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 danSanchez with sweet fish media and I'm here with Claire Pena, who is the VP ofmarketing 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 apopular topic but Claire actually has been doing something that I thought wasunique in the first time I heard about it, essentially they are hiring theirtarget audience to help them build that community. So as soon as she told meabout in our pre interview, I was like, oh that's it, that's what we have totalk about this because I haven't heard anybody talk about doing this beyondmaybe like one subject matter expert or maybe taking somebody else in theorganization, so I can't wait to learn and I know the audience listening tothis will certainly benefit as well, but before we even talk about like whyhiring your target audiences worked for extreme. Tell me about how you definecommunity first and why it's been been a focus on your marketing efforts. Yeah, I think community is really justuh organic space for people to come together and connect on a topic orshared passion. Our audience has a lot of passion, projects, their developers,product managers and that bleeds into the business itself, But more and moreB to B companies and B2B marketing teams are realizing that sometimes thetraditional playbook doesn't work, You're not talking to a conglomerate ora business itself, but you're actually talking to an individual that often hasa 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 withtheir projects and really just fostering that connection and you know,as we know it comes in a lot of different forms, especially over thelast year and a half. So it doesn't have to be in person. There's a lot ofdifferent ways to create community. So why did it become a focus for Streamspecifically? Was there like a problem you're running up against? Did thecontent marketing just not have to have a limit to it? Like what led it to itbeing like, let's community, we need to do better at this. Yeah. So I was luckyto come into a company post series a where the Ceo was starting to get aheadof this already. His name's Terry and he really is one of those engineers andfounders turned Ceo that loves marketing and loves collaborating withme in the marketing realm. So he started to realize that you can havetechnical long form content. You can reach people for S. E. O. But that wewere missing a piece of really connecting to the human and havingpeople dedicated on our team to slightly represents stream, but reallymore so just be themselves and introduce the product when the time was.right. So this started with your...

...typical one person, a lot of companiescall them an evangelist or something like that. But we took it like 10 stepsfurther once we realized how effective it was and We built out the team tonine, not 10 people, I think we're hiring four more in the next quarterand they're really dedicated to our individual SDK s and their specificcommunity. And so we hire someone that is already immensely popular insomething like the android community and we then just let him do thisparticular person, we as an example, we let him do his thing. You know, we he'sinvolved in the engineering team, so he's very close to the product in theengineering work. He's extremely connected in the android community andthen 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 justdon'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 ouraudience. Wow. So you started with just one evangelist who was alreadyessentially 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 wasalready working for the company already a bit of an influencer and you justessentially made it more official that he represented the company? Yeah, itwas, it was made into an official role and then he started leading the teamand building it out. Once we all decided this is something we need toput resources into. That's awesome. Tell me a little bit more about likehis 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 whatdid it look like already? Did you have a bit of a following on social? Was herunning 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 eachof the devereaux hires that we have, there's some people that come on tostream. We just hired someone from India that already has 150,000subscribers 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 todescribe it is as a marketing leader. I work with a lot of differentengineering teams and you can tell right away when the individual caresabout. Okay, so say you have a guest blog program and you have an engineerright down at once a week. You know, sometimes like one out of 10 of thoseengineers will contact you and say, hey, how many impressions did that get or dowe get any trials or revenue from that or you know, how many page views if Ihad and you can kind of pick up right away when they're interested in thebusiness side and they want to be more involved in the community of engineersthat they're serving. So this first person that started the team wasshowing interest in that and Terry was smart enough. Our ceo to really, you know, say, hey, well let, let'smake this full time thing, let's really do this, you know, in all early stagecompanies and I'll B two B marketing,... have to constantly make bets rightand run tests and experiments. And so this is like a small bet, hey, what ifwe do this? Um pull valuable engineer that may not be, you know, spending asmuch 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 thatindependent creators are usually not obsessed. I mean maybe in the beginning,but they're usually fairly familiar with their metrics because they'reindependent creators. They are essentially little business operationsin and of themselves as opposed to having a subject matter expert come andcontribute to a blog post. I mean they care more about the efficiency of theircode and developers case than really the impact of the blog post. But ifthey're already independent creators, then we'll, they care a lot about itbecause they're putting so much time and effort into it. So you went andfound them and then it was successful and you wanted to multiply it, whatwhat does success look like when you had them working full time? Successlooks like viral campaigns really to be straightforward. We get a lot ofrevenue from this channel. I mean, it's revenue generating and it's veryserious. I mean, we just had a We just had a campaign that brought us over1200 trials in 10 days from one campaign and I think 620 of those areengaged, meaning they've done five or six hours of work and are contactingour sales team and this, you know, our product isn't cheap, it's the return onan investment of this type is immense. And it's not your typical paidmarketing 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, youknow, you have 30% that you just have to know, You have to follow your gutand know that you'll see results and it's a bit intangible versus the other70% where it's like input, in I'll put out. um, if that makes sense. Yeah, Soit's pretty easy to know when we need a new hire and it does follow our producta lot. So it follows our product that follows the, builds the SDK teamsbuilding and stuff and on top of all of this a lot of times the engineeringleads will call out the devils in my team at all hands and give them arecognition saying like hey they're really contributing to my team's worktoo. So We make sure that as managers, we protect their time and haveboundaries where it's like 30% engineering, 30% content communitybuilding on their own terms and then like 40% speaking engagements andevents and things like that. Hey everybody Logan was sweet fish here. Ifyou're a regular listener of GDP growth, you know that I'm one of the co hostsof the show, but you may not know that. I also head up the sales team here issweet fish. So for those of you in...

...sales or sales ops, I wanted to take asecond to share something that's made us insanely more efficient lately. Ourteam has been using lead I. Q. For the past few months and what used to takeus four hours gathering contact data now takes us only one where 75% moreefficient were able to move faster with outbound prospecting and organizing ourcampaigns is so much easier than before. I'd highly suggest you guys check outlead I. Q. As well, you can check them out at least I. Q dot com. That's L E AD I Q dot com. All right. Let's get back to the show. So you found one hadsuccess with it. What did you start doing in order to scale it? Did you gofind already other pre existing creators out there? Did you try toraise them up internally? A little bit of both? But almost all of them in thelast year and a half have been external. And to be honest, it's like so we havean amazing deferral lead right now on flutter. You know, it's it's this newcommunity 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 andthen he has other contacts in the flutter community that is very closewith and he brings them in and the same things happened on android and IOS. Soit's really just relying on really good people knowing really good people. It'slike community building community and then returning into recruiting and howmany do you currently have on on staff? 10. With four on boarding in the nextquarter. Yeah, it's clearly working because 10, ten's a lot. And imagineit's happening it's happening pretty well because they're bringing anexisting audience to you. Yeah, it's like engineering plus compensationbecause it's a very rare skill set. I mean we often have, you know, it'salmost always referrals if we can't get a referral. Like if we're starting anew devil team for a specific sdK. it's a head scratching challenge forrecruiting teams, I will say they are confused about what to look for. It'snot easy to find, it's a very specific skill set and personality, but ifyou're into this type of thing with an engineering background for, for, youknow what my team needs, specifically Other B two B community building couldbe entirely different profiles, but for what I need at stream, it's, it's a rare skill set and it's, it'shard to find. Are they actively doing development or are they justessentially 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 youdon't want them becoming detached from their own communities and especiallywith developers, you, you don't really continue to gain credibility andrespect unless you're actually practicing engineering, it must be kindof a dream come true if they were developing a channel and can get paidto continue to do the work, but also get paid produced content at the sametime. So there must be a really win on...

...both sides. Yeah, and we're big on likeletting them continue to grow their own personal brand. So like sometimesthey'll come to me and they'll say like, hey, I know this is like five K to getme to, you know, Berlin and do this event, but I have 50 people there, youknow, that I've been talking to online for the last year and I really want totalk about this subject and then he'll be wearing a stream shirt when he'sdoing it and he's not pushy about it, but you know, it's, it's like verysubtle and that's, it's a really good brand awareness tactic for us. That'sfantastic when you're looking for these kinds of people. Like I imagine, doesit usually come through word of mouth or are the recruiters responsible forfinding them? Like I imagine your current dev team would kind of knowwho's, who's who in the area, but how much are the recruiters responsible forfinding the person? I'd say one out of four or 5 rolls The recruiters areresponsible and the other four, let's call it r from word of mouth andreferrals. Do you find people are starting to wanting to come into thefold now that you have like 10, they're like, Hey, like I have a channel, thiscould work. Yeah. You know, it's funny, it's, it's definitely a lot easier toget people in now. Even then it was a year ago. Um, what I hold as personallyresponsible 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 engagedin. You know, it's really special group. It's a special channel for us. And so Iwant, I always make sure that they feel supported and they're happy and engagedand hopefully that means that they're telling their counterparts to come inthe fold, what's the reception been like, likefrom the community or their audiences, have they noticed an increase in theiraudience growth? Have they been noticing? Have they been getting betterat their content because they've been able to essentially spend more time oressentially paid time now on their content? Like how has it been? It's100%. Yeah, you nailed it. Um actually, we, we even track that. So we have alittle small metrics meeting every week on our team and, you know, we weretalking before about how you measure the success of this and one of thethings 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 getthat to 200 this quarter? And I think it's a win win because it's marryingtheir own personal passion projects that they started outside of workbefore they came to stream. And now it's just tied into their worklife and their professional goals, which I think is usually positive andhappy. You know, there's some quarters where it can get overwhelming sometimesand I do my best to try to help mitigate that. But yeah, it's thisreally interesting overlap of work and personal and, and that's definitelysomething that you see grow each...

...quarter, I mean, if it wasn't then theywouldn't really be, you know, doing their job and we haven't had anyonewhere it's like gone stagnant or decreased at all. So now I'm trying toget an idea because clearly this is working and I'm like, okay, how do I dothis? 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 budgetshould be allocated to something like this. So I'm assuming marketingprobably spends marketing pays for half there, their salary. Is that true?Actually, what's, what's the allocation there between their dev work and thecontent work? And then how does that get allocated between differentdepartments? Marketing pays 100 Holy cow. Yeah. Really? Even thoughthey're doing active work, yep. Yeah, because ultimately, at the end of theday, it's my call, it's my call what they're working on. And I see the devwork is incredibly valuable uh to the marketing side as well. So, yeah, Imean, at this stage of company we're at, it's not like we don't have battlesbetween departments on budget yet, you know, it's, it's software itself, aseveryone knows that's listening is there's so many interdependenciesbetween 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 sofluid. 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 resourcestime off everything. Yeah wow. I mean that's that's great. I mean you couldconsider the work that they do as just kind of development, right? Or researchdevelopment for content development, right? It's like all that kind of actup ending paying back in the marketing. What percentage of your budget goestowards this program specifically? I know it's probably not did it to offthe top of your head but it's okay. I'm imagining my spreadsheet. I just wentover with finance this morning I would say 25% but it's still not as much aslike performance marketing in other areas. I mean you'd be surprised itsits its headcount and operations and they need things to do their job. Wellwe pay for T. & S for travel not as much in the last year and a half butstill there's still some in person stuff going on, especially in the EuYeah. Another another thing to point out is that we have like five or sixdifferent time zones on this team. It's extremely international. It's yeah verydiverse 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 likeruminate on it a lot. It's like such a no brainer for the engine. We havegoing right now that it's it's just worth it. And we're gonna high growthphase, you know, we're post series B, we're hiring like 100 people in thenext two quarters. It's it's full steam ahead. It might seem like a no brainerto you, but I only heard this even as a,... I only heard of that, even as athing, maybe last january. And you're the first group that I've seen actuallyexecuted with more than one person and actually going and hiring all theinfluencers 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 withother B2B marketing leaders about wanting to do this. So lots of peopleare thinking about it. You're probably the first that I've come across that isactually doing it and not just doing it, but now now you're scaling it. Sothat'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 faithin experimentation and being creative and he's an engineer himself. So heabsolutely loves this team, He loves seeing the progress we've made and howimpactful it is. So yeah, I don't think I've ever gotten to know from him on anew devra, higher, That's fantastic you have any plans for the future as far asto how to get better at this. You just plan on scaling the team or is thereany other thoughts you have about building this program out? Yeah, so wejust did a revamp of a yearly planning for 2022 and we have a new kind of likelittle superstar. He's um pretty incredible that he's done. I can't evendescribe the impact he's had on our number is on the business. And so we'remaking him like a lead, we're putting some new management in from a peoplestandpoint, it's pretty hard to manage all the different time zones anddifferent technical skill sets. So it's quite a challenge for the previouslythe one director in place. So we're hiring new managers were promotingpeople within and then we also just hired a lead for, this is kind of aninteresting spin, but we hired a lead for technical writing on that team andhe's building out the technical writing arm and the idea is for him to be onthe devil team and just be focused on the writing aspect to reach thesepeople in their communities. So sometimes the content can be producedat a high enough level that we need for our inbound motion because of theirspeaking engagements or like development commitments that quarter.So we decided to kind of break that out and make sure that there is a steadystream going on and I really like it in that group. I think it's working. Um weonly have one person in the door right now and I think he's excited aboutbuilding out his group and yeah, so it's a work in progress, I'd say everycorner, we have a new idea. Um and you know, this follows the business, soStream 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 whenthat happens. Well, Claire, this has been fantastic. It's been fun to learnabout what's essentially what this could look like from somebody who'sactually doing it. I know we've been talking a lot about it internally, itSweet fish. Um and others are thinking...

...about it too, so I can't wait to pushthis out to our audience, but people want to learn more about what you guysare doing, extreme, where can they go online to connect with you? Yeah, soget stream dot Io is our website and then uh you'll probably, you know, ifyour engineers out there or product managers, you're probably going to seesome stream influenced stuff in your sphere is going forward now that youheard our name and what we're trying to do. Great again, thank you for joiningme on GDP growth. Thanks dan. Yeah. Gary V says it all the time andwe 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 teamis already maxed out and you can't produce any more content in house. Wecan help, we produce podcasts for some of the most innovative BB brands in theworld, 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 wantto learn more, go to Sweet Fish Media dot com slash launch or email Logan atsweet Fish Media dot com. Yeah. Mhm.

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