What do you notice first about this photo - the carrots, fags, coffee cups, receipts? What do you assume about the owner and company of this van? Are they a good, trustworthy business?
I took this photo on a quiet cul de sac in Manchester earlier today. The dashboard caught my eye as lately I’ve been pondering over how important our ‘shop windows’ are when it comes to podcasting and the wider aspect of running a business. How do our breadcrumbs appear to potential customers for not only how we travel, but how we conduct ourselves online?
Seeing that dashboard made me smile and took me back 15 years, when I lived and worked in Birmingham. Then I worked as a recruitment consultant, matching part-qualified and qualified accountants with finance directors and chief executives at SMEs and blue chip companies like Cadburys and National Grid. It was tough working in sales, but I learnt many lessons when it came to best business practice.
One story that jumps to mind explains why I've always switched on my 'meeting mode' the moment I arrive in my potential client's car park. Picture this, often small businesses have visitors spaces right by the front door. Those spaces are prime position in the car park, but also mean that the actions of company guests are visible to everyone inside the office via blacked out one-way glass windows. So if you're sat in your car having a sneaky fag, putting your lippy on, changing your clothes (!), picking your nose… It's all on display to the person you are about to meet, and their colleagues. Not exactly the best way to make a first impression, right?
After my first few months of heading out for client meetings, I realised I could actually be sabotaging my first impressions by such destructive behaviour. So I switched up my attitude - instead my meeting 'started' right from arriving at the front gate meeting security, I considered my first words and tone with the receptionist, and generally became my well-behaved professional self from the moment I turned off the public road into the company car park.
I decided to choose to take control of how I want those first thirty seconds to be received by my potential customer, future boss or even - mate.
I highlight this story because we are all a bunch of idiots when it comes to judging others. It’s not exactly a great aspect of being human, and when we operate on default - we all decide far too quickly upon meeting someone whether we like them. (Don’t even go there with dating…I’ve far too many stories to tell on that subject.)
The problem is that once we’ve made up our mind about somebody, it’s very hard to change our minds. And it’s not just people we judge, it’s websites, blogs, book covers and even podcasts...
Let’s consider shopping online for a moment.
Take, for example, a situation where you’re browsing for a present for a friend for Christmas but you’re not really sure what exactly you want.
You hit Google and wander onto a few different sites of companies you’ve never heard of before. If the photos of the products don’t jump out at you, you skip on quickly. If the page doesn’t load properly, you move on elsewhere. You find a gift which might work, but you’re not sure about buying from the firm. A quick search on the internet and there’s not much to show about them, just a couple of poor reviews in consumer forums.
The chances are you’ll probably end up buying from a site you use regularly, rather than one you’ve never seen before.
Now imagine stumbling upon a website homepage which has a prominent seasonal feature named ‘top ten gifts for your best mate for Christmas’. The site runs smoothly, it contains testimonials from previous buyers, a variety of suggestions ‘Like this? You’ll love this’ and even offers a gift wrapping service to post direct to your mate - chopping out the middle man. You’ve seen one of their adverts somewhere on your facebook timeline, as you recognise their logo. Plus when you google the company it’s been featured in some big name magazines, been on TV and regulars posts on social media - often responding directly with its customers, regarding good and bad feedback. You’re starting to sway on hitting 'buy' right? Even though you’ve never bought from them before?
The truth is that cutting through the noise on the internet is blooming hard work. And unfortunately, customers have so much choice it’s pretty easy for them to ditch you at the drop of a hat, and go elsewhere. Hands up, we all do it.
So consider this: Can we apply the same principles when it comes to marketing our podcasts? Why should someone listen to you or I rabbit on, when there are a million other series under the same category? And if we’re not a celebrity, how do we make our mark in a busy market place?
I’ve often likened running a podcast in a previous blog post to running a business.
I know too well as a creative type how our podcasts become like our babies, our passion projects and are often a labour of love. But the reality is that we all have our weaknesses and strengths. Sometimes we can be great at the chat when the red lights on, but crap at the social media stuff. Or we’ll nail the best episode ever with the best guest we've ever had, but the description and title don’t really sell what exactly it’s all about. Remember I’ve been there, done this, time and time again.. (Especially naming bloody episode titles. Note to self: write about this on a future blog!)
However, making sure the whole package (or the whole business) is right is important.
So here’s the cut of my gib: I’ve created a service to save you serious time and get you a foot up to the next step in building your following. It’s called the ‘Podcast MOT’.
Here’s a list of what’s included in a personalised report when you sign up:
Honest feedback and suggestions regarding your series blurb, episode titles, cover art and descriptions for each episode
Tips to help you shake up your creativity during post-production
A snapshot report of your online breadcrumbs and what people are saying about your podcast
Advice on how to grow your social media following and increase engagement on your posts
A look at who your podcast’s competitors are and what they’re doing that you’re not
A list of potential people you could collaborate with to boost your audience reach
Suggestions on topical and trending subjects or guests to consider for future episodes - we can help make connections for you via our directory of great contacts
An insight into how you could grow listenership and potentially monetise your podcast
15% discount on purchasing services from our one-stop-shop podcast consultancy. Includes specialist podcast digital marketing, graphic designers who create iTunes-friendly cover art, and video producers who’ll make a behind the scenes show reel for your homepage.
Prices for the MOT begin at £200. Contact us for a quote for your podcast right here.
I know it might be initially painful at first to consider someone you don’t know reviewing your ‘shop window’ but honestly, my aim is to help every podcaster be the best they can. I’ve studied, trained and worked in the audio industry for the last 15 years. Why not use my knowledge to help save you hours, refuel your passion and skip a few heartbreaking mistakes along your journey - know that I made them on your behalf to spare your pain!
If a Podcast MOT isn’t for you right now, then fear not - here are a few tips I’ll give you for free as a thanks for reading this post.
Place yourself in the shoes of your customer or listener. Consider looking at Google Analytics stats for your website. How long are people spending on your website? Are they ‘bouncing’ ie quick scan of the home page and then leaving? Or are they flicking through the various blog posts you have, listening to multiple episodes? If not, why? Where have your visitors come from and which areas need some love and attention? For example, are they finding you on twitter but not as a result of directly typing in your domain name?
Also, when time is tight coming up to the end of the year and your nan’s home-made knitted Christmas jumper is calling you to step away from the edit or frankly you just need a break - mash up a ‘best of’ episode to reflect your favourite moments throughout the year. It’ll also work as a great showcase when introducing new listeners to what your podcast is about. Pin this episode to the top of your facebook and twitter pages - this is now your ‘shop window’. Your very own clean, concise and best version of a dashboard first impression to catch the attention of a potential subscriber.
By the way, regarding the dashboard photo - I ended up meeting the van owner. I nicknamed him ‘Carrot Man’ with my friends. He’s actually a self employed painter and decorator. Carrot Man came over with a tin and brush in hand when I was taking the photo thinking I was a traffic warden because he was parked on double yellows! He told me the toy carrots were for his kids for Christmas, something they’d see on TV and had bought them from a supermarket that morning. The receipts were from months ago, no idea what for. And Carrot Man felt guilty about the fags and takeaway coffee cups, definitely something (he said) he’ll be quitting in the new year...
Email Clare and her team at ASFBproductions@gmail.com for a quote for your 'Podcast MOT', or if you’re thinking of starting a podcast and needing some more hands-on help - reach out for our ‘Consultancy High Five’ service. We’ll get you well on the road to start building your own podcast community. We believe in you and your ideas, no matter how big or small. Now's the time to make them come alive!