Last month, I started co-presenting a podcast. Within a couple of weeks it was the #1 business podcast in the UK, and had put me directly into the ears of 6,000 potential customers.
As a result, I’m being totally insufferable about haranguing every business owner I know to start a podcast. To save me losing all my friends, I’m going to make the argument in full here then shut up about it once and for all. Maybe.
The case for podcasting
If you’re trying to get a new product or service off the ground, you’ve almost certainly thought about blogging as a way of getting yourself in front of people.
In my experience, podcasting will get you a bigger audience, develop a deeper relationship with that audience, and make them far more likely to buy from you.
In practice you should be doing both (and driving podcast listeners back to your blog), but I’m going to directly compare the two to show why I think podcasting is something every new business should be doing.
So let’s look at four big benefits of podcasting:
Finding an audience
As a podcaster, iTunes – not Google – is the search engine through which you’re most likely to be found. This gives you two big advantages when it comes to finding an audience:
- You’re more likely to be found because there’s less competition: there are far fewer podcasts on each topic than there are blogs. There might only be one or two other podcasts in your niche, compared to thousands of blogs.
- People browsing iTunes are looking for a show to subscribe to, based on one of their interests. That’s very different from Google searches, which are often just about looking for an immediate answer to a specific question – meaning you have to work hard to convince them to stay longer than they intended.
Because people browsing iTunes are looking for content based on their interests, that’s what your podcast should give them: content, rather than a sales pitch. Once you’ve built up an audience you can mention your product or service, and a percentage of your listeners will check it out.
Example: Agency Talk, by Dan Norris
Dan wanted to reach web development agencies so that he could tell them about his new analytics product which might be useful for them.
He knew that the agencies were unlikely to be searching Google for a product like his (he solves a problem they probably don’t know they have), so he started a podcast full of useful advice for agency owners. During each episode he casually mentions how his product might be useful, and some of his listeners will go and sign up.
Instead of spending a minute (if you’re lucky) scanning the subheadings of your blog post, a podcast listener might spend an hour with you each week.
The amount of time they spend, combined with the fact that you can get your personality across more easily than in writing, means that your audience will really feel like they know you. And if they know you and like you, they’ll trust you – which means that when you sell to them, it’ll come across naturally.
Example: Meaningful Money, by Pete Matthew
Pete is a financial advisor – a profession where relationships and trust are essential, because his clients need to share every detail of their financial lives with him.
Pete could have spent years writing a blog about financial advice, but it’s a topic that’s both well-covered and pretty dry, so it would have been hard to stand out. Instead, he recorded a series of YouTube videos of him talking to camera, and started a podcast.
As a result, you feel like you really know him as a person – and it’s obvious that he can be trusted. When his listeners are ready to get personal financial advice, it’s hard to imagine them going to anyone else.
Developing rapid authority
Authority is intertwined with the relationship you build with your audience. For some reason, you’re perceived as more of an authority when your audience can hear you than you would even if you wrote the very best weekly blog.
Example: The Smart Passive Income Podcast, by Pat Flynn
Even though Pat had a pretty gigantic blog before he started podcasting, the audio has done wonders for his authority. As a result of it, he’s been asked to do a lot more public speaking, and he recently brought out his first book.
Getting access to influencers
Podcasting gives you access to influencers in your industry, who’ll be more willing to be a guest on your show than they would be to write a blog post. It’s more exciting for them, takes less time, and many people just don’t like writing.
Getting influencers on your show is beneficial for two reasons:
- They’re likely to promote their appearance to their own audience, introducing your podcast to more people.
- It’s a way of starting a conversation around something that’s perceived as beneficial for them (a media appearance) rather than just pitching them on your product.
Example: Entrepreneur on Fire, by John Dumas
John podcasts every bloomin’ day, and interviews a different entrepreneur every time. Everyone he interviews then promotes the show to their own audience, so John is constantly being discovered by new people. He now gets over 150,000 monthly downloads.
My case study: The Property Podcast
My friend Rob Bence wanted to start a property podcast, and asked me if I’d co-present because I blog about property too. (We actually met because I interviewed him for another podcast, but that’s another story.)
After one month…
- Our episodes had been downloaded over 10,000 times.
- We had 41 five-star ratings in the UK iTunes store.
- We were often #1 in the “Business” category on iTunes, ahead of BBC and Financial Times podcasts that get heavily promoted on other platforms.
- iTunes manually featured us with a big banner on the podcasts homepage.
So, let’s see what the podcast did for us in terms of the four areas I’ve just been talking about:
Audience: We reached at least 6,000 individual people in our first month, which is a lot more than both of our own blogs combined. From reviews and emails, we know that many of them found us while browsing iTunes and had never heard of us before.
Relationships: Our listeners are spending 30 minutes with us each week, compared to the 3.5 minutes the average reader spends on my blog.
The other Rob sells packaged property investments – an industry where there are a lot of dodgy dealers and scepticism as a result. Because listeners buy into the worldview he expresses in the podcast, he’s had calls from people who’re already convinced that he’s the man to invest with.
Authority: We’ve been approached by a television researcher about a pilot for a new property TV show, and we’re being interviewed by another very high-profile podcast.
Access: Our podcast doesn’t feature guest interviewees, so we don’t get access in that way. But having a platform and the bragging rights of being the UK’s biggest business podcast makes it very easy for us to approach anyone who we want to talk to.
Sales?: Podcasting isn’t about generating sales in a direct, short-term way, but we’ve both increased our business already. Rob has more leads from people calling him up, and I’m selling more copies of my book (which I know are from the podcast because I give them a special discount code).
So for us, podcasting has ticked every box. (And the other Rob deserves all the credit, by the way.)
Want to get started in podcasting?
Setting up a podcast and getting it on iTunes isn’t difficult, and you don’t need any more equipment than a headset microphone and a free piece of editing software.
These are the exact resources that we used to learn how to do it:
- Dan Norris’ tutorial takes you through the exact technical process of recording, hosting and publishing to iTunes.
- Dan Andrews talks more about audio quality, and what makes a great show.
- Chris Ducker talks about the importance of getting into the “New & Noteworthy” section of iTunes, and how to do it.
- We didn’t watch this one, but Pat Flynn’s podcasting tutorial is meant to be very comprehensive.
Some podcasting tips from me
From recording my own podcasts and listening to them every day, I’ve picked up a few tips which I think will help you get the best return for your efforts:
- Keep it brief. Plenty of very successful podcasts are over an hour long, but I think 20-30 minutes is the sweet spot. It’s not so much of a commitment for either you or the listener, and you can always increase the length over time.
- Stick to a structure. Having a format (like introduction, reviews, news, main topic, tips, sign-off) makes it easier to plan out your show, and stops you from rambling. It also gives you changes of pace and direction to grab back listeners’ wandering attention – much better than some guy just droning on about a topic for half an hour.
- Don’t sell. Make your podcast an invaluable source of information about your industry, and don’t bang on about your product or service all the time. Instead, concentrate on driving listeners back to your website and getting them to sign up for your mailing list, where they can find out more.
- Outsource the editing. You can edit it yourself for free, but it’ll probably take 2-3 hours for a 30-minute show if you’re learning as you go along. Outsource it on Elance or oDesk (using our hiring process), and get back to building your business.
- Record and publish at the same time every week. Listeners should know for sure that your latest episode will be uploaded every – say – Thursday morning for their drive to work. Recording at the same time every weeks gets you into a non-negotiable routine, and makes it less likely that you’ll slip and become inconsistent.
- Ask for reviews. Reviews are an important part of the algorithm that determines what gets shown when someone searches on iTunes, and your listeners will supply them if you ask – they just won’t think of doing it if you don’t mention it. We even recorded a video showing them how to do it.
- If there are no podcasts in your niche, it doesn’t mean there’s no demand. We saw that there were only a few property podcasts and they’d mostly given up a couple of years ago, and worried that it meant they weren’t able to attract listeners. In fact, we found lots of listeners who were desperate for more coverage of a topic they were really interested in.
Have you been convinced to make podcasting a part of your business? If not, what’s holding you back?
If you’ve got any questions about the podcasting process, ask in the comments!