The audio streaming giant recruited advertisers to provide feedback on products and go-to-market strategies.
In the pursuit of quality insight, innovation can give you the edge you desire. Sometimes, innovation comes from rethinking an existing tool and tapping into a previously unexplored source of feedback.
In conversation with Alida’s Executive VP of Sales, Brad Stanghetta, Spotify’s Senior Marketing Strategist Bryan Yeager revealed the inspiration behind an insight community for advertisers, the challenges of developing it, and the riches that are still coming from it.
By some distance the world’s most popular streaming platform, Spotify has 422 million monthly active users and has broken into 183 markets. Of the total number of users, 252 million use the free, ad-supported version of the platform.
If B2C, why not B2B?
Unlike your standard B2C community, Bryan Yeager and his team put together a community of advertisers to help Spotify collect insights and build better products. In turn, the products are engineered to help advertisers reach users of the ad-supported version of Spotify. The goal is to engage listeners with the brand’s messaging in a way that’s relevant and unique. This strategy is two-prong: screenless (audio and podcasts) and lean-in moments (video and display).
According to Yeager, from a high-level perspective and based on the results of the strategy, there are three reasons to build a B2B community:
1. Foster customer-centric innovation: “We wanted to bring our business and product stakeholders closer to customers to ensure we’re building the right thing, find a market for our product and ultimately drive growth.”
2. Execute research at scale: “B2B research can be time-consuming, costly, and at the end of it, you may be left scratching your head. (Doing the research in a community) helped us overcome these challenges.”
3. Hasten time-to-insight: “It takes 4 to 6 weeks to complete a B2B research project. We wanted to bring that number down to a week or maybe a couple of days.”
The resulting B2B community is called Spotify Advertising Soundboard and was launched early in 2020. Initially, Spotify partnered with sales groups to help curate the community, zeroing in on advertisers that provided feedback more frequently.
To attract would-be members, recruiters leaned on the intrinsic value of Spotify as a brand. Yeager elaborates: “Spotify is a trusted and powerful brand and people are excited to give us feedback. We reached out to industry professionals by stating that we wanted them to help shape the future of Spotify’s ad product roadmap by giving us honest feedback. It has been a powerful draw. We don’t do a lot of incentives.”
The feedback focuses on product and go-to-market strategies. “We want to help our product managers make decisions about different capabilities or test new concepts and assist our marketing colleagues in refining the message and positioning before we bring a product to market”, adds Yeager.
Spotify’s partnership with Alida in building the community matches the streaming company’s intention of providing members with a great experience: “It has been great to have a partner that’s flexible and help us live up to that.”
Spotify’s recipe for success
There are principles Spotify’s adheres to that the company believes are key to establish a strong foundation and drive future growth. These same principles have made their way into the B2B community. Yeager explains:
Customer centricity: “Bring the voice of the customer into the business and make decisions based on customer needs.”
Hypothesis-driven approach: “Is there a hypothesis that through research or questions we ask to our Soundboard community we can validate or prove? This approach has been helpful to ensure that the questions we’re asking and the insights we’re getting are useful for our business stakeholders and help them make decisions.”
Actionability: “We have a score to determine how actionable the research was: were you able to do a business decision based on the insight from Soundboard? The benchmark we hold ourselves to ensures that we’re delivering near-term value to our business stakeholders.”
A matter of trust
For Spotify, compliance is paramount, particularly when dealing with data privacy. When designing the Soundboard community, it was imperative that the members trusted that the streamer would use their feedback responsibly and discreetly. “Continuing to do that is going to give us better and better feedback, drive engagement with the community, and ultimately help us build the right product, build the product right, and launch it correctly”, explains Bryan Yeager.
As for the future of Soundboard, expanding to new markets appears in the horizon (the program is in five countries, while Spotify and their ad business are in 183), in order to develop a well-rounded global perspective. In addition, there are new customer groups to tap into. Yeager elaborates: “Publishers and creators are another key segment we want and need insights from to inform our product and go-to-market strategy. We’re excited to be able to expand geographically, to new customer segments and deepen our existing footprint.”