Webinars & Podcasts for Small Businesses
Written by Tim Russell
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, content marketing doesn’t just mean blog posts. Content takes many forms, and different members of your audience like to consume content in different ways – some would rather watch a video or download a PDF than read a blog post on your site. Varying your content and repurposing popular blog posts into different formats can attract whole new audiences and boost engagement, and it isn’t as difficult as you might think.
During the COVID-19 pandemic with people stuck at home, there has been a huge boom in webinars and podcasts, replacing more traditional business events such as conferences, seminars, and networking events. Now everyone has heard of Zoom for example, and I’ve personally delivered more webinars in the last six months than I had in the previous six years!
Both webinars and podcasts are great formats for small businesses to discuss relevant issues and engage with their audiences, but how to begin? Here’s our quick-start guide.
Webinars for Small Businesses
Let’s start with the easier of the two options, webinars. A webinar is essentially a seminar or presentation delivered online to a live audience, using a combination of visuals (usually slides) and commentary, or with a panel discussion. The great thing about webinars is that you know that anyone who takes the time to register, and then spends 45 minutes or so listening to you, is a very serious lead who is interested in what you have to offer, and 45 minutes with a captive audience of good leads is small business gold!
Here are our steps for getting started with webinars & podcasts for small businesses.
Choose a Topic
As with blogs, choose a topic that is relevant to your audience and of course related to your business. Noone’s going to register to hear you talk about how great your business is for half an hour, but they will register to listen to you talk about their own business issues and, ultimately, how your company can help.
Look at your top performing blog or social media posts to find topics that clearly resonate with your audience, or look at what your competitors are doing or what the latest hot topics are in your industry. I’m currently working for a travel tech startup, and we’ve recently done webinars on topics such as the future of travel post-COVID, recovery for tour operators, and using technology to improve customer service. We don’t just push our business – we talk about current industry issues, then at the end explain how our product can help.
Choose Your Speakers
Now you’ve got your topic, you need to choose who is going to speak. Choose someone in your company who is articulate and knows the topic, and also think about having a second speaker or a panel and run the webinar as a chat or discussion – it’s often more interesting to listeners to hear different voices, and bringing in a well-known guest speaker in your industry can attract more publicity and registrations.
Create Your Content
Whether you’re adapting an existing blog post or starting from scratch, you need to put together your webinar content in a compelling way. Most commonly you’ll be using slides (many use Powerpoint; I usually use Canva) with commentary.
I’m not going to tell you how to organise your content, but try and stick to a logical structure as follows:
- Introduce Speakers & Company
- Outline Contents
- Introduction to Topic
- Core Content – Issues, Problems etc
- How Your Product Addresses the Issues
- Final Words
Planning your content in this way makes it easier to create and practice before you go live.
Choose Your Platform
Now you need to choose which platform you’re going to host your webinar on. If you’re on a very tight budget, you can get away with using a free Zoom account, or running a webinar over Facebook Live or Google Hangouts. However, if you’re going to do it properly, it’s worth investing in a dedicated platform such as Zoom Webinars, Demio or GoToWebinar. And when I say investing, I mean from around US$40 per month. It may seem like an unnecessary spend but speaking as someone who’s hosted webinars & podcasts for small businesses on both free and paid platforms, I can assure you it is worth every cent!
Set Up Your Webinar
Once you’ve got your platform, you can set up your webinar. Obviously different platforms have slightly different procedures but you should be able to set up as follows:
- Webinar title & description
- Logo & webinar graphic
- Date & time (make sure you get the right timezone!)
- Speaker information
- Registration procedure (this differs by platform but you should be getting people to sign up with their name & email at least)
- Waiting room (set up a waiting room so that when people join they aren’t immediately signed into the webinar while you’re still rehearsing!)
- Registration link
- Automatic email reminders & followups
This will give you a dedicated registration page for the webinar for you to share online. Also if you have a CRM system, see if your CRM integrates with the webinar platform. For example at my company we have integrated Zoom with Hubspot. This means anyone who registers for the webinar is automatically added to our CRM.
Promote Your Webinar
Now your webinar exists, it’s time to tell everyone about it! First of all you need a landing page on your website that links to the webinar registration page on Zoom or whichever platform you’re using. You can send people straight to the registration page but for website traffic it’s better to have a landing page and a link on your own site.
Then it’s a case of promoting the webinar via your usual marketing channels, such as email marketing, your social media accounts, email signatures and so on. Give yourself at least two weeks before the webinar date to begin promoting it, longer if you can. And be aware that, on average, less than 50% of those who register will actually show up for the event itself.
The moment has arrived, and it’s time to deliver your webinar! Make sure you log into the platform a good 30 minutes before start time to make sure everything is working, including:
- Screen sharing
- Computer audio (if your presentation includes video)
- Recording (ALWAYS record your webinars!)
Make sure all your speakers are logged in and are audible. And make sure you’re all in a quiet environment with no background noise. This can be difficult when working from home with family and pets around. My dogs have interrupted a couple of webinars this year – but also be aware that interruptions from pets or children can be entertaining and are usually received in good humour!
When you’re ready to roll, admit attendees from the waiting room and begin the show. Make sure you inform people at the start of the approximate length of the webinar. Also explain to them how to ask questions. Most good webinar platforms have a Q&A box where people can type in questions so make sure your attendees are aware of this.
Use the Recording
I said above that you should always record your webinars & podcasts for small businesses, and here’s why. A webinar recording is another great piece of video content for your website. Once the recording is done, you can post it on YouTube and then embed it on your website to share on social media and elsewhere.
Finally, make sure you follow up with attendees and registrants. Most platforms will allow you to automate an email to follow up, with separate emails for those who attended and those who registered but didn’t show up.
Make sure you include a link to your website. Ideally to the recording of the webinar, and inform them of any future events along with registration links. You should also follow up any really hot leads with a personal email a few days later.
Podcasts for Small Businesses
A podcast differs from a webinar in two key ways:
- It’s recorded, not live
- It’s audio-only
Whereas a webinar is usually a one-off event discussing a particular topic, a podcast is a regular, recurring series of broadcasts on issues relevant to a particular topic. And it’s this regularity that makes podcasts a great tool for gradually building an audience. And as they’re recorded, they’re less vulnerable to technical issues, background noise or other glitches than can (and often do!) affect webinars. They are however a little more complex to put together, so here’s our quick guide to getting started.
Prepare the Content
As with webinars, you need to find the right topics, pick the right speakers, and put the content together. The difference here is that whilst a webinar is a one-off, podcasts can be a series. So you need to decide on how often you’re going to broadcast – Weekly? Monthly? Quarterly? Weekly is a bit of an effort for a small business so monthly is probably the best option. Then you can plan your content and speakers in advance.
You also need to think about podcast length. Make it too short and you’ll seem a little superficial; make it too long and people will tune out. 30-45 minutes seems to be about the optimum time to cover your topic in sufficient depth without taking up too much of people’s time. Remember, you can always return to a topic in a future episode.
And you’ll also need to design some cover art to share on various podcast platforms. Ideally 1400x1400px in size and a nice simple design that will be readable when shrunk down to thumbnail size on mobile phones.
Get the Right Equipment
Your podcast needs to have the best audio quality you can manage on your budget. I’m assuming you don’t have access to a professional recording studio, so here’s what you need to achieve this:
- A computer
- A USB microphone. Ideally equipped with a boom arm so you don’t pick up noise from people tapping on the table or putting their coffee cup down!
- Recording and editing software – Audacity, which is free, does the job
Now you can record your podcast. Find a quiet room with decent acoustics where you’re not going to be disturbed. Then test your equipment to make sure it’s working and the sound quality is good. And off you go! You can rehearse or just do it off the cuff if you prefer, as spontaneity and informality are often a desirable quality.
Once you’ve finished recording, play your podcast back and make any edits required. You may want to add some rights-free music at the beginning or end. Incompetech is a good free source of music to begin with.
Share Your Podcast
Now your podcast is ready to share with the world, you need to broadcast it! The simplest way is to upload the audio file to your website for people to download. However, that somewhat limits your audience and not everyone will want to download it to their device. So you need a podcast platform.
If you’re using WordPress, there are plenty of good podcast plugins out there, some of them free. Have a look at Seriously Simple Podcasting or blubrry for example. If not, look at dedicated podcast hosting such as Buzzsprout, which start from around US$12 per month.
Once you’ve decided on a platform, you can then go ahead and submit your podcast to various channels including YouTube, iTunes, Spotify and more, to make sure you have as wide an audience as possible and that your audience can listen to it via their chosen medium.
Hopefully this has given you the basic details to get started with broadcasting webinars & podcasts for small businesses. And we hope you’ll find them a great way to promote your business and attract and nurture leads. Good luck!