AI is generating a lot of buzz in the marketing sphere—but is it really worth the hype? In this episode we pull back the curtain on AI, explore its strengths and limitations, and consider how it can help arts marketers meet their goals more efficiently.
IN THIS EPISODEErik and Meghan talk about HubSpot's experimentation in Medium, Messenger apps, podcasts and many other outlets, and what arts organizations can learn from these experiments. They also discuss lessons she’s learned from managing a large team and the importance of giving tough feedback. This episode is full of useful marketing tips and strategic takeaways for arts administrators.
Erik Gensler: Welcome to CI to Eye. I’m Erik Gensler. I’m an entrepreneur, an arts marketer, and on a lifelong quest to learn and grow personally and professionally. In this podcast, I interview leaders and thinkers inside an outside of arts marketing to understand how we can grow to be the best we can be. My goal: to see eye to eye.
I sat down with superstar marketer, Meghan Keaney Anderson, who is the vice President of marketing at HubSpot. HubSpot is a software company, but you may know them from their incredible blog posts on marketing, sales and leadership or their other stellar content across the internet. Just Google any marketing topic, and I bet they come up among the first listings on Google. When you look up permission marketing in the dictionary, you may just see a picture of HubSpot or Meghan because in her role, she leads the team that creates all this awesome content and markets, HubSpot’s products. She has a lot of great advice for arts organizations.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: All of us who are working in widget companies and software and technology who are interested in our particular topics. But to have the caliber of and the potential of content that arts organizations have at their fingertips and to not do anything about that is criminal. And so I would tell them to go find the stories because they’ve got a ton of ’em.
Erik Gensler: Meghan’s team of 20 content strategists get to experiment and test more channels than most arts marketers could ever dream about. So we talked about their experiments in medium messenger apps, podcasts, AB testing, and many other outlets. We also talked about lessons she’s learned from managing a large team and the importance of giving tough feedback. I learned a ton talking to Meghan and hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: I’m psyched to be here. Thanks for having me.
Erik Gensler: Yeah, we loved having you at our Boot Camp a few years ago. People at Capacity still talk about that session.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: That was honestly one of the better events that I’ve been to in my adult career. There was something really cool about the setting and the people that were there and the topics that were covered. It just felt unique, and I’ve been to a lot of marketing focused events, so I have fond memories of Boot Camp.
Erik Gensler: We appreciate you saying that. We try to make it very feel theatrical. It’s a bunch of theater and arts folks, so we work pretty hard on finding the right speakers and then making it feel like a theatrical event. So
Meghan Keaney Anderson: Yeah, it succeeded.
Erik Gensler: Oh, thank you. You’re the vice president of marketing at HubSpot. For the folks that don’t know, can you talk a bit about what is HubSpot, what the company does, and what your role is there?
Meghan Keaney Anderson: The short answer is that HubSpot is a software platform that people can use to build their website, market their business. There’s a free CRM they can use for their sales operations, but more than that beyond the software, HubSpot sort of espouses this idea of what we call inbound, which is a recognition that no one likes to be marketed to, nobody likes to be sold to. And so we try to throw that on its head and instead of really aggressively going after people, try instead to create content that people can really love that will pull them into your brand and into your company to be helpful rather than harass on sales calls. And so I like to think of us as being at the intersection of a technology and a philosophy of how to grow your business.
Erik Gensler: So how does a company make that switch from interruptive marketing to more inbound marketing? Does it have to be something that’s done all at once? Can they ramp up? How have you seen that work?
Meghan Keaney Anderson: Yeah, in fact, we see that most companies who are actually truly transforming the approach that they take to marketing, they do ramp up. It’s not like no one likes to cold Turkey cutover, and frankly, we do advertising at HubSpot for our own company, and we try to make those ads as interesting and content based as possible, but there is a healthy mix of all sorts of different types of marketing. So what we try to work with companies in doing is helping them to ramp up on content and this style of marketing in a way that helps to make the changeover a little bit more smoothly. The nice thing about what we call inbound marketing is it tends to be far less expensive than buying billboards or placing ads. So your time investment is really your resource investment. It tends to be a lot more affordable, and so that makes it a little bit easier to swallow.
Erik Gensler: I call it permission marketing. Is there a difference between inbound marketing and permission marketing, or is it the same thing?
Meghan Keaney Anderson: Not at the heart. I mean, I think that inbound marketing really we learned from Seth Godin and some of the greats around, no one should feel forced. This really should be an act of gaining permission and to start a relationship and then continuing to earn that permission again and again and again. So I think of the two as fairly interchangeable.
Erik Gensler: Tell me a little bit about your role and your team at HubSpot.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: Yeah, sure. So at HubSpot, I run really two teams kind of at different ends of the spectrum. One team is the team that really is deep into the product, and we talk about product positioning and taking new software to market, big product launches, that sorts of thing. The other end of the spectrum though, is the content team. And the content team actually doesn’t talk about our product very much at all, and that’s kind of the whole point of inbound. Instead, the content team’s focus is on how do we run a journalistic operation, whether it be in text or video or animation or graphics that is going to create content that people are going to want to discover. And so I run a team of bloggers and podcasters, multimedia producers, writers, designers, the full gamut.
Erik Gensler: I think I found out about HubSpot through your content marketing even now. It’s amazing the breadth of things that you guys write about, and I’m interested to dig into how you determine what that is. But I think it was a long time ago where I was probably looking up something around SEO or email and you can’t help but come across really well-written marketing strategy articles by HubSpot.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: Thank you. That’s nice to hear that. Honestly, it’s how most people discover us. We have the universe of people who consume HubSpot content is far greater than the universe of people who are or whoever will be our customers. And we think about that as if you think about your business or your organization as like the castle, then we think about that larger audience around that castle as our moat, and it’s that moat that is going to protect us and fortify us and make sure that the castle sort of stands for years to come because we have this broadening audience that’s drawn into our content. The way that we think about how to reach them is no different than really new shop or a journalist shop itself would think about it. So we study our audience. We have interviews with them, we kind of understand their persona.
We try to write topics that we think that they would care about, and then we look really closely at the data about how well that those topics are doing, where the interests seem to be navigating to. And we’ve honestly changed and evolved over time. So we used to be one very clear example is we used to publish a lot more than we do today. And that was because we found that every time we put a piece of content out there, it was great. That piece of content would get found in search and there would be traffic back to our site. And so we were like, well, if one piece of content does that, then what about a hundred? What a thousand pieces of content? And we just sort of pushed ourselves to see how much content we could create on a given topic. And that was kind of how content marketing started. But search engines have gotten a lot smarter, and as content has sort of grown across the universe of the internet, it’s gotten much more important to create not high volumes of content, but really high quality content. And so we’ve actually scaled back the volume of content we’re creating and instead focus on how do we create the most compelling piece on the internet for a given topic.
Erik Gensler: I mean, that makes so much sense because what you’re really looking for is that credibility. So someone will give you their email address to get more or a social follow or that next step. So that credibility piece makes a lot of sense.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: And what we call a conversion. So somebody consumes a piece of content and then they kind of raise their hand to get more information. That conversion moment has changed as well. It used to just be that the only conversion was a form, so you fill out a form to subscribe to the blog or to get more information from HubSpot, but now there’s all sorts of conversions. There’s engaging with us on Facebook Messenger or using our website chat or subscribing or sharing or interacting with a piece of content. So we’re starting to diversify not just the types of content we create, but also the different paths into our company.
Erik Gensler: And I’m sure that opens up a lot of doors for getting the technical pieces in line to track those conversions.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: Yeah, absolutely.
Erik Gensler: So you mentioned some of these projects like Messenger. I’d love to dig into some of the projects you’ve recently worked on that you’re excited about. I’m hearing a lot about messaging for marketers like Facebook. What have you been learning about that?
Meghan Keaney Anderson: We are fortunate enough to be able to experiment when the new channel comes out. We can dive in, try it out, look at the numbers, see, see what it turns into. Not every company or team is big enough or has enough resources to do that, and I understand that. But Messenger, we really saw something that reminded us of the early days of permission-based marketing, the early days of inbound, which is this idea that it’s focusing on that one-to-one interaction that one-to-one conversation. And there was something about that that we really liked. And so we wanted to see, well, how do we use this in a way that is helpful for people? And again, kind of the antithesis of a blast email that is more personalized and nuanced. We tried a couple of different things with messaging. The first thing we tried was can we deliver content in Messenger and does that content do better than email?
We also tried when we have events, can we use Messenger to pull in engagement from the audience and can we leverage Messenger and ads together so that an ad doesn’t send you to a cold form an ad instead opens up a conversation with our company over Messenger. And by and large, what we found at the end of all of these results was that the engagement rate was higher and the ultimate conversion into an opportunity for our business was higher as well. And there’s a couple different reasons for that. One is that messaging is novel, right? So the higher engagement rates could just be because it’s new and people are not as inundated as they are with email, for example. So that’s one reason, and you can’t discount that. But the other reason is that Messenger interactions on Messenger can kind of bend around the person a little bit more, and there’s an immediacy to it where you’re catching them in that moment where they’re actually thinking about your organization, your business, and you’re kind of completing the interaction there as opposed to, oh, I’ll sign up and you can send me an email a week from now when I’m not thinking about it.
So there’s an immediacy and a fulfillment to engaging on Messenger that we just don’t get in other channels.
Erik Gensler: So how would an organization start doing that? It would require setting someone on the other end of that to respond to the volume of messages, using it as a call to action perhaps on say, Facebook posts. What else? Just to get in the weeds here.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: A small organization’s best friend in the world of getting into Messenger is bots. Bots and messenger go hand in hand, peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheese. And the reason they go hand in hand is because bots help you scale that interaction. So first of all, you want to solve a problem. So let’s say you are an arts organization and you tend to get the same questions again and again and again about your upcoming season instead of manning someone to pick up every one of those you can actually build without any technical skill. Now because it’s gotten really easy, and I can talk about a couple of different options after that for how you can do it, but without any technical skill, you can build a bot that can scan your source material and have a conversation for you with the inquirer and deliver tailored results to those questions. So there are all sorts of different companies that can help you very simply build a bot and program a bot to solve your unique problem or challenge. Motion AI is one of them that we use internally at HubSpot, and it’s just a choose your own adventure model of building out the most common interactions you have and putting an artificially intelligent thought against that. Is that too in the weeds? Does that make sense?
Erik Gensler: No, not at all. I think that’s perfect and it’s great that you gave a resource there. So we could probably talk about this a lot more, but we should move on to some other ideas. I’m curious to talk about the podcast series that you launched. I have to say I’ve not listened, but I’ve been very tempted by what you’re talking about. So I’d love to learn what drew you to podcasts, what you talk about, and maybe some of the things you’ve learned.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: So what drew us to podcasting was that there was an audience that we were having the hard time reaching. So our blog reaches marketing managers, people who are actively trying to educate themselves. They have time in their day to do that. They’re researching online, they’re coming across our content. Podcasts for us was an opportunity to reach someone whose schedule we previously couldn’t crack, and that was the executive who’s not going to have time to sit down and read an article who’s not going to watch a YouTube video, who’s certainly not engaging with us on social media, but man, if she has a commute in the morning, she could be listening to podcasts. And so we tried it out as an interview style show. And the nice thing about all of these about podcasting and Messenger and every kind of new channel that we tried this year is they’re sort of like the low end commitment that you can do from a resource standpoint, and then you can go all the way up and get very, very fancy. We wanted to keep it simple. We started with a very straightforward q and a using Skype initially and some recording and just started getting guests that we were interested in and seeing how it did.
And then that’s kind of grown over the years so that the podcast that we have is called the Growth Show, and we interview business leaders and minds that we think are the most interesting on how to grow a business, how to grow your career, how to grow yourself. It’s kind of with that same theme.
Erik Gensler: That’s really smart that you thought about that. And it’s interesting since we’ve launched this podcast, I’m starting to hear from a lot more executive directors that say, oh, I’ve been listening to your podcast. So I never really thought of it like that, but that’s really interesting.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: Yeah, it’s all about fitting into people’s lives. And so for many people, the podcast is a perfect way to consume content in the very short moments that you have that are free, whether you’re cleaning your house or commuting or listening at work, it is a way to access people and to give them something of value.
Erik Gensler: Yeah, that’s cool. What did you learn, just any lessons learned about things may have gone wrong that you maybe would’ve done differently?
Meghan Keaney Anderson: Totally, yeah. So we attacked the podcast with the same approach that we took to launching any other kind of content. So we were like, all right, this is great. We’ll launch the podcast, we’re going to promote it on social media. We’re going to write a blog post and drag people back to the iTunes page. We had this whole promotional playbook and what we found, and maybe you guys have found this, it just didn’t work. Getting people to discover our podcast was, and honestly remains the hardest challenge of it. After a while, we got really good at the guests, we got really good at the content, but the discoverability remained a challenge. And the reason why things like social media promotion didn’t work was that you have to think about the mindset of somebody who’s listening to a podcast. No one is scanning Twitter and then decides, oh, you know what?
I have time for right now. I’m going to stop what I’m doing, switch put on my headphones and listen to this podcast. They’re in the zone. They’re in the moment of scanning Twitter. They’re not going to leave that experience. And so it was good from a brand awareness standpoint, but from actually getting people to listen to the shows kind of struggled. That doesn’t work, and that was a painful awakening for us. I’m guessing you want to hear what we have found that does work? Yeah. What did work on the flip side of that? And so for us, what worked, there were a couple of things that worked. The bottom line of all of them is that you have to promote your podcast when people are thinking about podcasts. So the first thing was partnerships and cross promotion. So actually similar to what we’re doing right now, you and I are having a conversation, I’m on your podcast, someone just discovered the growth show by listening to this.
And so maybe as they’re listening to yours, they’ll hop over and just kind of search for it in iTunes and add it to their queue. So those kind of get on other people’s podcasts, make partnerships. We have a partnership with The Moth, which is a storytelling podcast coming up this September where we’re hosting one of their events again, like-minded audiences. They’re all going to be in the mindset of listening to audio. Hopefully there’ll be some cross-promotion there. So that’s one thing is that partnership side of things. The second is leverage the guests that you have. So I’m so excited to be on this podcast. I love you guys. I loved your event a couple of years ago. I love that you work with arts institutions and nonprofits. So as soon as this episode comes out, I’m going to share the fact that I was on this podcast to my network. And so you want to choose guests certainly for the quality that they have, but also for their propensity to share and sort of the network that they can tap and you can grow it hand and fist that way.
Erik Gensler: It’s so funny. I mean, I’m just sitting here nodding about what you say, just of my own behavior of how I learn about podcasts, and it’s so true. I learn about podcasts by hearing those people interviewed on podcasts. Totally. And then I’ll find other podcasts that they’ve been interviewed on and end up liking those podcasts. So it really is the moment of podcasting makes you curious about it, not because you saw it in a social newsfeed necessarily.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: And I do think that all of this will change and evolve. I think that podcast has a serious discoverability problem right now, and that’s not always going to be the case. So the reason it has so many challenges with discoverability is frankly that the interface of iTunes is not that friendly to discovering new content, and that is predominantly the way that people listen to podcasts. Even though you can listen on Stitcher and radio public and all sorts of different places, I think we’re going to start to see more interfaces enter the fold. I think that’s going to put pressure on Apple to increase discoverability on their end, and I think that will all help. But for right now, it’s a lot of grassroots spreading the word.
Erik Gensler: Yeah, it’s funny. I was going to ask you what you think of networks like Stitcher.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: I’m a big fan of networks like Stitcher. I actually really, so I like Stitcher a lot. I really like radio public lately because they have basically librarians and they will compile hand-selected playlists of different podcasts based around a topic or a theme. And I think that’s just a nice way for people to discover new podcasts and to get introduced to new content.
Erik Gensler: That’s cool.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: One more thing before we move on. This is when I think about, again, any organization that’s in the art space, music, theater, anything that sort of falls in that line, podcasting to me seems like a natural fit even more so than messaging or some of the other channels that we may talk about. There’s a storytelling aspect there that is just a perfect fit for the format. I mean, look, my company sells software. That’s not all. I’m very excited about it, but that is nowhere near as exciting as a beautiful piece of theater or music or dance. And so the depth that you can get with podcasting to tell that story, I think for a little bit of upfront resource in terms of time and recording equipment worthwhile.
Erik Gensler: It’s so funny you say that when I was at New York City Opera really around the first wave of podcasting, which was around 2006, 2007, one of the first things I did was like, we need a podcast. And that’s how I sort of learned how to podcasting, got really interested in the medium. And the amazing thing at City Opera was we had to get the license for it, but all of our podcasts could start with gorgeous music about the opera that we were talking about. And it made these really rich episodes
Meghan Keaney Anderson: Unbelievable. And I think you have a lot more flexibility in terms of the formatting. So you could break out of the q and a and do something really interesting or different. It’s just such a creative space and this is a format that bends itself so well to that.
Erik Gensler: Totally. And there’s so many interesting people that are involved talking to directors or performers or lighting designers or dramaturgs. There’s just endless amounts of if you’re creating this for your loyalists, for your people who love the theater and you make it really good, I think it’s such a ripe medium for arts organizations. I totally agree.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: And back on the partnerships thing, there’s also, I think there are inherent partnerships in arts organizations. And so to be able to cross promote your podcast on, if you’re a ballet and you can cross promote with a theater or cross promote with an orchestra, I think that works really well too.
Erik Gensler: Totally. Or even interview if you’re in the city, say you’re in a small city and you’re the theater, interview someone in the symphony and then have them promote it for you. Exactly. And you get that amazing cross promotion. I love that. Yeah. I know you guys are doing a lot with live video and we’re seeing Facebook just giving tremendous free reach to live video. I’m curious, why do you think Facebook is doing this and how you recommend marketers use live video?
Meghan Keaney Anderson: Yeah, I think that Facebook and Google via YouTube are very much in a head-to-head battle over who’s going to get all of the eyes for viewership. And video is just better at extending the duration of someone’s eyes on your site than any other type of content. So that’s why they’re both going after it with such a force. Live video has a pulse to it that, again, we’ll pull people in a moment. There’s an urgency to it. And so Facebook in particular has really, really tipped the scales when it comes to the weight that they put on live video. So I’ll give you an example there. So when you log into Facebook, obviously you see the newsfeed and there’s a certain algorithm that determines what shows up on a given person’s newsfeed. And we’ve done experiments at HubSpot where we do a produced video. So that’s something that we put a ton of work time and polish into.
We had a sound person, we had animation, we did a ton of editing on it and took us ages and we pitted that in a similar topic against just a live video where we just recorded it in the moment on an iPhone and certainly made the content very good, but it didn’t have the same production quality. And the live video got far and above the reach that the produced video did. And that’s because Facebook, at least for now, is favoring it. And so whenever there’s a live video, the algorithm makes sure that more people see it, which is pretty good if you’ve got a low budget. So I don’t know that it’s always going to be the case, but if you’ve got no budget whatsoever and you’ve got somebody on your team has an iPhone, I would lean heavily into to live video and streaming.
Erik Gensler: Absolutely. Yeah. It’s interesting that you watch what Facebook is giving more reach to and do that. I mean, now that it’s just such a powerful channel through which we consume whatever they serve to us.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: Yeah, it’s a little scary. There’s two companies right now that own the vast majority of our viewership, and it’s Google and Facebook, and we’re sort of starting to see all these different channels and platforms start to coalesce into one or two really big sources of entertainment.
Erik Gensler: And because these companies are so big, they buy or copy anything that gets in their way. A year ago, I would’ve been asking you about Snapchat. Totally, yeah. Now it’s been consumed by Instagram stories.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: Snapchat is an interesting company. I think that they’re going to pivot and do some other things. But yeah, I mean, when you’re dealing with a set of features that can very quickly become commoditized and just become the new way that we engage with content, and yeah, it’s tough to be a solo company going against Facebook.
Erik Gensler: We just did a big study of 25,000 live event ticket buyers across 60 organizations, and it’s this massive data set, and we just are in the initial stages of doing the analysis. One thing that has really jumped out to me is when you slice and dice social media usage by platform, by age, Snapchat is like people 18 to 24, it’s 62% penetration, but once you get under, sorry, over 24, it drops down to 28% penetration. And then once you get over 35, it’s 9%. So really, I really thought, I think where Snapchat was seeing that growth was the same way Facebook saw the growth, which was in people in their thirties and people in their forties, but that’s just not happening with Snapchat now.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: Yeah. I still hear younger team members at HubSpot still drawing the delineation between the two. So they’re still using Snapchat for very personal shares when they want the privacy and they only want certain people to see it. They use Snapchat and they use Instagram stories for more broader appeal. Anybody in the world can follow this and see it. And that to them still seems like an important distinction. It’s just not one that seems to have the same value when you move off the demographics in terms of age.
Erik Gensler: Yeah, that’s interesting. I want to talk about Medium, which is something I know that you all publish on as well. And I think for some marketers, it’s hard to understand why they would use Medium, because we’re always told to get people to our website and especially for organizations with very limited resources, why not just blog? Why would I use Medium?
Meghan Keaney Anderson: So we struggled with this too. And Medium also started as an experiment at HubSpot, which was like, let’s dive in and see if we can launch a publication on this thing. See what it does. And for us, we learned two very important things about Medium, and the publication there is called Think Growth. You can find email@example.com, but we learned two things. The first is that the rules for winning on Medium are very different than the rules for winning on a blog on your own site. And I’ll kind of touch base on that in just a moment. And then the other thing though, which is the reason we’re still doing it is when we looked at the people who were following our medium publication and we cross-referenced that with the people who were in our database from viewing our HubSpot blog or otherwise being on hubspot.com, only 10% of the people who were following us on media were in our existing database, and 90% were brand new to us.
And so for us, again, it was a way of using this social graph to find new audiences that we hadn’t previously tapped. And to be honest, we’ve been in business for 10 plus years and we didn’t think there were new people out there. We honestly thought we tapped the audience, we had everybody. And then when we started publishing on Medium, we realized, no, there’s a whole world out there that we haven’t touched. And so back to the original point about how winning on Medium was different than winning on our site, what we found is that there’s really two different playbooks. The playbook we were using on our blog on our site was search. So write content that we think people are searching for, topics that we think that they care about, terms that we think that they care about, and the things that have the highest search value end up doing the best.
On our onsite blog on Medium, almost none of the views on our medium content was driven by search. It was all driven by recommends and peer shares. And so not just the number of people who recommended your content, but who recommended it. That is how it, again, it’s an algorithm thing for what shows up on the homepage of Medium or the home screen of Medium. We found we had one post that EV Williams recommended and didn’t have a very search engine optimized title. It didn’t have anything. It was a thought leadership post. It wasn’t an SEO post, and it did phenomenally well. And of course, that’s EV Williams, he’s very well known, has a lot of followers. But we have since found that for all sorts of different people, and they’re not necessarily your biggest names or your biggest brands, sometimes they’re just people who have a lot of cadence, have a lot of credibility on Medium itself. So a medium, it was really about how do you write opinion pieces, opinion pieces do much better on medium than they do on our home blog that will capture the imagination of the right people and optimize for people not for page views.
Erik Gensler: So we talked about a number of platforms that I don’t think most arts organizations with the size of marketing departments could afford to be on all of them. And it’s really awesome to get to talk to you because you do have the size of a team and the resources to try all these different things out. I had a interview recently with a very successful business owner, and for years he was like, we’re only doing Facebook and email. And he built his entire incredibly successful business on Facebook and email. And it wasn’t until last week that they even joined Instagram because he’s so obsessed with focusing. I’m just curious of your thoughts on that. If you’re a small team, how do you figure out what metrics you use to decide where to really focus your energies and not get distracted?
Meghan Keaney Anderson: So I actually admire that focus, and I think that’s probably the right call for most organizations that are on the smaller side. But the question then is, well, how do you decide what that one or two channels that you really focus on are? So we set up around 80% of what we do. 80% of our is focused on growing our primary channels, but then we always kind of carve off a 20% for experimenting in something new and we time box it. So everything that I mentioned, podcast medium using messaging apps, live streaming, they all started as a 20% experiment where we were just like, all right, let’s build a team. Let’s put a couple of people on this, have them play around in it and see if they learned anything. And let’s have them do that for three months. And at the end of the three months we decide is there something here, or do we just call that a good lesson learned and we move on to the next thing we want to experiment with? And I do think that you can do that kind of experimentation without losing focus on the core drivers of your business or of your growth.
And it allows you to sort of not get stuck resting on your laurels when I mean, that could be a huge opportunity, is percolating and coming up.
Erik Gensler: I think that is such great advice. Thanks. Yeah. I’d love to turn the page, pun intended, to an article you recently wrote about great copywriting. I thought it was such a well-written article. And I’d love for you to share just some tips on great copywriting. I think no matter what channel you’re working in, how you write is really important.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: I’m obsessed with really good copy. I think that there’s an art to it. I mean, I think your audience can understand that. And the best copywriting evokes a feeling more than it evokes an observation or an action or anything like that. It’s not necessarily about the story, it’s about the way that story made the world look and the way that that story made the person feel. And so if you can incorporate that into your writing that helps guide your way for copy. Now that’s easy to say, and that’s sort of artsy and vague to say. And so then you kind of look for examples of that. So I think in that article, one of the examples that I called out was ad copy from Nike actually. And the ad copy from Nike, it had this very simple block of texts and it was about running. It said, run from your bills, run from mortgages, run from work, run from routine. And it went through all the things that as you’re jogging, you’re running. And as you get to the end of that paragraph, you realize that all the different things you’re talking about are starting to fade away, even just in the —
Erik Gensler: That’s brilliant.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: Just in the sentence structure. So at the end, you’re just left with that word run, run, run. And so you’re taking the person through that experience of actually losing all of the clutter around the word and just hearing the rhythm of running. So I thought that one was masterfully done, and I think that anytime you can evoke a feeling in addition to a message, you win.
Erik Gensler: Right. We actually shared that copywriting article in our email newsletter today. Oh, cool. Thank you so much. Yeah, hopefully you get a lot of clicks from it. Any other tips on great writing or should people just go to the article?
Meghan Keaney Anderson: I mean, you could go to the article. I think the thing is know your strengths if you know what it is that you stand for. At HubSpot, we try in all of our copywriting to evoke the tone of HubSpot, which again goes back to what I was saying in the beginning around being helpful, being human, not being an untechnical technology company and really focusing on relationships. And that is our tone. So whenever we go to write and we sit down to do that, we try to evoke that tone, make people feel that.
Erik Gensler: That’s great. So we talked about a lot of channels, and many of those are ultimately driving people back to your website to get a leader take an action. We talked earlier about what those conversion activities are, and in our universe, we see a lot of our clients are really starting to do more and more testing on certain things. So they’ll test email subject lines, or they’ll test two different sets of banners against each other, but very little focus on landing page optimization. So I’m curious about learning how you guys look at landing page optimization, how often you’re running tests, what you test, and if there’s anything that you can share with us.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: Yeah, we are testing all the time. We have ongoing tests that are running that help us make landing pages even just a little bit better. And we’re testing things like the copy on the page, we’re testing, speaking of good copywriting, we’re testing things like the headline, what we’re trying to rank for in search, we’re testing things like the actual conversion. So one of the tests that we ran this year was, alright, well, we know that forms are kind of this thing that stops someone in their path. And from our own experience, we know that that can be disruptive. If we’re reading something and we’re excited about it, we don’t want to stop and fill out a form, but on the business side, we need that form conversion in order to know who this person is and what they care about. And so we tested things like, well, what if instead of having the form be right up in front of the offer, the content that they’re trying to get as a blocker, what if we allow them to have half the content and then added a form halfway down to finish it, sort of like the way that New York Times does with its content.
And then we tested that for a while and then we added another layer to it where we said, all right, what if we got rid of the form altogether, but at the base of that page of content, we had ACTA to talk to somebody on our sales team and a phone number there. Could we get enough of a bump in traffic to make up for the fact that we didn’t have a form on that page? And so those are the types of experiments we’re running all the time to figure out how can we reduce friction on this page to enough of an extent where it’s a better experience for the visitor and it still leads to our end goals as a business.
Erik Gensler: I read an article once that was really so much against putting things behind email signup walls and saying, it’s just better to get the traffic to your site and just give away the content. It’s sort of out of the Buddhist say that, but have you guys thought about that at all, if it’s —
Meghan Keaney Anderson: Totally, yeah. Yeah, we think about that all the time. Again, I think that the way that people interact with businesses are starting to change. And what we’ve discovered, and I actually wish I had the, maybe I can send this over to you for your email newsletter, but I wish I had the actual numbers. We’ve done some testing where we stack rank a form conversion versus we have a onsite chat chat on our website versus no form and just having a phone number on the site, which of these conversion options lead to a higher number of customers for us? And I think the short answer is you kind of need to have a mix. It’s really easy to say, okay, forms are old school and it’s all about X now, or it’s all about Y. Now what we found is you need to give people choice. So there are going to be some things that a form is actually the best thing to use, the best mechanism to use in that case, it’s going to have the best results, it’s going to be the best experience for people on the site.
And then you’re going to have other pieces of content where a forum is really disruptive and you want to pull the form out even at the cost of those upfront conversions. It’ll help you down the line with brand. So I’ve always been like, I’ve never been a fan of stepping out there and saying all or nothing absolutism, this is the future and this is dead. I do think that the organizations and the businesses of the future need to have more of a mix of different conversion types on their site. So it’s not all about forms.
Erik Gensler: That’s a great answer. And nothing’s a monolith. Everyone has different experiences. Doing a little bit of a number of things makes so much sense.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: Although, and I found that true, my favorite saying in the world is a hundred percent of absolutist are assholes. Just like you have to know your audience, you have to know the mix that’s going to work for both your organization and for the experience you want to create on your site. And most of my life, I’ve found that it is a blend, a diverse range that makes the right difference there.
Erik Gensler: That’s cool. So we talked around medium with the idea of acquiring new people, and I feel like we talk a lot at marketing conferences, especially in our industry about acquiring new people and perhaps a disproportionate amount at the expense of focusing on our real loyalists or focusing on the bottom of the funnel where our evangelists live. I’m curious if you have any advice on cultivating or thinking about how to encourage evangelists to evangelize?
Meghan Keaney Anderson: Yeah, so it’s funny, I think that this has actually been a major shift for us as a company over the last 10 years or so, which is we focus so much of our attention at everything that comes before the sale. And we’ve got all of our marketing is geared towards getting someone to engage with us for the first time. All of our sales are geared obviously for that first purchase. But there is so much life after the point of purchase that first purchase. And we’ve done some research in this year’s state of inbound report where we ask people, what’s the most influential thing for you in making a purchase? And sales was bottom of the list, and marketing wasn’t much further above that. And the thing that was the most influential was peer reviews, peer recommendations, word of mouth. And so you think about the power that your existing evangelists, your existing fans and customers and members have to influence your growth as a business.
You got to wonder why we’re stacking everything to the front of the customer lifecycle and not as much towards equipping our customers and our members to spread the word. And so we’ve done a lot in this space. I mean, we’ve sort of invested in user groups and events for customers and giving them early looks at some of the software that we’re rolling out. There’s lots of different ways that you can do this. And to be honest, an arts organization or nonprofit is going to have a whole different set of tactics. So I won’t go too deep into ours, but I do think that you need to have a strategy there. And it’s so often one that people look past.
Erik Gensler: Definitely. I interviewed a guy named Steven Roth who is a pricing expert in our field, and he told me this phrase that I think is so brilliant called Shopping in your Closet. So always going to the store looking for new, but there’s so much potential and opportunity in our own databases.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: Yeah, I mean, have you seen any good examples of that from your space?
Erik Gensler: I mean, when I always talk about, it’s sort of the idea of flipping the funnel where we’re spending so much of our advertising dollars on acquisition, and so how do we reapportion that to people who are already engaged? And one thing that we’ve done with a number of clients is thinking about what are those moments when people are in a states who evangelize? And I think that’s probably in the 24 hours after seeing a great show, maybe in the lead up to seeing a show, but also right after they’ve made the decision to purchase. And that’s a moment when you have them on your website. So one thing we’ve done with a couple of organizations is help them build a tool that after someone purchases, makes it incredibly easy to share very specific social posts about that purchase. Oh, nice. So I just purchased this pair of tickets to the show and building it out. So when it’s not just the genErik Facebook share button, but making sure it’s pulling in the right image that makes that share even more beautiful when it’s on someone’s newsfeed. And we found when we measured it that each time someone did that, it was worth $10 to the organization because it would say they shared it with 500 people. And you scale that over with the amount of people who end up clicking through it, end up buying. There’s actually a monetary value to that.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: That’s so huge. And I think about it too in terms of fundraising a little bit. So again, there’s a little bit outside the arts world, but I donate to United Way on a regular basis. I always have, and I very recently got an email from them, and I was expecting it to be an ask because you’re just so accustomed in fundraising. Whenever I get communications from a nonprofit, I expect them to ask me for money. And it was just an email to tell me how they were doing, how my money was being spent to talk about an issue, to provide content. And again, if you think about flipping the funnel, we give away so much content before the purchase, but we don’t do as much just purely providing value without an ask after that.
Erik Gensler: Right. Absolutely. So I want to turn the page from marketing to management and leadership. You wrote an incredible article a few years ago, I think about management called Five Key Things I Wish I Knew Before I Became a Manager. The first one I think is perhaps the most important and perhaps the hardest, which is don’t aim to be liked, aim to be transformational. Love to hear how you got there.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: I mean, I still have to remind myself that on a regular basis, because I care about my team, I want them to care about me, I want them to like me, very Sally Fields of me. It’s nice if you have a nice relationship with your manager. It’s nice if you consider your manager to be a friend. It is powerful if your manager is able to help you level up in terms of your skillset or to become a better professional. And sometimes those two things are aligned, but sometimes they’re not. I had to shift from thinking about management as being a good manager is the one who everybody likes the most to. A good manager is really an educator, and sometimes your teacher drives you crazy because they’re pushing you. It’s a hard one because it can feel lonely sometimes if you go through a period where you’re not well liked because you’re pushing someone or you’re asking ’em to do something outside of what their comfort zone is. No one likes to be less than liked, but it is the meaningful thing at the end of the day. And it’s kind of why we’re all here is to get better.
Erik Gensler: Absolutely. And smart people want tough feedback, I think.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: Yeah, absolutely. Kim Scott is a writer who —
Erik Gensler: Yes, Radical Candor, we’re obsessed with it.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: It’s so funny, it’s become such shorthand at HubSpot now where it’s a lead-in to sentences. If somebody’s like, okay, radical candor though, you know that you’re about to get insulted. But the idea for the listeners of Radical Candor is don’t couch things. Don’t try to do the compliment sandwich.
Erik Gensler: She calls it a shit sandwich. It’s a shit sandwich.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: Shit sandwich. Give people the feedback because it’s the feedback that’s going to help them grow. And the other half of that is make sure that you invest in your relationships and you have a mutual respect in your relationship so that when you do have to give that hard feedback, the person at the other end knows it’s coming from a good place. There’s real two sides of that. One is give the hard feedback, jump in, do it, don’t couch it. But the other is before you even have to give that feedback, invest in the relationship enough so that or the other person knows that you believe in them and that it’s coming from a good place.
Erik Gensler: Your article came out before we were all obsessed with radical candor, so you were certainly onto something.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: Thanks. Yeah, I mean, it is one of the biggest eye openers when you do start to manage that split between being liked and being instrumental.
Erik Gensler: And even still, it’s so hard. Like you said, it’s so hard to give that feedback, but…
Meghan Keaney Anderson: It’s hard. I get it wrong three times a week, still multiple times a week, still just you always have to work at it.
Erik Gensler: Do you listen to her podcast?
Meghan Keaney Anderson: I do. Yeah. Yeah.
Erik Gensler: I love that. It’s always about where they each screwed up, so takes it down from having to be right all the time. It’s like, well, here’s how I messed this up. Here’s how I messed this up, which I think is great. So who are some of the companies that you look to who you think are doing marketing really well or that you follow for inspiration?
Meghan Keaney Anderson: There are companies that I think are doing content really well, and a lot of them are in the content space. I look at Vox Media and some of the videos that they create, the explainer content that they create is incredible. It’s just done really well. It’s done in a really human way and it resonates and is executed well. So Vox, I like a lot. We sell to other businesses, but we sort of look at consumer-based businesses as role models because we think they do a really nice job with marketing and with making that connection. So companies like Trulia has done some really cool stuff on their content around dream houses and unique houses that are out there. I think that Warby Parker does interesting marketing. Red Bull has one of the biggest social media followings I’ve ever seen, and it is all due to the type of content that they create. And then again, on the arts side, I think we see arts organizations all the time, large and small, that do really interesting thing with things, with the original content that they have.
Erik Gensler: When you have beautiful performers and amazing sets, right, amazing galleries. It’s really ripe for the producing.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: Yeah, you kind of start ahead of the game.
Erik Gensler: Definitely. Where do you look for personal inspiration? Are there blogs or podcasts that you’d like to listen to?
Meghan Keaney Anderson: On blog side, I like a blog called Brain Pickings, which is by a woman named Maria. She’s kind of an aggregator at the end of the day. She layers on different topics from different perspectives and doing so mixing poetry with science, she creates this really unique perspective that you can’t get anywhere else. So that’s brain pickings, I think on the podcast side. And there’s all sorts of blogs that I love. Austin Cleon is really well known, all sorts of different writers that are doing great, interesting things. On the podcast side of things for a business podcast, there’s a podcast called Masters of Scale. That’s really interesting. There is. I really like some of the Gimlet Media podcasts. So Reply All is about technology. There is a local public radio station that has a partnership with the New York Times that does a podcast called Modern Love. So it’s based off the New York Times Modern Love column, and they turned it into audio, and I think that’s just really interesting partnership because they knew that column was chockfull of creative content and there was just no audio version of it. So they brought their audio expertise. New York Times brought their storytelling expertise and they built something beautiful out of it.
Erik Gensler: That’s such a great column. Heartbreaking often, but really good. This is sort of a broad question, so whatever comes to mind, but something that you’ve learned in the last year or so that’s been profound in how you work or think.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: This is going to sound like a cliche answer, but it’s the honest one. I had my first child in December, and so this year has been a whirlwind of figuring out how to reinvent myself as a parent. I’ve always been incredibly passionate about my work, and now I am equally passionate about this little human and my life with her and my husband. And when you’re wholeheartedly passionate about two things, it can be exhausting. And so I’ve been kind of learning over the last year, how do I maintain passion in both of those things, but also carve out space for myself to think so I’m not just going through life as a zombie and bring things that I love. Writing back into my days and leaving work, going home, walking the dog and leaving work behind me. That has been a big learning curve for me this year. It’s not a new learning curve. It’s one that a lot of people go through in all shapes and sizes, men and women, parents of all different sorts. And it’s just you read about this stuff and then you go through it and you’re like, yeah, that is exactly as described, but you feel it this time.
Erik Gensler: I’m sure. Absolutely. It’s a good one. And I see a lot of my friends going through it, and it’s challenging and I haven’t done it myself, but I feel you. Yeah. Yeah. What is something that you think you’re really good at in what is one thing you’re working on to improve?
Meghan Keaney Anderson: So my dad, when I was a kid, nailed this one, which is we were on a walk one time and I was a teenager. And the thing that he told me I’ve always considered to be the best compliment I’ve ever gotten, which is that I’m really perceptive. So I study other people and I’m usually pretty aware when something is going on in someone’s life, even if I don’t know exactly what that is. And that perceptiveness, I’ve sort of carried over into writing and into what I’ve done as a marketer and a professional, and this idea of how do you think about other people and have those perspectives inform your own work. And so I’ve always sort of prided myself as being someone who pays attention and who tries to get out of her own shoes and incorporate other viewpoints into her own work. I think on the flip side of that, I tend to value relationships a lot. And so sometimes that means I compromise to a fault. And this really comes into account when as a manager, it goes back to the earlier point of you want people to feel a part of what you’re doing, you want them to feel good about what they’re doing, but sometimes in an argument, I will compromise when I should stay on my ground. And so those are things that everybody’s got their stuff to work on. That’s mine.
Erik Gensler: I think I’m in a similar boat. So this is the last question. We call this your CI to Eye moment. And the question is, if you can broadcast to the executive directors leadership teams and boards of a thousand Arts organization, what advice, I’m sorry, organizations, what advice would you provide to them to help them improve their businesses?
Meghan Keaney Anderson: I mean, I would tell them that they are sitting on a gold mine of content, content that the rest of us would kill for all of us who are working in widget companies and software and technology who are interested in our particular topics. But to have the caliber of and the potential of content that arts organizations have at their fingertips and to not do anything about that is criminal. And so I would tell them to go find the stories because they’ve got a ton of them.
Erik Gensler: I think that is awesome advice. Thank you so much, Meghan.
Meghan Keaney Anderson: Thank you very much for having me. It’s been a joy.
Erik Gensler: Did you enjoy the podcast? Please join Capacity Interactive on email and on Facebook so you can be the first to know when we release new episodes. You’ll also get content all about digital marketing for the Arts, and you’ll be the first to know about our webinars, workshops, and our annual digital marketing Boot Camp. Thanks for listening. If you’re enjoying CI to Eye, please share it with a colleague. I also invite you to please rate and comment on iTunes, which helps us get discovered. We love hearing from you on Twitter, Facebook, or the contact form on the Capacity Interactive website. Please don’t be shy and thank you so much for listening.
About Our Guests
Meghan Keaney Anderson
VP of Marketing, HubSpot
Meghan Keaney Anderson is the VP of Marketing at HubSpot, a company that was built on and exemplifies stellar content creation. Meghan’s team of 20 content strategists get to experiment and test more channels than most arts marketers could ever dream about.
More than ever, arts marketers need to be purposeful about data collection, responsive to privacy regulations, and respectful of their audiences’ preferences. In 2023 and beyond, it’s all about staying user-centric and privacy-focused.