The Power of Learning and Storytelling in Your Podcast with Drift’s Mark Kilens
The Power of Learning and Storytelling in Your Podcast with Drift’s Mark Kilens
Today’s conversation is with Mark Kilens, the Vice President of Marketing at Drift. Mark focuses on the content and community side of marketing and believes that podcasting is a cornerstone piece of content. Throughout his career in marketing, Mark has looked at podcasting as a storytelling function that can help his business educate its customers through an experience. He talks about using a podcast to unify the story across your content, customer experience, and life cycle. For Mark, it’s important to think about how your podcast fits into your brand’s overall strategy, and use your podcast as a resource for future content. Mark believes podcasting is an amazing learning tool, and the key to creating a successful podcast is passion. Hear about the power of learning and storytelling in your podcast and how you can build a community around your show in today's conversation.
Mark KilensVP, Content & Community, Drift
Lindsay Tjepkema: Welcome to the Casted Podcast. It's season five, and we're featuring our very own Casted and customers as guests this season. You see, we're shedding this light on our users. Not only because we love them, which we do. Of course we do. But also because you see, think about it, the brands and teams using Casted, have pretty clearly indicated by choosing Casted, a commitment to podcasting and that their shows are important. And they're foundational pieces of their overall marketing strategies. Otherwise, why would they be here with us? Right? As you'll hear, these are the most forward- thinking brands that are harnessing the perspectives of their experts in those industries that they're speaking to, with podcasts, and they're amplifying those voices across other channels to elevate, not just the show, but the overall brand. They are practicing what we preach. And I want you to hear all about what they are doing, why they're doing it, and how you can do it too. I'm Lindsay Tjepkema, CEO and co- founder of Casted. The first marketing solution built all around brand podcasts. And this is our podcast. Let's talk about Drift, shall we? Their network of shows is referenced just about every time someone mentions B2B podcasting and for good reason. They've got not just one epic show, but four or five, sometimes six. And who knows, maybe they'll launch another one soon, but it's not the quantity of shows that has made Drift a B2B podcast icon. It's what they're doing with that podcast content that makes them so stinking special. In this show you have heard from Molly Sloan, who runs the podcast network at Drift, among many, many other. Things you've heard from Gail Axelrod who runs the content at Drift. Earlier this year, I got to chat with Drift CMO, Tricia Gellman about the pivots and strategy changes in the midst of a pandemic. And last season, I got to talk to Dave Gearhart, who started and hosted Drift's flagship podcast, Seeking Wisdom, before he moved on to Privy. And today you're in for another treat, we're dropping even more wisdom from Drift all thanks to their VP of Content and Community, Mark Kilens. Hear Mark explain how and why Drift has, is, and will continue, to prioritize podcasting and the role it all plays for the brand and for the business.
Mark Kilens: Hey Lindsay, it's Mark Kilens over at Drift. I'm one of the VPs of marketing. I focus on the content and community building side of it. So thrilled to be part of your podcast today. So excited to talk to you about podcasting.
Lindsay Tjepkema: It get much more meta than a podcast talking about podcasts, with people who run podcasts. So let's start there. I mean, tell me about how you see podcasting fitting into a brand's overall strategy. You know a thing or two about that. Before we get into what that looks like at Drift, tell me from your vantage point, how should marketing leaders be looking at podcasts, as they look at their overall strategy, especially as we head into a new year ahead.
Mark Kilens: So I started to listen to podcasts when I had a pretty long commute back in 2010 and'11. So that's when I started to really dive into them. I was at HubSpot at the time and HubSpot, right around that time, I think it was actually a couple of years after, started to experiment with podcasts. Like what's going on. The podcast ecosystem was growing a lot, and then Drift started around 2015, 2016. And one of the first things David Cancel and David Gearhart did was create a podcast, Seeking Wisdom. So I say all that because for HubSpot and Drift, it was all about storytelling. For me, podcasts, it's a storytelling function and the best businesses and marketers and brands really lean into storytelling. So what do I mean by storytelling? For HubSpot and Drift but especially Drift, we were creating a new category. There was this new category that came about, but keep in mind, Seeking Wisdom didn't establish the category.
Lindsay Tjepkema: No.
Mark Kilens: That was about brand building and it was through storytelling, and learning from your guests. I think that's the power of podcasting. It's being able to create a captive audience through bringing people onto your podcasts, that will educate you about maybe your potential customers, that will educate your customers in some way, through the power of real experience. But I really think Lindsay like the power of podcasting, and why it's so powerful for Drift, HubSpot, for your own business, anyone's business is the power of storytelling and learning. And using those things together to, again, just create this captive audience that wants to now maybe check out what you got going on on your website.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah, well, and it's interesting too, because I think back to Seeking Wisdom, especially Coffee With a CMO, that was one of the first episodes, and it wasn't an episode, it was a series of episodes that drew me in. And I mean, again, talk about knowing your audience. I mean, I was a marketing leader at a large company. We weren't yet using Drift. We ended up using Drift. I was not a CMO, but I had that in my sights, and you were interviewing different CMOs. And just honestly, giving insights about how do you get there, and what do you need to be thinking of, and what are some things you need to be doing now to get there. And, oh, by the way, now you know, and trust Drift, and you want to get to know what Drift is, and learn more about this company that is dropping so much wisdom on me, and apparently knows me well enough to be serving me with this content. That even though it's not directly directly correlated to the product, it is very directly serving the audience.
Mark Kilens: Yeah. To that point, it's interesting. So I think of a podcast as like a virtual campfire. The campfires where the stories get told. It's a very communal place. It's typically very safe place. So it's a virtual campfire. And with that CMO series that they did on Seeking Wisdom. This goes to another point we should talk about, which is how I view a podcast as a cornerstone piece of content. It's an episodic type of piece of content, typically. It's a show. You could have audio based shows which are podcasts or video based shows, which could also be a podcast now.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah.
Mark Kilens: I think you folks started talking more about that. But what we did with that CMO series, is we used all of that content to create now, one of our digital books, that is performing really well for Drift called CMO Secrets. So you just, you got to think about the podcast from everything you said, but also as this great resource for future inspiration of content. How can you repackage the content? Reposition it, we call it CMO Secrets now, into some new formats while also then referencing people back to the podcast. Because they might find out about the book first CMOs Secrets and then find the podcast. So we included some audio clips in the book, things like that. But I think that's the other power of podcasting. It's not only a great way to reach a new audience, to grow an audience, to expand your brand. But it's a great way to also create demand gen, customer marketing type of materials and content, that really can unify the story across your content, your customer experience, life cycle.
Lindsay Tjepkema: All right. So let's zoom out a little bit. This whole season, we're talking to our own customers because you are the ones who are doing just what you said. You're looking at a podcast as so much more than something that's over here on the side, which we see way too often like, oh, we're going to do a podcast. We're going to check a box, or we're going to let someone do a podcast, or someone in the company thinks we should do a podcast. So done. Here it is over here on the side. But what I love about everything you just said is I'm a huge advocate for that too, which is it should be, it needs to be so much more than that. Because if you have someone who is an expert in the space, whatever space that may be for you and for your audience, why in the world would you harness that expertise and just make one thing out of it? When you could yes, make a show and then book, and blog posts and, and, and, and, and. So tell me what that looks like from your perspective, because you're... I mean, it's ridiculous to think that all you're doing is podcasts. I mean, you in your role, you're doing so many things. And you're looking at an overall marketing strategy, with so many different moving parts. And within that, you have, as one of those moving parts, that moving part has many moving parts. It has many, many shows within it. So what does that look like for you specifically in your role, and for Drift? With all of these different shows and all this content to pull from, to bring out across other channels?
Mark Kilens: Well, first, we have an amazing team of folks who are just amazing content marketers, I'd say. Gail Axelrod is the director of content marketing at Drift, she and Molly Sloan, Sarah Frazier, Gari, Coleen, just this amazing team of people, who I'd call them are great at being content brokers, right? They broker someone's own story, knowledge, expertise, and they enable that person, by brokering a deal with that person, to get that knowledge, to get that story out to some type of audience, to another person. So what I mean by that is Molly Sloan leads all of the podcasting efforts at Drift, and she does an amazing job. The crazy thing though, is she doesn't host any of the shows. And that's like, people are like, why doesn't she show host the show? Well, we believe, and this really comes before I even joined Drift, in the fact that we should be using the team, the people at Drift, the amazing Drifters, as the subject matter experts in these shows. That the people that want to grow, and one want to take something they're very passionate about. And I think the key to podcasting is passion. So these guests, like we have Sean Lane, who hosts the Operations podcast. Matt Bilotti, who does the Growth Podcast, excuse me. We have these amazing people, Tricia, who does, you know, CMO Conversations. These folks care so much about the topic and want to become even more knowledgeable about the topic that they do such a good job of the pre production the production of the podcast, what we're doing right now. And then the post production and getting better and making it an integrative learning cycle. That Molly's job is to really make sure that they have what they need, to create the best quality show, the best quality episodes. To give them the data, to give them the insights, to give them some pro tips, and to then learn from them. And so wanting to make each show a little bit better. So we believe fundamentally that podcasts should be something that if you do it, your organization should be opened up to the organization. And you don't need to have four, five, six shows. You could have one show, but make sure the person who's hosting that show is super passionate, is super invested, want to use this opportunity to better themselves, but also to better the community of people who would be listening to this podcast. And again, be that broker because that show host is going to invite people to come to the podcast, to be on it, to talk about it like you did with me. And it's creates this kind of natural flywheel effect, which will grow your audience. Because that guest is going to promote it probably. I'll promote this, of course. So then, there's those benefits. So I think at the end of the day, though, the foundation has to be, I'll say it again. Passion has to be the core to why you would create a podcast, and how a podcast is going to succeed.
Lindsay Tjepkema: I couldn't agree more, because I mean, it's a lot of work regardless of how you do it, regardless of whether you're a team of one, doing it all by yourself, or you have multiple people on your team, and agency, and partners, it's work. And you have to be passionate about it and your audience will see it and we'll hear it. And will reward you with loyalty and keep coming back to it when you do.
Mark Kilens: Yeah.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah, one thing that I really love, and you touched on it, about how your team approaches things at Drift, is the internal subject matter experts that you have brought in as hosts. Because I think so often... We get asked, I'm sure you do too, how do I pick a host, how do I know who should host the show? We don't have anybody to host. Our CMO doesn't want to do it. And it's like, well, okay. It doesn't have to be the CMO. In fact, in many situations, it shouldn't be the CMO, or the CEO, or the obvious leader. It should be the one who, exactly to your point is most passionate about that topic. And you all have done a really great job about the reason you have so many shows, is because there's different audiences to reach, and different subject matter to cover. That it makes sense for your brand to go after and say, okay, we're going to go down this path, and this is the best person to lead us down this path because it's going to reach this audience. So tell me a little bit more about how that has played out, and do you see more shows coming? How has that worked for you all, and for your team for the strategy?
Mark Kilens: It's a really good question because as a good marketer always does, you start with the audience, you start with the who. So I'd say my caveat to the passion piece is what you just said, which is the audience, make sure the person who's really passionate about this thing. It's related enough to the audiences you're trying to reach. So we have two core sets of audiences, marketing folks, and sales folks. But we also care deeply about product, product managers, engineers, product builders. And that's why we have a show hosted by Maggie, which is Build and a show hosted about growth, which is really the intersection of product and marketing by Matt. Those are kind of our three main audiences. And the strategy starts with the audience. And then the strategy is about what are we going to do with this content either in the next couple of months or in the longterm? What is the purpose of this? And for most of our podcasts, it's really just brand building. It's trying to extend the Drift brand, and get Drift into as many minds and hearts as we can. And if we do that, we've accomplished a mission. We've done the job. Now, though, we're learning how to be much smarter with the help of Casted, how to use the content. Don't treat your podcast as an Island. It should not be an Island. It should be something that I would argue, is, if you want to use a different analogy, it's the hub of the city. It's a really big cornerstone piece of content that I think I looked at the stats from Casted, it's like 10 minutes, don't quote me on this. But 10 minutes is like two or 3000 words. So you have 20 minute podcast, you at 6, 000 words are said. You could probably use at least a third of those 2000 words. So right there is at least one really strong blog article. We bring a few podcasts together and make one really epic blog article. So there's just a lot of things that I think you need to think through as it relates to you your overall content marketing strategy, and how podcasts can play into it.
Lindsay Tjepkema: You have so much going on and Drift is growing so fast, and you have a strong following. You have a very strong brand and why do you still prioritize podcasting? So it would be easy to just kind of leave it and kind of let it run, but it seems, especially as you continue to kind of lean back in, and add new hosts, and you bring back Seeking Wisdom and Trisha, the CMO came in and she started her own. And so why do you continue to not only do podcasts, but fuel the fire and prioritize podcasts, and really emphasize their importance at Drift?
Mark Kilens: Goes back to the point I made at the beginning of this whole conversation, which is learning. Podcasts are such an amazing learning tool, to understand more about your audience, to understand more about the experts that are part of your audience, part of your community. It's such an amazing learning opportunity. And then to pass that along. So for us, it's like learning and community building, go hand in hand. So we were really trying to become a very large global brand. And we believe in order to do that, we need to continue to grow the voices that are part of that brand and bring on more voices. So we're not going to, I don't know if we ever will have 10 shows. That might be insane, but I don't see us having fewer shows than we have today, just because our audiences, number one, really enjoy the different hosts and who they bring on to the podcast and what they get out of it. But two, we are able to do so much with that knowledge, and re- gift it to people in different formats of content. I just keep going back to that. And we're using it as a way to maybe in some ways to extend one of our new categories, revenue acceleration. That's more part of maybe Trisha's show. Maybe we're trying to help reach a new audience, which is more of the ops type of persona, which is Sean's show. But at the end of the day, fundamentally we believe that this is about growing the community. And that means it's about storytelling. It's around getting by, around that campfire and sharing knowledge, sharing experience, sharing personal things, situations that we can all learn from. And that is deeply rooted into the values of Drift. One of our leadership principles is to be a curious learning machine, and extreme ownership. Those are two of the eight leadership principles. And I think podcasting allows us to do that. And it's just the DNA of Drift, basically.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah. And you can see it and you can feel it, and that's why you have such a strong following is because it's not a thing you, that you're doing. It's part of who the brand is. And so would you say if you had to oversimplify it, that the shows... Because it is podcasting, but it's so much more. You're doing video, too. Would you say that that really is fueling all the rest of your content? Or do you think that it's more cyclical and everything kind of fuels each other?
Mark Kilens: It's one of a few types of content that we use to create this hub and spoke model. I just call it a cornerstone content. A podcast show is a cornerstone piece of content. I mean, it's an asset at the end of the day. It's a very, very strong asset for a business. If you follow what we just talked about, with the audience and the passion. And the community building. So I think to simplify it, find someone who's very passionate about a topic that relates to an audience you are trying to reach today, or a future audience. And use it as a way to tell stories and learn and teach. And then once you have that going, make sure you think about how to reuse all of that content. We package it, reposition it, refresh it. We've refreshed episodes. We've replayed episodes that are all time classics, simple stuff like that. And then really after that, it's just like, think about now once you've done a season or maybe two seasons, think about what you are really trying to do with the business, longterm. That's where I think there is some longer- term thought that has to be involved. Are you trying to really grow the business into be a big global business? Are you trying to really double down on this community and audience, and then you're going to create like a more premium experience from your podcast. It could be expanding into more shows. But that third pillar is like, all right, now what do we do now? How can we do even more of this? And that typically requires having conversations with more people at the business about that.
Lindsay Tjepkema: But everything that you just said is so important. And it's so effortless for you to say, because you can tell it it's how you, and your team, and Drift view things, do things, will continue to do things. But it's so often left behind. Because quite often a podcast is seen as in your words, you said earlier, an island it's over here on its own. And then there's everything else. And so they are just by definition, separate, and they're not feeling each other, they're not playing off each other. So that's one, and two, the reusing, and the repurposing, and repackaging, and breathing new life into evergreen content that might've aired a long time ago, but it's still relevant today. I don't see people doing that enough either. And I hope that maybe this conversation will change that, because Drift is doing it. So, refresh older content, bring it back to life. Something else that you did and we did recently too, is pull clips together into something new and use them in different places. Or even on a show as a medley of past clips into a new episode.
Mark Kilens: I'll leave you with one very interesting idea that I really want to do at Drift, a live digital podcast. Just like what we're doing now live. So people think of that as maybe a webinar. No, no, no, no. No slides, just a live conversation. That's set up pretty well. That's a live podcast that will also get published to your podcast channel, show, Spotify, Apple, whatever, wherever you're going. And then a premium version of that experience. That is a one- two punch that I've seen almost no one do. Actually really haven't seen that at all. I've not seeing that whole thing. Where it's a live podcast, then it streams X amount of weeks later. And then it also has this premium type of experience. Expect to see that from Drift at some point, but that's now like taking this to the next level. When you think about how can we use it from a demand gen standpoint? Because that live episode, that live show, yeah. I mean, you should ask for someone's email, you can send them a reminder.
Lindsay Tjepkema: For sure.
Mark Kilens: And put a calendar on their... Or event on their calendar, to say this is coming up. So I think there's a lot of future stuff we can do. It's just having to think through it like that.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Absolutely. Yeah. And it's all about thinking about things in different ways. Another one that we've been doing. And I know that you have too, since we started working together was making, turning a podcast from a top of funnel, one way conversation, into an interactive engaging conversation, with something like Drift. So if you go onto a company... If you go to ours, if you go to a company's page and listen on their website and they're using Drift or another. You can actually, if you are that company, and you're using something like Drift, you can have situations where you're actually engaging with someone while they're listening to your show. And that's another thing that I don't think people think about often enough, is how can I make this conversation that I had that is in someone's ears. It's further incentive to go and listen to on my website, if they can tell me what they're thinking. If they can ask a question, if I can say, hey, if you'd like to this show, here's this other piece of content or this other show, or this opportunity to engage with the host or the guest, if you interact. So that's a way to use Drift with podcasting to make it a two way street.
Mark Kilens: I agree. So we recently redesigned the website, and you can see one of the five things that make up this Drift Insider Experience, which is our free membership. We offer to anyone. You don't have to be a Drift customer to get it. Podcasts are part of that membership experience. And we have Drift the Drift Bot. We call it just the Drift Bot on all of our podcast pages that are hosted by you folks. And we've also made those podcasts, those five shows we have right now, front and center within the Drift Insider navigation. There's five main nav items, blog, learn, podcasts, events, and community. And podcasts is one of the things that take up one fifth of that real estate. So that's another thing you have to do as well. You actually have to market it as part of your website. And in other ways, if you want to continue to try to grow it.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Well typically I would end with what kind of advice you have for anybody else who's thinking of doing podcasting or is in a similar role? But you just shared a lot. Is there anything kind of holistically, specifically for marketing leaders that are charged with taking a podcast and saying, okay, how do we... It's got to contribute to the bottom line. If it's going to be a big part of the strategy, if we are going to prioritize it and give it something like a fifth of the real estate on this big, new thing that we're doing on our website, how do I really make it... How do I show why it should be a priority? What kind of advice do you have for the marketing leaders in that position?
I think it goes back to my three prong attack that I mentioned 10 minutes ago. Start with an audience and someone who's really passionate about it. And figure out how to reuse it after you do a season one or two seasons. And then think about the longer term strategy. I just also think, what are you trying to do as a business? I always go back to that question. When people ask me, well, how do I build this huge content empire, like you did a Drift that you're doing at Drift, you did at HubSpot. I'm like, well, sometimes you might not want to do everything we're doing because, what is the goal of business? Are you trying to sell the business in two years? If you're trying to sell the business two years, there's a different strategy than if you're trying to grow a business to last 30, 40, 50 years. To be an enduring business and brand, there is differences, and there'll be things you do not do, and do. So I think Lindsay: The number one question I would ask is, why are you thinking about doing a podcast? And what ramifications could that have in the next couple of years? I will say this though. Even if you're growing, even if you're not planning on being a huge business, which the vast majority of businesses are not, a podcast is still a very good idea to do. Because what I see is an explosion of niche communities. And I think that's where podcasts can really lend itself. You can build a community through a podcast, through a newsletter, through some other things that really, you know, is going to be like your 1000 true fans. And if you have a thousand true fans, that can do wonders for no matter what type of business you are.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Well, thank you so much for dropping this wisdom on our podcast. I appreciate it. And yeah, I just... If for some unknown reason, people who are listening to our show, which I cannot even believe would be possible, have not checked out your podcasts yet, please do. There's a lot to choose from. And also make sure that you think about how to use something like a Drift Bot and your podcast to get that communication going. So thank you so much for being here, Mark. I appreciate you sharing all those insights and for talking podcasts on this podcast. That's our show. Thanks for listening. For more from today's guest, visit Casted. us to subscribe and to receive our show as it's published, along with other exclusive content each and every week.