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Anatomy of a Podcast - The Explore Your Voice Show
by Michael Oliphant

If you have not heard about podcasting yet then it's time to throw away all those useless SEO ebooks and make a start. Of all the techniques I have used to build traffic and customers to my sites this one is by far the best. By a mile.

Podcasting (a term coined by Adam Curry) is the business of attaching an audio file, usually an mp3, to an RSS feed. An RSS feed is a simple XML file that lists the content on a site. That content might be articles or news items or perhaps a chat show. It is invaluable in promoting your content if you have a website and equally useful for finding content when you are surfing.

If you would like to find out about the technical issues of how you make a podcast there are hundreds of articles out there that can tell you how to do it. This article is about my experiences with creating a marketing tool that works.

I started a podcast in April with my colleges called The Explore Your Voice Show. We were new to the idea and were rather unsure as to how effective it might be. Our company Explore Your Voice provides a unique singing course that streams straight to your pc which is also available on CD.

The idea was to create a regular show that was about 30 minutes in length containing as much free advice on singing, performing and making music as we could fit in. The concept is strong from a marketing standpoint. You build relationships with your listeners over a period of time by establishing credibility through imparting something of value. Then they convert to buying customers as their confidence in your proposition grows. This needs to be done gradually without a lot of hard sell.

When we launched our first show it was a somewhat nervous affair. We were feeling our way and looking for a formula that would work. The first thing we discovered was that the best sort of info podcast is one that is not scripted. It needs to have a certain informal feel to it, like a conversation between close friends. So the three of us would get together once a week in the evening and talk about what we wanted to discuss. Then we would fire up the computer and record a half hour show stopping maybe once or twice to gather our thoughts before pressing on. Then we put some music as an intro and outro, mixed it to an mp3 file and uploaded it to our site. The last step was to update the RSS feed with the new episode.

It was all a bit disappointing initially. After we had done 3 or 4 shows the downloads were very quiet, around 500 for the month. I had listed it in as many newsfeed and podcasting directories as I could find on the net but it took a few weeks before many of those listings showed up. That was not something I had allowed for.

Then suddenly it all happened. At the 3 month stage we were looking at downloads past the 6000 per month mark and growing at an impressive rate. We started to receive a substantial amount of email feedback and plenty of kind remarks about our content.
Sales of our singing lessons on CD and online have increased substantially and overall traffic to the site is also up.

I think at this stage there are a few firm conclusions to be drawn from this experience. The first one is related to our particular market space - singing lessons. This may apply to you if you are in the leisure and lifestyle market. Our customers, and probably yours, take a considerable time to make the decision to buy. Although we have been well established now for over 3 years, in the early days, it was hard to get a clear understanding of what our customers' buying habits and expectations were. Our podcast gives them an opportunity to consider what we have to offer in a way which is non pressuring.
The real value of doing a regular podcast is that people can download it and listen to it when it suits them, when they have time and can give it some proper attention. This means that your message can be a building one. It can impart useful information, entertain, teach and build brand awareness all at the same time.

If you create a podcast be patient. Don't try to impart your sales message by doing a half hour infomercial. You have to trust in the basics of relationship building. Give something of value for free to someone and the chances are very high that they will come back for more. All you have to do is tell them briefly in simple terms what your product is and how they can get it and then move on.

When people think about taking singing lessons it is a test of their self confidence and sometimes they make quite a few forays before they decide to get started. For those people it a lifestyle decision as much as anything else. They are often looking to fulfill a dream, to improve themselves and impress others.
Above all be yourself when you podcast. If you do it right your listeners will identify with you and what you have to say. They will feel they are getting to know you and trust in what you say. This is the best path to a sale and also the most honest one. Insincerity has a tone all of it's own and is easily spotted.
If you would like to check out The Explore Your Voice Show Podcast it may give you a good idea of how to start your own.

About the Author

Michael Oliphant is a musician, producer and web developer. He co-hosts The Explore Your Voice Show Podcast with Kate Slaney and Roger McLachlan.