By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing
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This week’s episode is entitled “Reinventing Events and Social Hackathons: Innovative Ideas with Corey McCarthy“. Corey is the CMO at Socia. I was so impressed with my recent experience at EventHack 2020. A must see– “Hacking the Future of Virtual Events” Watch on demand.
We had a great conversation about Corey’s role and what Socio is and what they had to face head on just a couple of months ago with the onset of the pandemic.
I ask her “What were some of the leadership lessons you’ve taken from that?
I think that one of the key things that I’ve been trying to lean into is trust your gut. I think it’s easy to overthink things. And I think that one of the first things that I realized is that there were no rules anymore. Anything that you thought you knew, just throw it out the window. And so we spent a lot of time trying to tap into that authenticity and being completely empathetic with our audience in a time that, they didn’t even know what to do….. Transparency is the biggest thing because what I found in my experiences, ambiguity is a motivation killer.
We also discuss lessons for managing a remote team. And so much more.
And as I do for many of my guests– I ask “What’s something you miss you can’t wait to do again. And what’s something you don’t miss that will no longer be part of your new normal moving forward? Great answers.
Listen in now and/or read the full transcript below.
Paul: Hey, welcome back everybody. It’s time once again. Grab your board. We’re going to swim out into that sea of ideas and wait for that sales pipeline as it starts to curl up over the horizon, with the man who’s finally, finally brought another Irish person on the show here, Matt Heinz. I’m always trying to get other Irish on the show, here because I think we tell the best stories and he finally listened to me and brought a young lass with us today, here.
Matt: We are an equal opportunity podcast here, Paul.
Matt: We invite any and all B2B sales and marketing experts, including the fine arts. My wife is a proud Irish American. Her dad grew up in upstate New York.
Paul: There you go.
Matt: His parents were from County Cork. And I found out that Beth and I, we have a varied family tree, but we both have family that at one point lived in Kilkenny in Ireland.
Paul: How about that?
Matt: Not that long ago. I know, crazy. Small world.
Paul: My great grandfather on my mother’s side emigrated through County Cork. We traced him all the way back to Tralee, which is not far from the little town of Tralee or the Rose of Tralee.
Matt: I don’t know if you watch it. So I got really interested in family tree stuff a couple of years ago and I’ve kept it up on genealogy websites and there’s a PBS show called Finding Your Roots.
Matt: I don’t know if you’ve seen it?
Paul: I have. It’s fascinating. And they bring these celebrities on and they just, all of a sudden get found, “Oh my God, I have an ancient relative that was,” I don’t know, “queen of Egypt or something.”
Matt: Yeah, yeah. It’s fun because you can see these celebrities who, we see them at the Oscars and dressed up and in movies and they’re on a pedestal and they react when they find out things about their family, just the way you and I would. It’s fun to watch. So Finding Your Roots on PBS. We cover all areas here on Sales Pipeline Radio, Paul.
Well, thank you everyone for joining us for another episode. If you’re joining us live on the Funnel Media Radio Network, thank you for making us part of your work in place, stay at home work day.
I know some people are getting back out, Paul, people getting back to the offices here in Seattle and we’ll find out, down in the San Francisco Bay area, I think we’re on the more conservative side, still mostly working from home, trying to figure this out as we go. But thank you to those that are listening to us live. If you’re listening to us on the podcast, thanks so much for joining us again. Every episode of Sales Pipeline Radio is always available on demand, past, present and future, at salespipelineradio.com, as well as Google play, the iTunes store and anywhere where fine podcasts are available. They made an exception for us. Every week we are featuring some of the best and brightest minds in sales and marketing.
Paul: And this week an Irish mind here. I don’t know if she married Irish or this is her maiden name, but I’m thrilled to have another Irish person.
Matt: Well, now we’re going to find out she’s German or something totally different. Chief marketing officer of Socio. Very excited to have her on today. Corey McCarthy. Thanks so much for being here.
Corey: Jesus, Mary and Joseph, it’s a pleasure.
Matt: Ah, see, she’s got a bit of the brouge. Jesus, Mary and Joseph. This is herself on the show. It is right.
Corey: Ah Jesus, my family, the McCarthy’s, that’s my maiden name. Now I’m sounding more Italian, I don’t know. But, McCarthy is mine, I kept it. My dad passed away when I was 24. So my mom, my sister and I swore to keep his name because he didn’t have any sons. And so we’re carrying on the tradition for him. The McCarthy’s come from Cork.
Paul: Do they really? Oh my goodness. This is Cork day here today. Yeah.
Matt: It’s a family reunion.
Corey: Seriously. We should go for a pint
Paul: A little pint and let’s talk a little dropper as my grandmother used to say. I said, “Grandmother, you drinking?” “Oh no, just a wee bit for me cough. Just a wee bit for me cough.”
Matt: I’m just going to sit back, and let you guys…
Paul: I love this. All right. I’ll drop out. Okay.
Matt: Every time I try to do like an Irish accent ends up coming out Hungarian or something. I’m not going to try.
Paul: I’ll tell you just one funny story and then I’ll shut up here, I had the chance to go to Ireland once with my late parents, before they passed away a number of years ago, we all wanted to go back looking for our heritage. And I find myself dropping into the brogue here, everywhere I went. And we went to find, we never did find, but we went to find my grandfather. And so they saw us out in the convent. They’ve got all the records, the county marriage records and everything. We go out to the continent, knock on the door and a little mouse comes out. Little nun looks like a little mouse. And we said, “Sister, we’re from America. We’re looking for our roots here. We think our great grandfather emigrated in, the late 18 hundreds.” She said, “Oh, yes. Where are the 1800s? They’re under the sofa there.” To them, it’s just like yesterday here, the 1700s are on the fridge, but the 1800s, oh yeah, they’re under the sofa there. I don’t know what that leads to.
Matt: I don’t know, it’s just good stories. I don’t know how we go from here to hackathons and…
Paul: Well, it’s data. It’s trying to collect data and all this stuff. How we store it. How we save it. I was trying to lead you up here.
Matt: Or we can say, listen, the Irish. And I don’t know, because I’ve got a little bit of Irish, my wife has a lot of Irish, very social people like to get together field events, events in general, trade shows, conferences gone for the foreseeable future, at least for now. And I imagine that was a bit of a shell shock for you, Corey. Talk a little bit about your role, but then talk about what Socio is and what you guys had to face head on just a couple of months ago.
Corey: Absolutely. Well, my background, I ran a media company and so I’ve got a lot of experience in digital media, political magazines. I’ve been running events and how that all comes together. So it was fun in January when I started at socio, which is an event platform, there’s an event app, registration, communities. So probably about a month in, my second trip to Indianapolis, I’m in the airport, and everyone’s already worried about the pandemic or it wasn’t the pandemic yet, but everyone was worried about the virus. And having been in the event space for such a long time, I took a look around and people were starting to wear masks. Not a lot of people were traveling even then. And I realized, “Oh crap, this is going to be potentially big.” And I landed in Indie and I was speaking with our investors and my team. Talking about what this could potentially mean because the impact that it could have on the event industry could be enormous.
I didn’t obviously know at that time how big, but I gathered my team. I’m like, “Okay guys, we need to start talking about hybrid events.” And so I started from a product marketing standpoint, thinking about the use cases and how we even fit into the either hybrid, or virtual ecosystem. So, very quickly, as soon as I came on board, it wasn’t necessarily getting a series, a marketing team, up and running. It was, “Oh my God, what do we do?” We started pivoting with our content in late February and then really leaned into the thought leadership positioning. The event tech was already there. We made a couple of minor tweaks, which was awesome. My product team was really great about making that pivot as quickly as I did. And then of course, sales and customer success were right behind. And so today here we are sitting on a fully virtual event platform, which is awesome.
It’s not such a far cry from where we were. However, there’s a total market that just opened up for us because we didn’t need virtual. And we didn’t need hybrid events before we were crushing it with just the in person events. So, as we transition back to whatever that’s going to look like, our company is so much more solid and stable and our total addressable market just more than doubled. So for us, although you could argue that this is like the worst thing to happen to the event industry, oddly enough, it’s a bright shining moment for event tech, if you’re well positioned and have the team to do it.
Matt: Talk about what that was like though, put yourself back a couple months. I think a lot of companies are attempting pivots. There’s going to be a lot of success stories. People uncover new opportunities that they either hadn’t seen or weren’t aware of or weren’t thinking about before. But when all this goes down, I mean, you were not that into your tenure at Socio when things started going a little different than you expected. Talk a little bit about that moment. And so what were some of the leadership lessons you’ve taken from that?
Corey: Absolutely. I think that one of the key things that I’ve been trying to lean into is trust your gut. I think it’s easy to overthink things. And I think that one of the first things that I realized is that there were no rules anymore. Anything that you thought you knew, just throw it out the window. And so we spent a lot of time trying to tap into that authenticity and being completely empathetic with our audience in a time that, they didn’t even know what to do. So, one of the examples is that with our content, we would write an article one week and then the CDC would come out with another lockdown. They would go from a thousand people at events down to a hundred people at an event. And so we were constantly having to go back and update all of our content because we were, in some cases, still talking about hybrid when we were rolling into lockdown, which is obviously really tone-deaf.
And so we took out any sales pitch. We took about any whiff about live events out and really wrote, rewrote and adjusted again, to make sure that all of our content was really tight and really hit the mark. That was one of the bigger things. And as far as the playbook, I had a strategy that I was almost done with. I threw it away.
The event space has been changing, for a while there, it was changing by the day, and then it was changing by the week. And now I think that we’re finally into two week increments that it’s changing in. It’s certainly been an interesting ride and I have the great fortune to be working with a wonderful team out of Indianapolis who are down for the adventure. They’re incredibly flexible, which has been a godsend because they don’t need to have the fully scripted plan in place. They can really roll with the strategy in the moment and everything we’re doing is well thought out and strategically a great move in what I like to call my “no matter what plan,” but yes, we’ve left it open so that we can allow ourselves the room to shift and flow with whatever comes next.
Matt: Talking today on sales pipeline radio with Corey McCarthy, she’s the CMO chief, marketing officer, at Socio. And I would agree, I had a chance to work with not only you, but members of your amazing marketing team. It feels like it was just yesterday, but I think a few weeks ago in the event hackathon, you guys did. And I first heard about it. You brought it up briefly at the CMO coffee talks we do on Friday mornings. And I was honored to participate in this a couple of weeks later and talk a little bit about the emergence of that event and what you learned from, not only doing it in a hackathon format, but also this bringing the entire industry together to work together on a solution.
Corey: Going back to April 1st, we were taking a look at our use cases in our product, and we were going to make some upgrades to follow and allow our clients to do more precise virtual events. And so we decided that we needed to have it done yesterday, because that was what the market was demanding. And so I suggested that we try to do an announcement in 15 days, “Hey, let’s do April 15th.” And then the daunting reality of how the hell do you do product release in this particular environment, because nobody wants to be sold. You have to be very careful with things like that. And what I was paying attention to was every single person in the event industry was talking. They were gushing. You couldn’t shut them up about anything having to do with virtual. How do you do it? What do you think about this?
I was part of the event MB webinar a couple of weeks before that had 7,000 people, which is more than triple the total number of attendees that they usually have. And when you talk about thought leadership, that’s really what the industry needed in that moment. So my COO came to me with the idea of a hackathon, but he wanted it to be the traditional techie hackathon. And that idea wouldn’t have worked. However, what I really did like was an ideation hackathon, where we pulled together industry leaders that were influencers, our existing clients and some really big logos, companies that were doing really cool things, get as many of them together as we could and have the best and the brightest get together and come up collectively and tell us their ideas, not just once but four times, because we had four different teams of four.
So my team, and to be clear, my team is myself plus three, we pulled it and did I think a pretty darn good job in 15 days. I think it was 11 business days. We were not only able to pull the industry together, get thought leaders to come up with some really great content, but we were able to make connections through networking. We were able to foster engagement. We, in this short amount of time, and remember we’re a series A company we had more than 3000 odd registrations. We had about 2000 people show up live. And this is my team’s very first event. Our very first virtual event, is that we were able to keep the entire audience hooked throughout the entire show, which was really a great statement for where we’re at in the industry and this hackathon idea of bringing at the end of the day, industry leaders together to solve a really big issue right now.
Matt: Well, the energy level too, in that event, I mean, especially in that final presentation meeting where you were people were sharing their ideas. You have to remember, this is back when events were just getting… They’d just been canceled. Like people have this entire Q2 plan that was just going out the window and event marketers are worried about their jobs. Event planners are wondering where their next meal is going to come from. This was not a group licking their wounds.
This was the very excited audience that were coming up with ideas that weren’t possible in a physical format that they hadn’t had the chance or time or opportunity to really spend the time and to be disciplined enough to think about. And so the energy level and optimism coming out of that event for an industry that had every right to be upset and disappointed and licking their wounds was pretty amazing. So kudos to you guys for doing that. We got to take a quick break here, pay some bills. We’ll be right back with more with Cory McCarthy, we’ll be talking her Irish history, talking heritage, talking social media, talking events and marketing and more. We’ll be back. Sales Pipeline Radio.
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Paul: All right. Let’s get realigned with our guests here today and we’ll all talk in the brogue for the last half hour here.
Matt: You guys can, like I said, you guys talk in the Brogue, I’ll do some hybrid Hungarian awfulness. I’s just going to stick with my Midwestern, whatever. Anyway, Corey McCarthy, chief marketing officer at Socio joining us today on Sales Pipeline Radio. So we were talking beforehand about a lot of what you guys did in terms of your business pivot, in terms of the marketing work that you guys have done. Talk about what you have also seen both within Socio as well as outside of Socio in terms of leadership moments. And these can be things that you’ve seen other marketing leaders do, things you’ve seen your CEO do, your board guide you through. I don’t love the economic and the health issues people are going through, but this is a crucible of learning in terms of what to do and what not to do. What are some things you have seen inside and outside that you think are particularly good lessons for others, right now?
Corey: I think transparency is the biggest thing because what I found in my experiences, ambiguity is a motivation killer. Especially coming into the lockdown experience. It was very ambiguous. Nobody knew how long we were going to be in for. We thought we were all going to be in for two weeks, sit and stay and it’ll go away. Don’t worry about it. And here we are two months later, and it’ll be interesting after the PPP ends because jobs still aren’t safe. I think that the rent efforts to support landlords and renters is coming up. So, there’s still so much ambiguity out there that being frank and honest with your team about where the company stands is one of the better things that you can do.
Not so frank and honest that you’re giving away company secrets or really demotivating people, but being real enough to say that this is a huge moment and no matter how smart we are and how well we try to protect the company, there’s a good chance that the wheels might come off and we’ll do everything that we can do to keep the wheels on, which is what really makes our jobs important right now.
And that’s been the mantra and the messaging that myself and the entire executive team has had, and motivation has never been higher. We’re crushing our numbers. The company has really come together in this really neat way where we can really get so much done so quickly without any drama or red tape. It’s actually been really fun to see. And I think that it all goes back to that transparency, not allowing that ambiguity to fester.
Matt: You’re a remote CMO. I think most of your team is still in Indianapolis, correct?
Matt: Have there been any lessons for you in managing, not just managing a remote team, but managing a remote team that is themselves now working remotely, any lessons or learnings that you found from that?
Corey: We do weekly check ins. Well, actually we do daily stand ups. And as part of our daily standup, we ask one another how we’re really doing. The other thing that I do is I check in on physical activity. I know it sounds weird, but I think that forcing yourself to get out of the house and forcing yourself to go for a walk or do something for your physical and mental health is incredibly important, because when you’re suffering personally, of course it’s going to impact your work environment. And so really checking in on people to make sure that they’re truly healthy in their personal lives, because they’re going through so many changes.
I’ve worked from home for most of my career. So I was able to lean in on a lot of that experience that I had to give those tips, like get up at the same time that you normally get up, get yourself up and out of bed and dressed, get yourself into the office early, make time to go work out. Just those fundamentals that I’ve known and just focus on business. Because right now, when basically, shit hit the fan, we have the potential to do something really cool here. And wouldn’t it be great to focus on something really cool, than focus on all of the scary stuff going on in the world right now.
Matt: Amazing. So, you guys have done an incredible pivot to really supporting the virtual event space. When do you think we will get back to going to live events? And what do you think the balance might be for companies looking at live versus virtual? Once we settle into some version of a new normal?
Corey: I think it’s going to be a while yet. I think that the next two weeks are going to be pretty big. We just got done with Memorial day with a lot of people opening up and going out. So, I think it depends on what we see as a spike and what we see as the government’s reaction to that spike. I think that that will give us a really good indicator of what it’s going to be like for the next few months. We have clients already looking to go virtual in quarter one of 2021. So, I think that if things start to open up, it’ll still be slow. And just like the CDC clamp down, I think that they’ll be slow to ramp up. So my expectation would be if there are live events that happened this year, they’ll be small 50 to 100 people.
I think that there’ll be a very strong hybrid component to make it more inclusive and to keep the greater audience coming. And I don’t think that that’s something that’s going to go away. One of the things that I know from having worked in the event industry for such a long time is that their main KPI was putting seats in seats and getting warm bodies into a room. They’re finding out now, it was a little bit shortsighted, was to have that sole focus because the opportunity that going virtual or hybrid presents is to significantly increase your total audience and the number of people that you can reach. And so I think that now that everybody’s learned how to use the tools. And now that the KPIs have shifted, I do think it’s more of a fundamental shift that will stick, and it will be interesting to see what people’s definition of hybrid is. I think that that’s the next thing that we’re going to start talking about and having to figure out.
Matt: Yeah, it’s certainly will be. Just a couple more minutes here with our guest today. I want to ask you a question I’ve asked a few people on the show the last few weeks about just things you miss and things you don’t miss from the beginning of Q1, the old normal that will never be back. And in many cases, that is there’s things that we’re going to miss. And there’s things that we’re like, wow, it took a little bit of a pandemic. It took a little bit of a downshift in life to realize that some of that I want to do leave behind. So what’s something that you miss that you can’t wait to do again. And what’s something you don’t miss that will no longer be part of your new normal moving forward?
Corey: I miss seeing my mom and from a work perspective, I miss being able to be with my team in person physically. I think I saw them two or three times before this whole crackdown. So I can’t wait to be back in person with them because I do think that there is a valuable layer to that and something that I am really excited to not have to do, and something excited about I think in general, is the whole movement to be more accepting of work from home. For me, that was always a challenge that not a lot of other people understood. And so the understanding that we now have going back to whatever that new normal is and appreciation for those folks that work from home, I think we’ll probably make it a little bit easier to function and to get what I need done done.
Matt: Well, I think certainly, there’s plenty of people that are going to be working from home now as their new normal, I’m hoping that for us, we’ve got something of a hybrid. I don’t imagine for our office, we’re going to be ever again, everybody in the office, nine to five, I think there’s going to be some version that is just because it’s better for everyone’s lives. Like we don’t have to be in the car at the same time in the morning and the car at the same time in the evening creating rush hour anymore. So I think there’s going to be a lot of positive things coming out of that. As someone who has worked from home for most of your career, as you said, and I occasionally work from home, but being here when the kids are here, with distractions that I’m not used to, I’m getting pretty good at being disciplined around that, as people settle into this, are there other best practices that maybe you haven’t seen or heard in all the blog posts and all the content that you might recommend other people think about as well that’s really helped you?
Corey: Yeah. Keep a schedule. I think, stick to your schedule, be religious about it. And what I also do is I clean in the morning or at night, so that I take any of the distractions that I know are going to be there during the day. I take them off the table at night or in the morning, so that they’re just not available to me. And then I also don’t keep a lot of food in the house. I mean, now with the pandemic, I keep a little bit more food around, but typically I try not to keep so much food around, otherwise it’s easy to go into the kitchen and just keep munching and never, ever, ever turn on the TV. TV is completely off limits. It should not exist during the work day just to keep your focus.
Matt: Those are great pieces of advice, the food one’s a hard one. I think my wife and I like to cook and even we’re not working from home, we tend to cook a lot. So there was an article in the journal, actually a couple of days ago about bigger fridges, bigger people, as we’re all working from home gives a different meaning to the term COVID-19 you get the freshman 15? The COVID-19, a good word of wisdom.
I want to thank our guests today, Corey McCarthy, the CMO at Socio check them out at socio.events. I’m really impressed with what they’re doing there. And you can find links up there to Corey’s summary of their event hackathon and lessons from that. It was really, really well done. I want to thank Paul as well for his great production of our event today. If you like what you heard today from Corey, you can find her episode on demand at salespipelineradio.com and just a couple of days, and we’ll be back next week. And every week, Thursday at 2:30 Eastern, 11:30 Pacific. For my great producer, Paul, this is Matt Heinz. Thanks for joining us on another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio.
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.