Ben Greenfield is the director of sports performance for Champions Sports Medicine, the head coach of Pacific Elite Fitness online training and webmaster for BenGreenfieldFitness.com. In 2008, he was voted as the NSCA Personal Trainer of the Year. As the author of the book "Train For Top Dollar", he teaches business and marketing to fitness professionals. He can be reached at ben@bengreenfieldfitness.com.

Imagine being able to deliver audio advertising and informational content to thousands of potential customers and existing clients. People could tune into your audio content while commuting, exercising or doing yard work. Isn't this the definition of radio advertising? Perhaps, but now include one extra detail — this audio content is completely free for you to create and deliver. Such a high-powered audio marketing tool is called a podcast, and it is the wave of the future for automatically delivered multimedia marketing content.

An audio podcast is a digital audio media file that is recorded to a computer. Typically, when you create a podcast file, you can make it available on your company or individual Web site for immediate download. But you can also submit your podcast address to services like iTunes and Podcast Alley, which feature programs that upload your latest podcast to an individual's MP3 player or computer. People who subscribe to your podcast can simply log on to the Internet and have the audio content automatically delivered for free.

Equipment, hardware and software needs are minimal to start podcasting. In addition to a decent computer with 2 to 3 gigabytes of free hard drive space, a soundcard, 512 megabytes of RAM, and a microphone input/headphone output (this describes 99 percent of any modern desktop or laptop), you simply need a small amount of basic gear and software to get started, including:

  • Headphones or headset. Any headphones that plug into your computer will work, but headsets are typically better since the microphone and headphones are combined.
  • Microphone. If you go for the headphones and purchase a microphone separately, get something inexpensive and easy to use.
  • Podcasting software. Most Macintosh computers come with podcasting software called GarageBand. You can also use free Audacity podcast software from http://audacity.sourceforge.net. This software comes with a help file to walk you through the recording and file exporting process. Most software also makes it easy to "drag and drop" background audio music to your podcast. Once you've created your audio file, any free FTP software will allow you to easily upload the podcast to your Web site the same way you would upload any files to the Internet.

Once you have your gear, the marketing opportunities for podcasting are endless. Here are several ways you can use a podcast in your marketing efforts:

  • Each week, a personal trainer or nutritionist from your facility can record a review of the latest research in their field. After presenting the research, a follow-up explanation can be given on how to practically apply the information to an exercise or diet routine. Finish each podcast with a review of how a fitness professional can help a client reach their goals, and feature any specials that you currently have at your facility.
  • Include a section on your Web site that features a weekly audio recording of a step-by-step workout that utilizes your facility's machine-based circuit or cardio equipment. For example, a 45-minute audio file can include warm-up instructions, interval training cues, and a set/rep guide for resistance training.
  • Feature a weekly podcast with client testimonials or interviews with club members. Include information about how a personal trainer helped a client achieve their goals, or how a member successfully uses a new piece of cardio equipment at your facility.
  • Give new members a flash drive, CD or inexpensive MP3 player that has been pre-loaded with podcasts. The podcasts can include introductory information about your facility, features of your personal training or group fitness specials, or workout instructions. Be sure to include a guide that teaches the listener how to automatically subscribe to future audio content for free from your facility's Web site.

Remember that once your podcast hits the Internet, it will be available to a worldwide audience. This means that your audio content can be downloaded by members of the community who may be considering becoming involved with your facility or programs. Compared to the cost of a radio advertisement, a free podcast can be more broad-reaching, contain a higher amount of content, and can change from week to week at no cost. Furthermore, if you already own a Web site, you likely have more than enough space to contain a large amount of digital audio content.

The final advantage of podcasting is that if your podcast grows in popularity, you build a platform of valuable virtual real estate upon which to sell advertising to your affiliates. Supplement, nutrition and fitness companies can pay to run an ad on your podcast or have you create an ad for them. By simply choosing a catchy background tune and having one of your podcast contributors read a business or nutrition supplement advertisement, you can generate enough ad revenue to justify the minutes spent creating the podcast.

Compared to traditional radio advertising, podcasting can inexpensively enhance your marketing and introduce your facility and programs to a wide range of listeners. So what are you waiting for? Grab a microphone and start recording.