20
Nov

Should Your Business Have a Podcast?

Should Your Business Have a Podcast?

Should Your Business Have a Podcast?

Image credit: Shutterstock

Your business probably has a website, Twitter account and Facebook page, but does it need a podcast? Consumers enjoy podcasts because it gives them alternative and more convenient ways to consume content, says Deborah Shane, a Florida-based branding expert and podcast host.

She says that more professionals are using podcasts as a marketing tool to establish expertise and distinguish themselves from the competition. Shane’s Metropolis Radio business podcast has featured more than 350 guests and has been downloaded 245,000 times in the last four years. The 15 to 30 minute segments consist of interviews with expert guests on topics such as branding, social media, and entrepreneurship. “Podcasting has opened up more doors than just about any platform I’ve used,” Shane says. By inviting experts as guests on her show, she’s networking, building credibility, and making professional connections.

But podcasting is a time commitment. Shane suggests waiting a month before you start promoting your podcast. Use that time to create visual branding for your site, think about the content you’ll provide, the show’s format, how frequently you’ll record the podcast and which guests you’ll invite on the show, etc.

Shane recommends using BlogTalkRadio, which offers a free, turnkey solution to record your show and link it to iTunes, Facebook and Twitter. Once a show is scheduled through BlogTalkRadio, the host and their guest(s) call a special number and are patched through to a “studio” dashboard that the host controls on his or her computer where he or she can take calls live or interview through the switchboard.

The show is recorded live and archived as a podcast, where it’s made available on iTunes and can be shared on social networks or blogs. Editing is not available with the free version, but premium paid levels (which range from $39-$249 a month) allow users to edit their shows.

Here are six things to consider before starting a podcast:

1. Choose your format. Shane uses a late night talk show format and discusses talking points with her guests beforehand, but allows the conversation to evolve on the show. Another popular format is giving a tutorial or lecture on a topic relevant to your business that many people have questions about.

2. Record a podcast at least once a week. You want to listeners to know when to expect new content. While “live listeners” (people listening to the show as it airs) are great, Shane says the goal is to increase the number of downloads your podcast receives once it’s posted.

3. Find guests with energy. Your guest may be brilliant in their field, but you want someone who’s interesting and with whom you can have a good conversation. Shane suggests reaching out to experts in your field who have written a book or have a lot of Twitter followers, so they can promote their appearance on your show. The appearance is mutually beneficial, as they are gaining credibility as an expert, and you’re building an audience and area of expertise.

“Great guests are actively marketing on their own social media platforms. They have energy, articulate well and know how to tell their story,” Shane says.

4. Practice. Do two or three practice shows to get the feel for podcasting. Shane recommends recording a few test shows and posting them on your site to become comfortable with the process before promoting the podcast. You can set the show as “test” or “private” when scheduling your podcast.

5. Promote your podcast consistently. Use your other social media platforms, blog, website, etc. to promote your podcast before, during, and after the show has been recorded. BlogTalkRadio allows you to post updates automatically to your Facebook and Twitter accounts.

6. Get ideas from the competition. Visit podcast.com or iTunes to see how other businesses are using podcasts to promote themselves.

20
Nov

How to Promote and Profit From Podcasts

How to Promote and Profit From Podcasts

How to Promote and Profit From Podcasts

Image credit: Retina Boys | Flickr

In his book Success Secrets of the Online Marketing Superstars, Mitch Myerson introduces you to 22 innovators who have redefined the developing landscape of online marketing. Learn how to master proven strategies, avoid costly mistakes and grow your business. In this edited excerpt, contributing author Jason Van Orden offers tips on promoting your podcast in Apple’s iTunes store, measuring the size of your audience, and more.

While Apple didn’t invent podcasting, it certainly put it on the map, and the iTunes’ podcast directory is the primary place people go to find podcasts. This doesn’t mean that only Apple users can find and consume your podcast; listeners find and consume podcasts through any number of devices, mobile applications, and desktop web browsers. However, Apple’s iTunes is the first place to promote your podcast for maximum impact.

The iTunes store is essentially a search engine for content: Users go there on a daily basis to find music, movies, TV shows, books, apps, and podcasts that are relevant to their interests. As with any search engine, iTunes’ objective is to offer users the content they’re most likely to enjoy.

The podcast directory is just one section of the iTunes store. iTunes users can also use the application to subscribe to their favorite podcasts. That way, new episodes download automatically to their iTunes library. Within the podcast directory, there are two primary places that listeners look to find shows. You need to show up in both of these places.

First, users can search the iTunes Store for keywords that interest them. You need to show up at the top of the results for searches relating to your show’s topic.

Second, users browse the categories and subcategories of the podcast directory. Each of these categories has New and Noteworthy, What’s Hot, Top Podcasts, and Top Episodes lists. These lists are updated frequently based on the latest iTunes store activity.

How do you make sure your show is seen as relevant and authoritative? The secret lies in your podcast feed. If you don’t have a feed yet, set one up. The easiest way to do this is with blog software like WordPress. Then make your feed iTunes-ready using a service like FeedBlitz or a WordPress plugin like PowerPress.

An iTunes-ready feed contains key information (also called tags) about your podcast. The podcast directories, like iTunes, use these tags to create your show’s listing. These tags also greatly influence when and where you show up in the directories.

To establish your show’s relevancy, the podcast title, author, and description must contain the kind of keyword phrases that your target audience is likely to search for. This is how iTunes knows what topics your show is about.

The authority (or popularity) of your show is determined mainly by two factors:

1. The number of people who’ve recently clicked the subscribe button for your show inside the iTunes store

2. The number of new, written reviews that your show has in iTunes (especially reviews with five-star ratings)

When your show first appears in the iTunes directory, it’s important to leverage your network to get new subscribers and written, five-star reviews. It’s most effective if this occurs within a one- to two-week period. Turn to your family, friends, email list, social media following, and professional colleagues to help you out. The goal is to land in the New and Noteworthy list and possibly the What’s Hot list, too. This gives your show an initial boost of new listeners. Then continue to encourage your following to subscribe and review your show to maintain and grow your ranking.

How to Measure Audience Size and Growth

How many people listen to your show? It’s a question every podcaster wants to know. Unfortunately, the technology doesn’t exist yet to track if someone listens to an episode or how much they listened. The best approximation of your audience size is the average number of downloads that each episode gets. Your media host should provide an accurate download count for an individual episode (audio or video file) over a given period of time.

It’s important to note that a “download” isn’t limited to someone saving the audio or video file to their computer. When someone streams an episode through a media player on your site, on a mobile device, or in a directory like iTunes, it’s also counted as a download in your stats. Also keep in mind that a download doesn’t indicate a listen. Someone could download an episode and never press play. Even so, the numbers still give you a relative indication of your audience’s growth over time.

The Life of a Podcast Episode

When you first release a new episode, there’s typically an immediate spike in the number of downloads. This is a result of those who are subscribed and have set their podcasting application (on their computer or phone) to automatically download new episodes of your show. The rest of your audience will download or stream the show in the coming days and weeks. To get a real sense for the size of your audience, you need to look at the number of downloads for an episode after it’s reached its “plateau.”

For the purpose of measuring your audience size, the number of downloads in the first 30 days gives you the best indication of your currently active audience. To measure the growth of your audience, chart the average “30-day download number” of each episode over time.

Tracking sales that result from your podcast is similar to tracking the effectiveness of any direct-marketing ad or campaign. You can trace sales back to the podcast if you’re smart about how you set up the podcast’s call to action.

For instance, you can use a unique ULR in your podcasts and never use that address for any other source of traffic. Your site metrics can track how many email subscribers and buyers arrive from that URL so you’ll know that any sales tracing back to that URL came from the podcast. You can do similar tracking by using a unique phone number or coupon code in your calls to action from the podcast. By carefully tracking your calls to action in this way, you can compare the investment into your podcast against other sources of traffic.

20
Nov

11 Clever Ways to Promote Your Podcast to the World

11 Clever Ways to Promote Your Podcast to the World

If you’re used to sharing text and video, the world of podcasting can seem like a planet of its own, especially when it comes time to promoting a new show.

Don’t just wait for your target audience to find it through the search engines. You can’t rely on podcast directories either.

Taking extra time to promote your show can be well worth it because the audience for podcasts has been growing steadily during the last decade.

Edison Research, which studies consumer adoption of digital media, reported this year that three-quarters of Americans 12 to 24 and half of those 25 to 54, say they have listened to online radio or streamed audio content available only on the Internet in the last month.

Podcasting isn’t exactly cutting edge. So why the rise in popularity?

Because the old model of creating news for the masses isn’t working anymore. New media channels such as Internet radio are competing against traditional media companies for advertising revenue and audiences. Also many Internet shows give listeners information on topics that they might not find anywhere else, like how to create a self-sufficient homestead.

Videos require your attention in front of a screen. But you can listen to Internet radio while walking the dog, working out or driving.

If you’re podcasting, you’re probably already communicating with your target audience on a variety of other sites. That’s the best place to start. Here are 11 ideas on how to promote your new show.

1. Submit it to iTunes.

iTunes has eclipsed 1 billion podcast subscriptions. People can search the iTunes podcast directory and then opt to listen to your show.

If you’re just starting a podcast, create several episodes, an RSS feed for your show, tags and album artwork. Then go to FeedValidator.org and make sure it says “Your feed is valid” before submitting to iTunes.

2. Include the podcast in a Google profile.

This often overlooked resource, the Google profile, is available on all Google properties. While you’re busy creating content in various formats, it’s easy to forget that your Google profile is the perfect container for links to all that content.

3. Include show notes on Pinterest.

Show notes provide a quick summary of what a specific podcast episode includes. They should have a captivating title and copy that compels visitors to listen to the show. A simple image like this from the DollarsAndSenseShow.com can be pinned with the description harboring show notes and relevant keywords.

4. Put a link on other social media profiles.

LinkedIn lets you insert media links in your profile: The summary and project sections are ideal for featuring a podcast. On Facebook, link to your podcast and include show notes in a status update or a note. Don’t forget to share the podcast with your Facebook groups.

5. Interview a celebrity about a new book.

Authors look under every rock for ways to promote their new books. Ask for a celebrity or influencer for an interview and the person might opt to use your podcast interview promote the book. Many of these big names have huge followings and share every video, podcast, article and blog post that features them, especially during book launches.

6. Post a YouTube video showing a recording of your podcast.

Create a two-minute video as you record a segment of your show in front of the microphone. Shoot several segments from the same podcast and assign those videos to a YouTube playlist. Why bother? Because each video can have its own description and keywords that will pull in more traffic.

Your current fans will love this “behind the scenes” look at how your show is produced. Be sure to lead your podcast subscribers to the videos.

Use Spreaker, a podcasting service that can be connected to your YouTube account. Spreaker will turn an audio podcast into a static image video for your YouTube channel.

7. Tap Amazon’s Author Central account for promotion.

Include a link to your podcast on your Amazon profile. Author Central lets you import tweets and recent blog posts. Those, too, can be promote your show. Readers who love your books might be excited to find your content available in formats other than text.

8. Trade promotion favors with other podcasters.

Find a podcaster who targets an audience similar to yours. Agree to promote each other’s shows. You can even interview each other.

9. Create a collage of photos.

Craft a collage of photos that explain quickly who you are, your guest and what the show is about.

Jim Palmer’s Stick Like Glue radio show created a collage for an interview with social media expert Amy Porterfield. This communicates quickly and far better than just one photo could exactly what listeners will learn. This image is perfect for social sharing.

10. Market a top 10 list of the best podcasts.

Let’s say your show features interviews with startup founders. Compile a list of the top 10 podcasts featuring startups and include your show. Pitch it to bloggers who write about startups and to the other podcasters on your list.

11. Pitch a story on earning money from podcasting.

Many hobbyists, regardless of how passionate they are about their topics, can’t turn their shows into revenue. If you can, that’s a business story you can invite a financial publication to cover.

More than a dozen people who subscribe to receive my twice-a-week email tips on publicity have asked me to start a podcast so they don’t have to be in front of their computers to read them. I’ve added podcasting to the top of my to-do list for 2015.

If you create podcasts, how do you promote your shows and which ideas have been the most successful?

20
Nov

How to Calculate Gross Profit

How to Calculate Gross Profit

One of the most important financial concepts you will need to learn in running your new business is the computation of gross profit. And the tool that you use to maintain gross profit is markup.

The gross profit on a product is computed as:

Sales – Cost of Goods Sold = Gross Profit

To understand gross profit, it is important to know the distinction between variable and fixed costs.

Variable costs are those things that change based on the amount of product being made and are incurred as a direct result of producing the product.

Variable costs include:

  1. Materials used
  2. Direct labor
  3. Packaging
  4. Freight
  5. Plant supervisor salaries
  6. Utilities for a plant or a warehouse
  7. Depreciation expense on production equipment
  8. Machinery

Fixed costs generally are more static in nature. They include:

  1. Office expenses such as supplies, utilities, a telephone for the office, etc.
  2. Salaries and wages of office staff, salespeople, officers and owners
  3. Payroll taxes and employee benefits
  4. Advertising, promotional and other sales expenses
  5. Insurance
  6. Auto expenses for salespeople
  7. Professional fees
  8. Rent.

Variable expenses are recorded as cost of goods sold. Fixed expenses are counted as operating expenses (sometimes called selling and general administrative expenses.

While the gross profit is a dollar amount, the gross profit margin is expressed as a percentage. It’s equally important to track since it allows you to keep an eye on profitability trends.

This is critical, because many businesses have gotten into financial trouble with an increasing gross profit that coincides with a declining gross profit margin.

The gross profit margin is computed as follows:

Gross Profit / Sales = Gross Profit Margin

There are two key ways for you to improve your gross margin. First, you can increase your prices. Second, you can decrease the costs to produce your goods. Of course, both are easier said than done.

An increase in prices can cause sales to drop. If sales drop too far, you may not generate enough gross profit dollars to cover operating expenses. Price increases require a very careful reading of inflationary rates, competitive factors, and basic supply and demand for the product you are producing.

The second method of increasing gross profit margin is to lower the variable costs to produce your product. This can be accomplished by decreasing material costs or making the product more efficiently.

Volume discounts are a good way to reduce material costs. The more material you buy from a supplier, the more likely they are to offer you discounts.

Another way to reduce material costs is to find a less costly supplier. However, you might sacrifice quality if the goods purchased are not made as well.

Whether you are starting a manufacturing, wholesaling, retailing or service business, you should always be on the lookout for ways to deliver your product or service more efficiently.

However, you also must balance efficiency and quality issues to ensure that they do not get out of balance.

Let’s look at the gross profit of ABC Clothing Inc. as an example of the computation of gross profit margin. In Year 1, the sales were $1 million and the gross profit was $250,000, resulting in a gross profit margin of 25 percent ($250,000/$1 million). In Year 2, sales were $1.5 million and the gross profit was $450,000, resulting in a gross profit margin of 30 percent ($450,000/$1.5 million).

It is apparent that ABC Clothing earned not only more gross profit dollars in Year 2, but also a higher gross profit margin. The company either raised prices, lowered variable material costs from suppliers or found a way to produce its clothing more efficiently (which usually means fewer labor hours per product produced).

ABC Clothing did a better job in Year 2 of managing its markup on the clothing products that they manufactured.

Many business owners often get confused when relating markup to gross profit margin. They are first cousins in that both computations deal with the same variables. The difference is that gross profit margin is figured as a percentage of the selling price, while markup is figured as a percentage of the seller’s cost.

Markup is computed as follows:

(Selling Price – Cost to Produce) / Cost to Produce = Markup Percentage

Let’s compute the markup for ABC Clothing for Year 1:

($1 million – $750,000) / $750,000 = 33.3%

Now, let’s compute markup for ABC Clothing for Year 2:

($1.5 million – $1.05 million) / $1.05 million = 42.9%

While computing markup for an entire year for a business is very simple, using this valuable markup tool daily to work up price quotes is more complicated. However, it is even more vital.

Computing markup on last year’s numbers helps you understand where you’ve been and gives you a benchmark for success. But computing the markup on individual jobs will affect your business going forward and can often make the difference in running a profitable operation.

20
Nov

3 Ways to Incorporate Key Stakeholders Into Your Podcasts (and Benefit From It)

3 Ways to Incorporate Key Stakeholders Into Your Podcasts (and Benefit From It)

Podcasts nurture leads, meaning they nurture revenue — especially when it comes to younger audiences. When Peter Jukes, creator of the podcast Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder, asked a lecture hall full of college students if they read a newspaper, only three hands rose. But when he asked how many of them listened to podcasts, nearly 70 percent raised their hands.

Stories like Jukes’ point to the increase in podcasting, which has seen more than 30 percent growth in recent years. Celebrity thought leaders like Tim Ferriss have gained significant traction with audiences through this mode.

Podcasting is a two-way street

Indeed, a podcast is a great way to give your clients, prospective clients and partners a voice — literally. By hosting a podcast interview, you and your guests can connect and share ideas in a public forum, unconstrained by publication or PR guidelines. Plus, it’s fun!

Guests appreciate providing their expertise to a new audience, and you get to remind them, in a genuine way, how smart and innovative they are. The best part? Involving stakeholders in a podcast doesn’t just make for better podcasts; it also creates stronger business relationships.

By implementing podcasting at my company, we’ve seen referrals go up more than 20 percent; and each new guest on our show expands our network.

Working with the best

Cultivating the right lineup takes forethought because the key to creating incredible podcasts is incredible guests. Here are three ways to drive your podcast’s reach even further:

1. Home-in on the talent. Targeting is just the beginning — getting guests on board is another task altogether. Ask yourself, “How can I reach this person? Is there someone in my network who can connect us? Most importantly, is this someone I could do business with in the future?” The beauty of producing a podcast is that cold-calling potential clients with “Would you like to be on my podcast?” is much more amicable than “Let me tell you about our services.”

If possible, find influencers with large audiences who can draw listeners to your podcast. Keep in mind, though, that a big name doesn’t always equal a great fit. Likewise, don’t pass on someone who is a strong choice but lacks notoriety. I like our guests to match our company culture, so I look for people who embody our core values. Once I know the type of people I want to interview, making my target list is easy.

2. Stalk your stars. I once interviewed a guest I’d never heard of named Redg Snodgrass. Before the interview, I looked him up and learned everything I could about him. It got me even more excited for the interview than I had been, and that enthusiasm came across in the podcast. Neither guests nor listeners want to suffer through an awkward interview in which the host knows nothing about his or her interviewee.

If I hadn’t done my homework beforehand, the interview wouldn’t have been nearly as engaging. Remember, podcasting isn’t just about getting to know interviewees — it’s also about guiding listeners to them and back to your podcast. Research them on social media. Read everything the guest has written. If possible, talk to mutual friends. Chatting with guests directly prior to the interview is even better.

3. Get their buy-in on the topic and scope. The band members of Van Halen famously banned all brown M&Ms from their rooms in their tour contract. If a member of the band discovered a brown M&M in the green room, indicating that the venue had not paid close attention to the request, the band would back out of the engagement for fear that safety concerns had also not been addressed.

Your podcast guests likely won’t be as specific or demanding, but the principle remains the same: Respect your interviewees, their brand and their expectations for the interview. Before the recording, outline the topic and a few talking points, then send them to your guest to review and approve ahead of time.

Be respectful of guests’ time, and let them know how long the entire process might take — for me, it’s usually about 15 to 20 minutes, which aligns with the 22-minute average. When guests arrive for the podcast, stick to that road map to avoid surprising them with questions or topics they didn’t agree to in advance.

Inviting stakeholders to be showcased on your company’s podcast is beneficial for everyone: You, as the host, get a more diverse podcast with fresh perspectives; your guest has the opportunity to share his or her expertise; and both of you are able to better connect, strengthening a partnership or perhaps turning a strong lead into an active client.

Recruit a solid, intriguing guest, and your podcast will be well on its way to becoming a rewarding experience all around.

20
Nov

The Basics of Branding

The Basics of Branding

Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business, large or small, retail or B2B. An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets. But what exactly does “branding” mean? How does it affect a small business like yours?

Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors’. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.

Are you the innovative maverick in your industry? Or the experienced, reliable one? Is your product the high-cost, high-quality option, or the low-cost, high-value option? You can’t be both, and you can’t be all things to all people. Who you are should be based to some extent on who your target customers want and need you to be.

The foundation of your brand is your logo. Your website, packaging and promotional materials–all of which should integrate your logo–communicate your brand.

Brand Strategy & Equity

Your brand strategy is how, what, where, when and to whom you plan on communicating and delivering on your brand messages. Where you advertise is part of your brand strategy. Your distribution channels are also part of your brand strategy. And what you communicate visually and verbally are part of your brand strategy, too.

Consistent, strategic branding leads to a strong brand equity, which means the added value brought to your company’s products or services that allows you to charge more for your brand than what identical, unbranded products command. The most obvious example of this is Coke vs. a generic soda. Because Coca-Cola has built a powerful brand equity, it can charge more for its product–and customers will pay that higher price.

The added value intrinsic to brand equity frequently comes in the form of perceived quality or emotional attachment. For example, Nike associates its products with star athletes, hoping customers will transfer their emotional attachment from the athlete to the product. For Nike, it’s not just the shoe’s features that sell the shoe.

Defining Your Brand

Defining your brand is like a journey of business self-discovery. It can be difficult, time-consuming and uncomfortable. It requires, at the very least, that you answer the questions below:

  • What is your company’s mission?
  • What are the benefits and features of your products or services?
  • What do your customers and prospects already think of your company?
  • What qualities do you want them to associate with your company?

Do your research. Learn the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective customers. And don’t rely on what you think they think. Know what they think.

Because defining your brand and developing a brand strategy can be complex, consider leveraging the expertise of a nonprofit small-business advisory group or a Small Business Development Center .

Once you’ve defined your brand, how do you get the word out? Here are a few simple, time-tested tips:

  • Get a great logo. Place it everywhere.
  • Write down your brand messaging. What are the key messages you want to communicate about your brand? Every employee should be aware of your brand attributes.
  • Integrate your brand. Branding extends to every aspect of your business–how you answer your phones, what you or your salespeople wear on sales calls, your e-mail signature, everything.
  • Create a “voice” for your company that reflects your brand. This voice should be applied to all written communication and incorporated in the visual imagery of all materials, online and off. Is your brand friendly? Be conversational. Is it ritzy? Be more formal. You get the gist.
  • Develop a tagline. Write a memorable, meaningful and concise statement that captures the essence of your brand.
  • Design templates and create brand standards for your marketing materials. Use the same color scheme, logo placement, look and feel throughout. You don’t need to be fancy, just consistent.
  • Be true to your brand. Customers won’t return to you–or refer you to someone else–if you don’t deliver on your brand promise.
  • Be consistent. I placed this point last only because it involves all of the above and is the most important tip I can give you. If you can’t do this, your attempts at establishing a brand will fail.