Establishing the Audience and Goals for Your Podcast with HubSpot's Meghan Keaney Anderson
Lindsay Tjepkema: Ever wonder how marketing leaders at massive marketing technology companies view podcasts? How do they use these shows? Where do they fall into their own marketing strategy? And how has getting involved in these brand podcasts impacted the careers of the senior leaders at such big companies? With so many brands incorporating shows into their own strategies, how are these big names at these big brands feeling about podcasts? I'm Lindsay Tjepkema, CEO and Co- Founder of Casted, the first and only marketing platform built around brand podcasts. And this is our podcast. We all know HubSpot. They introduced us to inbound marketing. They showed so many of us how and why to blog and leverage content for search, demand generation and building our audiences. But what about podcasting? HubSpot got into podcasting about five years ago with the launch of The Growth Show, which is still running strong today, along with a few other shows it's launched over the last few years. So, how does podcasting fit into the overall strategy of a brand that got its start being all about content? Well, let's find out, straight from the host of The Growth Show, and VP of Marketing at HubSpot, Meghan Keaney Anderson.
Meghan Keaney Anderson : My name is Meghan Keaney Anderson. I am VP of Marketing at HubSpot and I'm host of The Growth Show.
Lindsay Tjepkema: That was great. I'm so excited to have you here, Meghan, and to hear about the role that podcasting plays at HubSpot and for you and your career. So let's start there. What got you started in podcasting in general? Where was your start?
Meghan Keaney Anderson : It started with the show actually. About five years ago now, we had a really interesting situation. We had sort of seen the rise of podcasts coming and we had a very popular, strong blog at HubSpot that was really good at attracting mid- level marketers, people trying to sort of build their careers and searching for how- to content, things like that. We didn't really have a good vehicle for reaching people later in their careers, people who are at decision- making roles. So think about your VPs or your CMOs of different companies. They just don't have time to go read a blog. So what we discovered was, or at least our theory was, let's start a podcast and see if we can catch them in those little windows of time when they're commuting to work or working out or trying to fall asleep at night, which is when I listen to podcasts. And that was the theory. And so we launched that podcast. At the time, the CMO of HubSpot was Mike Volpe and he was the host and it was really just a grand experiment. And then over time, I sort of stepped up into the role of host of that show. And it's been through a number of different seasons and iterations, and we've learned a lot along the way.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Sounds good. So that was your entry point, was podcasting at HubSpot. Were you involved in the show behind the scenes before stepping in as the host?
Meghan Keaney Anderson : Yeah, certainly. I was running the team that was putting it together and it was fun. It reminded me very much of the early days of social media when you weren't really sure what you were doing, you're throwing a bunch of ideas up to see if they stuck. And there weren't a lot of analytics at the time to be able to tell you if they were working or not. And so you were really relying on hunting down clues of what helped people find your podcast, what they cared about. Really, honestly, when podcasters say they read the reviews, they read the reviews. They comb through them for evidence on if they're doing the right things or if they should pivot the show. So those were the sorts of things we were doing, and it reminded me of that very early pioneering days of social media, when you just don't have a lot to go on and you're going on instinct a bit. And that was a lot of fun.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah. So how long have you been the host?
Meghan Keaney Anderson : Is it awful that I don't remember? I want to say three years now.
Lindsay Tjepkema: About half the time, a little more than half the time that it's been around. Okay.
Meghan Keaney Anderson : Yeah. Yeah, definitely should look that up.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Was that something that you raised your hand for, or that somebody put into your lap?
Meghan Keaney Anderson : I think I raised my hand for it. I had been so closely involved with the show and when there was an opening for a host, I had actually come in as a guest host on a couple of episodes. So it was sort of a natural extension. And I do remember my first few episodes. I remember I had one with ezCater, which is a local company in Boston.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yep.
Meghan Keaney Anderson : Stefania Mallett there was amazing. And I remember I had an interview with Patagonia that I cried about afterwards, it was so good. And I had an interview with ClassPass actually early in their days. And those are sort of the first season that I got into it. And it's funny, you remember your first seasons' episodes really well. And now I listen back at those and I'm like," Oh, I've come a little bit." I've come a ways when it comes to hosting skills, because I was clearly nervous in those interviews. So I think it's you kind of get into it and then you evolve over time and you learn things about what works for questions and how to create space in an interview for someone, how to adapt. And that's been a really fun, interesting personal development for me.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Absolutely. And I think what you just said about you get into it and you learn and you adapt is absolutely true. And I can relate as a host.
Meghan Keaney Anderson : Yeah.
Lindsay Tjepkema: I think the same could be said as a whole for the strategy and how you as a brand look at podcasting. And fast forward, HubSpot has several shows. And as a marketing leader there, I'm interested in your thoughts from that perspective of why have you chosen to expand into really a network of podcasts and what does that look like?
Meghan Keaney Anderson : So since The Growth Show, that was our anchor show, and that was basically I describe the problem it was trying to solve. We wanted to be a very brand- oriented show. So putting out our editorial point of view into the world, through the guests that we chose and the stories that we told, your classic kind of brand podcast. Then we expanded into Weird Work, actually, I think it was the second podcast. And Weird Work was an experiment in a mass appeal show. So really further removed from the brand, not talking about necessarily business or HubSpot in particular, talking about just the strange jobs that people find and pursue, and really a love affair of career development in a atypical way. And that was designed to be a play for just how big of an audience can we get if we broaden out away from this niche of B2B companies, can we get a larger audience? That was an experiment in that. Then we did an experiment with our show Skill Up, which was about, we had heard that Google was going to put more emphasis into transcribing podcasts for Search and surfacing them better in search engine results. And so we said," All right, well what does a search friendly podcast look like?" We knew it didn't look like The Growth Show because people aren't necessarily just searching, unless you're searching for the guest, you're not really searching for the topics that we're covering on The Growth Show. So then we went back to our roots of the blog and said," Okay, let's do how- to content. Let's do content that is designed to answer questions and help people learn to pick up new skills." And that was the idea behind Skill Up. And then we've expanded to, we've got a podcast in Germany, specifically for that audience. We've got Culture Happens, which is a podcast out of our culture team, talks about how you build a corporate culture and pursue that. And I think the most important thing is that we didn't really set out to have a network. Each podcast has a distinct problem that it's trying to solve and or a distinct theory that it's chasing down. So every new show that we add, we hope it will teach us something. We hope it'll help attract an audience that's distinct, but we also hope it'll teach us something about podcasting. One of the greatest things about working as a marketer for a company that sells marketing software is everything is meta, right?
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yes.
Meghan Keaney Anderson : Everything you do is both done for your audience and also done to help you learn something new that you can then in turn, go teach your audience. And so a lot of our evolution of the podcast network has been through experiments like that.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah. Tell me a little bit more about the role that podcasts play in your overall strategy? Because you said one of the early reasons for podcasting in general was blogs are great, but are not the be all end all, and maybe we need another way to reach this audience or audiences. How about today? Where do these shows fit into your overall picture of what you're doing, why you're doing it, who you're doing it for, your overall strategy for marketing?
Meghan Keaney Anderson : Yeah. So I was talking to Nick Quah, who's the creator of Hot Pod, which is a newsletter that many podcasters subscribe to. And he came on The Growth Show and was giving us his observations around the growth of the industry and decisions that people make. And one of the things that he said, that I think is incredibly true, is this idea of too many brands start a podcast without knowing why. They just do it to check a box because their competitor has a podcast or they think it would be fun. And they don't know what they're trying to solve with that podcast or what need they're filling. Not only for them, but also for their audience. And podcasting is hard enough to grow as it is, without knowing why you're growing it or what need you're filling or why you exist to begin with. It's almost impossible to have a successful podcast. So we've tried to be really intentional about when we start shows, what's the rationale behind starting it, who's the audience we're trying to go after down to when are they listening to this? I mean, one of the interesting things that's come out of everybody being at home now during the COVID crisis is there are fewer morning commutes, right? And that is a big window where a lot of people listen to podcasts. And so what does that do to your listenership? And so we're trying to be very intentional around the types of shows we put out, the audiences we're reaching and again, where in that audience's life that podcast fits. And then knowing what would determine a success or not. So for a show like Weird Work, the only reason we would do that is if it enabled us to achieve massive scale in terms of listenership, because it's so far removed from HubSpot's brand, that it has to have reach, right? But a show like The Growth Show, we may not need to have huge listenership around the world because it is solving a specific need for a specific type. But what we do need is we need the right type of listeners to listen to the whole thing, to have really good completion rates. But what you're trying to solve determines how you measure the success of that podcast, determines whether you do a new season with the cadence of that seasons are. And so again, I think everything that we do has a role to play in our business. And if you don't have that, it's not a great starting place for the potential of that podcast.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah. And so for that, with the different shows that you've got going how do the audiences differ, or are they the same? Are you looking to, broadly speaking, reach the same audience from different perspectives or are there unique audience, at least intended audiences, for each show?
Meghan Keaney Anderson : Yeah. So there's unique audiences for each show and we try not to overlap because again, discoverability is such a challenge that you want to put all of your irons in, I always mix metaphors. I was about to say behind one horse, and there's no reason that there should be irons on horses. You want to put all of your carts behind one horse. How about that? So that you're really driving the success of that for that audience. You don't want to have two shows that are going after CMOs at the same time, unless it's drastically different regions or there's some other rationale behind it. So yeah, we have a collection of different shows and we try to not have overlap in the audience. There may be some but not intentionally. And then I think that we'll make decisions about how to layer those shows off of each other. So it may be that we're going after an executive audience with The Growth Show, but we think that by hearing about Skill Up, through The Growth Show, they may send it to one of their mid level marketers or they may help promote it in that way. So we think about how the shows relate to each other, but we try not to overlap too much.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah. That makes sense, perfect sense. You're a host, but also marketing leader, what do you look for even tangible or intangible from your shows? What sort of results? Even soft indicators of success, what do you hope to get out of your shows?
Meghan Keaney Anderson : We've gotten a ton out of our shows. I think there's always the thing that you're initially going after, and then there are all these epiphenomenal, nice consequences that happen. So your North Star is typically listenership and the audience you're going after, and you want to see that growing year over year. You want to see the audience come back when you break for a season. You want to see the engagement rates stay high all the way through. That is the beautiful thing about podcasts is when people sit down to listen to a podcast, they listen all the way through it. You're getting their attention, their full attention, in many cases, for 20, 30, 40 minutes. And that's so rare there. So certainly those listenership and growth numbers are what we're looking for. We're looking for distribution and access to a broader audience. But there are all sorts of secondary benefits to doing podcasts. And for me, one of the biggest ones has been for The Growth Show in particular, it's created access points to some of the most incredible business leaders and stories that I've ever come across. We just wrapped a season where we did stories of companies that pivoted after the crisis hit. And those stories, I have resurfaced and reused in scores of different ways, on blog posts, in speeches, in just lessons out of that for our own company and team. And so it just creates this conduit for exposure to really exceptional ideas. And then one of the big mistakes I think people make, and then I always kind of encourage my team to remember, is it does not have to only exist in the podcast world. We can then repackage that across social, across blog content, et cetera. And that is real magic because it creates a real fodder for a multimedia marketing team.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah. Obviously, I agree with that sentiment, is that why in the world would you go capture amazing content with these experts? Whatever that expert may be, somebody who has pivoted in time of crisis, or for a different show in a different time and a different purpose, someone in your team talking about very tactically about what they do. Why would you waste that content? Why would you waste the opportunity of that content to just publish it and walk on to the next when there's so much more that you could pull from it?
Meghan Keaney Anderson : Yeah.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Let's talk future. So the show has been around for eons in podcast years, right? I mean, five years is a long time for a brand show, since it's so new to so many people. What's next for The Growth Show and for podcasting in general at HubSpot?
Meghan Keaney Anderson : Yeah. I mean, we ask ourselves what's next at the end of every season. So whether it's five years is actually not, like it feels meaningful as a mile marker, but after the first season, we were asking," What's next?" After the second season, we were asking," What's next?" And I think the idea is this is a very fluid, evolving space and needing to shift your stories to try to match that and reflect that is really important. But to more directly answer your question, I think that for The Growth Show, it's a nice vehicle to really just follow the narrative of what's happening in the world. And we will probably continue to chase down, as the chapters progress in this tremendous change we're going through right now, we want The Growth Show to be our vehicle to follow that. So I think you'll see more episodes talking about the pioneers of business that come out of this stronger. I think you'll see episodes with leaders who can help answer. We just had a woman on who talked through anti- racist training inside companies and what you need to think about there. So we'll continue to probably use The Growth Show as our vehicle to tackle some of those key strategy questions that a lot of the leaders in our space are working through right now. We are thinking a lot more about how we should think about podcasts in different regions, as an overall strategy. So it's actually really fascinating because one of the side effects, the positive side effects of Skill Up, is when you do a how- to podcast like that, not only is it good for search, but it's great for localization into different regions because typically the educational needs across regions don't change that much. If I'm doing a podcast, if I'm doing The Growth Show, and I'm interviewing companies that are, first of all, the interviewer is English speaking and very North American based, that doesn't translate as well necessarily to Brazil or Latin America. But if you're doing podcast on how to do SEO for the first time, you can then take that script and hire or outsource to have somebody in China, someone in Brazil, someone-
Lindsay Tjepkema: In market.
Meghan Keaney Anderson : Yeah, in market, to then make that their own and very quickly turn out different regional content. So we're exploring that a little bit more of like, how do we? And the interesting thing about different markets is for as crowded as some regions are in their podcasting space, there are other regions that are just coming to podcasting, and there's more blue ocean there. And so we're thinking about how to lean into those regions where podcasting is really sort of rising in terms of listenership and yet isn't as crowded as it is in say the States or the UK.
Lindsay Tjepkema: It's really interesting to think about that because I know, on one hand, five years is such a long time. On the other hand, it's a blink of an eye. But it's incredible to listen to the evolution of an experiment into now, you're talking about regionalizing this show or this show or this concept, this medium, is podcasting at HubSpot to be something that literally speaks natively to different markets around the world.
Meghan Keaney Anderson : Yeah.
Lindsay Tjepkema: And so that's quite an experiment, right? It's quite an outcome. That said, what advice would you give to marketers and brands that are thinking," Okay, maybe we need to do this," or they're in it and they're looking to make it better? What podcast, as part of a brand strategy advice, would you give?
Meghan Keaney Anderson : So I think I have to give credit to Nick and say, I think you need to know why you're starting a podcast to begin with. And if you don't have a good reason, then there's no shame in not doing a podcast. You can invest those calories and those dollars elsewhere in a really meaningful and unique way. But then if you do have that reason, and if you do have that unique space you're going to fill in the market, then absolutely go after it. And try to be really clear about what you're trying to achieve so that you aren't using the wrong ruler or metric stick to try to determine its success. I think that there's great opportunity. One of the choices that you should make is, do I want to own a podcast and produce a podcast or do I want to just be a guest on other's podcasts and get the word out that way? At what point do you make that pivot to deciding to own your own property and put the work into promoting that? I would also pay attention right now to some of the changes that are going on in the broader podcast space. There's this sort of rally between Spotify and Apple when it comes to distribution of podcasts. I would look really closely into, much like how you study the algorithm of Google, to figure out what's going to work for SEO. I think it's important to study discoverability on Spotify and discoverability in iTunes, and try to unpack what works to get on charts there or to get recommended there. I think that's an important piece here because the podcasts that I've seen really struggle are just the ones that can't crack that discoverability.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Quick question, quick follow up to that. Especially from an inbound standpoint, what's your view on owning your audience and sending people to listen, at least for the first time, on your own site and leveraging your own properties to say," Hey, we have a podcast too," at least start listening here?
Meghan Keaney Anderson : Yeah. I mean, I think the nice thing about having a space on your site for your podcast is what I was referring to before about don't overvalue the format over the story itself. If you post your podcast on your website, you can have all sorts of supplementary material, you can have the blog posts that are associated with it. You can have behind the scenes content, and you can get subscribers that way by creating added value and making that more of an experience for your bigger fans, right?
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah.
Meghan Keaney Anderson : I think you have to both be aware of what the dominant behavior is, but then also lean into ways that you can create a unique experience for your listeners too and having a place on your site where you can build around that story, I think is a really meaningful thing.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Sounds great. Okay, so before I let you go, in summary, how has podcasting impacted you and your role over the last, as I'm sure it has evolved and changed, over the last five years? What kind of part has it played in your professional development?
Meghan Keaney Anderson : I'm so grateful to be part of The Growth Show. I think that it's made a major difference in my own development, in my exposure to different people and different stories. I know for a fact that I've become a better thinker and writer because of those conversations. And so it would be like, if they came to me tomorrow and said," Hey, we're hanging up shop on The Growth Show," I would be okay. But I would be sad because it really has enriched my own understanding of the business world. I'm a fan of the show. I would listen to the show if I weren't hosting it. And I think that's really what you're trying to achieve is if you make a show that you feel adds value to your own life, that's a pretty good indication that it's going to add value to somebody else's.
Lindsay Tjepkema: It's a great place to leave it and I couldn't agree more. So thank you so much for sharing personally and professionally as part of your team and your brand, what podcasting has done for you and thanks so much for being here.
Meghan Keaney Anderson : Yeah, no worries, Lindsay. I really appreciated the time to come chat and it's just like a really cool, ever evolving space. There are so few places in marketing that are untapped, where there's just green space still to try to learn, and this is one of them. So it's been a pleasure.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Very much so. All right. Well, thank you so much. And of course, everybody listening should listen to The Growth Show and check out the other podcasts that HubSpot is doing. 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.
Today’s conversation is with Meghan Keaney Anderson, Vice President of Marketing at HubSpot, and host of The Growth Show podcast. Meghan’s journey with podcasting started with The Growth Show five years ago. At the time, HubSpot had popular blogs that attracted mid-level marketers. However, her team needed a vehicle to reach people later in their careers — in decision-making roles — that didn’t have time to read blogs. They believed a podcast could capture the attention of those executives during their own little windows of time, and they were right. For Meghan, each podcast has a distinct problem it is trying to solve or a distinct theory it is chasing down. She believes that podcasting can fill a unique space in the market and attract new audiences if done successfully. Hear about how to establish that audience, understand the purpose of your podcast, and measure its success in today's conversation.