Monday, November 28, 2005

Podcasting: the Marketer's Ultimate Give-to-Get

Podcasting: the Marketer's Ultimate Give-to-Get

Audio downloads are a valuable new channel to potential customers; are you taking advantage of the opportunity?

By Paul Dunay

Marketers have long been told that to create a strong bond with potential customers, they have to give something of value in order to get something of value back. This tenet is seen in the guidance of leading lights such as author Seth Godin, who literally wrote the book on permission-based marketing.

The "give-to-get" principle is just as important to electronic communication as it is to any other form—just ask any marketer who has glumly stared at the response reports from a failed e-mail campaign.

Especially in today's age of multichannel marketing, you can't expect prospects to opt-in to hear more from your company unless you give them something of value in return. That's hard to do with e-mail. Even if you capture the precious opt-in, e-mail offers only a small window into the inbox of a prospect. It is (or had better be) short—sometimes too short to really deliver anything of value, other than the marketer's tried and true giveaways: signup-and-wins and online tchotchke offers.

Moreover, with the overload of email in our work and daily lives it's hard to break through the clutter. Statistics show e-mail is still less effective than direct mail when it comes to getting a response from a prospect (see Marketing Sherpa's Benchmarking Guide 2005). For this reason, direct marketers have reverted to atom-based direct mail, sending out odd-sized mailers and assorted gifts including iPods.

This struggle for attention and interaction is especially difficult in the "considered purchase" realm. Purveyors of high-end, high-cost consumer products and business-to-business offerings can have an involved story to tell, a difficult task even absent today's media clutter.

A new day is dawning, though, with the emergence of podcasting and RSS (really simple syndication). These new technologies provide a one-two punch we can use to our heart's content to deliver value to our customer base.

Podcasting can be perfect for any considered purchase—high-end products (B2C) or high-end services (B2B). RSS provides the direct pipeline to prospects and customers who have self-selected to get information on topics that interest them. And podcasts perfectly fill that pipe.

Podcasting is a dramatic departure from the traditional tools of permission-based marketing. And it's popping up everywhere.

With savvy consumers wired into the Internet, it's no surprise that the travel and entertainment industries are venturing into podcasting. Expedia's "Three Day Weekend—Destination LA" podcast offers advice, including tips from locals, on how to make the most of a visit to the City of Angels. Podcasts from Fine Wine Press feature interviews with people around the world about making, understanding, tasting and simply enjoying the fruit of the vine.

And there's more. BMW used podcasts to trumpet innovations it was displaying at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Fidelity Investments offers podcasts on practice management, compliance and other issues for registered investment advisors. Even Revolution Yachts has sailed into podcasting, offering information on its 6.5-meter craft for Mini-Transat racing.

Recently, I started using podcasting to point to what is definitely a considered purchase: high-end business-to-business consulting.

The reaction has exceeded even my most hopeful expectations. We are seeing conversion rates of 30 percent on our thought-leadership papers (which are referenced from each podcast). That is 200 percent more than an average-dimension direct mailer and 2,000 percent more than a typical e-mail blast.

The message is clear: Podcasting is here to stay as an innovative way to reach your permission-based clients and prospects.

Should you get into podcasting? If you're offering a considered purchase, the answer is an emphatic yes. Here are five tips that can help you leverage this new channel effectively:

§                  Be brief. You have a five-to-seven-minute window to deliver value to your prospect. Don't try to cram everything into it. Hit the key points and follow the lead of the great orators: Tell them what they will learn in the podcast, tell your story, then sum up by recapping what the audience just heard.

§                  Be professional. You have a variety of tools at your disposal today for podcasting. Use them. High-quality digital audio is essential if you want to elevate your offering above the garage-band sound of many podcasts. The same goes for professional voice talent. You also can create an audio logo, a distinctive song or slogan that lets your listeners know the message is from you. Consider using all of these tools. Why not the best for your product or service?

§                  Write in a conversational tone. If you think brochureware is a turnoff on your website, it's absolutely mind-numbing in a podcast. Make sure the writing is conversational and engaging. An interview format can be quite effective as well.

§                  Build tracking into your podcast strategy. The great thing about this new medium is that you can track everything: Who subscribes to your service, who downloads the podcasts, who takes action based on what they heard. Decide what you want to track and put the mechanism in place before you launch. You can't afford not to miss the chance to interact with a single prospect.

§                  Promote your podcasts as you would a product. One way to think of your podcast is as a mini version of your product or service. The heavy hitters of the digital world are giving you the forum to deliver it to your prospects. Yahoo, AOL and Google have all launched podcast readers and search-and-retrieve capabilities in a mad dash to capture market share before Microsoft rolls out its new Vista operating system, which will include an inbox for RSS feeds. All three of these outlets can be prime vehicles for your podcasts. But don't take it for granted that they will. If your podcast doesn't rank organically among their top ten, it can be well worth the expense to buy sponsored links on their podcast pages.

Podcasting represents an entirely new channel to your prospects and customers. It can be an especially effective one if you're selling something that doesn't sit on a store shelf or in an online shopping cart.

Paul Dunay is director of global field marketing with BearingPoint, a management consultancy and IT systems integrator.

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Colm Smyth said...

Hi Paul, nice to find another BearingPoint blogger. In my view podcasting is just another medium for content distribution or publishing, and the same rules apply as for web-sites or blogs for that matter ;)

Increasingly authors are using self-publishing as a way to give themselves a platform for speaking and short consulting engagements; it's kind of like the open-source software model, which we will increasingly think of as the "open model".

I'm trying to hook up with Be folks worldwide - drop by here or here, and leave a comment!

All the best,