From the June 2006 issue of Wealth Manager Web • Subscribe!

June 1, 2006

Not Just Music

It sounds more complicated, and even racier, than it really is, and no, you don't have to be a teenager to take advantage of it. A podcast is simply a downloadable audio program that can be listened to via a computer, MP3 player or cell phone. Its odd name comes from the Apple iPod, but it can be downloaded to any MP3 playing device.

Podcasts allow busy professionals--financial advisors among them--to time-shift their consumption of content. For example, you can download a podcast in the morning to an MP3 player and then listen to it after work during a commute or at the gym.

More importantly, advisors can share their insights with a select audience. For a low price, anyone can go to a vendor like audioblog.com and record podcasts. You call a phone number, record, and then publish the content online. You could also record through your Web browser: Just plug a microphone into your computer and start talking.

If this is all new to you, check out the Apple iTunes music store (www.itunes.com) which has a directory of podcasts. Download their software free (for Windows or Mac), and then you can subscribe to unlimited podcasts on your computer, cell phone or MP3 player.

Under the Business category, you'll find podcasts for finance professionals. Fidelity Investments has a series on practice management and technology. PIMCO CIO Bill Gross offers his thoughts on the financial markets in PIMCO Investment Outlook. Mad Money Machine discusses Jim Kramer's money recommendations. It's worth checking out the top subscribed podcasts.

Dave Taylor, principal of Intuitive Systems, an online marketing and communications consultancy, says advisors can create "weekly ten minutes of commentary they encourage their clients to subscribe to." For example, you can release your podcast every Monday: Define how you think the week's going to go and what was important last week.

"Advisors could do it on an irregular basis based on market needs. If the Fed raises interest a point and that's going to have an impact on the market, they might issue a podcast about it that afternoon; then there might not be anything to talk about for two weeks," Taylor says. The advantage is that you're being topically focused; the disadvantage--you're not setting expectations of how frequently people are going to hear from you.

Garrick Van Buren, president of Working Pathways Inc., a firm that works to improve internal and customer communications through Web applications, thinks regular frequency is not necessary; produce a podcast "when something important needs to be said," he advises.

The podcast can be an effective marketing tool for your business. You might say to a prospective client, "Download my last couple of audios, and you'll hear the kind of information I make sure clients have on a weekly basis," Taylor says.

A podcast is the easiest way to send a voicemail to a large number of customers, according to Van Buren. "Once you subscribe, it's automatically received. There's no notion of spam in the podcasting and RSS world. It's not going to clutter up an inbox; things received will either get listened to or fall away," he says.

Larger companies are using podcasting to talk about their longer-term strategic goals. Intra-company podcasts are an option, where you record and save board meetings or conference calls for colleagues.

Podcasting is inexpensive to create and distribute, so you could create a podcast for a very small audience. "What price would you pay to have your tax accountant leave you a voicemail on something you didn't know you needed to be concerned about?," Van Buren adds. "It's an additional level of service provided by the financial advisor to the customer. It's a way to build a relationship on subjects that position the service provider as the expert."

The beauty of podcasting is that it's a niche market right now. Investment can be small, says Evo Terra, co-founder of Podiobooks.com and co-author of Podcasting for Dummies: "If you have a computer, you just need to buy a microphone. Tools to record and edit... are available online. If you want to sound better than the free tools available, a simple investment of two hundred to three hundred dollars will get you to the level you need to sound nice. That would get you a quality microphone and enhanced software editing tools which allow you to lay in [background] music."

If you have a newsletter or e-zine that talks about the product or service you offer, you could easily re-purpose that content into podcast form.

Terra suggests financial advisors use the new medium to relate success stories of "people who have modest incomes and how they're using advice to change their financial picture. Make it entertaining, something people want to subscribe to," he says. "You want to build a community of clients."

Erin Flynn is a freelance writer based in New York City.

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