Michael Lewis knows successful content. First, of course, there are his books: “The Big Short,” “Moneyball,” “Liar’s Poker,” and so on. (I’m a fanboy and have read all of them, except the one about the 1996 presidential election) There are the movies based on his books: no Oscar for Sandra Bullock without “The Blind Side.” And now there is the podcast. Yes, the greatest nonfiction writer of our time is also a skilled podcast host!
In one of the best episodes of the second season, he talked about a startup I hadn’t heard of called Gong. It uses artificial intelligence to search for patterns in sales calls that lead to closing more deals. For instance, Gong suggests doing more listening and less talking. That may not come as a surprise, but it is impressive to discover you should speak no more than 46% of the time on a one-on-one call. A ridiculously precise percentage based on empirical data. I now apply it to my client calls and urge you to try the same.
Since managing editors often are under pressure to create content that sells, I was curious what could be learned from how Gong’s top content marketer sells to salespeople. I wanted to know how Gong “drinks its own champagne” to generate demand for its software. My recent interview with Devin Reed, Gong’s head of content strategy, didn’t disappoint. A former salesperson himself, Devin provided three ways content marketers can improve how they sell.
Pick the Spot Where Your Content Can Stand Out
“The genesis of Gong’s content was data-back sales,” Devin says. And where do salespeople hang out? LinkedIn. Devin focused his team’s efforts initially on building LinkedIn followers. “If we can get people to follow us on LinkedIn with great content, then eventually we can get them to download something, which means we can market to them. That means we can try to get them into our pipeline.”
The number of followers of Gong’s LinkedIn page grew from roughly 12,000 when Devin joined the content team in 2019 to more than 64,000 today. How? He did it by consistently posting high-quality blog posts and videos. This included running, back when the format was new, a LinkedIn Live show with Gong’s director of sales for 20 weeks in a row.
Leverage Your Success on One Platform to Others
The success on LinkedIn and Gong Labs blog helped the company raise brand awareness. Devin wanted to build on their accomplishments. “Every six months, you want to be adding a new pillar to your content marketing strategy,” he says. “Of course, being a content guy, I wanted to launch a new content channel.”
Devin and his team considered other ways to connect with salespeople. The company was developing a new product category of “revenue intelligence,” which is “the concept of making business decisions based on facts instead of opinions.” They felt this had incredible promise, leading them ultimately to start a podcast where senior sales leaders could share how they overcame a problem using data. It seemed like the ideal venue to tell in-depth stories about revenue intelligence, if they could find the right approach for this task.
“We decided an interview-style podcast was the best option,” Devin says. “Our goal is just to get the best of the best, people who our customers aspire to be, on the show for 30 to 45 minutes to go deep into some problem where they are using data in an interesting way. Who doesn’t want to listen to how the chief business officer of LinkedIn was successful?”
Even When You’re Winning, Keep Learning and Evolving
Not every company is lucky enough to be featured by Michael Lewis’ podcast. “Gong got hundreds, if not thousands, of inbound demo requests from it,” Devin says.
But once the spotlight of a popular podcast episode fades, content marketers still have a job to do, and a rapidly growing company needs to continue expanding its reach. “We’ve doubled our sales team in the past year,” Devin says. “It’s not good enough to just put out a great blog. We actually have numbers to hit. Now we have specific [Markerting Qualified Leads] scoring, and we have it by segment.”
That’s why he works closely with Gong’s director of demand generation. “We’re really building a pillar of demand gen where every single week we have a demand gen campaign, some small, some big.” (Gong also had a 30-second spot in the Super Bowl this year, which helps with awareness and potentially demand generation.)
Does selling a product that helps salespeople make Gong better at producing content that sells? “The best way to understand salespeople is to hear them on sales calls, understand what objections or emotions are behind the different calls, in a closing call, in a cold call and in the smoothness of a great discovery call,” Devin says. “We get the double whammy of what a seller looks like when they’re buying and what they look like when they’re selling.” He plans to use that data-driven edge to add more pillars to his content marketing strategy to support robust growth, because if Michael Lewis has taught us anything, it’s that those who stay put are soon left behind.