At the Merchant Advance Blog, we’re certainly inclined to encourage small businesses to engage with their communities and find opportunities to create discussion and buzz, leaving an impression on customers both existing and potential. We’ve highlighted great ways to do this, through media both digital and social as well as through brick-and-mortar activity and interaction.
It’s also the case that as the proprietor of a small business, you’re quite likely to be an expert at something. Be it coffee, cars, parcels or paint – your area of expertise is what defines the services that you can offer. How can you share this expertise with a diverse audience in a way that invites their participation, creating and strengthening the perception of your business as a trustworthy, knowledgeable entity?
Get on the mic.
Can’t Stop The Signal
By which I mean: business podcasting. Recording short audio segments targeted toward the people most interested in your market, products, or services, and distributing them online, opens up potential in a channel that many businesses have yet to fully realize. I will refrain from hitting you on the head with a large list of tech specs, microphone suggestions, prices and acronyms: Macworld has an amazing five-part guide that will get you technically up to speed on the fundamentals. Here are five pieces of advice specifically for aspiring small business podcasters.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Your business wasn’t built in a day. It’s likely that your skills in front of a mic won’t be, either – unless you’re the next Billy West or Don LaFontaine. It will take some time to figure out what makes for interesting, listenable material that keeps audiences engaged. Many podcasts employ a pair of hosts, who occasionally banter back and forth: this keeps the dialogue natural and flowing. Rather than give a lecture, you want to invite listeners into a conversational exchange that feels natural.
Make Content “Evergreen”
It’s usually the case that huge successes have a timeless quality: to use a metaphor from movies, people still re-watch Titanic to this day even though Avatar may have made more money at the box office. As a podcaster, refrain from commenting on events that might “expire” – consider that your listeners may take a spin through your back catalog or listen in non-consecutive order, and you don’t want them to feel as though they’ve missed out on something.
Focus on Engagement
One of my favourite podcasts is the UBK Happy Fun Time Hour, hosted by recording engineer and all-around space wizard genius Gregory Scott (aka. UBK.) The format, as with many other popular podcasts, is based entirely around listener engagement in a “mailbag” format: Scott uses social media to solicit timely questions from his followers, fans and customers, then answers them with his trademark knowledge and humorous aplomb. This format can work exceptionally well for any small business podcast: it lets you engage with your audience across different platforms and in two directions (asking for questions, delivering answers.) It also helps demonstrate your expertise in a direct, helpful way.
Bring Your Personality to the Fore
Much like a successful radio show, your business podcasting effort will have to carry itself not only with its content but with the personality of the host or hosts. Car Talk, one of the most famous radio call-in shows ever produced, wasn’t necessarily a hit because it delved into the subject matter of automotive repair. People loved it for the dynamism of its hosting duo.
Use Your Business Skills to Grow Your Reach
Like any product or advertisement, distribution is key to getting a podcast into the ears of those who need to hear it. As the proprietor of a small business, you already have the skill set needed to connect your content to its audience! Promote on your own website or social channels, and research the numerous portals through which podcasted content is indexed and searched. iTunes is probably the biggest and most important of these, but other indices and communities exist, often tailored to more specific interests.
With the right skills, a bit of planning and promotion, your small business may be able to reach a new range of audiences and markets through the digital airwaves. Good luck!