According to Wikipedia, “a podcast is a collection of digital media files distributed over the Internet using syndication feeds for playback on portable media players and personal computers.”

Here’s my definition: A podcast is an incredible marketing tool and a great way to generate new leads for your business. It can enhance your marketing in many ways. People consume podcasts in a big way. Apple Inc. reports more than a billion subscriptions to podcasts via iTunes, and that is hardly the only access point. It’s estimated that more than 31 million Americans are regular podcast listeners.

Here’s why and how you should use podcasts.

Branding: An effective podcast series is an excellent way to reach our generation’s tech-savvy consumers. Podcasts can be used to position your company as an industry leader, assuming your content is relevant and timely for your target audience. 

Lead Generation and Lead Nurturing: These seem to be buzzwords for the coming year. People are thinking more and more about their sales cycle and how to keep moving prospects closer to the sale. Podcasts are a smart way to keep prospects engaged with your brand while you earn their trust by demonstrating your expertise.

External Communications: No matter whom you need to stay in touch with -- investors, board members, the media, industry pundits  or your current customers -- a podcast is a simple and interesting way to do that.

Website Content Improvements: Want your website to be seen as an important resource? Adding content like podcasts will not only add stickiness to your site, but Google and the other search engines will love that you have a mix of media on your site.  

If those benefits have you thinking that it might not be a bad plan to think about adding a podcast series to your marketing efforts, then stay with me. I want to give you some tips on attracting and keeping an audience. But even if you follow all of these suggestions, you’re going to have to be a little patient. This isn’t a marketing tactic that you try once or twice and then figure it didn’t work.

Don’t even start this if you aren’t going to give it a good year to take root and grow. Here are a few ways to help make that happen.

Keep it short: Most people will have an attention span of 15-30 minutes at the most for any given topic. Don’t be afraid to be brief. Even a five- to 10-minute podcast can be very effective. One way to do that is to remember – one podcast, one key message.  

Use MP3 for your file format: Most rich media players can play an MP3 formatted file. You can offer other options as well, as long as MP3 is there. 

Let them subscribe: Don’t count on your audiences continually coming back to your site. Give them subscription options so every time you produce new content, they receive it automatically.

Teach, don’t sell: I know this is tough, but if your podcast is a sales speech, no one will stick with you. If you think about what you could teach your prospects and give them that education freely, they’ll gladly endure a little information about your product or service.  

Putting together a podcast series does take some effort. But it can yield incredible results too. You can use the same podcast with many different audiences, and you can even slice and dice some of the content into blog posts, sales material and other marketing tools. Why not give it a try?