Don't Just Pay Influencers, Hire Them to Build a Team of Super Stars


In this episode, Dan Sanchez talks with Claire Peña who is the VP of Marketing at Stream about hiring a team of influencers to become your evangelists.

We cover:

  1. What they look for in an influencer
  2. Who foots the bill for the team
  3. How Stream helps them build their brands while they build Stream's.
  4. The outcomes of the program

Yeah, welcome back to BTB Growth. I'm dan Sanchez with sweet fish media and I'm here with Claire Pena, who is the VP of marketing at Stream Claire, Welcome to the show. Thanks dan, happy to be here. I brought clear on today to talk about community building. I know it's a popular topic but Claire actually has been doing something that I thought was unique in the first time I heard about it, essentially they are hiring their target audience to help them build that community. So as soon as she told me about in our pre interview, I was like, oh that's it, that's what we have to talk about this because I haven't heard anybody talk about doing this beyond maybe like one subject matter expert or maybe taking somebody else in the organization, so I can't wait to learn and I know the audience listening to this will certainly benefit as well, but before we even talk about like why hiring your target audiences worked for extreme. Tell me about how you define community first and why it's been been a focus on your marketing efforts. Yeah, I think community is really just uh organic space for people to come together and connect on a topic or shared passion. Our audience has a lot of passion, projects, their developers, product managers and that bleeds into the business itself, But more and more B to B companies and B2B marketing teams are realizing that sometimes the traditional playbook doesn't work, You're not talking to a conglomerate or a business itself, but you're actually talking to an individual that often has a really heavy influence on purchasing software and decision making in the end, even if they might not have a c suite title or on the credit card themselves. So community is is really just a way of helping people, enabling them with their projects and really just fostering that connection and you know, as we know it comes in a lot of different forms, especially over the last year and a half. So it doesn't have to be in person. There's a lot of different ways to create community. So why did it become a focus for Stream specifically? Was there like a problem you're running up against? Did the content marketing just not have to have a limit to it? Like what led it to it being like, let's community, we need to do better at this. Yeah. So I was lucky to come into a company post series a where the Ceo was starting to get ahead of this already. His name's Terry and he really is one of those engineers and founders turned Ceo that loves marketing and loves collaborating with me in the marketing realm. So he started to realize that you can have technical long form content. You can reach people for S. E. O. But that we were missing a piece of really connecting to the human and having people dedicated on our team to slightly represents stream, but really more so just be themselves and introduce the product when the time was. right. So this started with your...

...typical one person, a lot of companies call them an evangelist or something like that. But we took it like 10 steps further once we realized how effective it was and We built out the team to nine, not 10 people, I think we're hiring four more in the next quarter and they're really dedicated to our individual SDK s and their specific community. And so we hire someone that is already immensely popular in something like the android community and we then just let him do this particular person, we as an example, we let him do his thing. You know, we he's involved in the engineering team, so he's very close to the product in the engineering work. He's extremely connected in the android community and then he's doing marketing, he's speaking at events, he's writing things, he's weighing in on our strategy, he's doing campaign brainstorms and I just don't think you have a replacement for that voice on your team. There's, there's no other way for us as marketers to be that close to our audience. Wow. So you started with just one evangelist who was already essentially a bit of an influencer in the space that right? Yeah. And he was, he was an engineer at stream that turned into this role. Okay, so he was already working for the company already a bit of an influencer and you just essentially made it more official that he represented the company? Yeah, it was, it was made into an official role and then he started leading the team and building it out. Once we all decided this is something we need to put resources into. That's awesome. Tell me a little bit more about like his a reach in the beginning. Like what did, what did he have going for them? That you were like, hey, like you want to do that full time for us? Like what did it look like already? Did you have a bit of a following on social? Was he running a popular blog Youtube channel? Like what does this person look like? Yeah, that's a great question. And I would have a different answer for each of the devereaux hires that we have, there's some people that come on to stream. We just hired someone from India that already has 150,000 subscribers on YouTube from his personal channel. So that's, you know, a good example of something to look for this particular person. The best way to describe it is as a marketing leader. I work with a lot of different engineering teams and you can tell right away when the individual cares about. Okay, so say you have a guest blog program and you have an engineer right down at once a week. You know, sometimes like one out of 10 of those engineers will contact you and say, hey, how many impressions did that get or do we get any trials or revenue from that or you know, how many page views if I had and you can kind of pick up right away when they're interested in the business side and they want to be more involved in the community of engineers that they're serving. So this first person that started the team was showing interest in that and Terry was smart enough. Our ceo to really, you know, say, hey, well let, let's make this full time thing, let's really do this, you know, in all early stage companies and I'll B two B marketing,... have to constantly make bets right and run tests and experiments. And so this is like a small bet, hey, what if we do this? Um pull valuable engineer that may not be, you know, spending as much time actually coding. But let's see what it has on the business impact. And then it just took off from there. That makes a lot of sense. I find that independent creators are usually not obsessed. I mean maybe in the beginning, but they're usually fairly familiar with their metrics because they're independent creators. They are essentially little business operations in and of themselves as opposed to having a subject matter expert come and contribute to a blog post. I mean they care more about the efficiency of their code and developers case than really the impact of the blog post. But if they're already independent creators, then we'll, they care a lot about it because they're putting so much time and effort into it. So you went and found them and then it was successful and you wanted to multiply it, what what does success look like when you had them working full time? Success looks like viral campaigns really to be straightforward. We get a lot of revenue from this channel. I mean, it's revenue generating and it's very serious. I mean, we just had a We just had a campaign that brought us over 1200 trials in 10 days from one campaign and I think 620 of those are engaged, meaning they've done five or six hours of work and are contacting our sales team and this, you know, our product isn't cheap, it's the return on an investment of this type is immense. And it's not your typical paid marketing channels, performance, marketing, you know, it's different, it's, it's harder to measure, you know, it's, it's harder to measure success, but it's like, it's one of those things that's marketing lee where you, you know, you have 30% that you just have to know, You have to follow your gut and know that you'll see results and it's a bit intangible versus the other 70% where it's like input, in I'll put out. um, if that makes sense. Yeah, So it's pretty easy to know when we need a new hire and it does follow our product a lot. So it follows our product that follows the, builds the SDK teams building and stuff and on top of all of this a lot of times the engineering leads will call out the devils in my team at all hands and give them a recognition saying like hey they're really contributing to my team's work too. So We make sure that as managers, we protect their time and have boundaries where it's like 30% engineering, 30% content community building on their own terms and then like 40% speaking engagements and events and things like that. Hey everybody Logan was sweet fish here. If you're a regular listener of GDP growth, you know that I'm one of the co hosts of the show, but you may not know that. I also head up the sales team here is sweet fish. So for those of you in...

...sales or sales ops, I wanted to take a second to share something that's made us insanely more efficient lately. Our team has been using lead I. Q. For the past few months and what used to take us four hours gathering contact data now takes us only one where 75% more efficient were able to move faster with outbound prospecting and organizing our campaigns is so much easier than before. I'd highly suggest you guys check out lead I. Q. As well, you can check them out at least I. Q dot com. That's L E A D I Q dot com. All right. Let's get back to the show. So you found one had success with it. What did you start doing in order to scale it? Did you go find already other pre existing creators out there? Did you try to raise them up internally? A little bit of both? But almost all of them in the last year and a half have been external. And to be honest, it's like so we have an amazing deferral lead right now on flutter. You know, it's it's this new community that's emerging from google. It's uh extremely up and coming. There's a domino effect. So like he's a leader in the flutter community and then he has other contacts in the flutter community that is very close with and he brings them in and the same things happened on android and IOS. So it's really just relying on really good people knowing really good people. It's like community building community and then returning into recruiting and how many do you currently have on on staff? 10. With four on boarding in the next quarter. Yeah, it's clearly working because 10, ten's a lot. And imagine it's happening it's happening pretty well because they're bringing an existing audience to you. Yeah, it's like engineering plus compensation because it's a very rare skill set. I mean we often have, you know, it's almost always referrals if we can't get a referral. Like if we're starting a new devil team for a specific sdK. it's a head scratching challenge for recruiting teams, I will say they are confused about what to look for. It's not easy to find, it's a very specific skill set and personality, but if you're into this type of thing with an engineering background for, for, you know what my team needs, specifically Other B two B community building could be entirely different profiles, but for what I need at stream, it's, it's a rare skill set and it's, it's hard to find. Are they actively doing development or are they just essentially now creating content? They are actively doing development as well. So my Ceo and I talked about this a lot and it's, it's a balance because you don't want them becoming detached from their own communities and especially with developers, you, you don't really continue to gain credibility and respect unless you're actually practicing engineering, it must be kind of a dream come true if they were developing a channel and can get paid to continue to do the work, but also get paid produced content at the same time. So there must be a really win on...

...both sides. Yeah, and we're big on like letting them continue to grow their own personal brand. So like sometimes they'll come to me and they'll say like, hey, I know this is like five K to get me to, you know, Berlin and do this event, but I have 50 people there, you know, that I've been talking to online for the last year and I really want to talk about this subject and then he'll be wearing a stream shirt when he's doing it and he's not pushy about it, but you know, it's, it's like very subtle and that's, it's a really good brand awareness tactic for us. That's fantastic when you're looking for these kinds of people. Like I imagine, does it usually come through word of mouth or are the recruiters responsible for finding them? Like I imagine your current dev team would kind of know who's, who's who in the area, but how much are the recruiters responsible for finding the person? I'd say one out of four or 5 rolls The recruiters are responsible and the other four, let's call it r from word of mouth and referrals. Do you find people are starting to wanting to come into the fold now that you have like 10, they're like, Hey, like I have a channel, this could work. Yeah. You know, it's funny, it's, it's definitely a lot easier to get people in now. Even then it was a year ago. Um, what I hold as personally responsible for is creating an environment that they want to stay in, that they want to grow their career in and that they, they're really engaged in. You know, it's really special group. It's a special channel for us. And so I want, I always make sure that they feel supported and they're happy and engaged and hopefully that means that they're telling their counterparts to come in the fold, what's the reception been like, like from the community or their audiences, have they noticed an increase in their audience growth? Have they been noticing? Have they been getting better at their content because they've been able to essentially spend more time or essentially paid time now on their content? Like how has it been? It's 100%. Yeah, you nailed it. Um actually, we, we even track that. So we have a little small metrics meeting every week on our team and, you know, we were talking before about how you measure the success of this and one of the things we do that's tangible from a metric standpoint is say, all right, You have 100 and 20,000 subscribers on your Youtube page now. How do we get that to 200 this quarter? And I think it's a win win because it's marrying their own personal passion projects that they started outside of work before they came to stream. And now it's just tied into their work life and their professional goals, which I think is usually positive and happy. You know, there's some quarters where it can get overwhelming sometimes and I do my best to try to help mitigate that. But yeah, it's this really interesting overlap of work and personal and, and that's definitely something that you see grow each...

...quarter, I mean, if it wasn't then they wouldn't really be, you know, doing their job and we haven't had anyone where it's like gone stagnant or decreased at all. So now I'm trying to get an idea because clearly this is working and I'm like, okay, how do I do this? Even internally it sweet fishes. I hire people almost wondering like, how soon is too soon are like, how much of a percentage of marketing budget should be allocated to something like this. So I'm assuming marketing probably spends marketing pays for half there, their salary. Is that true? Actually, what's, what's the allocation there between their dev work and the content work? And then how does that get allocated between different departments? Marketing pays 100 Holy cow. Yeah. Really? Even though they're doing active work, yep. Yeah, because ultimately, at the end of the day, it's my call, it's my call what they're working on. And I see the dev work is incredibly valuable uh to the marketing side as well. So, yeah, I mean, at this stage of company we're at, it's not like we don't have battles between departments on budget yet, you know, it's, it's software itself, as everyone knows that's listening is there's so many interdependencies between the department, So I'm a big believer and not having, I don't know, not closing my doors like to other types of work just because it's just so fluid. So, yeah, it's funny you ask that I've never even thought about it, I mean fully fully pay for their salaries, fully pay for the resources time off everything. Yeah wow. I mean that's that's great. I mean you could consider the work that they do as just kind of development, right? Or research development for content development, right? It's like all that kind of act up ending paying back in the marketing. What percentage of your budget goes towards this program specifically? I know it's probably not did it to off the top of your head but it's okay. I'm imagining my spreadsheet. I just went over with finance this morning I would say 25% but it's still not as much as like performance marketing in other areas. I mean you'd be surprised its its its headcount and operations and they need things to do their job. Well we pay for T. & S for travel not as much in the last year and a half but still there's still some in person stuff going on, especially in the Eu Yeah. Another another thing to point out is that we have like five or six different time zones on this team. It's extremely international. It's yeah very diverse and so that's that's also very helpful um to not pigeonhole yourself. But yeah so I mean it's like this topic. It's it's funny. I I don't like ruminate on it a lot. It's like such a no brainer for the engine. We have going right now that it's it's just worth it. And we're gonna high growth phase, you know, we're post series B, we're hiring like 100 people in the next two quarters. It's it's full steam ahead. It might seem like a no brainer to you, but I only heard this even as a,... I only heard of that, even as a thing, maybe last january. And you're the first group that I've seen actually executed with more than one person and actually going and hiring all the influencers out there and then bringing them into the fold purely for marketing. So Well done way ahead of everyone else. I've had a lot of conversations with other B2B marketing leaders about wanting to do this. So lots of people are thinking about it. You're probably the first that I've come across that is actually doing it and not just doing it, but now now you're scaling it. So that's, that's awesome. Yeah, I mean, I have to again shout out my my ceo terry, I mean, he you can't do this unless you have buy in, right, and he's had faith in experimentation and being creative and he's an engineer himself. So he absolutely loves this team, He loves seeing the progress we've made and how impactful it is. So yeah, I don't think I've ever gotten to know from him on a new devra, higher, That's fantastic you have any plans for the future as far as to how to get better at this. You just plan on scaling the team or is there any other thoughts you have about building this program out? Yeah, so we just did a revamp of a yearly planning for 2022 and we have a new kind of like little superstar. He's um pretty incredible that he's done. I can't even describe the impact he's had on our number is on the business. And so we're making him like a lead, we're putting some new management in from a people standpoint, it's pretty hard to manage all the different time zones and different technical skill sets. So it's quite a challenge for the previously the one director in place. So we're hiring new managers were promoting people within and then we also just hired a lead for, this is kind of an interesting spin, but we hired a lead for technical writing on that team and he's building out the technical writing arm and the idea is for him to be on the devil team and just be focused on the writing aspect to reach these people in their communities. So sometimes the content can be produced at a high enough level that we need for our inbound motion because of their speaking engagements or like development commitments that quarter. So we decided to kind of break that out and make sure that there is a steady stream going on and I really like it in that group. I think it's working. Um we only have one person in the door right now and I think he's excited about building out his group and yeah, so it's a work in progress, I'd say every corner, we have a new idea. Um and you know, this follows the business, so Stream has two products that right now um we're going to continue to innovate, continue to build, and that's just going to mean more whatever else when that happens. Well, Claire, this has been fantastic. It's been fun to learn about what's essentially what this could look like from somebody who's actually doing it. I know we've been talking a lot about it internally, it Sweet fish. Um and others are thinking...

...about it too, so I can't wait to push this out to our audience, but people want to learn more about what you guys are doing, extreme, where can they go online to connect with you? Yeah, so get stream dot Io is our website and then uh you'll probably, you know, if your engineers out there or product managers, you're probably going to see some stream influenced stuff in your sphere is going forward now that you heard our name and what we're trying to do. Great again, thank you for joining me on GDP growth. Thanks dan. Yeah. Gary V says it all the time and we agree, every company should think of themselves as a media company first, then whatever it is they actually do, if you know this is true, but your team is already maxed out and you can't produce any more content in house. We can help, we produce podcasts for some of the most innovative BB brands in the world, and we also help them turn the content from the podcast and blog posts, micro videos and slide decks that work really well on linked in. If you want to learn more, go to Sweet Fish Media dot com slash launch or email Logan at sweet Fish Media dot com. Yeah. Mhm.

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