These days a lot of small business owners are asking themselves whether starting a podcast could benefit their business. At first glance, the benefits of starting a podcast may be obvious, but if you’re like most of us, you have to carefully weigh the benefits of any business-related activity against the potential costs.
It isn’t necessary to make a tremendous financial outlay to begin a podcast, but if you want to do it properly—which will set you up for success and give you a leg up on the competition—you should expect at least a few hardware-related costs.
But your primary cost will not be financial, it will be time and energy. Committing to a reasonably consistent podcast production schedule is a commitment of time. So the first question you should ask yourself is whether you can make the time to keep a podcast going past the first few episodes.
Consider These Podcasting Statistics
If you’re not quite convinced that a podcast can help you reach potential customers, consider this:
- 48 million Americans listened to a podcast this week. 73 million listen at least once a month. Those weekly listeners listen to an average of seven different podcasts, averaging six and a half hours of listening time each week.
- Commuters are even more likely to listen. An Edison Research study says that twenty-five percent of survey participants who commute for more than 20 minutes listen to podcasts and streaming audio.
- Social media usage is on the decline for the first time in a decade, but podcast downloads are increasing on an average of 3% a year.
Those numbers should make it pretty clear that podcasting has found an audience. Perhaps the most interesting fact to take away from the statistics is that the podcast audience is growing while social media audience is decreasing!
The Podcasting Field Is Not Crowded
You may have read that there are more than 600,000 podcasts listed in iTunes and thought to yourself that the field is too crowded, that against that kind of competition you will never be able to produce a podcast that could get noticed.
Nearly half of the 600,000 podcasts out there haven’t released an episode in the past year.
And 90% of the podcasts that have put out an episode in the past year are fading or already gone. The reality is, there are fewer than 100,000 active podcasts that are consistently producing episodes.
If 100,000 still sounds like a lot, look at it this way: the last time there were only 100,000 sites on the web was all the way back in 1996. Would you rather launch a new business website now, with a billion other sites as competition, or in 1996, when only 100,000 sites were on the playing field?
The question really isn’t, “How can a podcast help my business?” but rather, how can it not? It isn’t, “Why use podcasting?” but, why on earth wouldn’t you?
It’s fertile new ground, and the sooner you begin to work it, the more established you will become, and when the field does eventually become crowded, you will be a seasoned, respected veteran with a backlog of episodes ready to be discovered by new listeners.
The Benefits of Podcasting for Business
One of the greatest benefits of starting a podcast is the opportunity for Relationship building. Podcasting is a very personal medium, and it fosters familiarity and trust.
If you can become a listener’s friend or trusted advisor, they are much more likely to buy your product than they would be based only on advertising. Nielsen surveys show that podcasts not only raise awareness of products discussed but also increase the intent to purchase by as much as 14%.
One pitfall that it is essential to avoid however is the temptation to make your podcast too promotional. People will not tune in repeatedly if all they hear is a sales pitch. There has to be a value proposition.
To that end:
Look at Your Podcast As a Thought Leadership Activity
Thought leadership is simply the act of passing along your knowledge. Like a conference keynote speech or a TED talk. Try to remember that the purpose of your podcast should be to educate your audience. Provide value and they will keep coming back.
Produce a Podcast That Is Advice and Knowledge-driven
The key thing to remember here is simply to talk about what you know. The more you share your knowledge, the more relationship building you’ll do, and the value proposition for your audience will be clear.
Put the Focus on the Problems You Can Solve for Your Listeners
Talk about the kinds of problems that you can solve, tell stories about how your product helped a customer. If you can make them relatable, your stories will lead customers to you. Remember to “sell without selling” and respect the intelligence of your audience.
Tell the Stories of Other People, As Well As Your Own
Those other people can be your customers, people who aren’t yet your customers, but who are experiencing the problems you can solve, even people who are in the same business you’re in. Yes, your competition! Having a competitor as a guest reinforces your position as both a thought leader and as a confident market leader. Give away a secret here and there, and you will gain listener loyalty.
Don’t Forget Your Audience
Remember that people respond better to what they want to hear, which may not necessarily be what you want to tell them. Look at your podcast the way you look at your social media marketing: only 20% of your content should be direct promotion, 80% should be informational or entertaining (or both!).
Tell Stories That Compliment Your Company Mission
If your company has a mission, a goal, a manifesto, whatever it may be, talk about those core beliefs in your podcast. You will attract like-minded people who may not have been aware that there was a company that championed causes that are important to them. You very well may gain another loyal customer without any sales pitch at all.
Building Brand Awareness
One of the great advantages of podcasts is when they are done right, when you keep the points that we’ve talked about in mind, brand awareness is automatic. It comes naturally and doesn’t have to be forced. Your podcast is your brand.
And speaking of brand awareness, here’s an unexpected benefit to talking into a microphone regularly: it will almost invariably make you a better public speaker! So when that industry conference or local group calls and asks you to do a speech, you’ll be prepared.
One of the benefits of making podcasts is that it teaches you how to draw people in with your stories and message and convert them into customers. When the attention of an audience is on you as a speaker, it’s also on your brand.
So How Do You Make Money From a Podcast?
A business podcast is never going to be as popular as an entertainment show, so income generated by a business podcast won’t generally come in through advertising or Patreon or any other kind of direct financial support.
As a business, you earn income from your podcast indirectly, by creating content that people find valuable, then converting those listeners into customers. Podcasting in business is a long game, it’s an investment in expanding your reach and influence.
It’s Easy to Create a Podcast, Right?
There are a lot of articles and websites out there that will promise you that it’s very easy to create a podcast, that you can do it at next to no cost, and it won’t take much time.
Well, that’s true.
But only if you want to produce a podcast that no one will listen to.
The fact is quality matters. The quality of the information, the quality of the sound, the quality of the overall presentation. The podcast should be a reflection of your business, and if your business isn’t shoddy, your podcast shouldn’t be either.
This article will give you some idea of the actual steps involved, and how much of your time you will have to dedicate to producing a truly successful podcast.
But if you are dedicated and consistent, a podcast will benefit your business in all the ways we have discussed, and in many other ways as well.
Get started, and let us know when you do. We’ll be listening!