Success with Podcasting for Small Business
Because of the low-cost of entry, it’s not surprising entrepreneurs want to learn about podcasting for small business. Compared to industry-standard blogs, competition is low. There are an estimated 30 million blogs but only 200,000 podcasts.
If you pursue a Google search on “how to podcast,” you can find over a dozen “guidelines” for starting a podcast.
It is unfortunate these primers focus on the mechanical items like the kind of audio file and never tackle the more serious questions, like digital strategy.
Let’s look at five aspects for a small business starting a podcast: money, your voice, images, microphones, and promotion. After that, the biggest mistake you can make.
1. Money Matters
Measuring success with a podcast is difficult. Apple won’t give you much information about how many people subscribe, but this seems to be changing.
About the best you can do is get an estimate of downloads from a podcast hosting company. Many are out there including PodBean, BuzzSprout, Blubrry, SoundCloud, Podomatic, and Spreaker. When it comes to hosting podcasts, Libsyn has a tremendous amount of experience. After all, they have been doing this since 2004.
Rob Walch, VP of Podcaster Relations at Libsyn, looks at download figures and, occasionally, draws some conclusions for public consumption. For example, when he looks at download numbers, he says that 141 downloads by the 30-day mark is average. He gives some high numbers as well, the top 5% get 9,000 the first month.
Don’t let that high number scare you if your download numbers don’t quite hit that figure in the first month. You may think if you don’t hit that magic number you are a failure. You can’t criticize his numbers, but you sure can take apart his logic.
No small business is going to make a marketing decision on a 30-day sample. When you think about his observations, please remember hosting companies derive income not only from hosting fees but by selling ads on podcasts. The more downloads, the more they can charge.
So, from Rob’s perspective, a podcast with lots of downloads is worth more than one with fewer. Don’t let this metric block your success. A podcast with a lot of engagement and conversion does not matter to Libysn as much as it matters to a small business.
In a baseball game, the team with the most hits doesn’t always win. You must look at the scoreboard at the end of the game. Downloads are nice. But, from the perspective of a small business attempting to grow, the key concern is developing a long-term relationship with potential customers.
The Space Rep
Today’s podcasting industry takes some terms from old school publishing and applies them to today. Back in the day a magazine “space rep” would call up a company and want to sell ads. They would get out a “rate card” and see one publication cost was $10 per thousand, the other was $15 per thousand.
If your goal is to reach the most eyes for the least amount of money, you would simply get out the rate cards and get the cheapest cost per thousand set of eyes. The unusual abbreviation for Cost Per Thousand is “CPM.”
Podcasting has been around a while. It is a sign of maturity when there is a company dedicated to CPM rates for podcasts. AdvertiseCast gives industry average rates. For example, they say if you have 5,000 listeners per episode, you can get a $15 ad CPM. This is determined by the number of downloads on average over a 60-day period.
This industry average is presented as an immutable number, like the Pythagorean constant. Not a penny more and not a penny less.
This logic leads you to absurd conclusions. Let’s say you have a podcast with a focus on aerospace engineers who are responsible for wire and harness maintenance. You may only have 1,000 subscribers. Does this mean the value of your podcasting efforts is $15?
For the record, any company that has aerospace engineers as a target audience is not worrying about CPM, ads are merely window dressing.
That audience is sophisticated, extremely well-educated, and hard to reach. They build trust with a vendor in a sophisticated marketplace and then transact business at a high dollar level. You may not realize it can cost almost three million dollars for an overhaul of an airliner like the 747. Developing the respect of that audience can lead to long term sales.
In fact, there may be only 1,000 aerospace engineers in the world who are responsible for wire and harness maintenance. You may have reached 100% saturation. According to some logic, your 1,000-podcast download is an utter failure.
Mismeasure of Success
Don’t let podcast pundits determine success for your business. You have a better chance at winning the lottery than earning a million dollars a year on podcast advertising.
You are the one who determines your success. Most small businesses operate in a relatively limited niche. Your job is to be a subject matter expert in your area and provide answers to questions from your audience better than anyone else. Over time, these answers develop trust.
Podcasts allow you to give your customers content in the format they prefer. Some like to read blogs while others may prefer to subscribe to a podcast. This isn’t a zero-sum game. Each kind of communication can feed off each other.
World Famous Marcus Sheridan
Marcus Sheridan from The Sales Lion will argue it is a progressive journey. The relationship starts with reading your blog, then listening to your podcast, then seeing your video, then contacting you.
Virginia is the locus for Marcus, George B. Thomas, and their entertaining podcast called The HubCast. The name is a portmanteau of “HubSpot” and “podcast.” HubSpot is a Boston-based marketing company with an emphasis on inbound marketing.
Although The Sales Lion is a HubSpot partner, Marcus and his podcast buddy George noticed a gap between some of the concerns of HubSpot users and the folks up in Beantown.
Marcus didn’t start the podcast to sell ads. He teamed with George B. Thomas to start a podcast to help HubSpot users solve problems the mothership was ignoring.
Marcus Sheridan must look at those CPM estimates and laugh. Although he has the occasional sponsor, the value of the relationship the podcast develops dwarfs any advertising revenue. The podcast forms a bond with customers and potential clients who trust The Sales Lion to increase sales. The value of this relationship makes CPM look like chump change.
What about Indiana?
Bloomington, Indiana is proud to be the location of a marketing podcast called Social Pros.
The host is Jay Baer from Convince and Convert and his co-host is a Salesforce employee named Adam Brown. Adam is an Executive Strategist at Salesforce.
Wait a minute. Doesn’t Salesforce have its own podcast? Of course — Salesforce’s Heike Young does a great job with The Marketing Cloudcast.
Why is Salesforce partnering on a separate podcast?
Listeners get to know the personalities of the Salesforce leaders over the long haul. Two podcasts may reach a more diverse audience than one single one. As a result, the trust that is established for a large ticket item like Salesforce can establish trust with a wider community.
Jay Baer’s podcast has been running for over six years. Only Jay knows for certain, but one could bet his initial numbers didn’t hit what pundits wanted. Had Jay Baer taken the advice from the gurus of gab, he may have locked up shop in the first six months.
This would have deprived us of wonderful insight into customer behavior and a systematic way of understanding social media.
When it comes to small businesses, the value of a podcast can be immense. It can reinforce your message, provide content in a manner that resonates with your target audience, and give your customers a chance to get to know you on a more personal basis.
When it comes to digital strategy for your podcast, consider long term relationships rather than CPM. Once you have your digital strategy in order, your next concern should be the voice of the person who is hosting the podcast.
2. Your Voice
Not everybody was born to play defensive end in the National Football League; not everybody has a voice for radio.
Examples of poor vocal quality are everywhere. In fact, significant figures in history had terrible voices. One great example may be the leader of Japan during World War II, Hirohito. Listeners to his radio capitulation after World War II were startled with his unusual voice. Herbert Bix’s fascinating treatment shows that the Showa leader had a terrible voice. When Hirohito appeared on a radio broadcast ending the war his voice was described as high pitched, and squeaky.
“THE EMPORER’S SHRILL VOICE.” P. 561 HERBERT BIX, HIROHITO AND THE MAKING OF MODERN JAPAN
People have been able to develop their voice, within reason. Professional voice coaches can accomplish a lot. They work with concepts like register, timbre, prosody, pace, pitch, and volume. The human voice is adaptable to many variations.
Self-proclaimed King-of-all-Media Howard Stern had to learn how to lower his voice early in his career. However, there are limits to what a speech coach can accomplish.
You may be surprised at how much help your local public broadcasting affiliate can provide. In the radio business, a recorded sample of a radio personality’s voice is called an “aircheck.” You may want to try to record three minutes of a sample interview and ask a radio professional what they think.
If you don’t have a voice, then hire someone who does. A silver tongue doesn’t guarantee success. Please remember the story out of 2016 where a homeless man was discovered with a magnificent voice.
The biggest factor in your success is not your voice, but your ability to respond to needs of an audience. When it comes to interacting with an audience, there is a strong visual component as well.
3. Got the picture?
Whoever said a picture is worth a thousand words was making an understatement. When it comes to a podcast you will need one high-quality image for Itunes and then a whole boatload of informal images for successful podcast social media promotion.
The easy part: The image for Apple
Setting up the podcast needs a great image, the image that sits on iTunes. The size range is between 1500 x 1500 and 3000 x 3000 pixels. Apple is finicky about that range. If you submit 1499 x 1500 it will not load – you won’t even get an error message. It will not load—you will be left to beat your head against the wall to understand.
The hard part: Informal images for social media
In addition to the image for Apple, you will need informal images for social media promotion. Humans do business with other humans. You will need a good quality photo for the host of the show. Prices vary all over the country, but a professional “head shot” can range from $100 to $3,000.
Getting a publicity photo is more of an art than a science. If you don’t have a budget for a photo and doubt your visual sense, you can take advantage of a free “crowdsourcing” service called PhotoFeeler. You submit a photo and the people participating give you feedback.
Also, you will need dozens of informal photos that will be used to promote the podcast on social media. Probably the best guide for sizes for social media is the ultimate guide from HubSpot mentioned above.
Please note Google is starting to reward websites with fast loading times. The need for speed is reflected in your social media posts as well. When it comes to social media images, be considerate about loading time.
We become irritated at slow loading time; most people get even more disturbed with poor quality audio.
4. Microphone Madness
All the editing in the world will not improve a bad audio capture. A microphone can make a major difference. Because radio is the intimate medium, you want the absolute best possible sound from your voice.
“YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO BROKE BUYING A MICROPHONE. BUT YOU SHOULD NOT USE A CHEAP ONE. SOUND IS YOUR PRODUCT HERE AND QUALITY IS EVERYTHING.” CLAUDE JENNINGS JR., HOPE LINE MEDIA
Years ago, Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor, once said, “you can’t be too rich and you can’t be too thin.” If I can paraphrase that for the world of podcasting, you can’t spend too much on a microphone.
Any audio engineer will tell you that there are two kinds of microphones: condenser and directional. Some will say condenser microphones are fine. That may have been good advice ten years ago, but today people demand high-quality audio.
This topic has been beaten to death by people with guides for podcasting. Suffice it to say your laptop and phone probably have basic condenser microphones while professional radio studios have high-quality directional microphones. These directional microphones are available for as little as $110.
If you elect to use a professional microphone, you will need to get a USB mixer – companies like Sweetwater have tons of technical advice on professional audio gear like microphones and mixers. An inexpensive USB mixer for $69 can give your flexibility to plug in a quality microphone for an interview.
Audio quality is almost impossible to describe in a printed format. Rather than launching a 5,000-word diatribe of what’s good and what’s good enough, you can decide for yourself. Our friends at NPR have a helpful guide for “ear training” that tackles the quality issue better than text.
Here’s a fun quiz that will test your ability to listen like an audio producer.
Many guides will tell you to get Audacity or Adobe Audition and edit the podcast yourself. Suppliers of audio equipment like Sweetwater have courses on professional editing. After two decades involved in radio, my conclusion is that editing audio is a highly developed art. Rather than spend six hours editing a podcast, you will get a better return by engaging with your target audience and developing creative ways to delight your listeners with creative content.
Let’ say you have a great sounding podcast that answers the questions of your audience. Just pop it up on Libsyn and sit back, right? Wrong. “Build it and they will come” just won’t work in today’s highly competitive podcast world.
Libsyn claims there were 150 new podcasts a day in 2008; today we have an estimated 300 per day.
How do you separate your podcast from the others?
Thousands of articles have been written on how to promote in social media like blogs, podcasts, and videos. This short treatment cannot add to that magnitude of information. However, we would be remiss if we fail to mention the mountain tops.
Spend one hour on the podcast and ten hours promoting it.
To promote your podcast appropriately, you should have a good working knowledge of the three basics: Knowing your target audience, Understanding the power of keywords, and the Basics of metrics.
Who the heck cares about your podcast? What problem does it solve?
For example, let’s say your target audience is satellite operators. One concern they have is the proliferation of new satellites. In fact, today they are described as “constellations” of satellites.
There are so many new satellites in space that one of the most highly attended meetings at Satellite 2017 was a panel discussion on interference from satellites. If you had a podcast interview titled, “How to eliminate satellite interference issues,” it would appeal to the right audience.
Every small business has a distinct target audience. One of the best books on understanding this concept is written by Adele Revella and is called “Buyer Persona Buyer Personas: How to Gain Insight into your Customer’s Expectations, Align your Marketing Strategies, and Win More Business.”
She cogently argues that the best way to understand your target is to have a third party interview your existing customers, lapsed customers, and people who have never heard of your company.
70% of searches today involve questions. They might type in, “are there benefits to podcasting for small business?” You must understand your customer and have a pretty good idea of what words they will be typing into a search engine to get an answer. This will involve getting a basic understanding of keywords.
Small companies normally don’t have the budget to hire Adelle. But you certainly can read her book to sharpen up the way you produce a framework of your target listener. Adele is a believer in listening to the exact terminology that a prospective customer may use.
If you know what terminology and what questions your prospects are asking then the probability of people finding your podcast will go up. Take Adele’s advice and listen to your customers and write down the words and phrases they use. This is the beginning of your keyword acquisition strategy.
A conservative list of keywords for most small companies is around 150-200. If you are still stuck, there are numerous tools that can assist. The three best tools for doing keyword research are SEM Rush, Ahrefs, and MOZ Keyword Explorer.
Please remember to put the keywords in the title, metadescription, H1 header, in the file name for all images, and in the alt tag for any image. Between your persona development and keyword search you should have topics that your prospects are interested in. This means that you have 40 – 50 topics before you record your first podcast. Now your digital strategy is in place and you have a great podcast. What kind of metrics do you need?
If you commit to two years of a weekly podcast of 26 minutes you really shouldn’t worry about metrics for the first six months. Your normal promotional efforts on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook can be monitored with many free tools. One of the best is Hootsuite. You can go to one site and see exactly what mentions you have gotten in many social media.
THE BIGGEST MISTAKE
The biggest mistake a small business can make is not starting a podcast. Take the advice given here and put it into work boots. There has never been better to start a podcast.
There are more than a mere five perils of podcasting, but these are a good starting point. The goal of a business-to-business podcast is to develop a relationship with your audience. Over the long term, your financial results will dwarf any potential ad revenue.
Jump into podcast world – the world is an open microphone.
What are your thoughts on podcasting for small business?
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If you liked this, you may wan to read “How to Use Social Media Listening for Your Digital Strategy”