Interpreting Brand Podcasting Data with Keyplay's Adam Schoenfeld
Lindsay Tjepkema: Welcome to the Casted podcast. It's the destination for the most innovative and forward- thinking marketers in B2B like you. Each week I host conversations with brilliant marketing leaders on the tactics and tricks that they're harnessing to reach their revenue goals, rev their thought leadership engines, amplify their marketing voice in the marketplace and ultimately drive real business results. I'm Lindsay Tjepkema, CEO and co- founder of Casted, and this is the Casted podcast.
Adam Schoenfeld: My name's Adam Schoenfeld, co- founder and CEO at Keyplay, and also I'm the lead analyst at peersignal.org. So I have two things going at once.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Because you just don't have enough going on with one. You've got to do both.
Adam Schoenfeld: You have to do two. Two's better than one.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Well, we're going to talk today about the relationship between, first of all, what is PeerSignal? What is Keyplay? How do they go together? What does that mean? And specifically, great place to start is what brought us together to begin with is that you've shared some posts on LinkedIn where I spend a lot of time about brand podcasting and what's what it means for B2B. And I was excited to see the data because there's not a lot of data that shows specifically created and managed by brands. So it's kind of podcasting in general. So let's start there. Let's talk about what you shared and where it came from and then let's get into it.
Adam Schoenfeld: Sure. Yeah, see, I'm glad I started sharing that because then we got to connect and here we are. So PeerSignal what we do, I can talk about Keyplay in a bit, but at PeerSignal we basically do research on modern go-to-market and we study SaaS companies, AI, FinTech, so we're trying to try what's happening in emerging markets and dissect and analyze their go- to market strategies and then produce research on that. So you can think of us kind of like an analyst firm, but at a very small scale with a very deep focus on modern B2B go-to-market. And so we keep an index of about 2000 SaaS companies. And one of the things we looked at recently, the post that you're mentioning was how many of them have a podcast? And we do this by crawling their websites and looking for a link to a podcast on their resources page, on their homepage. And we found, I believe it was 26% of them have a podcast. Now, keep in mind that our index skews to sort of venture backed high growth companies. So that I would suspect if you took the general population of B2B companies, it's much, much lower. But within this kind of forward- thinking group, let's say, it's pretty high adoption at about a quarter. There was a bunch of interesting stuff beyond that we could dig into. But that was the headline stat and we looked at a bunch of examples and kind of got into that more.
Lindsay Tjepkema: And I actually, I don't know if you've seen it, but we have, I just saw some data, I actually am been using it that 40% of the Cloud 100 has a podcast.
Adam Schoenfeld: So it makes sense.
Lindsay Tjepkema: There you go. And I've definitely seen it grow. I mean, we started Casted four years ago and the conversations that we were having then in the market and with prospects was should you start a podcast? Would you start a podcast? Do you think you all ever have a podcast? And now so much more often it's, okay, you have a show, you have a podcast, you have a video and podcast, what are you going to do with it? And so it's been interesting to watch it grow.
Adam Schoenfeld: I think the market now has validated that it's a smart strategy and now it's like how do you stand out? How do you make it unique? How do you get the most leverage from it? I remember thinking back to around, oh gosh, this was probably 2018 ish, my previous startup was acquired by Drift. And for folks who have followed David Cancell or Dave Gerhardt, the Seeking Wisdom podcast was a huge early strategic move for Drift and not that many B2B companies had podcasts. And I think that coupled with the hyper growth events and the stuff they were doing around community was at that time a game changer. And the Seeking Wisdom podcast was a huge pillar of what made that brand stand out in a very crowded market.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Oh, for sure. That's actually part of my story and Casted's story is that it was such a big driver for me as a marketing leader, and I got so much out of it. And then there was Coffee With A CMO, which was a subset of that whole series. And actually what Drift did with their, and they've become a customer of Casted, but what they did with all of their shows and just continuing to spin them out as different personas emerged was a real inspiration to me and to the customers that we work with about how to leverage the content, not just as, hey, we're just going to do a podcast and we're just going to use it as a channel, but as a way to really speak directly and intimately and authentically with a niche, a segment of your audience, and to get really direct and really relevant and then say, okay, how else can we use all of this? And so it's really cool. It's really cool to see what that's become and how that's fueled you and fueled Casted.
Adam Schoenfeld: It was a really cool one to watch from the inside and seeing how we took people like, Maggie, from the product team, and she got a sort of channel and Sean from sales ops. And it was interesting how internally people were brought up to that medium and it helped them become thought leaders externally. And I think that was a nice flywheel for them getting more insight from the market and feeding back to the quality of their work internally. So David's just such a great brand builder, product marketer, learned a lot from him and my time there at Drift.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Working alongside him and with that team, I can't imagine what some of those conversations were given what those of us on the outside have been able to receive as a result through the shows and through the content. So that's really cool. That's really, really cool. So looking again at the data. So more and more companies are doing podcasts. That's great. What else did you find? And then I want to hear how you have collected some of this data because that's been a challenge for companies like us and companies that we work with trying to understand more about what's happening in podcasting for brands and what it means for the future. So what else did you find?
Adam Schoenfeld: So another thing we found was that people are starting early. So I think think we cut it at 30 employees or fewer, and 15% of those had a podcast because I think a lot of the rub on this and other brand building or let's say things that are traditionally harder to attribute to your demand gen funnel is like, oh, that's like a later stage problem, or we won't do that early. But I think it was cool to see companies investing early.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah, we see that too.
Adam Schoenfeld: And I certainly believe her in that. So, that was another thing we highlighted.
Lindsay Tjepkema: And we absolutely see that too. We actually launched a program called Casted for Startups inspired by companies like Drift and others that have programs to help reach younger companies that are growing that don't have the same resources that larger companies do, but still need the same products and things. So, we're absolutely seeing that as well as I think that companies that can be more nimble and more innovative in their strategies are adopting things like podcasts because they see all that's possible as a marketer or as any person on the team going and being able to speak directly with the people that have the expertise, that have the data like we're doing right now and tap into that as opposed to having to go straight on their behalf or become that thought leader and become that expert. Instead, you can really be the conduit and it's be more journalistic and more of a facilitator with providing that value to your audience. And I think that young companies are able to move on that faster quite often.
Adam Schoenfeld: Yeah, for sure. I mean, so the company I'm operating is just six employees today, including myself, and we're actively thinking about this, right? But we're a little unique because we have this media company combined with a SaaS company, but we've always felt that media and content is part of the modern go to market. And the earlier you can start that, building that brand and that audience through content and media, the better. So yeah, we're very actively thinking about now that we have a newsletter that's well subscribed to, it's like, okay, what else? What are the other channels, medium strategies that we can bring to this that kind of doubled down on that idea.
Lindsay Tjepkema: So you said media company, which is something that every once in a while that phrase, every company needs to think a media company, and people have been saying that for a very long time, I think actually now it's even more so, it's like every human, every human being needs to think a media company and marketers in particular need to be of that mindset. So tell me a little bit about that and how that's fueling your growth. I mean, like you just said, it's six employees and it's a big part of what you're already doing. How have you seen that be a part of your story and when moving forward and how do you think it's different than how things have been in the past?
Lindsay Tjepkema: Well, I like to think that I had this amazing master plan and that I'm just rolling through that master plan, but I'd say that it's been a lot more organic. I knew I wanted to start another SaaS company. I've been a multi- time founder. It's what I like to do, and I knew the audience I wanted to serve, which was sales and marketing and B2B companies, but I had no idea what product, what problem I wanted to solve. I had a whole lot of ideas. And I was like, well, I don't really want to just sit on my hands and spend all my time doing customer interviews to validate this, what I'm going to do. So I started creating content and started PeerSignal, and really initially we focused just on studying product led growth. And so it was just like, let me just put myself out there, start creating stuff for the community with a capital C that I want to serve and see what happens. And I think I had this inkling that, okay, there's option value here if we build an audience, if we build a community, ultimately when we arrive at the SaaS product, we'll be able to leverage that for product feedback and insights for lead generation for a million things. But it wasn't like, didn't exactly know, okay, we're going to build this kind of media company and then we're going to roll out the SaaS company and we know what that is, and then here's how that flywheel's going to just work over time. It was a little bit more organic, which is why I think the connection of the two brands and how they work together and what they each are is still very much a work in progress. And an outside observer can kind of see where it's not strategically perfect yet because it is totally a work in progress. So that was the background to give that as a starting point.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Great segue. So tell us more about it. Tell us about PeerSignal and about Keyplay and tell us everything, give us the spiel.
Lindsay Tjepkema: So, it started with PeerSignal and the first thing, like I said, was studying product-led growth. So what we did is we created an Airtable of a bunch of PLG companies, and then we started writing a weekly newsletter, I'm saying we, but it was mostly it was me and then my co-founder on the side at night writing scripts and scraping websites to put the data together. So we have an asset you could log into and join to view the Airtable, and then you're receiving the newsletter. And that still today is largely the motion. We've just expanded it to cover well beyond PLG, all of SaaS, FinTech, AI, and we're expanding to more markets. And you can think of it kind of like a mini Gartner or Forester, right? We're trying to map out these markets and provide insights for go to market leaders to help them craft their own strategy, make better decisions, stay informed, find role models. And so largely the value delivery is through the weekly newsletter. And then when you log in, you can get access to all these data sets where you can sort and filter and explore and find stuff, whether it's galleries of different websites, you're trying to build out your next homepage and you want inspiration or it's more hard data on companies or it's segmenting, hey, who has a podcast? Let me go check them out and see what they're doing so I can learn from it. So, that's the basic thing. And we do think of it a media company. The metrics that we look at are subscribers, audience engagement, and there's no direct revenue model associated with it. And I have a dedicated person, Camille Trent, who's this incredible content and community marketer running it. And then I'm in there helping out as analyst, thought leader and kind of producing content with her. But she's today really the driving force behind the whole strategy and execution now after I did it for about a year. And then Keyplay is our SaaS product, which is in the sales intelligence space. And we basically help companies pick and prioritize their accounts. And this whole account selection problem has been a big pain for a lot of people for a long time, and we'd really like to put that one to bed for you. And that arrived because people were seeing the data in PeerSignal and they're like, hey, can you help me do this, but for my ICP? Can you help me get that kind of information and the way you organize it, but for my target accounts? So it was organic, the media company basically led us to what the SaaS product was going to be, and it also brought us our earliest customers because they were members of PeerSignal and they were kind of knocking on her door saying, hey, can you solve this problem for us?
Lindsay Tjepkema: That's the best place to be. I'm curious too, as a multi-time founder, how have your past experiences informed this one? And that's a really, really big question. So specifically the thinking like a media company, actually creating a media company and letting that fuel so much of what you're doing and letting a lot of that and building the community and the value of content and brand and the role that plays now in this new SaaS company as well. Tell me if that's kind of always been in you or that's learnings over time, give me some perspective on that.
Adam Schoenfeld: I think it's kind of always been a principle that I've had in founding companies. I mean, after my very first startup, which is a complete failure shutdown, burned the investor money, a very, very painful way to get an MBA, I guess, but then I went and did another startup called Simply Measured. And there we took a similar mindset. We did a lot of, coincidentally, it was a lot of data driven content, which is what I'm back to now 10, 13 years later, we did a lot. We were a social media analytics company. We did a lot of tracking of events and we would create a lot of infographics. The distribution was largely through places like Mashable and TechCrunch. It wasn't so much our owned and operated properties initially, but we did that later on. So I was always thinking that way, always believed in the power of content. And also, I've largely played in pretty crowded categories, and this was true with Drift too, not being the founder, but getting to observe how the founders thought about it. I think when you're playing in a crowded market that credibility and brand and community, those things matter even more because you need some way to stand out and product differentiation can be somewhat thin or fleeting. And so I really believe in it, especially in the categories that I've tried to build businesses in that it matters even more. So I think it's both the markets I play in as well as my own principles that I think that stuff matters a lot. And a lot of other companies will put it second because they're thinking about direct attribution and funnels.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah, no, for sure. And I'm curious too, we're in a really weird time right now. How have you seen that change? What has that looked like? What has starting a company, growing a company, building a brand, understanding the value of content, understanding the value of brand, you said that's kind of always been in you, and I agree, but how has that changed? I mean, I know my perspective, but I'm really curious about yours. Starting and growing a company 10 years ago, even five years ago is very, very different than three years ago, which is very, very... in raising money and growing company and building a business is even different today than it was this time last year. So, just tell me a little bit about what that's looked like for you and how things are different now from a building a brand and building a company than they have been in the past for you.
Adam Schoenfeld: I think the two themes that I see is that the cost of entry, let's call it, is just way lower in so many dimensions. The cost to produce content, the cost to deploy your application to the cloud, the number of people and the amount of capital that you need to get stuff into the world is so much lower I mean, just with cloud, with no code. And now with AI, I think you can do more with fewer people and less capital upfront than ever before. And that trend seems to only be continuing. On the flip side, because of that, it's I think, harder than ever to get attention and stand out. I think every market category, wherever there's an opportunity gets crowded extremely quickly and the race gets on so fast. So I think to actually capture and hold attention is harder than ever and to be different and to really have a unique angle. So I think those two related trends are the biggest difference I've seen when I think back to 2008,'09 when I was starting my first company.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah, no, for sure. And so I guess taking that a step further is specifically the role of content. And we're talking in this podcast about podcasting, so specifically audio, video content. And to me, you mentioned AI that provides so much opportunity for marketers and for business leaders to be more efficient, to be more effective, but it also will make an already crowded marketplace even that much more crowded because things are going to get noisier and there's going to be even more content than there already was, and there's already a ton. So how is that changing what you are doing and what you're seeing because obviously you're in the business of data, so what are you seeing, what are you doing? What are you seeing other companies do from this standpoint of think like a media company act like a media company knowing that AI is a part of it, good, bad, and otherwise, and it's going to get even noisier?
Adam Schoenfeld: Yeah, a hundred percent. I mean, it's a crazy time with AI. It's hard to call the shots right now because it feels like every couple weeks there's some step function change. It's like, oh my gosh, what are people doing next? And these auto GPTs are just kind of mind- blowing. I think most of them don't really work yet, but the idea that they could is somewhat mind- blowing, that you could just have AI talking to AI and executing a series of tasks is somewhat just crazy when you even think a year or two ago, how farfetched that might seem. So, I mean, I think it's going to have a massive impact on marketing, especially content creation with generative AI and what you can do with a few prompts and clicks. It's hard to know exactly how it materializes, but I think you're right that no doubt there will be more volume of stuff in the world just as there has been. But will that just accelerate? Probably. And so I think it's going to make it even harder to stand out, and you're going to really have to focus in on who do you want to serve and what's your unique thing that you bring to them. It's back to the recent trout basics, but I don't know, it'll be interesting to watch how much crowding it creates and what the impact is on quality.
Lindsay Tjepkema: From your vantage point, doing what you do at PeerSignal and with Keyplay and data, as marketers and business leaders try to figure this out and figure out what's next from where we are with the economy and where we are with AI, what advice do you have on how they can use data to help bring some certainty and some clarity to what might be next and to help them be successful? What do you want people to know based on your vantage point with all the data that you see all the time?
And one of the things we're really trying to track is how does AI infiltrate existing categories, SaaS to start, but then other technology and then other traditional industries, how's it going to show up in financial services, manufacturing? So we're trying to track that and understand that with PeerSignal. Right now it's at a basic level of what are the AI companies, AI native and platforms, but also who's starting to integrate AI. I mean, I think the early read on that is that just about every software company is certainly going to either be turbocharged or accelerated by AI or massively disrupted by it. I think probably you and I have built our careers around believing that software is eating the world, and now I think it looks like AI is probably going to eat software to some extent. So I think my early read is if you're not doing something with it, if you're a software company, I would be pretty nervous. So we're trying to help surface that and showcase studies and examples of what people are doing, what are the use cases, what are the scenarios. For my own business, we're definitely integrating with this new generation of large language models and trying to figure out how to make our data better, deliver more value to our customers. So I think everybody's like, if you're not going through that exercise to some extent, I feel like it's a big risk.
Lindsay Tjepkema: No, for sure. And tell me too, again, thinking like a media company, I know you don't have a podcast yet.
Adam Schoenfeld: We'll work on that, we'll work on this.
Lindsay Tjepkema: But obviously thinking like a media company, you're putting out really great content that's really helpful to people like me that is uniquely human right now at this May 3rd, 2023, creating the content that you are and the way that you are doing it, having this conversation literally right now is uniquely human. There are opportunities and threats at the doorstep, right in front of us that are saying, but does it have to be uniquely human? Could it be made better or different or faster with AI? What's your opinion, just you as a content creator, as a content provider, as a content deliverer who's adding value to a lot of other people with the content that you're providing, what's your opinion on how AI should be used knowing that you're not a technologist saying how it will be used technologically speaking, but big picture strategically, how do you hope it serves content creators and community builders?
I don't know if I have the best answer to this, Lindsay. I mean, I think really the audience decide. The audience is the test of everything. So that's how I want to think about it, is I don't want to have too strong of an opinion of, oh, I won't automate this, or I won't AI enhance this, or this will always have human touch or this. I think ultimately the only litmus test is which way the audience is going. What are they engaging with, what do they care about? Are they saying that it's valuable and useful? And so I'm just going to anchor on that and I think we'll try things. Right now, PeerSignal is mostly human created. That being said, Keyplay, our platform surfaces all this data for us. So without that, we couldn't do this research manually, without web crawling and AI of our own to make sense of thousands of companies, we wouldn't be able to produce the insights that we do today. We'd spend months just doing one newsletter. So we are getting leverage in that regard. But is there a point where we can write a series of prompts that would just actually execute the entire newsletter for us and interpret the data set? I think that's not very farfetched. Is it going to have the same level of insight or the flare or style that we have? I don't know, but maybe it could be trained to. So I don't know. I'm not drawing boundaries yet. Right now we're not really pushing it very far. I think we're talking to Chat GPT in the creative process. We're testing frameworks, we're asking for more examples, pointers, sources, but we're not just kind of outsourcing creation to AI. But I don't know, it's going to be really interesting to see how far we can go with it.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Absolutely. And it's such an interesting time with marketers being pressured to do more with less, which is what marketers are always pressured to do, but especially now. And then you have AI coming in and it poses a perceived threat, but also an opportunity to do more with less. And so I hope and I mean the stance that I have is the most human brands win. The most human companies win. And that always has been, and always will be the ones that prioritize human connection. Now, using the technology and using the data as well to be more creative and to prioritize those connections and to serve the human beings involved, I'm excited about that. But I do think that, and we're already seeing it. We're already seeing more noise and more disruption and more distraction just with the availability to create more, just for the sake of more.
Adam Schoenfeld: Yeah, for sure. You can crank the volume really hard right now, but right now you're trading quality, right?
Lindsay Tjepkema: Exactly. Exactly. So for what?
Adam Schoenfeld: I've also found, I wrote a post about this a few weeks ago, which is I don't have Chat GPT write my LinkedIn posts for instance. And the reason for that is actually, I think the process is where a lot of the value comes in is working out an idea, testing an idea, trying to work out on paper I think is a lot of what the value of writing is. And so there are trade-offs to just automating some of these tasks. That said, yeah, a day doesn't go by where I don't pull up Chat GPT and have some interesting exchange.
Lindsay Tjepkema: There you go. Any other takeaways that you have seen from the data that you've been collecting or data that you're excited to be able to pull together? I'm excited that you're doing, like I said at the beginning, you're doing research on SaaS and brand podcasts, which is so needed. But what are you finding, and based on what you've already seen, where do you predict we go from here?
Adam Schoenfeld: I mean, the last thing I noticed, I don't know if this stood out to you or not, was that it was about two X more webinars and events versus podcasts, which to me is kind of insane because it's like you're already recording stuff. Why is that not a podcast too? It's like my friend Mark Killins who I know is one of your advisors, he has this whole triple play idea. And that seems definitely a missed opportunity. So I was surprised by how many companies are investing in video webinars, live events, virtual events, but that aren't actually podcasting, because at least for myself, I love consuming the audio feeds on stuff. And so that definitely seems like a miss. So it seems like a lot of companies have this muscle of producing the style of content, but aren't necessarily leveraging all the kind of mechanisms for distribution or packaging.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Say it louder for those in the back, because that's-
Adam Schoenfeld: That's like the Casted pitch right there, right?
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yes. Thank you for that. Well, and you mentioned Mark over at Airmeet, we love working with them and that opportunity to say, hey, if you're recording content anyway, if you're doing a webinar, a webinar is a live podcast is a virtual event, they're the same thing. It's just based on how we package it and what context and how we market it. But this conversation, if we had people listening live or if we had an audience, it would be a webinar, it would be a virtual event. And so he and I have talked a lot. We actually did a live event where it's like, hey, go have these conversations. Invite people to watch them live, but don't just stop there. Same thing. I keynoted an event last week and it was live in person. It was like, what are you going to do with this content? I see that you're recording it. Are you just going to put it on your website or are you going to put it on a feed? Are you going to do all these other things? And I'm glad that you said that because I think the same thing. I think that we're going to see more stuff happening like webinars and virtual events with audiences, call it whatever you want, see that content captured, turned into video and podcast content and then used in lots of other ways, which I'm here for that, which should be interesting.
Adam Schoenfeld: I mean, I think that's general across different mediums too, because we all have these weird preferences. If you think back to linear TV when you had seven channels or whatever, there was one way to consume stuff, and now it's the opposite of that. I mean, I like consuming audio because I like to go for a walk, so I like headphones in audio only podcast feed. I have my little Pocket Cast app. It works for me. But I talk to some friends, I'm like, how much audio do you listen to? And they're like, I hardly ever do. But then they're like, oh, but I go on YouTube all the time. And the same thing with email newsletters versus LinkedIn versus Twitter. It's like, we all have these preferences. So I feel like as a marketer, if you're not thinking about packaging and distribution to cater to different consumer preferences, you're totally missing it.
Lindsay Tjepkema: And I think that what's been happening, one of my observations is that marketers have been thinking about that for a while. Oh, I've got this audience and some are going to want to read stuff, and some are going to want to look at images and some are going to want to... all of these different things. But until really recently it's been like, okay, so therefore I need to create stuff for audio. I need to create stuff for video. Thinking really channel specific, creating net new for each one, which is part of the reason that marketers feel under so much pressure and so stretched so thin, is that they're trying to fill all of these different buckets with complete unique mixtures. And I mean, again, I'm here for that and I'm starting to see that come around, which is exciting because it's more fun that way and it's a lot more efficient and it's better for the customer or for the audience because they're getting the same message, they're getting that repetition and the ability to experience it in a lot of different ways. Well, cool. Well, I'm excited for the podcast that obviously someday you're going to do.
Adam Schoenfeld: Well, we've got to get there. We've got to get there.
You've got to get there. But you're going to have so much information to share, which is really, really neat. So where can people find more from you and more from Keyplay and PeerSignal?
It's a lot of things, these two brands. I'm on LinkedIn, it's Adam Schoenfeld and I'm, I'm active there. PeerSignal is puresignal.org. Keyplay is keyplay.io. So subscribe to PeerSignal if you want to check out some of the stuff we're doing. You'll get the newsletter that Camille and I write most Thursdays. And yeah, look forward to connecting with people.
Lindsay Tjepkema: I love it. Well, thank you for connecting with us and for sharing the data and your insights and for just being here. We appreciate it.
Adam Schoenfeld: Thanks for having me.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Hey, that's our show. Thanks for joining in. I'm Lindsay Tjepkema, and you can find me on Twitter at Casted Lindsay and on LinkedIn. You know the drill, if you like this show, you'll like our other episodes too. So consider subscribing, sharing with others, and maybe even leaving a review on your podcast platform of choice. And if you're 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 to all of our shows. You can also go to casted. us for the latest content from our team of experts to yours. Until next time.
Ready to revolutionize your brand's content strategy? It's time to unveil the untapped power of podcasts and how they can catapult your business to new heights of influence and thought leadership.
In this episode, Adam Shoenfeld and our host Lindsay Tjepkema dive into the world of podcasting and the evolving landscape of content creation for brands. They discuss how young companies can leverage podcasts to tap into expertise, engage with their audience, and establish themselves as thought leaders. Join us as Lindsay and Adam share their insight on the changing dynamics of building a media company in today's digital age and a look at the future of podcasting and its impact on brand building and content strategies.
Connect with Adam Shoenfeld: https://www.linkedin.com/in/adamschoenfeld/