Design Better is an entire brand within InVision that produces books, industry reports, a podcast, a newsletter, blogs, and so much more. It’s entirely focused on delivering high-quality education and value to its audience.
Tune in to learn why they built Design Better as a complementary brand to InVision, how their focus has changed over the years, how they execute their 6-season podcast, and why they believe in investing in podcasting for the long haul.
Name: Eli Woolery
What he does: Senior Director of Design Education at InVision and Lecturer in Product Design at Stanford
The entire philosophy behind InVision’s Design Better brand is creative generosity. They produce content that’s useful for people purely with the intention of helping them become better at what they do versus promoting their own product. When you lead with value, you have a better chance of building a loyal community around your brand.
Even though InVision started with a base email list of millions of subscribers, it still took them a couple of years to really build up the Design Better podcast. It’s important to set the right expectations from the start that these things take time. You won’t see an immediate ROI, so your leadership team needs to have the confidence and patience to let the podcast run its course.
How do you know when it’s time to switch up or expand your podcast? Eli says when you, as a host, are bored and no longer curious to learn, that’s when you need to move beyond the topics you normally cover. Because if you’re bored, your audience likely feels the same if they’ve been following you for a while.
Whether you’re working on a podcast, blog, newsletter, video series, or a combination of all channels, your content should always align with the direction your product is taking. If your product is now serving a purpose for a broader audience, your content needs to reflect that broadening as well. Design Better, for example, shifted its focus from primarily design-heavy content to more broad collaboration to reflect the change in InVision’s target ICP.
Each of the 6 seasons of Design Better has a unique theme, and the purpose of those themes is to help anchor the content and guest roster. However, they make sure the theme is flexible enough to where it doesn’t restrict them when they want to bring someone really interesting on the show who might not fit the exact criteria.
With podcast metrics being hard to track, InVision focuses its podcasting efforts purely on brand building and brand awareness. To them, success comes in the form of audience growth season by season, which means more people are exposed to the InVision brand and hopefully stick with them throughout the customer journey. They also repurpose podcast content on their blog where they can better track click-throughs on their CTAs.
If you’re asking people to listen to you for 45 minutes, it’s in your best interest to provide them with good quality audio. By simply switching from Zoom to Riverside or Zencastr, you can 10x your audience’s listening experience. Remember that your podcast is a direct reflection of your brand. The higher quality you provide, the more your audience will trust your expertise.
Podcasting allows your audience to connect with you on a deeper, more personal level for longer periods of time than any other traditional media channel allows for. You’re better able to have discussions and go deeper on topics, which means there’s a better chance for you to build credibility and trust with your audience.
You can’t run a podcast for a few months and expect to see any results out of it. This type of format requires a long-term mindset and a lot of patience. You need to be willing to invest at least one year’s worth of time before you see any tangible results, like audience growth or an increase in customer leads.
Even if you have a smaller audience, if you look at your numbers and see your listeners are engaged and growing (albeit slowly), you’re still building an intimate connection. This isn’t something you can normally do with other forms of media, including video. It’s harder to keep someone’s attention through a one-hour video than it is through a one-hour podcast. The power of audio is unbeatable.
Eli Woolery: I think that foundational idea that creating these things, creating things that are useful for people with a spirit of generosity, and then the idea that that will eventually come around and maybe sometimes hard to me. But clearly like over time, the podcast I think has demonstrated that people really appreciate that just by the amount that our audience has grown and stuck with us.
Jeremiah: Hey, there, welcome to brands that podcast each week we talk with the people running podcast strategies as successful brands. So you can learn how to grow your company through podcasting.
Today's guest is Eli Woolery, director of design education at InVision. InVision is a tool that lets you collaborate with your team in real-time with an endless digital whiteboard. From the numbers I've found, it looks like they did a hundred million in annual revenue in 2021. And I wanted to talk to Eli because their content platform, Design Better, is one of the best executions of content marketing I've ever seen.
It's an entire brand within InVision. It's got books, an industry report that's really comprehensive, a podcast, a newsletter, and it's all hosted on a separate URL. It's worth checking out at designbetter.co. And it's really focused on driving high-quality education and value to their audience. It's some of the most beautiful and in-depth work I've ever seen as far as content.
The podcast has six seasons and each season has a different focus. They've expanded it over time from being set on design out to more broad topics interviewing with really high profile guests like Seth Godin and professionals at Netflix and Apple. In this episode, you're going to hear why they built, designed better as sort of a complimentary brand versus doing what a lot of companies do, which is how's it under our resources.
You'll also hear how they started more narrow. As I mentioned, sort of offering design content to designers, expanding that to design education for management teams, and now have really expanded out to serve lots of departments within teams and how they did that in order to match their product expansion and their audience that was increasingly expanding.
You'll also learn how they measure success and think about the return on investment of the podcasts, how they set seasons and how they landed guests like Seth Godin. You'll also learn the importance of investing in podcasting for the long haul and how they're really committed to it and the belief of it.
And it took them a long time to build listenership, even having a mailing list that they promoted the podcast to have millions of subscribers, along with a ton more insights. I hope you enjoy.
Okay, Eli. Thank you so much again for joining me today. I thank you for giving up your time. Super excited to chat with you.
Welcome to Brands that Podcast.
Eli Woolery: Thanks. I'm excited to be here.
Jeremiah: I want to start by, well, most of the interview, talk about the Design Better platform. I shared this on LinkedIn today. It's one of the most impressive executions I've ever seen. Like we look at a lot of brands who do this, who try and build content around it.
And it's super impressive for listeners. If you haven't checked it out, you need to check it out, but basically it looks like it contains a few pillar types of content. And it has a report which looks like it's basically a really in-depth survey of thousands of companies that's trying to explore how design can impact business performance.
You've got the podcast. You've got articles, which are like journalistic style forms of conversation. So yeah, for anyone listening to this, first of all, go check it out. It's even on its own URL at designbetter.co. So I guess to get started, I want to know, can you talk a little bit about the concept behind making this entire content platform?
Foundationally, what was the driving force behind putting this out into the world? And then secondarily. Did you start with just articles? Did you start with just the report? A lot of brands how's this stuff under resources or blog, you all built it into like its own domain name and its own presence. So was that the vision from the beginning?
That's like a lot of questions in one, but anyway.
Eli Woolery: Yeah, no, it might be helped to kind of rewind to when I, when I came onto the company and this was sort of the first big project we embarked on. So my own backgrounds, uh, originally product design first. Physical product design and then digital product design, and then also education.
So I've been teaching a capstone class at Stanford for the last, this will be my ninth year helping out with that class. So I had that somewhat unique combination of experiences. And at, at the point I came on to InVision and I was looking for somewhere to go that was remote. And that wasn't that common in these days.
This is back in 2016 and I use it InVision for my own design work. And I really liked the product. And so I reached out to somebody who else supposed to just come on, Aarron Walter, who had prior to that, he had headed up a design at MailChimp, and he was tasked with creating this design education team, which was really about helping to elevate design practice across all different kinds of organizations.
You know, there's, you can think of sort of the Silicon valley type companies, which a lot of which had already embraced, designed by 2016. Google at that point, Facebook. Apple obviously has designed really in its DNA, but a lot of Silicon Valley's understood design, they leverage design. But if you think of like, sort of the banks or healthcare companies or many other companies out there, at that point hadn't really didn't really grasp what design was all about and maybe sort of thought it was something you did at the end of the product to make it look good.
So our task was essentially to create content to help those companies really elevate design within their organization. And along the way, you know, obviously we have tools, design tools that would, that would help them out as well. So coming into this role, the first task that we were going to do is actually write some books.
So together Aarron and I wrote three books, short books together. I wrote a lot on design thinking. He wrote one on principles of product design, and then we wrote one together on design leadership. So again, I think a lot of the content that we had done before was maybe aimed at more of the individual contributor, like.
How do you do great UI UX? How do you, you know, here's some resources for you on that sort of like design systems front or things along those lines. This kind of was more aimed at management and leadership and higher up in the organization where they could kind of influence the way the design had a seat at the table and showed up in more strategic decisions.
So we wrote those books and then along the way, prior to coming into InVision, I'd actually started working on my own podcast. And Aarron was interested in starting a podcast for this new Design Better brand. So we worked on launching that at around the same time we did the books and it all got housed under this designbetter.co umbrella.
Now I will say that over the past few years, we've been making a little bit of a pivot in that our focus, especially with the podcast has become more broad. It hasn't been as focused on design and design leadership. In a similar way, our company has become a little bit more broad. We become more focused on a collaboration tool, Freehand, rather than design specific tools for screen design.
So I can talk more about that and I can talk more about that pivot, but the original thesis for us was let's help elevate design and designers within companies, and that will help elevate our brand and our product, you know, get more exposure to our product and all that good stuff comes along with.
Jeremiah: I feel like you can tell, like the give is a real give from your content.
There's a lot of, especially like podcasting, I think has never probably been more popular in B2B spaces. And it feels like a lot of marketers are like, just now or over the past year or two realizing like, oh, audience members, don't just want to hear us sling products or like new features. Like we actually have to say something they're interested in.
But even then it feels like there's a little bit of like, let's just make the insert my target audience here, my ICP podcast and like, boom, boom, boom, boom. You can tell, I feel like the difference between the ones that are like giving without expectation or maybe a different way to say it would be like giving in such a sacrificial way that, like you said, I'm sure the idea was, yeah. Let's educate management leadership on better design principles. There's going to be a trickle down effect. Like we happen to produce tools that help them design better and get the job done. But you can tell this platform is so heavily outweighing, just the pure value, give that it's almost like how could you ever quantify like a few people signing up compared to like the absolute intention and effort that seems like it's gone into the platform.
So it's always really, really cool to see that. You can tell the quality difference, I think is what I'm trying to
Eli Woolery: say. Yeah, no, thank you. And I think that's also sort of baked into our DNA and then our founder and CEO Clark Valberg. I think he adopted a lot of the principles of Seth Godin, who you might know the famous marketer and author, where this idea of creative generosity is all about making things that are really useful to people without the explicit expectation that you're immediately going to get something back from them.
So a lot of what we did was very intentionally firewalled off from the product. And for some things that might be considered more sort of advertorial. Certainly we had stuff like that, maybe on our blog and other places, but Design Better was essentially set aside. I think maybe, you know, you could make the argument that was a little bit too much points because the direct line between Design Better and InVision, I think it wasn't always clear to people know hopefully over time it has become more so.
But I think that foundational idea that creating these things, creating things that are useful for people with a spirit of generosity. And then the idea that that will eventually come around and maybe sometimes hard to measure, but clearly like over time, the podcast I think has demonstrated that people really appreciate that just by the amount that our audience has grown and stuck with us.
Yeah. I think that's part of foundationally why we did that.
Jeremiah: For marketers or like content managers who are wanting to do the same thing. That's the other thing I've noticed is I do think there's an increasing amount of creators are marketers that believe, that message they've read Seth Godin or like the give, give, give like Gary V thing.
And they believe that it's true. How important is it? I mean, it sounds like it was mostly made possible because you had a CEO or like leadership team that agreed with that. How important do you think that is? And if, maybe, do you have any advice? I know sometimes when like the leadership team is so bought in, it's easier, but do you have any advice for marketers listening that if the leadership team isn't quite bought into like how this is going to kind of ROI or payback, the juice is worth the squeeze to just give like over proportion value, like disproportionate value.
Eli Woolery: Yeah, well, it's certainly easier if leadership buys into it, stories are obviously a great way to convince people about things. And I think telling the story of companies that have used these types of strategies successfully is one way to go about it. Obviously, our company, I think is one such story, but there's a better known ones out there too.
And I think part of it's understanding that while some things are definitely hard to quantify, you can measure some results. You can point to things that are sales leads and, you know, I'm horrible at all the marketing acronyms and things like MQL is marketing, qualified leads, things like that. There are ways to connect those things to the work that you're doing.
And I think for say a business leader, that's more quantitative. You can kind of tell those stories in conjunction with numbers that are impressive. That said, part of the buy-in too is also realizing that these things take time. Like, I think even for our podcast, even though our mailing list, essentially through our blog was already millions of people.
It was still took a while to get traction. It still took us, I would say a couple of years of doing it before we started to really see growth. And so I would say before you embark on these things kind of set the expectation that they take time. It's not an immediate ROI. And that there has to be some amount of patience and confidence from your leaders.
Jeremiah: Yeah. It's super helpful. The last question, I guess, philosophically about the platform is, does marketing own it, or is the educational platform kind of its own wing, or who kind of owns this? Or is it like marketing uses it for this and you use it for this? Or like, how do you all think about that?
Eli Woolery: Yeah. So I will say, you know, over the five, almost six years, I've been here, the organization has shifted as you might expect with a company that's growing and changing.
And so we've always been under the marketing umbrella. At times, we've been our own small team. The team grew to some degree and then shifted. And so now I'm essentially part of the content marketing team underneath the broader marketing umbrella. But ideally we all kind of collaborate and even there's a strong tie between sales and marketing.
So we understand what our sales team needs in order to get on the leads that they need to be successful. But at the same time, we're cautious about say bringing on a guest that maybe isn't a fit for the podcast, but that our sales team suggests. You know, there are, there are cases where there's a good match there where they adjust somebody and it's a really good fit for the podcast.
It's really our job to keep the quality level very high so we don't essentially turn away our audience.
Jeremiah: So it's kind of like you're setting the bar high. You're making sure the content is good. It's a radically generous give and something that people are going to want to consume and come back to. Marketing is probably trying to utilize that to build brand over time.
There's a nice collaboration with the tool that you offer. And then sales is interested in some of the guests that you have on maybe like, Hey, if there's an alignment of like a guest that you have on with who maybe would be a great fit for the product that they think would benefit, and they're going to provide great information.
I'm curious, is the podcast used in any like sales enablement way? Like it's sales, if people need time to think about the tool is sales like, oh, while you think like, go check this out and here's some design tips in general. Is there any cross collaboration that way? For
Eli Woolery: sure. Yeah. I think there's a lot of that there's folks on the sales team.
That's a big part of their role is helping with, with education and, you know, podcasts, the books, those are all part of that. And I think as we sort of pivot into a broader space, it's going to become equally important to make content that, you know, when you have a very specific audience like designers and design leaders to some job, to some extent your job is a little bit easier because you can envision who exactly you're talking to, who needs these specific points of education know.
As we get a little bit broader, we just have that have to be a little careful I think about the type of education we're doing, keeping it interesting and relevant to our core audience who are still designers, but also helping bring in the, a bit more inclusive upbringing in other roles from HR to marketing to legal. And so part of doing that is just bringing in really interesting guests from outside of the technology world that can speak to just general creativity and collaboration in a way that's really.
Jeremiah: I have so many questions about the podcast, but you've mentioned you've used the word broaden a few times now. So I think it's a good time to touch on it. The broadening that you went through. So it sounds like you mentioned you started out really pretty hyper-specific on like better ways to design, aimed maybe initially at designers, but quickly pivoting to like management, understanding what design is at its core.
It's more than just a pretty interface that the. So you're trying to educate them. And then here's the tool that if you decide good design is important to your org, pass this tool along to your design teams, this this is going to benefit you or serve you well. And then you've mentioned that over time, you've broadened.
Is that a function of like, we've hit this with this show in some sense, like, I've wondered about the future of this show, where I'm like, is there a point where you've hit all the evergreen principles you could within the design world and now it's time to expand? Or is it more a function of like walls seem to be coming down a little bit more like interdepartmentally.
And so it's like, yeah, you mentioned HR. It's like, I would never think HR needs to buy in on, on like a design tool would be a target audience. So as walls come down and it's important to get team-wide buy-in of InVision, is it like you're trying to expand out, so, or is it none of those things? Am I wrong about all those?
Eli Woolery: Yeah, I think it's actually both those things. A part of it was too tied to those things that Aarron, my co-host and I are, we're both curious people. We both want to be learning. And at a certain point you've talked to, whatever, 20 or 30 design leaders, product designers. And like you said, you start to seem, start to be recurring and you start to wonder if, if you're getting just sort of more juice out of the squeeze.
If you're just going to interview the same kind of people over and over again. And I think it's a good indicator that if you, yourself, as a host are, I would say bored, but on the verge of like not learning new things, then your audience is probably going to be in the same place, especially if they've been following you for awhile.
So. That to me was an indicator that we needed to sort of think beyond just specifically design and product design and designers, design leadership into these other realms. And then, like you said, the walls have been coming down and design is becoming more democratized. And I think fundamentally design is really about collaboration and bringing different teams into the conversation early in the development of a product.
And so the tools that designers use, especially in sort of the front end of design, things that are visual collaboration, like in the real world that is often a whiteboard and stickies and things like that. Those are things that everybody can use and should be using at the start of the product because countless case studies and research has pointed to the fact that earlier you bring somebody into the process, when you're designing a product, the more smoothly it'll go, the more quickly it will go. The, the more likely you are to get buy in for, in, from senior executives and stakeholders, if they understand where you come from, especially if they've participated in some of that early generative process.
So our tools are, are meant to help make that collaboration easier from the very start, especially in a world now where there's much more remote and hybrid work going on, and you can't necessarily rely on a whiteboard and stickies in the real world.
Jeremiah: Yeah, no, I mean, it's absolutely true and I'm envisioning I wouldn't even try to describe it, but my mind is like trying to put like a visual to what you're saying.
I think a cool takeaway for listeners is that it's important for the content and the marketing teams, specifically the content teams to be in sync with the direction of the product itself, like specifically for product companies, although I'm sure it works everywhere, but like, as you broaden that needs to be matching.
So it sounds like it was multiple things that led to this broadening, but one of the core things is like, in addition to your own curiosity, expanding and being peaked and feeling like you needed to expand beyond designers, there's this idea of like, "Hey, we don't need to be a tool just for design."
Everyone's kind of understanding good design now are curious about it or believes in it. And so more people want in on it and more people want this idea of collaborations kind of as the target ICP or use case for InVision is expanding. Your content is expanding to accommodate that and bring those people in, which I think is really cool.
And just a good takeaway for listeners. I'm curious, how do you set then? I love the way that you break it into seasons and then you give each season a theme. How do you, what sets that, how intentional are the themes that you're going into? What makes you decide on a theme? What makes like a good scope of guests for that season?
How do you think about.
Eli Woolery: Yeah. So from the start we decided on this seasonal approach. We wanted something to tie the episodes together. And early on, that was primarily about design and product design from like a, what's a product driven company? What's a company that not only just understands design, but really integrates design and product and engineering in a way that they make their teams really effective?
And then more recently as we sort of focus more on this broad idea of collaboration, it shifted a bit. Well, we try to set the theme, we also don't let it restrict us too much. We feel like there's somebody just really interested in that kind of fits into the fold and this past season, for whatever reason, there was a weird space element to it.
Uh, space exploration we had on Sarah Seeger, who is an astrophysicist. We had on Chris Kemp has a founder of a rocket company called Astra. And for whatever reason, there was a little bit of like exploration and space, which to some degree tied with what we were doing because we were foundationally kind of a design and design tool company, but we were having our own exploration and to how do we broaden cater to a larger audience?
So in some sense, we were in that mode too. So it kind of worked out, but yeah, I think overall, we try to set this theme and it helps kind of anchor us and create some guardrails around who we want to have on that season. But we also try to not let us limit it too much. If there's an opportunity to bring on somebody really interesting.
Jeremiah: How much are you planning out into the future? Is it like a big air table of all guests, then you retroactively group them into logical seasons? Or do you just think like one season at a time and who's a good fit for this? We're
Eli Woolery: kind of, yeah, a little bit more of the latter. We're kind of go in season by season.
I mean, we have these big names that we're always like this person would be a great fit for pretty much any season. And we're a little bit of a model of mode of outreach. Like it took us essentially three years to get Seth Godin on the show after.
Jeremiah: I need to ask you. Okay. So yeah, that was literally one of my questions.
Uh, a hundred million people. He's like one of my big heroes. How did you get him on the show? And what was that process
Eli Woolery: like? You know, I, I, I wish I could say it was a replicable thing and give advice on that front. I think part of it is just, I'd had some email conversations with him over the years and every now and then I would try to invent not to make it more than once a year.
I would ask, would you be interested in our podcast? And, uh, eventually I said, yes, maybe I just wore him down. I, I, I don't know if that's a recommended approach. I haven't really taken that so much with other people. Usually I take a no as a no, but with Seth, I just like you, I admired him so much. I felt like he's got such a real hold on how to connect with people through marketing, even, you know, I think marketing kind of like sales sort of gets a bad rap all the time.
If you're not a marketer, even if you are. And I've always been a product designer. This is the first time I'm in a marketing role. And I think it might be seen as a little bit. God, you're not just slinging ads at people or something like that. But I think if you reframe it a little bit, a lot of what marketing is, is telling a good story, helping people, educating people, creating something that they connect with.
So I think there's a lot of positive things that came out of it. And to me, Seth embodies that. But as far as other guests that are hard to get. Some of the stuff is probably already well-known, but things like people having a book that's coming out, that's one way to frame your outreach. Like, I just love your book.
I love that you have you on to discuss it. Obviously that's become a little easier as our audience has grown and we can share some numbers on that. But I think even if you're starting out, it's worth, it's worth trying, it's worth doing some of that kind of outreach to, for folks that are a little tougher to get.
Jeremiah: I have a theory about that too. Like you said, maybe it's the wearing down, but I, I suspect it's more like it's going to be no, and let's see if they keep doing this for like three years and if they keep doing it and keep putting, like, I would imagine people like Seth want to see generosity and quality and it kind of goes back to like part of the investment into making it so good is that if people that are that high caliber perceive it, that you're going to trade on their name for like more listens to that episode, they're going to say no.
But if you've shown that you stick with it and you care and you're putting out valued generously for a long time and you're persevering, I'm sure over time, it's like, okay, this is legit. You, they're not just trying to trade on my brand to get there.
Eli Woolery: Yeah. Yeah. I agree for sure.
And I think to call it karma or call it whatever you want, but I, I make a real effort to, if somebody is just getting started on a podcast and they want to have me on. Even if they're just reaching out randomly on LinkedIn, I try to make an effort to do that as much as I can, because I know how hard it is to get started.
And I'm not a big name by any means, but I'm somewhat known in the design world through the podcast. So if I can help in that regard, I feel that again, and that's fair to generosity. It often comes around. Yeah.
Jeremiah: I agree with. Okay. So you mentioned numbers a couple of times. So with the show being a marketing function, I guess there's a few questions I have here, but the first would be what dictates success of the show?
How do you measure ROI? Is it primarily downloads? Is the team tracking that all the way through to like purchases or leads or whatever it may be. And I'm sure there's all kinds of numbers they're looking at. So I guess part one is like, what are those numbers? Part two is, but foundationally, like what dictates success?
Like if all the other numbers dropped away, but this one kept going, like, what would that be?
Eli Woolery: Yeah. So know overall I think we view the podcast mostly as a brand building and awareness building tool. And we're not as reliant on it for following through to a sale. And we do have a mid roll, usually in every episode, of that talks about our product Freehand. Sometimes other things too. We haven't yet invested much in tracking that maybe that'll change.
And as you know, like a lot of podcast metrics are sort of hard to track given how fragmented that the ecosystem is, you know, you're, you're an Apple you're on Spotify or on all these other platforms. And just trying to figure out what's coming from where and where things kind of funnel through can be tough.
But yeah, as far as success goes, I think if we're growing our audience every season, now with this new goal of reaching new people, if we're doing that, and we're still kind of trying to figure out how we track that, but those are some of the biggest things. And then there are ways that we do repurpose our content as well.
So with a podcast, we'll also usually run an accompanying piece on the blog, and that is far easier to track because people are on the page and there's oftentimes a CTA on there for "checkout InVision" or "sign up to the email list" that kind of. So those types of things are easier to track, but yeah, overall, I think it is really about exposing the world.
It's a very top of funnel kind of thing, exposing the world to InVision. And then, um, ideally those people stick with us kind of through that customer journey.
Jeremiah: Or refer others, I'm sure. Like they may have come to listen to Seth or something, but now they're aware of a tool and reference that. I mean, I know anecdotally from some of the brands we talked to in season one, I mean, it is super hard to track.
I think the reliant method that we use is the thing that Chris Walker is a big proponent of which is required open text, "how did you hear about us?" thing. And then having like a manual way of tying that into your CRM, to be able to know like, they might write in, like, "listened to the podcast a few times, checked out a few articles then decided to try" or something like that.
You get the most, you get really wild in-depth responses. And then there being like a forcing function on the back end that someone either in marketing or sales is going through and maybe in a more quantitative way, like checking a check box of like, okay, blog podcast or something like that. But yeah, I mean, it's really hard to track.
We always have told people the same thing. Like if brand trust, brand awareness, there's like nothing better than podcast. People are inviting you to be in their ear and talk to them for like 40 minutes every week. It's
Eli Woolery: wild. Yeah. It's cool. It's. You know, I first got into podcasting shortly before I joined InVision just because I was doing a long commute and I had commuting from where I live down in Carmel up to Stanford.
And so I needed something to do. I listen to audio books, but sometimes I just needed something that was a little shorter or digestible. So I really got into podcasting. What I've really appreciated over the years too, is that it's such a different form of getting, say like news and other information than the typical short soundbites you might get from a radio station or traditional kind of mainstream journalism.
It's sort of longer conversations allow for so much more nuance and debate and I think are just much friendlier to human connection than other media, which I worry a lot about how much I think traditional media has polarized people, you know, just because it doesn't allow for any real significant discussion or debate.
I know we're kind of wandering into adjacent territory here, but, but I do think podcasting for that reason is really powerful.
Jeremiah: Yeah, I completely agree. We often say, like, it's funny that people will be honored to death and fly across the country to talk to like 500 people. But then some of those same CEOs or founders, if you tell them that like marketing team's like, "Hey, we have 500 listeners."
That's it? Like, that's, that's like, well, that's a lot of people. If it's like a room of people that you're talking to every week and it's your target audience.
Okay, I have a question here. I have a philosophical question for you. I feel like you'd be a good person to ask about this. I'm fascinated with this idea of being data focused versus being like the tension between marketers, especially being super data focused and wanting to measure everything.
And then on the other side, like a pure creative. You know, design and art. And I heard, I think it was a Gary V interview where he was talking to the person running, I think it was like original content at Amazon for prime or whatever prime video. And she talked about this with the way they refer to it is art versus algebra.
And there's somewhere in the middle where like data has to inform it. I'm curious how you all think about that. Like you're designers at heart and you can tell, like, I've never seen, but for maybe like MailChimp. MailChimp's up there with like their podcast content thing is pretty cool too. But what do you think the impact is of the quality that you put into it?
Like a lot of people now are advocates of like, just plug in a USB mic and hit record and like dump your thoughts. And I think for some podcasts that works, if it's a really interesting founder. Yeah. You all put a ton of sound design into it. What is the ROI of that design? What's the interplay of art and algebra?
And do you think marketers need to be a little bit more courageous to lean into like unmeasurable creative outlets and just trust that that's going to like connect with people more emotionally?
Eli Woolery: Yeah, it's a good question. And I have to give a shout out to our audio engineer, Brian Pake at Pacific Audio for the great production work he does for us.
But I think it is really important. I mean, part of it is just being aligned with our brand. We come out of the world of design. We care about those types, that type of quality, that type of connection, that type of, you know, having people having a good experience. So I think all of that ties to the level of where we put into production for the podcast and also the site that hosts it, that type of thing.
There are other companies out there where that's not as much core to their brand, so it might not be as important. But I do think if you're asking somebody to listen to something for 45 minutes or an hour, it should be pretty good quality. I'm often surprised by the big podcast out there that it's not that hard to ask somebody to get a local recording, you know, using something like we're on right now at Riverside or Zencaster, but you still hear these scratchy glitchy zoom calls.
And I'm like, wow. I mean, it wouldn't have taken that long just to, and you would have bump up the quality by 10 X just by making that small step. So I think it might be that podcasting isn't new. It's relatively new to other media and people are learning about it, but I think as more and more people become exposed, the quality bar might raise over time where people expect you to be more of a listable experience and be investing the time and, and creating that kind of quality.
Again, it's a little dependent on like, who, who are you bringing on if you're bringing on somebody like we had on, um, John Cleese a couple of seasons ago. Wow. Obviously, even if he was, uh, on a scratchy phone connection, which thankfully he wasn't, we probably still would've gotten a lot of good feedback on it just because of he is who he is.
But yeah, I think that kind of investment aligned with your brand values is important.
Jeremiah: Yeah, I completely agree with this idea that the bar will eventually raise, like the example I've used in the past is YouTube where, I mean, if you look at people running channels five eight years ago, and then you look now the bar is so high.
Like even people with like a thousand subscribers have like this dope backlit set, an amazing audio, and they look like so pro and they only have like a thousand subscribers. It's like, that's where it feels like the bar is, unless the content is so good. I think Elon Musk cook hit record on his phone and like run a channel with, you know, just share it, like dumping thoughts out into the world.
And that would be different, but most people aren't Elon Musk, but yeah, I think that's super interesting. Well, I want to respect your time and not go too much longer. So we'll wrap up here. I have a couple of questions. What do you think the future of audio is for brands and marketing? Do you feel like, are you seeing anything innovative that inspires you or like from a design perspective, are you all planning on expanding on what you're doing at all and adding in different like narrative storytelling style shows, or like, what are you seeing in this space and what do you see it going for brands and for marketing moving forward?
Eli Woolery: Yeah, I think there's a lot of opportunity. We have thought a little bit about experimenting with narrative and have some ideas kind of our back pocket we haven't executed on yet, but it is a big investment. Like the regular podcast is a significant investment in time and energy. Narrative is I think another, you know, two, three X that much just to get a decent product out of it.
Yeah, you have to be willing to make that investment. Um, but I think as far as other companies out there doing it great. I don't know. I don't listen to as so many sponsored podcasts, uh, as I do individual ones or, you know, kind of news and entertainment related ones. I do think the medium itself, I can only imagine it getting more and more popular.
It's just such a great alternative again, to the other ways people traditionally got information and stories because of its very open format and the way that you can connect with somebody over an hour or more of time. So I think there's a lot of opportunities. But the challenge of course will be that it'll get more and more saturated.
There's going to be more and more people trying to do it. So you'll have to figure out a way to get above the fold. And a lot of that is persistence and also being able to bring on interesting people if you're doing an interview type format.
Jeremiah: Yeah, no, I completely agree. I think it will be interesting to see different styles come out as well.
Like, like you say, I have not seen many, like Buffer has a cool one. We talked to Ash Reed who used to run content there. They had one called Breaking Brand that was like storytelling narrative about a company's rise and growth and the struggles they went through and all of that. So I think there's interesting case studies like that.
There's not too many brands doing that. And I've seen more leaning into, to like this short form idea, like short news bits and stuff. So I think there's a lot of ways to do it, but the idea of letting people consume your message, however, raw or polished short or long wherever they are. And what they're doing is really compelling.
This will be my last question. Do you have any advice for, so any content marketers, any VPs of marketing, any companies listening that are thinking about getting started? Any advice for them generally, anything that they should expect or that you would warn them about, or like, make sure you're committed to blank or just any advice in general for brands thinking about doing it?
Eli Woolery: Yeah, I think just circling back to something I said earlier, it just having that patience to understand that this format takes a while to get a return on that. I wouldn't expect anything less than a year's long investment before you see any real, tangible results and possibly more than that. And that's true, even if you already have a big mailing list or presence on social media, that kind of thing.
Cause people while podcasting is again with somewhat new and growing segment, there's a lot of people already have their favorite podcasts and they're somewhat, you know, feel filled up in their queue. So getting noticed and then getting into their regular cycle can take a while. So, and at the same time, I think like we also touched on earlier, it's, it's a really unique way of getting a story out there.
And it's a really, I think intimate way of building a connection with people. So I wouldn't discount the power of it. And like you said, even if you have a relatively small audience of 500,000 people, If you're looking at your numbers and they're engaged and they're listening to most of the episode, there aren't that many other forms of media out there that can do that right now.
I think even with video, it's pretty hard to keep somebody to sit there for an hour and watch your stuff, you know? So I wouldn't discount that. I think that that's powerful. And so yeah. Patience and understand the power of the medium.
Jeremiah: Yeah, that's awesome. And just to recap that point, you said how many emails did you in your list did you send the show out to?
Eli Woolery: Yeah, I think when we started, I don't remember exactly, but I think our newsletter had two or 3 million subscribers.
Jeremiah: Wow. Yeah. Wow. And it's still like, and how many years now? Have you been running the show? This
Eli Woolery: will be our fifth year running a show. Yeah.
Jeremiah: Okay. Yeah, that's wild.
I mean, I agree. I think it's an important message for people to hear that there's no magic bullet to making this work any faster. So Eli, thank you so much for taking the time. I really appreciate it. Thanks for coming on. You're welcome, Jeremiah.
Eli Woolery: Um,
Jeremiah: Thanks so much for checking out this episode. If there's a company you'd like us to interview or a question you want us to answer on the show, just let us know. You can ask us at brandsthatpodcast.com or DM or tag Lemonpie on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram. And if you want to reach your audience on podcasts, that they're already listening to be sure to check out lemonpie.fm.