How Hormel Foodservice’s sales training team started using podcasts to increase product knowledge and onboard new reps
uStudio Staff | Internal Communications, Podcasting, Sales, Training & Learning
uStudio Staff | Internal Communications, Podcasting, Sales, Training & Learning
Hormel set out to make better use of their sales team’s windshield time on the road by using podcasts to arm them with audio versions of relevant training materials. In our most recent customer webinar, Hormel Foodservice’s Sales Training Manager, Grant Heselschwerdt, explained that podcasting has given their team access to learning and development in ways that traditional forms of training could not.
During our discussion with Grant, he shared how Hormel’s enablement podcast has improved their training process and allowed reps to better understand the customer experience while in turn having a positive impact on the company’s culture and talent churn.
Here are a few highlights:
(15:00) - Grant explains his process for collecting feedback and key insights from his audience in order to drive more podcast adoption, which has been particularly useful as part of their podcast relaunch post pandemic.
(23:40) - Grant keys in on the benefits Hormel has experienced with corporate podcasting including but not limited to more effective sales training, low employee turnover, greater connection with Hormel’s customers and an increased sense of inclusion and belonging.
(32:50) - Grant shares his pragmatic approach to the 2023 plan for continuous content improvement using data and analytics available in uStudio. His goal is to increase adoption and further engagement.
As always the full transcript is available here for those who want to scan and the entire webinar is available by clicking play on the media player embedded here.
Okay. Hello, everyone. My name is Beck Marlar, and I'm the customer success manager here at uStudio. Welcome to the uStudio Customer Success webinar series, where we ask one of our uStudio clients to share what has made them successful in their enterprise podcasting program.
On today's webinar, we're going to hear from Hormel Foodservice's national sales training manager Grant Heselschwerdt. Also on the call, on the uStudio side of things, we've got Michael Wright, who is our head of sales and success, and we have Jackie Logan, our head of product. Prior to his role as national sales training manager, Grant managed four separate sales territories of various sizes around the country. We were excited to ask Grant to host this webinar today because he has the unique perspective of having first listened to the podcast as a sales rep in the field, and now Grant is the one in charge of the podcast program himself.
So Hormel set out to make a better use of their sales team's windshield time on the road by providing them with relevant information and further training opportunities. Podcasting allowed them to do this while traditional forms of communication were inaccessible while driving. Not only has Hormel been able to better educate their sales reps in the field, and they've seen the added benefit of an enhanced company culture and a greater sense of inclusion and belonging through some pretty creative approaches to podcasting. Hormel's been particularly strong in their programming as it relates to content creation, and Grant's going to be sharing more insight into that process around this in the webinar today.
So with that being said, I'm eager to turn it over to Grant to hear more. If you have any questions along the way, please feel free to put them in the Q&A section. We'll monitor that, and at the end we'll do a formal Q&A. Also, if you look in the chat, you'll find a link to a quick survey that we'd love for you to complete before you leave today, giving us your feedback on the webinar experience, and you can indicate any follow-ups that you might want after the webinar. So that's all I have to say. So without further ado, here's Grant Heselschwerdt from Hormel Foodservice.
All right. Good morning, everybody. Thank you for the introduction, Beck. Good morning or good afternoon, I guess, depending where you're joining us from today. Really excited to be here. This has been fun to work on with the uStudio team, and it's really been a great opportunity to just take a step back and analyze our podcast and see just how far it's come in the short amount of time over a few years that we've had it.
So as Beck said, I'm our national sales training manager. Before this role, I held many sales roles with our company. So we'll just go ahead and jump right in. The Road Warriors podcast is our internal podcast that we put out really with the target audience being our sales team, and we'll talk more about that podcast today. As you can see at the top of my screen, there's a lot of great recognition that Hormel Foods has received over the last several years, things from best companies to sell for, best companies for females and women, best companies for veterans to work for, among best companies for LGBT community. So a lot of these things, right? Why is that? And it really comes down to our culture. And this podcast has really helped us enhance our culture and really drive that inclusion and belonging, so that's one great thing that has done. Another thing I'm going to talk about as we go through today is just how it's helped us better communicate with our sales team in this new virtual environment that we live in and really using it as a training resource.
So I'm going to go ahead and jump right in and give you an overview of what we're going to cover today. So being the Road Warriors podcast, we're going to take you on a little bit of a road trip. The first stop, we're going to talk about who Hormel is and Hormel Foodservice. So you've probably heard the name, but you might not be as familiar with the brands that we have or the sales process that we go through. So just I think that introduction into who we are will help ground you all as an audience and how the podcast fits in with our sales strategy.
After that, we're going to take a look at really three different versions of our Road Warriors podcast that we've gone through. So just today, we kicked off our third year slash third season of the podcast, posting that first episode of year three today. But it's taken us a while to get to where we're at today. We've gone through some different iterations. My predecessor had that 1.0 vision. He got it off the ground, our previous training manager. And then after that, I took it over and made some enhancements that I'm going to discuss. It made it a little bit stronger during my first year hosting it last year. And then the 3.0 version is this year's version, and some of the goals and improvements that we hope to make. So let's go ahead and jump in and talk a little bit more about who is Hormel and Hormel Foodservice.
So on this slide, you see a lot of different brands up there, some of them you've probably recognized before. Hormel Foods is a big company. We're a Fortune 500 company. We're a little bit over 130 years old, but we've really collected a collection of these smaller brands as we've gone along the way and brought a lot of value to them and helped them expand. So some of those brands you might be familiar with just from your time shopping at a grocery store. Might be our Black Label Bacon, our Justin's nut butters that you see in a lot of convenience stores at the front of the store. Planters Peanuts, a great legacy brand that we acquired a handful of years ago. Holy Guacamole, right? Those are just a few that the audience might have recognized out there, and those are sold through our retail channel. So that's a whole 'nother part of our company, and the opposite of actually what I'm going to be talking about today.
Today I'm going to be talking more about our food service channel and our food service internal sales podcast that we have. So some of the brands within the food service channel that we sell are Austin Blues, which is a fully-cooked line of already-smoked barbecue items, our Fire Braised line, Cafe H, just as a few examples. So I could guarantee that somebody on this call has had these products, yet you've probably never realized it. And the reason is because these are sold in the food service channel, so the food service channel is really anywhere where you would eat food away from home that's already been prepared. So students at a college and university. When you go out to a restaurant, that's food service. The healthcare segment, sporting venues, hospitals, senior living, and military just are a few examples of the types of customers we sell to.
But I thought it was really important that I cover this because when you go to a restaurant and you order a meal, you have no idea who's baking it as that comes out on the plate. You don't know whose pepperoni it is on the pizza, right? So when we're selling you to retail, there's a lot that we're selling behind the brand, right? People go in and they know they want that Hormel bacon or they want those Planters peanuts, and that's what they look for on the shelves. But as a consumer, you don't have that choice when you go in. You just know you love eating breakfast here because their bacon tastes really good. So it adds a layer of complexity when we're selling beyond just that brand recognition that's so strong. On this last slide, as you can see, and we have 40 plus categories that have the number-one or number-two share in that category. So we have to be a little bit more strategic when selling some of those food service ones.
So how we've really found success over the years with that is by developing a direct nationwide sales team. So a lot of our competitors and a lot of other food manufacturers tap into a broker network, that they'll hire a sales team third party that's out pushing several different lines of products. We're unique in the fact that we have 200 direct sales professionals located all across the country, and their geography is really one to three states depending on where they're at.
For example, I used to be a sales rep and account executive and senior account executive in Ohio. I pretty much just covered the state of Ohio, but as you get into more of the Midwest, someone that's living in Iowa might cover Iowa, Nebraska, and southern Minnesota. So it just kind of depends on where you're located and how far you have to drive. Our expectation for our reps is that they make 15 in-person sales calls, right? Going out and meeting customers 15 times, in person, face-to-face. We're really a face-to-face, belly-to-belly industry, you might hear it called, right? We like to get out in front of customers, get our products in their mouth so they can taste it, see it, feel it, smell it. But what this does is it creates hours of weekly windshield time, hours where our sales reps are driving. When I think back to my time as a sales rep in Cleveland driving down to Columbus, a two-hour drive in the morning and then spending the day making five appointments within that market, and oftentimes 20 or 30 minutes between those drives.
And why is all this stuff relevant to the podcast? Because that was really the goal of it when we kicked it off, was, how can we maximize all this windshield time to get our team the information to them when they need it in a more effective way? Anybody in this call that's held an outside sales role probably has had the experience where you've had a really busy day out seeing customers. You get a home at 4:00, 4:30 at night, but then the day's really get started. You've got that inbox to go through and filter through. So we thought, hey, this would be a great way to get some of this information out that clutters up those inboxes, whether as a market update from our marketing team or some new product information without them having to click through it at the end of the day, so just be more efficient with their time.
So we kicked this podcast off, my predecessor, in February of 2020. So if you take a step back and think about what was going on at that time, what was happening? The pandemic. The pandemic hit right after we launched this podcast, so that provided a unique opportunity for us right out of the gates because we had a couple initial episodes recorded that we published right away, and that was... I'll go through what that content was about, but why this is such a big thing for the podcast is when this pandemic hit, we, number one, took our entire sales team off the ground. No more going out and making the in-person sales calls. We transitioned to this virtual environment because we didn't know how dangerous the COVID pandemic was, what this virus meant. But then in addition to us taking our sales team off the road, our industry really shut down. Restaurants were among some of the worst hit as we went through the pandemic, and depending on what state you were in, some stayed closed for longer, some stayed closed for a shorter period of time. So we have all this time now with our sales team in front of the computer to utilize.
So just to talk and transition into what the 1.0 version of this podcast looks like, but before I do that, I will just say for the audience, we decided to go with a sound-only, audio-only podcast versus offering the video capabilities for the sole reason of safety first. As outside sales team driving around to see customers in person, we just thought it was imperative that their eyes are on the road versus trying to watch a video and get the messaging across that way. So that was a question that had come up from one of the attendees as I looked over this before today.
All right, so we launched this 1.0 version of the podcast really right before the COVID pandemic, and the first two episodes you can see there on the left hand side of the screen. One of them, we kicked off a brand-new product we introduced to the sales team. So we talked about the features and benefits of it. We provided a market overview. Why is the price of bacon so high right now? You often see new stories of, oh, bacon's way higher than at this time of the year, so the why behind that so we could talk to our customers through some of those pricing challenges. And then we had an executive come on and interviewed them. So that was the first episode.
The second one, well, again, we leaned into some tips on selling some focus products and we had another leader come on with some book recommendations. I share this because these first few episodes were multi-topics. They were kind of on the longer side. 40 minutes, as we found out, was a little longer than our audience wanted to listen. But then as we took our team off the street and they started working out of their home offices, we really adjusted the goal of this and it transformed into maximizing that windshield time to really just learning about how are we going to adapt as a sales team and be successful in the pandemic. So I highlighted what we covered in episode three and four. Our team wasn't used to selling virtually, so sharing best-in-class examples, getting our team up to speed on how to use some of the technology like Microsoft Teams and Zoom, bringing customers on and hearing from them on what it's like to be a restaurant operator in the middle of COVID, what challenges are they facing and how can we best help them, doing some practice with virtual presentations. Those are just a few examples of topics that we covered as we went through the pandemic. They were still at that 40-minute mark, so still some longer episodes.
As you'll see here in this last box on the bottom right-hand corner, I cut it off at episode 16 as part of this 1.0 version. And the reason for that is my predecessor was promoted to become a brand manager for our company, so I had the opportunity to take on a role as our food service training manager. And there's a little bit of a transition period there from when he got promoted to when I took over to transition those old responsibilities off. So we kind of took a pause and went on hiatus in June of 2021. And then at the same time, this is when things really started to open back up. You saw some of the restaurant capacity restrictions being lifted. You started to see different states just settle into that new normal of, okay, this pandemic's here to stay and we have to deal with it. So as we came out of that phase, we took a step back, went on this hiatus. And as I took over the role, instead of just pumping out episodes, I took a step back and I asked myself, hey, how can we make this podcast better? Is this what our audience wants to listen to? Where's room for improvement?
So I did that in a couple of different ways to get that feedback. Number one, I hosted some focus groups, and I also sent out a survey to get some feedback from the team. At Hormel, we have a really big piece of our culture is speak up, so it wasn't hard to get this feedback. People feel very comfortable about speaking up within our organization. So what I did is we have 18 sales offices around the country that our sales team report into, and I asked each of those leaders to provide somebody to come on and be part of these focus groups, to speak on behalf of their team on what's working well, what could we do better, what should we start doing, stop doing, and continue doing. And then I had sent out a survey to the entire 200-member sales team and really just asked them to rank on one to five after those focus groups, do you feel like these episodes are the perfect length? Too long? Too short? Do you think the cadence... Rank it one through five. Do we have the right cadence, or would you like to see more content?
And we really found some great insights, so I'm going to take a couple of minutes now to just cover down on what some of those learnings were through some of this feedback that we obtained. Number one, there was a thirst for some shorter episodes. So as I've highlighted before, we were really in that 40-minute mark. What we found is our sales team usually has 15 to 20 minutes between sales calls before they go into the next one, and they weren't coming back and revisiting, finishing those off. So a commitment I made is we would get those episode lengths down to that 15-to-20-minute mark. They wanted to see a consistent cadence, so they had an expectation of when they would publish, which ended up being monthly.
We started to interweave some cultural topics, which I'll review on the next couple of slides. And the goal behind this was really to strengthen our culture, but to build inclusion and belonging. Anybody that's hired salespeople throughout the pandemic knows that it was a red-hot labor market. And as having such a great reputation of training salespeople as Hormel does, a lot of people come to try to hire our team members. So this was a great way really to show why is Hormel the company that you should be at and the company you should stay at for the long term. Bringing in more voice and having a co-host. Interviewing customers, both our operator and distributor partners. We incorporated some recognition as well. So we've got four sales regions. We started doing a quarterly sales spotlight where each of those four regional directors come on each quarter and highlight the top sale in their region. Everybody, it feels good when you've made a big sale and it gets recognized.
And then probably the thing that's made the biggest impact on the quality of the podcast is we were able to bring on a producer and editor. His name's Nathan Carper. uStudio actually helped connect me with him. Super affordable when we were doing all the production and editing internally, and it was a huge time suck in commitment. So bringing in Nathan as a third-party vendor to help us with these things really helped us elevate this into a professional podcast, and it's allowed us to get that cadence down more consistently because that's less time that I have to spend going through and editing those.
Hey, Grant. Can I... I wanted to ask you a question on this, because I've seen... Well, one of the themes that we've seen in your podcast programming is that you are constantly evolving your content and you do a great job of using feedback and analytics, and I think that's important. I'd love to see if you could dive a little deeper on your feedback process, focus group sessions, how you structure... You hit on some of that, but could you talk a little bit about maybe the feedback feature of the app or what your focus group sessions look like?
Yeah. Yeah, so when I took it over, I would say I just started and took a look at the data and how many views we were getting. And we were getting initial clickthroughs, but what I was noticing is very few of our listeners were going through and listening to 100% of the episodes. So that really sparked the question on why is that? So as I said before, we've got these 18 sales offices, and I asked the leaders of those to provide somebody on their team that embraces this internal culture of ours of speak up, to reach out and be part of these focus groups.
So we did them on Microsoft Teams. I had some questions to prompt the conversation. If you were the host of this podcast in my shoes, what would you start doing, stop doing, and continue doing? And then we had this big audience of about 25 on this call, but I further broke them up into four or five smaller breakout sessions and just let them come up with their answers to those questions and boil it down to really a rule of three. And then we came back as a group and shared. And I think that helped encourage people to speak up because we had one person speaking on their smaller group of four or five, so it's not like, oh, this person gave that feedback. But what we found is a lot of these themes came up from all these different smaller groups, and that's how we narrowed it down into these areas to improve onto what you see on this screen here, is because these came up from almost all of these different groups. And then narrowing it down further, sending that survey out, it just backed up what we had learned and we knew, hey, this is where we need to focus in to continue making strides and evolving this podcast. Did that answer your question, Beck?
Yeah, yeah. That was perfect. Thank you.
Great. All right, so let's take a quick look at the episodes that we released in 2022 in this 2.0 version. So we took this time between September and December to really learn all about podcasting. Other than being a frequent listener like the Rogan podcast and a few others, I didn't really have a ton of podcasting experience, so I had to get up to speed on what is a... Well, how do you host a good podcast as well as incorporating this feedback, so spent a lot of time putting together the vision behind this through this period of time.
But we kicked off January 2022 with our 2.0 version of the Road Warriors podcast. And just to highlight some commonalities and things that we made improvements on, as you can see, we got on our timing down all to under 30 minutes, which has been critical in getting listeners that finish through 100%. Our cadence has been monthly. We've integrated some of these cultural topics like women in food service, a male-dominated industry. Typically food services... But we have almost probably 50% of our sales force is female, so bringing some of those strong women leaders onto the call and talking through different situations they've encountered or how they have found success in this industry.
Bringing on some of our leaders. Mark Ourada is our leader that's one down from our CEO, our group vice president. That was a really popular podcast. Some other topics, those regional spotlights here in the middle of the screen you see, is another one that was new. Hormel's a huge promote-from-within company. So we did an episode called The Other Side of the Announcement. When somebody gets a job, we send out an email congratulating them, but what about all those other people that applied and were very qualified but didn't get the job? So we had some high leaders and performers join that podcast just to talk through, hey, I've probably been turned down for more jobs than I've gotten and I'm doing just fine in my career. So as you see, there's a mix here of business topics, guests within the division, outside of the division, as well as some of these more cultural issues. We're excited to continue with some of these cultural issues in 2023. Our salespeople move around a lot. A lot of them don't live where they grew up or where their family's at. So we're going to discuss some of the challenges with distance and family. If you've got aging parents or grandparents and you live 8-, 10-, 12-hour drive away, how do you best deal with that and still focus on your career, go through those seasons of life?
And then finally, we finished last year with a mini-series with some of our customers like Honor Foods, Ben E. Keith, Hillcrest. Those are some distributors. The chef from John Hopkins Health System in DC joined us on really a powerful podcasting episode. So our last episode was in season two, published in December. And again, before we just kept pumping out content, I really wanted to take a step back and ask ourselves, how can we further take this even to the next level, and what did we do well? So what I'm going to spend a couple of minutes on now is just talking about what some of those outcomes were and how they benefited us between that first and second season before I get into talking about what this third season and vision looks like.
So number one, it's been clear to me the biggest thing that this has done is enhance our culture and create inclusion and belonging. As you can imagine with a sales field of 200 people all across the country, a lot of them work out of their home offices. At times, they can feel isolated and kind of be out on an island. So this is somewhere where they can go and connect with people and hear from people that maybe they've never talked to before, and that sparks them to reach out and set up a connect call and just get to know them better. And it's also helped deal with some of these key issues that people are going through but might not always talk about all the time, the dealing with aging parents or getting turned down for that job promotion. So it's really enhanced our culture and helped with retention.
Number two, it's helped understand the customer, and really get the customer intimacy piece and understanding their DNA. What makes them tick? You've probably heard about this. It's no stranger to you if you've gone out to eat in the last year and a half. It takes a little bit longer to go through because these restaurants are short-staffed. So being able to understand the labor challenges and have them come out and talk about that, it's allowed our sales team to better connect with our customers and present better solutions and really say, "Hey, these are some great questions to ask a customer to really understand their DNA so we can match up the right product solutions."
And then finally, number three, it's helped with our sales training and onboarding. We hired a ton of people out of college with sales pedigrees, but they may never have worked a day in food service their entire life. So to hear from our customers has been a great supplemental training on top of all the other hands-on and online training that we do. It's been great to expose them to our company culture so they can see that inclusion and belonging's important, safety first is important, our customer's important, and all these different things. So those are three outcomes that we had from our first couple of seasons of the podcast.
Hey. Hey, Grant, I want to pause here and I want to ask you about some of these culture topics. I love what y'all do on the culture side of things and the things that you've created and how they've resonated with your team. We've talked about that before. I'm curious how you would say the podcast has impacted the morale of your team. Have you seen some benefits in areas like reduced employee turnover or increased employee engagement? Could you speak on that a little bit?
Yeah, absolutely. That's a great question. So again, I think this piece about inclusion and belonging is so important, especially with the younger generation. You find with the younger generation, those right now that are in that 21 to 25, 26, 27, money's not always the first thing that motivates them like it might be for me. I'm in my early 30s. I find a lot of people that around my same age, those results, the financial aspect of being a salesperson is what they're looking for. But as we've hired younger people, they really want to feel connected to the company, being part of those social issues that are important and just feeling like they belong no matter what their background is. We are all different, and when we can be our authentic selves, it brings out the best in us and we get the best results.
So what's helped on that side, to speak to your question about retention, I actually looked back and we've hired 35 new sales folks on our team out of those 200 since this podcast has come out. And really since I've been hosting it, we've retained 34 of those 35 individuals. And that other one, it just wasn't a great fit for both of our sides and they moved on. But I think that's pretty impressive. I'm not going to sit here and say it's all because of the podcast alone, but I like to think that this is one of the many things we do well in terms of our culture building, just to get that message out there and get those new folks hooked. Hey, this is Hormel and this is why it's a great place to work and stay.
That's awesome. Yeah, those are great results. And for those new hires, just real quick, how do you promote that to them? How do you guide them to find the podcast and the content, especially on some more of your evergreen stuff, like your customer interviews and things like that?
Yeah, great question. So whenever we onboard people, we have our Inspired Hires week, which is them either coming up to corporate or participating virtually depending when it is, and that's just their onboarding week. So as I introduce them to food service and they get the overall company stuff done, we break up into a food service team and I go through and tell them the best resources on how to get up to speed and give them an overview of what they're training at Hormel's going to look like. And we've got a combination of online materials, we've got some hands-on stuff that they'll do, but this is one of those pieces that I encourage them to get on and start listening to episodes when they have all this early windshield time. When you're first starting out with us, your windshield time's higher than probably at any other time throughout your career.
And then how do we actually get them on the app? We have our single sign-on with Hormel. We're really lucky with our IT department, so we're actually able to push that app out when they enroll their phone with us. So when they get all the other Hormel apps like our Salesforce or where we keep all of our product info and pricing app to them, this is one of them that gets pushed out to them and every time we publish a new episode, they're right there getting that notification. New Road Warriors podcast on uStudio comes up.
Great, love it.
So just to round out the vision here and where our podcast is at today, it's in really, really good shape. So again, before we launched the 3.0 version, we took this step back again, a little less formally without the focus groups, but me just reaching out and talking to these different teams during my travels throughout the country and really diving into the analytics and asking ourselves what's working and how do we continue to elevate.
So some things that we found that we should keep doing, the episodes that have gotten the most traction, are these cultural episodes. When we have the leaders come on, an executive, that Mark Ourada one I pointed out, as well as the spotlight ones, we're getting 40%, 50%-plus of our audience to tune into them, which we'd like to see that even higher, but those topics were amongst the most popular. We also found that, it was interesting, our focus group said more customers, more customers, but some of those episodes were on the lower end, but those have also been some of the more recent ones that we've posted. So it was a little bit too early to tell on the effectiveness of those customer visits and something we're going to keep exploring, but finding a better time maybe to weave those episodes in. And then we had a number of guests who worked for the company but worked in different departments, whether it's HR, supply chain. We found that those guests that are with Hormel but outside of the division weren't having as much traction in terms of views. And I think it's because we're all so busy, it's like, well, that might be interesting, but what value does it really bring to me to listen to?
So some other insights that we collected, I've found that the day of the week that we post these is critical. As an outside sales team, most of our sales reps are out selling Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, part of the day, Friday, probably, but they're in the office on Mondays. They're in the office on Friday afternoon preparing for the week, prepping for those calls and wrapping everything up administratively. So we've found that posting that at about 10:00 AM on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, a lot of these sales reps are out driving to a customer, before they've gotten there, so they can easily hit that and boom, right, start listening while they're on the road. If we publish it on Monday or Friday or later in the day, they're back home. They might forget about it and not revisit.
We've always found some seasonality too. Some of these recent podcasts that we've launched and that Thanksgiving between Christmas time didn't quite have the traction. Let's be honest, there's a lot of things going on in people's lives during that, right? Traveling to see family, getting holiday gifts, whatever holiday you celebrate, planning parties for your teams at work and families outside of that. So maybe that had something to do with it. We saw similar results with some of those summer month ones when people are typically on vacation, right? June, July, and August. So some things that we're going to do this year to help us out with that are just being more intentional. If we know we've got a leader coming on, an executive, and those are always really popular, maybe we post those at a time when usually viewership's down, because people are going to go on and listen when our VP of sales or our group vice president's on there. Those cultural topics, I have a feeling people are tuning into those all the time just because they want to hear about that stuff more than they might want to hear about a bacon market update.
So those are some things that we learned and we put together this plan for 2023. Our number one mission, and you ask any podcast host what their number one mission is, and it's going to be to increase engagement with their current listeners, so getting them, those listeners, to listen to every episode you post while also attracting new listeners. So we've set a lofty goal for ourselves. We want all of our episodes in 2023 to average at least a hundred listeners per episode, which is 50%-plus of our sales team. So how are we going to do that? We're going to do some teaser clips. When we advertise these, whether it's on Chatter, which is the social media, kind of like a Facebook feed of salesforce.com, which is our CRM, we're going to post the climax of those episodes with the guests to hook people and draw them in. We're going to incorporate trivia questions where people can go and submit an answer and be entered for a drawing for some swag. And that swag's going to have an updated logo. We have a marketing agency that's working on designing a new logo for this.
And then we do that quarterly recognition, those top sales in each region. We're going to commemorate that. Right now, it's just kind of you get recognized in the podcast and that's that. But we've designed a keychain that everybody's going to get if you get that top sale of the quarter that looks like a podcasting microphone that they can clip onto their book bag or their key ring. And the hope there is that kind of builds that word-of-mouth marketing of, "Hey, that's really cool. Where'd you get that?" Or, "I see you've had three of those. How'd you do that?" "Oh, I was recognized for having a key sale on the Road Warriors podcast," and hopefully that'll draw other listeners.
And then eventually, halfway throughout the year, I hope to transition out of this role as the host and turn it over to somebody else. We have a really diverse sales team, people of all different ethnicities, genders, backgrounds, where they grew up from. So I just want to incorporate some of that diversity into the podcast and get some fresh new ideas, and that'll have been about a year and a half of me hosting it.
So that's really an overview of the three stages that we've gone through. It's in a great spot now. I'm happy to report just this morning we published our first episode of this 3.O version with our vice president of sales. And I checked right before we started, and it already had 38 listens, which I think is great for only being published for about two hours. And again, it goes to that strategy of posting it when I know our sales team's out on the road, which most of them are today. So we'll see how that number goes up today and throughout the week. And I think we've made some great improvements and it's really benefited our organization from cultural training and just getting information to our sales reps when they need it, and helping cut down on some of that email clutter that everybody would like to see less of. So that's what I had to share today. I know we've got some time for a Q&A, so I'll turn it back over to Beck to moderate that.
Yeah, thank you, Grant. That was really great and really insightful. And I know you worked hard on the presentation, so I really appreciate your time on that. Yeah, well, we've got some questions if you want to fire some over, put them in the Q&A. I've got a few here I'll read to you. Grant can answer them from the Hormel experience, and then anybody from uStudio could add some additional insight for a larger market perspective if that's needed as well. So we've had a couple of questions about the audio only. Could you just answer briefly... You mentioned it a little bit earlier in the podcast, but the reason behind your audio only decision.
Yeah. Yeah, that's a great question. If I was leading an inside sales team where we had a bunch of reps sitting at home working and making calls, we probably would incorporate a video. But the focus audience for this podcast are our road warriors, those 200 reps that we have, boots on the ground out driving around with all that windshield time every day. So it really comes down to a cultural belief of ours, which is safety first, and that's going to be something that's always important. So I think all of us, any of us that have listened to podcasts with audio while we're driving, usually there's two versions, but I think just human nature, if there's a video, we don't want to miss something so we want to tune in and see what's going on. That's not always the safest thing, so we don't want to give that team that option. If anything were ever to happen and we found out somebody got injured or in a accident because they were watching the podcast, we'd feel terrible about that. So we do it out of a safety-first aspect strictly on the audio. Thanks for asking.
Yeah. And Beck, I'd like to just make a comment there just from the uStudio platform perspective for people that might not be using the platform currently or thinking about video. uStudio at our platform core, we're a content media management platform. We support audio, video, live broadcast. So we have a lot. It's really up to the use case, like Grant was saying. The best use case for them on the road is the audio, but the video is a big part of the platform that you get through the app with uStudio, but then also our platform allows the video to be embedded in your intranet, integrated with any other systems that you might be used to communicate content within your organization. And then getting the analytics behind that when they're listening and engaging with the video content, that's a big part of the platform itself. So I did want to make sure that wasn't lost on people that aren't as familiar with the platform.
Yeah, no, that's great clarity. Thank you. I appreciate that.
Okay, so you have 200 sales reps. We have a couple people asking, is there anybody outside of the sales team that listens to the podcast or that you're marketing it to?
Yeah, that's another great question. So while the content is designed for that core group of 200, we do have it open to our marketing team and our brand managers that interact with our sales people on a daily basis. A lot of them have come on to talk about products and different things that are going on, market updates. But then beyond that, we also have a customer service team that we've kind of restructured over the last few years, so that customer service team, we make the podcast available for them as well. They're interacting with our customers so if they can learn something and get some insights to better communicate and help them out with their problems, that's an added benefit. I would say we encourage them to listen, but we don't push it as hard on them. But it is available, and a lot of those newer CSRs have commented that, "Hey, this has really helped me to understand." Maybe they have customer service experience in a different industry and that's why we've hired them and they haven't really been in the food space. So it's just been a great benefit for them to hear from our customers on what makes them tick.
Yeah, that's great. We have a couple questions around program outcomes and measuring performance and things like that. Do you all have a way that you tie the podcast to certain increased sales performance, program outcomes, things like that?
Yeah, it's tough to really say, hey, this podcast has helped us increase sales by X percent, right? I'll say we just had a record year last year in 2022, but we're also coming off of this food service industry reopening. But what I can share is we've kicked off and launched some brand-new products on this podcast. One of them I think of specifically is we launched our very first halal food service item in a halal chicken and beef meatball in this 2.0 version. And the early adoption to that and the amount of samples we had out going to customers just a few weeks later, and you look at where that item's business is at today, it's been a huge success for us. So I think it's just been another great avenue to get some of this product info out than just sending an email with a flyer saying this is our new item. We were able to talk about how to best show it to customers, how to best prepare it, what type of customers to focus on, and really give some good stories and successes that our team could take out and say, "Hey, this is a brand-new item, and while I might not have a success story, somebody in my company just sold X University this huge sale because they need to have options for all these different religious backgrounds or dietary restrictions."
So while I can't say it's increased our sales by X percentage, I could look at some of those targeted examples and say, hey, that was a really successful product launch that we had and this was a part of that launch plan.
Yeah, that's great. And thinking about the name user analytics, you can look at who's listening and maybe tie outcomes back to that as well, so-
Yeah, and Beck, I'll say I'll add on to that and build off that. When things were shut down during the beginning of the pandemic, we had just hired in a bunch of, later that summer, college new hires, and now all of them were able to go out and see customers at the frequency that they had before if we were. A lot of those customers weren't letting us be as hands-on in the kitchen, cooking products up. So this was just a great way to get them some of that training and hear from some of our customers when they couldn't do it face-to-face. And then that's kind of where I started encouraging this, even newer hires that have joined since then to go back and revisit some of these episodes, because if they've never been in the food industry, it just helps bring them up to speed. And they've reached out back to me saying, "Oh, hey, this was a great recommendation. It really just helps me understand what this food service business is all about before I start calling on customers."
We do, all of our new hires, we train them. We give them six to nine months before we actually put them on a territory, so we make a huge investment in their training. We really want to set them up to be successful. But as we've gone through that, time frame's probably been shortened up now post-COVID to three to six months. So any piece of information, any stories from customers we can get out and add to their sales repertoire, the quicker that they can ramp up, take over their own territory, and be a contributor the faster.
That's great. Thank you for that, Grant. Okay, well, I want to be sensitive to time and I really appreciate everybody joining us. Michael, did you have anything?
And we'll start to wrap it up.
Yeah, I'd like to thank Grant. Grant, this is awesome. I really appreciate your insight. I think this really... It's part of the culture of uStudio, sharing your learnings and your perspective with what you've created. I think the content that you guys have evolved over your... I guess the stops along your road trip have... it's cool to see how y'all innovate with the feedback from the team. We did send out some questions, or, I guess, solicit feedback prior to the webinar, and we did get a question around security so I want to make sure that that was answered. They asked, "How is this secure for the enterprise?" And I do think that that's a core component of the uStudio platform, is the security. It's a big differentiator for us. We passed hundreds of Fortune 500 security reviews. We have a multi-tier media security architecture, and then we have authentication through SAML 2.0, including Okta, Auth0, and many others.
So I think that security's important. And basically what that does is if you're looking at trying to have a secure podcast platform where your content can't be shared externally, all the content is going to be stored within the app within uStudio. So you can't share it with anybody else unless they have access to the app itself, which you control, and anything that's downloaded, it's going to be downloaded within the app itself so it can't be downloaded to the device. So if you remove a user, it's always going to be within your control to relinquish that if they are no longer employed or anything like that. So I just wanted to make sure that that was answered, but I think that's it for me.
Yeah, Michael. I'll just build on that from our perspective as a Fortune 500 company. IT security is super important to us, and there's been a lot of technologies as our training manager I've brought forward and that has had some good content that I've taken to the IT department and wanted to incorporate into our training plan. A lot of times those don't meet and pass the test, right? uStudio was one of the few podcasting apps as an option out there that would meet our IT's requirements and standards.
I appreciate it. Love hearing that. Yep.
Great. Yeah, thank you again, Grant, for hosting this webinar. Kind of a road trip journey for us today. For the attendees, the survey is in the chat, so you can do that. We'd love for you to fill that out for us. You can just go to the chat, click on that link. It'll help guide and inform us for future webinars. You can also go to ustudio.com, our website, if you want to learn more. You can request a demo. You can request a demo at our website, or you can actually request a demo on that survey that we sent out as well. And you can demo our podcasting app.
So lastly, this week we'll put together an email recap and have this video recording of this webinar as well if you want to share it with someone in your company who couldn't be here today. Again, feel free to always reach out to us if you need anything, and we really appreciate your time. Grant, thank you all for joining us and that'll wrap it up. Y'all have a wonderful Tuesday. Take care, everybody.
All right. See you next time.
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