#Exceptions 2: Wistia
#Exceptions 2: Wistia
Chris Savage: My regrets in building a company have been when my instincts and emotionally I wanted to go one path and I went the other rational path because I was convinced by somebody else. And if that rational path works, you're like, fine, but if it doesn't work, you think, oh my god, why didn't I trust myself here.
Chris Lavigne: I didn't want to give away all the keys to the castle. We have found that we have to do things that scare us. This is a tremendous and spectacular car crash of a video. That was a really big moment.
Jay Acunzo: Welcome back to the second episode of Exceptions, a documentary series here in Seeking Wisdom, where we explore why brand matters more than ever in B2B. This is a partnership from Drift, which is a conversational marketing and sales platform that believes in great experiences between two businesses, and me, Jay Acunzo. I'm the host of a podcast called Unthinkable, and author of the upcoming book, Break the Wheel. Last time in the debut episode of this series, we went inside a company called Gusto and we learned about things like how and why they set up an internal brand studio, and how this one very simple email made a customer feel something and we heard from that customer and helped Gusto both serve existing customers and win new ones. Not to mention, they recruited new talent through this email, it's the same email. So if you missed that episode, go back and you're seeking wisdom feed and check out episode one of Exceptions about Gusto. Today, we go inside Wistia. If this was taped just a couple of years ago, I might have described Wistia as a SaaS company that offers video hosting and video analytics. But thanks to a brand new and pretty major product launch this year, the company is in flux. A ton is changing for them and they're in growth mode. But as you'll hear shortly, they control their path and their speed down it. Despite all the change at this company. One thing that Wistia has never wavered from is their emphasis on building a great brand. This is a company that markets a mission, not just a bunch of products. Their team, which is about 80 people right now mostly based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, all of these people want to make business more human, and they've created appropriately enough, a massive library of videos all of which feels, you guessed it, really human. Some are practical and helpful, like when they taught others how to set up their own DIY studio for making company videos, while other things they make at Wistia are more fun and random, like their annual company rap up video, as in our R- A- P, rap up. That's when they create custom rap songs to tell their story at the end of each year, complete with a highlight reel of everything that happened at the business. Wistia launched in 2006 inside the living room of co- founder and CTO Brendan Schwartz. They raised one initial round of funding through angel investors, but today, they maintain total control of the business having reached profitability several years ago. In 2018, Wistia also took on$ 17.3 million in debt so they could buy out their investors, pay back their employees, and continue to own their own fate. More than 30,000 companies worldwide use Wistia products to create, host and measure their videos, including companies like MailChimp, Sephora, Zendesk, Squarespace and Casper. Now, all the brands we'll profile on this series have many things in common, but the most important thing to them all is that they are customer- centric. And that of course, is where we should start every episode. So it's time now to get one customer's experience of the great experience that is the Wistia brand. Every year for the past several years, there's been a big marketing event in Wisconsin on back to back days. The first day has been held at Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers, and the second at Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. And every year, both on the stage and milling around the room, there's at least one representative from Wistia invited there all thanks to their great reputation. The event is called Experience Inbound. And I reached out to one of the people responsible for the event, Mary Jo Preston. Mary Jo works for Stream Creative, a marketing agency in Brookfield Wisconsin, and I asked her what's your perception of the people from Wistia.
Mary Jo Preston: Friendly, approachable people who know a ton about video and they don't make it scary.
Jay Acunzo: Mary Jo first knew about Wistia because her agency is a happy customer. But when she finally met the people of the company at a marketing conference in Boston the very next year as Mary Jo planned her event, she knew she had to have a Wistian speak. The company tapped Jonah Silberg. He was on the customer support team at the time and is now a sales team lead.
Mary Jo Preston: He blew it out of the water. And from all of the different interactions really with Jonah and Wistia, as a newbie coming in not really knowing the whole story in their background, it was a natural fit because my first impression of them was, god, they're just like us and our culture at our agency. So that was my first experience with them.
Jay Acunzo: Lots of benefits of building your brand in B2B don't show up in a nice, neat chart. Getting invited to speak at conferences might be among them. It leads to countless advantages, some measurable and many not. People all around the industry see that you're associated with going to these events and speaking and adding value as a teacher and thought leader. And then the actual attendees get to really meet you in person, live, offline. Then there's the companies who hold the events, they often promote you, interview you, and share your message and story with the halo of people in and around their event. And most of these benefits are a direct result of how your brand makes somebody feel. As Mary Jo told me...
Mary Jo Preston: I would not hesitate in the least bit to even call Jonah up who he did our event two years ago, or now I know Katie from there and just say, hey, you know what, I'm trying to do this or my client has a question. Can you maybe help me out? That's kind of how I feel about Wistia.
Jay Acunzo: Brand plays such a huge role in why a business succeeds today, from direct leads and sales to the incredible benefits of being viewed as a helpful industry leader. Just listen to how Mary Jo describes her process of vetting potential speakers.
Mary Jo Preston: We look at the company as a whole, we look at what their blogs what they're talking about. We look at, if it's a video company, we watch video. We want to see, what are you guys talking about and how does that fit with our over all education we want our event to be about. How does that align? Everything from when going to their website, first thing you see is, is the top thing I actually is kind of laughing because it's got this friendly girl holding a pink camera video camera and she's dancing around. And then of course, if they're speaking, I want to see them on tape. I want to see how they come across. So we know what our audience should expect. We know if this is going to be a good fit.
Jay Acunzo: I wonder, how would your company hold up to that vetting process? And when you actually make it to industry events, are you there to attend or are you the speaker? The person commanding the stage in front of hundreds or even 1000s of prospects, customers and partners, that's a big, big deal, and that's a hard stage to win. And that decision is made by the event manager based on your brand.
Mary Jo Preston: I think the Wistia brand brings high value. If I can put that logo on my event that I have a speaker coming from that company, we know we're going to get the latest talk of the town if you want to say that. What are people saying about video right now? And they see that logo as a credibility factor.
Jay Acunzo: If Wistia's brand was like a person in your life, who is that person?
Mary Jo Preston: Oh, boy. And this maybe sound weird, but my youngest daughter who she is friendly, helpful, she smiles a lot, she's approachable. And I'm actually very proud of her because every year her teachers tell me, she is the person in class who all the other kids look to when they have a question on something. That's kind of how I see Wistia.
Jay Acunzo: Later in the episode, we're going to find out how this compares to the way Wistia's CEO would describe their brand if it came to life. For now, think about your own company. How often do you get invited to speak? If an event is like a microcosm of how people view an industry and all the different places and people that they could go to for expertise and knowledge and solutions, where does your brand fit in that landscape? More importantly, where does your brand fit in people's minds? Today, you simply can't build a great company in B2B without proactively and strategically thinking about your brand. In a world of infinite supply and choice where the B2B buyer has all the power, people choose to spend both time and money on the best experience. So let's explore today's big idea about what it takes to build our brands in B2B. Today's big idea, make them feel. When we talk about all the change the world is going through, we often refer to the consumer space I think, even if it's just implicitly. We'll say things like, we have endless options, distractions, choices. And we imagine scrolling through Facebook or Instagram or searching on Google, or shopping on Amazon. The overwhelming amount of stuff out there that we always reference seems to apply to us as individual consumers at home. But it applies in the working world too. More channels and more notifications on those channels arrive thanks to the work of salespeople and marketers everywhere, while new technologies provide automation to those same individuals. Even the best product with all its benefits clearly stated, with all the data, all the facts, still isn't memorable. It blends in into a sea of sameness. Every company claiming they're the best. But if you can make somebody feel something, you're memorable. It's like that quote from Maya Angelou, " People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." If you focused on resonating with somebody, not just reaching them, now you're cooking with gas. You have a chance to doing so much more than just acquiring someone's attention, you will hold it. And you'll hold it long enough for all that good stuff we want in business to happen. But even just hearing my words, hearing me say things like make them feel, maybe we can recoil a little bit, maybe that's our temptation. Really, lots of the companies we'll hear from on this series, including Wistia today, build brands that border on warm and fuzzy. They're quirky, they're startupy. However, you don't have to make your audience laugh or make them feel warm and fuzzy, especially if that's not authentically you. You can make them feel a lot of things. Make them feel smarter or more empowered, or more successful. You can make them feel heard, make them feel like their work matters. Make them feel like a genius, like they know something, and they're better at something than their peers. Whatever specific emotion it is, it has to be an emotion. People will never forget how you made them feel. Whether we like to admit it or not, people make emotional buying decisions. Today, we need to build human- powered brands. These are companies that tap into your emotions, not through manipulation, but by being real, being authentically who they are. You see their faces, you hear their voices, you get to know them as people, whether individual people or a collective entity. But make no mistake, there's a human element to this. And what is more B2B than that? I mean, whenever we picture anything stereotypically B2B, we picture two humans or multiple humans interacting. The classic notion of two executives brokering a deal or the salesman who takes somebody to dinner, all of these ideas in B2B are human. They're people buying from other people. Seriously, what would be more authentic to B2B than a human- powered brand? But in the digital age, many companies and many marketing departments have started to lose that. So what if you put the people back into your sales and marketing? What if you made them feel? Let's explore this big idea now with two people from Wistia. Their CEO, Chris Savage, and their principal video producer, Chris Levine. I asked Chris Savage, as the CEO, what would you say is the Wistia brand if it became a person. Remember that before, Mary Jo told us that it's her daughter, smart, helpful, and the person in the classroom that everybody turns to. Does that align with how Chris views his company?
Chris Savage: Yeah, I think it's your nerdy friend that you trust. You're kind of watching to see like, well, where will they go next, and what thing will they do next, and not everything's going to work, but some of the stuff that does will probably really work.
Jay Acunzo: When they started in 2006, Wistia created that friendly, helpful, albeit nerdy brand, just because that's who they really are. When I talked to Chris, I asked him when you're building something new, do you spend time thinking about cultivating your brand? I mean, where does the idea of brand fit when you're small? Does it just sort of happen or is it proactive?
Chris Savage: Building a brand in the early days was just, we didn't know what we were doing, exactly as you're saying. We were making content trying to be content marketers, and people weren't actually commenting on the blog post. They're saying like, how'd you make that video? What lights did you use? How'd it look so crisp? Stuff like that. And then we almost made content to stop people from asking us questions. And every time we did that, we did more and more and more. And along the way, I learned the lesson that if you have a strong brand and a brand is built on every interaction someone has with the company, it's seeing each piece of content. It is when you sign up for a product, all of the flows, the emails, the support tickets, if you talk to someone in sales, all of that, that collection of interactions becomes the brand. That happened because we just felt like we want to prioritize customer experience, we want to delight people at every turn. And we stayed focused enough on the content marketing for long enough that it actually started to show up in the data that it was working. But it was after years of doing it. And the fundamental thing was, if you truly help somebody and you truly save them time and you help them be more successful in their job, they will tell other people. And they're not going to tell other people because they like your brand, they're going to tell other people because they like those other people.
Jay Acunzo: At one point, Wistia had a small team, and not to mention, one product. Using their platform, you could upload and host your video to your website, measure it and improve its performance with things like customizing the player or improving SEO and asking for email subscription directly in the video. Those were simpler times at the company. Maybe hard to execute, but pretty easy to wrap your mind around if you're a participant, in other words, an employee in the brand. Today, Wistia's work is hard in a new way. They've launched a new product called Soapbox, which helps you actually create video too. As a result, they're a bit in flux both in what they do and in how they operate as a team.
Chris Savage: You can start to see how it's changing how people think of Wistia. And I think in a few years, we'll be like, whoa, that was a really big moment, that's when the company really changed.
Jay Acunzo: What is the big shift that that product is a signal of?
Chris Savage: It's a signal of how video has changed. We started Wistia in 2006, and at the time, when we talked to companies, we're like, hey, you should use video. They were like, yeah, we are, we make DVDs and we send them around to train people. People weren't even making videos for the web at that point. And so things have just changed so much. And the fact that we can make a product that actually helps you make videos to me is a remarkable sign of how much the technology has changed. So I think it's a technological shift. And then for Wistia also, the fact that we are now a multi- product company. We have built two products and you should be on the lookout for more things from us in the future. And that's just a really exciting thing because it's different to go zero to one on something new than to keep iterating on something you already have. Requires a different skill set, and even how you have two products that are at different life cycles at the same time is like, represents a huge challenge. It's easy to write down on paper and hard to do in reality. I think we're getting pretty good at it, and I think once we're really good at it, it'll be very clear. Oh, Wistia is a company that makes great products that help you communicate better with video, and that's what they're about. They're not just analytics and infrastructure.
Jay Acunzo: Throughout their growth, Chris and the founding team at Wistia have shared one belief, the belief that making people feel has benefits to the business, even if you can't measure it. Wistia rarely asks for things in return for sharing their helpful content, never gating that content with forced forms, and rarely if ever, talking about themselves. Admittedly, this sounds a bit easier for early stage startups to accomplish. Chris understands that, but he has a powerful message to those at later stage companies who are, let's say, skeptical.
Chris Savage: We have found, we learn this through mistakes, we learn this through trying to optimize too much as opposed to following our instincts, that we have to do things that scares us. We believe that this is going to be good, we believe that we're going to be giving back so much to the community, the community will think, wow, this is totally different than something else that I've seen. I could be wrong and we put too many eggs in one basket, but you have to be a little bit afraid to be pushing yourself, and to be learning. You do the same thing over and over, it's not even fun anymore, even if it is remarkable. You got to keep pushing. For us, it's always like, how do we do that with the production? How do we do with the concepts? How do we do that with speed? How do we do that with having different people making the videos than we're making them before and push ourselves in that way? I think you have to keep finding ways to push yourself and be a little bit afraid. And if you can do that, then you can do great stuff.
Jay Acunzo: And Wistia, they do great stuff. My question was how. I decided to dig into Wistia's work and our big theme of making others feel on three different levels. From smallest to largest, they are making a single video, creating their video strategy, and then creating a strong brand most broadly. To get started understanding how they make a single video and where that fits with their scaling brand today, I talked to their principal video producer, Chris Lavigne. And yes, there's another Chris here. So remember, Lavigne makes videos.
Chris Lavigne: Well my day is literally different every single day. Part of my day is spent concepting videos, scripting videos, doing the actual production of the videos, the post- production of the videos. But a large majority of my time is also spent kind of strategizing around the content here at Wistia. And also, this is actually one of my favorite parts of the job, it's actually informing the product and the product strategy and the bigger strategy of the brand as a whole, because we are a video product, and I'm a video producer at a video software company. I get to actually have an impact on the strategy of the product. That's really fun.
Jay Acunzo: If you know Wistia, you know about their fun, funny, quirky and yeah, startupy videos. For example, back when the entire company could fit together in one room, Chris Lavigne had that entire team in that one room create three different videos for the company's homepage. And ridiculousness ensued.
Chris Lavigne: As you do in a corporate video, we had a confetti machine and confetti tech person come in for the day and blow confetti in the office. We had my brand new Craftsman toolbox that my mother- in- law had gotten me for Christmas, and I brought that in, and I of course, knocked it on to the ground for a shot and dented it all up, we had tools everywhere. It was kind of an all hands on deck video. We shut the whole company down for the day, we must have been around 12 people, and we got the whole team involved in the production of the video. It's very rare that in video, you have an end video that actually hits your vision that you had for it in the scripting process. Sometimes you'll make the video and it doesn't come out exactly how you had in your head and that'll drive you insane as a filmmaker. But this particular one just came out exactly shot for shot how I had it in my head and the concept. And we were able to involve the whole team on it too, which was really great.
Jay Acunzo: It's clear that Wistia has fun creating a video, but how do they ensure that each video they create serves some higher level purpose, it serves the company, the audience? Before we explore their broader video strategy, let's think about how they create one single video today given this scaling sort of influx background that they work with day to day. How do they actually go about creating video with so many different people now representing the brand.
Chris Lavigne: So when we have a new person joining Wistia and we want to get them into a video, we want to have them represented in a video, we're not going to just throw them to the sharks, to the wolves, to the crocodiles, if you will, and have them go whole hog on a five minute talking head script.
Jay Acunzo: So lots of new hires are in the videos in non- speaking roles only doing things like waving to the camera or participating in B- roll shots of them at their desk. And this eases them into the video at the very same time that they're getting to know the brand.
Chris Lavigne: Kind of get people's confidence up to say, hey, yeah, this is scary to get in front of the camera, but the bar is so low that it's pretty easy to just get up there and say your name. And then when that new person sees themselves in an edited Wistia video and sees that they look like they look in real life, I didn't make them look like they had raccoon eyes or their shadows were all over their face and they actually sound good, then that gives them more confidence to then get into the next video, which may have a line.
Jay Acunzo: And they'll work up to larger roles from there. With every decision Chris makes, he takes into account this idea that lots of humans and a very diverse array of perspectives have to represent one brand. And he does so by leaning into somebody's strengths or areas of expertise as a first step in the process.
Chris Lavigne: The scripting process usually starts with, if it's for a launch video for a new product, maybe somebody on the product marketing team or the product management team will take a first crack at the message of a script. It'll then get passed over to the video team, we'll kind of flesh that script out and take it into, apply a video concept to it. Then every script for every video that we shoot is read out loud with the talent during what's called a table read. And during that table read, the talent is actually taking the lines that I may have written for them, being able to put it into their own words. So we're not putting words into their mouth that they would never say. And so, a lot of that stuff will help to keep the delivery of those lines natural.
Jay Acunzo: Okay, let's zoom out now to the strategy behind Wistia's videos. We just went over how they create one, so what's the overall strategy and how does that work? The place that B2B marketers can struggle with the most is knowing where to invest time in building their brand. Branding is so much more than simply fun and quirky activities, but because brand is often misconstrued as that fun culture stuff or that big new idea, it can be really hard to know whether or not to do any of that stuff with confidence. In other words, lots of it is unproven or seems fun, or a side project. It doesn't stick to the tried and true playbook of paid acquisition or email outreach, for example. So, according to Chris Savage, developing your strategy early on is about two things. First and foremost.
Chris Savage: Trust. The early days was all about that trust and qualitative feedback. It'd be like, go to a conference and someone would come up to me and be like, wow, we made the studio that you made a blog post, a video about. That was so incredible. It made it so much easier to make videos. I was like, wow, that's amazing, I had no idea that people were doing that. Then that happens again and again. And then you've talked to enough people like, wow, this is working.
Jay Acunzo: That's a great place to start he says because when you're early, you haven't really figured out anything at all. You don't get bogged down by as much conventional wisdom internally because inside your company anyway, there is no conventional wisdom.
Chris Savage: When you have nothing but time, the only thing you can possibly do to succeed is be creative. That's it. You just try stuff and try stuff and try stuff and try stuff and nobody is seeing it failing. And then if you are lucky enough to be lucky with your timing and the things that you're doing, you find something that works, now you scale that thing up, and everyone's like, oh, yeah, of course this thing works, of course content marketing works for you. Of course you're marketing a mission instead of the product. You came in and we taught you. Well, the next thing, that next moment, when you have to take that next creative risk, no one's seen the obscurity that you have to like claw your way through. No one's seen all of those things that never worked that never saw the light of day. And so it becomes scarier to do those things. And when you have scale, optimization is more attractive. So it's like, oh, well, if we just get 3% more people to click this button, we'll make way more money. Shouldn't we do the optimization? And it becomes hard to argue with that. It's like, here's the thing I don't know if it's going to work. If it works, it'll probably be huge but we might not be able to track it. Here's another thing, if it works, we'll know exactly how much it works, and it'll be modest, but it'll be real. And people are just attracted to that, it's the nature of risk taking. You actually need both of those things. The hard part is actually having the balance and the confidence to do the first one, to fail again. To take risks and do things that scare you.
Jay Acunzo: Chris calls these emotional risks. He says that your strategy needs to include space and even a mandate to take more emotional risks. To do so, he says you need to, in his words, send in the artists. In other words, find people with creative taste and figure out what they're passionate about and elevate that. If you have an awesome mixologist on staff and you sell say tools for podcasters, do a series about how to mix together all the stuff that makes up a great show, and play up that passion of the individual. Or talk to experts while drinking cocktails in a fun little gimmick. By the way, if you create that show, can I please be a guest? I'll bring the bourbon, I promise. Anyways, the point here is not to do something kitsch. The point is to find those people who are intrinsically motivated by the things they do in their work and in their lives that can serve others. Then make them the stars. People without agenda who are genuinely helpful for your customers should take center stage. They're going to take emotional risks because they care more deeply about, for instance, educating a group of video marketers than they do about, say, converting more leads. And it's funny how doing the first leads to the second.
Chris Savage: It's a problem of scaling companies in general that people lose touch with the customer, because you start to have enough data that you think you can test and track everything. But there are certain things that you cannot test and track. And now where we are is interesting because we've built up such a brand and have so much traffic that comes to this site, and so much of it is direct, and so much of it is word of mouth that it's very hard to see any new thing in there, unless it is enormous, like soapbox pretty clear. We have to have more trust and more faith that we need to make remarkable content and remarkable experiences. And if we do that, we'll build a strong brand, and we'll build a strong brand of people who want to help their friends do better work and save time and be more successful. And so, it's on us to stay relevant and on us to continually teach what we're learning and ideally make products that make people's lives easier at work.
Jay Acunzo: A big part of Wistia's video strategy, and indeed, their approach to growing a whole brand is to master the ability to keep or kill projects. And how do you do that with clarity? Part of it for Wistia comes from this qualitative feedback that they do or don't get from their employees and their audience. But they also know when to kill something as a sort of sixth sense that the Wistia team has developed.
Chris Savage: It's funny, we've killed a lot of projects at Wistia. And we always say we're not very good at it, and I look back, I'm like, well, actually, we did kill a lot of stuff.
Jay Acunzo: Let's talk about an example of a video that Wistia decided to keep and publish and promote, and one they decided to kill. An example of the first, the one they kept, was a recent video created for their sales team. Here's video producer Chris Lavigne again.
Chris Lavigne: The sales team at Wistia wanted a way to improve on the thanks for submitting, we'll be back in touch message experience that people get a lot when they submit a form. So, instead of just having it be that form, we created a video that featured our entire sales team and it ripped off, I wouldn't say ripped off but was inspired heavily by the locker room scene in Mighty Ducks II.
Jonah Silberg: Oh, this is exciting. Somebody wants to get in touch. Aren't y'all excited?
Erica Gordon: What if we blow it?
Jonah Silberg: What?
Erica Gordon: What if they don't like us?
Speaker 7: Yeah, what if they don't like us?
Jonah Silberg: Not going to happen. You, who are you?
Fernando Silva: Fernando Silva.
Jonah Silberg: What are you passionate about?
Fernando Silva: Video Marketing and analytics.
Chris Lavigne: It's that famous scene where Gordon Bombay is trying to pump up a demoralized team.
Speaker 9: ...better click through rates on email.
Alex Schofield: Alex Schofield, actionable analytics.
Erica Gordon: Erica Gordon, flexible APIs.
Peter Vaugh: Peter Vaughn Rashard, changing the player color.
Daniel Alexander: Daniel Alexander, using video for sales.
Taylor Brennan: Taylor Brennan, captions.
lexi Jen Andrea: Lexi Jen Andrea, calls to action.
Jonah Silberg: And I'm Jonah Silberg, and I love replacing a video without any downtime or having to change the embed. We're the Wisti sales team, we're passionate about helping people succeed with video. So sit tight, we'll be in touch soon, get ready for the best gosh darn call you're going to have all week.
Chris Lavigne: Instead of just saying, yeah, we'll be back in touch, we present folks with this video that is a personal look inside of our sales team, but also is a very light hearted, pumps you up emotionally and is an incredible throwback if you can actually get the reference.
Jay Acunzo: Important reminder here, making others feel our big idea today doesn't mean you have to be fun or quirky, especially if that's not who you really are. Anyway, why does this video, this Mighty Ducks parody, why did that make sense for Wistia? Well, for starters, they've renewed their focus on selling their products to marketers. After splitting their time over the last couple years among lots of job functions, they're doubling down on the audience they began serving in the first place. And marketers, well, we appreciate great marketing. We adore great experiences because we're often the ones tasked with creating them. Another reason this video made sense was the increased focus at Wistia on helping the sales team. Remember that there was that guy early on that Mary Jo from Stream Creative first hired to speak. That was Jonah, and Jonah, after years of working in customer experience is now a sales leader, and lo and behold, he's brought the ability to use great videos to improve experiences to sales. He was actually featured as Gordon Bombay as the coach in this video that Chris Lavigne just mentioned. Now, lastly, Wistia also understands how to scale their brand. They want to spread the same emotion across everything they do. I asked Lavigne, what would that emotion actually be?
Chris Lavigne: I got two words for you, Jay, good vibes, good vibes, baby.
Jay Acunzo: Love it. What do you mean?
Chris Lavigne: So at Wistia, we're invested very heavily in creating a ton of educational content about making video. We're a video software company, we want to help our customers and our audience, anybody that sees any of our work make better video. And if you're trying to be as helpful and friendly of a brand as possible, it only makes sense to not hide any of that good stuff behind an email address. You want that to be open and accessible to everyone.
Jay Acunzo: Here's a pithy way to think about it. If something works, don't do more like it, do more with it. When you have a win, especially as a marketer, instead of trying to manufacture more wins that seems similar, get that same project to do more work for you. Get more results out of the thing that already is proven. The temptation in marketing is to replicate the vehicle, the container. We say something like, hey, a blog post written as a list really worked for us, so, let's write more listified blog posts. But the real question is why. Why did that article work? What insight about your customer can you pull out from that experience? Well, maybe the theoretical audience we're talking about is stressed out. Maybe they're pressed for time, and they appreciate the compact, easily digestible format of a list. Okay, great. What else can you do with that? Where else can you take it? Well, maybe you can make short punchy videos rather than long ones. Create a bunch of cheat sheets rather than a lengthy ebook. Shorten your emails when you send them, and so on. When something works, don't do more like it, find the insight underlying it, and then do more with it. Wistia knows this firsthand. They understand why their videos do so well and they spread that why across everything they do. And that's what led them to take their fun loving videos and redesign their homepage to show a woman dancing silently with a smile and a camera. That's what led them to create some behind the scenes interviews on Instagram about the quirks of their team. And that's why they made a Mighty Ducks II parody for the sales team. When something works, don't do more like it, do more with it. That's how you can make people feel the same way every time and every place they interact with you.
Chris Lavigne: Ultimately, that is the goal of any video we make is to make somebody feel something.
Jay Acunzo: So what about the videos that Wistia kills? How do they make that decision? Well, to use the same philosophy would be a great place to start, right? Don't do more like it, do more with it. But they reverse engineer it in order to make the killing decision. In other words, they start by looking for a small number of people at their company who react in big emotional ways to their video experiments long before they ever go out. They're looking for some early true believers, if you will, that early passion from people. And if they get it, they do more with it. They'll finish the video, they'll publish it, promote it, and so on. But if it falls flat, they'll kill it and kill it dead. And this prevents them from constantly shipping work that doesn't work.
Chris Lavigne: A lot of the bad videos actually don't even go out. When I say Wistia afforded me the ability to make a bad video, I would spend maybe three, four or five days in making a video, edit it all together, shop it around, and then once it was actually out, realize that the message was terrible and the concept didn't connect, or something didn't happen, and it ended up just getting scrapped.
Jay Acunzo: One of the worst videos they tried was something called Tooley the Toolbox.
Tooley: Hello there, I'm Tooley the Toolbox. I'm here to tell you that the fine folks at Unbounce have partnered with companies like HubSpot, Kissmetrics and Wistia to get you the tools you need to succeed.
Chris Lavigne: It was some type of a promotion about Wistia being a part of a tool set that was included with some kind of promotion. And so, we literally tried to personify a toolbox, we put like googly eyes on a toolbox.
Tooley: ...this is hogwash. All you need is a compound miter saw and some good old fashioned elbow grease.
Male: Cut, cut. Tooley, I think you're the wrong person for this video.
Tooley: Do I still get my day rate?
Jay Acunzo: This is a tremendous spectacular car crash of a video. But for Wistia, if they don't experiment, don't allow themselves the freedom to make a terrible video once in a while, they'll never do anything that wasn't previously proven. When you do that, relying on just the tried and true, never testing or improving, you get stuck, you get stagnant. There's that old saying that insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. I actually think in business doing the same thing and expecting the same outcome is insanity. We have to constantly improve. And Wistia is hellbent on avoiding this idea of stagnation by constantly questioning the best practice. And this really flows from their CEO, Chris Savage.
Chris Savage: Myself and myself and Brendan see building a business as a creative endeavor. There are constantly new challenges, constant challenges that no one saw before or there might be a best practice for it, which you have to question, is this best practice right? Is this the best way to have an engaged team? Is this the best way to communicate with customers? And so, it's almost like running a company is, it's always just a blank canvas. It's like how should we solve this and can we solve this in a way that people haven't solved it before? Can we save not like 10% more time, can we save 100% of the time by automating something away completely, not doing it at all, rethinking how policy works. It seems crazy but Wistia has become this creative endeavor. And so, it's extremely creatively fulfilling, and it just makes it just not feel like work. Everything doesn't feel like work. We just had an all hands meeting going through strategy updates and performance and all this stuff and like, it doesn't feel like work to me. It just feels like we're painting. I like that, that's what gets me out of bed in the morning, and I like that intellectual challenge. And so, for that reason, it's something that we are very proud of that we've been able to do this for as long as we have, it's been 12 years since we started the company. And when I think about the future, can I see us doing this in 12 years, definitely. And as long as we stick by those things we believe and we build a really creative company, and we keep taking risks, and we really focus on brand, it's going to be really fun.
Jay Acunzo: When you're building a human- powered customer- centric brand in B2B, you constantly question conventional thinking to think for yourself. So let's take a look now at a few questions we can ask in our specific situations to break from old norms and build better brands. Question number one, are you taking enough emotional risks? This is incredibly challenging for people in business, but it can be the differentiating factor between a brand that people feel something towards and thus pay a premium for and another company that's easily ignored in this world of infinite choice. After all, as Chris Lavigne points out...
Chris Lavigne: We're all humans, we've all heard this stat, but we're making emotional decisions, why wouldn't you do business with the company that you emoted with and that made you feel good, or that empowered you to do better at your job without asking for anything in return?
Jay Acunzo: Taking an emotional risk doesn't mean being sappy or funny. It means making others care by showing how much you care about them, about the problem you solve, and so on. The idea of emotional risks might seem a little bit murky or a little bit difficult to answer, but it's one that everybody we're profiling in this series has given serious thought to. Are you taking enough emotional risks in your marketing? And speaking of emotion, question number two, are you finding and building on your true believers? We all want to build big businesses or at least have our current projects return in a big way. But that often causes us to focus solely on the big top line numbers. And what we miss when we do that is early and strong signal that we should keep investing in something to grow it. With Wistia, we heard both Chris's talk about how they look for passionate responses from both their employees and their audience as a sign they should keep investing. That's the whole if something works, don't do more like it, do more with it thing. When we build a brand as marketers, so often we can't measure direct response right away or maybe ever. So instead, what if we focused on our true believers, a small number of people reacting in a big way to what we do. Not as final success, but as a signal we're on the right path towards it. That's how we can make smarter investment decisions even if we don't have a nice neat chart telling us that look, this brand initiative returned X dollars right away. That question, again, are you finding and building on your true believers? Question number three, are you building your brand's body of work. Through two episodes of the show, first with Gusto and now with Wistia, there are tons of emerging themes or through lines. But one of them written across both companies in bright bold red so you can't miss it, is this idea that your brand is built on a collection of stuff. A brand is the sum of your team's behavior and the emotions that your customers feel when they're on the receiving end. But make no mistake, the only way that collective behavior adds up to a great brand is if the company focuses on all the little activities, the entire body of the work. You can't build a brand if each action you take is scrutinized to the point of needing it to work. Besides, in what world does every action you take actually work?
Chris Lavigne: I would say three out of every 10 videos I make hits the vision. That may be generous. Maybe one in 10 or two in 10. For whatever reason, if it's a deadline, if it's the execution you chose, if it's the tools that you use, sometimes that vision doesn't align with what you had in your head, and it bums you out, it still works, but it doesn't work perfectly. One in 10 times, two in 10 times, three in 10 times when something just hits and it makes you the creator feel something, that's the good stuff.
Jay Acunzo: The reality is that building a great brand is a portfolio approach. One out of every 10 things you try will be amazing, a few more will work as you imagined, and that's the good stuff. But a few will be so so, and a couple of will be total duds. Great leaders and great modern marketers care about the body of the work, the results of the collective behavior, not every individual project. Ask yourself, are you focused on building your body of work? In the end, the world's best in B2B seemed like outliers from the rest of us the way they're building their brands. But they don't have to be the minority. You can make your audience feel and you can do so in your own way, not to mention reap all the rewards that follow. So, I wonder, in this sea of sameness, in this world of infinite choice facing the B2B buyer, what makes your brand an exception? This episode of Exceptions was written and produced by me, Jay Acunzo, and brought to you by Drift. If you haven't done this yet, go and listen to all the other series they publish right here in the Seeking Wisdom channel. You're already in the feed you need to be in. They have more shows about marketing, but they also have a show about growth, a show about product and their main series co- hosted by Drift CEO David Cancel and VP of Marketing Dave Gerhardt. That show's about being better every day. It's awesome, it has some amazing guests and some great first principle thinking, aka grandma's wisdom. Go and check out those other shows. And while you're doing that, while you continue to listen, leave us a rating and review. The people at drift actually told me before I created the show for them that they only accept six star reviews and ratings, six stars. So while we go and contact Apple to make the six star rating a possible thing, leave us five, and then send me the last one, the sixth one, and I'll log that for a later date when Apple changes their policy. So send me star number six over Twitter or email. I'm @ JayAcunzo or Jay @ unthinkablemedia. com. And I'd love to hear from you and chat about this episode and show. So thank you so much for listening, I'll talk to you in a couple of weeks on the next episode of Exceptions. See ya.