How Podcasting Ties into the Bigger Picture with Rowan Tonkin and Peter Mahoney of Planful
Lindsay Tjepkema: Welcome to the Casted podcast. I'm Lindsay Tjepkema, CEO and co- founder of Casted, and I'm bringing you the conversations with the most innovative and forward- thinking podcasters in the B2B world. These brilliant marketers are harnessing the power of podcasting to reach their revenue goals, to rev their thought leadership engines and to amplify their voices in the marketplace. Let's dive in to this week's conversation.
Rowan Tonkin: I'm Rowan Tonkin. I'm the Chief Marketing Officer of Planful.
Peter Mahoney: And I'm Peter Mahoney, and I've got a new job. I'm the General Manager of Marketing Performance Management at Planful, but I'm formerly the founder and CEO of a company called Plannuh, which is about marketing performance management.
Lindsay Tjepkema: I am very happy that you are both here because we have two conversations that are going to merge into one conversation. Let's dig into it. As you mentioned, Planful just recently acquired Plannuh. So congrats-
Peter Mahoney: Thanks.
Lindsay Tjepkema: ... to all of youon this new relationship. That's great. I'm excited to see it and both brands and both of you before this business relationship had brand shows and things happening in these spaces before. And so let's talk about origin stories and how those two separate strategies and separate shows were going. And then second half of the show, we'll talk about what in the world are you going to do now. How are you bringing them together? So let's start with you, Peter. Tell me your backstory and how things started at Plannuh as far as shows and audio and video content.
Peter Mahoney: Sure. So we started the podcast that we have now called The Next CMO, and The Next CMO was an evolution of an original podcast that we started kicking around because we thought it would be interesting to find a way to inexpensively reach out to our audience a little bit more broadly. But what really got the show to take off was the fact that we started by writing a book called The Next CMO, and the book-
Lindsay Tjepkema: Smart.
Peter Mahoney: ...was the centerpiece of what we decided we needed to do to reeducate the market on how a contemporary CMO should think about building and managing the marketing function in a basically responsible way. And by doing this, by writing this book and doing all the research behind it, we decided that all of that effort was something we wanted to invest in and amplify in a significant way. So we really created a lot of extensions to the idea of The Next CMO. We started with a book. We have a blog. We have a podcast, and we actually created a community around The Next CMO. And the goal, again, was to really lean into this audience and engage them in all the different ways that we thought would be interesting to engage them in.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Very cool. How about you, Rowan? Give us your backstory about podcasting and video.
Rowan Tonkin: Yeah, so we've always been a very heavy video company. I joined in September of 2019. We rebranded the company from Host Analytics to Planful. And at that time, we were trying to become video- first, very content- driven organization. And in the middle of the pandemic, I was looking around, and I was like, I want to listen to what are other finance leaders saying right now. What's the tune of the market, if you will? What are our audience struggling with? And that was all to serve them with content through other mediums to help during that time. And what I discovered was that I couldn't find any podcasts. I was struggling to find podcasts that were focused on our audience, which was not just CFOs, but people that report to CFOs, VPs of finance, directors of accounting. There wasn't too much out there, and what was out there was focused on the CFO themselves and their challenges and not really about the challenges of those reporting into them and the experiences that they're going through. And so that led me to say, well, there's a gap in the market. There's an opportunity for us to host that conversation and talk about it. And so we created the podcast, and ultimately, that led us into having really good conversations with our audience about their unique challenges that created new content for us outside of the podcast. It helped drive the feeling of the market, if you will, as to how we were talking to folks and what their pain points and challenges were. So it helped guide some of our marketing strategy. And then obviously during that time, we hosted a company user conference and we had all the intentions of being in- person. We pivoted that to being a webinar style event, a hosted on- demand event, and we decided to leverage that and turn all that content into a on- demand podcast as well. Based on our experience, we thought that, hey, just because it's video content doesn't mean people don't want to listen to it outside of that. And then so we've kept that going ever since. Ultimately, it was all about just we found a niche in the market, and we thought that that was going to be a great opportunity to host the conversation for our audience. And worked out really well so far.
Lindsay Tjepkema: It sounds like there's a common thread here that you both started shows as part of a bigger picture. So it doesn't sound like either of you were like marketing, marketing, marketing, over here doing the thing, let's do a podcast, which we all know definitely happens at some places or the CMO or the CEO says, " We need to do a podcast." It sounds like both of you said, " Here's this big thing," The Next CMO or the entire strategy for Planful and how we're going to reach our audience. As part of that, it was, what are we going to say? Who are we trying to reach? How are we building community? And part of that, we're also going to do a podcast because it just makes sense that we're going to be able to reach people this way. Would you say that that's true for both of you?
Peter Mahoney: Yeah, I think that's exactly right. And it would be embarrassing if it wasn't the case for me because I wrote a whole book that talks about that, that you really need to start with an overall business strategy and a set of goals and come up with a coherent campaign strategy and map it all together. And so yeah, that would be bad if I just did what we make fun of people for doing, which is what we call random acts of marketing. And I can tell you from meeting with and working with thousands literally of CMOs over the time that Rowan is one of those people who's in the top tier of CMOs who really get it, which means that absolutely he had a strong strategic backing for an approach for doing this. So it wasn't just random, and I think that the best efforts, hopefully they feel natural and organic and good and interesting, but they have a higher purpose.
Rowan Tonkin: It was very much a part of a bigger strategy. If you cast your mind back to that period, there was a lot going on, but also, as a CMO that had just taken on a brand that we rebranded, I need to find ways to get that brand out there and also drive the strategic narrative of the brand. But the best way to do that is to use the customers and use the audience to help do that, and so that was part of that big shift.
Lindsay Tjepkema: So it's easy for us to have this conversation of, yes, it needs to be part of a bigger picture. And why would you do a random active marketing? And just as a marketing leader, as a business leader, why would you do that to someone, to be like, " Start a podcast"? But we know that that happens all the time. As part of this series, I'm talking to a lot of people marketing leaders, that that's how the show started. Well, the CMO came to me and said that we should do a podcast, or as the CMO, I decided we should do a podcast. And this one little inkling ends up being a show that sits on an island, and it's over here on its own. And the business strategy and the marketing strategy lives over here on the continent doing its thing and all working together, but then this podcast is over here on this island all by itself. And then inevitably down the line, someone says, " What's it doing for the business? Why isn't the audience growing faster? Why does it cost so much? Why are you spending so much time on it? And then that's when people stop." This is too costly. It's too hard. It takes too much time and energy, and I can't show real results. So how do you respond when that happens?
Peter Mahoney: So first of all, let me say that even though Rowan and I approached this from that strategic angle, there's nothing wrong with running experiments. In fact, I think we both really advocate trying things, especially new things for people. There's nothing wrong with doing that. I think that the opportunity is to try to tie it into something bigger. And certainly, if you're even running an experiment, you should find some ways to relate it so that you can create some coherence in your overall marketing plan and you can amplify things. There's always an opportunity to start to connect things together so that it tells a bigger story and supports that broader message overall. So that to start. From why you doing this in measurement perspective, it's one of these things where I think this an initiative is something that really has to be measured on lots of different levels, and Rowan and I are both in the world where we focus and measure things. And obviously, there are lots of things that we care about in the measurement, but you can't think about just the number of viewers or how many customers can you cite that came from the podcast. We need to think about the broader story. How does it tell the broader message overall? Are you engaging with customers? There's an incredible amount of value that you can get from these dialogues just from learning stuff because Rowan and I both talk to our target market every time we do one of these podcasts.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah, same.
Peter Mahoney: And it's a great way to get that rich data firsthand. And then, oh, by the way, you create all these great new relationships. So there's this amazing multifaceted set of benefits that come from engaging with your audience in this way, and on top of it, I can point to a whole bunch of deals that we have sourced directly from people who found us first through our podcast.
Rowan Tonkin: It's 100% correct. I think that even if you do start out-
Peter Mahoney: By the way, we should find something to argue about. We keep agreeing on stuff.
Rowan Tonkin: No, what I will say, you are a small team, Peter. I know that for sure. And therefore, everything that you do has to be prioritized in a really disciplined way. Just starting a podcast would've been a big discussion. And the level of effort that goes into that is then a, oh God, how are we going to maintain and run this and do all of that, right? It's not like you're a big 100- person marketing team where someone can go off and create it in isolation and it does sit there on an island. That had to be on the continent, my team was a little larger. We were 20- odd people. And there is a tendency, even though it is part of a bigger strategy and part of a thing, it is like, oh, what's the little podcast doing over there? What's Rowan's podcast doing? It's easy for that question to come up. So you've got to consistently reinforce how it connects, why it ties back, what the rationale for doing it is. And as the marketing leader that was like, " This is part of our biggest strategy," I've got to keep reinforcing that to the whole company, not just my team, but to ensure that they're realizing the benefits that Peter just explained that we're getting from this. Hey, we get to talk to people we never would've talked to through the brand. They get to learn about our brand. We get to host the conversation. Gary V. has a really great podcast or a YouTube section where he talks about hosting the conversation. You look like the smart one if you're the host. Everyone likes people that host stuff. So there's that mindset. And then ultimately, if you can maintain that momentum, then those questions about why are we doing this, they do go away. You've got to keep on top of that, but you've also got to really do a good job of the internal marketing of marketing to maintain that, so making sure that each new episode gets that internal momentum too. It's a lot to try and get your customers to listen to something, and if you can't get your employees to listen to it, then clearly there's something wrong too. So you got to think about it from that mindset. It's really easy to go and say, "Oh, it's tied to my strategy," but actually delivering on that consistently to your team, both your own marketing team and your internally employee organization, is really important because if you don't do that, then those questions do pop up all the time. I think we do a really good job. We have internally a thing called the Planful Market Update. Goes out biweekly. Talks about all the things that are going on in market, and our podcast episodes come up there all the time. We get into our SDRs, and we say, " Hey, here's a podcast. Here's a snippet from a podcast that we would find really valuable. I bet if you distributed that through your target audience, that will help." And so just reminding yourself that you've got all this great content to actually deliver through all the various channels is really important too.
Peter Mahoney: You bring up a fascinating thing, which is about the size and scale of the team matters a lot and this pushing to keep going when people sometimes aren't sure if it's really the right thing. And I looked at it from both perspectives. So my background before founding a relatively early stage, still relatively small software company, I was the CMO of about a$ 2 billion software company. So we had lots of resources and it was lots of production teams and people who could do stuff, so it was actually relatively easy to show up and people would tell me a general direction of what to say. And we had a video series, and it was really pretty straightforward to do. And it was a lot of fun. It was a grind to do that as a CEO whose marketing department didn't really want to do this because it was yet another thing that was supposed to do. And oh, by the way, the benefit sometimes takes a while to see because you really need to invest over a period of time. You need to build a body of work. You need to create some publishing consistency so people will hear it and get used to it and expect it some point. So that's why for a long time I was by myself with some really very small useful outsource capability to get me up and going on the production side, and that was it. But having that consistency, so even at a small side and in Planful as a mid- size software company and doing it, a very, very large software company, different perspective but the same kind of thing where you really need to keep at it. You need to promote it, both internally, as Rowan said, and externally so people really get to the point and it builds in value over time as you continue to put it out there.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah. And it's so important to hear that from leaders like you from the top because quite often, it's the opposite, and it's somebody in the role trying to say, " We need to do this. I need you to get on camera. I need you CMO or CEO or whatever, VP or C level. I need your expertise. Can we please record something? Will you hop on the mic? Will you get in front of the camera? Will you do this interview?" because schedules are busy. And to your point about it takes time, this interview that you're going to do, this series that you're going to do, leader, is going to take time to show results. It's not going to directly contribute to a sale tomorrow or next week or next quarter maybe even, but it will grow the brand. That's one thing I wanted to get today. I also think that I'm seeing a shared perspective between two of you and therefore between your two brands that it's not about the show. It's about how it's going to build the brand and therefore how it's going to actually grow the business.
Rowan Tonkin: Yeah, 100%. One thing you touched on there is the investment of execs. And as someone who gets asked to do 100 things every day by various functions or departments, the last thing that you want to do is repeat the same stuff. And so as folks who are listening to this go out there and maybe thinking, hey, I need to execute a podcasting strategy or I need to do this, the one thing that you can hang your hat on as you're doing that is to say, " Look, this is going to be a get one take once, and then we're going to redistribute it in all other places," PR writing calls, social media writing calls, internal blog writing calls. Most of those big thought leadership pieces that need to come from execs and people with those really distinct backgrounds and actual thought leadership, they can talk for hours on that without any prep. And if you could just host that one conversation, then you can go and create derivative content for days. You could probably give a really good writer a two- hour conversation with an executive, and they're going to have their content calendar full for a full quarter. But invariably, what happens is a member of the social team will go and ask that exec for a call, and then the PR team will ask that exec for a call. And then the analyst team will ask that exec for a call. And ultimately, this person's just like, " Oh my God, I've said the same narrative over and over for the last week. Why aren't people getting it?" And so maybe that's the instances where those execs actually come to marketing and say, " I need a podcast. Just give me a platform to say this stuff." Maybe that's what they're coming at it with. But if you're thinking about it in that way where you are trying to get the attention of a thought leader and you need to capture their thoughts and you want to distribute it via a podcast, sell from that benefit, the selfish benefit that they need, which is we're going to stop asking you for 30 calls a week because finally you've got a platform where we can just take from that.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah, it's much more efficient. And we all know the importance of and the need for repetition, but it can be repetition through amplification instead of repetition through multiple meetings and appointments on your calendar.
Rowan Tonkin: Very legitimate repetition. Yeah.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yes.
Rowan Tonkin: Yeah.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah. Okay. So we've talked about what it seems like are very well- aligned perspectives on podcast and video content, which is great. There has definitely not been enough arguing in this conversation, so we'll have to find something to be divisive about, but maybe it's here. Where in the world do you go from here? So there was just this coming together of Planful and Plannuh. Congrats on that. That's very exciting. But what happens now? How is this coming together? This is very new. Let's get a little context on how new this is and how far into the conversation you two are as you bring it out into the open here.
Peter Mahoney: Well, maybe I'll set the table and ask you to follow up, Rowan. But first of all, when we're recording this, we're literally 30 days, 31 days I think, since we signed and announced the acquisition where Planful acquired Plannuh, so it's still relatively new. Obviously, you work on a project like this for a long time. Rowan and I have known each other for two years, where we actually met doing a podcast together. We were introduced by a mutual friend, and we actually did a joint podcast, which was a lot of fun. So I feel like this is a really interesting way to look back at things. I'll highlight one thing and ask Rowan to talk about the specifics, and that's that I think Planful has done a really great job thinking about integrating Plannuh into its company. So I come from a place where my last company, we did 100 acquisitions. And during that time, we did some really well, and we did some not well. And one of the most important things is thinking about really how strategically the company comes together, and a strategic element of that, a key part of that, is how the brand comes together. And they've been really thoughtful about how they've done it from a brand perspective and the employee perspective and everything in between. So at a high level, it means that they're doing a smart thing. Ultimately, Plannuh is going to become Planful Marketing Performance, which is great because we absolutely have to be part of this bigger, broader Planful message. And so that's really important, so we want to be part of that. And as much as we love what we created and love our own identity, we think it's much more powerful to be there. Rowan also really loved what we did with The Next CMO, and he has some ideas for how he might leverage that same kind of thing in his world. So maybe, Rowan, I'll let you take it from here.
Rowan Tonkin: So again, we're not doing this in just a, " Oh, they have a podcast. We have a podcast. Let's merge them," or let's do this. It does come back to having a thoughtful strategy around why does The Next CMO podcast exist? Who's its target audience? What is it designed to do? What conversation are they trying to host on a frequent basis? And then obviously, that podcast doesn't exist in a vacuum of a podcast. It exists as part of an overall strategy that I know Peter and the CMO at Plannuh, Scott, were executing on. And ours has a different strategy, and so as we think about that, we're observing what a really small high performing team did. And we're like, okay, how can we steal all those good ideas and make them our own? How do we absorb some of that strategy and try and drive that forward? I think the key here is this isn't like a MarTech into a MarTech audience, and so our audience is the same. This is an acquisition where for Planful, it expands our reach into an audience that we otherwise couldn't have reached under our own brand. And so as we think about the strategy that Peter and Scott have been executing on, we want to keep that going. They've literally wrote the book on it. I'm not going to just take everything that they've done and throw it out the window and say, " It's all my strategy now." We're going to take the best bits of that and try and accelerate it as much as possible. What is really important to us as a brand now is taking those best bits and figuring out, okay, well, what does each audience need, and where is there a combined need? And how can we leverage that existing content to deliver something of value to the combined audience, but also, what does each distinct audience need in its field? And then there's lots of branding decisions that need to go along with that. As Peter mentioned, we will be over time absorbing the Plannuh brand into Planful, and we're doing that thoughtfully. And they've got good brand equity, and we don't want to harm that. So how do we do that in the right way? We'll be working on that over the coming months. Not everything's defined yet 30 days in either.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah. What?
Rowan Tonkin: So yeah, I know. Everyone just assumes we have this-
Lindsay Tjepkema: What are you doing?
Rowan Tonkin: ...magic plan all along. And Q4 is a great time to do all of this. But as we think about it, we are stepping back and saying, okay, well, what makes sense from an aligned brand perspective? And that may be taking The Next CMO brand and extending that into our brand and saying, " That's a great name. That's a great package. The way that they do that is excellent." And I would say that because, actually, the book and podcasting is how Peter and I have met. So that strategy has worked to the point where it helped us acquire Plannuh and merge the two companies together and create a great, unique offering. So we've got to do that. And we've got to then consider, okay, well, what future implications will that have on the Planful brand too? As we absorb The Next CMO brand, the Plannuh brand, where do we want to go, and what's our strategic three- year vision beyond that? And can we set that up in a way that allows us to really start having future audiences that may be different to the ones that Peter has built and I've built? And maybe there's new audiences that we want to go and tackle. And so without explaining too much, that's ultimately how we're thinking about that absorption. There's lots of content I know in The Next CMO archives that we can repurpose and reuse and help tell our conversation of, " Hey, CFOs, CMOs are really struggling with this. We can help you now." And as our combined offering, that's a great story, CFO to CMO relationships. And on the CFO side, we've got great content that we can help their Marketing Performance Management Division leverage to say, " Hey, this is what CFOs are thinking about as they're considering their investment in technology for marketers," because every CFO I talk to looks at marketing and says, " Oh my God, how big is a tax stack? Why do they need more technology?" And so there's the jealousy element almost, and it's like CFOs don't get that. But here's how you can keep justifying that investment, Mr. CMO or Mrs. CMO. And so that's ultimately what we're trying to do, is take the best of those, combine it all together, but remembering that these things were created for distinct audiences with distinct purposes. And we may not continue with that exact strategy, but we want to take the time to rebuild the strategy and then move forward. And that is the way that it will ultimately work, and that may represent change for my strategy or change for Peter's strategy and stealing the best of both.
Lindsay Tjepkema: I love how big of a role it sounds that your shows because of the audience are playing in this whole thing and this merger and this coming together of brands. And you're right, it's not just one. It's not just Plannuh and Planful, but there's also the whole The Next CMO brand too. And so there's a lot here, and I love how much consideration there is around the separate audiences, the uniqueness of the audiences, the value of each brand and how they can all come together. And I also love how you're starting to think about how they can help each other and how repurposing past content could help serve crossovers of audiences, which is very cool. And I'm excited to see how that goes. We'll have to revisit this later. To wrap it up, I would love to hear from both of you what success looks like when we do revisit a few months from now, this time next year. With all of the care and consideration that you are giving to these audiences and to these carefully and successfully crafted brands, what do you think success looks like through the lens of the shows as you grow and as these relationships and these brands all come together?
Rowan Tonkin: I think the first thing that I would say is each show has to continue to grow independently of each other. So a core goal of these shows is to create an engaged audience, and regardless of what we do, we want that to keep going. So that's fundamental. As we talked about earlier, they're big parts of our brand building, and brand building doesn't happen in three months or six months. It happens as a sustained thing over a long period of time. So we want to keep that going. Whatever we do with the brands, whether that be Plannuh, Planful, being Planful, The Next CMO, we have to make sure that they're done in a way that doesn't diminish the audience growth and the content growth that we're looking for. They should accelerate it. And then the third one for me would be that we can cross pollinate the conversations. We can bring finance expertise to help educate the marketing audience. We can bring marketing experts, and Peter and I have done this. That was the whole intent of our original show, was I wanted to bring a marketing perspective to finance people and he wanted to bring a finance perspective to marketing people. So that's why we did a cross show. That type of content and collateral continues and that it's leveraged throughout all of our distribution channels, whatever they may be, whether that's community, whether that's what I would call organic followship on our social media platforms, however we do that, that both of those shows and future shows because it may not just be one, two shows anymore, we might have other types of shows, that that is leveraged throughout that area. If we have a conversation a year from now, that's what I would hope to have achieved.
Peter Mahoney: I completely disagree.
Lindsay Tjepkema: There it is.
Peter Mahoney: I know. No, I don't.
Rowan Tonkin: inaudible. Yeah.
Peter Mahoney: Well, we had to find something to disagree about.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Now we have it recorded too, that you disagree. We'll just play it over and over.
Peter Mahoney: Exactly. In my mind, the way that I would assess success is the point where we've really connected these communities in a meaningful way. So the thing that I'm really excited about and the thing that motivated us to build a company, write a book, start a podcast, all these things was about really connecting these worlds. It was about showing marketers how to have a stronger appreciation for fiscals outcomes. The subtitle of my book is A Guide to Operational Marketing Excellence. So the idea is to really drive operational and fiscal awareness and excellence in the way that marketers think. And I think making this successful, we'll really connect these two communities together, give marketers a better appreciation for what CFOs and CEOs and boards need and give CEOs a better understanding for what makes excellent marketing, what makes a strong marketing investment and why they're doing it. And I think by bringing them together, we're going to help our customers get better business outcomes at the end of the day. So that's what it's all about for me.
Rowan Tonkin: Yeah. And to put the Planful spin on that for Peter, as he's learning the vernacular, what he's talking about there is elevating the financial IQ across the business.
Peter Mahoney: That's taglineable.
Rowan Tonkin: Yeah. Yeah. I don't know who came up with that idea.
Lindsay Tjepkema: I wonder. Well, this was incredible. Especially so early in this relationship and post announcement, thank you for bringing it so out into the open and being so authentic about where you are and where it's going. It's exciting. We really will have to do another episode 6, 9, 12 months from now and see how it's all going. Maybe then you'll have some disagreements about what to do. But for now, I'm excited to see this all come together. And as a CEO that was a former marketing leader, I'm interested in some of the content you're going to put out too. Well, great. Well, thank you for being here, and thanks for sharing.
Rowan Tonkin: Thank you.
Peter Mahoney: All right, thanks. It was fun.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Well, that's our show. Thank you so much for tuning in. And if you are ready to harness the power of podcasting for your brand strategy, make sure that you click the link in our show notes to subscribe to the Casted newsletter and all of our shows and for all the latest content from our team of experts to yours. Until next time.
In order to maximize the potential of your brand’s podcast, it’s important for your show and business plan to coexist. Growing a strong community relies heavily on this.
Rowan Tonkin is the Chief Marketing Officer of Planful and Peter Mahoney is the General Manager of Marketing Performance Management at Planful, formerly the founder and CEO of Plannuh. The two host their own respective podcasts and have built their shows with a broader scope in mind.