We all know that there is growing agreement that podcasts are a great way to share your thought-leading content.

According to a study released by KnowledgeStorm and Universal McCann on the emerging role of new media, over 41 percent of survey respondents claimed they had listened to podcasts on more than one occasion, and 13 percent stated that they frequently download or listen to them; and 65 percent of podcast listeners said they listen to podcasts for both personal and business interests (source: Emerging Media Series: The Influence of Podcasts on B2B Technology Purchase Decisions, July 2006).

There is increasing demand for podcasts as part of the marketing arsenal to engage audiences and advance conversations with prospective customers. Podcasting is proving to be a great way share multimedia content because your audience can fetch it automatically or when it fits their schedule.

Podcasting can give your company a new image and personality. And, increasingly, as it evolves, podcasting offers the promise of being another highly effective way to reach and develop potential customers.

Today's audience for podcasts is tiny compared with those of other marketing media, but it's growing, especially in the context of the complex sale.

New information and communications technologies spring onto the scene with breathtaking frequency, and it is quite likely that the search for the elusive qualified sales lead will continue to be enhanced by their continuing introduction and evolution.

For example, companies are already using podcasts to generate sales leads and revenue for their sales training events.

Via RSS feeds, podcasts are very easy to access. Major search engines and music sites have added the ability to search for podcasts and pull RSS feeds for updates.

Podcasting doesn't necessarily require you to start from scratch. You likely already have high-value content that you produced for other lead-generation efforts that will lend itself perfectly well to podcasting.

Recorded webinars, webcasts or teleseminars are especially good. Even articles could be repurposed into a radio show-like format, analogous to books on tape.

Some other things to keep in mind if you decide to proceed with your first stab at podcasting:

  • Know what you want to say and have a point of view.
  • Be ready and willing to learn by trial and error, since podcasting is a relatively nascent medium.
  • Develop a working familiarity with sound-editing software.
  • Determine your comfort level with speaking in a broadcasting voice.

Podcasting may not be mainstream yet, but it is gaining momentum. "It is a nice change of pace to listen to the information I need instead of reading it on a monitor. I can also do other things while listening," one marketer I recently talked to said. "Hey, I think I talked myself into doing a podcast."

People want different information, in different ways, at different times during their buying process. The choices they'll make will depend on their role, their exact need, and the timeframe for solving that need.

One of the reasons podcasts are important is that they engage an audience or prospective customer in a way that other offerings may not. And if you have potential customers who are already listening to podcasts, why would you want to leave that offering out of your mix?

Every potential customer will have a slightly different buying process. Your way of selling and marketing must conform to the customer's buying process, driven by a clear understanding of needs and the impact of those needs on both that company and its customers.

Podcasting can create engagement between you and your customer. And if it gets your customer talking about the uniqueness of it to other folks, then your podcast has the necessary "buzzworthiness," which is invaluable, because the goal of podcasting is to share your thought-leading content with customers and prospective customers.

Research shows that podcasts impact B2B purchase decisions. Podcasting can help you generate more leads and nurture future customers: Buyers want to know you understand them and that you're relevant to their specific needs; they also want to know the people behind the company; and if you provide your prospects with high-quality thought-leading content as part of your lead nurturing process, then you will find that your prospects are calling you first when they are ready to buy.

Which brings us to "lessons learned" and tips on how to make your podcasts "buzzworthy" lead-generation vehicles.

Paul Dunay, director of global field marketing for Bearing Point, gives some superb insight into what you can do to make your podcasts truly valuable to your potential customers. Here are some standouts from my interview with him:

  1. Always do a killer intro to the podcast.
  2. Put your best pieces of thought leadership out there in "Reader's Digest" form for your audience.
  3. Always remember that you are establishing yourself or the company as a thought leader even through the podcast.
  4. Use your audience feedback and apply it to improve your podcast.
  5. Remember, you're engaging the audience's trust with your podcast.
  6. Use a podcast attached to a specific piece of thought leadership online to encourage people to get the full content at your Web site.
  7. No selling in podcasts.
  8. Always create for the medium.
  9. Be thought provoking and proactive.
  10. Keep your listeners engaged with the material.
  11. Keep your podcast conversational and engaging.

I hope that armed with these tips you too will use podcasts for your customer outreach, as a powerful lead-generation tool. I also hope that you'll keep in mind, as I now do, Paul's advice: "If you're going to commit to doing podcasts, then keep that commitment and don't give up. Keep them going."

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image of Brian Carroll
Brian Carroll is CEO of InTouch (startwithalead.com) and author of Lead Generation for the Complex Sale (McGraw-Hill). Reach him via bcarroll@startwithalead.com or his blog (blog.startwithalead.com).