Sales Pipeline Radio, Episode 194: Q & A with Marilyn Cox @MarilynECox

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If you’re not already subscribed to Sales Pipeline Radio, or listening live every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Pacific you can find the transcription and recording here on the blog every Monday morning.  The show is less than 30 minutes, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.

We cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities. You can subscribe right at Sales Pipeline Radio and/or listen to full recordings of past shows everywhere you listen to podcasts! Spotify,  iTunesBlubrry, Google Play, iHeartRADIO, or Stitcher

This week’s episode is entitled “What Do Tina Fey, The Ohio State University and B2B Marketing Have in Common?” and our guest is Marilyn Cox, Vice President of Marketing at Clubessential Holdings, LLC

Sometimes I think of this term content marketing and it sort of demeans what the form and what the opportunity is. Is there a value in thinking of it as just content? How do you create content that engages, that persuades, that teaches, that makes people better? By doing that well, you’re earning ongoing attention, you’re earning the right to continue the conversation that might turn into a sales conversation, but is it wrong or is it counterproductive to call it content marketing or should we just create good content?  We talk about this and a lot more!

Marilyn is into WWE.  I ask about her interest overall, but also what makes these athletes such good storytellers?

I also ask her, given her diverse career, the different places she worked in marketing, what she’d say if she was sitting in front of a group of soon to graduate college students, what’s some advice shed give them they might not hear from others that she thinks is important for their careers moving forward?

I think one of the biggest is …



I think I would agree when a lot of people say that you have to recognize that you don’t have all the answers and you can’t stop learning. For me, that’s huge. If I were talking to people that were getting ready to graduate and were going into marketing and they were earlier in their careers, I think the one piece of advice I would give them to build on that concept is start to learn outside of marketing. Not to discourage people from reading good marketing content and best practice content, I absolutely do, but I think there is a lot to be gained from reading more on financials. I will say probably aside from, of course, aligning with a sales team, the organization that I align with the most at a company is always the financial team. The CFO is somebody that I make my best friend very, very early on.

Listen in or read the entire conversation below:

Paul:  Hey, you know what time it is, time to grab your board, head out into the sea of ideas. You can’t see that sales pipeline starting to curl up over the horizon there. For those of you that like to be able to see things as they’re developing, I want you to see this with Matt Heinz here today. Welcome, Matt Heinz. I’ve got a way I’m going to go with this here. You ready?

Matt:  I don’t know.

Paul:  I want to see if they can make the connection, if they can see ahead to where we’re going and make a connection between Tina Fey, the Ohio State University and B2B marketing. What did those three things have in common, Matt Heinz?

Matt:  Well, we’re going to find out here in a second. I’m very excited for our guest today. This is long overdue to have our guest today joining us on Sales Pipeline Radio, but I want to thank everyone for joining us. We are going to talk about B2B marketing. We might talk a little bit about about Tina Fey, and I don’t think we can avoid talking about the Ohio State University at this point.

Paul:  That’s going to be a tough one because I went to the University of Michigan, so I maybe have to check out during that part.

Matt:  Oh my gosh, I forgot. This is terrible. This is live. For those of you listening to this show on a podcast feed, you may be listening to this after a couple of days. You may be listening to this after the Super Bowl. We’ll get into that here in a minute as well, but for those of you listening to this episode live on the Funnel Media Radio Network, things could get ugly. We got a little Ohio State. We’ve got a little of that team up north. We’ll get into it. Every week on Sales Pipeline Radio we’re featuring some of the best and brightest minds in sales and marketing, specifically around B2B today. I’m very excited to have with us Vice President of Marketing at Clubessential Holdings, Marilyn Cox. Marilyn, how you doing?

Marilyn:  I’m good. How are you, Matt?

Matt:  Were you better before you recognized and I was reminded that our producer is fighting for the wrong team here?

Marilyn:  Well, when you win enough, you learn it doesn’t bother you as much.

Matt:  That is a fair point. How many decades has it been since Michigan won the game?

Paul:  I think we’re getting some interference here again. I think the feed is getting cut off here.

Marilyn:  Maybe next year will be your year.

Matt:  Yeah, yeah, as a Washington Huskie, like we have the same thing where people say like, “I can’t remember. Were automobiles … Was the internal combustion engine, was it invented the last time the Cougars won an Apple Cup? I don’t know.”

Paul:  Ouch, yeah, wow.

Marilyn:  It’s been a while, but that’s all right. This could be a year.

Matt:  Paul just put us both on mute for the next 25 minutes. That’s fantastic. Well, Marilyn, I’m really excited. Thank you for joining us. I appreciate that very much. I’ve been excited to get you on for a while. We’ve known each other for a long time. You’ve been in B2B marketing for a long time and have taken a very unique and interesting path. Talk a little bit about sort of your B2B marketing career and some of the highlights and steps that you’ve taken along the way.

Marilyn:  Sure. I mean, I would start by classifying myself as an accidental marketer. It’s not something that I studied or set out to do. I happened to stumble into it when working for a tech company many years ago. I was doing project management and was embedded in a marketing department, and the first project that I happened to work on was implementing this like new tech called marketing automation. It’s sad that was considered so new back then, but it was, and it was fascinating. I quickly realized that marketing as a field was more than the art as I had known it. It was really developing more into a science and had an operational aspect to it. Yeah, I mean, I was just kind of fortunate enough to be surrounded by some really like brilliant minds early on in my marketing career. That’s kind of how I learned it, I think, as I went.

I think one of the things I found that I enjoyed the most was kind of acting as like a Rosetta Stone for different industries, figuring out how you can take the best practices of marketing and apply them in different industries, in different organizational structures. To what you alluded to, I’ve kind of, yeah, I mean, shifted across a variety of industries and have supported, whether it’s manufacturing and financial services or life sciences, over to entertainment. Now I’m working in private clubs and fitness clubs and college athletic space. Yeah, it’s been fascinating, definitely not a linear path by any regards.

Matt:  Well, and you have a unique perspective that I think some people may not have if they’ve stuck purely to B2B. I mean, you’ve worked in a wide variety of industries, a lot of B2B, but I think your perspective kind of helped you give a better answer to, what are the things B2B and B2C sort of have in common and what are maybe some things that B2B marketers should pay more attention to and learn more from their B2C brethren?

Marilyn:  Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s been fun in that when I was with the Second City I got to marry B2C marketing with B2B. Now a lot of what I’m doing is working with companies that are consumer centric, member centric. It’s being able to sort of weave in some of those same best practices. In a lot of ways it allows you to have a little bit more fun and be more creative. I think that when B2B marketers are marketing to other businesses, you kind of have this reflex to sort of fall into a very like fundamental, formulaic way of marketing. I mean, we have our journeys. We know what are our buyer’s journeys are. As much as everyone agrees that like, well, they’re not necessarily one step at a time, I mean, we still a lot of times build them that way. We kind of feel like we are limited to, okay, here’s a white paper, here’s a webinar that I’m going to do.

We are getting more creative, I think, with things like podcasts. In the world of consumer marketing, you sort of have the permission to have a little bit more fun. It is interesting to just kind of take a step back and figure out how can you take those fun practices that even as consumers that we see and we experience, and figure out how to kind of them into our day to day B2B efforts.

Matt:  Well, let’s go down that path a little bit longer. I’m talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio with Marilyn Cox. She’s currently Vice President of Marketing at Clubessential Holdings, but for several years you were working with the Second City as well. I think a lot of people think of the Second City and you think of improv comedy. You think of Chris Farley and Steve Carell and Tina Fey and Stephen Colbert, some amazing comics and actors that have come out of that, but I think what most people don’t know is that there is a B2B angle, a leadership coaching angle to the Second City as well. Talk a little bit about what that is and what are some of the marketing lessons that sales and marketing leaders can take out of that as well.

Marilyn:  It was something that I was fascinated by when I first started working with them. They’ve had for a really long time a pretty substantial training center. They have training centers in Chicago, Toronto and Los Angeles, and 10,000 plus people go through classes every year through the Second City. The majority of them are not people that aspire to be on Saturday Night Live. The majority of them are people like you and I who are looking at developing or improving their social skills, their communication skills, their listening skills. That’s a big one. Team building, leadership, improvisation, it really helps you develop and build all of that. Comedy is a great output of improv, but so are so many of these other just skills that you need.

One of the things that the Second City recognized is that when you can take those practices even outside of a classroom and bring them into the environment where so many of us spend the majority of our lives, which is the workplace, you can really start to establish some fantastic dynamics within the workplace. They go into businesses and do anything from these leadership and team building exercises to here’s how to create content in real time, because what they do on the stage is they are in real time creating content. They are getting feedback from the audience, they are getting reactions from the audience, they’re getting suggestions from the audience, and they’re building content around that. You can take the same practices in how you develop your marketing.



I would say that like a lot of what marketers learn from these experiences, and certainly stuff in my day to day now I really try to grab ahold of, are some of those fundamental lessons you learn like the idea of yes and. That’s one of the most fundamental things that you learn in improv. It’s the idea of recognizing and then building on the idea of others, how to have dialogues versus monologues, the ability to really listen in entirety to what somebody is saying and recognizing and acknowledging what that individual has had to say. Learning how to iterate content, I think, is certainly a big one. I mean, all of those things are exercises and stuff that not just marketers but anyone can practice.

Matt:  You mentioned the yes and. That’s one piece that has really stuck out for me. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing a couple of Second City leadership coaches speak at conferences. It’s interesting, whenever I want to write the word but now, I try to take it out. I find that 9 times out of 10 it’s really easy to find a different way of saying, speaking or writing something that isn’t but, but is an and, right? Even if you don’t agree with it, it demonstrates that you’re listening and it demonstrates that you’re willing to have a collaborative, constructive conversation, which I don’t care if you’re marketing, I don’t care if you’re talking to your spouse, I don’t care if you’re trying to close a deal, feels like a better way of doing business.

Marilyn:  Oh, absolutely. I mean, I know I’ll get even like email communications or Slack messages where if I can’t respond with yes, then I know that I need to kind of step back for a little bit and think through it, because a lot of times that is kind of just our knee jerk reaction, especially when you’re overwhelmed and you have a lot on your plate and you are getting request after request after request. You do kind of get to a point where it’s so much easier to just, you think, to say like, “No, I don’t have time. That’s going to take too much. It’s too much effort.” It’s amazing if you do just kind of step back and let something simmer for a little bit, you can usually find that yes and response. It’s so much more fun to say yes than it is to say no. I know personally that’s always kind of my objective in my communication process.

Matt:  Yes, and we have to take a quick commercial break. We’ve got to take a quick break, pay some bills. We’ll be right back more with Marilyn Cox. We’re going to talk more about conversational marketing. We might talk a little WWE, maybe a little Ohio State athletics. Who knows? We’ll be back, Sales Pipeline Radio.

*Break*

Paul:  Yes, and we’re back with Matt and his guest.

Matt:  Yes, and excited to have everyone back here on Sales Pipeline Radio. Did you know actually, Paul, that our guest today is also a radio host, that she was the cohost of Expert Access Radio early in her career?

Paul:  I could tell. I didn’t know that though.

Matt:  Marilyn, talk a little about your radio experience. I mean, it’s on your resume, so it must be something you’re proud of. Talk a little about what that was like.

Marilyn:  Yeah, so it has to be real, right? Just like my Excel spreadsheet skills. No, yeah, I mean, I did, like years ago. Props to a team that I worked with at a company called Cincom Systems. They saw the potential back in the early and mid aughts to get into more audio driven content, not quite podcasts yet, but we did have a radio show. We interviewed a number of thought leaders. I got to read a lot of really great books. Yeah, and it was a great opportunity to engage in some really fascinating dialogue. It was a great entrance for me, especially at that point in my marketing career, as to what content marketing really was, and really start to kind of experience that and play around with it a little bit.

Matt:  It’s interesting, I think you and I have both been doing content for a long time at a variety of different channels. I think sometimes I think of this term content marketing and it sort of demeans what the form and what the opportunity is. Is there a value in thinking of it as just content? How do you create content that engages, that persuades, that teaches, that makes people better? By doing that well, you’re earning ongoing attention, you’re earning the right to continue the conversation that might turn into a sales conversation, but is it wrong or is it counterproductive to call it content marketing or should we just create good content?

Marilyn:  I mean, we could have a fabulous philosophical conversation about it. Yeah, I mean, I guess in some regards content marketing is almost like a verb. It’s like the action of taking the content. I think even how people define what content is these days it’s kind of interesting because it isn’t just like, yes, somebody’s written a book or there’s a really great white paper out there or there is a podcast. I think anytime that you’re creating an experience, that starts to become that content because the residual of the experience becomes things like those online reviews that you see or those social media posts in response to it. Yeah, I mean, the definition, of course, is wide open and I think something that continues to be pretty fluid in how people use it.

Matt:  One thing maybe not everyone knows about you, but those who know you know very well is you’re a big fan of professional wrestling.

Marilyn:  That would be correct.

Matt:  When I was a kid, I used to watch a lot of wrestling. I haven’t watched a lot recently until my eight year old son now is quite enamored with it. I didn’t know this, but my six year old has become a fan of a song called The Game by Motorhead. I did not realize that The Game is actually the intro song for a wrestler.

Marilyn:  Oh, that’s Triple H’s entrance song. Yeah. Yeah, for Triple H, yeah.

Matt:  You go down a rabbit hole on YouTube, right? Literally last weekend, all three of my kids, including my 10 year old daughter, we found one that it was a compilation of some of the greatest entrances in wrestling. It’s fascinating. What’s amazing to me is like, look, there’s clearly athletic ability amongst these wrestlers, but the storytelling in wrestling, like the storytelling about the characters, about just the stories between characters and between the good guys and the heels, they’re masters at it. Talk to me a little bit about interest in WWE overall, but like, what makes them such good storytellers?

Marilyn:  It’s a challenge. We could have a whole like podcast series on this. I’m sure there are actually several out there. It’s one of the things that the WWE is actually really challenged with right now and why one of their up and coming competitors called AEW is outperforming them, because the WWE is struggling right now with creating a narrative that people are interested in following. The AEW is doing a better job of that. I mean, in so many ways, I mean, in the simplest form, I mean, it’s good guys versus bad guys. It’s really, really easy to follow. They do a really good job, of course, of pulling from current events and figuring out how to tie that in there. I mean, I think all of that is something that really gets people kind of engaged and involved.

They do a really good job of getting people to reminisce. I mean, those guys that you watched growing up, a lot of them still come back and every now and then appear. It’s fun to see like which of your favorites are going to come back, but the process in which they create it, and when you look historically at when the WWE has done well or when they’ve been outperformed, it always goes back to the bookers. For those that aren’t up on the wrestling jargon, the bookers are really the people that are defining what the matches are going to be and what the outcomes are going to be and building kind of the story that centers on that. The really good bookers are the ones that have driven the success within the different, whether it’s the WWE or AEW or WCW, they play an instrumental role in that. I mean, you can tell right now that they’re struggling with it.

For those that follow it, they’ve turned over talent behind the scenes, some of their bookers behind the scenes, because they’ve brought them in with an expectation that they’re going to change things very rapidly. I think, because my chances of ever actually working at this company are probably nil, I feel comfortable saying I think a lot of it is because they’re struggling with micromanagement around content. This is a great way to loop back to marketing. Vince McMahon, it appears, has a very, very difficult time allowing talented people to do what they’re best at. That seems to be part of the issue is that he doesn’t like the direction it’s going, he’ll make last minute changes, and that causes problems and then people leave or they’re let go. They’re struggling, they really are. I mean, financially I’m sure they’re fine, but as far as viewership and followers, it’s something that’s really been a burden for them over the last 18 months. More than you ever cared to know, isn’t it, Matt?

Matt:  No, that was amazing. What’s interesting, I mean, you listen to everything you said, and if you took out WWE and AEW and instead you brought up a couple competing brands in marketing technology, or a couple of competing brands, where it’s not just about what the product is. It’s not just about, well, this wrestler has got bigger muscles and this wrestler has been around longer and won more championships, but the story that you put out there, your ability to keep people’s attention.

I think it was Andrew Davis, it was just last year he was talking about how you keep the attention of your customers and your prospects. People will keep watching if they still have questions. People will keep watching if they still have things they want to learn and they’ll stop watching if all their questions get answered. That element of good storytelling, and you mentioned some of the things that sort of sometimes keep stories from being told that are good, when you don’t let creative people sort of come up with new creative ways of telling that story, it can actually start to drain the attention you have from your audience. That’s a ripe opportunity for someone else to come and pick it up.

Marilyn:  Oh, for sure. For sure. Yeah, and Andrew Davis is spot on. I mean, I love him. Talk about a smart, brilliant guy.

Matt:  No doubt. Well, hey, I know we just got a couple more minutes here with you here on Sales Pipeline Radio. The last questions we’re starting to ask more people, we’ve in the past asked people for their mentors and some of their inspirations over the years. You’re a repeat guest now on Sales Pipeline Radio so I’ll ask you the new question, which we’ve titled The Longer I Live and the More Mistakes I Make. Given your career, the different places you worked in marketing, if you’re sitting in front of a group of soon to graduate college students, what’s some advice you’d give them that they might not hear from others that you think is important for their careers moving forward?

Marilyn:  Oh, my gosh. Well, if we’re going to talk about mistakes, I wouldn’t even know where to start with today. I think one of the biggest is, sadly, I don’t think I have maybe a unique perspective. I think I would agree when a lot of people say that you have to recognize that you don’t have all the answers and you can’t stop learning. For me, that’s huge. If I were talking to people that were getting ready to graduate and were going into marketing and they were earlier in their careers, I think the one piece of advice I would give them to build on that concept is start to learn outside of marketing. Not to discourage people from reading good marketing content and best practice content, I absolutely do, but I think there is a lot to be gained from reading more on financials. I will say probably aside from, of course, aligning with a sales team, the organization that I align with the most at a company is always the financial team. The CFO is somebody that I make my best friend very, very early on.



I think there’s a lot to be said for learning and studying that, and then even getting outside of the realm of business in order to kind of exercise your brain. Personally I thought it would be interesting to take a couple of classes right now that are different from what I’ve ever done in the past. I’m taking a class on South Asian comparative politics and one on Bollywood, because the region is fascinating to me and the idea of having to think in a way where I’m not comparing something to Western culture and Western politics is very actually refreshing, but it’s amazing when you start exercising different parts of your brain that you haven’t before, that it does pay off in your day to day work. I think that might be kind of like the biggest thing that I would recommend and advice I’d give is like put down the marketing books definitely and maybe even the business books for a little while and let your mind have some fun.

Matt:  Well, from Hulk Hogan to Bollywood and all places in between, this has been a fun conversation, but unfortunately we are out of time. I want to thank our guest again today, Marilyn Cox. Thanks for joining us again, covering a lot of different areas of marketing and storytelling and a lot of fun. If you liked this episode, want to share this with some of your colleagues and friends, you’ll find it up on SalesPipelineRadio.com here in a couple of days. We’ll have an edited highlight transcript of this conversation up on HeinzMarketing.com in about a week or so as well. We’ll be here every week, next week, every week, 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern. On behalf of my great producer, Paul, this is Matt Heinz. Thanks for joining us on another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio.

Sales Pipeline Radio is hosted by Matt Heinz of Heinz Marketing which is a program on the Funnel Radio Channel.

Heinz Marketing   Funnel Radio Podcast Channel by the Funnel Media Group, LLC

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Sales Pipeline Radio is sponsored and produced by Heinz Marketing on the Funnel Radio Channel.  I interview the best and brightest minds in sales and Marketing.  If you would like to be a guest on Sales Pipeline Radio send an email to Sheena.

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