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Podcasting Basics: What You Need to Know About This Hot New Marketing Tool
By Lisa Orrell, President of M7 Design, Inc. and a professional speaker/author known as The Chickonomics Expert™

If you###re a high-tech professional, marketing expert, or early tech adopter, you are probably familiar with podcasts. But the rest of the world is just starting to understand them. And most corporations and small business owners are not using them in their marketing mix (yet). But, as with blogs, this will change soon.

This article will give you some basic information about podcasts, and explain how they can help increase your sales and attract new clients (no matter your business). There is a niche and an audience for everything, and people are continually seeking new ways to gather information that will benefit them.

The Basic Overview and Benefits of Podcasts

Podcasting gives you the ability to have your own radio-type show, about anything you want, which uploads as an MP3 file to the Internet. The goal is to get as many listeners as you can, so that you build your fan-base—it###s like being a radio show host on any "standard" AM/FM radio station.

But, unlike radio or TV (prior to TiVOTM), which require you to listen in real time, people who download your podcast can listen to it whenever they want. How? The audio file of your podcast gets sent to them via the Internet and they download it to their MP3 player (e.g., iPodTM ) to listen to it while jogging, gardening, driving and the like. Can you see how convenient this is? You can create shows that last 3-5 minutes, packed with info, and it###s ONE MORE way to connect with your audience through a different medium.

Large corporations like DisneyTM and NewsweekTM, celebrities like Rush Limbaugh and Al Franken, and people with niche interests (like the Catholic Insider and The Rock & Roll Geek Show), all have podcasts. But their popularity is now growing among mid-sized companies and small businesses, too.

Why? Because you can use your podcast as an informational sales and marketing tool; just like a webinar, teleseminar, or newsletter. But, unlike webinars and (some) newsletters, podcasts are extremely inexpensive to produce and give you tremendous flexibility. And, like newsletters, you can archive the links to your podcasts on your website so that visitors can download topics that interest them.

How To Use Podcast for Business-Building

Having your own podcast program will position you as a thought leader in your field. And the great part is that YOU don###t even have to do most of the talking! Simply line-up guests that your audience can learn from, create questions that your audience will want answers to, and find guests that can answer them. You###ll be perceived as an industry expert JUST for having them as guests!

Are you a financial planner with lots of self-employed clients? Ask a CPA to be your guest and have her/him discuss the Top 5 Tax Strategies all business owners must know. Or have the CPA discuss the newest tax laws that impact business owners.  Do you own a web design firm? Invite a PR expert on to discuss the Top 5 Ways to Get Press. Your clients will benefit from a topic like that! And, again, all you have to do is ask the predetermined questions.

Bottom-line benefits? Podcasts are inexpensive, easy to create, and convenient for your audience. Another benefit? Podcasts can be entertaining because your audience gets to experience your personality (and the personalities of your guests. They can have much more impact than reading the same Q & A in a newsletter.

How to Develop a Podcast

All you need is a computer, a microphone (around $30), and a program like Quick Time 7 ProTM (also only around $30). Once you record your podcast, you can upload (publish) it to a podcast directory, like Apple###s iTunesTM Podcast Directory. They###ll add the poddcast to their directory by category so people searching that category can find it and download it. This is one way you can start building your fan base. Your listeners can set up an RSS feed and be notified each time you publish a new podcast.

Another way to tell people about your podcast is through outbound marketing. You can simply send an e-blast to your database (clients and/or prospects) and provide a link to your podcast. You should also place a link in your e-mail signature. Think of the podcast like a newsletter and alert your list each time you record a new one (and provide the link to it).

Many people ask how often they should create their podcasts. Honestly, there is no rule. Some people create them weekly and others monthly. The key, just like newsletters, is to make them interesting. You don###t need to commit to a schedule (like a monthly newsletter). I believe that you should only create a podcast when you have something interesting to share. If you publish even a few uninteresting podcasts, people will lose interest.

Key Tips to Developing Effective Podcasts

There are a few things to keep in mind when developing your podcast.

  1. Keep them short, with no fluff. People don###t normally listen to long shows; 3 to 5 minutes of great information is better than 20 minutes of boring stuff. You can still be entertaining, just have a point and get to it quickly.
  2. Have occasional guests to make it more interesting. You can interview them with pre-defined questions. Choose someone from your industry who would interest your target audience. After awhile probably lots of people will want to be on your podcast because it gives them free exposure. Guests pursue popular podcasts just like they do interviews on television or radio shows.
  3. Keep your topics informative and compelling. Make sure you are educating your audience in some way.
  4. Be very clear about your target audience, and develop your podcast around a clearly defined niche.
  5. Think of your podcast like a show. If it###s boring people won###t listen. So listen to other podcasts, and organize and prepare your podcast for maximum appeal.

 

Companies like AppleTM, Podcastalley.com and Podcast.net all offer podcast directories so you can search for, and subscribe to, the ones that interest you. According to Apple, the iTunes Podcast Directory has more than 6,000 free podcasts from such favorites as ABC NewsTM, Adam Curry, ESPNTM and more. That could be a good place to start (PC users can also use their service).

In closing, I want to emphasize that it is important to reach your clients and prospects in a variety of ways, so I am not advocating that podcasts replace your newsletters, direct mail campaigns, webinars, and the like. I am saying that podcasts are a new, effective communications tool that should be added to your overall marketing mix.

@ 2006 M7 Design Inc. All Rights Reserved. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners.

About the Author:
Lisa Orrell, The Chickonomics Expert, is a professional speaker and author who motivates and educates women business owners (www.LisaOrrell.com).  For 17 years she has also owned M7 Design, an award winning, marketing/design firm in Silicon Valley (www.M7Design.com). To inquire about Lisa speaking at your next event, or for information about her marketing/design firm, you can contact her at: LOrrell@M7design.com or 1-866-906-M7M7 x: 701.