Podcasting For Small Businesses

The Why and How of Podcasting for Small Businesses

The podcasting boom is well and truly underway. According to recent figures, iTunes is now home to more than 525,000 active podcasts, with a total of 18.5 million episodes available to stream or download. Furthermore, podcast audiences have consistently grown 10 to 20% year over year, a trend which seems highly likely to continue.

This growing popularity represents a big opportunity. Podcasts are a great marketing tool as they enable companies to share subject-specific expertise in a novel and engaging way. This helps build brand recognition, trust, and authority among consumers. Indeed many businesses have already taken the leap and begun recording and distributing their own podcasts. In this post, we’ll explore why that is and how you can do the same.

The growing popularity of podcasting

The growth of podcasting corresponds with the slow decline of traditional media such as TV and radio. Audiences are now increasingly seeking out niche online content that caters to their own interests and hobbies. This is part of the appeal of podcasts. Whatever you’re into, from banking to cartoons, there’s a podcast out there for you. This level of variety simply can’t be matched by traditional media.  

Another key factor contributing to the growth of podcasting has been the shift to mobile. Sales of desktop computers have been steadily declining as more and more individuals become increasingly reliant on their mobile devices. As a result, it’s now easier than ever to access, download and listen to podcasts whenever, wherever.

Due to growing listenership figures, there are now hundreds of popular podcasts bringing in substantial revenues through advertising. This was not the case just five years ago. Back then, the vast majority of podcasting ad revenue was concentrated amongst a small group of highly popular shows such as The Joe Rogan Experience and WTF with Marc Maron.

But the playing field is now beginning to level out. According to PwC’s Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2018-2022, podcasting is set to become a nine-figure component of the global media landscape. As ad revenue grows, there is more incentive for quality content producers and celebrities of all types to begin producing their own shows. This, in turn, attracts more listeners, creating a virtuous growth cycle.

There are already predictions of yet another surge in podcast audience sizes, this time driven by increasing numbers of people listening in their cars. Many people already listen to podcasts in their car when commuting to and from work, although the majority still listen to radio, in large part because it is more convenient. But this will change in the coming years. Many new cars already have inbuilt internet connections, making podcasts as easily accessible as radio.

All these developments signal the fact that podcasting as a medium has transitioned from the fringes to the mainstream.  Globally recognized brands such as Pepsi, Google, Starbucks, and Tinder have now jumped in and begun producing their own podcasts, indicating they are seeing positive results. But does their success hold relevance for smaller organizations?

Why podcasting makes sense for small businesses

When it comes to digital marketing, most small businesses opt to go with tried and tested approaches – paid search, blogging for SEO, video, and social media content. There’s nothing wrong with doing so. Those strategies, when used correctly, are highly effective. But with most other businesses relying on them as well, it can be difficult to make your branded content stand out.

This is one of the reasons podcasting can add real value to small businesses. As most aren’t using the medium yet, adding podcasts to your repertoire of marketing material can be a key differentiator separating you from competitors. So given the potential to engage with customers on a deeper level and firmly establish your online brand, why not give it a go? As we’ll explore, it’s easier than you might think.

First things first

But before diving straight in, it’s important to have a clear vision of where you want your podcast to go and what you want to get out of it. Without a sense of purpose, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds and lose all that initial motivation and enthusiasm. So before hitting the record button, it’s important to ask yourself the following questions:

    • What are my primary motivations for podcasting?
    • Who is my audience and what are they interested in?
  • Do I have time to schedule podcasting as a consistent part of my weekly activity?

Once you’ve answered these, you’ll be in a better position to weigh up all the benefits podcasting has to offer. These include:

Simple and straightforward production

One of the common misconceptions about podcasting is that it takes a lot of fancy equipment and technical know-how to get things off the ground. This isn’t true. While you do have to make an upfront investment of time and money, the amount required is relatively low compared to something like video production. All you need is a microphone, Skype, software for recording your conversations, and a platform to host and share your content (e.g. Soundcloud, Libsyn).  

Networking and mutual collaboration

Podcasts need guests. Running your own gives you a great opportunity to reach out to and engage with thought leaders in your space. These don’t need to be famous celebrities. They can be local experts, or average people who have first-hand experience. This is a great way to build your network. In addition, having a long-form discussion on a podcast often builds more rapport than a brief face-to-face exchange at a meetup event. Connecting with the right people increases the chances of new opportunities opening up for your business.

Once your podcast is up and running, a great way to grow your audience is to appear as a guest on other podcasts (provided they are at least somewhat relevant). It gets your name and brand in front of an entirely new group of listeners, some of whom may go on to check out your podcast.  

Build trust on a deeper level

Getting your personality across in written words can be difficult. It’s much easier to do through a podcast. The audience is able to hear subtle changes in the tone of your voice and sense your enthusiasm for your subject matter. This allows you to clearly communicate who you are and what your business stands for. For those who listen on a regular basis, they may even begin to feel like they actually know you. This can be a very influential factor when it comes to making buying decisions. Individuals tend to buy from others they trust.

Boost traffic to your site

Although people may listen to your podcast through a third-party platform (iTunes, Soundcloud etc.), this can indirectly increase traffic to your company website. If your listeners perceive you to be an authoritative and credible source on your chosen subject matter, a certain percentage of them will visit your website to learn more. You can also actively encourage more listeners to visit your website by publishing helpful show notes and promoting them in your podcast intro. These should ideally include a timestamped outline of the discussion points covered and links to any resources or articles mentioned in the episode.

Starting your own podcast

With these impressive benefits on offer, starting your own company podcast may seem like a no-brainer. Why then do so many business podcasts end up on the scrap heap within six months of their launch?

It’s because of a lack of commitment. Podcasting is a long term content strategy. It is unlikely to give you big wins right out of the gate. In the absence of a celebrity host, podcast audiences tend to grow gradually on a scale of months and years, not days and weeks. So it’s very important to keep this in mind from the outset. Otherwise, it’s easy to get disheartened.

Podcasting rewards those who are consistent. And the benefits compound over time. As listenership figures increase, podcasts often begin to grow organically at a continually increasing rate. If the content is high-quality and you are offering real value to listeners, word of mouth can become a powerful driver in getting your brand firmly established amongst your target audience. But it doesn’t happen overnight.

So, if you are you are in a position to make the long term commitment, the checklist below details everything you need to start your own podcast.

Good luck!

Equipment

Hardware

    • A multimedia headset with a noise-canceling microphone
  • A laptop

Software

    • Recording software (e.g. Call Recorder for Mac, Audacity, Screenflow)
  • Audio storage software (e,g, Libsyn, Soundcloud)

Content

Choosing a theme – examples include:

    • Journalistic, story-based
    • Unstructured interviews
    • News
    • List-based – “Top 5 tips for X”
    • Quick tips and how to guides
  • Regular guest contributors

Launch

    • Podcast title
    • Podcast host
    • iTunes account
    • A brief written summary of your podcast for iTunes
    • Cover art – Simple and striking designs tend to work best as they catch attention when listeners are scrolling through content carousels. Avoid small fonts and intricate imagery.
  • Always have ten episodes pre-recorded prior to launching. This will increase your chances of getting into the “New and Noteworthy” category on iTunes as you will have enough content to see you through the initial eight weeks. As there is a lot of competition, getting into this category is difficult. But the podcasts that make it benefit from a significant early boost in listenership figures.

Promotion

    • Have a content promotion schedule for a variety of platforms and stick to it – (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Mailing List, Reddit, Slack Communities, Product Hunt…wherever your audience hangs out online). Make use of hashtags to extend your reach to different audiences. Pay attention to trending hashtags and topics to try to ride their wave to promote your content.
  • Reach out to influencers in your space and invite them to appear as a guest. Getting influencers to say yes can be difficult initially, but gets easier with time. Make sure you do your homework before interviewing influencers. If you impress them, they’ll be much more likely to co-promote your podcast through their own networks.

James Deeney

James Deeney is a Content Editor at Venturi Group, an IT recruitment agency. When he isn't writing research-driven articles, he enjoys listening to podcasts and trying to maintain a consistent meditation practice.

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