Description by @jmckinven
Wistia are at the top of their game when it comes to B2B content marketing, in my opinion. They certainly practice what they preach and I really appreciate that.
I spoke with their co-founder and CEO, Chris Savage, about growing the company, raising debt (buying out investors) and what their new brand affinity marketing is all about.
Things that I think you'll take away from this episode:
- How much persistence it takes to build a company
- Why raising money stops you from taking risks
- Why it's important to have a good culture in a growing company
- How to use long-form video content for your marketing
I'm always looking to improve the podcast, so let me know what you think.
Chris Savage is the co-founder and CEO of Wistia, a video sharing and hosting company (and pioneers of the brand affinity movement). After graduating from Brown University with a degree in Art-Semiotics, Chris and his co-founder, Brendan Schwartz, started Wistia in Brendan’s living room in 2006. Wistia has since grown into a multi-million dollar business with over 150 employees (including 1 labradoodle). Before Wistia, Chris helped produce an Emmy Award-winning feature-length documentary and was named a Top Young Entrepreneur by BusinessWeek. I've been following Wistia's journey for the past few years and I'm delighted to welcome Chris to the podcast.
- What is Wistia?
- How did it start?
- How did Wistia originally position in the market?
- They were a private video sharing site and then pivoted to embeddable website videos. Then had to make the decision to fully focus on marketing videos.
- They then switched back to offering everything as people had lots of different use cases for Wistia, which was a mistake because then they struggled on where to focus and innovate. They had no differentiator.
- When did Wistia take it's first set of investment?
- Took a year to focus on private video sharing - huge companies. They noticed they were onto something big so took investment and hired 2 people. They then started loosing $30k a month, which felt horrible!
- Stayed at 4 people for another 3 years.
- The greatest mistake they could make was not thinking long-term.
- Their last funding round was in 2010, what have they done for the past decade to grow?
- As they got more profitable they took more risks
- Invested in content marketing and company culture
- They got to £10m in revenue with a few million in profit
- People were saying 'if you're profitable then you're probably not growing fast enough'
- Thought they were missing out on growth
- Went from being profitable to running at a loss, hiring people, running ad campaigns
- Outside the business it seemed like they were doing great but internally they were creating a ton of complexity and a situation was bad.
- Lost the ability risks because of it
- Forced everything to be short term
- Compounding affect of losing $300k a month
- As they got more profitable they took more risks
- At the point where you were haemorrhaging money, going further and further into the red, what were you thinking? What was next?
- This was the point where 3 life changing offers where on the table. Their intention was never to sell Wistia, but it got to the point where they were considering it.
- But they felt that if they sell, they would be failing.
- Then they started thinking about what they would do if they sold.
- Start a new company
- Idea of the brand, the people, the problems they'd want to solve
- "If we want to build another company, we'd build another Wistia back to the £10m days and we wouldn't have screwed it up by putting the throttle down so hard"
- How has Wistia been since raising the debt? Is it back to being a happy company?
- As soon as the debt was raised, there was about 6 months of turmoil with staff leaving etc, then they built back up to profitability, really quickly.
- It was a huge turnaround as they went from a $0.5m loss in 2017 to $6m profit in 2018
- It gave them profitable confidence again! Wistia could start to take creative risks again, such as One, Ten, One-Hundred and 16 weeks parental leave policy.
- Is it possible to grow a successful business, like Wistia, without taking external funding?
- Depends on the mindset of the founder
- You need persistence, lots of persistence
- You need to have the right market, one that is growing. If the market is not ready for your product, if you don't have funding it will be very hard to keep going.
- One, Ten, One-Hundred is one of my favourite bits of B2B marketing I've ever seen. What was the thought process behind making it?
- Was born out of a conversation with Sandwich Video founder, Adam Lisago.
- They had done a big ad campaign the year before, this was to try and build brand awareness, which didn't work at all. One, Ten, One-Hundred was an opportunity to document this ad creation process with Sandwich.
- What they found with this series is that time spent with brand was up massively, brand search was up and ultimately brand affinity increased.
- Why does long form content work so well?
- Time with brand is such a hard thing to come by if you think about the amount of touchpoint customers have with your brand currently - cumulatively it doesn't add up to much.
- A key to any relationship is building trust and the more time you can get people to spend with you brand, the better.
- It was something people actually wanted to watch. It was entertaining and educational.
- How did it perform?
- $10k video performed the best, but they all performed different jobs.
- The $1k video shows how you can make a creative video that showcases your product well, it doesn't need to break the bank.
- The $10k video showcases the sweet spot of how much you could spend to get a really high performing ad.
- The $100k video proves that if you need your brand to be this polished and have the money to spend to reflect that, then it is worth it.
- It didn't just stop there with Wistia's long form content. What is Brandwagon?
- Ended up having conversations about brand, which sparked the idea of creating a talk show which let's the Wistia personality come through.
- The format means it is repeatable and they know exactly what they are doing, which makes for more efficient production.
- Patrick Campbell of ProfitWell said on another podcast episode that they have got their production of their video series down to about $10k, which is the equivalent to the spend to create an ebook. If it's that cheap to do, why isn't every B2B marketer doing it?
- Patrick and the team are pioneers
- Some people don't understand the impact it can have
- They are looking at how a campaign can go viral, as opposed to thinking about how they can build brand affinity.
- The biggest brands are now figuring out that making good content that interests people really does work
- A place we're really seeing this taking off is with Podcasts. Podcasting is one of the most personalised, intimate ways a person or brand can communicate with you. You're building a relationship with your customer.
- Is Wistia going to keep going with the long-form content? If so, what's next?
- "We're shooting lots at the moment but I can't get into too much detail"
- Wistia didn't have a sales team until 3 years ago. Why didn't you for so long, and what made you create one?
- It's based on focus. When they started, of course they were doing sales, but they wanted to keep the business self-service and seamless with onboarding. They'd built Wistia up pretty big without any sales team.
- But things change! They started speaking to different companies and finding some that had bad experiences with Wistia! This was because there were people who liked speaking to people before buying, they need someone to help them through the buying process. This actually was damaging, especially upmarket. A huge pre-customer experience gap.
- From the outside it looks like everyone is happy and Wistia has a great culture - which I don't doubt. But obviously throughout any journey you're going to have to make difficult decisions within the team, how do you stay grounded when making these decisions and how has that changed as you've grown?
- Sometimes they felt they were holding people back and they won't be fulfilled in staying with Wistia.
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