While growing up in Indianapolis I used to fall asleep listening to WIBC radio sportscaster Bob Lamey broadcasting the then-ABA Indiana Pacer’s basketball games. I lived and died with those early 1970s championship teams that included Billy Keller, Freddie Lewis, Don Buse, George McGinnis, Mel Daniels, Roger Brown and “Dr. Dunk” Darnell Hillman. When ever a Pacer got hacked by an opposing player, but the officials didn’t call a foul, Lamey hollered into his microphone—“No harm—no foul!” which is a phrase I use to this day.
Unless you’re from my hometown, you probably never heard of Bob Lamey, but you may know of a certain young radio sportscaster from another ABA team—The St. Louis Spirit—by the name of Bob Costas. Back then I dreamt of becoming a broadcaster, but I became an estate-planning attorney instead.
Fast forward several decades and my dream—kind of—came true! While I’m not a sports broadcaster, I do host three different podcast series produced in my law office in Fort Myers, Fla.—one for my firm’s estate planning practice, another for our estate administration clients and a third for attorneys in my practice development systems. Podcasting is an effective tool for not only attorneys, but also financial advisors, trust officers and CPAs.
Podcasting is a cost-effective and valuable method for educating your existing client base, attracting prospective clients and strengthening your brand with referral sources. Podcasting has the potential to be vital to you, your staff and your clients. There are many podcasting basics you should know, especially when considering how to begin your very own podcast series.
It’s important to distinguish yourself and your practice in an age of competition and commoditization. Options for selecting legal, tax and financial professionals bombard clients from all angles. The economy transformed. We moved from service to experience based, meaning those with wealth search for meaningful experiences and are willing to pay handsomely for them.
Consider your experience with luxury travel, gourmet dining and shopping at an Apple store. Assuming you have disposable income, you’re often willing to pay a premium price for those services or products. More and more, everything is a commoditized transaction. You search for the lowest price, often on the Internet. As artificial intelligence improves, your potential clients find commoditized services in the legal, tax and financial industries online.
We professionals in the legal, tax and financial marketplace consequently find ourselves delivering what the clients perceive as a commoditized, transaction-based service where price is the only differentiating factor; instead, we must reengineer our practices to consistently deliver uniquely positive client experiences that can’t be found anywhere else.
Intuitively, you realize that an education-based client experience is the delivery mechanism. When you reflect on your interactions with your best clients you likely recall educational conversations centering on that client’s unique set of facts and issues where you transformed your client’s concerns into feelings of confidence and clarity. My bet is that most of those clients weren’t fee sensitive.
Podcasting is an amazing technological tool for enhancing that client educational experience. The ability to podcast is easier now more than ever, and the cost of doing so is significantly lower than in the past. Podcasting leverages your time and that of your staff, and serves as an invaluable marketing instrument.
Educational Podcasts Enhance Client Value
You probably notice that many of your new clients review your website prior to making an appointment or initial conference. Today’s most sophisticated clients spend time educating themselves as to their various legal, tax and financial options. I hear many inquiries start with “This is a stupid question but…” Despite your assurances that no question is stupid, everyone likes to sound somewhat knowledgeable when sitting down with his professional.
Now imagine you have a podcast series on your website featuring the ten most frequently asked questions from your best clients. Not only would you provide significant value before your initial meeting, but also consider how much comfort and clarity your prospective client feels. Wouldn’t that differentiate you in the marketplace and provide a precursor to the high level of importance you place on your clients’ concerns? Doesn’t this take you from the transactional realm into the experience and relationship economy where price isn’t the only differentiating factor?
Leveraging Your Time and That of Your Staff
Envision going beyond the FAQ podcast into areas of interest that speak to current developments in your field or provide valuable insights that your clients either haven’t considered or don’t understand. The possibilities are endless.
Moreover, don’t you often wish that you had a record and play button when you find yourself answering the same question over and over—and you have to stir up the same amount of enthusiasm each time? With podcasting, you have that capability! I often record podcasts covering common questions or topics that I otherwise answer dozens of times.
When a client calls with a common problem or issue we email a link to the relevant podcast episode and offer to schedule a meeting or call after the client had the chance to listen to it. We find our clients appreciate the information delivered this way. They listen to it as often as they like and forward the link to other close advisors and family members.
This tool serves to effectively cut what might be a 30-minute or longer conversation into a short discussion focused on the significant facts of that client’s situation. I also find that after listening to the podcast, our client provides more relevant background information and asks deeper, more thoughtful questions.
Are You Giving Away Your Wisdom for Free?
The main concern brought up about my podcasts is that I give away all of my wisdom—client value—for free. I counter that a layman can’t possibly garner enough knowledge, even from dozens of podcasts, to construct a first-class estate plan. Applying professional expertise to a client’s specific facts requires something more than general knowledge one finds online. Most of your listeners understand that.
I acknowledge that some individuals consume the information without any intention of engaging my firm’s services. Those aren’t A+ clients, so I remain unconcerned. You never know, however, when that do-it-yourselfer who found you on the Internet recommends you to a friend who truly desires what your firm has to offer.
I believe that openly posting educational podcasts benefits your practice by showing off your expertise, and I personally experience positive results. The more information you post, the more prospective clients better understand the complexities they didn’t realize existed in their own situations. Consequently, you find that your clients’ appreciation for your expertise increases as they learn more about your profession’s subtleties and intricacies.
The Equipment You Need
Assuming you wish to move forward into the broadcasting world, you want to invest in good equipment. Besides the computers you already have in your office, you need microphones, headphones, audio mixers and a video camera and lighting should you wish to add video podcasts into the mix.
While recording directly from your Smartphone and uploading to the Internet is an option, my advice is to look and sound as professional as possible. You could record from your office or conference room, but the sound quality suffers. Recordings from what seems like a quiet space tend to echo and contain background noise that listeners find distracting.
I went so far as to convert a 72 square foot file room into a soundproof media studio complete with prosumer (better than your Smartphone but not as high quality as a recording or radio studio) podcast and video equipment. Sites like broadcast.bswusa.com and bhphotovideo.com have this kind of equipment for sale. The latter website includes video tutorials and call-in professionals who answer your questions to narrow down the equipment choices that are best for you.
Before spending any money on creating your own studio or purchasing equipment, perhaps try renting sound studio space in your community to test out your comfort level for this new endeavor. Although, unless you work or live near such a studio, chances are you won’t carve out time to record on a regular basis, rendering your foray into the field underwhelming.
Software Requirements and Hosting Capabilities
Aside from required recording and editing software on your computer, you need to learn something about hosting programs and how that interacts with your firm’s website. For recording and editing we enjoy Reaper, although there are free versions like Audacity and Apple’s Garage Band. I suggest hiring an audio editor to help. Ask around in your community to find a knowledgeable editor or visit websites like Upwork or freelancer.
Since you can’t simply upload a podcast file directly to iTunes or Google Play Music, you need to establish an account at a podcast hosting website. We use Blubrry since its advanced features enable us to do most anything. It also offers plug-in capabilities with WordPress, which is the platform for our firm and our estate planning and estate administration attorney licensee websites. Alternatives like PodBean and Buzzsprout offer limited free plans for beginners.
When choosing hosting sites you want to determine if they offer RSS (Really Simple Syndication) management capabilities that enable the distribution of your content. RSS is programming that distributes updates and content to your audience. Again, someone familiar with podcast editing and web hosting can assist and point you in the right direction.
Graphic Design and Music
In addition to the hardware and software, it’s a good idea to have a graphic designer create images for the podcast series for iTunes and Google Play Music, and you also want individual images for the audio files that you might post separately on your firm’s website. These images serve to brand your podcast identity and to graphically represent the subject matter of your offerings.
Podcasts don’t necessarily need to begin with a jingle, but music can further brand the podcast series. It gives your listeners a mindset queue, rather than hearing a voice starting from nowhere. You can find downloadable jingles at sites like Pond5, PremiumBeat and AudioJungle. Once you select the jingle for your series, your podcast editor can include it in each opening.
Creating Your First Podcast Series
Now that you’re familiar with why you should develop your own podcast series and the basics of doing so, let’s review details to consider. A well thought out, intentional plan is more likely to succeed than flying by the seat of your pants or scratching your head while trying to come up with fresh ideas for each recording session.
Know Your Audience
The most important consideration is to whom you intend to podcast. Existing clients? Potential clients? Centers of influence? Like me, you can develop different series for each of those audiences. Once you identify the audience for a particular series, outline a list of potential topics that interest them.
Your audience’s attention span is short. I applaud you if you made this far into this article, for example. Nevertheless, I suggest five to 10 minutes per episode. Listeners are also more likely to listen to an episode in its entirety when the subject speaks to them.
You may have longer podcasts when you interview interesting guests who add significant value to your presentation. I record podcasts that last as long as one hour. I don’t anticipate that many listen to the entire episode, but it’s available for those who do. I listen to podcast series during my commutes and other long drives or flights. When I have more time, I listen to longer episodes.
One Host or Two?
I record episodes by myself—usually for my clients where I attempt to impart some basic knowledge on a particular topic. Mixing it up with two hosts, however, adds interest and dialogue not possible with only one, unless, of course, you have the ability to carry on an entire conversation with yourself, complete with different character voices, like Robin Williams.
Consider the number of presenters carefully for each series. You don’t want to shift from singular to plural within the same series as it confuses your audience.
Conducting Guest Interviews
Interviewing a guest with specialized expertise adds variety and value to your podcasts. Because I constantly harp on how the experience economy affects the legal, tax and financial industries, I interviewed international economist Joe Pine, the author of the seminal book on the subject, boosting my credibility.
Having your guest with you in your studio to record together is the most efficient method for hosting an interview. Because most of your interviewees won’t share your location, coordinating these interviews can be tricky, so be aware of the technical issues involved with remote recordings.
The best alternative is recording two separate audio files. This requires both you and your remote subject to have recording capabilities. Once you record each track, your editor combines them. This ensures quality audio for the entirety of the episode and sounds as if you’re in the same room talking to each other. I interviewed Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach using this method. I was in my media room in Fort Myers while Dan was in his Toronto studio.
Another option is to use Skype or Google Hangouts. While the quality using these methods isn’t the same as a microphone recording, it’s still better than recording a phone call. Free programs like Amoloto, Pamela and WireTap Studio record the call and ensure higher quality audio once spliced together. Or record the entire call and use the Skype audio as your episode.
Finally, you can record the episode via phone. This delivers the lowest quality, but is reliable. Here you would either have to plug your phone into the computer or use your microphone to record the phone call.
Distributing Your Content
Once you create podcast content it’s time to figure out how to distribute your wisdom. Once you create your iTunes or Google Play account, link those pages to your firm’s website. On my firm’s website I created podcast pages for those episodes that serve to provide clients and prospective clients valuable background information while planning their estates. My probate and trust administration pages also contain podcast episodes that supplement the materials we provide as we work through the administration.
Social media is yet another distribution channel. Use your Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter pages to promote podcast episodes to a general audience. Further, building templates using Constant Contact or MailChimp and forwarding those messages to your clients, prospective clients and centers of influence works well, especially since you can follow the analytics supplied to determine the targets’ interest.
A benefit to creating podcast episodes is that, once created, they continue to work for you even when you’re not at the office. The right topics can become viral, providing you with invaluable exposure. Clients forward interesting episodes to friends while your referral sources send episodes to their own clients, broadening your audience which could, of course, lead to more A+ clients scheduling appointments.
Podcast pages go stale without constant updating. That’s one of the reasons that I created a media studio inside of my office. It’s easy for me to step in my studio to record episodes between client appointments, on lunch breaks or after work.
We also dedicate planning hours to consider what different episode topics will serve to meet whatever goals we established for the current period. It’s equally important to work on your practice rather than constantly working in your practice.
Building Your Library
While I didn’t pursue my childhood dream of becoming a national sportscaster like Bob Costas, I truly enjoy creating educational podcast episodes that serve my client community as well as fellow professionals. I admit to being a bit of a ham. Maybe you are too. Even if it takes a while for you to get comfortable behind the microphone, there’s “no harm—no foul” since erasing an episode and rerecording it is always a possibility!
In any event, I hope this article leads you to create your own media library that showcases your personality, talents, and uniquely positive client experience that serves to distinguish you and your firm and differentiate you in your marketplace. Now get out there and broadcast your wisdom to the world!