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Episode 03: A Content Marketers Journey Begins and Ends with Good Data

Cathy McPhillips, VP of Marketing
Content Marketing Institute

In this episode, Cathy McPhillips, VP of Marketing at the Content Marketing Institute, talks with Dan and shares her story and the important role of hiring the right people, and how she has successfully utilized content and data to advance her career, strengthen the CMI brand and grow the organization, summits, events and publications that benefit content marketers daily.

Cathy McPhillips is the Vice President of Marketing for the Content Marketing Institute, an Informa company, where she oversees marketing efforts for the brand including in-person events Content Marketing World and ContentTECH Summit as well as Content Marketing University and Chief Content Officer.

Prior to joining CMI, Cathy managed social/community efforts for Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, owned her own strategic marketing business focused on media and digital/social marketing for several international restaurant brands, and was media supervisor at Wyse Advertising in Cleveland. She was part of Ohio University’s Jerry L. Sloan Visiting Professionals in Public Relations program in 2017, and guest lectures at Kent State University, Cleveland State University and University of Akron.

00:05 Speaker 1: B2B marketing and sales can be tough to master. Sales cycles can be long and buyers are notoriously difficult to close. That's why you need Minds On at your side. We're a B2B marketing and digital agency that's helped more than 200 clients evolve their brands, win more business, and succeed more often. And we're ready to help you. Visit www.mindson.com today to schedule your no-obligation consultation. Now, on to today's program.

00:36 Dan Harris: I'm your host, Dan Harris, and welcome back to another episode of Minds On B2B. Thank you so much everyone for clicking, subscribing, sharing, downloading, and of course listening to our podcast. This is a weekly show dedicated to helping busy B2B executives, marketers, and sales professionals stay informed, learn something new, and perhaps apply a lesson learned or run with an idea shared by our guest. As we say at Minds On, "All of our minds together are better than anyone mind alone." Who knows, you just might like what you hear, connect and network with us.

01:12 DH: Hello everyone. This is the Mind On B2B podcast. And I'm your host, Dan Harris, and we're back with another terrific episode. I'm gonna start off by asking you a couple of questions. Are you interested in attracting and retaining customers through a compelling, multi-channel and multi-vertical story-telling if you understand how data plays a key role in the success of your marketing efforts? Well, if so, you're gonna enjoy this episode with Cathy McPhillips. She's the VP of Marketing with the Content Marketing Institute. And Cathy is a seasoned veteran in the marketing and the advertising industry. We are so fortunate to have her as a guest on the podcast. So, welcome Cathy and thank you.

01:50 Cathy McPhillips: Thank you. This is great. I'm excited to be here and I'm excited to be with a fellow Ohioan on the podcast.

01:56 DH: That's right, Cathy. You're up in Cleveland and I'm here in Columbus. And I'm thrilled to have you join us on the show. So, why don't you tell everyone about the Content Marketing Institute and your role at the organization?

02:08 CM: So the Content Marketing Institute has been around since 2011 and basically our mission is to advance the practice of content marketing. And we do that through our daily blog posts, we have a webinar series, and we got a magazine and all that culminates really around our event, Content Marketing World, that takes place every September in Cleveland. So my role with CMI is that I run marketing, so it's very meta. I run marketing, targeting marketers to come to our content marketing event, but my goal is to make sure that people know about all these offerings and products and services, along with my team that I have working with me.

02:45 DH: Well, Cathy, it's obvious, you and your team have been very, very busy over the last 18 years. And you do have an incredible amount of quality content, resources, and the CMI World event is incredible. So let's go back to 2012 when you first started at CMI, because on this episode, we're talking about the importance of content, data collection, and how that data can help us. I think our listeners will really benefit from hearing about your experience from day one.

03:12 CM: Well, thinking about it from my experience with CMI, when I started with CMI in 2012, it was 18 months in and Joe Pulizzi and the team had grown a pretty substantial database, but the entry point to become a subscriber at CMI, you either had to enter only your email address or your first name and your email address. So while we had a lot of people in the database, we didn't know a whole lot about them. So we started collecting data through other means. We have webinars where we could ask people five or six questions in order for them to attend the webinar for free. We had e-books they could download from our website, where we could ask them a few more questions, and then our biggest source of data was our Chief Content Officer Magazine where because it was... We were trying to find a qualified audience, we could use this huge, robust list of questions.

04:05 CM: Where do you work? What's your employee range? What's your revenue? What industry are you in? What's your job function? Your job title? All these different things that that's like a gold mine for us from a data perspective that we could go in and we could tie that data back to our subscriber, and then we just got...

04:23 CM: And I'm getting into week now, but we just started to find all these different ways that we could continue to collect data, but I think the best place to start going back is just if you haven't built your audience within your marketing automation system or MailChimp or whatever you're going to use, start collecting email addresses because that's the first place, that's the place where you need to start. And then you can start trying to collect more data. But even if you ask, if you ask it at a subscription standpoint, what should I start with besides email address? Ask what company they work for, or ask them their first name so you can personalize emails you send back to them.

04:58 DH: That's great advice for our listeners and personalization does make a great impact. So for listeners that have company names and have emails, what kind of content should they consider creating to actually get more data?

05:12 CM: For a lot of information, you better be giving them something robust in return. So create an e-book, a white paper, something they can download to learn more about your company, something... You could help them solve a problem, a problem maybe they didn't even know they had. That's content marketing. So what can you give them in exchange for the data, and the information about themselves that you're trying to collect?

05:32 DH: Okay, so now you have this and there are probably audience members out there that have a lot of data, they've done white papers, they have reports they've issued, information graphics that people downloaded, conferences and trade shows that they've attended, and so now they have all this data from these different content sources, and now they have it all. What would you recommend that they do with that data as a first step, second step, third step, etcetera.?

06:00 CM: I would step back and say, "How can we use this data?" before you try to figure out how to slice and dice it. From my perspective, we look at the data and say... During our event, Content Marketing World, on our last day, we have some industry forums, we called them. Where you learn for two days about content marketing. On our last day, a manufacturing group might say, "Okay, we wanna stay for the last day for the manufacturing forum because I wanna hear how there are content marketing challenges, particularly with manufacturers." There's a financial lab, there's a healthcare, so every industry has different challenges and opportunities when it comes to content marketing.

06:36 CM: So we can look at our database and say, How many manufacturing content marketers we have in our database? How many financials? We can see where do we have the most amount of people to make it worth our time and worth our customer's time to build an event around this group. So that kinda helps us from a programming standpoint and from an offering standpoint for our customers when we can see where our customers are coming from and what they're interested in, or what industries they're in. And then also we could look at...

07:07 CM: I talked about, with our Audience Development Manager, how can we segment our email, whether it's on job function or industry, like I said, or other different ways. So we're trying to see where do we have this robust number of names, so we can then segment our emails. So how can we slice and dice our data to be most useful to us, but also most useful to our customers? Because I can tell you that if I'm emailing someone in the financial industry and instead of saying, "Here, come to our event. Here's 200 different sessions you could attend." versus, "Here, come to our event. We have people from five different financial institutions coming to attend or someone to speak at the event and here are the topics." I can guarantee you that the second email is going to convert a lot better than the first.

07:52 DH: I really appreciate that insight, information, and those examples. So you mentioned emails, let's talk about when you start at CMI. I mean, kind of what technology do you use and how did it evolve over the years?

08:06 CM: When I started with CMI, we were using MailChimp to deploy our emails, and to collect the email names. And then from 2013, we transitioned and we looked and we are now using Act-On for our marketing automation, and we looked, we gave everyone... We went through the whole process of what is best for CMI and I think that's what was most important to us was "What is most important to us and what can we actually use right now?" So it's not what's the shiniest, what's the biggest, what's the biggest name? But based on the value of what our cost was at Act-On and what we knew we could use today or at that time today, that's what we went with. And it took us a long time to even go through all the capabilities that Act-On has to offer for us. We haven't still even gone through everything that they can do for us, but we knew we're using it for email, we're using it to help us do some segmentation, do some drip campaigns and things like that, where some of the other tools that are amazing, just weren't right for us at that time.

09:07 CM: So I think that was really important for us, and we thought at some point we would outgrow Act-On, and we might look at a different tool, but hey, it's been four years and, no, actually more than that. So almost six years and we're still using them, and it's been a great tool for us. And then we also use Salesforce and those tools integrate famously. That's been great for us to use Act-On and Salesforce together because Salesforce had been amazing for us to capture data and pull everything into one source. So I could look at you, I can see what emails you've opened, I can see what sessions at Content Marketing World you've attended, what blog posts you read, what webinars you have attended.

09:47 CM: And because we have the ability to categorize each of those things, we know if the webinar is based on content creation or demand generation or a session you attended at Content Marketing World is in any of those categories. I can figure out, based on implied interest. If you haven't specified that you are in a demand generation job function, based on your activity, I can tell you or I can do my best guess to tell you so that we can make sure that we're pushing out the right content to you.

10:16 DH: Alright, we talked about the importance of content, content types, we talked a little bit about data and how that data can be used, and now, I wanna talk about one of the most important resources that you have, which is your people. I really like to understand a little bit from your perspective, I mean like the human resource effort that's required so that listeners will understand this is an incredibly important job for any company, to make sure that when the data is in those systems, it's in there correctly. And then you're fueling that system to be able to be successful. So from your point of view, can you talk a little bit about the human resources?

10:54 CM: Sure. So when we were looking for someone to help us run our audience development and really own our email, our CRM and everything, I hit the jackpot. We have someone on our team, his name is John Hanson, and he came to us with extensive experience in marketing automation and just... He's brilliant. And I needed to find someone that knew it because I couldn't train them. He knows so much more about this and all the ins and outs and all these, so I couldn't do it. So that was really important to me to find someone.

11:26 CM: Thankfully, he had previously worked with a colleague of mine. So she said, "I think you should interview John." And when he came in, I was like, "This is gonna be a great fit." He has a personality for our team. And he has the knowledge of all of these tools. So that was amazing. And what John is really good at is making sure that, one, everyone on our team that needs to understand how to use certain processes is able to do it and, two, telling other members of our team here are some ways that I can help you.

11:56 CM: And when we're looking at other tools, whether it's adding something new, there's a tool that he recommended that we're using right now, it's called Zoho. And I really like Zoho. But he made sure that before we bought into it, that it was going to solve a problem that we have and that problem actually was we have so much data, we don't know how to use it. 'Cause I know the... Probably other people are like, that's a great problem. That's a first world problem, if I ever heard one but...

[laughter]

12:28 CM: We do have so much data. So, John said, "I found this tool and it can really help us, it can take everything that we're doing and we can... " It's just very visually appealing, and it's great for us to do. But he made sure that before he clicked okay, here's my credit card, that everyone involved looked at it and said, "Yes, there is something in here that I could take away that helps me understand the data better and that I can actually take it and it's actionable, so I can do something better for our team, for our customers, for our company.

12:53 DH: Yeah, that is a great recommendation. And I can't say enough based on working with our clients, too, that having a person in that position really creates opportunity for you, not only like you said from picking the right technologies to add to your marketing stack but to help others in the organization, it's not just about working in the system, it's helping others gather the data and use the data, interpret the data, and things of that nature. So, well, Cathy, if someone would like to attend the conference or subscribe to CCO Magazine, or just get in contact with you, can you provide us with the right routes to take to be able to accomplish that?

13:35 CM: Sure. Our websites are very easy, they're contentmarketinginstitute.com and contentmarketingworld.com. And within contentmarketinginstitute.com, you can get to anything that we've talked about: Our webinar series, our annual research, our magazine. You can get to Content Marking World and our other events through the website. And on the top navigation, we have a Subscribe button where you could subscribe to our daily or weekly emails. I love our weekly because there's an exclusive letter from Robert Rose, our Chief Strategy Advisor, in each of our weekly newsletters. You can't get anywhere else. It gives you a digest version of the blog post that gives you some more information that I think that's one of the favorite things that I like about CMI is you get everything in one pretty little package plus you get a little brilliance from Robert, who I never tire of listening to.

[music]

14:25 DH: Outstanding. And if someone had a question for you specifically, what's the best way to get in touch with you?

14:31 CM: Probably on Twitter, my Twitter handle is @cmcphillips, so my first initial and my last name and I'm there all day, and I have notifications on my phone, so if someone needs something quickly, I can get back to them immediately.

14:44 DH: All right, as we wrap up the show, I highly recommend you go check out the Content Marketing Institute. Subscribe to Chief Content Officer Magazine, and do your best to make it to this year's Content Marketing World Conference. Cathy, it has been a pleasure having you on the show and I look forward to learning so much more on future episodes. On behalf of our listeners, thank you so much.

15:09 CM: Thank you.

15:11 DH: So, listeners here's where you come in. If you have ideas for possible episode topics, like to be on the guest of the show or know someone that would be a great B2B teacher or coach, make sure to connect with me on LinkedIn. You can find me by searching Danny D. Harris. You can also send me an email with the subject line: Minds On B2B ID or Guest. To dan.harris@mindson.com. The more input we get from listeners, the more the listeners, the better the podcast is gonna be. So make sure to subscribe to iTunes or your favorite podcast player and until next time, this is Dan Harris. Stay curious, connect often, and learn always.

15:48 S1: Thanks for listening to today's Minds On B2B podcast. If you like what you heard today, please subscribe. Also, feel free to share this episode with your peers and colleagues, so we can keep bringing you quality content from the best minds in B2B. Until next time, from all of us at Minds On, have a great week.

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