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It may seem odd on the surface to imagine that in today’s world of streaming video, 500 original shows, and more movies than you can shake a stick at on Amazon and Netflix, a technology that was presumed to be about to die in the 1950’s is becoming one of the fastest growing industries in the world. But for whatever reason, 112 million people download podcasts and more than 67 million listen to at least one podcast per month, and the numbers are growing.

In fact, from 2017-18, podcast listening growth jumped 14% among women, and the average number of shows a listener ingested rose 40%.

That’s a lot of attention for the digital equivalent of AM talk radio (which accounts for less than 8% listening in cars). That alone should cause you to consider taking a closer look at podcasts. But what can a podcast do for your small business? I’m glad you asked.

Why Even Do a Podcast?

How can a podcast help your small business grow? And is it a worthwhile investment of time and money you could allocate to other marketing efforts? Here are the top 3 reasons every small business owner should take a look at podcasting:

  1. Don’t just call yourself an expert. Prove it.

For some reason, even more than writing about it, when you talk about things in your business confidently, addressing your target audience, and answering the questions they are asking, you gain immediate credibility and authority.

  1. Provide value in an intimate setting.

If you’ve done your strategic work, you know what your potential clients need and value. You can provide it to them instantly, literally planting the ideas and solutions in their heads – through their earbuds or car stereos. You’ve probably heard someone at a business success seminar talk about turning your car into a classroom – with a podcast, you can be the teacher.

  1. Success Breeds Success.

For many small businesses, a podcast is an opportunity to broaden your reach and authority even further by interviewing leaders in your field and/or influencers who attract your audience. For example, on the Grow the Dream Show podcast, we interviewed Sujan Patel, Howard Partridge, Christian Ziegler, Jay Baer and Tom Ziglar. In addition to getting and sharing the wisdom of these guests, you begin to forge a relationship with them.

Plus, the credibility of having a podcast and an audience gives you the opening to reach out to people you otherwise would not be able to contact. It’s no longer a cold call if you’re offering them an opportunity to share and teach a wider audience. Additionally, most guests will cross-promote their appearance on your show, and having their name in the description can lead to people finding your podcast when they search for the guest’s appearances on iTunes and Stitcher.

It can also be a source of revenue — 69% of people surveyed agreed that podcast ads made them aware of new products and services, and experts predict ad revenue for podcasts where listeners seek those products or services out will top $659 million per year by 2020.

Case Study: Indie Film Hustle

On July 21, 2015, my friend Alex Ferrari – who I didn’t know at the time, despite our parallel paths from South Florida to Los Angeles and several mutual friends – launched Indie Film Hustle. His goal was to make a mark on the market, using the knowledge, tools and contacts he had acquired over 20 years of struggling in the independent feature world as a director/writer/editor. He started with a website that consisted primarily of a content blog he posted on 2-3 times a week and a then (mostly) weekly podcast.

He immediately started seeing growth, and when he committed to consistently releasing a podcast every week, his numbers exploded, launching him into the coveted Top Ten Podcasts on iTunes for his field – filmmaking. He started churning out 2 podcasts per week – one interview with an leading industry member and one, usually shorter, with his own personal advice and encouragement and found himself, in just over 3 months after launching, as the number one podcast for filmmakers on iTunes.

And that’s beating out major players like No Film School, Nerdist, Rocket Jump, the Director’s Guild, IndieWire, Leonard Maltin and ScriptNotes. While I’m aware that most people reading this may not have heard of many of these, trust me, they are giants in the independent film-making world and have been around longer than Alex’s efforts – it’d be the equivalent of our website ranking higher than HubSpot for online marketing.

Even more recently, he was added to the Independent Screenwriter’s Association Curious About Screenwriting podcasting network, even though only one out of every 8-10 podcasts has a primary focus on screenwriting.

Granted, a lot of Alex’s success can be attributed to the premise of his chosen mission – Indie Film HUSTLE, which he embodies every day. It took a lot of hard work. But the fact is, his reach and authority grew based on his consistency in releasing a podcast with useful information that was cross-promoted and supplemented by his content blog.

He now splits his time between film-making for himself and a couple of side projects (like editing Dimension 404 on HULU) and being a recognized film-making master teacher. And he’s launched his own subscription-based film-maker-oriented video streaming service with thousands of paid users. All in just four years.

The Elephant in the Room

So, I know what you’re thinking, that all sounds grand, but you can’t possibly expect me to believe that he did all that with just $200. That’s in fact, the same question our own team here at Grow the Dream, asked – was that number really accurate?

For his part, Alex Ferrari already had some significant sound and editing equipment, as well as some mad graphics skills from his previous experience. But yes, anyone can launch a podcast – and maintain it for at least 6-months – with $199 or less.

Just $200 to LAUNCH a Podcast?

Yes, sure, you can spend upwards of $3-5000 to launch a podcast. But if you’re a small business owner or solopreneur, as much as you may be a gadget-head like some, you have lots of other things you need to spend money on right now, and you can always upgrade your system later. For now, stick with the basics, see if you like it, and decide from there.

Of course, there is one expense that I’m going to assume you have already purchased and are using. A computer. Again, these podcasts are digital files. We’re not recording them on a cassette, reel-to-reel or 8-track sound system. You’re recording, editing and posting them all from your computer. And it doesn’t even take that powerful a computer anymore.

So computer. $0. Check.

Your next important piece of equipment will be a microphone. Just 6-7 years ago, it was much harder to find a mic that would work for podcasting purposes.  You would either have to use a traditional mic and figure out a convoluted way to get the sound into your computer – either with professional gear & software, or hire a sound engineer to set it up – or you had to settle for poor sound quality over a mic to USB or miniplug connector. Today, there are much easier, cheaper options.

For the past Grow The Dream podcast,  our team utilized a handheld Audio Technica ATR2100-USB Mic. It currently sells for $62 on Amazon, and is a great mic – it looks like the ones that TV News reporters use for live updates. You can hold it, or place it in the tabletop tripod stand that comes with it.

Another option used by a lot of podcasters is the Blue Yeti – these can be found on Amazon for $128 new, or $100 refurbished. The Yeti looks like the old school radio mics, also known as an ‘Elvis’ mic. While they are slightly more expensive, the advantage of Blue is that it designed from the ground up to be a USB mic. It’s not a microphone that’s been rewired or redesigned to work with computers, but was designed solely for computer use. You can set the microphone to cardiod, to only record one direction, or switch it to bidirectional, omnidirectional or stereo if you have multiple people recording with you. It also has a built in mute switch and volume control.

I personally use the Blue Yeti for recording Voiceover auditions and audio book recordings.

If you want to utilize the same technology, but spend less, the same company has a mic called a Blue Snowball. It’s a round mic that sells on Amazon for $69. The Snowball (not Snowball ICE) can record multiple people at the same time, and I have friends who podcast with it weekly with 2 to 4 people at a time with no issues. Both the Snowball and the Yeti are plug-and-play for both Mac and PC/Windows/Linux systems.

Because a microphone can be more of a personal decision, take a little time to research the options and features on Amazon to decide which you feel most comfortable with, but these are the 3 best options for high quality sound without needing an audio board to operate.

Microphone – $65-100.

To ensure the best quality sound, it’s best to also invest in a pop filter. These reduce the high frequency sounds that many people make when speaking that are not noticeable in everyday speech, but are amplified on a microphone, causing audio ‘pops.’ The easiest solution for all three options is Dragonpad Windscreen Pop Filter. It’s a studio quality filter for a mere $10.50 on Amazon that comes on a long goose-neck swivel mount that can be clamped directly onto your desk or table. I also use it for my recordings and I have seen it in professional studios everywhere.

Wind/Pop Filter – $10.50.

A word of caution. You may see on the Amazon page of whichever mic you choose, the bundle – “Frequently Bought Together” Resist the urge to purchase a pair of “professional” headphones when you get your mic and windscreen. After doing extensive research, I’ve noticed that these “professional headphones” sold on Amazon are no more effective than a pair of earbuds, and in many cases are poorly made and not worth half of what they charge you. If you really feel the need to get pro headphones, then do it at a professional music or sound system store. But really, you can just get by with earbuds you can pick up for $20 at BestBuy, or $10 at Marshall’s and Ross.

Earbuds – $20.

Of course, now that you have the hardware, you’re going to need the software to record your podcast.

You could go the Avid ProTools for $3-600. Or the Apple Logic Pro X for $200-1000. Or MixCraft or Reaper or other sound design programs for $1-400. Or you could get Audacity.

Audacity costs NOTHING. It’s open-source, cross-platform and updated all the time. The basics are easy to learn – you won’t need to do too much audio manipulation with a podcast, just some minor editing. It might be a slight learning curve for some, but there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube and Vimeo. A significant group of podcasters use Audacity and I personally use it for editing audio books I’ve narrated.

Audacity – $0

Many podcasts are recorded live with all the people speaking in the same room. However, as we mentioned earlier, there is also the option of having remote guests to chat with or interview for your podcast.

To record a remote guest, you’ll need an online phone provider, such as Skype or Google Phone. With Audacity, you should be able to record directly both sides of the conversation, the incoming phone and your mic. I would recommend testing this, just to make sure, and check that your Recording Device settings is set to stereo. Also make sure you have all alerts from Skype, Calendars, BaseCamp, Slack, etc., muted, or they will also be recorded.

Another app for PC/Windows users that you can use to record calls is MP3 Skype Recorder. It is primarily designed for Skype calls, but can be set up for most P2P calls on your computer. Once it’s installed, you just give it access to your Skype client and it will automatically begin recording anytime you make a call with it. It can even record two separate calls simultaneously. The basic version is free, or for a little more functionality, you can get a pro license for $10-15.

MP3 Skype Recorder – $0.

Next you’ll need a site for hosting your podcast.

Despite popular belief, iTunes and Stitcher do NOT host podcasts. They actually are set up as an old-fashioned RSS feed, to gather podcasts in as they are published on their respective sites and then aggregate them for you to download and play. And even when you download, it’s not from iTunes, but iTunes just acts as a funnel from the original website to their player.

So you’ll likely need a new domain name. You can try and host the podcast files on your regular website, but because of the size and access required to publish the audio files, it takes up a lot of your available memory. That can lead to storage and bandwidth overages, and, worst case scenario, can slow down your regular site loading.

So to be safe, just get a new domain, typically the title of your podcast, install WordPress and host the RSS feed there. (That way people can also access your podcast episodes directly.) You can add more detailed description, links, etc. as well. You’ll also need to install the WordPress plugin BluBrry PowerPress. The plugin is free, but if you want to track your podcast statistics (and you should, like you do with any marketing effort, be tracking measurable results), it’ll cost you $5 per month.

Now about the actual file hosting… In addition to books and DVD’s and clothing, supplies, food, okay, anything and everything tangible, Amazon is the number one provider of cloud storage space. In 2006, to facilitate their move to Kindle e-books and later to streaming videos, Amazon launched Amazon Web Services “Simple Storage Service” (S3). Amazon S3 is used by everyone from Netflix to Dropbox to AppleMusic to store and share large media files (actually any files). Because of the extremely well-developed infrastructure, S3 is extremely reliable, as well as lightening fast. And it’s relatively inexpensive – you pay only for what you use.

By hosting your audio (or video) files on Amazon S3, you’re giving the people who download or stream your podcast virtually instant gratification that doesn’t impact your web servers at all. Everyone starts on the free usage tier, which provides 5 GB of storage and 15 GB of transfer (download) per month. After that, you’ll pay about 12-cents per GB of data in and out. You can check out the full breakdown here.

Domain name – <$10 at NameCheap

Cheap hosting plan for WordPress (RSS Feed) – <$5/mo

WordPress software – $0

Blubrry PowerPress with Statistics Report – $5/month

Amazon AWS S3 – $1-3/month, slightly more each month as you add more podcast content

Now, for the finishing touches…

It always nice to make a good first impression. Plus, iTunes and Stitcher will need to have an image to associate with your podcast. You could always use your logo or a variation thereof. If you have some Photoshop skills, you can create this yourself. Podcast artwork needs to be between 1400 x 1400 and 3000 x 3000 pixels, RGB, 72 dpi. If you don’t have the skills or a graphics person in house, there are lots of hungry artists on that will help you out for $5 and up.

Artwork – $5

Plus, it’s always nice to have some intro and “outro” music. Another benefit of our electronic society is the access to Royalty Free Music tracks. That means you only pay for a track once and can use it in perpetuity. Google “royalty free music” + your desired genre to see what’s out there. Most tracks will be $5-16. Just be careful – if something sounds familiar, it may be overused. For example, one podcast I listen to uses the same music as a local church’s sermon intro and a national company’s initial on-hold/transfer music. And it doesn’t have to be music, you can use an explosion, like Tim Ferris or something similar that evokes your company spirit. You just add the music to the top and bottom of your recording of the meat of your podcast.

Music – $5-16

Now, hang on a second while I add this all up…. Carry the one…

For everything to start, it’s going to cost you, drum roll please… $175 for your first month with the most expensive options chosen. Then $10-12 per month as your podcast grows.

However, if you go with one of the cheaper microphones, we’re looking at $144 for the first month, then $10-12 per month as your audience expands.

Either way, you’ve just launched a brand new, professional sounding podcast for less than $200.

And they say writers can’t do math!