For businesses large and small, podcasts are a huge opportunity to tap into a largely underserved podcast market that's hungry for fresh content, especially in niche areas of interest.

Nearly 30% of Americans now listen to at least one podcast on a regular basis, and more than 70 million people actively look for engaging podcast content.

It's the perfect time for businesses and their marketers to leverage this large listener demand.

Though many businesses are still wary of the time and resources podcast production requires, the market is primed for growth—and for leveraging. Its popularity among consumers should not be ignored.

Why Should You Consider Starting a Podcast?

  • Reach your target audience. Podcasting provides a business the opportunity to publicly express its intrinsic passion for a product or service and reach people who have common interests.
  • Easily leverage podcast aggregators. Distribution channels for podcasts already exist, ensuring your content will reach listeners. By using established podcast aggregators, such as iTunes (or whatever app succeeds it) and SoundCloud, a small business can reach thousands of potential listeners, eventually converting some of them into informed customers and brand ambassadors.
  • It won't break the bank. Certainly there's an initial, up-front cost—some audio hardware and software—but, following that investment, podcasts are relatively inexpensive to produce.
  • Stay ahead of the competition. Your brand will stay competitive and relevant in an everchanging, growing consumer market. For a small investment of time and money, a business can get in on the ground floor—the first to share its unique content and capture those who want to learn more about that particular field.

What Makes for a Successful Podcast?

The secret to success in podcasting is having a steady stream of content you can draw on that will keep your podcast fresh, informative, and available on a regular basis.

  • Content is king. As with most media, content is king. Make yours timely and relevant.
  • Be concise. Keep it reasonably short. A half-hour show delivered every week is fine. It can be shorter or longer based on the depth of your content, but make sure it's pertinent to your audience.
  • Find your voice. Be authoritative. Own your market by serving up the most current news and information. Tackle the latest controversies and trends in your sector. Be the go-to source for all things your business touches upon—and do it all in a way that's unique to you.
  • Interview guests from within your field. Inviting guests to join you on your podcast will automatically raise your credibility and the authority of your program. Your audience enjoy hearing from another influencer in the field, and your guest (it could be a client or vendor) will feel honored to have been chosen to participate. Best yet, each of you will benefit from exposure to the new audience segments the other brings to the table. Just be sure your guests promote their podcast appearance across their social media channels.

How to Get Heard

Though I'd recommended you host your podcast on your company's website, do take advantage of podcast directories, including these:

  • Apple iTunes
  • TuneIn
  • Podbean
  • SoundCloud

Pay close attention to the keywords you use when describing or tagging your podcast so fans of your product line or services will be able to discover you and your content.

Measure Podcast Performance

Keeping track of downloads alone is not the way to measure a podcast's success. There are services that can measure listenership and age and location demographics.

Ultimately, your intent should be to make sure your podcast is influencing customer behaviors and sales.

A good way to do that, similar to how you may have done it in other media channels, is to deploy a promotion or offer that uses a code or specific website portal to tie customer action directly to your podcast.

What's Next in Podcasting?

In China, podcasting is a $7 billion industry: Listening to established podcasts isn't free; they are generally part of a user-paid subscription model. That approach could be the next logical step for podcasts here in the US, since we are seeing paywalls being erected by online news agencies.

For now, the first step for business podcasts is to identify and grow audiences. By doing so, you'll not only generate sales and leads but also build a revenue base should subscription models become the norm.

The point is to get into the game now, while the opportunities for growth are plentiful and inexpensive to tap into.

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Why Podcasts? Why Now? How to Leverage the Power of Podcasts for Your Brand

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Brian Byer is vice-president & general manager at full-service digital marketing agency Blue Fountain Media, a Pactera company.

LinkedIn: Brian Byer