Exploring Marketing Channels: Podcasts

How (and why) to set-up a podcast for your B2B Software company.

Greg, Alex and I recently launched Polychrome Capital. We are a small team that not only invests into B2B software businesses, but also act as operators to drive growth within them. 

A few months back, we invested into a Feature Flagging company called www.Flagsmith.com. As we’ve dug into the day-to-day, we have been doing tons of hands-on work to drive growth and awareness to the business. So far, we’ve been able to double revenue within 3 months and are starting to get consistent gains on leads/sign-ups. 

It’s been fun to get into execution roles again, but it’s also a reminder of how much I appreciate the talents of the people I’ve worked with in my career to date. As we start to encounter new challenges, our goal is to share different tactics that we are working on to drive growth to the company. In this article, I’ll be covering the topic of launching a podcast. 

Why launch a podcast if you have a B2B SaaS company?

Ok - I know, I know. You’re probably thinking, “Not another podcast?!”. We originally thought the exact same thing, but after we started to think about it more and more, it started to make sense as long as we had something interesting to talk about. 

As a small software company, we need to make the most out of every hour and dollar we invest into the company. One of the biggest ROIs we’ve seen at companies in the past has been content. If done right, content becomes an extension of your product (education) and brand (quality association) that can have an amazing compounding impact over time. That rate of compounding impact increases and decreases with quality. As you think deeper about content, you realize pretty quickly that it comes in different forms, is shared through different channels, and serves very different goals. 

To drive this point home, we quickly “scored” different content types on a few dimensions to help us prioritize future content investments (TOFU = Top of Funnel):

After thinking through the different channels and benefits, here is what we loved about podcasts:

As a relatively new product/company in the market, we are trying to drive awareness and sign-ups. For us, Top of the Funnel (TOFU), was a clear priority. The other important benefit to the podcast was the cost of incremental episodes. Once the infrastructure was built out, we could then make it easy for each additional episode. All we need to do is find interesting guests and invite them to the show, record the interview, promote and repeat. And last, perhaps the most important scoring criteria that wasn’t added onto this matrix is what I’ll call the “X-Factor”. As a small company, it is hard to get great links for SEO and to have access to other company’s mailing lists for awareness. Because we chose a topic (Open Source software) that has a great grassroots community and speaks to the people we want to work with; we are able to have relatively large projects and companies share the podcast with their audiences. 

What are we going to talk about?!

Ok, so now we had the content medium that we wanted to go after in Podcasts...but the questions remained; how does a B2B software company choose topics that are actually interesting and serve the needs of the business at the same time? 

I think this is key and where lots of startups/companies get stuck and create the dreaded “keyword” content. This is usually just a series of blog posts that people believe is on-point, but really isn’t. In short, our point of view is that people typically get too focused on converting direct channels vs educating their audience and establishing authority. Investing is too broad of content is a really hard thing to justify as a startup, so I’ll do the 10,000 ft example of our framework and how we came to the topic/justification for the investment: 

  • Target Audience/Target Customer: Software Engineers (we are actually more targeted in who we want to work with, but we will keep it simple for now) 

  • Our Mission: Empower software engineering teams to ship faster and continuously improve their products.

  • Our Product: Our product is a feature flagging and experimentation platform available as open source (which means that people can use it for free), On-Prem (which means that people can license our product and deploy it on their infrastructure), and as SaaS. We support a ton of languages/technologies, so just about any team can adopt us. 

  • Our Goal for the podcast: Drive broad awareness for our company and open source project! 

All companies in software are leveraging some sort of open source software and the people that care about it...are engineers. Those engineers tend to be passionate about specific technologies and are eager to share their stories and knowledge with the community.

Put all these inputs in a blender (or brainstorm), shake well...and out comes “The Craft of Open Source”: a bi-weekly podcast where our CEO, Ben Rometsch interviews the best minds in the Open Source community. Also - huge shout-out to Ben on being willing to be the host of the Podcast. He hasn’t done this before, but has very quickly gotten into the groove and does an amazing job with the guests. 

How you can arrive at these inputs merits a longer discussion, which we will write about in the future…or feel free to drop us a note. 

The Work

Now that we had the target audience, goals, and content medium picked out, it was time to figure out how to do this. 

After looking around online, we were able to find a company that guides you through the podcast process and all of the necessary materials to get it up and running. If you haven’t done this before, having a team that has done it is valuable. We found the company we used to be “ok”. The biggest benefits they brought were: providing syndication to all of the major platforms, transcribing/editing episodes, creating intro/outro music & voiceover, and project managing/coordinating. 

To provide you with a list of what you need so you can do it on your own, here are the assets we created:

  1. Podcast Art (amazing design by my talented wife, Sabine Althauser)

  2. Show Description (look, we’re live on Apple Podcasts!)

  1. Hosting/Syndication Platform - There are a ton out there. This software does two main things:

    • Gives you a player that you can embed in different places as well as analytics for your listens/downloads.

    • Adds and updates your episodes on the different platforms like Spotify, Apple, etc.

  2. Podcast Homepage (optional, but valuable for sharing):

  3. Podcast Episode Template (which we host on our blog CMS):

  4. Intro & Outro music w/ voice over:

    • Getting a voice recording of this with music added is critical. It’s amazing how much that up-levels the recording. 

  5. Recording Software & Hardware:

    • Zoom

    • Nice Microphone

  6. Editing:

    • There are a ton of providers out there that can help you with editing your show. Some do just audio, some will provide a transcript and others will take your production to a whole new level. The key here in our opinion is getting written, video and audio content which gives you many more distribution options. We ended up paying ~$179/episode which includes video, transcript and links from the episode.

  7. Guests:

    • I know this seems obvious, but really think about choosing a topic where this will be easy for you over time. As the saying goes in journalism: “Spend one hour on the article and two hours on the headlines”. The guest that you choose as a bootstrapped startup will dictate your headline, reach and engagement. 

Depending on your current team, existing infrastructure and talents, you can probably get this off the ground on the low end for $2,500-$5,000. Trust me, you can spend way more than we did, but remember, we are still exploring the channel. We launched the effort with 3 episodes, just pushed another live and have ~15 recorded beyond that. If we stay at a bi-weekly cadence, we have content almost through Q2 2021.

Pro-Tip: Having this backlog of pre-recorded shows makes it way less stressful to find quality guests. 

The nice thing about this infrastructure for us is that each additional episode can be produced for less and less over time as we amortize the infrastructure costs. We can also create supporting content/articles out of the topics over time. If you compare that with written articles and remember...the better the guests, the higher the impact...this seems like a good bet on paper. We’ll see how it plays out.

We just launched the podcast last month. If you haven’t checked it out, feel free to listen to it wherever you get your podcasts, or visit www.flagsmith.com/podcast...and please, provide feedback so we can make it better. 

So now I’m guessing you are all rushing out to create a podcast of your own. If you are and you haven’t done the work to evaluate the other channels and whether it makes sense for your business; slow down and do that work. What we do for our companies won’t make sense for yours. The goal of this article is to help you think about your business more effectively. 

If you have questions or would like to provide feedback on how we can do a better job with our efforts, have something you’d like to share or just want to connect...drop us a note! 

Thanks,

Matt Althauser

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About Polychrome:
Polychrome is a new type of investment firm. We help our portfolio companies unlock the next level of growth through our GTM expertise. Check us out at polychromecapital.com

Polychrome Developer Tools Index

“During the gold rush, it's a good time to be in the pick and shovel business.”

- Mark Twain

At Polychrome, we believe in the value of the B2B Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Market. Over the last decade, all three of the partners at Polychrome worked as operators to help grow B2B SaaS companies like Twilio, Amplitude, Optimizely and Returnly. We’ve seen the ins-and-outs of the SaaS business cycles, different models and where certain technologies are an ideal fit for the model. The space has grown considerably over that time, just take a look at the growth of SaaS companies over the last 10 years:

Company data from Crunchbase

That chart is great validation of the opportunity in SaaS, but it is also an overwhelming number of companies. We realized that, at least initially, we needed a more narrow thesis in our approach to finding investment opportunities. One area that we dug into was the developer tools space. We started meeting with different developers and asking them about the tools they used; which ones they love, which ones are mission critical, which ones their whole team uses. Then we mapped out companies in the developer and devops space that had come up in interviews or were successful or rising challengers in the space. What we found is a space that has long been dominated by a few major players (Microsoft, IBM), but is seeing an explosion in new and game changing companies. These are some of the companies that have defined the last few years of IPOs (Atlassian, Datadog, PagerDuty) and often come along with great reputations and financial metrics. It’s a smaller count of companies vs. the 17,000+ SaaS companies, so a bit more manageable and a very interesting group.

Company data from Crunchbase

As the developer tools space as a focus area became a theme, it made us think about the Mark Twain quote “During the gold rush, it’s a good time to be in the pick and shovel business.” This refers to the 1849 gold rush in California, when the most successful people were not the miners, but the suppliers of auxiliary goods. Sure, you could recall George Hearst, the single most successful miner of the gold rush, but he’s remembered for a silly castle. Instead, let’s recall Levi Strauss, a dry goods supplier, whose name lives on over 100 years later as one of the most iconic clothing brands ever. Perhaps as software eats the world there is a similar dynamic at play. A few companies will strike gold inventing or reinventing businesses in software, but finding that one company to invest in carries a lot of risk. Instead, investing in companies that provide tools to those prospectors will likely produce more consistent returns, and even longer lasting success.

This has crystallized into a sub-thesis that we plan to watch closely here at Polychrome. As we do, we thought it would be fun to share and allow our readers to follow along by creating two developer tools indices. So step aside BVP, and welcome everyone the Polychrome Developer Tools Public 20, and the Polychrome Developer Tools Private 30. Both will follow leading emerging companies in the developer tools and developer-oriented software space. We will update the values quarterly and the lists annually. 

Our goal with this blog is to help founders build their companies. With that in mind, we will be writing follow-up posts in this series diving into the metrics of these companies and the space as a whole. We hope it inspires and educates. Have fun following the indices!

Polychrome Developer Tools Public 20

This list is the most valuable 20 developer tools companies, by market cap, which have initially listed their stock publicly within the last 10 years. Some day we hope to make this the Public 30, but the bar is high, so we are starting this year with 20.

Polychrome Developer Tools Private 30

This list is the 30 most funded developer tools companies, by dollars raised, which remain private.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out!

Thanks,

Alex Boswell

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About Polychrome:
Polychrome is a new type of investment firm. We help our portfolio companies unlock the next level of growth through our GTM expertise. Check us out at polychromecapital.com

Our Investment in Flagsmith

Developers and Product Managers understand the importance of having a well oiled Release Management Cycle. Organizations can’t be successful at this if they don’t get each piece of the puzzle right, especially the deployment of the software. This is where Feature Flags come in to help businesses. 

Feature Flags are at the core of most high-functioning engineering teams, allowing organizations that adopt these technologies and practices to stay ahead of the competition. Organizations that adopt Feature Flags see benefits such as: 

  • Having the ability to separate code releases from feature deployment

  • Testing code in production with gradual/targeted rollouts 

  • Empowering non-technical users to manage feature releases

  • Reducing the need to roll back code with the ability to turn off features remotely

We believe that every organization, whether a 20 employee startup or a 3000 employee bank, should have the ability to operate this dynamically. The issue is that most platforms that offer Feature Flags are too expensive to get started, offer cloud hosting only, or don’t have an Open Source offering. Because of the price point, and how the software is hosted, the barrier to adopting such a platform is typically high, or impossible for many organizations. 

When we saw Flagsmith and met Ben Rometsch for the first time we were blown away that Flagsmith solved the above issues in the market.  Flagsmith offers an Open Source Feature Flagging Platform that helps software development teams release new features for their user base. Due to the Software’s nature, companies can use this technology in countless digital products ranging from mobile applications to SaaS web applications. 

Over the last two years, the team at Flagsmith has been heads-down building the platform, which emerged from their own needs when running the development agency, Solid State Group. Ben Rometsch and the team have deep technical expertise, which is a perfect complement to our Go-to-Market experience at Amplitude, Optimizely, and Twilio. 

We couldn’t be more excited to partner with Flagsmith to take on the Feature Flagging space and offer all businesses access to continuous integration.

Architecting Your GTM Motion

How to hire your first salesperson in a B2B Software Company (Part 1)

One of the most common questions We’ve been asked by founders goes something like this:

“My co-founder and I have been able to acquire the first batch of customers on our own and have an ARR of $XXX,XXX. We need to scale ourselves and hire a sales team...How do you hire a good first salesperson?” 

In listening and reading to what’s out there for advice, most people give founders advice that goes something like this: “Your first sales hire should be an “athlete” (aka - able to figure out a lot of things, hustle), be really hungry and love to make cold calls.”

Dig deeper.

While hiring for “allrounders” does have a lot of merit (problem solving, hunger and grit); I believe it avoids the most important piece of advice for founders. By giving the advice of looking for a generalist, you are missing a critical step to help sales succeed at your company. Instead of hiring for someone to figure it out for you, take a step further and think critically about how you will be successful with your strengths in the market. What is your ideal go-to-market motion and what are the skill-sets needed to execute on that strategy?

Choosing the Ideal GTM Motion.

If you’ve been reading-up on this topic, I’m sure you’ve seen people talk about Go-To-Market Motions in a bunch of different ways: 

“They don’t have a sales team...The product sells itself!”, “Their enterprise sales team is excellent and closes massive deals!” and my personal favorite “They are out-executing the competition, despite having a worse product!” Each of these claims is a huge compliment to the underlying company, but they can be pretty misleading for founders early on. The goal of this post is to help you 1) choose the correct motion for your business and 2) give you an idea of the skills needed to execute on those strategies. Let’s jump in…

A tale of two companies.

Here is a chart of two different companies and the corresponding metrics, strategies and mindsets that lend to their success:

After reviewing the above chart, hopefully you are starting to place your company into one bucket or the other. Things to consider as you think about where your company fits:

  • What is an account worth to your company? How long will it take to realize that value?

    • If you “land” in accounts with a small amount of money ($50/mo.), you may want to consider a technology sales motion and the strength of your early GTM Team should be demand gen, SEO, ads, etc.

    • If you feel that you could accelerate the value of the “land” much higher (at least $15-20k/year), then you are starting to get into solution sales territory.

  • What are your competitors in the space doing? How good is their marketing in relation to how many salespeople they have on the team? Are they doing it right or wrong? 

    • Oftentimes you can beat a competitor or carve out a segment by having a different approach on Go-To-Market. HubSpot (bottoms-up) vs. Marketo (tops-down) & NewRelic (bottoms-up) vs. AppDynamics (tops-down) are great examples of differing models in the same space leading to great outcomes. 

  • Is there something about our product that requires a salesperson?

    • If your product supports many teams at once (analytics platforms), you often need a salesperson to get all of the decision makers around a table to agree before they can purchase. This is hard to replace with technology and sales can be that bridge. 

  • Where do you want to position your company in the market? Is your product service-heavy?

    • We often see companies in these spaces choosing to focus on solution sales as it allows for more bespoke value-based pricing vs. transparent/transactional pricing. 

Is one type of company worth more than the other?

Naturally, founders will want to maximize their outcomes, but it’s important to make the decision for your GTM Motion based on what you feel most confident about executing against. For those that feel they can do both equally well, it’s worth noting that both paths have produced great outcomes. Tomasz Tunguz recently wrote a great article that explores this exact question. Here is the key quote:

Ultimately, the data shows great businesses can be built using both sales methodologies. We can’t prove with this data set that there are meaningful differences in any of four measures of startup efficiency including revenue growth, gross margin, profitability or cash raised. Perhaps that will change as the many private software companies go public and we can analyze more data from the relatively newer Bottoms Up approach. But for now, we can say both approaches produce equally efficient companies. - Tomasz Tunguz

Ok...so who do I hire?

Ok, if you’ve made it this far, you should have a feel for the motion in which you want to bring salespeople into. Keeping in mind that these are your first sales hires, here is the advice that I’d give for each motion: 

As discussed above, a technology sales motion tends to rely more on the strength of the marketing team to create sales opportunities. This shifts the role of the sales team to “fulfill demand” and be more of a conversion enabler. Companies that do this well: Slack, Atlassian, Salesforce, etc. 

While this is great when it works, it also makes it hard for sales to be the real “driver” of the business when marketing is having a hard time getting channels up and running. Alternatively in a solution sales motion, when marketing isn’t going perfectly, there is an expectation on the sales team to find and create their own sales opportunities. Since we are now having sales work higher in the acquisition funnel; we want to have someone that is a bit more senior and has a deep understanding of the target customer for our solution. In both motions however, we think it’s critical to hire for trajectory vs. experience at the early phases of the company. This approach allows you to have a lower total investment into sales as you learn how it works. Once you see either motion really taking off, you can think about adding deeper experience and management from there. 

Now that we have identified the type of salesperson that we’d like to add to the team, we need to set-up the perfect interview process to decide between different candidates. In the following article, we will be interviewing sales managers from both model types to ask them which questions they ask candidates during the interview process and dive deeper into the topic of hiring your early sales people. 

Hopefully this post will help you get started and if you have any questions, feel free to reach out!

Thanks,

Matt Althauser

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About Polychrome:
Polychrome is a new type of investment firm. We help our portfolio companies unlock the next level of growth through our GTM expertise. Check us out at polychromecapital.com

Introducing the Polychrome Blog

Over the last 10 years, we have been helping software companies in various stages bring their products to market. What we’ve learned is that having clarity internally about why you exist, who you serve and how your solution helps your customers makes the biggest difference in success or failure over time. 

For many founders, this sounds simple. As the owners of the vision, they intuit their way through problems because they see the end-goal before others. They are able to make trade-offs that others on their team can not and prioritize ruthlessly early on to only what matters. They are able to bring a product to market and get early traction. But then...it stalls. Why?

The first sales hire didn’t work out…”will sales ever work for my company?”. The engineers aren’t shipping without the founder’s detailed involvement…”will we ever scale beyond myself?”. The founders are spending all nighters on support…”who will care as much as I do about our customers?”. The founder is putting out operational fires vs. building towards their vision of what the company could become. Unless they have a venture scale business, the options of getting to the next level aren’t great...most businesses aren’t venture scale. 

For other founders, the road is different again. They’ve created a product that meets the needs of a market and are clear on their impact to customers, but don’t want to do that for the rest of their lives. They’ve created a product that needs sales, marketing and support; but their hope was to just put something out into the world for people to enjoy. For these founders, the next project is what gets them going, not the mundane enterprise feature set that they need to build out in front of them. Unless they’re willing to commit themselves 100% to this one project, the options aren’t great either. 

At Polychrome, our mission is to help these founders, products, side-projects and small businesses achieve their potential in the market that they couldn’t have otherwise. We do this by investing into these companies and providing our own operational expertise. This allows founders to focus on the areas of the business that align best with their strengths. Our model won’t be for every founder, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to help as many as possible.

To that end, this blog will serve as a resource for founders and early-stage teams at B2B Software companies to help them get their business to the next level. We will strive to create content that serves people in these situations. Hopefully, our readers will grow beyond the advice within these pages because their ventures reached new problems that we aren’t suited to weigh-in on. Not everything we will say is going to be correct, but by creating the dialogue and providing resources, we hope we can help people find the answers or connections for themselves and their situation. 

Welcome to the Polychrome Blog. 

Sincerely,

Alex, Greg and Matt

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About Polychrome:
Polychrome is a new type of investment firm. We help our B2B Software Companies unlock the next level of growth through our GTM expertise. Check us out at polychromecapital.com

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