to be the biggest or best any longer because you’re the most helpful and visible. As far as your audience is concerned, you are the most knowledgable because you’ve actually demonstrated it.
For example, I have no idea if Daniel J Lewis from The Audacity to Podcast is the most knowledgable person out there on how to start a podcast. However, because he has demonstrated his knowledge again and again, who do you think I’ll send someone to who asks me how to start a podcast? Maybe someone out there is ten-times better than Daniel, but I trust Daniel. When people look for how to start a podcast or ask around, they are going to find Daniel or one of a few other people you’ll find listed below. This didn’t happen by accident! It involved a lot of hard work and a giving attitude.
Non-overlapping audiences • While some of your blog readers will probably be the same as your podcast listeners, chances are you’ll also reach a whole new market through a podcast. Some people just like listening better than reading. Others might like to read blogs, but only have free-time during their commute.
Expand to new platforms • In addition to the visibility within your community, industry, and by word-of-mouth, there is also visibility in the massive search engine of Apple’s iTunes and others that a Google search might not represent. Pretty much every smart-phone out there makes an ideal podcast player. Services like Stitcher and upcoming Apple CarPlay will play a huge role in reaching new audiences beyond people sitting behind their computer screens.
Internal industry networking • Getting to know and work with others in your industry can be a great benefit. While it initially seems like you wouldn’t want to befriend your competition, that attitude comes from a mentality of scarcity. From a mentality of abundance, you often gain much more by doing such networking than keeping to yourself. Who knows where making such connections will take you? Mentors, influencers, referrals, clients, friendships, the list goes on!
Change lives • It would be hard to express how much personal development I’ve experienced since I started listening to podcasts. I began, many years ago, listening to Christian apologetics and theology podcasts (just a personal interest at the time). This was a major benefit in pursuit of my M.A. in Theological Studies. I then branched out to listening to technology, Internet, and podcast related materials. I’ve gained incredible knowledge which has benefited my business ventures. I then started listening to some productivity and health podcasts. I’m getting more done, eating and sleeping better, and have increased my energy levels and health. I even listen to a marriage and family podcast, which has helped improve my parenting skills and relationship with my wife. What could be more important than that? Probably not much for me personally, but I have even heard stories of lives being saved due to podcasts.
If you are intrigued to look into podcasting, you would do well to check out the resources I’ve listed below. While I’ve been learning from these fine people for years now, they are the real-deal in podcasting education. But, I’ll pass along a few tips I have picked up:
Frequency is more important than length • While some argue that listeners like to fill a commute or exercise session, it is more important to put something out regularly, of high quality, than to try and fill time. If you only have 10 minutes of quality material, do a 10 minute podcast for that episode.
Subtle advertisement • I think most people who listen to podcasts expect that the host, while being helpful, is trying to gain something back in trade for all the effort. They might be hoping to sell a product or gain the listener as a customer in some way. But, a podcast shouldn’t be an advertisement. Being subtle is key. This is long-term relationship building, not a quick sale!
Niche industries • If you are in an extremely niche industry, your main benefit might be business to business rather than business to customer. For example, I recently heard a question and answer on Pat Flynn’s excellent AskPat.com podcast (AskPat.com #178) where an expert in mosquito repelling asked about starting a podcast. Pat’s response was that while it isn’t likely many typical people would subscribe to such a podcast, people who work in the insect repellant and extermination industry might be very interested. If this guy really knows his stuff, doing such a podcast could open all kinds of opportunity. (ie: teaching, speaking at industry conferences, business to business networking, training materials, etc.)
Calls to action are difficult, so simplify! • People who listen to podcasts often do so while accomplishing other things, such as their commute, doing dishes, etc. This means it is often hard for them to take action on items of interest they hear on your show. First, it is good to keep in mind the long-term relationship aspect. Taking action isn’t the primary objective at any given moment. But second, your calls to action need to be consistent and as easy as possible. In other words, episode after episode and easy to remember and get to. For example, you might always tell your listeners to go to yourdomain.com/offers to see a list of offers you’ve made during the show. After a few episodes, they will start to remember.
Are you convinced yet?
If you don’t believe what I’ve told you above, please go and listen to this 49 minute presentation by Cliff Ravenscraft, someone who has helped thousands of people start a podcast, including some of the most successful people on the planet.
And, please keep an eye out for cgWerk’s upcoming podcast!
- The Audacity to Podcast – Daniel J Lewis
- Podcast Answer Man – Cliff Ravenscraft
- School of Podcasting – Dave Jackson
Update: Tuesday, December 9, 2014
I recently listened to a great mini-series of podcasts by Ben Krueger at Authority Engine about business and podcasting. The first one is especially important for readers of this article.
- How To Know Whether a Podcast Is Right For Your Business with Ben Krueger
- How To Avoid The 7 Major Podcasting Pitfalls
- 5 Costly Misconceptions About Starting a Podcast
Update: Monday, August 24, 2015
I ran across a few more resources which may be of interest:
Cliff Ravenscraft recently highlighted an older resource for his top 4 reasons why a podcast can be such a great marketing tool. (5)This may have influenced my list above, along with other podcast gurus I’ve been listening to for years. In summary:
1. Smaller haystack
It is much easier to get noticed with an audio podcast than a blog or YouTube videos.
Billions of potential listeners on a platform where it’s easy to subscribe to podcasts.
3. No Screen-time required
When you watch a video or read, you can’t be doing something else. With an audio podcast, you catch people on their commute, watering the lawn, or exercising.
4. Greater influence
Podcasting creates a personal, engaging connection with your audience. Yes, the impact is higher with well-made video, but with audio podcasting, you have way more of their time.
But go watch/listen, because Cliff goes into a lot more detail.
Also, he addressed the topic of how often one should release podcast episodes. We have often heard that the more often the better, but Cliff disagrees with this ‘common wisdom’ in the podcast community. He makes some really valid points, and considering my own podcast consumption, I’d have to agree with Cliff.
Why I Advise Against Doing A Daily Format | Podcast Answer Man
Update: Wednesday, October 28, 2015
If the above isn’t already enough reason to consider podcasting, Google recently jumped in the game, asking podcasters to submit their feeds to Google Play Music. This is BIG as Google hasn’t really put their weight behind podcasting so far (which might be one reason the iOS/Android podcast listener ratio is like 5:1 or more). Also, their stated goal is to target people who don’t yet know about podcasts.
So, this might mean a lot more than just bringing a bunch of Android users to podcasts (which is big in and of itself), but if they incorporate this data somehow into Google Search, it could get even better. Currently, if you’re looking for a podcast, they are pretty easy to find. But, if you’re not looking for them or familiar with podcasting, they could become much more obvious in search (i.e.: think about how visible YouTube now is in search results).
Update: Monday, November 9, 2015
How effective is podcasting?
Roman Mars, a popular San Francisco NPR radio host and podcaster said the following about podcasting:[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]Podcast listeners are so, so dedicated. Radio stations have been unresponsive to podcasts up to this point because the raw numbers just don’t add up for them. But the thing they don’t get is that one podcast listener is worth 10,000 radio listeners. The personal connection is major. – Roman Mars interview[/quote]
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