Content Marketing

Building an Audience Before Building Your Small Business

If it’s true  what Jim Rohn says, that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” then I am feeling pretty good about myself.

I have been lucky recently to spend time with a number of fellow entrepreneurs at early stages of their dreams. Some were close friends and family - others are new friends and new business. All of them impressive and inspiring.

I have found myself discussing a variety of business plans with varied leaders. Two newlyweds taking steps toward opening a locally sourced food and wine business on Long Island. Another the co-founder of a Charleston, SC based brewery. Another a distiller and expert on Korean Whiskys planning his own Brooklyn based brand. The last is an innovative furniture maker in the midst of raising a series A in New York.

These are all vastly different businesses that I felt emphatically compelled to give the same advice: Begin building your audience before you begin building your business!

People tend to humbly and quietly go about their planning, waiting until they are farther along and can more thoroughly prove themselves. But the smart move - and the brave move - is to take a risk by putting yourself out there much sooner.

Start interacting and building trust with the audience your business will serve. Learn what they like, what they want to know, and what they need to know. Then start giving it to them.

Launch a blog, or a video blog. Start a podcast or make series of educational videos. Host a webinar or interview an industry expert. Write - take pictures - network - design - create - share… Whatever!

Just honestly and vulnerably share what you know and love with people. That inspires excitement, trust and eventually loyalty. The sooner you start the better off you will be.

I have been giving this advice so much that it was clear I needed to write it down. Here are some of the benefits to beginning to build an audience before you are ready to open your new business.

Develop the habit

Creating a habit of content creation is a real challenge. Start developing that muscle as soon as possible.

Get in a mindset where every part of your journey is viewed as a content generation opportunity. Everything you learn - every challenge you face - every connection you make - All can be an inspiration to create something interesting and helpful.

People think they will immediately begin pumping out great content when their business launches… It doesn’t work that way. You need to cultivate the habit of creating and sharing until its part of your identity.

Get to know your audience

You will learn about your audience as you build it. The process of building that relationship will teach you what your audience responds to, who influences them and what they need.

You will be in a much better position to design and sell your product when you better understand your target customers.

Steepen your learning curve

Immersing yourself in the audience development process speeds up the rate at which you learn all sorts of things.

You’ll be researching posts, sharing data, interacting with people, meeting influencers, answering questions, finding new distribution channels, testing tactics and much more. Content creation puts you in the role of teacher and teaching is often the best way to learn.

All that work naturally increases the pace of your own learning. As an entrepreneur you need to be learning as much as possible and audience development can be a key driver.

Hone your message

Creating content for your audience is a great way to continually hone your messaging.

As a small business or startup owner, you likely won’t have a team of top copywriters to start. You will need to work exceptionally hard to develop messaging that will resonate with customers.

They say “if you want to be a better writer… write!” Committing to building an audience will force you to practice your craft and hone your messaging in time for your business to benefit.

Reach early adopters

A new business needs to be strategic about who they are targeting at each stage of their growth. Beginning your audience development at the earliest stages can help your reach the all-important early adopters.

The broad-market customer you may target when you are established is precisely the wrong group to target at the earliest stages. That’s because a broad-market customer won’t consider an unproven new option - they won’t consider you.

However, there is a small portion of the market comprised of early adopters that want to be first to try something new. This group will also be interested in your struggle to build something new.

The story of your entrepreneurial journey may catch the attention of this early adopter customer. And that customer type is the single most important factor in the early success or failure of your business.

As your business grows, the early adopter crowd will lose interest in you because you are no longer the hot new thing. But by then you are a proven entity which is now attractive to the broad-market audience that ignored you in the beginning.

Use content as a networking tool

Becoming a content creator can be a great way to support your in-person networking efforts.

Successful networking can be vital to the planning process of your business. Whether you are raising funding, looking for a co-founder, recruiting early employees, or prospecting for your first clients - you need to be taken seriously.

But it can be difficult to establish your expertise in the early days when you don’t have an established business - or even a business card and website.

Pointing to content you have created gives something tangible to showcase your expertise and make you memorable. Having a blog, a YouTube channel, a podcast, or some other creative output can really help bolster your credibility.

Head start on SEO

Getting a jump on content creation is going to provide you with a big SEO advantage when it comes time to actually launch your business website.

Google values unique, relevant, frequently posted content above all else. Quality is the most important factor but it is unrealistic to believe that quantity has no impact.

The majority of new small business websites launch with only a handful of pages - which makes sense. Your site should be easy to navigate and should focus only on what is most important.

But if you are able to tie in an existing blog - or other resources like video, infographics, podcasts, etc - you add additional content without distracting users. In fact, it will improve the user experience - which is what search engines reward.

Don’t worry if you don’t know your eventual company’s name or have its domain. The majority of any SEO value you gain can be passed to your site later using 301 redirects or canonical tags.

Your business will have a big advantage at launch if you have already built a treasure trove of content.

Build a photography collection

Building your community will have the side effect of forcing you to develop your own photo library.

Getting attention online generally requires great images to pair with your written work. Your posts will perform far better with a visual to help tell your story.

Getting in the habit of producing content will also get you in the habit of collecting great photos. I have written in the past about the importance of building your business photography collection.

Start producing content and you will likely become your company’s first photographer without even trying.

Build while you still can

Another advantage to building audience before launching your business: you don’t have the distraction of running your business.

The best marketing is a great product or service. I recommend you remain exceptionally focused on design and execution in the early days.

That won’t leave much time for building an audience. You will be distracted from developing your product - or you won’t have an audience to tell when the product is ready.

An audience-first approach allows for extreme product focus at launch. When the product is just right, you’ll already have loyal fans eager to hear about it.

SUMMARY

  • Begin cultivating an audience long before you launch your new business
  • Don’t wait until you are ready - Take a risk and just start creating and sharing
  • Develop a habit of being an “always-on” content creator
  • Start learning about your audience by interacting with them
  • Force yourself onto a steeper learning curve
  • Craft, test, iterate and improve your messaging before the pressure is on
  • Reach early adopters by sharing your journey as an entrepreneur
  • Use your content to accelerate your early SEO results
  • Use content creation as the impetus to build your own photography collection

Planning & Collecting Photos for Small Business Marketing

Everyone hates stock photos… yet they are used constantly. How can that be?

It’s because collecting good photographs and imagery is much harder than you think. Without a large budget for professional photography, it requires long-term planning and a cultural shift in your organization.

You will need many photos in the course of marketing your business. Websites, print brochures, blog articles, social media posts, PR opportunities, etc. All will be improved with good visuals.

If you only think about photos in the moments you need them for some particular project you will be way behind. With a good plan, you can effectively create your own stock photo gallery that is far more personal and authentic than anything you can purchase.

The difficulty of producing quality photos is easily underestimated. You may routinely dazzle your personal Instagram followers but when you are on a deadline and need something that feels professional you’ll realize how few photos are keepers.

But you can rely on amateur photography if you approach the task strategically.

A big piece of the puzzle is committing to consistency and volume. With amateur photography, you’ll want a large collection of photos from which to pluck the gems.

You should harness the creativity of your entire team. Make it clear that creating a collection of photos to draw from is the responsibility of the group. Everyone has a phone camera and everyone can participate.

Look for ways to incentivize contributions. Try a weekly photo contest that recognizes people for their creativity. Try giving out little rewards to those that are making a real effort. It can and should be a fun process. Get your staff on board and you’ll suddenly have a team of iPhone toting photographers continually building a collection.

You can improve the results by providing your team with creative inspiration. Nurture a culture where everyone is constantly thinking about the imagery that defines your personality, story, process and product.

Hold routine brainstorming sessions and keep a running list of specific shots you want to capture. Get your team involved in that ideation process to harness their creativity and entice their enthusiasm. Establish a Dropbox or Google Drive account where people can easily upload their photos. A tagging system to keep pictures organized is also a good idea.

Coming up with the creative ideas for imagery is a big part of the challenge. Below are some photo types and examples that can provide a framework for brainstorming and hopefully trigger additional ideas.

Focus on the community

If you serve a particular geographic area, take pictures that reflect the community you serve. That could mean shots of local landmarks like a distinctive building or a gazebo in the town square. It could also be a landscape photo taken from the highest point in town.

Think about local visuals that all your customers will immediately recognize and associate with the community.

Showcase your toolkit

Collect images of the tools you use to get your job done. For a fine home builder the tools are quite obvious… they’re tools. Snap a few photos of the nail while framing or the cement truck when it arrives to pour the foundation.

For other businesses, the tool kit may be less obvious but it exists. A lawyer has a legal pad. A real estate agent has a sign. A yogi has a mat.

Those images become the static equivalent of B-roll for a website, blog or social post.

Reflect your customers

What photos would reflect the customer you serve? An inn can use visuals of the luggage their guests will certainly be toting. A caterer might want bride and groom shots.

Portray an event

Don’t miss the opportunity to gather photos at any events you and your team visits. If your staff attends a tradeshow, walks for charity, or has a ribbon cutting, be sure to have cameras out through the whole thing.

Diagnose the problem

Use images to document the problem you solve. An accountant serving small businesses could capture the unwieldy box of receipts from an unorganized client. A stone mason could show a collapsed rock wall or a crumbling chimney.

Before and after

Now that you have documented the problem, be sure to the capture the solution for a powerful before and after sequence. A landscaper can show the beautiful space salvaged from an overgrown mess. An engineering firm could display the detailed schematic that grew out of a rough sketch.

Highlight your personality

Not every photo has to relate directly to the work you perform. What images would reflect the personality and spirit of your brand and team?

Demonstrate creativity with photos of your team working on an artistic personal project. If you’re fun and like to cut loose, get some pics of the team clinking glasses at happy hour. Get shots of office dog under your desk.

Introduce the team

Your most important asset is likely your team. Get as many pictures of them as possible. Candids, portraits, solos, group shots, in the office, out and about, with their pets, pursuing their hobbies, hard at work, hard at play… everything!

That collection will convey the human side of your company.

Show the work getting done

An author could show herself parked in front of the computer, signing books or at the podium of a speaking engagement. A university should collect shots of professors engaging with students. A chef peeling an enormous pile of potatoes conveys the work that goes into every step.

Feature your workspace

Provide additional context for your audience with images of your work spaces. Include your office or desk but get more creative with it as well. A law firm could capture shots of an empty courtroom. A bakery might take close-ups inside the oven.

Document your process

Try presenting visuals from your planning or creative process. You could use a series of images that show the evolution of your product design. Or capture your team gathered around the whiteboard in a brainstorming session.

Display your raw materials

Get pics of the raw materials that drive your business. A farm shouldn’t just shoot the produce – photograph the seed. Caterers could snap shots of the grocery delivery. Manufacturers might have a huge rack of sheet metal that would make a perfect background image.

Show products in the wild

Don’t stop at staged product images – document your product or service in use. A builder could bring life to a client’s kitchen renovation with shots of a family dinner. Or a designer could show where their work is being displayed.

Get artsy

Get a bit more abstract and symbolic with images that represent your value. A sapling could convey personal growth. A rocket ship could represent business growth. Just don’t use those ideas exactly because they are really cliché - but you get the idea.

SUMMARY

  • Stock photos suck – collect your own imagery whenever you can
  • Have a long term photo collection plan and weave it into the company culture
  • Enlist the help of your team and inspire their creativity
  • Create a system that makes it easy to contribute and organize photos
  • Provide a framework of the types of images you want

Photo types to consider:

  1. Focus on the community
  2. Showcase your toolkit
  3. Reflect your customer
  4. Portray an event
  5. Diagnose the problem
  6. Before and after
  7. Highlight your personality
  8. Introduce the team
  9. Show the work getting done
  10. Feature your workspace
  11. Document your process
  12. Display your raw materials
  13. Show products in the wild
  14. Get artsy

Packaging Your Marketing Project for a Designer

People often think they are less creative than they really are - That, or they think they are more creative than they really are. That leads to some challenges when they work with professional designers on a project.

You may be interested in the creative process and have a vision for how the final product should come out. The danger there is giving too much direction and preventing the designer from taking ownership of the project. It will stifle their passion and creativity.

Or you can go the other way. You may underestimate your abilities and want to leave it all to the expert. But no design professional can do their best work without having all the information they need - that means you need to be involved. As with anything, weak inputs produce weak output.

When you’re working with a designer your goal should be to strike a balance. Give them any and all information they need to produce their best work without getting in the way of their creative process.

Here are my suggestions for how to stay very involved in the process and positively impact the result, without suffocating and frustrating your creatives.

Define Why, When and How the Design Will Be Used

Spend the time to really think through all the use cases for the design you’re discussing because it could really influence the design and requirements.

Let’s think about a logo project as an example. Some uses, like on the website or office sign, will be obvious. Others can become a troublesome afterthought if you’re not careful.

Does your logo need to look good when it’s shrunk down to a very small size for a business card? Will it appear in black and white - perhaps in your local newspaper?

Does it need to be incorporated into the design of your actual product? You might want your logo molded, stamped or etched into your product. If it needs to be worked into the manufacturing process you may need to think about how a particular design impacts your tooling requirements.

Do you need a variation that will work as a thumbnail for your social media profiles? Hint: The answer is yes.

What various background colors will the logo be placed on? You may need inverted variations where one version uses color A as the dominant color and another version that uses color B as the dominant color.

Are there any pieces of company swag you have your heart set on? Your logo may need to look good in a single color in order to be etched into the side of your company pint glasses just the way you want.

Spending the time to think through all the settings in which your design will be utilized will save time and result in a better final product.

Design for Your Target Audience

Hopefully you’ve already taken the time to develop detailed buyer personas that reflect the preferences and personality of your target audience. Sharing those personas can be a great starting point for your designer.

A successful design needs to be targeted to the audience you’re after. A particular look may resonate with midwestern, middle aged, female executives but do nothing for young, tech savvy, urban males.

A great designer is an expert on visual preferences of different types of people and how they will perceive design differences. But that designer can’t be expected to know exactly who your target audience is unless you help  them understand.

You may have developed your buyer personas as a means of focusing your internal marketing and sales teams but the usefulness doesn’t end there. Don’t deprive your designer of that same advantage.

Reflect the True Personality of Your People and Brand

Design decisions should of course be made with the preferences and tastes of your target audience in mind - but that shouldn’t be the only guide.

Every aspect of your business, especially design elements that will play a big role in first impressions, should accurately reflect your brand and your people.

A design that feels fast paced, sleek and powerful is great for some businesses. But if your business is more accurately characterized as friendly, generous with time, and charmingly dorky then it’s a bad design for you. You’ll disappoint the people you do attract and scare off the folks that would have loved you.

Make sure your designer gets a feel for who the company and key people really are. A design that reflects your personality is going to feel authentic. That will accomplish much more than something beautiful but misleading.

Know What Your Competitors Are Doing

Provide a list of your competitors and the designs they use in similar settings.

You’re competitors shouldn’t be a place of inspiration - you don’t want to mimic them. But design presents an additional opportunity for differentiation.

You want to be sure your look isn’t too similar to your competitors. You likely already fill a particular niche or cater to a certain personality type. Your designs can and should reflect that positioning.

Provide Examples to Illustrate Your Design Preferences

Spend some time refining your own tastes by finding examples of other designs you like.

Use Evernote or create a Pinterest board so you can capture images you like and easily share them with your designer.

Don’t try to find the perfect example or two. You’ll either end up with a design that feels like a knockoff or you’ll be disappointed that it isn’t close enough. Find lots of examples where you like some particular element. Try to find and share at least a dozen or so.

As you find more and more examples of designs you like, it will make it easier to identify the common elements that define your tastes.

Be sure to include notes about what you like about each one - and be detailed. “I like how these two utilize negative space.” “I like how the soft colors in this one feel friendly and inviting.” “I think the clean lines here give a sense of expertise and organization.”

Just don’t expect your designer to replicate the examples you provide. The examples should merely be a way to facilitate a conversation about your tastes.

Understand How Color Impacts Perception

If you’re working with a well established brand your color decisions were probably made long ago. However, if it’s a new brand or complete overhaul then color choices are a major element of the design.

We’ve all had ideas about what our “favorite colors” are since we were kids. Our feelings about color are heavily influenced by our subconscious and we rarely give it much concrete thought. But when you’re embarking on a design project intended to influence others, it’s important to more precisely understand the ways that color can impact people’s feelings.

The slightest shifts in tone, texture or opacity can have a big impact on first impressions and associations. The emotional response to a color can also be influenced by the viewer’s cultural or geography.

Spend some time researching general color associations so you’re at least in a position to have an informed conversation. Learning the basics can help you discuss the topic, better understand your own preferences, and articulate why you love or hate a particular color scheme.

But remember not to be too rigid. A good designer likely has a better handle on the psychology of color choices than you. So don’t go in with a list of exact colors. Give your expert the opportunity to find the perfect combination based on what they know about you, your customers and your business.

Get Your Artists on the Same Canvas

Take steps to ensure that your various creative and artistic elements will work well together.

None of those elements will live in a vacuum and they must be cohesive. Your copy lives along with your UX which lives with your graphic design which lives with your photography and video. But those pieces are often created by different people.

It may make sense to get those people working together directly - or you may need to serve as the hub. Just remember that each will influence the other and they’ll all need to be aligned on message, brand personality, customer personality, space limitations, color, use case and more.

Talk to your creatives about how they like to work with the others and do your best meet those needs.

 

Summary

  • Strike a balance - Empower you designer with information but let them do the designing
  • Take the time to define exactly how the finished product will be used - It’ll come out better
  • Introduce your designer to your customers with buyer personas
  • Help your designer understand actual personality of your people and brand
  • Watch what your competitors are doing and go another way
  • Provide examples of designs you love and why - But don’t expect a knocked-off version
  • Understand the psychological undertones of color
  • Make sure all your creatives are working in the same direction

How Technology Has Democratized Content Marketing

Have we reached a point of content saturation on articles about content saturation? It’s true that there is a lot more content and a lot more noise competing for attention. For bigger brands this may not be a welcome development. After all, they always had the resources, content and access to distribution that made content marketing effective.

But for smaller businesses on tighter budgets, changes in the content marketing landscape have been decidedly positive. Laments about content saturation from that crowd just seem like hollow complaints.

The fact is that the technological advancements that have increased content output are the same factors that have allowed smaller brands into the game in the first place. Would you rather have access to a content marketing toolkit in a competitive landscape or not have access at all?

In this post we’ll take a look at the technological innovations that have democratized content creation and distribution and allowed small businesses to benefit.

Content distribution on your terms

The barriers and middlemen between you and your audience have dramatically and consistently melted away over the last decade or so.

Consider the options you had to distribute any content you created in the past. Your options basically included books, magazines, newspapers, direct mail, billboards, television or radio… and let’s not forget skywriting.

As a business owner you don’t control any of these channels. Your content must be accepted by an editor or you must pay for the privilege of communicating with your audience.

Contrast that with similar channels today that offer far more control. You can easily self-publish written content with a blog, eBook, whitepaper, or slideshare deck rather than going through a publisher. Television can be substituted with video hosting and sharing tools like YouTube, Vimeo or Wistia. Podcasts can replace radio, be distributed for free with iTunes or Stitcher, and consumed on demand. Direct mail becomes email…  and I guess Twitter is the new skywriting. Haha

Content can be shared on a much larger scale without the marketing budget that would have been required in the past. Social media and SEO have become key methods for reaching a new audience. And you can maintain that audience like never before with owned channels like your website or email list.

Even when a major channel like Facebook drastically reduces organic access to your audience, there are dozens of other social channels with fewer barriers able to pick up the slack.

So yes, while content saturation is real and there is more competition for attention than ever, small businesses and organizations with tight budgets have more direct access to their audience than ever before.

Inexpensive devices to capture amazing audio and video

Advancements in hardware technology have opened up content formats that would have been unapproachable for many small businesses in the past.

The cost of cameras, video equipment and microphones continues to fall as quality and usability improve. Even the capabilities of a smartphone make amazing content achievable for any business. For just a few hundred dollars – which you probably already spent – and you have the tools to create striking visual content.

The camera quality on the latest phones is better than most high end cameras were not long ago. With each iteration new features like improved panoramic capability and slow motion get better and  better.

The sound capture on phone microphones is pretty amazing too - especially if you are able to keep the phone close to the sound source. Picking up a few other tricks - like using one phone to film and another to capture audio - will improve the output even further. For more suggestions, Wistia has a piece on creating great video with only an iPhone.

There are also some very affordable shotgun microphone attachments that enhance audio even further. An inexpensive lighting setup can provide even more polish with a minimal investment.

The increasing affordability of drones offers new opportunities as well. Check out this video featuring the Lily Drone. It promises the ability to capture aerial video all by yourself that would have required a helicopter and camera crew in the past.

Your ability to create something amazing is limited only by your own creatively and knowledge of your audience.

Software to design and edit content like never before

The job of editing, enhancing, designing, and packaging your content used to require an entire team and tens of thousands of dollars (or more) in equipment.

Today, an inspired creator can put out a remarkable product with nothing more than a laptop, a smartphone and some enthusiasm.

An out-of-the-box MacBook basically serves as a fully equipped creative studio. The Pages application allows you to mix text and imagery to create magazine quality documents. The Photos application offers basic photo editing, retouching and organizaton. iMovie serves as a very capable mobile video studio. GarageBand enables musicians or a podcast creators to generate amazing audio content. And Keynote provides  a great tool for giving compelling presentations.

If your budget is even tighter, many of the primary capabilities of those applications can be performed directly on an iPhone with standard or inexpensive mobile apps.

Design help is even easier to get. Freelance job sites make finding and working with a professional designer more convenient and affordable than ever. Other platforms like 99designs are innovating on the process further by providing a platform for small business owners to setup design competitions and choose their favorite result.

The ease and low costs of today’s tools make it possible to produce content that many small brands would never have been able to attempt just five or ten years ago.

Summary

  • Technology has made great content marketing more achievable for SMBs that ever before
  • Today’s distribution channels put far more control in the hands of low-budget marketers
  • A smartphone in the hands of a creative person is a content generation wonder-tool
  • Standard creative apps make polishing content cheaper & easier than ever
  • “Content saturation” is merely a symptom of a golden age of small business content marketing

The Growth of Podcasting as a Marketing Tool

How can podcasting be taking off just as the iPod itself seems to be fading away? Its seems counterintuitive but a number of factors – timing, technology and luck among them - are coming together to move the podcast audio format into the mainstream.

The smart content marketer is recognizing the circumstances and attributes that make podcasting such a valuable tool in building customer relationships.

 

A Technology Before It’s Time

It was starting to look like podcasts were going the way of the CD, VCR and the 8-track.

One problem preventing podcasting from breaking out was that it sort of came too early. The technology has been viable for well over a decade but there was too much friction in the user experience. A listener first had to download the audio file to a computer and then upload it to their iPod. Not a big problem but definitely an impediment.

With the introduction of the iPhone that step was no longer necessary, but podcasting felt like old news. It was a term that many had heard but a format few had adopted.

There also wasn’t a breakout discovery tool to help people find the content that would speak to them. Music discovery tools were at the heart of the file sharing movement going back to Napster. Pandora offered to “map your music genome” but a successful equivalent for podcasts didn’t materialize until much later.

Now the technology is mature and discovery apps like Stitcher have been widely adopted. Further, in 2013 with the release of iOS 7, Apple began including a standalone podcasting app on every iPhone.

The user experience is no longer an impediment.

 

The smash hit that changed everything – The Serial effect

As recently 2014 only a select few programs, most notably This American Life, had managed to break through and gain mainstream notoriety.

But then podcasting had a breakthrough hit that changed everything. Serial launched in 2014 and took off in a way that no podcast had before.

Serial followed the dark, murky and intriguing case of Hae Min Lee, a Baltimore high school student murdered in 1999. Serial investigated the case and conducted exhaustive interviews with the victim’s ex-boyfriend, who was ultimately convicted of the crime. I won’t get deep into the detail or try to diagnose why it touched a nerve for so many listeners - but trust me, it was gripping.

The show spread faster than any podcast before it, reaching 5 million iTunes downloads in record time. Suddenly creator Sarah Koenig was a guest on Colbert and being parodied on Saturday Night Live.

The lasting effect of Serial was that it introduced many people to the format for the first time. It became clear that the technology was now easy and friction-free. Those listeners finished the series and found themselves asking, “What do I listen to now?”

 

Startup is a great show – An even better content strategy

Another hit podcast called Startup highlighted just how powerful a podcast can be as a marketing tool.

Startup followed the show’s host, Alex Blumberg, as he launched his own business, a podcasting content company called Gimlet Media. In the first episode, during a pitch to legendary startup investor Chris Sacca, they discuss “what is the unfair advantage” Alex has going for him. They seem to settle on his experience in the industry as the unfair advantage.

I’d argue the real advantage he had was that the first show they produced was about the business itself. Listeners spent hours empathizing with the founders and their families, understanding the unseen challenges of the business,  and learning about the collection of skills that made Gimlet unique.

As a listener you couldn’t help but root for them. I felt like I knew Alex and when I recommended the podcast it felt as though I were doing a favor for a close friend.

When they launched a second show, Reply All, its creators became a part of the storyline – thereby launching the next hit.

When it came time to raise additional funds they pitched the audience and hit their goals in a matter of days.

All this happened while entertaining the listeners. We sat there eagerly soaking up all the information that a marketing department might otherwise spend millions to communicate. But the information was invited – not pushed to us. It was fantastic content marketing.

That was the “unfair advantage!”

 

The elements that make podcasting special

There are a few elements that make podcasting stand out as a content tool. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons I think podcasting presents a unique opportunity to marketers.

1) Opportunity to connect with the audience

Podcasting offers a chance to connect with the audience on a human to human  level more easily than many other formats. Hearing the voice, inflection and emotion of the host makes the listener feel like they are really getting to know a person. It’s a difficult sensation to replicate with a written piece, infographic, or photo.

2) Long-form acceptance

Podcasting is a long-form format that people actually want to remain long-form. Trends in written and video seem to keep moving shorter and more concise. People are busy and it’s a big ask to require their attention for an extended period of time.

In contrast, people often consume podcasts when they are driving, exercising, walking, running errands, doing chores, etc. The multitasking element lends itself to long-form content. That extra time gives you the opportunity to build a deeper and more meaningful relationship.

3) Ability to reach a guest audience

Most podcasts don’t attempt the highly edited narrative format a of Startup, Serial or This American Life. It’s much more common to follow an interview format. This certainly cuts down on the time needed to put together a quality show. But the interview format also benefits through accessing the guest’s audience. A blog mention or tweet from a well-networked guest can have a big impact on your number of listeners.

4) Less content saturation

Though podcasting has been around for a while, it’s really just starting to take off toward its full potential. It’s an opportunity to get in on a growing format with less competition for attention. For people lamenting the fact that they didn’t start their blog in 2006 – this could be your chance to right that wrong.

5)  Low barriers to entry

Technology has made podcast production easily accessible to anyone. While some small equipment and software upgrades could improve the output – start with a directional microphone - you could produce a solid podcast with nothing more than an iPhone. Just be careful not to confuse the ease of creating a podcast with ease to master the channel – a great show takes work.

6) Multiple revenue sources

Podcasting also lends itself to generating multiple revenue streams. My interest in podcasting is primarily as a content marketing tool to engage the audience of your core business. However, a successful show with a large audience can also monetize with advertising. Affiliate marketers have also found Podcasting to be an effective tool to drive commission revenue by referring products to listeners.

Summary

  • Podcasting is becoming an increasingly powerful tool in content marketing
  • The format is hitting it’s stride in part due to recent technological advancements
  • Hit shows like Serial have helped bring podcasting to a larger audience
  • Startup represents an ingenious example of podcasting as a content marketing tool
  • Podcasting has unique attributes that make it a special content channel
    • Authentic person-to-person connection
    • It’s a welcomed long-form channel which is harder and harder to come by
    • Less competition for attention than some other content formats
    • Podcast interviews give you access to your guest’s audience
    • It’s easy to start – though difficult to perfect
    • Podcasts can be monetized in various ways