By Kay Stoner (c) 2005 for SiteProNews
The phenomenon of Podcasting has been getting a lot of press, lately. It seems everytime you turn around, someone else has a new pocast. Should you have one, too? Perhaps. According to Forrester Research, by 2010 podcasting may have as many as 12.3 million listeners. Somebody’s got to create content for all those listeners — maybe you’re one of the “somebody’s”.
Now, you may think Forrester’s numbers are about entertainment podcasts — music, talk, and other audio distractions. What’s the point of *your* business getting into *that* business? Actually, podcasting offers you the opportunÃ¯ty to do more than entertain. And it’s a lot more powerful than a simple personal online broadcasting platform.
When properly used, podcasting can — and will — take prospect contact and customer care to a whole new level… with the sound of the human voice, not just the code from a keyboard. Podcasting lets you put a human touch on your customer contacts — and it’s delivered to your subscribers’ computer for you.
~~~~10 Ways Podcasting Can Help You Do Business Better~~~~
1) Reach exactly the people who ask you to
When someone subscribes to your podcast, it means they are genuinely interested in what you have to offer. They’re not a “cold call” — they’re an interested prospect (or an existing customer) who has taken the time to subscribe to your podcast with the expectation that they will hear from you regularly. This model is quite different from the e-mail model, where people often opt-Ã¯n with their e-mail as a reflex, and then don’t bother to read the messages they receive. It’s also a complete departure from direct mail, where recipients are often “hapless victims” who resent the intrusion of too many unsolÃ¯cited messages.
2) Bypass the restrictions of e-mail communications – you won’t get blocked by sp@m filters
One of the (many) beauties of podcasting, is that it’s a great way to communicate with a receptive audience without being blocked by sp@m filters, or getting lost in an in-box. Podcast clients (or “podcatchers”) can automatically pick up the latest and greatest podcast you have available, without subjecting it to a filter. iTunes does have restrictions on “explicit” content, but if you’re using podcasting for business purposes, this is a non-issue. Your message will get through to people who want to hear it.
3) Tailor your message to literally speak to your prospects, for a more personal touch
The human voice is far more expressive, than an e-mail or a web page. Podcasting lets you connect with people and communicate with much more than words. Intonation, inflection, emotion, all carry on the human voice — they get through to your audience on your podcast in ways that the written word can’t.
4) Give your customers, or another target group, a personalized message they can listen to *anytime*
Another great thing about podcasting, is that your audience can listen to your audio anytime, when they use an mp3 player, like an iPod. They can also download your podcast to their computer and listen there, or burn it to a CD and take it with them. Your message gets to them on their terms, in their time, in the way they want it. Podcasting really is Personal-On-Demand-Casting. It’s not just about iPods.
5) Reach your customers in a variety of ways
Podcasting isn’t just only about audio, either. With your podcasts, you can include text messages that your audience reads in their podcatcher. Include website urls in your podcast, or add last-minute information they may find useful. Podcasting gives you the best of both worlds in a very small package.
6) Find out what your audience’s degree of interest *really* is, with stats reporting
When you send out an e-mail or a direct mail piece, it’s impossible to tell if people received it, if they read it, and how they responded to it. With podcasting, you can measure the statistics of your subscriptions and find out how many people each month are picking up your podcasts and downloading your audio. If they keep picking up your podcasts, you know you’re doing something right.
7) Get real-time metrics on who’s bailing on you
You can also find out if people are unsubscribing to your feeds. If your numbers go down from week to week or month to month, something may need to change. You can find this out immediately with podcasting, whereas e-mail and direct mail responses may take much longer to analyze.
8) Keep in closer touch with groups
Podcasting doesn’t only have to be for businesses. Social groups can also use it, for re-broadcasting important meetings, or sending out messages to members who need to keep in touch. Recordings of training sessions and workshops can be put into mp3 and distributed via podcast, as can motivational talks. Anything a group experiences ‘out loud’ can be recorded and placed in a podcast, for all the members to subscribe to and enjoy later at their convenience.
9) Technology does the work for you
Because podcatchers automatically pick up the latest file(s), you don’t have to notify people that the audio is available by conventional means — including e-mail. As long as you update your feeds regularly, and your audience checks their podcatchers regularly, they will get the latest and greatest audio you have, without having to search for it.
10) A potentially huge audience is ready and waiting
Podcasting is big, because there’s such a huge audience for it. iPods sell like hotcakes, and they’re given away as premiums by many businesses. Gear is amply available for playing mp3s in the car, during exercise, on home stereo systems, and of course, on computers. People download podcasts, they’re familiar with the concept – and downloading commercial podcasts from businesses they value and want to patronize is the next logical development in podcasting. When done properly, business podcasting can be fun, entertaining, and a valued service for valuable customers. The only barrier to putting it to good use, is the limits of human imagination.
In sum, podcasting may very well revolutionize the music broadcasting industry, but the *real* power lies in how it will impact the small and medium-sized business community. Whether you own a business yourself, or patronize those who do, there’s tremendous potential for podcasting to deepen and enrich customer experience, as well as the ability of businesses to serve their valued clientele.
So, chÃ«ck out podcasting as a whole new way to reach the kind of people who want you to reach them. What you don’t know about podcasting won’t hurt you… but it won’t help you, either.
Editor’s Note: For more information on PodCasting and how podcasts can be created, readers may also want to review PodCasting 101: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started