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Why Podcast?

Business owners, listen here for more ideas (15 minutes 15MB MP3)

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If you've been exploring the web lately, you may have come across mentions of "podcasting" on various sites -- especially blogs. Podcasting is a great way of syndicating audio files, that is, putting audio on a website and then letting people subscribe to a "feed" of the audio. When someone subscribes to a "podcast feed" by clicking the link to the feed or adding the feed url to their feed aggregator or podcatcher, their computer automatically checks the site(s) where the audio is found at regular intervals, to see if there's a new file ready to download. The subscriber can then choose to listen to the file online... or download the file to their computer to listen to later... or download it to transfer to their iPod or other MP3 player, so they can listen to it at their convenience. And since Apple has sold over 2 million iPods (and that's not even counting all the other MP3 players, like iRivers), the potential audience for your podcasts is considerable.

Many of the pioneer podcasters are folks who have been frustrated by the lack of truly independent music and talk on radio, these days, and wanted to create their own programming. They've found a perfect outlet for their creative talents in podcasting, because there are no FCC limitations on what they can say, and they can mix music or address sensitive subjects in ways that haven't been done yet (well, not publicly, anyway). If you browse the many podcast directories on the web, you'll find a wide variety of innovators -- from geeks talking about tech news, to couples talking about their intimiate lives, to dj's pushing the envelope with the music they play.

So, what does podcasting offer the rest of us, who aren't interested in hearing about tech news, intimate personal details, or experimental music? And what's the point of creating your own podcast, if you're just another regular person trying to do business in the workaday world? Why should you bother with this new (and unfamiliar) medium at all?

Actually, podcasting's greatest potential probably lies well outside the realm of the experimental. In fact, creating a 5-10 minute recording informing your circle of friends, associates and customers, about what's going on with your business, can be a great -- and easy -- way to promote your business, your interests, and your areas of expertise. Offering listeners a brief nugget from your treasure trove of knowledge is a great way to showcase what you know, educate others, and give people something they can use... and a reason for your listeners to seek out more about what you know and what you can offer them.

Just about anyone who makes living from communicating with people and "transferring knowledge" can benefit and build their business, using podcasting. While many business owners and consultants carry business cards and brochures with them and have their website url printed on all their promotional information, few actually make audio part of their promotions. But a brief podcast is the perfect complement to any consultant's marketing approach. It puts a small piece of your expertise into a shareable "taste test" that others can listen to -- and encourage others to listen to -- time and again. And it does it with the power of the spoken word, which is the strong suit of communicators who may feel stymied by written promotions.

But not only consultants can benefit from podcasting. For anyone who is trying to attract interest in what they have to offer -- whether you're job-hunting or trying to expand your business or launching a local political campaign -- a podcast can add another dimension to your communication. Podcasting small "chunks" of your overall knowledge shows people just a little bit of what you know... and can entice them to learn more. It can also help you give people a more true sense of who you are and what you're about... conveying your character and your personal style better than a resume or a written letter or e-mail can do. When you podcast, you put a little of yourself online. And when you're promoting yourself, giving people insight into who you are and what you're about, can make all the difference between attracting people's interest and losing it.

Say you own a garden center or landscaping business... and winter's coming. The year before, it was very cold, but there wasn't much snow. As a result, a lot of people lost shrubs because they didn't have enough insulation against the winter cold. This was especially true for people who didn't mulch their plants adequately. You could create a 5-10 minute podcast telling people about the importance of mulching, as well as why it's actually a good thing, when a lot of snow falls. At the end of your podcast, invite people to visit your business or give you a call to find out more about your services, and how you can help them save their shrubs this coming winter. And you can mention incentives, such as specials or savings, exclusively for podcast subscribers, to make your podcast even more valuable.

Your impact doesn't stop there, however. When people subscribe to your podcast with their newsfeed aggregator or their podcatcher, they'll continue to receive updated information, because their computer will check regularly for new audio. Every time you create a new podcast -- about planting bulbs in the fall, deer-proofing your landscaping in winter, seeding lawns in the spring, and the best time of day to water plants during the summer -- your subscribers will get the most current podcast delivered to them. They can listen online, or download for later, or transfer it to their MP3 player to listen to while they exercise... or work in the yard. Podcasting is on-demand audio, and it helps you reach your audience at just the time they need your information, as many times as they need the information.

A podcast about a subject you specialize in, highlights your expertise and shows people, you know what you're doing. It also conveys information by voice -- a way that's much more personal than a printed brochure or a web page. And since a podcast can be downloaded for listening later, your prospects and customers can take advantage of your expertise many times over. What's more, when someone finds your podcast, they can quickly e-mail others about it, and they can listen to it as well. And if you mention seasonal specials exclusively for podcast subscribers, it's even more incentive for your listeners to pass along info about your podcast to others.

In sum, while podcasting is a new medium, that newness shouldn't scare you off. When you start exploring the possibilities a podcast offers, you can find a whole range of ways it can help you better connect with your existing customers, deepen your relationship with them, and widen the range of your business'es reach. And if you're an expert or consultant in the "knowledge transfer" business, podcasting can add even more to your palette of offerings to a world which seeks out -- and pays for -- your expertise.

Podcasting might have been developed by maverick "radio-heads" and the alternative crowd seeking new modes of expression, but for those of us in the mainstream, the phenomenon of podcasting opens up whole new areas for us to expand our opportunities and build our businesses.

Business owners, listen here for more ideas (15 minutes 15MB MP3)

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