Ten Steps to Starting a Podcast

Ten Steps to Starting a Podcast - Duct Tape Marketing

photo credit: DollarPhotoClub

As the content marketing arms race continues to heat up, it’s becoming harder and harder to get noticed.  Sometimes it seems that unless you are a published author, speaker, and prolific blogger, you won’t get much traffic or recognition as an authority in your niche.  This is especially true in competitive niches like small business marketing, where having a blog is now practically considered a minimum expectation.  For people struggling to keep up with the competition, there is some good news, however—at this time, podcasting is still a relatively easy way to differentiate yourself from the competition, stand out in a crowded market, and gain access to hard-to-reach influencers in your industry.

Notice I say “at this time”.  While podcasting might not ever become as prolific as blogging is as a form of content marketing, I do think there will come a time when the number of people who have their own podcast will become so great that it just won’t be very exciting anymore.  That time hasn’t arrived yet—in fact, about 50% of Americans still don’t even know what a podcast is, and even among content marketers there are still relatively few podcasters.

Perhaps this is because people believe that podcasting is technically difficult and requires more time and energy than blogging.  Ironically, the truth is exactly the opposite—writing a keyword-rich blog post optimized for internet search actually requires more technical skill (in terms of knowledge of SEO best practices) and more time than producing a good podcast episode.  In fact, it’s taken me about four times as long to write the first three paragraphs of this blog post as it does to record one episode of my podcast.

For those of you who have been considering starting a podcast, now is the time to do it.  Follow this ten-step process to get your show up and running.

Step one: pick a topic

Picking a topic for a podcast should be fairly easy for people who have an existing business or a blog, since your podcast can simply be on the same topic as your blog.  However, you should probably check iTunes before finalizing your topic to see how many podcasts there are covering the same subject.

If there are few podcasts about your topic, that makes your job easier.  If there are many podcasts about your topic, then you’ll want to spend some time thinking about how your podcast will be different than all the existing podcasts about the same subject.  If you simply copy what many other people are already doing, it will be harder for you to build an audience.

Step two: pick a format

Once you have a topic, you’ll need to decide on a format for your show.  Will the host of the show interview a guest in each episode who is an expert on the topic?  Or will the host be the expert who provides all the content?  Will you have one host or two hosts?  How long will your episodes be?  How often will you publish new episodes?  Will your show be a video or audio podcast?

It’s important to consider your target audience as you answer these questions.  For example, the target audience for my podcast is busy local business owners who probably don’t have 40 minutes to listen to a long podcast every week.  As a result, most of my podcast episodes are only about 5 minutes long.  However, if your target audience is marathon runners who love listening to podcasts about fitness as they train for their next race, then you’ll probably want to make your episodes a little longer.

Step three: get equipment

Contrary to what you might think, you really don’t need much equipment to produce a quality podcast.  All you need is a quality microphone (I use the Blue Nessie), a Skype account, software to record a Skype call (like Pamela), and some basic software for editing audio files (like Audacity).  You can get all of the above for under $100.  If you’re starting a video podcast, you’ll need some additional equipment (like a webcam), but if you want to keep it simple and stick with an audio podcast, you’ll be just fine with the basics.

Step four: set up hosting

Just like a website, podcasts need a place on a server where the media files will live.  While you can host a podcast on your website (depending on where your site is hosted), I don’t recommend it—if your podcast really takes off and gets a lot of downloads, it could really slow your site down.  Instead, use a dedicated podcast host like Libsyn.  For most podcasters, about $15 a month will give you plenty of storage space for your media files.

Step five: pick a title

When you pick a title for your podcast, there are several different directions you can go.  You could us your name (The “John Smith Show”), use a clever name that uses jargon from your industry in the title (a fishing podcast called “The Reel Story”, for example), or use a descriptive name that tells people exactly what your podcast is about.  Keep in mind that if you can work some keywords into your podcast title, it might help it turn up in searches on iTunes or Google when people search for podcasts about your topic.

Step six: design your podcast cover artwork

The same cliché about judging a book by its cover holds true for podcasts.  Get a professional cover designed for your podcast on Fiverr.com that meets the iTunes specifications.  This will be the first thing people see when your podcast turns up in search results on iTunes, so you want to make a good impression.

Step seven: record an intro and outro

You’ll want every episode of your podcast to have a short introduction that includes the name of the show, who the target audience is, and why people should listen.  You can record this yourself or have it done by a voice-over artist.  You’ll also want an “outro” for each episode with a call-to-action for your listeners—for example, telling them how they can contact you, or where they can go to download some additional content related to the episode.

Save the intro and outro as a template in your audio editing software, so that you can simply drop the audio file for each episode into the template.  This will make the editing process quick and easy.

Step eight: plan the launch

This step is way beyond the scope of this blog post—in fact, several excellent books have been written about the process for launching a podcast.  I recommend Podcast Launch by John Lee Dumas if you want to learn how to launch a podcast the “right” way.  However, if you want to simply submit your podcast to iTunes and aren’t worried about doing a big launch, that’s fine also.

One thing you should be aware of, however, is that iTunes has something called a “new and noteworthy” section where recently launched podcasts are featured.  Only podcasts less than eight weeks old are eligible to appear in this section, which is the first section people see when they open up iTunes.  If you launch your podcast the right way, you can get significant exposure by getting your show featured at the top of the “new and noteworthy” charts in your category.

Step nine: getting reviews and subscribers

After your show is live, you’ll want to get some five-star reviews for it so that people who stumble across it will be more likely to download an episode.  Getting people to review a podcast on iTunes is not easy, because compared to leaving a review for a book on Amazon or reviewing a business on Facebook or Google, the process for reviewing a podcast is somewhat cumbersome.  I suggest asking friends, family, and strategic partners to help you out by leaving your podcast an honest review.

Step ten: marketing your podcast post-launch

The process for marketing a podcast is really little different than marketing a book, blog, product, or anything else, so I won’t go into detail about how to do that here.  The bottom line is that you will have to promote it—it isn’t simply a matter of “if you launch it, the listeners will come”.  You can spend as little or as much time and money marketing your podcast as you want, but obviously the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it.

While the process for starting a podcast may be slightly more involved than starting a blog, once you have started it, it actually requires less time and energy to maintain than blogging.  Now is the time to get started, before podcasting becomes simply another standard expectation for content marketers.

kevin JordanKevin Jordan is a small business marketing consultant and member of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.  He’s also co-author of the best-selling book The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Local Lead Generation and the host of the top-rated video podcast The Small Business Marketing Minute Show. You can connect with Kevin on Twitter @RMCVirginia.

Five Essential Elements of a Terrible Small Business Ad

Last week, when I opened my mailbox, I found a relic from a bygone era.  It’s one of those things that shouldn’t really exist anymore outside of a marketing museum, and yet somehow does—a great testament to the power of tradition, perhaps.  I am speaking, of course, of the printed business phone directory—the famous “yellow pages”.

I have been told that in ancient times—i.e., before the internet—people would use this printed directory to look up the contact information of local businesses they wanted to get in touch with.  Now, I think it is mostly used as a prospecting tool by marketing consultants like myself, since it is a great way to find out which businesses in the area have a decent marketing budget (printed directory advertising isn’t cheap, after all), but are not using that budget very effectively.

It’s also a great place to find many examples of terrible small business advertising.  In fact, just about every banner ad and full-page ad in printed phone directories makes at least two or three of the same mistakes.  A yellow-page style printed directory makes these mistakes painfully obvious due to the fact that all competing businesses are listed right next to each other, whereas in other formats—such as online banner ads or newspaper ads—they might not be quite as evident.

Whether or not you’re spending money on banner ads in printed directories, studying these mistakes—and then examining your own advertisements with a critical eye—can help you avoid some potential errors that reduce the effectiveness of your ads.  So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the five essential ingredients of a terrible small business ad (and how to avoid them).

Irrelevant headline

One of the most important parts of any ad is the headline.  It’s the first thing people will see when they look at the ad, and what it says will determine whether or not they even read the rest of the ad.  A common characteristic among ineffective ads is that they have a headline that is irrelevant—in other words, it doesn’t communicate anything about who the target audience is for the ad or what type of product or service the ad is promoting.

Here’s a few examples of irrelevant headlines (these are all actual ad headlines I found in the yellow pages):

  • “Don’t Compromise”
  • “Our Family Serving Your Family”
  • “A Part of Your Community, a Part of Your Life”
  • “No Job Too Large or Too Small”

See what I mean?  All of these headlines could apply to any type of business and any audience.  The last one is my personal favorite—it was for a tree trimming company.  It makes me want to call them up and tell them I have 3,000 acres of heavily forested land that I need cleared by next month, just to see if they will concede that there are in fact jobs that are too big for them.

When you write the headlines for your ads, be sure to mention your target audience, what you do, your value proposition, and some kind of hook, if possible.  For example, a local CPA with great online reviews who has many years of experience might have an ad with the headline “My Town’s Top-Rated Small Business CPA” and the sub-headline “20th Anniversary Sweepstakes—Enter to Win a Free Tax Return”.

Bullet point list of all the same products or services sold by your competitors

After the irrelevant headline, the next essential ingredient of a terrible small business ad is to include a bullet-point list of all the same products or services that your competitors sell.  Make sure that you only include things that people would automatically assume that you do based on your type of business.  For example, if you’re a lawn care company, only include things like grass cutting, mulching, hedge trimming, weed treatment, etc.  Don’t put anything different or exciting on your list—that would come dangerously close to what some people might consider a “best practice”.

Now, if you actually wanted to write an effective ad, instead of using a bullet-point list of all your services, you might consider only mentioning the one thing that you do that none of your competitors do.  In other words, mention your unique selling proposition or core difference, which—if you’re doing things right—is why someone reading the ad would choose you vs your competitors.  If you don’t have a core difference, then you probably shouldn’t be spending money on advertising until you come up with one.

Impossible and overused promise

If you want to guarantee that your ad rises (or should I say, sinks) to the level of “terrible”, just add the following phrase to it:

“Call us for the best quality, service, and price!”

Now, you might be thinking that you actually have the best quality, service, and price, so why shouldn’t you mention that in your ads?  Well, I can tell you with absolute certainty that you don’t have the best quality, service, and price, and here’s why—it’s impossible to have all three of those at the same time.  If I am willing to accept poor quality or bad customer service, I can get a cheaper price—always.

The ironic thing is that despite the fact that it’s impossible, many businesses claim to have the best quality, service, and price all at the same time—even businesses who are competing against each other.  Consumers have become so used to hearing this claim that it has lost all meaning, so do yourself a favor.  Even if you, by some miracle, actually do have the best quality, service, and price, don’t use that phrase in your ads.   Instead, use testimonials from your customers that mention your low prices, great service, and excellent quality.

Meaningless trust symbol or endorsement

Trust symbols are logos or icons, usually from a widely recognized and trusted third party, that you can use in your ads in the hope that people will transfer some of the trust they place in the third party to your business.  In order to make them effective, however, the trust symbols have to actually mean something to your target audience.

For example, if you’re a wedding photographer and you are a top-rated provider on the website weddingwire.com, you can put the “Weddingwire Rated” badge in your ad.  This website is seen as an authority in the wedding industry, and an endorsement from them means a lot.

Terrible small business ads, on the other hand, will use a trust symbol that has no meaning to anyone.  For example, they might use a shield icon with a lock to indicate they take security seriously.  I suppose that’s better than nothing, but all that really indicates is that they know how to use clip art in an advertisement.  If the “trust symbols” you use in your ads aren’t actually associated with a brand your target audience knows and trusts, then it really defeats the purpose of using them.

Lack of a tracking method

The last essential element of a terrible small business ad isn’t necessarily something that can be recognized by a reader, but it is probably more important than anything else on this list.  It’s the lack of any method or mechanism for tracking how many leads come from the ad.  No trackable phone number, no coupon code, no landing page with a unique URL—nothing.  After all, why would you use any of those readily available and easy-to-create methods to determine whether or not your ad was worth the money you spent on it?

Out of all the mistakes I’ve mentioned here, this one is probably the most common.  It’s also probably the only reason why I still get a printed business phone directory in the mail every year.  If the businesses who paid large amounts of money to advertise in that directory were tracking how many leads they actually generated as a result, I doubt that they would continue to advertise there.

If you’re not making any of the mistakes mentioned above, congratulations.  Unfortunately, many small businesses who really can’t afford to waste a single dime on ineffective advertising are making at least a few of these mistakes.  Will you help me spread the word to those businesses by sharing this blog post on your favorite social media platform?  Perhaps if enough people do that, we can relegate the printed business phone directory to a marketing museum where it belongs.


Kevin JordanKevin Jordan is a small business marketing consultant and member of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.  He’s also co-author of the best-selling book The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Local Lead Generation. You can connect with Kevin on Twitter @RMCVirginia.

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