By Michelle Le Corunu, Commtractor, Marketing Consultant | Podcast Producer and director of Brainbox Marketing.

Done well, podcasts are an excellent marketing and communications tool for professional service businesses to include in their content strategy.

The COVID-19 calamity is forcing many professional services businesses to re-think how they communicate. When traditional channels, like live events, aren’t possible because the majority people are in self-isolation, how do you stay connected to your clients?

Now is the time to focus on your digital communications channels. In times like these, nearly everyone is glued to their phone, waiting for the latest news update. So, have a look in your digital marketing tool box and see what’s inside. Not much? Don’t worry!

To help you evaluate whether a podcast is right for your business, I’ve put together a few frequently asked questions.

Why is podcasting well-suited to service providers?

There are a few reasons why podcasting is a great tool for service-based businesses to have in their marketing and communications strategy:

  1. Professional service providers rarely have a shopfront. Most often, they’re in offices, impenetrable towers high up off the ground. Done well, a podcast can give your audience a ‘sneak peak over the fortress wall’ so they get a feel for your business, its people and your expertise.
  2. Professional services are sold on trust. This follows point one but it’s worth highlighting. Services are intangible whereas a product is a tangible thing. You can touch a product, look at it, tap it, sniff it, shake it etc. But you can’t grab a service, which makes it hard to evaluate until you’re receiving it. Unlike buying a Snickers at the servo, switching to a new professional service provider is a big decision that requires an investment of time, trust and money. A podcast allows prospective clients to check you out, before they commit to a phone call or first meeting.
  3. Professional services are often complex. The first podcast I ever produced was for the Centre for Ethical Leadership. Let me tell you, marketing education on how to be an ethical leader is no easy sell! After all, who wants to admit “my ethics need a brush up”? I realised that sharing real life stories about how complicated it is for leaders to make ethical decisions in the workplace was the way to go. A podcast interview allows you to explore the grey areas and discuss the pointy problems, exactly the kinds of issues where businesses seek professional advice.
  4. Professional services expertise is hard to tap. Professionals excel at giving advice to solve complex problems, often in person, to one business at a time. But what if that knowledge could be captured and shared on a one-to-many, rather than one-to-one basis? A podcast is a great way of sharing your expertise to educate the market and shed light on complex business problems. This doesn’t mean it replaces advice or solves all your client’s problems but it does inform your audience.

Who listens to podcasts?

  • According to a 2019 survey by the ABC, a whopping 89 percent of Australians are aware of podcasts while only 31 percent claim to have listened to a podcast in the last month (I say only 31 percent but that’s an audience of approximately 8 million Australians).
  • 25-34 year olds are the largest listening demographic (31% of podcast listeners surveyed), followed by 35-44 year olds (21% of podcast listeners)
  • 36% of the survey respondents live in NSW, followed by 25% in Victoria and 20% in Queensland

As a podcast producer, I would say that (anecdotally as I don’t have the same research as the ABC) my clients find podcasts a good way to reach working professionals, particularly to ‘get in their ear’ on the morning or evening commute.

Why do people listen to podcasts?

The ABC research tackles this question from the general public’s point-of-view. My point-of-view is through a business lens. I agree with the ABC that people enjoy listening to podcasts that inform them.

However, as any good journalist or communications professional knows, not all information is created equal. There are such things as ‘news values’, which basically means ‘stuff I find interesting’. For example, your in-house tax expert, Kenneth, might find the latest ATO announcement riveting but it doesn’t mean your clients want a blow by blow regurgitation of the regulations.

Have a podcast strategy that allows you to deliver information in an engaging way to keep your listeners entertained. For this reason, I favour interview-style podcasts over monologues. A monologue can sound preachy whereas an interview allows your audience to eavesdrop on an interesting conversation. I also recommend you structure your interview around solving problems. Podcasts that solve problems are helpful, which means listeners are more likely to subscribe. And subscribers are gold because they are repeat listeners who will share or recommend your podcast.

Finally, podcasting is an aural medium, which suits storytelling. So, use your podcast to tell a story. For example “Today, Kenneth and I are going to talk how your business can win from the latest ATO announcement” is more far interesting than Kenneth giving a lecture on the tax ruling. Leave the facts and figures to the ATO website, which you can always link to in the show notes on your website.

What’s the marketing strategy behind a podcast?

A podcast can tick a number of marketing boxes:

  1. Personal or company branding – most professionals and businesses want to raise their profile as credible, trustworthy experts in their field. A podcast is a great way to showcase your knowledge while also demonstrating empathy for others and curiosity about your profession.  These days, no one wants to buy services from a bossy know-it-all. They want advice from an expert who also has emotional intelligence and what better way to demonstrate this than through an engaging conversation.
  2. Business development – inviting someone to be a guest on your podcast can be a great way to make a new connection. But, it has to be sincere and be a win-win for both parties. You also need to do your due diligence and only invite guests who are good conversationalists. This doesn’t mean they have to be loud extroverts. But they do have to speak clearly and confidently about their topic. A podcast is also a good way to let potential clients get a feel for what you do. This is particularly important for service-based businesses where it’s harder for prospective clients to check you out.
  3. Content strategy – a podcast is a great way to produce content your clients will actually listen to. Rather than getting principals and partners to write an article on a topic they find interesting, why not keep a running list of FAQs from your clients and use your podcast to answer these questions? Or, give your clients something easily access, such as advice from experts who can give a big picture view of the challenges facing your industry?
  4. Search marketing- Google crawls and indexes podcasts in search engine results. Podcasts give you another ticket in the Google lottery, alongside webpages, images, videos and social media profiles. Now, I do realise professional services businesses don’t rely on people doing a Google search to win new business but more traffic to your website means more people seeing what you offer, and that’s a good thing.

Who makes a good podcaster?

As I mentioned above, you don’t have to be an extrovert to be a good podcaster. In fact, in my opinion, some of the worst podcasters are too in love with the sound of own voice or worse, talk over the top if their guests. To be a good podcaster, you need

  • Good interview skills – this means doing your research, asking insightful questions and listening to your guest. And please use plain English. Podcasting is storytelling so cut the jargon and talk like a real human.
  • Agile thinking – while it’s a good idea to prepare talking points for your interview, you need to think on your feet. An engaging conversation isn’t a ‘tick the box’ robotic exercise. The magic happens when the interviewer and guest make a connection.
  • Curiosity – the research (above) shows listeners want to be informed. That means, tell them something they don’t already know. Let them be a fly on the wall eavesdropping on your really interesting conversation. If you regurgitate the same stuff from LinkedIn, don’t be surprised if you’re listeners tune out or unsubscribe.
  • Gift of the gab – okay, a qualifier. You don’t have to be an extrovert but you do have to be a talker. If you’re not a talker, choose a medium that better suits your style, like writing an article.
  • Passion – if you enjoy what you do it will come across in your voice. Enthusiasm is contagious, and your guest and audience will catch on.

How do I market a podcast?

There are millions of podcasts out there, so how do you get yours noticed? Have an interesting title – it’s the top reason why people try out a new podcast. For example, my client Graham Seldon from recruitment agency, Seldon Rosser, chose the cheeky title  A Legal High (a double entendre) for his podcast which takes a high level view of the legal industry. Now if he’d called his podcast “Strategic issues affecting the legal industry” I doubt it would be the hit it’s become. Word-of-mouth and reviews are how most people learn about new podcasts. When I script an outro for a podcast, I always recommend my clients encourage their listeners to share the podcast and write a review. And of course, you must tell your audience about your podcast. For my clients, I use email and social media, and take a multi-channel, multi-media approach incorporating podcast, social media tiles, video and email.

How do I make a podcast?

One of the great things about a podcast is you don’t need an expensive studio set up to get the job done. And, if you are stuck in quarantine, you can record, edit, produce and publish a podcast remotely. If you are able to record an interview in-person, there are some great kits out there for less than AUD$500 that you can connect to your iPhone. But, if you and your guests are working remotely, you can use tools like Zoom or Zencastr to record the interview (Zencastr allows you to record each person on a separate track, which makes it easier to edit out any sound problems). Please note: the sound quality via the microphone built into your computer isn’t great so I’d recommend you and your guest use a microphone. You can purchase basic headset microphones for around AUD$30, which should do the job.

Once you’re set up, you can record a podcast in just about any location at any time (except next to a construction site with jackhammers).

Here are the steps:

  • Invite your guest
  • Draft a basic script (talking points on the questions/topics)
  • Record the podcast in person, or via Zoom or Zencastr
  • Edit and produce the podcast
  • Load to a hosting site (don’t load a podcast directly to your website, the file is too big and it will slow down your site)
  • Add the podcast to your website
  • Promote it through your channels (email, social media etc)

There are some once-off set up tasks you’ll need to do as well, like creating a podcasting page on your website, setting up hosting for your podcast, creating an iTunes account etc.

In summary, podcast are a great tool to have in your marketing and communications toolbox. Done well, they’re an informative and engaging way to communicate with your audience.

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