This agency helps B2B tech companies develop their own podcasts
The creative agency Motion helps tech brands with audio storytelling.
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Tech companies collectively spend a lot of money each year producing content. They hire writers to craft blog posts, articles, white papers, and even ebooks. They enlist videographers to produce video for their YouTube channel. They employ designers who throw together infographics for their Instagram accounts. And of course there’s no shortage of webinars.
And in recent years, more and more tech firms have devoted at least a portion of their marketing budgets toward podcasts. To develop their shows, they turn to people like Tristan Pelligrino, the co-founder of a creative agency called Motion. The agency started out with a focus on helping B2B tech companies with their video needs, but over the last year it’s pivoted to podcast production.
I recently interviewed Tristan on why he made the podcast pivot, how he approaches the development of a new show, and whether he plans to leverage the success of his own podcast into a scalable network.
So you run an agency that specializes in helping B2B tech companies create and run podcasts. But you didn't start off as a podcast agency. What were you doing before that?
Yeah, we didn't originally start as a podcast agency. When starting Motion, my business partner and I established it as a video agency, mostly working with B2B organizations and nonprofits.
This was based on the experience from the previous agency that I owned and sold to my business partner.
And you got the idea to pivot after you launched your own podcast, right? What kind of podcast did you launch, and why did it open your eyes to a new kind of service?
We actually shifted to a broader "content marketing agency" from video. And, we were working with a consultant at the time to help us niche down our agency. One of the suggestions he had was to start a podcast featuring guests from our niche. So in 2019, we started interviewing B2B tech marketers to start to understand them more and get an idea of the problems they face and how they look to solve them.
The podcast was market research on steroids.
We've done close to 300 episodes just for our own podcast - Tech Qualified
So when ramping that up, we built out an entire system to make it happen.
And what we found was that a lot of the internal resources we built out to manage video projects...were extremely helpful for podcasts.
Talk a bit more about what benefits you saw from having your own podcast. I imagine there was a marketing component. You also mentioned that it was "market research on steroids." Can you elaborate?
There are so many benefits to a podcast.
Today's B2B buyer is going to check you out 15-25 times before reaching out to your sales team. A podcast is the most intimate way to keep in touch before they're ready to chat. Listeners get to be a "fly on the wall" to the conversations you have.
A podcast starts with audio...but then it can be repurposed into five, 10, or even 20 different pieces of content. Whatever format your buyers are looking for...video, audio, written, social — they get it with your podcast.
Evergreen content is great. But in tech, things change every day. You need to go on a journey with your buyers. Evolve with them. A podcast is the easiest way to share stories and be a part of your customers' world.
An ebook takes weeks to write. Case studies are a pain. Blog posts never get approved. It takes a ton of status calls just to make sure projects get done. With a podcast, record one conversation and you get everything in three business days
A podcast connects everyone who matters to your ideal customers. Internal experts, industry leaders, prospects, partners -- they're all a part of your show.
We all know it. You have to help first. You can't sell to a B2B buyer without them knowing, liking, and trusting your brand. If your buyers listen in to each episode, you've earned their trust. And they're going to buy from you.
For us, we'd never seen a marketing project like this check so many boxes.
As far as "market research on steroids" -- it basically involves the ability to have 1:1 conversations with your ideal customers.
It's not a survey. It's not a b.s. email with a question. You talk to people. Get to fully understand them. Hear about their world in their own words.
These conversations then fuel the videos you create, the collateral you produce, the copy you write on your website -- everything.
Let's say a client comes to you with a large budget for video. Is there a scenario in which you'd try to convince them it's worth spending it on a podcast instead? What reasons would you give that a podcast would be better than video?
We try not to convince anyone to do or not do a project. We often just don't know enough about their situation typically to provide a clear answer.
We typically refer one-off video projects to someone else now. Mostly because these types of projects will fail.
They'll fail because the marketer won't be able to get enough from the investment on a single asset.
So instead of convincing, we try to create content that educates marketers about the benefits of a podcast. So they then come to us when they're ready for a more consistent type of content framework.
How did you start to move into podcasting as a service? You were an agency built for video production. How difficult was it to broaden your skillset to the point where you felt comfortable offering it to clients?
The transition was fairly easy, honestly. For years, we had produced documentary-style video content. We had editors on staff. We knew how to do interviews. Knew how to edit. Some of our folks came from audio editing backgrounds.
The complexity was lower with podcasting.
We also had managed the production of thousands of videos over the course of a few years. We had more than 250 clients in that span.
So we had PM systems in place.
Tell me about your process when you take on a new client in terms of developing a podcast from scratch.
The first step is to select a podcast package. We make pricing simple. And we clearly outline what you get.
Then, we help clients launch it. We have a discovery call & meeting. From there, we develop a strategic action plan. The strategic action plan includes everything that a client needs to get their podcast off the ground. We help them identify their ideal guests, we help them figure out the most important topics and themes to discuss. We also provide a variety of story structures that they can use to guide the way the episode unfolds. In addition to that we also provide consulting on developing a name for the show, interview questions, how to identify a host within their organization, and all of the tech stack that needs to be in place to roll it out.
Once the strategic action plan is in place we then provide ongoing consulting within weekly meetings. So we do all the post production on their episodes, create written material video assets, images, everything that's needed to really amplify the conversations that they record.
Do you also help them build an audience for the show? What tools do you have in your toolbelt to help with that?
Yes, we provide some guidance on how to get the most out of their episodes. But frankly, downloads and audience is perhaps the least important thing to monitor.
"How many downloads are good for a podcast episode?"
We get this question a lot.
And it's tough. Because people still view podcasts as a single channel, an audio file that you upload and then push out thru Apple podcasts, Spotify, and others.
But it's way more than that. You have to also factor in things like this:
✔️ Website page views from show notes/episode pages
✔️ Website page views with featured articles (derived from episodes)
✔️ Organic views of posts on LinkedIn
✔️ Video views
✔️ Emails opened to prospects & customers
✔️ Traffic from ads (featuring podcast content)
✔️ Sales presentations or demos (featuring quotes or audio)
And then there are also things that you can't even track, like these:
✔️ Mentions in FB groups or Slack channels
✔️ Tweets that mention an episode
✔️ Discussions on LinkedIn or in comments
✔️ Views generated from others who post on LinkedIn
I believe the "number of downloads" should be at the bottom of your list of metrics to track for a podcast.
Audio/video from a single episode turns into so many things. It brings life to all of your content.
You must look beyond downloads.
A lot of podcast agencies I speak to specialize in Q&A podcasts, and I think that's your focus as well. I've been told that most don't think expensive narrative shows are worth the investment. What are your thoughts on this?
I think it's a good question. And it's a good debate. The problem with a narrative show is that it takes so much work and it's actually more of a creative project versus a content marketing effort. So I think the issue with a narrative show isn't necessarily that the ROI won't ever be there, it's just that most narrative podcasts that are for B2B tech marketers will probably fail because the overall level of effort is just so high. The podcast will fade out before it ever gets traction. And it's also typically going to involve a skill set that is not really familiar territory for the host. So the frameworks that we typically implement for clients make their jobs easier versus creating extra work.
A services agency will always have limited scale because it needs to hire more and more people as it grows. Have you thought about building out a podcast network where you have more direct ownership over shows? Or is that not really of interest to you?
That's a different business model. We have some ideas of how to develop something that's not necessarily 100% services based.
But our focus right now is to steadily grow the services company. Scale isn't a goal for everyone. Often companies sacrifice profit for the topline revenue.
Since I own the company, I'm much more concerned about making a profit versus scaling.
The major tech platforms are making huge investments in podcasting, and most indications are that the audience for podcasts has nowhere to go but up. Do you think this is a good reason for tech companies to launch their podcasts now, so they can benefit from this wave?
Yeah, I think it's a great time to start a podcast because people are consuming more of them. But like I mentioned above, the best part of a podcast is that it goes beyond just that audio medium. A podcast for a tech company can become the foundation for all of the content marketing for the entire company. It can involve industry leaders, prospects, customers, internal experts, and partners. A podcast is much more about the conversations that you have with the people in your space and what you do with that content that spins out of the conversation. So why not start one?
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Simon Owens is a tech and media journalist living in Washington, DC. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For a full bio, go here.