Griffin Caprio is the co-founder and CEO of Dante32, a startup that helps brands tell their stories through end-to-end podcast production services as well as content marketing and strategy.
Griffin shared how his team used education as a marketing tool and what they learned along the way at our October 30, 2019 Here’s How Startup Marketing Conference.
In case you don't have time to watch his presentation now, here are the top three takeaways:
- Identify your customers' biggest problems and look for ways to provide solutions.
- Look for opportunities to educate your clients about what you can do for them.
- Be open to learning from your clients and the possibility that you're wrong. Ask yourself, "How can we change what we're doing based on what we're hearing?"
Looking for more color? Read on for a complete transcript of his presentation.
My name is Griffin. I'm the CEO of Dante32, which is a podcast production company here in Chicago. We're going to talk a little bit about how we as a company used education as a guerrilla marketing tool.
A little bit about us: We're a podcast production company, but we're really more on including content marketing and content strategy. This comes into play a little bit later when we talk about how we go to market and how we do business development and market to customers.
We work with businesses and brands, unlike other podcasts or production companies that are more focused on the media or the IP entertainment – things like Homecoming and Gimlet. We work exclusively with businesses and brands, who use podcasts and audio as a form of marketing, education, brand awareness – things within that bucket.
We're very new. We're roughly 17 months old. Our partners are based here in Chicago, but we have people all over the country and clients all over the country.
Actually, this Friday is the first anniversary of our first published episode. Since then, we've launched about 13 shows – I think it's actually up to 14 this week. We've done well over 180 episodes and we've cleared over 100,000 downloads.
The 100,000 downloads is actually an interesting metric that I can talk more about in terms of how that relates to businesses, brands, and success.
A little bit about my partners and I: We are not marketers by trade. I am a product and CTO exec here in Chicago for a lot of different companies all over the spectrum, from startups to publicly traded companies.
My partner has a more varied background that includes technology, learning and development, and broadcast journalism. Very varied, but there's no marketing in there.
That's important as we as we go out to our potential clients and our potential market to try and educate ourselves as well as them. We don't bring a lot of preconceived notions into marketing. We're very adept at product development, listening, customer development, and asking a lot of questions. That helps us as we continue to refine our marketing and our go-to-market.
The partnership between my partner Jen and I is critical because it's one thing to have one person going out there and selling. It's another thing to have two people who are in sync. Especially as the team grows, it becomes even more important. There's definitely a “we” in that education. It's not just “I.”
We are a service company, focused exclusively on B2B and B2C companies. That includes product companies, SaaS companies, services, etc.
We focus on podcast strategy, production, and audience development as well as overall content strategy. But there's several problems with being in the podcasting market and being in the audio market.
The first is that it’s incredibly immature and it's a developing space. Everybody has heard of podcasts. It's a growing space, but it still represents, overall, a minuscule amount of advertisers’ spend. A really small amount of internal corporate budgets is spent on podcasts. The whole advertising industry and podcasting is around a half a billion, which is nothing compared to TV, print, and traditional digital.
Enterprise customers especially are not sure how to use podcasts. They're not really sure how to use audio as part of their marketing. Should they? Shouldn't they? If so, what does it look like?
Lastly, even if they understand or have heard of podcasts. Despite being in the tech space, a lot of people still really haven't heard of podcasts. It's a growing medium. But once you get outside of technology or very future-focused industries, podcasting is still relatively new.
Even those customers who have heard about podcasts typically associate them with one type of podcast. Everyone that has heard of podcasting knows what Serial is. They've watched Homecoming on Amazon Prime and heard it was a podcast before.
There's a huge jump between when they meet us, how they understand what we do, and how we can help them or even just understand their problems. There's a significant amount of education not only in the industry that we have to do, but also with each individual client so that they can start to think about things differently.
It's almost worse than them having never heard of podcasts because then at least we're introducing the concept. Now we're actually unwinding a little bit of what they think.
When it comes to tactics, it's actually these five main things:
1: Illuminate the Market
The first is, as I mentioned, we focused on illuminating the market, not really defining it. Something very easy for us to go to the market with was:
- This is a podcast.
- This is how you use it.
- This is what you should do.
But what we really found is that that would be closing off a lot of opportunities and a lot of use cases that we just wouldn't ever have considered.
By starting with an inquisitive notion, we began to say, “Well, tell me about your brand marketing. Tell me how you do content strategy. Tell me what your content marketing is or how you approach it. What are the best-performing channels? Where do you see more investment?” Where do you see less investment or engagement?” You're starting to get them to think overall about a marketing strategy.
Talking to people about how audio can either outperform or reduce their costs. We focused on illuminating the market as opposed to jumping in and saying, “Well, this is what you should do.” Because then if they don't want to do that, the conversation is over.
2: Focus on the problem and remember that the customer is the hero
I always focused on the problem of what they were trying to do and what our customers are trying to do. Remember that they're the heroes. They are what they're trying to do. So are what they're trying to accomplish.
Coming at them with a podcast, if they think that they don't want to do a podcast or they're currently not thinking about a podcast, the conversation is over. But if you talk to them about their struggles, you open the conversation.
We work a lot with CMOs, directors of content strategy, VPs of marketing – people up and down that stack. Customer successes is another role. And we just talk to them about their struggles.
Everybody's overworked. Everybody doesn't have enough time. Nobody has enough budget. Just start talking asking them, “What are your struggles? What are you struggling with?” And this is where it's really important to narrow in and define who your customer is, or the role that they play in the business.
We'll talk to some customers where the person in charge of marketing is the CEO because it's a small company. Or it's a solo founder, maybe it's a public speaker, book author – we’ll talk to larger companies where the person in charge of the content is the director of content strategy.
It’s key to understand who you’re talking to and what their problems are, then get them into a conversation and talk to them. Ask them what they're struggling with.
3: Focus on non-podcast content marketing & search analysis
I focused on non-podcast content marketing and search analysis. When it comes to us and how we do marketing, it's a little bit like the cobbler whose kids have no shoes. We’re always thinking about our customers. We're not really thinking about ourselves.
Once we started thinking about our customers, a lot of the initial ideas for us would have been along the lines of, "We'll just go in and start to dominate," or "Target podcast keywords." The reason that was a terrible decision is because people aren't searching for podcasting as a solution. They're searching for other things that audio can help with.
So we had to start to understand the ecosystem around it and starting to understand what they are struggling with and where they are looking. For example, “content marketing on a budget” and “how to get more from your content marketing spend.” Those are the areas that we needed to focus on because then we could insert ourselves into the conversation and start to do that education.
We didn't just jump in saying, “We do podcasts. You need a podcast. Come join us!” That was that was going to be a dead end. We weren't going to see more success.
4: Educate the ecosystem, not just the customer
Next up, we educated the ecosystem around us and not just the end customer. What this means is we went to PR firms, we went to branding firms, and we went to traditional marketing firms. We talked to them about podcasting and we talked to them about audio. We talked to them about multimedia.
Some people are starting to do video. Some people are starting to do audio. How does that fit into their offerings? Are their customers starting to ask about podcasting?
A lot of times the customers that we target will already have an agency of record, or they'll already have somebody with the relationship. The worst thing we can do is try to insert ourselves alongside those agencies in a very “us vs. them” mentality.
We educated our potential partners by saying, “We are audio-only. We are audio-first. We are audio-focused. We can be a great complement to what you already do. Whether that's repurposing content into audio or whether that's repurposing audio into other content, we can work alongside you.” And that education really paid off.
5: Don’t be afraid to change your message or your pitch
Lastly – and this looks a little chaotic – we definitely do this because we're new, but we weren't afraid to change our messaging and our pitch. We're going to iterate very quickly.
As I said, I come from a product and a tech background. I'm used to iterating and doing product development very quickly. Marketing, we found, was very much the same way. Especially in emerging markets and markets that are unstable, your pitch is going to change. You have to be unafraid of altering your message based on the education and based on what's coming back from potential clients.
As an example, in our first 12 months, we had five different websites with five different messages. It sounds chaotic. It sounds like the antithesis of everything that you learn. But what we quickly realized was that every new customer was just hearing about us for the first time. They didn't know anything about those previous websites. They didn't know anything about those previous marketing messages.
As we continue to refine and move away from being podcast-specific and into content enablement and content strategy, we shifted all of our copy, imaging, and layouts to be structured on the education that we were receiving as opposed to the solution that we were pushing. This made a huge difference in terms of getting that uptick in the market and getting those deals to close.
What are the results? Well, we're still here, so that's good.
In emerging markets, people are not evaluating which solution solves their problems.
In very established markets, like website development or software development, people understand the problem. They’ve probably had a product a project or two internally, and when they go to the market to look for vendors, they're competing on and analyzing different dimensions. They're looking for price, they're looking for reliability, and they're looking for trust. They're looking for a lot of other things.
In emerging markets, they don't know what to look for. They don't know where to go. They don't even understand the dimensions: What does the podcasting project look like? What am I going to spend? What is the budget? What's the commitment for my team? How quickly are we going to roll this out? They don't know any of those questions to ask.
Getting into that education piece and pulling them along and giving them the information they need, without pushing them into buying your service or your product, is really handy. It made a huge difference for us.
Enterprise customers are busy. We picked what our customer values the most and then educated them on how we can help with that. In a lot of cases, it's time.
When you're a content marketer, you're in charge of marketing or you're a VP of Marketing, you have a myriad of different channels, and there's new ones coming up every day. Five to 10 years ago, the question was, “What's your blog?” Then it was, “What's your social strategy?” And then it was, “What's your video strategy?” Now it's TikTok and audio.
There's an infinite amount of channels that stakeholders are coming to us saying, “What's our strategy for this? How are we going to be in this?” We very quickly learned that our customers' biggest problems weren't the execution or knowing how to do it. It was time.
How can we save them time? How can we make them look better internally? Again, the customer’s the hero of our marketing. How can we make them love us by making their jobs easier? It sounds trite, but it's a really simple and straightforward way to approach your marketing.
Lastly, the education is reciprocal. We learn just as much from our customers and our potential customers as they learn for us.
We learned internally how to sell creative services engagements, what that's going to look like, how that affects our margins, and how that affects our marketing spend.
We learned what referrals are going to look like and how to properly incentivize different people. Being so focused on your product and what you're selling, while good and while it's important to be very knowledgeable, it's also important to let that education flow into you as well.
Be open to the idea that you're doing it wrong. Coming from a product and tech background, I've seen a lot of companies go down the route where their marketing wouldn't be working, but they would say what their customers are wrong or they're making the wrong decisions.
It's very clear that that education needs to flow into you and say, “How can we change what we're doing based on what we're hearing?” That's really important.
We're up 85 percent year over year, in terms of Q4 numbers. We have multiple referral partnerships, both big and small. As a result, about 40 percent of our new clients come through referrals. And that's existing client referrals, partner referrals, and network referrals.
Interestingly enough, we actually have seen a handful of referrals come from people that didn’t move forward with us, but they had such a good experience with us that while we weren't the right solution for them, or we weren't the right product for them, we were the right one for someone else that they knew.
That's a really important takeaway. You're always selling. Even when you leave the room, that person is going to be left with an impression of you.
Lastly, we've actually had a couple of new service lines emerge over to the back half of 2019 that augmented what we originally went to the market with. That's because, again, we educated our clients.
We said, “What have you tried to do this? Have you ever thought about doing this? Have you ever thought about trying to arrange sponsorships to cover the cost of what you're doing? You say you don't have the budget, but have you thought of that?”
And their answer was, “No, can you help me with that?” Yes, of course!
Again, that comes back to that two-way education. They're asking for something. How can we help them? How can we give them more time back? And that's it.
Thinking about starting a podcast for your business? Click through to read Griffin's take on the Propllr blog from October 2019.