Tom Griffin: I took our list of a hundred people on our cap table, or advisors, or people in our network. And I just looked up every single one of their names in a couple of different databases, including just iTunes directly, to find out what shows that they had been on themselves in the past. And we probably secured 30 plus shows just from that approach. Interacting with anyone who’s ever been on a podcast and then figuring out what shows they’ve been on and then asking for an introduction.
Ben Grynol: I’m Ben Grynol, part of the early startup team here at Levels. We’re building tech that helps people to understand their metabolic health. And this is your front row seat to everything we do. This is a whole new level.
Ben Grynol: Sat down with Tom Griffin, Head of Partnerships at Levels, and we talked through this process, this podcast tour that he ran, and he ran it really diligently. A lot of people started taking notice about it. Josh Clemente, Casey Means, too, the co-founders of Levels. Well, they went on this podcast tour over the course of six months, between the fall of 2020 and early 2021, where they appeared on more than a hundred different podcasts. And to people who looked at it from an outside lens, they said, It was the best execution of a podcast strategy that they’ve seen within any startup.”
Ben Grynol: And for Tom, it was second nature. It was something that he innately, held close and really knew how to play those cards. He had prior experience in running something similar with Halo, Halo Neuroscience, when you worked with that startup prior to Levels.
Ben Grynol: And so Tom, well, he put his head down and he started executing. When everyone talked internally about doing this podcast tour, Tom didn’t even blink an eye. He just started going. He knew how to pull the leavers. Work all the mechanisms. Use the tools in his toolbox to really make this happen. And he did it so effectively as one person who was overseeing partnerships.
Ben Grynol: Simultaneously, tom ran the similar playbook and targeting affiliates and influencers so that we could get more awareness and traction for the Levels. It was a playbook that he really ran across social. And to this day, we still use those lessons learned against many of the projects that we undertake. So Tom and I sat down and we talked about his outlook on not only partnerships, but some of the insight behind this podcast tour that he ran. How we’re going to continue to use those learnings moving forward and the way that we can apply them. Here’s where we dug in.
Ben Grynol: There’s been a lot of conversation around the way that we’ve approached… And we being, not Levels as a team, basically, you. You really spearheading and leading the charge on this, go-to-market strategy on pursuing podcasts and working with influencers and affiliates. And it’s something that I think, intuitively, it seemed like second nature. You’re like, “Well, that’s just the way that you do it.” And to other people, they would say, “This is the best process I’ve ever seen run.” And so it would be cool to hear your perspective of how that even came about.
Tom Griffin: Yeah, totally. The good news… Not to project a false sense of modesty on behalf of the team. It was really a team effort, but the good news is it’s quite simple. But I think in terms of just why it might be helpful to [inaudible 00:03:57], why we focused on podcasts to begin with as a target channel, which is also a pretty simple explanation. And that was really because one Sam and [Mike 00:04:08] had talked to at, that time, I don’t know, thousands of people on our wait list. And we just consistently heard when we asked people, “How you got interested in CGM,” or, “Perhaps ever heard about CGM or glucose as an interesting molecule to a track,” the vast majority of them said, “The Podcast Channel,” which is quite surprising. The Internet’s a big place, but [inaudible 00:04:30] real significant percentage of them said The Podcast Channel.
Tom Griffin: So we knew from that hard data. And then going back to my job prior to Levels, we had also uncovered The Podcast Channel as really our target marketing channel. And it proved to be the largest driver of revenue. So when I initially started at Levels, that was context for how I started initially talking to Sam. Was saying, “Listen, I’ve got some experience in this space and happy to help out.”
Ben Grynol: Let’s rewind all the way then, right? I think there’s an interesting layer to this that we haven’t even set the foundation for. So, we haven’t set the table. What’s your name, where you’re from, what’s your background? You’ve got a very cool background. And then leading that into where you were before Levels. A lot of that experience has tied directly into everything we’re doing. So let’s start there. Rewind to who you are, where you’re from.
Tom Griffin: Totally. So this is Tom Griffin speaking here, Head of Partnerships at Levels. And I had a brief and varied career. I haven’t been working for too long, but started at an organization called Venture for America, which was a small, at the time, nonprofit they’re an investment for-profit arm as well, but small non-profit based out in New York that helped catalyze startup communities and entrepreneurship in non-major U.S. Cities, so emerging tech hubs. Think places like Cleveland, or Detroit, or New Orleans. Did that for a handful of years. Not super well-known organization became well-known. It got a lot of national media attention over the years. And then eventually the founder, Andrew Yang ran for president and now a lot more people are familiar with Andrew and the organization.
Tom Griffin: And then from there, cut to the chase, that’s when I got into the direct-to-consumer health and science technology space, working at a startup out in San Francisco called Halo Neuroscience. And, interestingly, it shared a lot of similarities to Levels and that we were taking a technology that had existed in the clinical or medical space, and which was actually a form of electrical stimulation to be applied to the brain, and building a consumer market from scratch that had never existed before.
Tom Griffin: So all of the education hurdles around, “What is this technology? How does it work? Is it safe? How does it add value to my life,” existed at halo. And that was one reason why we stumbled into The Podcast Channel as well, because we were so keen on finding long-form education channels, where we can really educate prospective customers on what this technology was and how it was going to benefit them.
Ben Grynol: Yeah, anytime you’re building frontier tech, anytime you’re basically creating a category either within a certain aspect of tech, so health tech. You’re creating this frontier tech with Halo. The majority of time is spent on the awareness part of the funnel. What is this thing? Why should a person use it? And thinking through how are you going to reach those people to undertake those education initiatives? And it’s really hard because you can’t… When you are focused on that being your sole goal, not awareness from a brand perspective, to say, “Cool people know who our brand is and loosely what we do. We can move through to the consideration and conversion parts of the funnel.” You really have to sit there saying, “All we’re going to do is educate,” over and over and over. And you can’t compete for three seconds of attention. It just doesn’t work. You have to pursue these long-form distribution channels. Whether it’s through YouTube, working with people who are doing longer form videos, we’ll call it 10 minute videos, or podcasts that might be up to an hour. And that is where you want to anchor people’s attention.
Tom Griffin: Yeah. Yeah, a hundred percent. And it’s funny, my friends have always made fun of me for working at what they would call more obscure or complex startups or organizations that are difficult to summarize in a very brief conversation. So over the last decade or so when we would all be out at a bar, or in some social setting and we’d be meeting people and they’d be like, “So what do you all do for work?” And there’s one friend who says, “Finance,” another says, “Advertising agency,” Another says, “I work at Nike.” And then there’s always me who says, “Well, I work at a startup and it’s a long story, but happy to get into it if you’re interested.” And if they are at all interested, it could be up to a podcast-length conversation that really requires getting them up to speed on what we’re up to. So that’s exactly right.
Ben Grynol: You need the side door. So what would always use to happen when people would ask about Skip, they might ask Pam about Skip and they’d say, “Oh cool, he’s a driver.” She would just say, “Yeah, he drives.” It was just so much easier than explaining… Especially in early stage when you end up doing so many different things. You’re wearing so many different hats, so it’s not just explaining what is this technology. And thinking back, right, where we’re at with Levels, we’re at this early, early phase of getting the technology out to the world. So trying to explain to people what this technology is, is its own endeavor, if a person doesn’t have a foundation of knowledge of what this tech is and what it does. Sometimes it’s easier just to say, “I work with a startup.” It’s just so much easier, but it’s really fun. The other side… It’s really, really fun when you’re engaged in all the work being done. Because when you get the opportunity to have those conversations, it’s so easy to light up and be like, “Oh, let’s talk about it,” and go really deep.
Tom Griffin: A hundred percent. I’ll sometimes warn people. I’ll say, “You don’t know it yet, but you’re embarking on a roughly one hour conversation right now. So just confirming that you want to sign up for that.” But then other times when I’m exhausted or whatever, I’ll end up saying some sort of strangely vague description. I’ll just be like, “Health technology.” And they’re like, “Well, what do you do? What do you mean by that?” It’s too vague. Whereas if you just say, “I work in finance,” people usually leave it at that.
Ben Grynol: No, that’s so good. Okay. So you joined… It’s almost a year. You are on the cusp of being a year in. You’re one of the earliest Levels team members.
Tom Griffin: Yeah, I think it’s just about a year right now.
Ben Grynol: Because it was July when you had joined. July of ’20. And-
Tom Griffin: I think June as a contractor.
Ben Grynol: Oh my, look at that.
Tom Griffin: Exact date.
Ben Grynol: Got to find that out.
Tom Griffin: I know, I know. But yeah. Just quickly how I got connected. Basically I had a friend reach out to me who said, “You should be tracking on this company. I just talked to the founders.” At that point it was pretty much just founders. And then [Mike 00:00:00], Head of Member Success and [John 00:00:00] one of our engineers… And just basically, “You’d be interested in this company, as a consumer.”
Tom Griffin: So it was funny. At the time I was starting to pick up my head and think about what might be next in my career. And so I had had a tip, that if I signed up for the beta, the CEO, this guy, Sam, I didn’t know anything about, was going to email me and probably set up a 15-minute call. So it was funny because I went into it knowing I’ll probably be able to get on the phone pretty quickly with the CEO of this company to learn more, even though it’s going to be part of their beta onboarding process.
Ben Grynol: You hacked your way in man.
Tom Griffin: I hacked my way in. And yeah, Sam didn’t know it. So we just had a conversation about what I was looking for in the product, and how I found out about it, et cetera. But then at the end I said, “Listen, this is what the space that I’ve been focused on and I have a lot of relationships. It sounds like you’re focused specifically on doing more podcasts, which is specifically an area that I have some experience. And so let me know if there’s any way that I can help.” And the rest is history.
Tom Griffin: Stayed in touch with Sam and kept knocking on the door and saying, “Here’s a document that I created at my last company, if it could be helpful. Here are some names of people in the space that I can make introductions to.” And this was all while I still had a job, but one thing led to another.
Ben Grynol: Always be closing. Look at that. So you came on board, and you came on as Head of Partnerships.
Tom Griffin: Yep.
Ben Grynol: When you joined the team… Head of Partnerships is such a broad scope of work. Broad responsibility. And it can mean a lot of different things at different companies. So an enterprise company or a company focused on B2B, Head of Partnerships is entirely different than a consumer company. And then drill down to consumer tech. We can extrapolate this forever.
Ben Grynol: But when you joined the team, there was so much work to do. But what was it that you started working on immediately, and then how did that evolve into this podcast and influencer/affiliate strategy that you’ve really spearheaded?
Tom Griffin: Yeah. So it’s funny. I don’t know if we’ve talked about this, but I will somewhat frequently get a message on LinkedIn from someone in my network. This is in part due to my job at Venture for America, where part of my job is mentoring a lot of recent college grads on how to navigate a startup career.
Tom Griffin: So I get a lot of messages from people that say they want my advice on how to do partnerships, but to your point, it’ll be someone who works in the B2B trucking software space. And they want advice on quote unquote, “Partnerships,” which is allegedly what I have expertise in.
Ben Grynol: “Allegedly.”
Tom Griffin: And I just tell them straight up, “Listen, I’m happy to get on the phone with you, but I’m going to have nothing to say about how you should approach B2B enterprise software partnerships in the trucking software space.” Which is just to say that, yeah, this term is extremely nebulous. This term, “Partnerships,” and starting with just, “Who are your customers?” Is it direct-to-consumer, or is it B2B? There are so many differences in approach.
Tom Griffin: But I think interestingly, increasingly, this partnership’s role in the direct-to-consumer space, particularly in the health and wellness space, is becoming a little bit more well defined, and a lot of companies are trying to hire for it quite quickly. But yeah, when I came on board, the founding team had started to focus on doing more podcast interviews. So specifically having Casey and Josh do more interviews. And this was an approach… We called it, “Podcast Tour.” At Halo, and I believe Levels was using that terminology as well, but it was something that I had run at Halo. And I think at the time, not many companies were thinking explicitly in those terms of running a dedicated media tour on the podcast circuit, at least in the direct-to-consumer space. So that was the first project that I was charged with, was building out that tour strategy, which was a lot of fun. And over the course of six months, we’d booked around between a hundred and 150 shows or something crazy like that.
Ben Grynol: Yeah, it’s wild. So people talk about, and by people, we’ll call it mostly investors or partners, people who we would interface with on a regular basis. As opposed to members or the general public. They might not have the same lens on the execution of the podcast strategy, just because it’s an outsider’s perspective, right?
Ben Grynol: But when people have the lens on what was done, everybody cites how well things were executed. That is not a small number. It was 120 podcasts over six months. That is a ton of appearances. It’s a ton of coordination. And it’s a ton of targeting. That’s not just a throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks. Josh was not on a knitting podcast, Josh was on tier one, tier two, tier three shows that had to do with technology health and wellness. Casey was on tier one, tier two, tier three shows that had to do with health and wellness, and mental health, and all of these different categories. So it was just so well executed. And it would be interesting to hear your perspective of how you even thought to start approaching this, given the fact that you did have a foundation from Halo, but you really had to start fresh and say, “How are we going to do this with Levels to make the most,” I guess, “Impactful process that we can run?”
Tom Griffin: Yeah, totally. There’s a lot of angles to come at this at, but I’ll start by just saying that, in terms of the health and wellness world… So podcasts that mostly exist to educate their audience, specifically on how to live a healthier life, or a more productive life, or just a self-improved life, if you will, and giving them the tools, knowledge, tactics, et cetera, that list of shows is actually fairly finite. So we started by initially just creating this Top 100 list. And that was part of the urgency with building some of these relationships. Is it’s becoming well known within our space that it can be a bit of a land grab in terms of initially building relationships with some of these top podcast hosts, in terms of securing these relationships before maybe competitors do.
Tom Griffin: There are millions of podcasts out there, but in terms of the most influential ones, specifically in the health and wellness space, there aren’t that many. So that’s how we started. And then to oversimplify it, a lot of the approach was just getting really, really good at tapping our network for introductions and making that entire process as seamless as possible. It almost seems too simple, and I know not every company out there has the network that we have, but I think there is just an enormous amount of room for optimizing. Just a process for people helping you, that most people out there don’t take advantage of.
Ben Grynol: Yeah, there are a couple of things we have to drill down to. Let’s rewind back to top 100, when you say top 100, what was the way you thought about that, right? did you go on to Apple Podcasts and look at reviews and say, “Cool, here are the top shows,” or what was that process to even figure out what those top 100 were? To add onto the other point that you had made is, when there are, we’ll say two direct competitors in a space, a podcast, let’s say Broken Brain, for instance, friend of the show, right, friend of Levels. [Drew 00:19:22], isn’t going to have on Levels and then two weeks later have on Super Sapiens, because it just doesn’t make sense for his audience to have those direct competitors too closely associated in cadence of his content, but also just interest for his audience, right?
Ben Grynol: So that’s what you mean by creating a moat of saying, “Cool, if we can get these top 100 podcasts and we create a bit of a moat to,” we’ll call it somewhat, “Lock out…” Not that you lock out competitors, but you make sure that the partnership is aligned with Levels as opposed to another company. So let’s rewind to what was that top 100 process to even get to that point?
Tom Griffin: Yeah. Again, it’s pretty straightforward. I probably, just as a consumer of these shows, and there are many other individuals at Levels who listened to many of these shows as well. I probably knew at least 50 to 75, ballpark, of those top 100, just based on understanding the podcast base, shows I listened to, as well as my experience at Halo. We definitely supplemented that approach in that initial list with our own research, which again is pretty simple. It’s using iTunes charts. There’s a couple other websites out there, like Chartable, to just look at top 100 shows across different categories like health and wellness, or self-improvement, or education, or technology. And pretty quickly you can triangulate which are the shows that are remaining on the charts for the longest period of time.
Tom Griffin: It was pretty simple. It was that, and then it was maybe a couple other approaches that we layered in there. We’re just asking people… So we’re good at tapping our network when we have a question or need something. And so we probably asked 50 to 100 people in our network, just, “Who are the top 10 shows? Who are your top 10 that you think we should target in terms of getting on their show for an interview,” back to that podcast tour strategy, as well as a possible long-term paid, formal partnership. We did a little bit of fancy stuff in terms of scraping the web for certain keywords. But to be honest, that top 100 was mostly done through our own knowledge and through our network.
Ben Grynol: Yeah. And the top 100, we’re still in early innings of even a podcast tour in the sense of, most of those podcasts would have some overlap in the Venn diagram. Categorically, they’re all relatively similar. We haven’t gone as deep on technology or business podcasts. We’ve scratched the surface with some, but the early… We’ll call it the early personas of members who’ve been through the beta, typically have fallen into Health and Wellness, or Biohacker, as a category. We call them Wellness Optimizer. We’ve got Wellness Optimizer, we’ve got Metabolically Curious, we’ve got all these personas.
Ben Grynol: And so those personas, those members, would typically listen to certain podcasts in the health and wellness space. And as we’ve explored or experimented with things like technology podcasts, hat tip to our friends at Acquired, we find that this audience… I think it’s 16% of their roughly hundred plus thousand downloads they get every show, 16% of those are engineers. And so we’re unlocking a very different segment there and going, “Oh, this is how you reach a wider population.”
Tom Griffin: Exactly. And I think that’s what’s going to be really exciting in the next six to 12 months, is being able to test a lot of these different audiences. As you mentioned, we focused pretty exclusively at the start on really just what’s the early adopter crowd within health and wellness. So we were asking ourselves, essentially, “Where are all of the people who already have learned about continuous glucose monitoring at some point in the past and are interested in this technology?” Where do we find those people on the internet? And the answer was, they’re listening to these podcasts and there aren’t that many of them.
Tom Griffin: So that’s where we started, but certainly we can open it up to a lot of other markets in the future, and test those markets both through this podcast tour strategy, as well as the more conventional podcast advertising strategy, which is a bit different.
Ben Grynol: Totally. And so for the network, tapping the networks… It’s an endeavor that is never easy, right? So at the time when you started saying, “Hey, let’s tap the Levels network,” that being personal network of the co-founding team, your network, and we’ll call it anyone that is a second degree connection. Sometimes third degree.
Tom Griffin: Yeah.
Ben Grynol: That’s one avenue, but that’s still a pretty limited pool. And I think the unfair advantage that we had was, we’ve got this counter-intuitive approach that was taken for fundraising. And so typically when raising funds, the advice, we’ll call it the average advice that would be given to founders or to start up teams is, raise from a few people because you want to have fewer people to manage in your cap table. And make sure everybody gets along. And it’s just easier. Make sure that everybody roughly knows each other too. That’s going to help. It’s going to help with connections. It’s going to help with all these other things.
Ben Grynol: And so Sam had come up with this approach where he said, “Cool, I’m going to use network theory. And I’m going to focus on, eigenvector centrality versus degree centrality,” meaning, “I’m going to focus on getting a bunch of very,” to really say it in plain English, “I’m going to focus on getting as many people as possible who are unrelated to each other that might have completely new connections that no one else in the network in this existing pool of people, any connections that they have.” And so in doing so we’ve got over 150 people on our cap table. Cap table, meaning our group of investors that have invested in Levels. And they’re everyone from a professional basketball player, to people with experience in the music industry, professional musicians. They’re very unrelated. And then traditional venture capitalists.
Ben Grynol: And so when we were able to reach out to that network and say, “Do you know Tim Ferris? Do you know Joe Rogan? Do you know,” some of these harder to reach podcasts, we would find… And this is to digress on it, we’ve been able to benefit from our network for a lot of other relationship introductions that have to do with other partnerships or business considerations. And our network is like, “Oh yeah, Billy was my neighbor. I’ll introduce you to Billy,” right? And this happens over and over. And so now, it was somewhat funny at first, but now it’s just this outlook on strategy where we’re like, “Well, of course, we’re just going to reach out to our network and get we’ll have a clear ask and we’ll get the introductions.” We’ll likely get the introductions to whomever or whichever company we’re looking to get introduced to.
Tom Griffin: Yeah. A hundred percent. There’s a ton to unpack there. We can get into tactics, but in short, you want to be the type of person, or the type of company, who people want to help. So that’s number one. And then number two, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to help you. And we did have an unfair advantage, for sure. So it’s worth just saying that up front, given the successes that we had based on our network.
Tom Griffin: Having said that, we weren’t just tapping our investor network. Every email exchange I would have with anyone, or any follow-up after a phone call with anyone, I would include a snippet that I had already saved with a little superhuman keyboard shortcut. I would add it into the end of every email, which was like, “By the way, you mentioned offering to help in any way possible. We’re making a push to get our founders on more podcasts. Do you know any podcasts in the health wellness, technology, education space,” question mark. And when you put that in every single email that you send for six months, you’re going to get a lot of responses back.
Ben Grynol: Eventually.
Tom Griffin: Yeah. There’s a lot of subtlety in how effectively you do this type of networking, but even the difference between just saying, “Keep me posted if you think of any podcasts that you might know of,” compared to, “Can you think of any podcasts where you know the hosts…” And just leaving it as an open-ended, but direct question, you’re going to get a lot more responses with the latter.
Ben Grynol: Yeah. To riff on that, the other thing that works really well is let’s say we reach out to Dom, right? We say Dom, hypothetically Dom… So Dom D’Agostino, he’s one of our advisors and a friend on Friday Forum every week. Dom knows Tim Ferris, Dom knows Joe Rogan. And these are loose relationships. Let’s assume Dom didn’t know Tim, but he knew Joe. And we could say, “Dom, do you know Tim,” in a direct email, and this has worked very well with our investor network. “I don’t know Tim, but I actually know Joe. I know Joe Rogan. Is that helpful?” And when those responses come back, we’re like, “Yes. Of course that’s helpful,” when people have opened up these doors.
Ben Grynol: And so that’s the other thing that’s worked really well with a lot of these asks is being so specific that if somebody says, “I don’t know X, but I do know Y,” those doors that are unlocked are so much easier for them to answer. than sometimes the broad question of like, “Let me know of any podcasts that you find interesting,” and people are just like, “Oh, Bystander Effect. Somebody else is going to answer this question,” right? It’s too broad.
Tom Griffin: A hundred percent. And yeah, we definitely took that approach as well. Just one example of an exercise that I did a couple of times was, I took our list of a hundred people on our cap table, or advisors, or people in our network. And I just looked up every single one of their names in a couple of different databases, including just iTunes directly, to find out what shows that they had been on themselves in the past, that we probably secured 30 plus shows just from that approach. Interacting with anyone who’s ever been on a podcast and then figuring out what shows they’ve been on, and then asking for an introduction.
Ben Grynol: Especially with our advisors. Our advisors have been on so many podcasts because they’re thought leaders. And a lot of them in health and wellness, but in different spaces where we can ask specifically, “Hello, Dr. Mark Hyman, which podcasts have you been on?” Granted, he’s got his own very successful podcasts. Mark has been in so many different media appearances that his network alone is so strong, right? And so if we keep going over and over, there are so many shows where eventually, we have some inter web of connection to many of these top tier shows.
Tom Griffin: Totally. And just to take that specific example and walk through a suboptimal approach for connecting to someone in Mark’s network, and then a much better approach, you could reply on an email thread with mark and say, “Mark, I’ve seen that you’ve been on a lot of shows yourself. Would you mind making an introduction to some that you think could be a good fit for us,” question mark.
Tom Griffin: That’s one way to do it. And it’s a way a lot of people would do it because it’s a really easy and fast way to just reply to that email thread. But the problem is, is you’re putting all of the work on Mark’s plate to think about what shows he’s been on, to figure out what might be a good fit for Levels, and then presumably, then Mark has to go reach out to the shows and ask them if they’re interested in Levels. And then he’s got to describe Levels, et cetera, et cetera.
Tom Griffin: And so the other approach would be to say, “Mark, I researched some of the shows that you’ve been on, I identified five, and I’m going to start separate threads with forwardable emails that you can just press forward to, to the host, to gauge interest.” And then you send an email to Mark that says, “Mark, following up on our other thread, you mentioned knowing Joe Rogan. We’ve been huge fans of Joe for a really long time over here, specifically his recent episode with David Sinclair was incredible, and they talked about continuous glucose monitoring. Do you think Joe would be open to beta-testing Levels and having a conversation with Dr. Casey Means. More on Levels below my sign-off.” And then Mark can just simply press forward to Joe Rogan’s team and it’s way easier for him.
Ben Grynol: It’s just that easy, is it? You make it sound so easy.
Tom Griffin: No, but it’s amazing because something like… I think it’s technically called Self-Contained Forwardable Email approach. A lot of people listening are probably like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Of course,” but there are a lot of very high functioning operators out there who have no idea what that approach is. And as someone who’s now making a lot of introductions for other people, I’m often spending five emails, cycles, iterations with people who are looking for introductions, but are making it really difficult for me to make the introduction. And then I end up sending them a link to an article about forwardable emails, and then giving them a draft of an example of a forwardable email. And so all this is to say, a lot of this stuff sounds silly, small potatoes, but if you can reduce friction and make it extremely easy for your network to help you, then you’re going to see the outsized results.
Ben Grynol: That’s exactly it. And so with podcasts, the podcast tour V1, we’ll call it 1.0, that has somewhat come to a close, where we’ve cooled down on podcast appearances for the most part, or as many as were being done previously. The fall of 2020, call it Q1 20-21, there were a number of appearances every week from Josh and Casey. It was just non-stop podcast, podcast, podcast. And there’s still appearances, but they’re less frequent. And part of that is because so many shows have been done, and then the other part is just adjusting course on strategy. And you’ve used this process to pursue affiliates, and we’ll call it affiliate/influencers, in the health and wellness space to continue this education process and find what other platforms do these influencers… Where do they live? Where do they create content that we can reach people in a different way. And so what’s that process been like that you’ve taken to pursue partnerships?
Tom Griffin: Yeah, totally. I think you can look at this broad space of direct-to-consumer partnerships, or you could call it influencer marketing. Someone recently called it, “Relationship marketing channels.” But basically, content creators of some kind that have a large audience on the internet… And content creator can mean on Instagram, obviously it could be podcasts, it could be YouTube, it could be blog and newsletter, and at the center of most of these partnerships or relationships is an actual individual. Someone like Dave Aspray, or Ben Greenfield, or Tim Ferris, or whoever. And they typically have a number of different platforms.
Tom Griffin: So the strategy to date has been focusing on that Top 100 list and then slowly activating more and more of the content creators’ platforms. So it might start with a podcast relationship that’s organic and they’re having Casey on their show who’s a Stanford trained medical doctor to talk holistically about metabolic health, not necessarily push Levels. But then as we build the relationship, we start activating other platforms that they have and potentially with a different financial arrangement.
Tom Griffin: So we started with focusing mostly on organic and earned media, via this podcast tour where money wasn’t being exchanged. From there, we started activating a lot of those relationships as affiliates. So they started to promote a particular link and were receiving commission.
Tom Griffin: And then the third iteration of this space is starting to actually spend a little bit more of our marketing budget on paid placements and/or advertisements, which is really a way we’re going to end up scaling up growth in sales and marketing. But in the near term has been a great way to secure relationships, secure these partnerships, lock them in, at least for the time being, as well as just starting to test marketing channels. As much as it’s cool to see website traffic go up or even wait list signups go up, actually testing these different markets with purchase links, it gives you a lot better data. So that’s where we’re moving, but happy to dig into any platform in particular.
Ben Grynol: Yeah. And that’s the outlook, right? I think the outlook that we take with product, that we take with business model decisions, with partnerships, and we’ll call it growth/marketing is, everything is about learning right now. Where it’s, we have a hypothesis for this experiment. We run this experiment. We get data about it. We iterate on it. And then we just keep repeating. And so we’re testing all these different channels to say, “Well, what actually happened,” and trying to dissect as much as we can. “Was it the channel? Was it the messaging?” What was it that resulted in really good results, or mediocre or in some cases, poor results where we say, “This didn’t land.” And always revisiting knowing that, what doesn’t land now, right, maybe one channel doesn’t land right now, but down the road, it actually might be a great channel. It’s just about timing. Timing with the technology, timing with Levels, timing with everything, right? So if we think about where partnerships are now, and where they’re headed, how has your thinking evolved about execution, tactic, and strategies, like where to play and how to win?
Tom Griffin: That’s a good question in terms of how the approach has changed. I think in terms of just tactical… As I mentioned, we’re going to move more into the big leagues. We’ve been building organic relationships, securing earned media placements much in the way that you pursue PR in terms of just not paying and being on a podcast and building an organic relationship. And then we’re going to really just scale up these relationships across more channels. So YouTube will be the next frontier. And then I think spending more on paid relationships in order to, again, drive growth, ultimately, once we launch. But in the meantime, secure these partnerships and do way more market testing to figure out what will be our go-to market strategy. I think we need to get a lot more data on how these different channels work. So I think we ran V1 of this general sales outreach process for podcasts. And I think now it’s about scaling out that approach across other channels, and then beginning to hire on this team in order to just make the full system run a bit faster and more efficiently.
Ben Grynol: That’s exactly it. And also, we’ve been more diligent… And this is something that we talked about at least six months ago, being focused with our time. Saying, “We’re focused on consumer over B2B.” It doesn’t mean that we’re not pursuing B2B. It means that we have to be diligent about the way that we use our time to make sure that we’re getting the most mileage out of every minute, every ounce of effort that’s put forth.
Ben Grynol: And so this lens on consumer, and going hard and fast at consumer, while still maintaining B2B, it’s a way of making sure that we’re not diluting our time so thin that one minute you’re talking with somebody from the PGA, one minute, you’re talking with somebody in the film and theater industry, one minute, you’re talking to somebody about consumer social, right? Otherwise it’s like, being a small team, your time just melts away and you do a lot of different things, but you end up doing a lot of nothing in the end, right? Because the results just can’t compound when they’re so unrelated. It’s good experimentation, but it’s not necessarily a good use of time when you are basically a solo team right now.
Tom Griffin: A hundred percent. You hit the nail on the head. That’s how our thinking has evolved the most, I would say over the last six months. And I was just narrowly focused on these influencer partnerships, but to your point, the scope of my role includes the enterprise sales market, which is something we’ll look at more and more over time. An example of that would be selling into corporate benefits teams at large companies. We just finished up a pilot with a large company that has about 30,000 employees. So just testing the waters in that market.Larger brand partnerships, which includes the professional sports world.
Tom Griffin: And there are just so many interesting opportunities. A lot of them are shiny objects and are probably great things to layer on once we build the foundation of our product and our sales and marketing strategy. And so I think we, almost on a weekly basis, you and I are self-reflecting and trying to narrow our time and our scope to be focused only on what’s essential. Which is extremely difficult because when a very cool opportunity comes your way, you often erroneously make the calculus, “Well, this’ll just take 30 minutes of my time to have one intro call.” But as you often remind me, that time balloons pretty quickly and that 30 minute call within a month becomes 10 or 20 hours of your time, depending on all the follow-up that usually ensues.
Ben Grynol: Yeah, that’s exactly it. It becomes a lot of team time because it’s looping people in communication overhead. CCing people and making sure everyone is in the loop about what’s happening if it seems like a beneficial partnership, and then closing the loop with everyone to saying, “Here was the outcome.”
Ben Grynol: It’s the decision tree, when you make the decision to go down the path of, “I’m going to explore this further,” that 15 minute conversation, or even email communication, quickly expands into a lot of time being invested on behalf of the team. And so that’s where having that lens on, “Is this beneficial right now? Or should we punt it in the near term?” I think we’ve been focused on ensuring that all of our time is invested as strategically as possible.
Tom Griffin: Totally. And I think it really helps to just articulate the trade-offs… I think they talked about this in Working Backwards, which is a book about Amazon’s growth and culture, but Sam hits on this a lot as well, which is just, every decision will have trade-offs and there are going to be legitimate downsides to making a decision, and that’s fine, but let’s just know what they are, and know what obstacles we might run into in the future, and put them down on paper so we’re all aware of it. And I think that that has been a helpful process for me. Because often when you’re not articulating them, then it becomes too painful to hypothetically say, “No,” to that phone call, or to that opportunity, and so you end up just taking it.
Tom Griffin: But when there’s a strategy on paper, where you say, “No. We’re saying no to,” say, “Sports partnerships with top leagues, like the NBA or the NFL.” Once you just have that principle written down, then it can become much easier to pass up on those opportunities.
Ben Grynol: What’s your closer?
Tom Griffin: What’s my closer? What does that mean?
Ben Grynol: You need a closer man.
Tom Griffin: Dude, I don’t know what a closer is… You got to guide me on a closer. I don’t have a quote ready or anything like that. I feel like you and Josh are just BSing about what you’re going to do the rest of the day, or something like that.
Ben Grynol: Well, that’s the point of recording beforehand, or after a little bit like this, where we keep it turned on. I like recording all of the pre- stuff because that’s where you get a ton of good content from-
Tom Griffin: Fun little soundbites?
Ben Grynol: Yeah. It’s our production styles that we have these… The intro bites are always some tent-pole moment or some cool nugget from the actual recording. And then the outro is always some silly thing like, “Oh, I’m going to play with my hot wheels this weekend.”
Tom Griffin: I know, I know. I like the outros. I always look forward to those.
Ben Grynol: Maybe that should be your outro right there.
Tom Griffin: Too meta, too meta.