I’m addicted to the They Might Be Giants podcasts. I’m convinced they helped sell tickets for their latest tour by offering up free music, coupled with tour advertisements, in their weekly podcasts. I’ll bet podcasting some of the tours’ live performances also helped.
But, can podcasting really help your online sales? I don’t think you’d have to be running in a niche market to entice people to listen and/or watch, and I can see companies selling electronics showcasing new items to the masses via video podcasting. It’s a way to show more detailed product usage and provide key information about specific industries.
Some argue that it’s not much different than offering up video (via Flash or other components) or audio content on your own site — and in a way, that’s true. Except that many people use iTunes (even those without an iPod) and can subscribe to podcasts without ever having to hit your site regularly.
Podcasting has many benefits, some lesser known. You reach broader audiences and like pay-per-click advertising, it only costs you money when someone downloads the content (you can serve it off your server and pay for the bandwidth or use a third-party service which sometimes gives you a better deal). You can brand your name, site or products via audio or video to potential and current customer bases. A key benefit is that people can subscribe to the podcast so it automatically feeds to their directory and, better yet, they can later listen and/or watch via an iPod.
There are downsides to podcasting. If you do video or graphics, anyone using a standard audio-only iPod can’t take advantage of the imaging, so if you’re trying to reach the masses, consider doing a separate stream for audio only for those who want to take the content on the go (ever get bored in an airport?).
Not everyone uses iTunes, so you should also consider streaming the content via your website directly as well. You may also want to run an email alert system so you can send information to those whenever you update content.
While Apple doesn’t charge for serving podcasts in its directory, you are responsible for the bandwidth charges incurred, and any equipment you need to create and edit your content.
I see podcasting as a win-win, even if it means providing dual content. It allows you to reach new audiences and also keep current customers updated without force-feeding them emails.
The question remains, what should you cast to the masses? Just about anything, actually.
People crave useful information, so you need to spend time devising audio or video that provides useful content they can’t get from just reading a product’s canned description. For example, if you sell gardening supplies, a podcast explaining the proper way to plant and care for tomatoes would be useful to some, and you could always mention or use product placement.
Sell electronics? Heck, I’d love someone to give me good tips on concealing all those wires coming out of my entertainment system. Show me how to do this without slamming just one specific product down my throat? provide me with options. Like most consumers, I don’t want to subscribe to advertising, but I know there’s a way you can provide information without making me feel like I’m watching an infomercial at 2 a.m.