This is a guest post by Jon Buscall
The biggest challenge for consultants when marketing their services online is to convince visitors that the services and skills they offer are firstrate. With most websites having a bounce rate of over 70 percent, you’ve only got a matter of seconds to persuade a visitor to hang around and find out more about what you have got to offer them.
If you’re a consultant you know just how much marketing your business relies enormously on your personality and communication skills. The trouble is that websites often aren’t actually that great at getting either of these across in a matter of seconds.
In recent years a lot has been said about building your network through participating on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, but whilst social media can be a valuable part of an integrated strategy when marketing your business, there will still come a point where people will want to check out your website.
That’s why I often recommend that consultants explore what they can achieve with podcasting.
It’s all in the voice
No matter how well you write, people tend to graze websites and the typical consultant blog, when looking for the solutions to the problems they’ve googled.
Sure, a great picture and a couple of clearly visible testimonials will go a long way to help you connect with a visitor to your site but there’s nothing quite like video or audio for showcasing just who you are, what you know and what you can do.
I don’t know about you but I’m not the most comfortable of people in front of the camera, so that’s why I started investigating what I could do with audio.
Why I Started Podcasting
As a small business owner working in the field of digital marketing, I’d always done quite a lot of public speaking and training. In fact, as a consultant I felt that the best way of communicating my skills was when I had the chance to talk to people. Sure, you can talk to people over the phone but cold calling isn’t easy or particularly effective unless you can work an opening and get the chance to come and talk in person.
Seeing that people were coming to my website looking for the kind of services I was offering, I started to try and increase the conversion rate by putting a piece of audio up on my website. It was basically me talking about marketing strategy.
I’d scripted it and recorded it into my Mac using Garageband.
When I was approached a couple of weeks later to do a couple of consulting sessions with major Swedish organizations, I asked, as I always do, how they’d found out about me.
“On your website,” I was told.
I dug a little bit deeper and discovered both had listened to the audio as well. It had helped persuade them I might be a good fit for what they were looking for.
Very quickly I saw the benefit of podcasting and started to regularly release each week audio content where I talked about the kinds of things my customers were interested in.
Eighty episodes plus later – as of March 2013 – podcasting has become the second most successful form of lead generation for my business after word of mouth.
When I talk to new customers they often tell me that the opportunity to hear me talking at length and in some detail about the issues related to their business really helped convince them to approach me. To use a classic creative writing strategy, it’s as if the podcast “shows” visitors to my site just who I am and what my skills are as opposed to “telling” them about what I can or could do for their business.
The classic About or Services page on a consultant’s website usually lists the services or benefits the consultant is able to offer. Blogging is a great way of showing you can deliver solutions and help; however, not everyone has the patience to read. A piece of audio content, on the other hand, illustrates firsthand just what you could bring to a consultation whether you are a canine behaviourist (like one of my podcast clients), lawyer, accountant, dentist and so on.
The Right Approach
I’ve found that the best way to connect with prospects using a podcast is to address the kinds of problems potential customers go online to find answers to. I ask myself the kind of specific questions a client might ask (e.g. How do I get more traffic to my website? What’s the best way to market myself on Twitter?) and then set about sharing the strategy I would recommend as best practice.
A good friend of mine was worried that this kind of content marekting is tantamount to “giving the farm away” (i.e. sharing my best secrets for absolutely free) but you’d be surprised how sharing information for free actually generates business.
I suspect a lot of it comes down to the fact that a percentage of customers who look for solutions to their unique business problems are not going to want to take care of it themselves but instead hire someone. And with a podcast, that hire could be you.
How to Get Started
To add a podcast to your own business consultancy, it’s essential you have a clear idea of your target audience before you do anything else. I’m assuming that you already have this from your business plan; however, you must not lose sight of this as you plan a show for your target listener. In this way you will ensure your show addresses the information they are trying to reach. This is important because potential listeners will want to know in a matter of seconds that your show would be useful. A clear indicator of this should be given by your show title.
For example, the fictional Golf Tips from a Pro podcast tells you instantly what the show is going to be about – before you’ve even listened to an episode. But what if the host had decided to call it Swing Tips? Dance enthusiasts might have been very disappointed upon downloading it.
Once you’ve got your show idea clear in your mind, you’ll need to invest in some equipment. Recording into the onboard mic on your computer is not a good idea as the audio quality you’ll get is so poor. Still, there are plenty of other options out there.
If you’re just starting out I suggest you go with a good quality USB microphone like the Blue Yeti or Röde Podcaster mic. This will enable you to plug the mic into your computer and record. On the Mac Garageband is pre-installed so you can record and edit your show; if you’ve got a PC, Audacity is a great open source programme for recording and editing audio.
After that, you can add intros and outros if you want to give your show even more personality; however, it’s not essential. Some of the most successful shows online don’t have intro music.
When you’ve edited your show, you should save or export it to Mp3 and not any other format. This will ensure that listeners on any platform can access your podcast.
To launch your podcast you’re going to need to buy some media hosting to host your Mp3 files. If you host them with the company that hosts your website you could run into some expensive bandwidth costs. Audio files take up much more bandwidth and a few thousand downloads a week can really turn out expensive.
If you’re serious about podcasting, host your mp3s with Libsyn.com. They charge a flat monthly fee so it doesn’t matter if 100 or 100,000 episodes are downloaded each day.
It’s important to note that podcasting doesn’t mean just putting a piece of audio on your website. It actually refers to syndicating your audio via rss. In non-geeky terms this means that when you publish a podcast either using WordPress + the Blubrry Powerpress plugin or a media service like Libsyn, an RSS feed notifies podcast directories like Apple’s iTunes that you’ve released a new show.
Listeners who subscribe to your rss feed using smart phone apps like Apple’s Podcast app, Downcast or Podcast Addict will then receive each new episode you release.
You’ll also need some great podcast artwork to help brand your show and make it clearly visible in the podcast directories out there.
Shows that don’t include artwork aren’t included on iTunes’ New & Noteworthy which remains the premier place to be discovered.
Similarly, your artwork should exude the same professionalism as your other online marketing.
The Secret to Podcasting Success
If you podcast consistently and produce quality content that addresses the things your target audience need to know, combined with great audio quality, you’ll find that you bring a new level of professionalism to your content marketing.
It takes time to build an audience, but the secret is to consistently release episodes – preferably once a week – and promote them on your website and across social media channels.
With the proliferation of smart phones out there, so many of us listen to audio nowadays whilst we’re on the go. It’s easier than reading or watching video.
I know from personal experience just how podcasting can help build new connections and showcase your knowledge, skills and personality.