Can podcasts boost sales?

More businesses are tapping into the power of social media by integrating podcasts into their online marketing strategies. In fact, a study from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research found that the number of Inc. 500 companies using podcasts has nearly doubled in the past year from 11% to 21%.

I like it. When done right, podcasts are a simple, effective and relatively inexpensive way for companies to differentiate themselves from the competition. They demonstrate that the business can offer customers resources beyond just products and services.

One example that stands out for me is actually one of my recruitment firm’s customers, Nerac, Inc., a research and advisory firm for companies developing innovative products and technologies.

On its website, Nerac offers podcasts featuring interviews with and discussions by its analysts on a range of issues related to the industries it serves. It also keeps things fresh by adding new podcasts on a regular basis.

I use the Internet for almost all my preliminary research on prospective vendors, clients and partners.  I like to listen to the podcasts I come across whenever I can because they give me a different, more personal, perspective on the company and insights into the trends associated with their business and industry.

As long as the podcasts are well done, informative and meaningful (rather than a hit-you-over-the-head sales pitch), those companies tend to edge up closer to the top of my list.

Thus, from my personal and very subjective perspective, podcasts do boost sales. They create value and establish a relationship even before the first sales call is made. That can only serve to accelerate the sales cycle.

What are your thoughts; do podcasts really impact sales and is there a valid way to quantifiably measure their ROI?