Camille Trent is the Director of Content & Community at PeerSignal and strategic advisor at Keyplay and AudiencePlus.
When she's not planning content, she's repurposing it. When she's not repurposing content, she's hanging out with her pup and two favorite redheads. Or she's trying to coach the Portland Trail Blazers from her couch (unsuccessfully).
I worked with Camille for a little while at a SaaS company, before she went to PeerSignal, where she's heading a media company. She has some great insights about building community and launching a B2B media company.
You are well known as a content marketer in the SaaS space, but recently you had a LinkedIn post that caused a bit of a stir, where you said you were no longer a SaaS marketer. What’s the story behind it?
When I came to PeerSignal, we didn't have a SaaS product yet, not even a true community. At that point, it was just a research project that had an audience and resources.There was a site where you could go to learn about B2B sales and marketing. On the site you could look through different databases that we had collected.
So people were choosing their own adventure. It was fairly unstructured and it's like, ‘hey, we have this interesting data. You can figure out how to use it for prospecting. You can figure out how to use it in creative ways as you can, you know, figure out how many companies are doing community. Or how many companies are doing this and that and what those signals mean for you.’
And then they started expanding it with other things like galleries and other resources for people, like a newsletter.
So that was basically the company I was joining. It was a bit of a gamble.
One of the first things that we wanted to do by November was officially launch the software product. And as part of that, the website. So there was a lot of talk with Adam about the messaging, telling the story of how this came to be. And also patterns of what was happening in the market. And there were two patterns: return to rigor and GTM Excellence. Those are the two things that we wanted to own and have a point of view on.
And from there we started developing our structure. PeerSignal is always going to be the research arm, the community arm, like, the media company, essentially. And then KeyPlay, our SaaS product. So how do we do this in a way that people are not going to worry about the integrity of PeerSignal? Because PeerSignal is still a cool resource. And you know, as soon as something gets attached to a software product that you have to pay for, things can go wrong, you just start mailing it in or you start just using it for your own product benefit.
We wanted these things to be separate. They're only six of us. But everyone changed their job from being from PeerSignal to working full time at Keyplay, except for me. We wanted to make that distinction.
When we announced it, I said, we're still gonna preserve this media company. I'm still gonna own this. I'm gonna help out with Keyplay. And, obviously, the two have to fuel each other, There were two parts to it. Me announcing that I was no longer a SaaS marketer, which is true.
In the first month we'd come to terms with the fact that I wasn't directly attached to revenue. I was attached to building the community, building an audience, all of that.
And then Adam put out the newsletter explaining the relationship between the two, saying, okay, there's two separate things, but there is a growth loop. And here's how they play together and how they won't ruin each other.
So what exactly is PeerSignal? Is it a media company, a community, or a research company?
I think ‘media company’ is just thrown around a lot because it's the highest umbrella term that you can give something like this. I would say that it is a research media company.
So think about Forrester and Gartner. That's kind of the level that we want to get to as a media company for B2B SaaS marketers and salespeople, reporting on the things that VP of sales, VP of marketing would care about. We want to speak to that sort of executive level and business strategy level, and really own go to market.
Originally when Adam started this with Andrew, they hadn't even decided on the product or the market that they wanted to serve. I think Adam wanted to serve early founders as well as the people on the front lines helping them figure out how to sell their product and how to go to market.
So it was really just his own sort of curiosity about what's working right now. For example, PLG is working. We did a quantitative analysis and asked things like:
- What are the patterns there?
- How many more people are doing this? Is it working?
- What are the big levers that the few companies that are actually growing?
- How can we do those things?
- And how can we share this data with more people?
So, it's really like a research backed media company.
What is the role of community in your strategy?
We're thinking about community first. The traditional research companies are gated. They're, like, pay to play. They have these crazy expensive subscriptions you have to sign up for to get access to their data, that's usually a little biased.
Whereas, we just want to study this for ourselves. We want other people to have this data. And the benefit to us making a lot of the stuff free is we also just get to grow our community. We believe in the benefit of that enough that we don't have to monetize the media company part of it.
Later down the line, there might be options for sponsorships, right? But we just are very careful about wanting to do it the right way. Keyplay is the sponsor. There's that flywheel there — we want to study go-to-market, study sales and marketing, to also make our products better. And it expands that community of people that know about Keyplay, but even if they never buy, never become customers, at least we can become a content brand that then gets recommended because we clearly know what we're doing and we're presenting valuable data to the people in that community.
So when you're talking about community, how do you define community? How is it different from an audience?
We don't have a true community in the sense that we don't have a space that we own, that creates two-way conversation. We don't have a separate Slack that we have people in right now.
We're leveraging social and creating community there. I think that is the best first step for most people because sometimes SaaS companies or just companies in general tend to be like, we know we need this, so here's our community, come and join, but haven't given away free stuff, haven't built any goodwill. So it's, like, who are you? Why would I join this thing? I don't know anyone there. So you have to create goodwill and trust before you can ask someone to join your club.
That's a little bit more audience building than community building. But we do have a newsletter, which to me is a little bit more of a two-way communication. You're sending something out and people can reply. There's a way to do it well, where you ask people for those replies. You make it a conversation, maybe you're asking a question at the end, you're clearly wanting feedback.
The other thing that we do there is we always link out the newsletters that we send to our social posts. And the social posts tend to be very open ended, like, what do you guys think? Like, what should we do next?
So I think that creating that loop for several different ways to engage has been the next step up from audience building to community building.
You have to be really active on social media, not necessarily presenting anything ,trying to bring something interesting to the table. Like, here's a little bit of data based on this, what do you think is gonna happen next? And that's a very community centric type post.
Another kind of post is, “Hey! We did a bunch more data and here's a whole forty-page deck of information.” And then you get good engagement that way too because people just appreciate you're doing that work.
Look for opportunities where people might be asking questions that you can answer. Maybe they have questions on, the best way to identify your ICP or the best way to go to market, or something about PLG, something that we have done a lot of research on and can help with.
The other thing right now is that people are looking for jobs. So we built a couple hiring trackers and shared those. Basically, we are chirping when we have something to say or we have a resource that we can take people to.
So those are the ways that we have borrowed community, if you will. And in that way, I've carved out a little bit of a niche, a trust within a part of that community.
Do you think this is kind of a working framework or model for startups to launch? Like, they start with content, they build an audience, then a community, And then from the feedback is when they create the actual solution or product?
Yeah. I definitely think this can work and has worked. There is a different order of operations depending on what type of a community you are.
If you're a product-led company or a company that has a free version of your product, you might create a different type of community than you would if you had a smaller total addressable market and you only let people buy that product by taking a demo, because you don't need as big of a community. You don't have to go for volume. And in those cases, I do think maybe the first step for some of those things is working toward a big event or conference, and maybe you do that through micro events or through in person events and things like that.
But you can get a lot more narrow and niche that way. And typically, there's only a couple people actually using the product. It may just be RevOps or HR that's using products like yours.
So if you have multiple people within the org using the product, then you’d want to set up a community where different users can help one another, where they can give each other inspiration on how to use the product. And you have to moderate or CS clarify and provide a structured response to make sure that they're getting the right response to the questions.
Do you have any plans of going deeper into community or creating something more like a space for people to interact?
I definitely do. It can be hard to get in touch with people one on one, even the ones that you know are power users or power fans—people that are really deep into what we're doing, they’re on the website a lot and get a lot of value from the resources. So it'd be nice to get the insights from those people, and use that to make the site better, make the experience better, all of that. Like, a customer advisory board of fans.
And then the general larger community. Metadata is doing this. The best are Figma with the PLG angle. And RevGenius. As we develop Keyplay, we're planning on adding a freemium version, so that might shape what type of community we build first. But from my perspective being more on the PeerSignal side, I think there's value in just having a PeerSignal community. That's the goal. As we think of ourselves as this research and community arm.
The other thing is shows. I think usually a big pillar of any community is having some sort of event arm. Events are a two-way communication channel that acts as the stepping stone to an owned community.