Every so often, a new innovation in shareable media changes the game.
It starts slowly at first—everything from printed type to television began small—but eventually, it becomes the gold standard for information sharing and entertainment.
The latest member of this elite media club is the humble podcast.
In 2003, the journey of the podcast began, and by 2007, “The Ricky Gervais Show” made headlines with a record-breaking audience 260,000 listeners. Four years later, comedian Adam Carolla made headlines for his audience of nearly 60 million. Fast forward a few more years and over a billion people subscribe to at least one podcast on iTunes.
Over the last decade, podcasts have exploded in popularity, but listeners aren’t just tuning in for a good laugh. Entrepreneurs and business owners stand to gain a lot.
A business podcast for every entrepreneur
The meaning of the word podcast literally comes from Apple’s innovative MP3 player, the iPod. When the iPod rose to prominence in early naughties, most everyone was walking around with headphones in their ears, opening up content creators to a new method of sharing their voice with the world.
Thus, the podcast’s rise can be attributed to its platform as a powerful tool of easily obtainable and consumable audio-media. The very nature of a podcast, and the way it makes the voices of people accessible means they have wide-reaching applications and benefits across a number of industries and sectors. Business is no exception.
From small business owners to giants of the corporate world, the expert you are looking for is out there somewhere, sharing what they know. The result is a cornucopia of podcasts that exist, offering insight into industries and areas of business that could be relevant to you and your company.
These discussions can vary from something broad, like podcasts about how to grow a business, to episodes that are much more specific, like how to acquire customers as an ecommerce brand through digital marketing channels.
The fact of the matter is this: With thousands of business podcasts available for download and more created every day, it doesn’t matter who you are, what level of experience you have or what industry you are in. There is a podcast available right now that can benefit you in some way.
Free and highly valuable business insight
Roy H. Williams once said:
A smart man makes a mistake, learns from it, and never makes that mistake again. But a wise man finds a smart man and learns from him how to avoid the mistake altogether.
The knowledge of your fellow man has value to your business. What they know can directly impact how you operate and succeed. If you ask the biggest names in business how they got to where they are now, they’ll all have at least one story about a time when somebody older and wiser gave them some advice that changed their outlook and led to bigger and better things.
So, we’ve established that experience and insight have value. But, unfortunately, we aren’t the only ones to have noticed.
Business advice seminars and conferences are big business. Some of the most prominent names in the industry charge hundreds of dollars for a seat in their auditorium. People will pay for it because, just as Roy H. Williams did, they believe there is value in the words of those with experience.
Yet, we don’t all have the financial firepower to afford such luxuries.
When trying to grow a business, both established or brand new, there isn’t always money spare to invest in those extras—like further training, business insight, and conferences.
Podcasts, though, don’t cost a dime.
Tuning into a business advice podcast is going to cost you absolutely nothing, while still opening yourself to that valuable insight. But is the advice you pay for more valuable than the advice you get for free? I’d say that simply is not true.
Speakers take fees to cover costs and make a living. The costs of their seminars do not inherently make the information they give out more valuable. If they were to talk into a podcasting microphone about the same topics, it would be just as useful.
But why would somebody with poignant wisdom share it for free? Because they can earn revenue from other sources. Podcasting is a powerful advertising platform, as well as a great content marketing tool. If you provide valuable business advice, listeners will return, which means better advertising opportunities and more people to channel towards your business or services.
It pays for hosts to offer advice worthy of a price tag, which leaves us, the listeners, with free and valuable insight that can really make a difference.
Optimize your time
Time is both an ally and enemy of the business owner. Judged by many to be the most valuable asset they have at their disposal, most also agree there simply isn’t enough of it.
How business owners spend their time is a testament to their lack of it.
The average entrepreneur works over 52 hours a week, far beyond that of your traditional employee. Some even work more than that, doubling up on those in contracted employment. The majority also work a six-day week, with one in five even heading to the office on Sunday.
The value of time for an entrepreneur, then, cannot be underestimated.
As a business owner, I’m keenly aware of my time—or, rather, the lack of it. Yet, I am also keenly aware that staying ahead in the business world is the difference between success and failure. As a result, I endeavor to keep my head as full of as many changes, ideas and innovations in the business world as possible.
But acquiring this information isn’t easy when your time is limited. Reading articles is time-consuming, going to events and conferences more so.
Yet podcasts are different.
Podcasts allow you to consume information without actually having to do anything, becoming a passive observer. Downtime, such as driving, exercising, commuting, or even taking a bath, can now be used to absorb valuable information.
As an avid business advice podcast listener, I found that, in practice, it is very similar to listening to an audiobook. In particular, podcasts are helpful when I lack the energy or focus to read something or engage in discussion.
Expand your skillset
Running a successful company isn’t just about your business acumen. It’s also about all the other little bits of information you bring with you that support your goals.
For example, a common mistake business owners make is that, while they understand their product and customer, they fail to grab hold of how to correctly market and sell their idea or service. Having additional knowledge on modern marketing techniques is a valuable weapon in the arsenal of an entrepreneur, but as somebody busy running a business—as we’ve already established—you may not have time to go back to school and learn about it.
This is an area where podcasts excel, allowing you to learn about niche, secondary skills that enable you to better support your business objectives. As a chartered accountant, I was good at balancing the books, talking to clients and organizing my business, but when it came to writing my first book, I didn’t have a clue how to get started.
Podcasts like The Creative Pen and The Self-Publishing Podcast helped me learn about digital publishing, good writing standards, and proper book marketing techniques. The result was my small business book was far more influential and successful than it would have been if I’d just done it off my own back, using what little I knew and reading the few non-fiction publishing advice articles I actually had time to read.
The benefits of podcasts aren’t just limited to digital publication, however.
Any profession or aspect of business management can be learned about through this versatile audio-medium. From financial management to human resources, or health and safety to social media, if there is a podcast for it, you can learn and become your own expert.
But herein lies a problem. How do you tell the experts from the faux-experts? How do you make sure the information you are getting is accurate and beneficial? It’s all about the person behind the microphone.
The bigger the name, the easier it is to quantify quality. If a quick Google search of your chosen host pulls up articles and information about their involvement in a particular industry, then you’re all set. But what if they are a lesser known individual or team? I myself am a small business owner that hosts a podcast relating to accountancy, how can you find out if the advice I’m giving out is useful?
Reviews are a major factor. If you’re giving out poor advice or sharing inaccurate information, somebody is bound to notice and warn others of potential pitfalls. But reviews of the podcast itself aren’t your only source of knowledge on a podcaster. Look into their other works—their business, contributions to publications, their qualifications—make sure what they are offering is relevant, and their business or career is a genuine success.
In short, make sure they are who they say they are.
Engage with the business community
Beyond information sharing, podcasts are all about community. It’s about the hosts reaching out to, and connecting with, their audience—audiences that can sometimes rank in the millions.
This audience is united by a common interest: the voice and the knowledge being imparted by the podcasters. What’s fantastic about this shared interest is that it creates a community by default, as listeners are both:
- Connected to each other by their connection to the podcast
- Connected to each other by their goals and circumstances
Those listening to The Pitch podcast, for example, generally all have an interest in entrepreneurial pitches, investment, and business growth, the result of which being you become part of a community where others are experiencing similar trials, challenges, and successes.
Being a part of these communities has major benefits. It’s an opportunity to learn even more, to gain targeted advice and feedback and network with businesses and entrepreneurs you’d never have been able to before.
The question now, though, is how do you engage with the community behind the podcast when you just click a download button and listen in?
You go where the other listeners are.
Forums and chat rooms such as subreddits on Reddit often exist for the most popular podcasts, allowing for direct discussion of topics and related stories. Social media is also a powerful method of getting involved with the community, engaging with followers of your chosen podcast through tweets or comments. This can also be a great way to engage with the hosts themselves.
Other ways to engage are through meetups, conferences, and events that specifically revolve around podcasts—either one podcast in particular or a group or network. It can pay to be a passive listener, but it can also pay to be an engaged and active member of the podcast community.
Start listening now
With all this in mind, what are some podcasts you should start listening to?
- The Small Business Advocate Radio Show is a great place to start. Featuring interviews with business owners and advice on everything from HR to finance, its somewhere both beginners and seasoned pros can find value.
- For those business owners trying to improve the way they market their business in a digital world—which should be all of us—check out the Unknown Secrets of Internet Marketing Podcast. The name may be gimmicky, but they’ve got some sound advice and insight into the world of digital marketing and a very active community.
- StartUp is a fantastic podcast for those in the early stages of their careers. This podcast is a powerful tool for helping make sure you make smart choices—choices that have made or broken others in the past.
Russell Smith, founder of Russell Smith Chartered Accountants, is a small business owner with over a decade’s worth experience. Recently, Russell started a new podcast, which aims to help support the development of SMEs through simple, bite-sized chunks of business advice.