Episode #034: Stephanie Cox, President at Lumavate and Host of Real Marketers
This is a very special episode of Real Marketers - we're celebrating the 100th episode of our show this week! 💯 🎉
In this episode, we're turning the tables on Stephanie Cox reveals her biggest tips for hosting a podcast. We're sharing a behind-the-scenes look at how our show got started, how to land your dream guest, how to get yourself noticed by podcast hosts, and so much more.
Thank you to our listeners and guests for helping us reach this huge milestone! You have helped us turn the show into what it is today.
REAL MARKETERS can be found on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, SoundCloud, and Spotify. If you enjoy our show, we would love it if you would listen, rate, and review.
Stephanie Cox: Welcome to REAL MARKETERS where we hear from marketers who move fast, ask forgiveness, not permission, obsessed about driving results, and are filled to the brim with crazy ideas and the guts to implement them. This is not a fireside chat and there's absolutely no bullshit allowed here. And I'm your host, Stephanie Cox. I have more than 15 years of marketing experience and I've pretty much done about everything in my career. I believe speed is better than perfection. I use the Oxford comma. I love Coca- Cola, have exceptionally high standards and surround myself with people who get shit done. On this show, my guests and I will push boundaries and share the real truth about marketing and empower you to become a real marketer.
Michelle Lawrence: Hey everyone. Welcome back to REAL MARKETERS. I'm Michelle Lawrence, senior marketing specialist at Lumavate, and we're doing things a little different today. We're celebrating our 100th episode this week. So with that, let's get into the episode where I'm turning the tables on Stephanie. So, welcome, Stephanie.
Stephanie Cox: This is a bit weird. I've never been on this side of the mic for REAL MARKETERS. I'm not sure what you're going to ask me.
Michelle Lawrence: I know, I bet it doesn't feel good to be in the hot seat.
Stephanie Cox: It's a little different, I'd have to say.
Michelle Lawrence: Well, so before we begin, I think you know what question I'm going to ask you. Tell us something that people may not know about you.
Speaker 3: Oh, there's so many things to start, but let me do one that I think most people have no idea about, which is we recently adopted our third daughter. So she came home about three months ago and we have not shared the news a ton publicly yet. So I guess this is my official announcement out to the world.
Michelle Lawrence: Congratulations to you and your family. I mean, I've known for a little bit just because I know you, but that's awesome. So one thing that we do all know about Stephanie is your love for crazy ideas. And you could probably guess that's how this show actually got started. So some of you may not know that REAL MARKETERS was formerly named Mobile Matters. So Stephanie, take us down memory lane a little bit. Tell us a story about how you came up with the idea to start a podcast and what that process kind of looked like.
Stephanie Cox: I'd love to say it was my idea. A hundred percent wasn't. It all started because a good friend of mine had introduced me to another female in tech that was a leader and said," Hey, the two of you should just meet up. I think you have a lot of things in common." And so we were chatting about this person. We were chatting about life, kids, work and just getting to know each other. And one of the things that I had asked was like," So what exactly does your company do?" And she started telling me," Well, we produce podcasts for B2B brands. And I was like," Huh, tell me more," because this was 2018 and while podcasting, I wouldn't say it was new back then, there wasn't a lot of B2B brands doing it three years ago. And so I had never, prior to this conversation, thought about doing a podcast or thought about doing a podcast tied to Lumavate or any of the things. My experience with podcasts was like True Crimes. So she started talking to me about how they think about it, the value that she believes it created. And I was like," Okay, I'd like to talk more and set up an official call with you and your business about doing this." And that's really where it all came from. So if you would've told me, even the summer of 2018, that we were going to have a podcast, I would have laughed at you because it wasn't on my radar. And if it wasn't for that introduction, I probably never would've thought about it for a long time, until it started to really become prominent in B2B marketing. So that's where the idea came from. So we started working with Share Your Genius around creating a show. Why would we create a show? What would the purpose of the show be? And spoiler alert, she was like," You have a lot of hot takes." And I was like," I do." And that's kind of where the idea for Mobile Matters came from, and this idea of being able to educate other marketers and tech leaders on what's happening in this space. And initially, we decided to focus it primarily on mobile because at the time there wasn't a lot of content out there for people that were trying to be super successful in the mobile field. There was a lot of marketing podcasts, but there wasn't really anything dedicated to mobile. So we felt like that was an untapped need. And that's where the show initially started. So we went from... Because as many of you know, having listened to me for a long time hopefully, I go from like zero to 60 in like two seconds. So I'm like," Okay, we're doing a podcast. How quickly can we launch the podcast?" So I think from the really first conversation to when we were live with our first three episodes was like six weeks, which was kind of crazy back then for someone who had never done a podcast and was trying to get guests and everything lined up. But the Share Your Genius team was really great about helping us think about what our show flow should be. How do you get on iTunes? Because back in the day, a lot of that stuff was hard. But what mic should you order? I know all these things now, but three years ago I had no idea. They just shipped everything to us, which was honestly fantastic. So that's really where it all came from. I'd like to say it was my initial crazy idea, but it was more of someone said this and I was like," Oh, we're going to do this." And then I think once that happened, it spiraled into a of different things that I'm sure we'll probably talk about.
Michelle Lawrence: Yeah, well, like you had just said, there wasn't a ton of B2B podcasting. And so I bet there wasn't a ton of resources that were easily available to you or even communities that you could reach out to on Slack and ask," What are the best practices here?" or things like that. I mean, I see so many people, thankfully, on LinkedIn or Twitter, giving their best practices and tips for podcasts now, but I'm sure back in 2018, it wasn't that easy. So you said it was about six weeks before you published the show. When did you know that you could start getting big names on the show and how did you go about doing that?
Stephanie Cox: I would love to tell you that it was super well- thought out and I had this strategic plan. It totally didn't happen that way. So it started, I would say, initially, first thing I did to get our... Most of the time for a show, they'll recommend that you drop two to three episodes when it launches. So you'll drop episode zero, and then a week or two later, you'll drop your first three episodes. And it helps people to get a sense for what your show's going to be about, the tone, type of guests you'll have on, et cetera. So I really focused on... My first eight to 10 inaudible on people I knew. And I've been blessed that I've worked with a lot of talented people that have went on to large name companies and have very successful jobs in the marketing and tech field. So I first started reaching out to my network. That was the easy part. And then we created... Because as Michelle said, I have lots of crazy ideas, we created this dream brand podcast list. And it was like at the end of year one, if we could get like one or two of these guests on the show, that would be just killer. Right? And so, we put like Alex Russell from Google on there, we put like these huge consumer brand names on there that everyone knows. And it was that would be the goal to get one or two of them on the show. Well, it was the Friday before Christmas and I usually take off two weeks to spend with my family during the holidays. And so I was at the office and I was like," I don't feel very good. I think I have a fever." So I went home, but did I stop working? Of course not. I was just working from my recliner with a fever, which I don't recommend, but a lot of good ideas come to me apparently when I'm sick. So I'm working on outreach for the podcast and now I'm starting to outreach to people I don't know. But I would tell you, most people I'm outreaching to are not on this dream brand list name. Right? It's people I know or people I know adjacently to someone else. So here's what happens. I'm like," I'm going to reach out to Alex Russell." Now, at the time, I have 103 degree fever. I should not be reaching out to Alex Russell, who's the father of progressive web apps at Google, right? He's a dream get. You don't do that when you have 103 degree fever or you shouldn't. Well, guess what? 103 degree fever Stephanie doesn't think twice about it. She's like," I'm going to send him a DM on Twitter." So that's what I did at like 6: 00 PM at night. I sent him a DM on Twitter and asked him if he wanted to be a guest on the show. And then my husband comes home. He's like," You need to stop working. You're sick." And I was like," Okay." So I stopped working. And then a couple hours later, I see have a DM back on Twitter. And it's Alex Russell saying, I'd love to be on the show. And I show my phone to my husband. I'm like," Read this," because now I'm like... I feel like I might be delusional. Right? Like I have a fever. Supposedly my dream guest is saying he will be on the show and I give it to my husband, and he goes," What?" And I was like," Read that to me." He goes," Some guy named Alex wants to be on your podcast." And I was like... So I freak out, right, and I'm like Slacking everyone at Lumavate about it, and just literally freaking out. And my husband's like... He's like, doesn't get it, which is funnier now. So that's how it started. And I think from that point on, I realized a couple things. One, we had... By the time I reached out to Alex, we already had a number of big brands on the show that people know, mainly because I had had connections and people I formally worked with that had went to some of those big brands. So brands like Aetna, AT& T, just to name a few. So they were well- known enterprise brands. So reaching out to someone like Google and saying that gave us a lot of credibility. But then, too, I just had to ask. And I think a lot of times marketers, especially when you're thinking about content creation, whether it's for a podcast or trying to get quotes for an ebook you're writing or a blog post, a lot of times we revert to this old way of thinking about how hard it used to be to get case studies where you'd have to ask someone to be part of a case study and then go through this iterative review process. And that might still exist for case studies, which is a separate topic we can talk about later at some point and why you probably shouldn't do them because no one reads them anyways. But for podcasting or just these more lightweight content pieces, like where you want someone to write a quote, or to provide their perspective on something, it's a lot easier to get people to say yes to it than you think. The challenge is you have to ask.
Michelle Lawrence: Why do you think so many of us are afraid to just ask, just to send that email or DM?
Stephanie Cox: I think a lot of it has to do with imposter syndrome. I think, no matter how many years that you've been in marketing, you have imposter syndrome. I don't think I've met someone who doesn't at some times struggle with it, regardless of what you might think about it on social media and what they might say. I think all of us think at some point, like," Why would someone else want to be on my show?" They're this top echelon of other marketers or tech leaders out there, when in reality, they're just a person who has a perspective to share. And if you think about it, a lot of them want to share their perspective with the world and you're giving them a platform to do so. So I think part of it is we're afraid to ask. We're afraid that we won't be considered and I get that. But what's the worst thing that could happen? Someone says no? I mean, that's really worst- case scenario. And I think if you have a compelling outreach and you explain to them why you want them to be on the show and what you'd like to talk to them about, where it's clear that you've done your research, you'll find oftentimes, if not all the time, they'll say yes.
Michelle Lawrence: No, I totally agree. So I guess, switching gears here a little bit, kind of on the same vein, we're afraid to ask our dream guests to be on the show, but some of us are hesitant to even start a podcast. So what advice or maybe some tips and tricks would you share for anyone looking to start a show, but doesn't maybe know the first steps to take?
Stephanie Cox: Well, I'm sure there are by now lots of blog posts and resources out there on how to get started, and you can read those, but my number one advice would talk to someone that's currently a host. And the reason why I say that is they're going to give you the truth of what it's like. Right? And they're going to tell you," Okay, yes, everyone says use this mic. Don't use this mic, use this mic. And you're also going to need this and you're going to need this pop thing." And," Hey, I've used these platforms for recording or for editing. My favorite is this one. Here's the biggest challenge that I've had booking guests. Here's what I need to do to prep guests." They're going to give you the real insider story to what it's like to host and produce a show. And I think that's what's really important because yes, getting set up on a podcast platform these days and getting that connected and making sure you show up on iTunes, Spotify, et cetera, is a lot easier than it was three years ago. The hard part of it is figuring out what your show should be about, figuring out how your show flow should run, and the actual day- to- day operations of it. And so, to me, the best advice you're going to get is from someone currently doing it, who can tell you what's worked and what hasn't worked for them. So I would find at least one person, ideally, two or three that you can talk to about what it's really like. That's my number one piece of advice.
Michelle Lawrence: So we've touched on this a little bit before, but why would we decide to rebrand the show to REAL MARKETERS?
Stephanie Cox: Because I had a crazy idea. I mean, isn't that where all things start, for the most part? So it really... Gosh, it was like, what, 18 months ago, I started thinking a lot about the type of marketers that I like to talk to, the ones that I enjoy hearing their perspective from and learning from. And it really started coming down to this idea of like, they ask forgiveness, not permission. You don't get any bullshit when you talk to them. They're kind of unapologetic for who they are and what they do. They have really strong opinions about marketing that are not widely held oftentimes and they get shit done. I think a lot of people that where those traits resonate with them might have an inner circle of close friends that also fit that mold. But what I was struggling to find personally was a larger community of it. And so I started playing around this idea of what if we started to get these types of guests on the show and by doing so we'd need to change the name. And we bounced around, I think, a couple of different ideas. And I was like," They're just like a real marketer. They're like what a marketer should be." And that's where it all started. And you know, it's grown from there, clearly, for us. It's become part of, I think, even the Lumavate brand, which was never intentional 18 months ago. But that's really what it's about. It's about finding these types of guests to have on the show where I'm not just telling you theoretically how something should get done, I'm telling you because I've done it. And I'm telling you the truth about what worked and what didn't. I was so tired of... I like to call them like the marketing fireside chats. We've all seen them, whether they're at a conference or on another show where it's like, they're talking about how wonderful marketing is and how great everything went. And all I hear is wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah. Because it's all bullshit. Marketing is hard. You fail all the time in marketing. And the problem is there's so few marketers willing to be honest about that. If you look at LinkedIn and looked at your feed or Twitter, it acts like everything is just great all the time and that's not the truth. In reality, there are days where you're killing it as a marketing leader, and there are days when you feel like you don't know how to use the internet. And that's the realness that I feel like needs to be discussed and shared. And that's what I was trying to hopefully get us at for the second iteration of the show.
Michelle Lawrence: Why do you think so many of us create this false illusion of what marketing is on LinkedIn or hold back what we're actually experiencing in marketing?
Stephanie Cox: I think it's a couple things. One, it's this belief that you have to be perfect in order to be successful, right? Everyone acts like people who are successful, oftentimes never fail, which is the exact opposite. If you look at the people who were most successful, they've likely failed the most in order to get where they are today. So I think part of it's perception. No one wants to admit that they failed at something and oftentimes, right, you're judged harshly when you do. So I think that's part of it. I think the other part is, as you start your career off in marketing, how many times were you told it's okay, by your leader, to fail? How many times did someone... Right?
Michelle Lawrence: Yeah.
Stephanie Cox: It's just not something that a lot of leaders encourage. I'll give you a really simple example. So if you launch a new Google ad campaign and it fails miserably, that's looked almost like a black mark. Oh, we did this and it didn't work. Whereas I look at it as like the flip, which is, we did this, it didn't work, we know what doesn't work now. Right? We've learned something from it. And in today's world, especially since so much stuff is in the digital realm, it's different than it was 20 years ago. You can turn things on and turn them off really quickly. The new messaging you tried out doesn't work on your website? Change it. Right? If you don't like... If your Google ads aren't performing or your LinkedIn ads aren't performing, turn them off, launch new ones. We're not creating this world where we're doing print ads that are in magazines or books for all of eternity like we did 20 years ago. There's a lot of ability to iterate, learn, move fast, but in order for any of that to work, you have to be willing to accept that some things, and not just some, but probably most are going to fail. And sometimes you'll be able to figure out why and sometimes you won't and that's okay. But I think the big challenge with it is if you look even back to, if you want to get really philosophical, the education system, which I mean, children are raised to not think that failure is okay. You're raised to believe that you need to get As and Bs and everything. And I get that, but the same token, not everyone is going to do as well in every subject. But we don't raise them to say," It's okay if you don't understand geometry," right? Do your best, but you're not going to be great at everything. Find what you are great at. And also find you're going to fail sometimes. And we're going to need to learn and pick ourselves up and see what we learned from it. And maybe we learned that that was one way not to do a Google ad. Maybe we learned that messaging doesn't work, or maybe we learned we're never going to be good at geometry, which is like a personal story. But I think that's part of the challenge is if you don't teach people when they're young, whether that's young in their career or young in their life, that failure is okay, they're always going to shy away from admitting that they failed and then therefore actually learning from that failure.
Michelle Lawrence: No, I completely agree. I think there's an incredible amount of strength in asking for help when you don't know something. And then also, personally, I find it to be a great relationship builder when you ask people in your Slack communities," Hey, I'm struggling with this. Does anyone have any tips on X, Y, and Z?" I think more marketers should do it more often. But, I guess, inaudible switching gears, we've had a hundred episodes. Who have been some of your favorite guests on the show and what makes them stick out from the rest?
Stephanie Cox: Easiest way to tell if it's my favorite guest is after we get done recording the episode, could I continue talking to them for hours? Because there are a number of guests that I could have done that with. One of them was Lili Tomovich. At the time she was the CMO of MGM resorts. I could have talked to her for like four hours about life, marketing, being a leader, being a woman in a heavily male- dominated industry. There's so many great things that I could talk to her about and that she was so open about sharing. Ashley Shaler is another example. I could have talked to her for hours. There's just lots of great guests out there where... And I think maybe you can tell when you listen to the episodes as well, there's so much knowledge that they're sharing. They're so open with how they're sharing it. It's sometimes why we break episodes into two is because I record more than 30 or 40 minutes and I'm like," This needs to be two episodes." Ryan Benishi is another great example, Alex Russell. There's just so much great content and it sticks with me. And it's also... What's surprising about it is it's a lot of some of our top episodes, but then we also see episodes from guests that I thought were great too, but maybe the guest is less well known that are highly listened to, as well, because people just latch on to what they're saying. And if you look at how long listeners are listening to the episode, they're getting through the entire thing because they find so much of it to be valuable.
Michelle Lawrence: Has there been one piece of advice or maybe a tip and trick that a guest has shared that you've shipped and tested out that week that you've recorded the episode?
Stephanie Cox: So I think Brett Westerman's probably the most recent example. He was talking all about how he... Well, one, if you don't know Brett and you haven't listened to his episode, please do. He is my absolute go- to for paid media. He's the person I refer everyone to because he's just kind of like a paid media savant. But he was talking about Spotify ads. And if you would have told me that Spotify ads were something you should do as a B2B brand, I would have laughed hysterically at you like six months ago, because that sounded crazy to me. You can't even target really well on Spotify. But he was talking about how for like$ 250, Spotify will produce the ad for you and it will drive results. And I was just like," That sounds crazy." But then as he was talking about it, I was like," Well, I got to try this." So I think pretty quickly after I recorded the episode, and for those of you who haven't picked up on this, typically if I learn something in the episode, I'm immediately Slacking Michelle," Hey FYI, this is what the guest just said. We need to do this right now." And therefore we launched Spotify ads.
Michelle Lawrence: Yeah, that's... I do remember that. That was, I got a Slack probably at seven o'clock at night saying," Hey, we're going to do a Spotify ad tomorrow." And it was probably one of the most fun things I've done in 2020. So I completely agree with you there.
Stephanie Cox: But who would have thought, right?
Michelle Lawrence: Exactly. So let's say I wanted to ramp up the number of podcasts I'm on as a guest. What should I be doing or, I guess, not doing, to get myself noticed?
Stephanie Cox: Find your own Michelle. But you, they can't have you. So if you don't have a Michelle, I think the other thing is you have to have your own hot takes. And the reason why I say that is no one wants to listen to the same thing on every podcast. They want to listen to new content. So hosts want to find people that have unique perspectives. So I think, one, really have a hard with yourself. What are the things that you passionately believe in? And when I say passionately believe in them, like you passionately believe in them to your core, that you don't need to prep for them. Right? You don't need someone to send you a list of questions about the topic, because you already know all the answers. That is really the type of things I'm talking about. So I think, one, figure out what those topics are. Two, look at shows that you want to be on. And, number one, listen to the show. It is nothing... And this is like me putting my host hat back on. There's nothing more frustrating as a host to get an outreach from someone who would potentially be a great guest on the show, when it's very clear, they've never listened to your show and they ask you really basic questions about, what's your show flow? What type of guests do you have on? How long are your episodes? I'm like, you don't even have to listen to the show. You could just go to iTunes or Spotify to see half that stuff. So listen to the show, people. Do your research before you reach out. Come out with a very specific topic you want to talk about that you're pitching to them because that is how you can be successful getting on a show. I will tell you when someone's done their homework and they have a unique perspective and they look to show, to prove that I've not covered that before, I almost always will book them.
Michelle Lawrence: So what do you think the biggest challenge in podcasting is these days?
Stephanie Cox: I think it's a couple things. So one, finding great guests to be on the show that actually want to share something unique, not a talk track that they're going on and talking about on 40 different shows or at conferences. I'm not a big fan of that. I want people that have unique perspectives that I can get on a call, like an interview for the podcast, and we can just go into it. They don't need questions to prep. They don't need any of that stuff because they know the topic so intimately and they want to have a conversation. My best episodes really are when it's like we're having a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and someone's overhearing the conversation. So I think finding the guests where you can do that is the challenge, number one. And I think the second challenge is finding ways to keep it constantly changing and evolving and knowing when to make those changes. You know, we switched from Mobile Matters to REAL MARKETERS. That was a big shift for us. We have been, if you haven't noticed, playing up with how we do the intros of the show. We're testing out different things like in real time, as you experience new episodes to see what drives more engagement and more feedback from listeners. So I think it's knowing that once you set your show flow and once you set the construct of the show premise, it should evolve. It shouldn't be the same for six months, nine months, a year. Behavior changes, consumer behavior changes, what I want to listen to, what's happening in the world changes. So I think that's the other thing that's hard as a host is knowing what to change and when to change it, because you don't want to lose any of your loyal listeners, but you also, if you're going to be provocative with the types of guests that you have on, you also have to be provocative with how you think about the show in general. And I think the last one is no matter how well you plan for the show, you're dealing with people and people need to reschedule their interviews. Often, a lot of times hosts have a busy schedule. So I can't tell you how many times that we've tried to get... Michelle's heard this for a long time. We're going to get like four to six episodes ahead. And I think we've done that like one time. And then it was like," Michelle, would you like to become the podcast official producer and do all the things for me after the episode's done? Because now I think we'll actually get ahead."
Michelle Lawrence: Maybe.
Stephanie Cox: Maybe. Fingers crossed. But to that, as an example, if someone has something come up and they need to reschedule an interview, when you're trying to plan out your show a month, two months in advance, okay, now they have to reschedule. They can't reschedule for three more weeks. It starts to change the order of who's going to be on as a guest, when you're going to release those episodes. So I think a lot of times people don't realize it's kind of like a logistical planning nightmare, to some extent, because you might say," I'm going to record all the episodes for July and June," but if one person has to reschedule, now they don't have all the episodes for July done in June. So there's just a lot more to it than I think people realize.
Michelle Lawrence: Exactly. And especially if you're not a full- time podcast host, it can be a lot of maneuvering different meetings around. So final question for you, Stephanie, what's the one thing that you wish you would have known about the world of podcasting before you started?
Stephanie Cox: That everyone sucks at it when they first get started. I wish I knew that because I think one of the things that people don't realize is if you're not used to hearing your own voice and the audio of it, you're going to pick it apart initially. But here's the thing, everyone does that. And everyone is not good at it right away unless you've been doing this as a career. I'm sure if you're like a broadcast journalist and that's been your career, you're probably great at podcasting on day one. But the rest of us, we're not. It's a journey. You're on the journey with us and hopefully a hundred episodes and we're... I'm better at this journey, but I promise you at 200 episodes, I'll be even better. So it's a journey and you're going to get tired of listening to your own voice, which is another benefit of having Michelle help produce all the content at the end, because sometimes I'm like," Oh, I sound horrible." Especially if I'm sick, I'm always like,"Do I sound ridiculous?" Everyone's like," You sound fine." So I think it's just a little bit of, like, you're just very super critical of yourself early on. And no one's honest about that. When in reality, no one expects you to be great at podcasting, unless that's your full- time job, right, and that's all that you do. This is just a part of who I am. It doesn't define me. It is not something that I want to be, and have to be, exceptional at. Really, what I am is a vehicle for connecting our listeners to some amazing marketers out there and giving them an opportunity to share their story. And hopefully you find my, what I think are entertaining side comments and rants, to be entertaining.
Michelle Lawrence: And I would even add, even if this is your 100th episode or 300th episode you've done, it still doesn't need to be perfect. I think we've seen in the last year and a half, that it's the more authentic conversations that are the most meaningful to us.
Stephanie Cox: You've been listening to REAL MARKETERS. If you love what you've heard, make sure to subscribe, rate and review our podcast. Don't forget to tell a friend. All of this marketing goodness, shouldn't be kept a secret.