I’m excited to kick off Season 2 of What’s Working Now by bringing you Devin Reed, Head of Content Strategy at Gong. Devin and his team have created an incredible podcast called Reveal: The Revenue Intelligence Podcast, and they’re using it to build brand affinity, grow pipeline, and generate marketing-sourced revenue. Devin shares the strategy behind the podcast and offers practical takeaways you can use to get started with podcasting or improve the results you’re seeing from your own company’s podcast.
Before we dive into the key takeaways and transcript, here are the links we mentioned in the episode:
✨ Devin’s newsletter, The Content Strategy Reeder
✨ Connect with Devin on LinkedIn.
(7:51) Ask interview questions that help your guests highlight your company’s POV.
“We make sure that the point of view of the company comes across (which is using data instead of opinions) by asking those questions of our guests.”
(10:21) Asking a prospect to be a podcast guest is a great way to start a conversation.
“You can bring prospects on the show that you can’t get a meeting with. It’s really hard to get a CRO of a publicly-traded company to take a 30-minute discovery call. It’s a lot easier to get them to dedicate an hour to build their brand.”
(14:35) Podcast marketing can provide real ROI.
“An aha moment for us was realigning that this thing isn’t just building a brand. We’re actually getting hard ROI and ARR out of this channel.”
(20:35) The two most important things to get right to win regular listeners: consistency and content quality.
“If we’ve earned our listeners’ trust and attention, and they’ve bought in, we need to deliver every single time. Because if we don’t, they’ll find another podcast. The other part is the content quality. Instead of just trying to be this expert thought leader, add some personality to it, add some entertainment value, add some fun, and mash that together. That’s what will keep people coming back and sharing.”
(21:47) Be entertaining as well as informative.
“If you over-index on informational and you don’t put enough effort into the entertainment, you’re kind of asking people to go to class, to go to school, to do hardcore learning. People don’t want that.”
(23:08) Research your market so that you can differentiate your content.
“Go look at what has been created for your audience today. What’s most popular, what’s not very popular, what’s just getting started? The goal is to understand what exists so you can create something different.”
(Laura 1:31) Devin! I am so happy to have you on the show to talk about podcasting.
(Devin 1:39) Likewise, it’s one of my favorite topics.
(Laura 1:41) Awesome. I feel like probably everyone in SaaS knows Gong — you guys are all over the internet! But for those who may be new to you or new to Gong, can you share Gong’s elevator pitch? And also, just tell us a little bit about your role there as Head of Content Strategy.
(Devin 2:01) Yeah, absolutely. I will put the caveat that it’s a dangerous game to play to assume everyone knows who we are. I hate saying that, but I might not need marketing at Gong if that were the case.
We’re the leading revenue intelligence platform. What that means is that we help salespeople be more effective and go-to-market teams be more effective. And the way that we do that is we automatically capture all of the different sales interactions that happen. When I say sales, I mean customer success, account managers, BDR support reps, anyone client-facing. And we capture all those interactions like phone calls, emails, web conferencing, meetings, and even in person, when that used to happen and when that happens again.
And, we start to showcase to revenue leaders what’s really happening on these calls, so they have visibility, and then also what’s working and what’s not at scale. So we’re both a coaching platform and an analytics and strategic platform for go-to-market leaders.
I actually joined Gong in 2017 as a sales rep. So I was a sales rep before my current role in marketing. And I joined when we were about 12 employees in the states and 40 globally as a second sales rep. I was on the sales team for a couple of years and helped grow that playbook.
We moved into segments like SMB mid-market and enterprise. I drew the mid-market card and did that for a couple of years. Then I moved over to marketing, which was literally picking up my desk, walking across the floor of the office, and setting up shop in the marketing pod where I was a content strategy manager. I did that for about six, seven, or eight months, hired my first content marketing manager, and have since been growing the team and the content engine since then. Now it’s myself with four marketers that work with me. And we’re responsible for brand building and pipeline gen. Specifically, sales research, social media, email marketing, we contribute to the event content, and a few other hats that I keep in the closet.
(Laura 4:18) Nice. And you guys are doing a great job, like I said. Today we’re talking about podcasting, specifically as a marketing tool. You’ve been really successful with the Gong podcast, Reveal, and I would love to hear about the strategy behind the podcast and how it functions in your overall marketing mix.
(Devin 4:41) Absolutely. The podcast sits at the very top of our funnel, so it’s the most top-of-funnel content that we have. And, the way we created it was actually kind of funny. I had initially pitched a podcast to Udi, our CMO, a couple years prior to launching it. He was like, That sounds good and all, but no thanks. But there is this new feature called LinkedIn Live. Why don’t you and Chris Orlov (who at the time was our Senior Director of Product Marketing and also ran a lot of our content marketing), why don’t you do a live TV show instead on LinkedIn? To which I blinked a few times after having the deer-in-the headlights look — because here I was pitching a pre-recorded audio content format, and I ended up doing live video, which is very different for anyone.
(Laura 5:32) Yeah!
(Devin 5:34) So we did that. That was Gong Labs Live — we ran that for a while. And then later, the opportunity to launch the podcast actually arrived, which was when we launched Revenue Intelligence, our category.
That was in October 2019, and we had a lightning-strike event, which was the Revenue Intelligence Summit. It was our first hosted industry conference. It wasn’t a user conference. It was thought leadership and stuff for clients over in San Francisco.
And we knew we were going to have these great speakers, many of who we paid to be there. So we were like, why don’t we, after we get them on stage, do a quick 15-minute interview. And we’re going to make those three interviews the first three episodes of the podcast.
So the goal of the podcast was to evangelize revenue intelligence and provide thought leadership content specifically to senior leaders who would be making the decision ultimately to purchase Gong or not.
We had folks like Patty McCord from Netflix. She was the chief people officer, she’s fantastic. We got Ed Calnan, who was the CFO at Seismic, who’s a client and a partner, and Mark Roberge, who was the former CFO over at HubSpot. So those are the three episodes that we used to launch.
Then from there, we turned it into an interview-style format where myself and Sheena Badani, who’s the Senior Director of Marketing and our category designer, we bring on the best and the brightest, to use a bit of a cliche, but really these phenomenal sales leaders and revenue leaders onto the show. (We) Pick a topic to go really deep on so it provides actionable insight for our audience. And then, we also add a lens of revenue intelligence, which is the data. How do you measure certain things? What are some insights you glean from data? So, we’re again providing this really useful content, but we’re also evangelizing the market as well.
(Laura 7:33) And your point of view really comes through — the podcast is about operating based on data instead of just guesswork. Can you share how you guys are using data to inform what you cover in the episodes?
(Devin 7:51) The way that we make sure that the point of view is of the company which is using data instead of opinions, is to ask those questions of our guests. So, for example, someone, the CMO of IBM (or one of them because there are a few) came on and was talking about how to use reference conversations in a sales process, how to use what typically is a marketing social-proof point in a sales process. And so, we’re unpacking that and there’s a lot of takeaways, and then I’m like, Okay, that’s all great, but how do you measure that impact? How do you actually look at it, whether it be a dashboard or report or something, and actually know that it’s working or not? Or maybe not just outcome-based, but just measuring the fact that it’s occurring’
So, it’s really just taking a lot of these tactics or strategies that sometimes people assume work or are really kind of elusive and say, okay but how can you get a data-related outcome there? How are you measuring that? And then what’s the impact on your business? So it’s almost like a mini discovery call of how revenue intelligence can help them, but we’re not pitching at all, and we don’t ask any clients to specifically say they use Gong. If that comes up organically, great, but we’re really focused on that.
And then this other element that Sheena came up with was these mini segments in the episode. There are two of them. One is a micro-action at the very end of the episode. We just tell people, ‘Hey, based on what you heard today, here’s something you can go do with it.’
But for the data aspect, we call it a Data Breakout. Somewhere in the middle of an interview, there’s a little musical cue. And Sheena or I, one of us, will record a little data breakout which is where we look at third-party data; surveys, reports, analysis, and sometimes Gong Labs data, which is our proprietary research, to support that conversation. Someone might say something about hiring is the most important thing, and here’s some stats and they’re kind of conversational. We’ll pause that conversation and go look at some data, bring that in to support, or to sometimes just add to the conversation, even if it doesn’t directly support the point that the guest was making.
(Laura 10:08) Nice. And podcasting is the perfect format for that. I mean, you really get to dive in. And like you said, it’s a great opportunity to talk to people who are your prospects.
(Devin 10:21) Yeah, absolutely, it really is. And what’s cool too, is there are influencers out there, right in your industry. You can get them on the show. They’ll share your podcast so you get some marketing that way. You can bring prospects that you can’t get a conversation started with. You know it’s really hard to get a CRO of a publicly-traded company to take a 30-minute discovery call. It’s surprisingly a lot easier to get them to dedicate an hour to build their brand, you know what I mean? Because there’s something directly in it for them. So that’s been really successful.
And then, of course, bringing in clients who want to be more involved with our company, because they really enjoy the team and the software we provide. And, it also helps get another meaningful touch-point, come renewal, come upsell; anything like that.
(Laura 11:12) Yeah, that is interesting. Let’s go ahead and jump to the results that you’re seeing and the impact. Attribution is hard, especially with top-of-funnel initiatives that are really designed to build brand affinity, which is what this is. But, you mentioned several of the results that you’re seeing. Can you talk a little bit more about that? The impact that the podcast is providing?
(Devin 11:38) Absolutely, and anyone who’s involved in podcasting knows that, despite being data-focused, there’s not a lot of data to be had. Spotify and Apple run the podcasting world, and they give you pretty high-level stats. You’ll see maybe some demographic information, like where folks are, maybe an age range and their gender. But I don’t get to, unfortunately, answer, Did a VP of sales at a target account listen? So there is a decent amount of faith involved in that.
But there are other things you can look at, too. At first, of course, you can see listens, downloads from Spotify, Apple, and some of the other players. What we’ve decided to do is track interactions, what we call interactions across all these channels. What those are is any listen on Spotify or Apple, or streams on YouTube because we record video and then upload, and then we also purchased Casted. I’ll get into that in a second. Our goal is to say, ‘across all of these channels, are we getting more people to listen month over month?’ Because that’s a great signal that you’re doing something right.
Cast also is a really great company, and they’re doing a good job. There’s a long road, in my opinion, but they’re leading it and putting another destination instead of Spotify and Apple by sending people to Casted, where they host your audio podcast. And if you connect it to Marketo and Salesforce, you can start to see, are some of our known accounts and contacts engaging with this content? If so, how much? And then you can do your own MQL magic on the backend to decide how much that’s worth to your organization. So we use a little bit of all this, and it’s still a very, as you know, a very new medium for B2B. But that’s how we’re starting to do that.
The biggest impact has been a closed deal, honestly. And that was from getting a higher VP onto the podcast, getting a VP of Sales who hadn’t talked to us before. And as we were talking with her, she landed on the topic of customer voice, and that was her vision. We didn’t spoon-feed that. So, we had this great conversation with her and at this one point, she says, “The customer voice is the most important thing to me.” She goes on to describe why and how important it is and I’m like, ‘great!’
When the podcast went live, I uploaded the call recording to Gong and I highlighted this section, and I sent it to the SDR on this large account. And I said, Here’s the exact person you want to talk to, basically spoon-feeding back to us the value we can provide. Why don’t you use this to reach out? And so the SDR did, and she got the meeting. That was an enterprise deal, so it took around six to eight months. It took a little bit of time, but they ended up closing for over $100,000, a pretty sizable investment.
Did that ever show up on a dashboard? No. We don’t have attribution for, was a prospect a guest on the podcast. But, you show the buyer journey in Salesforce to the CMO, and you show that we had this interview that started all this, and you can track all that in common as well. That was an aha moment to say, wow, this thing isn’t just building a brand. It’s not just the right thing to do. Which I think a lot of content marketing gets put in that bucket of it’s the right thing to do, but it’s really hard to measure. And, wow! We’re actually getting hard ROI and ARR out of this channel.
(Laura 15:12) That is very cool. And, it’s the ultimate result: marketing source revenue! And you make a good point, too. You can’t track everything, but track what you can. And then if you know these things are working, then these other things are probably happening as well.
(Devin 15:28) Yeah, absolutely. The other thing is, we’re very active on LinkedIn. And so, as our salespeople are admins, when we get anecdotal messages or comments or posts of someone saying, ‘Hey, I’m a sales leader here, and these are the three podcasts I listen to.’ And when Reveal makes that list, that’s huge, right? Someone unprompted is saying, ‘I love your content so much, I’m going to go post online.’ And other people in their network are obviously going to see that and hopefully listen.
If you just provide really high-quality, engaging content, it takes time, but you will start to see those posts and those shares online. And whether it’s a positive post like that or a negative one, my theory is that there’s another 10 people that agree with that. If someone’s bashing you, it’s probably a real thing. And not always, we all know that’s not always true on the internet. But for the most part, if someone’s complaining, there are probably other people who ran into that issue or felt that way and didn’t say anything. Same thing with the positive side as well.
(Laura 16:30) That’s actually how I found you guys in the first place. It was one of your customers who was going on and on about how great you guys were. And I was like, Whoa, what is this? So that’s always good how that works.
I really love that your show has two hosts, and your co-host Sheena is just great. The interaction adds a lot of energy to the episodes. Can you share a little bit about how you collaborate together in planning a production?
(Devin 17:01) Yeah, absolutely. I’ll mention there’s a bit of a dream team behind us as well. I think it’s easy for whoever has the microphone, they assume they do all the work. But that definitely isn’t true.
Sheena and I got it launched together. And our thought was, she’s the category designer, she’s a senior leader at our company, she’s fantastic. Fun fact that she doesn’t always love to share, but is so adorable, is she wanted to be a news anchor as a child. That was her goal. So I always tell her that you’re made for the limelight, it was just a matter of time. But she’s fantastic.
And then I’ve been in sales, but I’ve never led a sales team before. So I would report, so to speak, to our core demographic for the podcast, but I’m not one of them. So we thought, we get along great, we’re sitting by each other at the pod for a few months before this thing kicked off. We had a shared vision for what we wanted to do on this channel.
And my other thought is when you listen to your favorite podcasts, there are a million different reasons, right? It could be more educational, it could be more entertaining. But, one of my favorites is Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard and Monica Padman. You’re familiar with that one? But that it’s a white guy and an Indian woman has nothing to do with the fact that that’s the same demographic.
(Laura 18:19) Yeah, you’re right!
(Devin 18:20) But the point is, even when they’re not talking to a guest like Matt Damon, there’s a really fun interaction and energy and you find yourself very invested in them too and enjoying that conversation about the main conversation. So, if I enjoy this, other people probably will, too. And yes, the interview format is meant to inform, right? It’s meant to provide value, but why can’t we add some entertainment element there? So that was kind of the mindset around ‘why’ in terms of the production stuff.
I do what I’m great at, and I find people who are better at what I’m not so great at. So, we have an editor who freelances for us to help us do the chopping up of the actual audio. But Jordan Feise on my team, who’s a senior content marketer, she runs the show as of a couple months ago. And she’s done a great job making sure we have a very clear list of potential guests.
We do some outbound along with the inbound interest that we get, and we make sure that we’re balanced between males and females on the show and people of color. Making sure the goals there we’re meeting because we want to make sure that the people we’re giving a platform to aren’t just all white guys. Because we know that is exactly the majority makeup of the sales community. And so we want to make sure we’re giving other people a platform as well. So, that’s a big part of it.
And then we align monthly on, Okay, what is our content theme this quarter? What are the stories we really want to tell? And we’re really grateful and lucky, I guess to an extent, that we have a lot of people interested. We kind of get to pick and choose who we want on the show and what story we want them to tell?
(Laura 20:11) Nice. And I really feel like you have taken it to the next level with making it interesting and entertaining, as well as educational. I think that’s so important, especially now. There are so many more podcasts, how can we actually make this interesting, and you’ve really done that. So that’s great.
(Devin 20:30) Thank you, I appreciate that.
(Laura 20:35) Yeah. What would you say is the most important thing to get right to win regular listeners? I know this is a question that a lot of teams have, especially as they are first getting started. How are we going to get the word out beyond to our customers?
(Devin 20:49) Yeah, there’s a lot that goes into a podcast. It comes down to two key things. The first is I’m really big on consistency. If people tune in to Reveal, if they’re going to subscribe, we release on Mondays. However many people that might be, they’re expecting a new episode Monday morning. Maybe it’s during their morning commute when we’re doing that, maybe it’s their afternoon walk, maybe it’s doing dishes that evening, who knows. But if we’ve earned their trust and attention and they’ve bought in, we need to deliver every single time. Because if we don’t, if you go to that new episode, and it’s not there, well, they still have that 10, 20, or 40 minutes, and they’re gonna find another podcast. Maybe they find another podcast, and they stay there instead. Now, they’re the number one, and Reveal is the backup. As a marketer, you put so much time and energy into these things, I believe in capitalizing on all that.
The other part we’re talking about is the content quality. And, I think a lot of marketers feel like they have to be the expert. They have to be the best at providing this, whoever they sell to — finance managers, or Chief People Officers — we have to have the best insight for them. But if you over-index on informational and you don’t put enough effort into the entertainment, you’re kind of asking people to go to class, to go to school, hardcore learning. But people don’t want that. Look how we consume content on Netflix, Hulu, whatever. We in America love entertainment, almost too much in my opinion. And so instead of trying to be this expert, thought leader all the time, add some personality to it, add some entertainment value, add some fun, mash that together. And that’s what will keep people coming back and sharing.
(Laura 22:46) Yeah, I love that. It was just giving me ideas for this podcast. I need to be doing that! So I’m curious what your advice would be to other SaaS marketing teams who you know are interested in the process of launching a podcast. What advice would you have to share?
(Devin 23:08) The first advice I would say is to always go look at what’s available to your market today. I’ve made the mistake of not googling the names of campaigns and things before we planned them. Sometimes you’re at the finish line and, wait, this already exists. You want to avoid that. That was a rookie mistake I’ve made once or twice. Not just for the podcast but in general, I would say go look at what has been created for your audience today. What’s most popular, what’s not very popular, what’s just getting started? And the goal is to understand what exists so you can create something different.
A lot of people, I’ll think while I’m listening to, I can make it better than that, I can become a better host, or you know what, we’ll do this a little bit better. But being 2 to 5%, better is nominal. That’s not going to win people over. So what you want to do is one: see what’s going on today to be different. And then two is: what’s your mission? What is your company’s point of view? And if you’re independent, if you’re an independent person creating a podcast, why do you exist? Why did you bother, other than maybe you just love podcasting, right? When you can mash those two things together, my point of view and something different, that’s how you’re going to grab attention and pull people towards you. Because people love new content. No one woke up today and said, ‘You know what, there’s not enough content for me today, there’s not enough. Anyway, learning something to watch on Netflix is too easy,’ right? No, it’s the opposite of that, where people now want very, very specific content, and they want something that’s different from everything else. So, if you can deliver that, you’ll win people over.
(Laura 24:48) That’s a great point, and that’s true of really all content formats. Differentiation, conveying your mission and a point of view that really helps set your content apart. But like you said, especially with podcasting, where we now have many choices.
(Devin 25:06) Yeah, there’s not a shortage but I think a lot of people don’t create a podcast because they think it’s too late. You know what I mean?
(Laura 25:13) Oh, this is true as well.
(Devin (25:17) But that doesn’t matter. Go look at what the top 10 podcasts are, they’re probably mostly B2C type stuff. The audience is larger, but there’s plenty of room out there. I think it was a Swedish Fish guy that was saying this: there’s a million podcasts as of today, this was a year ago, but there’s already 10 to 100 million blogs, but people still start blogs. So, there’s still plenty of space.
And especially for every B2B company that’s listening to this thing, if they’re making a podcast, you might have 20 or 30 direct or indirect competitors. How many of them have a podcast? Probably not that many. So that’s who your real competition is. Aside from the entertainment value of the other big names, but from the actual informative, professional standpoint, your competition is actually a lot smaller than you probably think it is.
(Laura 26:09) Right. And if you can differentiate it, then why not? Why wouldn’t people listen? Yeah, very cool. So is there anything else that you’d like to share that maybe I haven’t asked about? Haven’t given you the opportunity to talk about?
(Devin 26:27) When you give me a mic and an open-ended question, probably double the length of this interview. I would say this is my point of view. This is the platform I stand on, that most B2B marketing doesn’t work. And when it doesn’t work, it’s because it’s not effective. It’s not hitting the goals that you had set out for, or it’s not engaging enough for some of the reasons we just talked about. And so, what I’m really doing outside of building at Gong, is helping evangelize content strategy. A lot of people have content marketing, but it doesn’t work or is disjointed because they don’t have a content strategy of core why and how. So, that’s what I believe.
As a result of that, I created a weekly newsletter called the Content Strategy Reader. Fun play on my last name. I’m a dad, and now I can’t help but do dad jokes. But it’s me just wanting to give back and share all these content creation tips and things I’ve learned and how I’m building content strategy. So if anyone wants to sign up if you’re interested in it, you know, it’s delivered every Saturday. I promise it takes less than five minutes to read. And it’s completely free.
(Laura 27:42) And what is the link to that? I’ll include that in the show notes.
(Devin 27:45) Yes, it’s at newsletter.thereeder.co. The Reeder is r-e-e-d-e-r, like my last name. And if you’re wondering why.co, I started about four years ago and .com was significantly more expensive. So .co to save some bucks.
(Laura 28:04) Yep! I’ll definitely include that in the show notes so people can check that out. I’m sure it’s amazing.
Well, thank you so much for all of these insights. This has been super exciting for me as I am doing this podcast, and I know that other SaaS companies are really going to benefit, their marketing teams will benefit. I know that podcasting is a really hot topic right now, and more people are getting interested as they see the results that you can get with it. So thank you.
(Devin 28:38) Of course, of course, I hope this podcast about podcasting was helpful. If you want to connect with me, I talk about sales and marketing on LinkedIn pretty frequently. I’m pretty active over there. And happy to answer any questions or bounce ideas for creating a podcast, or want to take it to the next level.
(Laura 28:58) I’ll include a link to your LinkedIn profile as well.
(Devin 29:03) Fantastic. All right, well thank you, I appreciate it. Thanks for hanging out with me.
(Laura 29:07) Thank you, Devin. This has been great.