More than 50% of Americans over the age of 12 have listened to a podcast. For businesses selling goods or services directly to consumers, this confirms that podcasts are mainstream.

Does this, however, mean they are a good way for us to focus our time, energy and marketing dollars? Perhaps. Here are a few things to consider before starting a podcast.

Face for radio

Google some version “should I start a podcast,” and most of the results will be targeted toward individuals, sole proprietors and entrepreneurs. As such, the advice focuses on three key areas.

First, podcasts are a low-cost way to grow an audience. Second, they are not complicated to start, run or maintain. And third, starting a podcast as a way to make money is not necessarily the best approach.

This advice is also helpful for business considering a podcast in two ways. First, it illustrates a low-cost opportunity to expand our reach. Second, because of the clear parallels with social media, it reinforces the opportunity to and importance of finding, retaining and supporting our customers and clients in a variety of ways.

Simply put: if we have found a way to leverage social media, we should at least consider podcasting as another potential part of that strategy.

Money, money, money

However, also like social media, podcasts create an expense that may not quickly — or ever — be realized on any other part of the balance sheet. In other words, it is best not to look at a podcast as a way for the business to make money.

Instead, see it as an additional platform on which we can provide information to our customers and clients, elevate our standing in the market and perhaps, test potential products or services.

Further, while the barriers to entry are low, a podcast is still a reflection of our business. Thus, while it may be easy to start, it still needs to be professional. In addition, if we work in a regulated space, it is imperative to invest in understanding how to remain compliant prior to launch.

Next steps

At this point, if it seems like a podcast could provide the same benefits as social media has previously provided and it is not something from which we are looking for an immediate financial return, then it is worth continuing to explore. To do so, consider these three things next, before hitting the record button.

First, what is the point? Reiterating the messages we are already sending is not enough.

A podcast provides an opportunity to go deeper into a niche; explore ideas in a long form; and professionally network while providing more value for our customers and clients. Before starting, we must clearly articulate what it is we think we want to say that benefits from this type of medium.

Second, we need to get gritty with it. This quick read from NPR summarizes the detail with which we need to focus before starting. The skinny: know exactly who we are trying to reach and why.

Third, with a specific goal in hand, ironically, we have to acknowledge the very real chance that we will need to adjust as we go along. Podcasts are not just about us talking, they are about listening to the feedback we get and incorporating it appropriately. If we have the ability to remain flexible in our approach, then a podcast is worth exploring.

The bottom line is podcasting is continuing to grow; with the limited barriers to entry, now is the time to consider whether a podcast could be good for your business.