Ben Winn is the head of brand & community at Catalyst, the leading Customer Success platform in the industry. He also hosts the company’s successful podcast, Humans of SaaS.
It is why many businesses leverage the mix of audio and video to highlight the experience of knowledge-sharing. In fact, podcasting can be a very effective way to promote the business, but only if one knows how.
Hence, we got in touch with Ben Winn, head of brand & community at Catalyst, as the company relies on podcasts to drive engagement and new clients successfully. Aside from sharing some tips on how companies can use podcasts as a promotional channel, he also lets us in on the company's marketing channels to ensure Customer Success.
Spotlight: You have a virtual event scheduled for October 22nd, involving a demo of your product and a Q&A session. Why is this event important for Catalyst and how does it add value to the Customer Success community?
Ben Winn: We host community demos of our platform every month. I actually stole the idea from Circle.so. These events work really well because they are an opportunity for folks who are fans of the Catalyst brand to check out our product in a pressure-free environment.
We also get lots of folks attending who might be in the very early stages of looking for a new CS platform but aren't ready to talk 1:1 with an Account Executive yet. These events have led to hundreds of thousands in sales, so I definitely would recommend other companies adopt the practice.
Also, congratulations on Humans of SaaS (Software as a Service), a weekly podcast you host at Catalyst. To anyone unfamiliar with the podcast, can you please share some insights on its origins and purpose?
Sure! The podcast has 2 purposes. The first is to elevate the Catalyst brand, build brand awareness and establish Catalyst as a top thought leader in the industry. The second is to give us a platform to highlight customers and prospects who we think our community would learn from. For that reason, we keep the podcast as tactical and "real" as possible.
According to your webpage, Humans of SaaS has become one of the “largest and highest-rated Customer Success podcasts.” What was your strategy and KPIs for the podcast and other marketing initiatives? And what are your current numbers (listens, shares, etc.) when it comes to the success of the podcast?
The podcast has over 40,000 downloads and over 100 5-star reviews. But honestly, podcast metrics are hard. You can analyze listens, downloads, location data, etc., but at the end of the day, these are mostly vanity metrics.
Podcasting is a dark-funnel activity, meaning it's extremely difficult to track someone who heard about your podcast, listened to an episode and then went to your website, requested a demo and then bought your product.
What I would do in terms of marketing attribution is track any podcast guests who eventually bought Catalyst and I would periodically search Gong (our call-recording tool) for any mention of the podcast on sales calls.
In terms of brand awareness, that's where I would refer to the simpler metrics, like downloads, social posts, etc., which are all easy to track. Would recommend https://www.cohostpodcasting.com/ to anyone looking to get the best possible data on their show.
You’ve had a variety of interesting guests on your show, which currently has 72 episodes! Could you highlight some of your favorite moments? How do you select your guests and what is your secret in convincing guests such as Fred Reicheld and Melissa Kwan to be featured in your podcast?
Fred and Melissa actually came inbound, which was amazing. I definitely recommend being highly selective about who you have on, so that when you do reach out to people, they feel honored/special to have been asked. Only having top-tier guests as well also makes it more likely that top-tier guests will come inbound.
No one matters more than your first 3-5 guests—they set the tone for all future guests you'll have on your show. To get those first 3-5 top-tier guests, I leveraged personal relationships, called in favors, and wrote VERY convincing email pitches. At the end of the day, most people are happy to spend 30 minutes of their time talking about something they are passionate about.
What are five tips you’d share to any company planning to use podcasts as a promotional channel?
1. Allocate the right time and budget. I WAY underestimated the expense and time needed to run a top-tier podcast. Make sure you know what you're getting into before you launch one and that the expected ROI is worth it.
2. Make sure your first 5 guests are dream guests. Exhaust every possible way to land the best possible guests to set your show up for success.
3. Focus on storytelling, especially if you're doing a business podcast. Some of the best feedback I got after season one was "I do Customer Success work all day, so the last thing I want to do on my commute is listen to MORE Customer Success content." So, in season two I changed up the format of the show to be story-focused and more conversational, which led to a big bump in listeners.
4. Pre-record a month's worth of episodes at a time - don't record week-to-week. There are too many variables that can cause a disruption, and regular posting is critical.
5. Put out at least 2 episodes a week. That's something I know we need to change for season three. We always did one episode a week and it was fine, but not frequent enough to really create a raving fan base.
A third season is already underway! When can we expect it to premiere, and what kind of guests and topics will you be focusing on that your audience may or may not relate to Customer Success?
It's going to launch in early 2023 with a brand new (top secret) host! It's going to keep the best things about seasons 1 and 2, while incorporating some of the constructive feedback we've gotten. The theme, broadly speaking, will be customer-led growth, but the format will still be focused on specific stories from industry leaders that are both entertaining and educational.
How would you like to see Humans of SaaS evolve in the future?
I'd like to do a lot more video, and be able to invest more time and resources into turning the podcast into blogs, smaller video snippets, tweets, etc.
Alongside Humans of SaaS, Catalyst also has blogs, eBooks, CHATalyst one-on-one interviews, and as mentioned previously — events. What is your vision and why is Catalyst investing in these kinds of marketing strategies? Is there any new channel in the pipeline you hope to explore soon?
99% of your market is not ready to buy right now, so I view my job leading brand and community is making sure that they are perpetually engaged with us. That way, when they ARE ready to buy, we are top of mind. It's also my view that you need to be serving up the content that your audience actually cares about, not just the content you WANT them to care about, which is an important distinction a lot of marketers don't think about.
All of these content channels allow us to feature different folks from our community regularly, in a way that provides value to our market and keeps them engaging with us on a regular basis.
If there is one thing that companies should know about Customer Success, what would it be?
That Catalyst is the absolute best Customer Success platform. Besides that, the most important thing to know when it comes to Customer Success is that CS is where the REAL revenue power lies.
Net Revenue Retention (NRR) is owned by Customer Success and it's the most important metric right now in determining company valuation. It's also exponentially easier and cheaper to upsell existing customers than sell net new customers. CS needs to be at the center of the company — and given the budget and buy-in it needs to succeed.
Thank you for your time, Ben Winn! Best of luck to you and Catalyst!