Growing your audience faster, storytelling that informs your prospects, and moving your customers down the sales funnel — these are just a few benefits of video marketing. In this episode, Chris Savage from Wistia joins us to chat about building an audience with video (starting from zero).
listen to this episode
- The truth behind the rise of video and its true power in marketing
- What happens when you find the spot where customers get stuck in your funnel
- How to create a compelling storyline that makes your audience problem-aware
- Why you should turn to your best customers for help identifying your mission
- The difference between what your product does and what your mission entails
- Getting clear with your metrics up front when you’re building an audience with video
- How to use metrics to help leadership understand the risks that you’re taking
- Why you should pay attention to how media companies market their content
Louis: Bonjour, bonjour! And welcome to another episode of EveryoneHatesMarketers.com, the no fluff, actionable marketing podcast for marketers, founders, and tech people who are just sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I’m your host, Louis Grenier.
In today’s episode, you will learn how to build an audience with video. My guest today is the founder and CEO of Wistia, which is the video software for businesses that you probably have heard of a few times before.
Recently, what I found to be super interesting is that Wistia turned down the offer to sell the company and instead, took $17 million of debt. You know why?
Because they want to run the business their way, so super happy to have my guest on board. He actually loves creative brands — which I do as well — but he also loves disaster movies, which is something I’m curious about.
Chris Savage, welcome aboard.
Chris: Laughs. Thanks for having me, excited to be here.
Louis: What’s your favorite disaster movie?
Chris: Right now, I would say it’s San Andreas with The Rock. When you’re watching a disaster movie, you know what you’re getting. It’s very, let’s see how terrible they can make this, how over the top they can make this. I just think that one, it’s got everything. It’s got helicopters. It’s got a giant fault line that tons of people are living on. It’s outrageous. But I think for what it was, it was well done. It was great.
Louis: The criteria for a good disaster movie is it has to be over the top. There has to be helicopters.
Chris: Has to be helicopters, yes, yes.
Louis: There has to be tanks.
Chris: Yes. It’s funny, my tastes have found that over time — I majored in film when I was in school, and I was really into the films that made you feel weird. Stuff that was totally disjointed storylines that required an enormous amount of analysis.
I do like that stuff, but I’ve found that sometimes — this would be an extreme way to say it — disaster movies are not meditation, but you know what you’re getting.
I find 2012 is another great one. The Day After Tomorrow is another great one. There’s not that many great disaster films, but the ones that are out there, I do enjoy.
Louis: We’ve all heard the same thing. Video is taking over the world. We talked about movies and moving on to videos. Is it actually true that video is actually taking over the world? That more and more people watch videos… or is it something that video marketers are telling us to sell their stuff?
Chris: It’s funny, as you’re saying that. Definitely, something video marketers will tell you is that video is taking over the world. I think that entertaining content that is specific to your interests is taking over the world.
That could end up being video. It also can be the right podcast. And also, could be the right book. But I feel like our culture has gone from, we used to have a culture where the internet was like a small part of it. Once the internet was formed, the internet was for nerds. On the internet, everyone was into something weird. But out of the internet, in our culture, you weren’t.
Now, our culture is the internet. Everyone’s into their weird thing, and everyone has these things that were tiny niches can be huge opportunities. They can become huge audiences.
For the right niche, yes. They expect content that is really engaging for them. They expect videos that are actually engaging, genuine, and authentic. They expect podcasts that are right on the money in terms of the alignment of their interests. They expect books, blogs.
I think people expect that the little niche that they’re interested in, they will get really engaging stuff within that. So video is important. But I think storytelling more than anything is more important. That lends itself really well to video.
Chris: And video’s gotten much easier to create. It’s gotten cheaper, tools have gotten better, much more democratized. Which is great, so we see a lot more video. But it’s not like everyone is just walking to work watching videos. They’re listening to podcasts, and they’re doing everything.
Louis: I’m glad you didn’t give me a bullshit answer. I wasn’t expecting you to, but there was a possibility you would say, “Absolutely, video is everything.” I agree with you. It’s only a format.
The things behind it. The first principles behind video, the engagement, the authenticity, the fact that you can do them cheaper. The fact that people have no time, and they need something that really is relevant to them. That all makes sense.
Today, together what we’ll try to do is trying to talk about how to build an audience using video. Hopefully, we can get into a step-by-step scenario where maybe we are taking a fictitious example of a company that is not using video that well.
And maybe doesn’t have massive audience, maybe trying to figure out how to build an audience this way. Why don’t we get started straight away then? Because you are the expert in video marketing, for sure.
Let’s say we are a business that has maybe a decent audience or some sort of an audience, and we want to use video. We realize that it might be a good thing. Or maybe that’s a step that you want to decide, whether it’s a good thing or not. How would you advise a business like this to start with video? What is the first step you envision?
Chris: I would say the first thing is, do we have a website?
Chris: Okay, so I think website’s probably step one if you are transacting on the internet. Then I’d ask a question like, how many people are finding you? How are they finding you? What’s holding them back? I think the thing that video does well is you can tell a story, and you can tell it in a linear way that makes something complex more simple.
Five years ago was when we saw tons of explainer videos popping up. I think the reason that was the case is that so many companies have so much trouble explaining what it is they even do, how they differentiate from anybody else.
They hire an outside firm to come in and say, “From our perspective, from a 30,000-foot view, this is how we describe what you do. This is how we would make it clear to others.”
That’s still an opportunity if you’re hearing things like, “We don’t know what you do.”
If it is clear that people know what you’re doing, then I would look across your funnel and say, “Are there moments that people are getting stuck?” Where usually a human interjects, and they help them, someone get through that part of the funnel.
There might be something there, whether it’s a demo of your product, it’s onboarding, it’s education about the space. Whatever the thing is, I would look for opportunities like that.
Because if you haven’t been using video, it feels scary from a brand perspective. Often, what I hear is people say, “Well, I think we should try and make video. But if we don’t make a good one, will it actually just hurt us?”
The answer is if you make a really crappy video, it will hurt you. You have to be careful, or you have to find places where you really know what you’re talking about, and you can make something that is genuinely engaging that does help someone through the funnel.
That’s not really helping to optimize a funnel though. That’s not really building an audience. Yeah, so what are we marketing? What are we selling?
Louis: Let me go back a bit, what you said. First off, you said if you don’t know what really you’re selling, if people come back to you and say, “Seems super clear,” a video is good for that.
It’s funny because if you’re listening to this podcast right now, you probably can picture those explainer videos that Chris is mentioning about. Those drawings, cartoon-y type of thing that everyone used three or four years ago about explaining, with this stupid music in the background.
I remember actually I did do this exact thing in the first marketing role I had. I actually used Wistia to host it, and Powtoon to do it.
Chris: Okay, yeah.
Louis: Exactly this, the cliché of explainer video because we couldn’t write it properly on the website. That’s the proper, exact way.
Then the second thing you talked about the funnel is if you figure out there are steps that people struggle through. Usually, a person has to step up. Then it’s a good thing to answer that with a video, because it’s almost like a human on demand.
It’s someone helping you, but it’s not exactly what you like to chat about. It’s more how to build an audience from scratch, is it?
Chris: Yeah, we can chat about all of this. I would say building an audience from scratch or figuring how to go from renting other people’s audiences to having a larger audience which knows you, knows your company, knows what you do differently.
And they’re actually encouraging others to join your audience, versus encouraging people to buy your product is just a different thing. It’s higher in the funnel. It’s a little bit more fuzzy. It’s a little bit harder to do.
But when done, at least when I see it done really well, it can be the type of thing that lifts a business enormously. It’s not a 10% improvement on a page. It’s like, “Oh, wow, this can be what all of our marketing activities are around.”
Chris: I will say, it doesn’t have to be video. Obviously, we’re here on a podcast. Anybody listening to this has found this podcast, and if they like it, they tell other people about it. Then, other people find it, and you’ve built an audience with audio. The question I would say, is there a way that you can use video that’s going to help you grow your audience faster, or is that not something that you need to do?
For some people, they try to build a podcast, it doesn’t work, and they try to build an audience with video, and it does work. It’s figuring out the right match between your business, your values, what you think you’re going to be willing to work on for a long time, what you’re going to be persistent at.
If you can figure those things out and match them to what your company needs, then I think you can figure out a way to do it.
Louis: Let’s take a step back. I can see a lot of microphones in the background. Let’s take an example that we are selling microphones, those microphones that are super good for video. It’s a perfect match with Wistia. Wistia offers you the hosting, the analytics, and the tools to capture emails and all of that. Microphones for video, they’re portable, they’re all of that.
Let’s say we have that, and we want to build an audience, as you described, instead of renting other people’s audience. How would you go about it?
Chris: I would try to figure out, what angle do we have with these microphones that is unique that other people aren’t talking about or thinking about? Let’s say, it’s the microphone. They’re all like cardioid mics, so it’s very wide range of sound that they’re picking up.
People don’t realize that it’s much easier to use. And maybe we are automatically balancing the dynamic range when someone speaks so no one’s ever clipping out. There’s a few different things.
The question will be, how do we make people aware of the problems that exist? How do we give them interesting, creative solutions? Is there a storyline that aligns with the mission behind these microphones that we can really market?
I like to think about it as, what’s the mission that our product helps you accomplish? Now, we just need to market that mission. People who care about accomplishing that thing will care.
In the case of the microphones, it’s probably about getting really, really high-quality audio. Let’s say it’s about capturing great stories. What we want to do is produce a show that is about capturing the highest quality stories.
We go find storytellers, and we record it beautifully with beautiful audio editing. It just sounds crisp and amazing, and we encourage people to listen to it on their best headphones. Every episode is an auditory journey of really interesting sounds that were all recorded with our mics. But we never have to say that.
If people like it, they’re audio nerds, and they care about this particular thing — they’ll tell other people who care about it. Then hopefully, you just keep doing it.
Louis: You very naturally broke down this task into small steps and very naturally identified the mission and all that. Let’s take a step back then and try to understand, how can someone do that for their business?
How can someone identify a mission? Because you naturally pointed to that as a fictitious example. How do you advise people to truly understand the mission behind their product? Should they contact their best customers? Should they interview people internally?
Louis: How they should they do it?
Chris: I think if you don’t know but you have customers, you should contact your best customers. You should say, “What do you think the mission of your business is? What is it we’re trying to do?”
That happened with us actually. We were making content to teach people how to use video better, but we weren’t really thinking about it. We were just doing it because it was working. We didn’t have a big strategic plan.
Then we started talking to our customers, they’re like, “Well, obviously, your mission is to try to make business more human with video and educate people about how to use video really well.” It was like, “I guess that is what we’re doing.”
We started doing that, which in our case had very little to do with video hosting. But it’s video related, but it’s not about delivering large files over the internet, encoding videos, and analytics has nothing to do with that. It’s very different, but it resonated with people who a small fraction of our audience who cared about that.
I often look for, what is the mission that your product helps somebody solve? Your product probably helps solve a very small percentage of the mission. If it’s done properly, like 5% of the mission.
The other 95% should be the things that are education, philosophy, other relevant tools, people, a treasure trove of stuff to talk about. If you figure that out, and you build around that whole 100, then the people who care about the 5% that is your product will find it. But you have an unlimited number of things that you can talk about.
Louis: This is a super important concept because I know from experience that marketers struggle with that. Because they’re afraid that if the mission is too big or doesn’t really contain the product, and the product doesn’t contain the mission, then it feels like we’re getting too far?
Are we diluting what the product does? We must talk about the product all the time. What you’re saying is from experience, what you’ve done with Wistia is the content that you produce — which I read quite often — could be something like how to set up a cheap video system to record super quality, high-quality videos from your office at home, right?
You don’t only teach them on, as you said how to host a video on your platform, how to check how many people viewed. You teach them to step beyond before that, which is how do you actually do a nice video to start with. That’s what you mean?
Chris: Yep. For us, one of the interesting things in our space is that everybody wants to use video, and everyone’s afraid of using it. We have to help people get confident getting on camera, and that’s hard.
But it turns out the fact that it’s hard is good. Good for us, because there’s so many different ways we can try to teach that. Help people get comfortable, help them use different gear, and help them think about storytelling and all these different things.
There’s just so much stuff that you can write about, make videos about, and do interviews about. It’s just an unlimited amount of things.
It was a weird moment for us because we were just marketing our product. It was working, but it wasn’t growing dramatically. It wasn’t until we figured out how to actually talk about the mission that our product helped solve, that was much bigger than our product could solve, that we actually had a shot of building an audience.
I see that a lot. It’s often those are the reasons you might have started your company in the first place or chose to sell a particular product or whatever. Yet we don’t talk about that stuff that much. Yeah, it’s finding it. It just makes everything easier.
You know where you want to go. There’s an unlimited number of things to talk about. You know what your audience is going to care about, and you have to understand their problems that are going to stop them from accomplishing the mission you want to accomplish.
Louis: Do you have another example of this difference between what the product does, and what your mission entails?
Chris: Just another product and mission?
Louis: Yeah, that you came across to illustrate the concept a bit more.
Chris: This is a funny one. But we did a conference for a few years that was really great, and we used to do workshops as a part of that. We had someone come who was trying to market helping people solve fertility issues.
He’s like, we have this fertility program, and it’s about timing of everything related to that and all these other things. It’s a system to use and software to track things. He was having trouble trying to figure out how to market it, because how many people were searching for this?
Eventually, what he realized was the reason he was doing this. And the reason he cared about it was helping people obviously have children, helping people build the lives they wanted to build.
Helping people emulate their own families, helping them with this very emotional, heady, bigger thing that his fertility software was a tiny piece of. It was helping people create their legacy, live on, live happier lives and reduce stress in marriages.
He ended up finding a way for a mission in terms of like helping, I think what he landed on was helping couples build more lasting relationships. Then solving fertility was a small part of that.
But when you start thinking about that, there are so many other things you can do. That was why he got into it in the first place. It was a very emotional thing, obviously.
I’ve even talked about things as simple as they have these little plastic bags that normally you get almonds in. There’s this company that sells these bags like that. Well, what’s their mission? To sell bags you could put almonds in seems like that’s not interesting.
But if you start going towards organizing your life, helping food be more sustainable, by making reusable things reducing the amount of plastics that are being created. Suddenly, you have something that everyone cares about. Or a subset of the world cares about, and they’re going to pick your product for that reason, and they’re going to pay attention for that reason.
It’s often just removing from a few steps of where you are to something bigger that people care about. Usually, that has an emotional element to it. Once you can do that, then I think you can find a mission.
Louis: I can hear listeners in my ear telling me, “That’s all well and good. This sounds like, on paper, a very good strategy. Wistia is doing that extremely successfully. But I’m going to have a tough time convincing myself or convincing my CEO or my manager to go after that, because it seems like a wishy-washy marketing type of thing. Is it actually the right to do?”
Chris: It depends on what kind of risks your business can sustain, and how long they can stay focused on a problem like this. I would say it shouldn’t be the only thing that you’re doing. Just like you were talking about before, it should be a balance.
I would look at this as more if you were to categorize some of your efforts as brand marketing efforts versus product marketing efforts, I would throw this more in the brand marketing side and help people see other ways that it can be beneficial.
One of the things that we’ve seen is when we actually layer on risk onto a project. If we have enough different ways that the project could work, it becomes incredibly easy to do. Even though it’s not particularly measurable.
We did a project last year which was called One, Ten, One Hundred where we had worked with this video agency in LA, Sandwich Video, and they created three ads for us. For Soapbox, which is one of our products that helps you make videos.
One with a $1,000 budget, one with a $10,000 budget, and one with a $100,000 budget. So $111,000, and it was as if a team was building it internally.
It was all the production costs that you would have if you did it internally. Then we documented this and created a four-part series where you could watch the whole thing.
When we decided to do that project, it was a significant investment to decide to do these ads. We’d never spent this much money on ads or videos like this. Then we thought, “Okay, if we document the behind the scenes of this.
At the very least, even if the ads don’t work, the concept doesn’t hit, maybe we can teach people some of the stuff that we learned behind the scenes.” So we started documenting it.
Then we thought, “Well, the video team is going to go out, and they’re going to see how Sandwich works. They’re probably going to learn some stuff from them.” It’s kind of learning and development for that team. If the other two things fail, at least they got that learning and development.
Then we decided the way we would release it is by releasing the ads first and then releasing the documentary series. We thought, “Maybe even the story of just the ads themselves would be interesting,” so we ended up with six different ways that this project could work.
If one of the six really returned it would probably be worth it. The cool thing was, we released the ads by themselves and people got excited just about that. The concept. There was a lot of chatter and it took off. Suddenly, we went, “Wow, I think this project was worthwhile.”
Which then gave us more confidence to take more risks going bigger with the other elements of the project.
By itself, with only one risk, it would be really hard to pull off. But by having the other elements to it, it made it much easier to stomach the risk. Then the upside was also higher. We ended up being unbelievably happy with how it turned out.
I think if we had not layered on all those levels of risk, I don’t know that we even could have done it. And we’re a company that does this all the time.
Louis: You’re the CEO of Wistia. You’re very well placed to answer this question, as the CEO this is the type of things you want to know. Let’s say you have a project that someone proposed to you, you want to know, “Okay, what’s the risk? But, also, what’s the potential reward, and more importantly, could we have multiple rewards? If we hit the jackpot we can have six.”
Chris: Yup. I love that, yes.
Louis: Right. That’s what you like to see, and I assume others would like that, other CEOs, other managers.
Chris: Yes, and I would say also this idea of building an audience and trying to market a mission going a little bit up the funnel. The other reason why that’s an exciting idea is that usually what happens in marketing, in my experience, is that you find a channel.
And you find some sponsorship for a podcast, and you do it. Then you try another podcast, it doesn’t work as well. You try another one, it doesn’t work as well. You find one more it kind of works.
You’ve got two podcasts working, maybe three that aren’t, how do you scale it? If they’re coming in, customers coming in, how do you scale it? It’s really tough unless one of your podcasts is growing dramatically which is great.
At least in this type of scenario, it’s a long-term investment. But if you can end up building your own audience and you can own it, then you can see the signs. Well, this might not be a 2X thing if it works, this could be a 100X thing or 1000X thing, but it’s going to take a long time.
That’s okay, if you can see progress. That’s one of the best things you can possibly invest in. It’s actually trying to figure out along the way. What are the steps you’re taking? So that each time you take a step, if it works out great and if it doesn’t work out, you hopefully learn something. And you can keep moving forward.
Louis: That’s a fantastic way to talk about finding your mission, because that was where we were at the start. For this fictitious microphone company, you talked about identifying a mission that is bigger than the product and just taking some risk with it and going for it 100%.
Which is, for you, probably one of the best ways to build an audience from scratch. How do you see video to be part of this journey potentially for this microphone company?
Chris: What I’m seeing is that expectations are shifting. Where if I am on YouTube, I will expect to see on YouTube things that are probably professionally created. Clips from shows that I like, individual people who have built up a presence, content from companies that’s totally relevant.
And it’s all zeroed in on what my interests are. From a viewer’s perspective, I expect that I can consume content in an entertaining way. Whether it’s video or audio or reading, I expect I’ll be able to find things that are related to my interests.
For video, I would say in the microphone company case, you need to figure out: What are the stories and things that audio nerds care about? Who would be the people who are buying your microphones? And, what are they not getting in the other places where they’re hanging out?
I would probably look at creating shows. Just like a media company, I would think, “Let’s make a show.” How many episodes do we need to make before we figure out if it’s going to work? How important is it that those episodes live on my site versus living on social versus being on everything at once?
And try to figure out a strategy that is like, if you’re trying to sell microphones, you probably want the show living on your site. We probably want to syndicate it to the social platforms to try to bring people back to the site.
I would just start looking for concepts that are like: Do you interview the best audio mixers out there? Do you find people who are interested in using the same tools that are used on films?
Go down a list of different types of shows and concepts you could create. Then I’d try to figure out how to vet them. Just like it would be complementary to what I was doing in podcasting, and complementary to what I was doing in blogging, book writing, and all those types of things.
Louis: How do you do this when it comes to picking up the show? Yes, you mentioned the difference between whether you need to host on your website, whether you should host it on YouTube first.
And you quickly chose, for the microphone company that’s selling stuff on their website, it’s better if the video would be on their website.
Chris: If they’re trying to sell microphones.
Chris: I think the question is, it depends on how you’re trying to justify what you’re doing. If your boss is saying, “We need to sell more microphones, I don’t want to do long-term investments.” Then you have to figure out a way to get more traffic to your website.
Where people are going to see the microphone, and they’re going to buy it. If you can get people sharing things on your website, that is going to tend to be the best way to do that.
If you can be in a spot where it’s like, “Okay, that’s not what we’re trying to do. We’re just trying to build up an audience,” then you can maybe start on other platforms. I would look at the platforms and try to figure out, how can you have a unique opinion for the audience that cares about this stuff on that platform?
Sometimes, it makes sense to start on your site and sometimes it doesn’t. It depends on the company, where they’re at, how much risk tolerance they have, and what their goals are.
Louis: It sounds like if it’s a short-term thing, it’s really close to the money, it’s really close to revenue. And your website is the source of revenue, it sounds like hosting on the website is a good place to start, hosting videos on your website.
But if it’s a more long-term investment, if your company is more of the risk-taking side, and they want to build an audience first. They understand the long-term effect of building an audience for people to buy stuff. Then it sounds like it’s probably a good idea to start, as you said, top of the funnel. Start a show and all that, right?
Chris: I think that’s right. And I think the question you have to ask yourself is, let’s say you have 30,000 views per episode or something, what will happen? Because someone will ask that question. Great, you have a show, and there’s 30,000 views per episode. What’s happening? What are they doing?
You got to have something that’s either the engagement is really high, so there’s a lot of comments, likes, and people are sharing it on social. They’re watching other videos. You’re going to be asked that question. It think that’s a good thing to try to evaluate.
Then the other thing is, if you have an audience that already exists you already have an email list. You have people who are already paying attention to your blog, it’s obviously going to be easier to get those.
Those people don’t need to go to someone else’s platform to see your content. You could have them on your own website in the first place.
I think of it as people who have made it into your audience and they care about what you’re doing. They’ll happily go to your website to watch something or read something or learn something.
But if you don’t have that level of trust yet, you have to go higher in the funnel. You have to go searching higher in the funnel and figure out a way to build your own slice of the audience.
Louis: How do you pick up those metrics? Because you said it could be engagement. Success could look like comments, people sharing. It could also be even potentially people signing up after watching the video, or it could be brand awareness, how many people search for your brand.
How do you advise people to pick those metrics? Especially, when it comes to talking to you as a CEO, talking to a manager to say, “Hey, this is what we want to try.”
Chris: I say try to pick the metrics up front. Because that is where, if you can get someone to agree up front and say, “We’re looking to increase brand searches,” to take your example. Great thing to try to increase. Pretty clear, I would say.
Someone is searching for your company, they’ve heard of it. They’re probably not planning on wasting their time on your site. There’s always some reason why they want to go.
Get people to agree to that up front. If we can get brand search up this much, would that be good? Everyone would say, “Yes.”
“All right, we’re not going to care about conversions to paid. That’s not what we’re looking to do. We’re just looking at brand search.”
The key is doing it up front. The problem I run into, and I’ve seen many times, is when you don’t do it up front. You come back with the results, and they’ll have a list like, “These are all the numbers that have moved.” Everyone goes to, “Well, how many deals did it get us? How many customers?”
At some point, someone’s going to say that. Because you want to how much money did you put in, how much did you get out. If you weren’t clear about the metrics up front. Especially with a lot of this stuff that’s long term, it’s harder to track the connection to the customer, you’re likely to have people saying, “This is not working.”
You’re like, “Well, I think it’s working. Look at all this engagement.” They’re like, “Yeah, no. You didn’t know that that was going to happen.” That’s your nice excuse for why we should keep doing it.
Versus saying up front, “The most important thing we need is engagement. No one’s talking about our brand. We need people searching for the brand. The proxy before searching for the brand is going to be views.”
“The proxy before that is going to be percentage viewed. The proxy before that is going to be number of likes, and we’re going to look at how much we spent to promote this, and how many people watched it. That’s going to be the success, and if we get customers great.”
Then you go back, and you got some more customers. Everyone’s delighted because that wasn’t the intention. The intention was to build that long-term audience. I think it’s that framing up front, and it really helps people know that.
Because even if you’re wrong, which you’re likely to be if you’re trying new stuff all the time. At least if you’re thinking about it up front and measuring those things and asking those questions, it just makes it so much easier to keep investing.
Louis: I’ve made this mistake so many times. I made this mistake recently not being able to set up the expectations from the start, and exactly what you described happened.
Where you don’t set the expectations, so leadership was expecting something completely different in their heads. There was no clarity in my head compared to their head.
I basically ended up trying to find excuses and say, “Well, actually, it worked. If you look at this metric it kind of worked.” But, “Yeah, that wasn’t what we expected.”
This is absolutely true when it comes to trying to come up with any projects, setting up the expectation up front, having one single metric that matters, right? One thing that matters the most for you.
Out of curiosity, for the 111, 110, 111 budget campaign, what was the metric that you started with? What was the one metric that matters the most for you?
Chris: Yeah, that’s a great question. We from the beginning looked, we wanted to see engaged views. This is for the docuseries part of it. We basically had a goal that was looking at the number of views of the docu-series on our site. Then we had clips and a trailer of it that we put on YouTube, Facebook, and we used it as advertising on Instagram and a bunch of different things.
We wanted to know total time spent with the brand and the total amount of engaged views. That was the key metric that we were looking for. Then we had some other metrics that were additional but were not the key ones.
There was going to be a moment when we were promoting the trailer before the series came out. How many emails did we think that people would give us who are excited about seeing the actual thing? Then the effectiveness of the ads, we had a cost per install that we were looking at. For like, if you installed Soapbox, what was our expected amount that we would spend there?
We had three different budgets for the same campaign, all with different metrics, but the main one was that engaged view one.
Louis: How did you define engaged view? Was it someone who stayed more than a minute? What was it?
Chris: Yeah, I think we said it was someone who spent more than two minutes. It was really interesting because the mix of how that happened was very different. For the trailers and the ads themselves.
There were three ads, a total of about six minutes, five minutes or so. If you watched all three ads, you were definitely engaged. The trailer was like two minutes long, so it was about a trailer view.
Then the actual series was an hour and 42 minutes. We thought two minutes of that would still be good. The interesting thing was that I think it was about six or seven. If you made it six or seven minutes into the docuseries, 75% of the people watched the whole thing. It was crazy.
I think it was also because, for us, it was very different than types of content we had made before. But because there was a trailer where you get the high level on this, you could go read a blog post, you could see specific examples about this content.
The only people who are going to watch this thing all the way through are the people who really want to see the behind the scenes. They really wanted to understand the creative process and the differences between them.
Once that happened, if you got in there it was just really interesting. It dropped and then it just stuck. People stuck with it through the whole thing. Which meant from a brand hours of impact, it was by far the most effective thing we’ve ever done.
Louis: Wow. Thanks for sharing all of those insights, really appreciate it. If we go back to the problem we are trying to solve here, which is building an audience with video, is there anything else you want to talk about that we haven’t touched on yet?
Chris: I would say figure out a marketing mission. Figure out how to go up the funnel, and think about metrics you can use to help leadership understand the risks that you’re taking. Then figure out a way to put yourself in a position where you’re taking risks.
And you can set up. Is it X number of episodes, or X amount of time spent with the brand, or whatever that’s going to help us. If you all agree that if we do this, we should keep going forward with that.
I think in terms of how the videos are created, you can do this inside your company, or you can find an agency that will help you. But the key thing is finding someone who’s continuing to work with you. You need someone to be iterating on the process.
Just like I’m sure when you’ve done this podcast, you figure out different tips around how things should be recorded, types of questions you should ask people who are on the podcast, ways you should talk about it on social.
You’re iterating over time and getting more effective over time, hopefully, as the audience is growing. You’re getting more effective as the audience is growing, which helps the audience grow faster. So over time, you end up building this bigger and bigger thing.
You just have to do the same thing with video. But to do that, you have to put yourself in a position where you have the budget, the time, the studio, or the people.
You have to figure out a way to solve the production. Actually, we’re also seeing people who are solving this in a way where they’re making it much cheaper to produce episodes than anyone ever thought.
ProfitWell.com’s doing a fantastic job of this. They have, I think, three different video shows at this point. They all live on their site. They all syndicate everywhere. They’re really marketing themselves like a media company.
They’ll shoot 10 episodes in a day for something, so it’s the same setup. They have producers doing the research and pulling in what the episodes are going to be about. When you shoot 10 episodes in a day with the same talent, it’s a lot cheaper to do.
It means the threshold of success that you need to hit is a lot lower. Most people would never expect you could even possibly do that. But with the right planning, pre-work, you can actually make it happen and they do really engaging stuff.
I think they’re a great example of someone to look at. For a company that’s selling business analytics software, it doesn’t seem like it would be super engaging. And they’re building an audience pretty quickly doing that.
Louis: It goes back to the mission thing. They sell, as you said, business analytics software. They’re also a consultant when it comes to churn, identifying why people churn, and how to help subscription companies do better.
If I remember right, they have one show about tearing down pricing pages. I think they have another show that they started which is more interview based. They interview founders or marketers. Then there’s a third one. You mentioned three. But those are the two I recall.
Chris: There’s the ProfitWell Report. Pricing Page Tear Down, so that tearing down pricing pages. ProfitWell Report is data that they see from across their customer base on churn and things of that nature.
They have Protect the Hustle which is an interview series. That’s like a higher budget one that’s designed to be a 40-minute video. But they also use as an audio podcast. They have one called Subscription 60, which I think is a 60-second show about subscription businesses. I’m actually not sure, that one just came out. I’m not sure of the angle of that one relative to the others.
But by having multiple shows, one of the interesting things that they’re doing is you build up one audience, and then you talk about the next show on the first show. That makes it easier to build a second show. Then you talk about the third show on the first two. You layer them, and it actually makes it easier to grow all of them.
Louis: You said something a few times on this podcast that I want to ask you more detail about it. You said they basically market themselves like a media company. What do you mean exactly? What’s the difference between a media company, the way they would market themselves compared to a traditional SaaS company?
Chris: A media company treats the content as a product. If you have a great product, you can market it forever. If you have great content, you can keep marketing it.
They think about the analysis, the demographics, the promotion, the cross-promotion, retargeting to existing audiences. It’s just a different way of thinking about it.
The closest example I can give you for us is back to the One, Ten, One Hundred stuff. We made a trailer around the series. We promoted the trailer, and we had other things promoting. Not just the trailer promoting the series but things promoting the trailer.
You treat it like the content is a product, and it’s a valuable product. It’s worthy of your time. People perceive it like that, and they’re willing to think, “I should take some time to watch this thing.”
It’s how HBO just started promoting the final season of Game of Thrones. They had a teaser a month ago that was basically 10, 15-second thing. They have 30-second one that just came out, and they’re going to keep promoting Game of Thrones. And try to get everyone talking about it, anticipating it, and getting ready to watch five hours of content.
That’s a big commitment. But they think if you commit to that, you’ll be so delighted through. If you care about that type of content, you’ll be so delighted by that you’ll tell other people about it. They’ll have a big success on their hands. More people will buy HBO subscriptions. Boom, it will help them get the most out of that series.
Louis: That’s probably a nice tip for if you’re listening right now, is to be influenced by those actual media company promoting multi-million dollar shows. And how exactly did you do it. As you said, Chris, a 15-second trailer, followed by a 30-second one, followed by a minute one.
They just build up commitments. They build up expectation, they send dates and teasers. Sometimes, they wouldn’t even start with a video. Most of the time they would start to leak one picture of the fucking movie.
Louis: They really play on that. As you said, they treat their content like a product.
Chris: I think that they’re willing to have it not work too. They just know you have to do it that way. They do that, and then the movie ends up being terrible.
We started by talking about San Andreas. I love it, not everyone loves San Andreas. I can tell you they promoted that thing like crazy. For them, it’s okay if it flops. It’s a hits-based business. That’s what happens when you have unlimited entertainment options available.
It’s a hits-based business, unlimited entertainment options available. They try to stick out their stuff enough and make it obvious enough that should take the time, and consider watching it. But you don’t have to do that for everything. But if you know you have a hit, you should definitely do that.
That’s also the other thing I think as you build up confidence. You are like, “Actually, this is a really engaging episode. This is really different.” You’re more confident with how you promote it. People perceive it as being more worthy of their time.
I think you can make things that are engaging and entertaining enough that someone will listen to it or watch it. Instead of watching Netflix. Instead of going to the theater. They will pick it for that reason, it’s just got to be on the nose to the niche that cares about it.
Louis: Yeah, that’s one of the core principles of marketing, don’t try to please everyone, pick a very small niche. If you can really nail the content for them, speak to them, and feel like they are really super engaged with it.
Then yes, you will be able to compete with Netflix. But, if you’re trying to compete with big companies and trying to reach all marketers in the world, it’s probably going to fail.
To repeat what you said, because there’s so many interesting things, I’m going to try to digest this to all the stuff you said. It’s to really understand your mission first, that is bigger than the product. When you want to sell a project like that.
Let’s say, you have an idea for a show. Always try to set expectations prior to starting it with one metric that really matters to you and to your CEO, your manager.
Advertising yourself or treating this content like a product. Like a media company would do, allows you to really have like they do in TV shows where they have a pilot episode, right?
Louis: They start to see whether that connects with people. Very much like that, you want to see whether after six episodes or whatever it is, is it actually reaching the metric? If it does, if it is, then happy days, let’s keep going.
Those are definitely all the steps I didn’t do, Chris, one year ago, when I launched something. I can recognize my own mistakes in that. I appreciate you going through all of that. Did we forget anything on this? Do you want to talk about something else on the building an audience side?
Chris: No, I think those are the key things. Obviously, there’s lots of hard little things in there that when you face them you’re looking at lots of problems that are like, “I have no idea how I’m going to do this. I feel terrified taking this risk or pushing this way.” I would just say, usually, that’s a good sign that you’re pushing on the right stuff.
Marketing is a creative discipline more so than ever. You got to be a little scared or it’s probably not going to work. That’s also personally what makes it incredibly engaging and fun. But I think it’s getting in tune with that and finding that feeling of, “All right this feels a little scary, but it feels exciting. Let’s give it a shot.”
Louis: It’s funny because that’s what I say to my team sometimes. I tell them, “If you don’t have those butterflies in your stomach before you launch something, then it’s just not risky enough. It’s not going to touch on the emotions that you want to touch.” It’s too safe.
It’s a good sign. Obviously, you don’t want to go too overboard but I agree with you. Definitely, when you feel those butterflies, when you know, you’re like, “I don’t know, should I press the button or not?” It’s usually a good sign.
Chris: Yes. Yes.
Louis: This is what happened with this podcast. At first, I was very scared. With this the name of it and all of it, I was like, “Oh my god,” but that’s what people like. They either love it or hate it.
Chris: It’s human, right?
Chris: It’s also people undervalue failure in terms of if you try something that doesn’t work, and you’re transparent about it, and you can share anything about what you learned — people appreciate that. Because other people get to learn with you. It mitigates a lot of the risk.
But you have to say, “I tried this. It didn’t work. We wasted this money. We wasted this time, didn’t connect.” But, if you actually tell that story, that’s usually engaging too.
Louis: Agreed. I always ask a few questions before the end of the show. The first one being, what do you think marketers should learn today that will help them in the next 10 years, 20 years, 50 years?
Chris: I would say storytelling is not going away. It’s becoming more important, telling great stories. A great story needs tension. It needs emotion. It needs passion. I would try to hone in on, how can you figure out how to become a better storyteller? That will be true forever in marketing, and it works across every tactic.
Louis: Maybe on the back of that, have you come across any resources? Maybe you’ve written about this on the blog I know you have, but any resources to learn about storytelling that you recommend listeners?
Chris: What is the best resource on storytelling? I haven’t come across anything that is the best. I just try to consume a lot, take a step back, and ask why I think it’s good.
There’s this book I love called Masters of Doom, that’s about the two guys who founded Doom, which became the Quake engine for those video game nerds out here.
It’s kind of a crazy story of a partnership. A tiny team doing huge things, growing an enormous amount. How important it was for a tiny team to get together. All the shit that went down, why it wasn’t good. I think it’s a good example of a story well told about the right niche thing.
I think you just have to consume a lot of content and ask yourself, “Why is this good, and why is it not?” There’s a million different ways to tell stories. You have to find a way that you’re passionate about it, and that connects with you to the point we were saying before, helps you get the right butterflies.
Louis: Helps you get the right butterflies, that sounds like a show.
What it reminds me of — what you said about storytelling — is to try to reverse engineer good stories that you see. And I wouldn’t recommend to read a book about storytelling, I would recommend to read books of stories that are just phenomenal like true crime stories or fiction.
Usually, you have top-notch storytellers. People who are able to grasp your emotions, your heart to really make you wonder what the fuck is going to happen next.
If you reverse engineer how they do it — yes, it takes time. But it’s actually not that complex. It’s always loops, open loops, closed loops, building tension, releasing tension. The more you do it, the better.
I personally feel the reason why this podcast has been running for a long time, your episode is number 103 now I think if I recall, is because this is just linked to one of my strengths. What I enjoy doing.
This is why I feel doing storytelling over video, over podcast, over audio is easier for me, but some others might find that writing is something that is better for them.
But I would definitely recommend people to double-down on their strength when it comes to doing storytelling, because you can’t just do any type of format. You have to nail that, right?
Chris: I agree with you completely.
Louis: Outside of those, what would be the top three resources you would recommend people listening? It could be anything, a podcast, a book, a conference, whatever.
Chris: The stuff that has been really impactful for me — a lot has been the psychology of how you run a business, and how you figure out what you want to build. Books like Good to Great by Jim Collins was huge, and I think about it a lot. The Score Takes Care of Itself by Bill Walsh was a really good one. That’s a classic tech thing that’s discussed.
This sounds like a cop-out answer. But I honestly feel like I’ve been more influenced by watching great stories, talking to other people about why they’re great, spending time on them. A lot of the stuff that we’re faced with today, a lot of the challenges, are the same challenges everyone’s always faced.
There are a million great companies and great marketing campaigns that have been done and forgotten. They were done at a time with no data. Just people trusting their ideas, taking risks, and talking to customers. I would go back.
Ogilvy on Advertising is really good. Part of it that’s so cool is you read these incredible ads that have a ton of text, the opposite of what you think an ad should be.
It’s just a compelling story about the VW bug. You’re like, “What the hell? Why is it so good? I don’t get it.” How do they measure that? How many magazines did they put that in? How much money did they spend?
Go to the past. Storytelling has always been the key. Back to what you were just saying, figuring out a way to get confident about it. Find the resources that are relevant for you to help you do that.
Louis: Thanks for that. Chris, I didn’t comment on your last name. Because it’s a pretty good last name, I have to say. Where can people connect with you and learn more from you?
Chris: Laughs. Yeah, on Twitter @csavage. Trying to tweet a little bit more, share more about the behind the scenes at Wistia. I also have a blog that I update probably monthly, savagethoughts.com.
A lot of the Wistia stories are on Wistia.com. Probably, the proudest one from last year is the story about why we decided to raise the debt. Which was scary and exciting and was great. I’m so glad to get it out there. But those are the spots.
Louis: Once again, thanks so much.
Chris: Yeah, thanks for having me.