(Re)Sessions 4: The Ingredient Your Marketing Strategy Is Missing: Customer Conversations with Julian Lewis
Julian Lewis: I feel like with this type of content, showing value of like," Hey, I'm reaching out to you because I heard another customer had this pain point and this is how they solved it. Here you go." I think that is going to move the needle that much further for content marketers, product managers, people in sales kind of across the board.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Welcome to Casted's Amplified Marketing Podcast. This is the fourth and final episode of The( Re) Sessions, a limited four- part series empowering you to think differently about your marketing. No matter the size of your budget or what in the world's happening in the economy. If you haven't got blessed, three episodes, go back and do it today, because I think you're going to learn a thing or two. We're covering things in this series like how have marketers adapted during past downturns to future- proof their companies? What creative ideas can you implement that would help both your brand and demand to thrive, even now? And how can Amplified Marketing help you do more with less when you're always being asked for more with less? Am I right? I'm Lindsay Tjepkema, CEO and co- founder of Casted, the first and the only amplified marketing platform built for you as a B2B marketer. In the final episode of The( Re) Sessions, I spoke with Julian Lewis, the co- founder of StudioPod, an audio first production company. He helps brands create compelling content via audio and video for their content marketing strategies. So you can imagine what he's learned throughout this recession. Is it a recession question mark? From his customers and their approach to the economy, let alone his own marketing experience. We marketers can learn a lot from the past. I mean, all humans can, but just speaking about marketing. One, if we learn from the past, we won't repeat the mistakes, at least hopefully, that we or the others have made. And two, we're able to repurpose strategies that successful teams have used to navigate tricky situations. Like the 2008 recession. Like the COVID spurred mini recession, I think we could call it that. And what we're experiencing right now in the fall of 2022. So to kick off our conversation, Julian and I dove deep into his recent research into economic downturns and how marketers have traditionally adapted.
Julian Lewis: In the same breath we're encouraging our customers to create shows that add value to their end consumer. They are our customer, and so we want to make sure that we can speak their language and so we want to understand the pain points that they're going through. And in fact, earlier this year I attended Confab, which is a content marketing conference put on by Kristina Halvorson. And honestly, I was drinking from a fire hose. It was probably the most overwhelming experience I've ever had at a conference, because I've never gone to a conference where I didn't necessarily have a leg to stand on beyond the fact that we created great content via podcasting. But part of our research is to understand, okay, what did marketers do back in 2008? What did they do at the start of the pandemic? And how can those lessons translate into what could be applied today as the market's not in a great spot and we are kind of trending towards a recession. And so ultimately I'm trying to understand, okay, what tactics were in place and how can we help that translate into the services that we can provide?
Lindsay Tjepkema: I leaned into conversations. I talked to our customers, I talked to our partners, I talked to other people in the industry, and I recorded those conversations. Way back in 2008, we were doing these video conversations with the customers for the company that I worked at then and turning them into like DVD videos that we would send out to potential customers. And it was so much more expensive back then because we actually had to have them burned onto DVDs. It's a little different now, but then even pandemic times, we did a whole series about how people were pivoting and talking to CMOs about what they were doing differently. And so that comes back to conversations like these, literally what we're doing right now and saying," Okay, what now? What next? What stays the same? What's important to double down on? And what's important to be able to pivot and be nimble and flexible and be willing to walk away from?" And the one thing that remains the same always, as far as I'm concerned, is these authentic conversations going right to the source. So sorry for the cliff hanger, but let's pause on this for just a second. What do I mean by going right to the source? No matter the economic situation, your industry or your service set, all marketing should be built around the customer. It's not debatable. This is why storytelling is so powerful, because it's not just about you. In fact, it's not about you at all. It's about them. So going right to the source, in this case, means going directly to the customer and having authentic conversations about what they're experiencing, what they need help with, and what their goals are. And remember back to our( Re) Sessions episode with Devin Bramhall, if you haven't listened to it, definitely do. She's a CEO of a content marketing agency called Animalz. And at the end of the day, our goal with content is to be helpful. We talked a lot about that. So what better strategy to then to ask your customers how you can help?
Julian Lewis: Yeah, no, I think you nailed it on the head in terms of going right to the source, because what marketers, content marketers, brand marketers, anybody or even sales, need to understand is what is everybody else doing? Building that community. And if a platform like Casted or any brand can start to talk to their customers and they can start to share those to other customers, it makes people feel a little bit more comfortable about," Okay, I am doing the right thing." Or," Oh, I haven't thought about this, let me do that." And the fact that back then in 2008 you were recording those, I think is extremely important because now it's so much easier to distribute it. Whether it be audio only on a podcast platform or video on YouTube or directly on a brand site, or even just a simple link in their email to drive people back to that content. I think capturing those stories from your existing customers about like," Hey, we know this is a hard time. What are you doing to prepare for this? How can we support that? Can we capture this story and share it with others so they know and you know that you're not alone?"
Lindsay Tjepkema: Absolutely. Because in a time where, listen, marketers have been under pressure to do more with less forever, and that's never going to change. But in times like these you're do, you're pressured to do more with even less. And so marketers are being forced to make tough decisions around what in their strategy's going to come out. What's going to go? What's going to stay? What are they going to have the most control over? What is going to be most likely to drive the results that they need? And to me, it is conversations like these. It's going right to the source, it's going to customers, it's having these conversations that are going to resonate. People are wired for connection. They want to be a part of connections and conversations like these. But then there's also this opportunity to do even more with a recording like this. Yes, it becomes a podcast. Yes, it becomes a video, but how else can you wring it out? How can you use it to fuel those other channels, to fuel those other formats that may have to make a change due to the limited resources?
Julian Lewis: And during 2008, I was at an agency and across the board they're hiring freezes. Nobody was getting a raise and budgets were a lot tighter. And I think in some cases I was working at a direct response agency. So a lot of what we did was all about bottom of the funnel. And a lot of cases, people kind of focused primarily on that. But I think where there was a bit of a miss, was continuing to fuel the top and the middle parts of the funnel, continuing to let people know that you're there and educate people in the middle part. And I feel like people who have paused or do pause during these times, they almost hamstring themselves a little bit because now they're rushing back to try to say," No, no, no. Hey, we're here also." Whereas where their competitors are continuing is where there's an opportunity. And you talked about being able to wring out content. So before we got on this, I mentioned that I think that every brand's going to have a podcast in 2024. And that's not to say that everybody's going to try to be the next Brene Brown and try to hit the top of the charts. But instead going back to what you said about recording the conversations that are being had around the industry, around success that people have seen with a particular company or just more broadly. Because to your point, those conversations could net out to a blog post, a webinar, to eBooks, to all sorts of different content. Even snackable social content, which a lot of things are moving towards that direction with TikTok blowing up. Like short, snackable things that add value to a marketer's experience as they're trying to grow their company.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Absolutely, Julian. So this conversation begs the question, how does the recession impact your content marketing? If you're seeing a slimmer team or maybe reduced budgets or fewer resources, first of all, you're not alone. Second of all, it's hard to focus your energy on something so high touch as customer conversations. I get it. So with the treasure trove of content and data that you already have, what could you do with it?
Julian Lewis: Honestly, I've seen some great examples of some of the shows that you've put out there through the Casted podcast of how marketers are, one in particular, and I'm not going to try to say the name, but they had a webinar and they ended up creating... They had 35 different segments of it, but they were able to create a ton of... Sorry, it was an event. It was a conference that they had and they made it virtual, but they were able to get all of that content transcribed so it was easily searchable and findable, and then start to let other teams have access to it to be able to pull different clips. And so I think you have to organize it, all the content that you've had in the past. And then figure out," Okay, yes, this is evergreen, but if it's from 2008, there's probably some things or nuances that need to be updated. Can I quickly jump on a mic and just add more context to it?" That way it will stretch a little bit further. So I think creating that hub where you can have it all organized, searchable, findable by your product team, your marketing team, your sales team, so they can go in and be like," Hey, somebody's asking me about this." It's almost in a sense, creating a FAQ for your internal team instead of having to build out a large deck that explains something to a client, just send them the audio clip from a few years ago that's still relevant today to the question that they have.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah, no, absolutely. Absolutely. Okay. So mining the content that you already have, and then when you do, go create net new it. I'm putting words in your mouth, but it's almost like thinking with the end in mind, right? It's not just," Okay, what am I going to create that's going to serve this one purpose? How can I think about all the different things that I can and should and need to do with this and what are my goals?" And then kind of work backwards. And that's, as a creator, I mean you're creating on behalf of your clients, how is that showing up for you and what recommendations or thoughts do you have there for that strategy?
Julian Lewis: Yeah. You mentioned earlier about starting with what you have. I think one of the biggest questions that I ask always is," What is working well for you?" Because taking audio and creating it into a podcast or creating it into a standalone video, still means that you now have another push medium. And for a lot of clients, that's daunting. And so understanding," Okay, what's helped to drive to your blog posts? What's helped to drive to your webinar? Don't forget about those ways in which to distribute them. In terms of creating the great content, you are the experts in whatever topic or subject that you have, let us own making it interesting and engaging, whether it be the longer form podcast or the shorter snackable social pieces of content that are being created." And so really trying to get them to realize," Hey, we're an extension of your team," or a production team, whether it's us or not, is an extension of your team. We're giving you head count in a time where you're not going to get head count, essentially. And so the investment is worth it because we're going to take this new piece of content or old piece of content and we're going to stretch it that much further.
Lindsay Tjepkema: That's something I'd never heard before. So sure, Julian runs an audio and video production agency that helps brands create content like this. But how can you take this experience back to your in- house content marketing team or your own agency, especially when you likely have fewer resources to outsource? Think of yourselves as an extension of your team. You may not be the experts at providing your company's products or services. So go to the thought leaders themselves. They might be within your company, they might be right next to your company. They're the sales people. They might be your developers or product managers. Ask them what content your customers need to be more successful. Grab sound bites from their conversations. Repurpose the content that they've used in the past to get points across to customers. Because they engage so frequently with your customers, they know their pain points and how to talk about them. Use their expertise to your advantage. You don't have to be the expert, you just need to facilitate a conversation with one. Next I asked Julian what he's jazzed about right now.
Julian Lewis: In the beginning it was like," We're going to help you produce great content." For myself and my co- founder, TJ, now it's like," Hey, at the end of the day, we want to be tied to business because we understand what percentage, what we're doing, means to the business today." Just from an overall understanding from leadership on down of where this kind of fits into an overall strategy. So we want to be tied to the business. And so actually discovering, I say discovering, I was searching for things and it came up, but having different conversations across the industry about," Hey, what are you doing to track success of this?" Casted kept coming up and the whole Amplified Marketing Platform, it's like," Oh, we can help to support creating all of this content." And now we can actually say," Hey, this is tied to the pipeline and this is driving business." I think there was always an understanding of that. Even one of the first podcasts that we produced, when TJ and I fully came together, I believe it was the CRO of Stripe that was being interviewed on this podcast, and I shared it with my team when I was working at Pinterest. And there was a gentleman who was my counterpart there who left Pinterest and went to go work at Stripe. And he was like," Hey, I leveraged that podcast to be able to help me position myself for my job." And I was just like," Ah," aha moment. So many anecdotes like that happen. The Science of Change, another podcast that we produced with Irrational Labs and SetSail. SetSail was able to hire a behavioral scientist because he heard the podcast. So we had so many anecdotes, but at the end of the day, nothing to say," Hey, here's this data." And so for me, what's exciting is being able to track all activity, whether it be for a podcast, social content, a video, that we can ultimately say," Hey, this is actually driving business and it's helping you to grow."
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah. Well thanks for the plug, I appreciate that. Truly, that's why we're here. I mean, that's why Casted is here. That's why we're here today. That's why here is because, yeah, it's one thing to create something great, but I have literally sat in that seat across the table from my CEO and not been able to prove the value. And it's like," Well, I'm hearing all these great things and I'm hearing great anecdotes and I'm getting great feedback. But I can't prove how it's doing anything for the business." And again, now more than ever, marketers are going to be faced with that challenge and that need to say," Okay, of all the things you're doing, what's actually driving results? What's actually impacting the business?" Heck, yeah, data driven content for the win. It can be really difficult to prove your marketing is working, especially when your metrics aren't trackable or quantifiable like Julian added. Julian sees a brighter future ahead for marketers when they try to bridge the gap with sales. So it's easy to just make noise in the market, but when you can start proving with data that what you're doing works and it's driving real revenue for your company, that's winning. It's back to a lot of the basics that we've been talking about and working towards for years. The more personal and relevant you can be, the better. The more aligned sales and marketing can be, the more effective they will be together. The more you can actually prove value of what you're doing, the better. I mean, it's a lot of things that we've known for a long time, but when we get more obsessed with cutting through the noise, when things have been really, really noisy, especially as we were all relying so much on digital when events went away, when the pandemic, we're coming out of that time where. It's like," Okay, how am I going to get anywhere with my show, with my webinar, with my virtual event? Because that's what everyone is doing." So then we kind of got back onto this rat race of more, more, more, more. Now I'm seeing, and I'm happy to see it, things swing more towards quality and intentional and slow is smooth and smooth is fast and this mindset of it's got to be better. It doesn't have to be a more, it needs to be better. And then what we've talked about already is, okay, create that better and then make sure you're getting as much value out of it as possible. I think that's the key to getting through this recession question mark? That we're looking at.
Julian Lewis: And I think if you are siloed on the content side of things and you can step over the aisle and reach out to a sales leader and be like," Hey, help me sell this through because it's also going to help your team." I think that is a major unlock as well, because the more teams that are tapping into this hub of content that's trackable back to pipeline, the easier it's going to be for content marketers to continue to fuel that hub. And in fact, if I'm ever in a position, and I hope I'm not, that I have to go back and... I was a sales manager last, so if I can get a director sales role because I have to get another job, then I'm going to ask," What tools does my team have to be able to have conversations that are authentic and add value to our customers beyond, like hey, look at what we do." And so I think that is such an important thing, is reach over the aisle, get somebody to understand what you're trying to build and how their team can use it. And that's going to help to move the needle forward, especially during this time when your budgets are tighter, theirs are too, but maybe you can combine them together to start to create these things that's going to help everybody.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Julian leaves us with some parting advice and upcoming goodies for sales teams and for content marketers like you.
Julian Lewis: At first glance, if you're in sales and marketing, it's very likely that you're listening to podcasts. And to recreate the things that you like and you enjoy, is going to feel very daunting out of the gates. However, if you think of it as, if you're having a conversation about something that you are an expert on and the other person is as well, talking about thought leadership, just to use a buzzword, just kind of sum it up, all you have to do is hit record. Think about making sure that you have a mic and you're doing quality audio and video, but just hit record and have a conversation. The minute the conversation starts to flow, it's going to come naturally. And then from there, if you have the tools internally to do so, great, but look for a partner that can help you to break that down into an engaging podcast, snackable content. Even honestly helping you write SEO- friendly blogs or creating an ebook. There are people out there like StudioPod, but others that can help you to do those things.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah, I was going to say like StudioPods, that would be great. Well, that's great. Okay, so speaking of StudioPod, where can people best find you and StudioPod and all the great things that you do?
Julian Lewis: Yeah, our website is studiopodmedia. com. You can follow me on LinkedIn. I'm on LinkedIn all day, every day. It's just Julian Lewis. Julian A. Lewis II. I'm the dude in the hat, as you can see by the videos. I'm always wearing some hat. For meetings, it's usually this one. For other conversations, I switch it up. But yeah, and so you're going to start to see more content coming from us. We're actually moving more towards written content, but of course we're capturing the audio and video from those conversations to really show our clients like," Hey, this is how we're going to do it and this is how we can help you do it."
Lindsay Tjepkema: Special, special thank you to Julian Lewis for joining us on the final episode of The( Re) Sessions and shout outs to Rachel Downey, Jeff Coyle, and Devin Bramhall for their points of view on the first three episodes. If you missed any of their takes on the recession or is it a recession question mark? And how marketers can do more with less, check out those episodes in this series. Thanks so much for listening and for watching. And if you enjoy this mini series, you'll enjoy our regular episodes on the Amplified Marketing Podcast and over on our Casted Podcast. So join us on the website at casted. us and subscribe so you don't miss a beat.
Who said marketing has to be fancy and modern?
Why can’t we revert back to tactics we know work? Like customer conversations as the main ingredient for great content.
You’ll learn why customer conversations are back and better than ever, how to mine, organize and enable your sales team to use content, and how amplified marketing allows marketers to measure effectiveness of content.