By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

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This week’s show is called “Part User Conference, Part Woodstock. Would it Work Online?” and our guest is Christina Mautz, CMO at Moz

We talked about lessons learned, plans for next year, implications for other marketers planning their 2021 events, how MozCon went this year going completely virtual, and a lot more.

I think that what we’re going to keep from this year’s experience is definitely to focus on what is most meaningful to our community, which is superior content.

Christina shares with candor and openness about making the pivot Moz did–what worked, the things they found important, and shared implications for next year.

We also took a quick pivot into culture.  For MozCon and for Moz customers, maintaining a community and really actively fostering a culture of diversity and openness and creativity within that culture is important. Christina shares some of the keys they’ve found to helping manage and maintain that culture and connectedness of employees when all of a sudden everyone was dispersed full-time working from home.

What we really did was just stay true to our culture.

We have culture principles called TAGFEE. It’s an acronym. Transparency, Accountability, Generosity, Fun, Empathy, and Expertise.

Listen in and/or read the full transcript below.

To learn more go to moz.com. Be sure to do a search on their blog for MozCon.  You will also find links about the videos mentioned in the show and a ton of free content and training all about SEO and more.

Paul:  Hey. Welcome back everybody. Time to grab your board. We’re going to swim out into that turbulent sea of ideas today here with the man who seems to navigate it all, Matt Heinz.

Matt:  Well, it’s amazing what you can do when you don’t have a choice, Paul. There’s a lot of things this year we didn’t have a choice to face. We’re doing Sales Pipeline Radio from the home office, which is the basement home office. We got three kids doing virtual school. My wife is attempting to virtually teach school from, depending on what time of year. Right now is the office. It’s also the she shed. In a couple months it’ll be back to being the greenhouse. She is not that far away from where I am but in a different building. And I just heard on your news update right before this. I know coronavirus has already screwed up Halloween, and now we can’t get as many people together on Thanksgiving. Some people may think that’s a good thing. A little Thanksgiving with fewer people. Maybe more food for yourself, more time to watch football.

Paul:  And they’re talking about just a designated server, just one person we trust is going to pass the food out. Maybe we test you at the door. Maybe we just tell you to stay home because…

Matt:  It’s going to be like a cafeteria. You show up with your tray, and instead of the lunch lady, it’s going to be the Thanksgiving lady or the Thanksgiving whatever it is.

Paul:  She has a mask on.

Matt:  Plexiglass. They’ll have big spoons. They’ll slop a little on there for you, go back to your chair. What a year we are working our way through. But you know what, we are working our way through it here. If you’re listening, you made it. If you’re listening live on the Funnel Media Radio Network, thanks for joining us during your work day. Hey, you’re still here too. You made it through. You made it to October. You made it to Q4.

Paul:  And you know the good news is your guest told me she has this all figured out. So she’s going to share that with us today. She has it all figured out.

Matt:    She’s one of my favorites. We got a lot of great stuff to talk about with her. But if you’re joining the Sales Pipeline Radio for the first time or checking us out, thanks so much for downloading and checking out the episode, we are… I think we are 250 episodes in now, Paul. We’re getting up there, and if you want to check out what we’ve been up to, we are featuring some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing. You can get all our past episodes on demand at salespipelineradio.com.

Very excited to have with us today, as Paul now knows, super smart, famous, one of my favorite people in the B2B marketing space, Christina Mautz, she is the CMO of Moz. And Christina, thanks so much for joining us.

Christina:  Hey, thanks for having me. I’m sitting here trying to figure out Thanksgiving. I got that on my head.

Matt:  I know, right? Well, so look, most of my family is outside of Seattle anyway. So we end up being at the table of five for Thanksgiving normally. I think this year we will almost certainly be doing that. But it’s never too early to plan. How many people? What are you going to eat? How you going to serve it? Where’s the plexiglass going to go between your kitchen and dining room? All those things.

Christina:  I think it’s a bring your own feast holiday this time, right? Everybody shows up with their own bottle, their own turkey, little plate of food. And yes, maybe masks and plexiglass.

Matt:  Even better. Just bring your own. Whatever you want to eat, just bring it yourself. You can stop at Taco Bell on the way. We’re not judging. You can do whatever you got to do. It’s 2020.

Well, speaking of 2020, I’m excited to have you on because I know that most of you know what Moz is. You may have heard of CO Moz back in the day. The leading SEO management tool platform on the market. And one of the reasons I want to have you on today, Christina, is that you guys have had one of the best user conferences I’ve ever seen for years. It’s sort of a combination of user conference, learning opportunity, and Woodstock. It really is a tribe getting together and just living in community for a week in the summer in Seattle. That was all true this year except for the getting together part. So I know it was a big decision for you guys to take sort of a strong asset for the company and brand and take it totally online. And a lot of companies have been through that this year. But talk a little bit about when those conversations started and how you decided to take it online. And what were some of the factors that helped you decide, “I think we can do this and do it well.”

Christina:  Sure, yes. So first, for those of you who don’t know Moz Con, it is such a neat experience, and it’s not just for our customers. So it is a big part of who we are. It’s a part of what the community expects from Moz. It’s this great learning environment, but also just a lot of fun. The people get together, and they enjoy every single night. We have different events ad parties and opportunities to get to know people in the space and other marketers. And so when we were faced with the fact that it just couldn’t happen the way it’s happened in the past, honestly for a bit we froze. Like there were those few days early on when we were in this wait and see mode. We had started to see events get canceled. This was in the spring. We’re talking early, like March, April. Our event was planned for right after the Fourth of July, and we were in this place where the governor had not yet said that large scale events would be banned for that month because everyone was in a wait and see position.

And as any of you know who run big events, you sign these contracts like years in advance. So we were on the hook for some really hefty fees if we just went ahead and canceled and decided to do it online. But ultimately just shy of the governor’s order, we decided we had to do this. We needed to create a safe environment for our customers and for our community, and that meant that regardless of what happened in the state, we felt like we could not responsibly do it live. So just about, and it probably would’ve been early April, we made the decision. We were very fortunate that right after we started planning, the governor did make that decision to ban the large scale events. COVID had continued to increase, the cases in the state of Washington where we’re at.

About two and a half months before we held the event, we made the decision to completely pivot to an online virtual event before a lot of companies were doing this. We didn’t have a lot of learning from others to lean on.

Matt:  Well, you guys were one of the first to make that decision. I mean, clearly, you made it before you had to. But then it became very clear that was a really good idea. But then I know you also had to make decisions about what exactly would Moz Con be, what would you try to replicate, and what things would you not try to pull off? So you got really smart internally about being crisp about what you were going to do and what things you were going to explicitly not do versus trying to do too many things. Talk about that process of figuring that out and how that ended up.

Christina:  Definitely. So I want to admit that we started so creative. We’re marketers. We got together. We’re like, “Okay. If we’re going to do this online, we’re going to do this big. We’re going to do all this gamification. We’re going to send snacks to everybody and swag to everybody.” And Matt, you and I talked at that time, and I was like, “Oh, what are all these great ideas?” And we came up with so many great ideas. And then we had an incredible learning opportunity in our space. There was another really major provider that tried to do a big event, and I think they were probably trying to do it big, and they switched on a dime. Their event was in April, and the morning of the event was supposed to be a… I believe it was supposed to be a three-day event. At 5:00 AM, they sent an email out to all registered attendees, including us, that the event was canceled. They literally couldn’t pull it off, and that hit home for me. I was like, “Wow. That would be the worst possible experience for everyone looking forward to this event.”

So we regrouped, my team and I, and we got really crisp. We thought, “Okay. What is it that people really come to Moz Con for?” And regardless of all of the fringe opportunities of fun and community, we thought what they really come for is superior content. And so we made that our absolute north star. We would focus as much attention as possible on that content, which meant primarily confirming our existing speakers who were already planning to participate in the live event and/or convincing some of them. This is a very different experience for them.

And then from there it became easier. Since we knew we were focused on content, it became all about how can we create the most amazing experience where the content is solid as it always is? We always do a lot of work around vetting content and working with our speakers on making sure they’re presenting something that’s unique and really special for our attendees. So now we said how can we make sure that also plays really well online? How can we create a virtual experience around that content so that people can engage with speakers and ask questions? That’s something they don’t get to do in person.

So we put a lot of focus on that, and having that singular focus turned out really well for us. We ended up having more than twice as many attendees we usually get. We usually basically landlocked by the size of the conference center space that we have in Seattle. So we ended up with about 1500 people a year, and we sell out every year. We had more than twice as many attendees even though we had only about a quarter of the time to promote the event than we usually do because we start way in advance to promote. So we were working with 25% of the time to promote. But we got double the amount of attendees.

We usually get participation from about 20-25 different countries. We had 49 different countries represented. We thought a lot about that and tried to figure out should we do something special for the different time zones? But the reality is that it would’ve added a layer of complexity that probably would’ve blown up the agenda. So instead we prerecorded and we made sure everybody had access to the videos as soon as they went live here. So that if somebody wanted to watch them later, they could. But interestingly enough, we had quite a large group that was watching even though it was the middle of the night for them wherever they were. So yeah, it was astounding.

Matt:  Sounds amazing. Well, I love the theme of less is more. Difficult sometimes to od in the moment because of what an event like Moz Con has always been. But I think clearly makes it a lot easier to get the things that are most important, focus on those, and get those right. And as you guys planned and pulled this off, there were a lot of companies that were also doing bigger events, lots of webinars and other online events. Talk about the week of the show and how did people engage? How did people interact? What was the feedback from the event once you pulled it off?

Christina:  Mm-hmm. Well, we felt really fortunate. We made some decisions that paid off for us. So one of those was to prerecord most of the sessions but also have some live sessions because we wanted people to still get that sense of energy that you get from getting to engage with each other and with speakers and with others. So during the week, we had the prerecorded sessions on an agenda. Now I do want to say we had a bit of an epic fail on our messaging because we had focused so much on talking about it’s a virtual event. We hadn’t realized we were using a lot of words that made people think it was going to all be live, and so when people first started engaging with the content, the very first speaker was our CEO Sarah Bird. And she had prerecorded like everyone else, and we start running her recording. But then she’s online to answer questions live. But people started realizing, “Wait a minute, is this a video,” because they could stop it. They could pause it. They could rewind so to speak. And we had a little bit of backlash at first. Like, “What? This isn’t live? I thought this was live.”

But then what happened, it was quite incredible. Sarah’s online and she’s like, “Yeah, no. I’m not talking to you live, but I’m here live. Do you have questions for me?” And when people realized they could sit and ask questions of our CEO right there and she’s answering them in real time, the energy completely changed and people got onboard. And as the event continued to have these amazing influencers in our industry, their video is running, and they’ve created often original research that they worked on for months on using a lot of Moz for really incredible quality data. So a lot of our researchers will pull the data into new research to help SEO professionals and marketers better understand how to do their job in new and interesting and different ways to have greater impact.

So their videos are running, and they’re right there to answer questions. And the attendees got so excited that they got to interact directly with the speakers, and the speakers loved it because they were getting real time feedback. So they’re able to see when people had questions or didn’t understand or wanted more. So that interspersed with some actual live sessions that we call Birds of a Feather. They were something we ported over from our in-person event. We used to always do these at lunch time. Birds of a Feather tables, people enjoying and have real live conversations. And instead of doing the maybe half a dozen we would typically do, we did more than a dozen on every day with all different topics. And people would jump into basically a breakout session where they have smaller, more intimate conversations. We limited it to 50 attendees for each of those. They had to sign up for them, and it was obviously included in the ticket price. So that combination of prerecorded content and recorded content, we got incredibly great feedback on it.

Overall, our event, we had… Gosh, forgive me, Matt. I can’t believe I don’t have these statistics right in front of me. I know I shared them with you previously. But we had a very high percentage. It was in the high 80% of people saying that they would recommend the event, that they would come again. So we are very excited about how what was received, to the point that even if COVID does not restrict us next summer, it’s possible that we might do both, an in-person and another virtual event because it was so well received.

Matt:  Yeah. Now definitely want to talk more about that after the break. We got to take a quick break here, pay some bills. We’ll be back with more with Christina from Moz. We’re going to talk about other lessons learned, plan for next year, implications for other marketers planning their 2021 events. We’ll be right back on Sales Pipeline Radio.

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Paul:  And back to Matt and his guest.

Matt:  Thank you, Paul. We’re talking about Thanksgiving planning and 2021 planning here on Sales Pipeline Radio with our guest Christina Mautz. She’s the CMO of Moz, and we’re talking about Moz Con, how it went this year going completely virtual. And I think you were just talking before the break about moving into next year. And I think, Christina, that we’re going to see a lot of events that are no longer either/or. It’s no longer going to be like, “Well, we do it in-person or we do it digitally.” I think we’re going to see a lot more ands, a lot more companies look at that in a combined way. We don’t know how next year’s going to go entirely from a health standpoint. Even once health conditions clear up, I think we still have to assume it’s going to take some time for people to be comfortable getting on a plane and doing the travel they were doing before. So how does the success of Moz Con virtual this help you think about next year and the balance between in-person live and the integration of those efforts together?

Christina:  I think that what we’re going to keep from this year’s experience is definitely that focus on what is most meaningful to our community, which is superior content. So that was a win for us. We will get there faster than we did this year because we won’t go through that period of, “Oh, we have to do it all,” because we now realize that, especially in a virtual environment, what people need more than anything is super engaging content and a way to interact because that keeps them from that fatigue that a lot of people are getting online. If they can interact, they get energy from that. So that we will definitely bring into next year.

I think another thing that worked quite well and something that I strongly recommend for others who are trying to figure out how to take events online in a really safe way is to make sure you have a team dedicated to the event while the event is running. We have a tendency I think as marketers sometimes to think all the work goes into the planning. Now it’s ready when it’s an online event, like a webinar, something like that. You might have one or two people there, and you just say, “Go, now go run.” And the reality is that with a virtual event if you really want it to go off well, you also need to create a very safe environment for your speakers and for your attendees. And that means making sure that every session has a moderator, at least one.

We actually had three on every session, people moderating the chat. And we were watching for things like inappropriate comments. At Moz, we very much prioritize diversity and inclusivity, and making sure that we foster a safe environment. We do that at our in-person event, and we want to do that also when we’re online. So we made sure that every attendee also knew that we have basically rules of conduct standard that we require. So everybody knew that if they broke those rules of conduct, there are consequences. You get a warning. If you do it a second time, you actually would be kicked off the platform with no refund.

And we were very thankful we didn’t have to kick anybody off the platform. We did have to give a couple warnings, and the warnings for us were for attendees who were trying to sales pitches. So that’s when you have to really watch out for in a virtual experience is that you’ll have attendees who think, “Oh wow, this is a great opportunity for me to reach potential customers.” And it is but not in that way. You don’t want them messaging your other attendees in a way that feels uncomfortable for the other attendees. So things like that, making sure that you have the right team is something we are going to definitely take into next year.

We also are looking at what a lot of other events are doing now. There’s been more time. So other companies had more time than we had, and they’re doing some really interesting things. We’re seeing more online platforms be developed with features that encourage engagement in ways that didn’t exist or that we weren’t able to find when we were planning Moz Con Virtual. And we also are seeing more stability across the online platforms. So we might try doing more live sessions next year. We’ll have to look at that. Part of the reason we didn’t do the whole event live was we were too concerned about the technology crashing and attendees not having a good experience.

Matt:  Just a couple more minutes here with our guest, the CMO of Moz, and really want to thank Christina. Thank you for your candor and openness about sort of making this pivot, what worked, the things you guys found that were important, and implications for next year. In a couple minutes, we have… Well, let’s just take a quick pivot into culture. I know that for Moz Con for your customers, maintaining a community and really actively fostering a culture of diversity and openness and creativity within that culture is important. I know it’s an important inside of Moz as well. I mean, you guys have consistently been ranked one of the best places to work in Seattle. You’ve got a vibrant employee community. You’ve got an amazing office space in downtown Seattle as well. What are some of the keys you’ve found to helping manage and maintain that culture and connectedness of employees when all of a sudden everyone’s dispersed full-time working from home?

Christina:  Well, I think we were fortunate in that we always had a remote friendly environment. So it wasn’t this huge change for us. It was still big that suddenly everybody’s at home. But what we really did was just stay true to our culture. We had culture principles that are called TAGFEE. It’s an acronym. Transparency, accountability, generosity, fun, empathy, and expertise. And we just thought, “Okay. The same way we did Moz Con online, how do you take that online?” And so we did all of the same things that others are doing, like make sure we’re touching base with all of our teams very regularly. Lots of Zoom calls. We are using Zoom. We’re a Slack company, so tons of conversations on Slack.

But what we also did is that we have a very special team at Moz called Team Happy, and it is their job literally to think of how to bring that culture alive and how to make sure that it is sustained in times like this. And they have just, every week, they surprise us with something new. Sometimes it’s fun little online quizzes. You have to choose things that are most like you and find out what TV character you’re like or you share experiences from your youth, you share recipes. We do BINGO together and online charades. We’ve done some really fun stuff. What it has done is it’s kept us all connected as people and not just as productive professionals.

Matt:  I love that concept of the Team Happy, and I think companies big and small have an opportunity to sort of inject a little bit of that. And it’s amazing to me, I mean, just having talked to a lot of CMOs this year and a lot of companies that sort of managing this remote work force, how important it is to maintain that sense of fun, maintain that sense of community and take the time and effort to do that, to maintain connectiveness, to maintain a sense of connection to the company, to your work, to your teammates, and to maintain productivity as well.

Well, I know we are out of time today, but thank you so much, Christina, for joining us today and sharing more about Moz. If people want to check out on demand version of Moz Con Virtual from this year, learn more about what’s coming up, just generally engage in the SEO community you guys have built, what are the best place for people to go?

Christina:  If you just go to moz.com, do a search on our blog for Moz Con, you will find links to how you can purchase the videos if you’re interesting in checking out. And then otherwise, we just have a ton of free content and free training if you just want to learn more about SEO.

Matt:  Love it. Well, thank you so much for that. We’ll put some of those links into our show notes, and we’ll make sure we get that out to folks. But we got to wrap up for today. I got to go start working on my Thanksgiving menu apparently. Actually no, Paul, I don’t. We’re just going to tell people to stop at Taco Bell, bring it on home, it’ll all be fine. Thanks so much for joining us for another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. On behalf of my great producer, Paul, this is Matt Heinz. We’ll see you next time.

Paul:  And with that, we wrap up another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio right here on the Funnel Radio Channel for at work listeners like you.

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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.