Making The Ask with Stephanie Cox
Lindsay Tjepkema: Not everything just falls into place. In fact, very rarely does that ever happen. You have to work for it, sometimes really hard. In the words of the one and only Sir Richard Branson," If you opt for a safe life, you will never know what it's like to win." Ain't that the truth? I know it has been in my own career because when I wanted something I've had to ask for it. I've had to be vulnerable and confident at the same time and just jump. In fact, the bigger the challenge and perceived risk, the greater the payoff. The same thing is absolutely true in podcasting. As a host, you put yourself, your personal brand, your company's brand on the line every single time you get behind this mic, but vulnerability and risk taking actually starts long before you ever hit record. For instance, have you ever been listening to a podcast and wondered," How did they get this guest? How in the world could I do that for my show too?" Well, lucky for you that's exactly what we're going to talk about on today's show. Hello everyone. I'm Lindsay Tjepkema, CEO and co- founder of Casted, the B2B podcasting platform and this is our podcast. In today's episode, we'll be talking with my good friend, Stephanie Cox, the vice president of sales and marketing at Lumavate, a platform made for marketers and developers to build progressive web apps. But as you'll hear, she's also a successful podcast host. One thing I love about Stephanie, and the reason I asked her to be on the show today is her boldness. She's pretty fearless, which has served her well in her career in sales and marketing, but also in her role as a podcaster. Her willingness to make the ask has won her some pretty incredible guests for her show, which has been a really strong way to build leadership fast. Lucky for us, Stephanie is here today to tell us how she did it and how you can too.
Stephanie Cox: Hey, I'm Stephanie Cox. I am the VP of sales and marketing at Lumavate, but I also happened to have the great pleasure of being the host of Mobile Matters, which is our weekly podcasts in all things mobile. And then we also have a second show called Strong Opinions, which is where I spend about 10 minutes a week giving you one of my strong opinions.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Which I love because you and I know each other outside of podcast land, and you definitely have strong opinions, which I value very much.
Stephanie Cox: I do.
Lindsay Tjepkema: I love it. I love that you made a show out of it. So let's dig into that. Tell me where your podcast journey started. What was the very beginning of the thought that," Hey, I think maybe we should do this," and what did that look like?
Stephanie Cox: So I had honestly never even thought about doing a podcast, which I know sounds crazy now thinking about it, but it was about a year ago and I knew podcasting was going on. I had seen some of them. I've seen some ones in the B2B marketing space that were big. I had listened to some of them. I just, I guess, never connected the dots so that was something that one, made sense for me or made sense for my business or even the audience I was targeting, which is kind of ridiculous now thinking back to it. But I had met with someone actually that you introduced me to. We were just needing to get to know each other as another female leader. And at the end of the day, I happened to be like," Oh, so what do you do?" And we started talking about what she did and she happened to run Share Your Genius, which really helps podcasts get off the ground. And I was like," Oh, that's really interesting. Tell me more about why do you suggest someone has a podcast?" And within two minutes, it was kind of like this light bulb moment, which now looking back, I'm like," I can't believe I didn't think of it before," but it was just like," Well, why wouldn't I do this? It's another way to create content that's different, that's highly consumed by a lot of the target audience I go after, but it's doing it in a totally different way." And then I started thinking as a startup, what was kind of interesting was you're constantly looking to grow sales, so you're always trying to figure out ways to get your brand out there and how do you think about tying it to other big brands and made me think back to what a lot of other business leaders inside, which is how do you figure about connecting your brand to other big brands people know? And I said," Well, podcasting might be a really cool way to do that," which is kind of how this all started. So I went from never considering a podcast to thinking maybe we should do this to deciding to do it in literally 24 hours and here we are.
Lindsay Tjepkema: After that initial decision to start a podcast, Stephanie enlisted the help of an agency.
Stephanie Cox: Because I had absolutely no idea how to do a podcast. And I say that with complete transparency like," What kind of mic do I need to buy? What kind of software do I need to use? How do I even get it on iTunes? What are the graphic sizes?" There's just a lot that goes into it that you don't realize until you get into it, that we just didn't know how to do, like how to structure the show. I'm sure if I would have done it without guidance, it would have been a horrible first couple of episodes and then hopefully it would have gotten better. So that was how we thought about it. They really helped us think through what the show should even be about, what we should call it, how we should structure the show flow, how we should think about structuring interviews. And one, it helped us launch. We would honestly would never have been able to launch without it. But I think what it's also helped is it's created this level of professionalism on how I run the show that allows me to work with these really large brands and senior leaders there. And I hear all the time like," Oh, how do you run your podcast? The interview process and the follow- up is so professional." And I'd like to pretend that's all me. It's really not. It's the guidance I got from them. Right? It's a little bit me, but it's because they taught me how I should think about doing it, which was really, really helpful.
Lindsay Tjepkema: So Stephanie launched the show back in 2018 and since then has interviewed guests from some of her favorite brands and some really huge and impressive companies.
Stephanie Cox: Honestly, if I look back and if you would have told me that I was going to have some of these brands on the show, I would have laughed at you and said," That's real funny. Yeah. Let me know in four years." And it all started with this idea. So we, as a team, were thinking about the show and thinking about who was on there. We came up with what we call our dream brand list and it started with eight brands. And it basically was this idea of like," Who is the get of the get?" So a year from now, we're going to consider this as a huge success. If we got one or two of these brands on the show, because that's honestly how we thought this was going to go like," Oh, it would be we get brands on there, but they'd be these smaller brands. You probably wouldn't have heard of them." Because that seems to be like a lot of... especially marketing podcasts seem to be these smaller brands that people haven't heard of, [none of 00: 07:17] the huge players or if it is a huge player, it's like the same person who goes on 25 shows. There's not a variety to it.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah. So go ahead and name drop. Let's talk about crosstalk head on.
Stephanie Cox: All right. Let's name drop. AT& T, Allegion, Lowe's, Google, HubSpot, Microsoft multiple times, IBM, Crayola GE, Trust Hotels, Campbell Soup, Amazon was pretty awesome. So if I think back to when I first started, we were thinking about who to get on the show initially. One of the things that I have a really great luxury is I've worked with a lot of amazing digital marketers in my career. So my first list, if you look at probably the first eight episodes or so. Yeah, first nine episodes of our show is people I personally know which happened to be digital marketing leaders at some pretty cool brands, like Simon Property Group, Aetna, AT& T, right? So I have a network of some pretty cool people and I was really strategic about the order in which I launched those episodes because I knew being on a name drop, Simon Property Group, AT& T, Aetna would give me some validity when I started reaching out to people I didn't know. So I literally probably spent two hours going through all my LinkedIn connections going," Okay, where does everyone I've ever connected with work now? And who can I reach out to?" So that's how the initial was started. So one of the things, you've kind of already mentioned it, I have strong opinions. I also can be a little feisty.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Sounds like a really good name for a show.
Stephanie Cox: A little bit, right? I also want to be a little feisty. So it was the last day before the holidays at the end of the year and you have those days where you go in the office and you feel fine in the morning. And then halfway through the day, you're like," I think I might be sick." So I went home and I was like," I think I have a fever" and you had a fever, but then I also had a couple other things I needed to get done because we close for between the Christmas and the New Year. So I was trying to finish up some podcast outreach. So I have like 102 degree fever. I'm sitting in my recliner at home, just working on this outreach. And I was just feeling, I guess, super feisty or I don't know, fever delusional, and I was like,"You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to reach out to Alex Russell at Google and see about getting him on the podcast."
Lindsay Tjepkema: Just going to do it.
Stephanie Cox: I'm just going to do it. And I'm like,"I'm just going to send him a DM on Twitter." Logical Stephanie never would have thought that. She would have like," Okay, what's the best way? Let's think of exactly what I'm going to say." In this fever stupor, I wrote him the shortest message on Twitter DM. I was just like," Hey, I have this podcast. We talk about everything with mobile. I'm a huge fan of their work you've done with PWAs. I would love to get you on the show to talk about progressive web apps and your thoughts on where they've been, where they're going. I just need an hour." That's all I said to him. And then two hours later, he responds. He DMs me back and it was like,"Love to." And I'm like...
Lindsay Tjepkema: You're like the what?
Stephanie Cox: I'm at home and by now it's the evening and then I see something come across on Twitter and I look and I'm like," Holy crap." And my husband's like," What?" He said,"Are you feeling okay?" And I'm like," I need you to read this because I have a legit fever." He was like," Some guy wants to be on your podcast." I was like," No, you don't understand. Google wants to. Google disagreed being on podcasts."
Lindsay Tjepkema: [crosstalk 00:11:03].
Stephanie Cox: "Likethe guy." And I literally lost my mind. And I'm literally slacking everyone on the team like" You guys do not believe what's happening right now." And that was the best GIFs and Bitmojis that happened in that Slack channel afterwards around what do you do when the dream brand you thought in a year if you could get comes on your show and it's going to be Episode 11.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Over the next few weeks, Stephanie's willingness to make those big asks started to pay off. The show started to earn more listeners fast and the more big names she had on the show, the easier it got to get even more big names from that dream list she created. The next big step, guest management.
Stephanie Cox: Well, it's evolved over time, right? So I think back to when I started, we started doing guest guides so coming up with some high level conversations. But one of the things that quickly changed for me that I had to figure out is when you start talking to really large brands that are publicly traded, PR has to approve the questions before you can have the interview. And so one of the things that kind of flipped is I started including a sample of topics that I wanted to talk to them about so it wasn't this blanket like," Hey, can I talk to you about these kind of general topics?" It was like," Here are four things I specifically want to talk to you about. And I think you're the only person I can talk to about." And so that's been really helpful when I was getting people on the show, but then I try and quickly follow up with typically it's 10 to 12 in- depth questions of what I want to ask them. And I always tell people," I'm not going to ask them in this order. I'm not going to say it exactly like this. It's going to be a conversation, but this is the type of stuff I want to talk to you about. I've done my homework and I could talk to you about a lot of things because I talked to a lot of really smart people, but this is what I care about. And this is what I think my listeners will care about." And so that's been really helpful and it's made it easy too, because we've had to go through the PR review process with multiple big brands and it helps they've reviewed the show first. And then they review the questions that we're going to ask. And so we haven't had a time where we've not gotten approved by PR because they're just like," You're so thorough." I'm trying to be helpful and make sure that you guys know what to expect. The other thing I always do, and it's less formal, it's more informal. Before we get started, I always ask them," Hey, what's the one question that I wish, or one thing that you want to talk about that no one seems to ask you about?" Which always gets a chuckle and people are like," That's such a great question," which is interesting because I'm asking them like," What do you like to talk about?" And then it's like they'd never thought of that before, what they love to talk about that no one ever seems to ask them. So that's always brought up just really interesting things that cause me to dive into different parts of the conversation that I probably would never would have guessed. But the other thing I always do is," Is there anything that you don't want to talk about? Is there any?"
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah, that's an important one.
Stephanie Cox: Because so many times when I talk to other people, they don't ask me that and then they say something and I'm like," We could talk about this, but we're going to go into a 10- minute conversation that's going to be me talking that no one else is going to want to listen to on the show."
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So you have achieved so much. You've gotten some really big names in the show. You've achieved great listenership and you've grown this thing quickly. You've launched a second show. What kind of advice do you have for listeners who are either in it already and looking to improve or achieve some of the same successes that you've had or who are thinking about getting into the world of podcasting?
Stephanie Cox: That's a great question. I would say if you're thinking about getting into it, the biggest thing that I have found is either you have to be all in or don't do it. So either commit like" I'm going to do a weekly show and I'm going to plan it out and I'm going to put a decent amount of effort into it," or just don't bother because I can't tell you how many shows start and then stop. There's probably stats out there on that. I know the ones that I've started listening to have stopped or they're not consistent. And then I just honestly don't bother with them anymore just personally. And it's hard. There are weeks where I try and do them in batches and I always try and be good about that. But it's really hard sometimes where I'm like," Oh, I'm doing it like real life story. I'm doing an interview tomorrow for the show that might actually be next week's episode."
Lindsay Tjepkema: Because that what makes sense.
Stephanie Cox: Because that's what makes sense and that's also what happens, which means we might do all the post- production, all the editing literally on Friday or the weekend. Especially when things change, timeliness of things is really important. So I think either commit to it and do it or don't do it. You can't go into this, and just test it out and try it, either you have to believe that this is going to work for you or don't waste your time is the biggest thing. What you put in, you'll get out of it. So if you put in crap time, you're not going to get anything worthwhile.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Because you can hear it. You can absolutely hear it as a listener if it's something that you're just toying with or trying or halfway doing, or some I committed to. It absolutely comes through and then you'll be wasting whatever time you do put into it because you won't have any listeners.
Stephanie Cox: Exactly. And then if you're already doing it... I have a thing that I've struggled with the most that I think a lot of people struggle with is just promotion like," How do I get more people to listen to the show?" And so I think finding creative ideas and maybe I'm different because I'm willing to share a lot with other people because I believe in paying it forward like I talked about earlier. Ask other show hosts," Hey, I've heard you've had big brands on there. How did you get them? You have a ton of reviews, how do you get those?" Our whole review process and campaign for that, we went from less than 10 reviews to almost a hundred in four weeks. And that happened because I talked to someone and said," Hey, you just launched three months ago. How did you get so many reviews?" And I just reached out and asked and they told me, and then I was like," Okay, I can't necessarily do exactly what they did, but what if I took an iteration on it and did that?" And that's what we did and it drove a ton of reviews. So things like that I think are really helpful. Don't assume that you have to think through it all yourself. Look at other people that are doing this. And one, it's hard unless they're in a top listing for categories on iTunes, it's hard to know even what success their show has, but reach out to other people where you like the content they're creating or they have the guests on that you like, or they're getting the types of reviews that you care about. Because for me, you want to write me five stars, awesome. I would actually rather you give me a comment and provide an actual review than a rating. That's helpful to someone else who's considering to listen to my show.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah, absolutely. So how did you do it?
Stephanie Cox: Oh, so this is one of the great hacks, right? So it all started, we're like a small internal team [inaudible 00:18: 30 ]. We're a startup so less than 30 people, most of which are engineers who are not big fans of social media in terms of sharing things. We had tried this kind of convoluted promotion like," Hey, if you rate and review and send us a photo of it, we'll send you a Mobile Matters mug." And we got a couple. I didn't really... We did it on social media. We have people promote it. Nothing happened. So then I just said," Okay, what if we do a contest internally? And I will give a hundred dollar gift card to whoever drives the most ratings and reviews so go promote it to everyone you know. You can reach out to people that you think would be good listeners. People have to actually listen and do it. And I'll give a$ 50 gift card to the second person and we'll run it for a couple of weeks." So that's what we did. And I was absolutely shocked at how into it everyone got. It became this big challenge. We have a Google sheet where you could put in like," Oh, Hey, I reached out to this person at this company and they did it. This is what their handle is," because it's hard with ratings and reviews to track who it really is. And then my people stopped putting things in the Google sheet, but we kept getting more ratings and reviews. That's because they didn't want everyone else in the company to see who else, how many more they had because it was this internal competition now of who was going to get this a hundred dollar gift card.
Lindsay Tjepkema: That's amazing.
Stephanie Cox: And it was crazy and it was super simple. It cost me$ 150 and we had a ton of engagement and it drove not just ratings and reviews, but actual... if you read them, they're... Crosstalk
Lindsay Tjepkema: They're authentic and they're genuine.
Stephanie Cox: Authentic reviews that are helpful and with the right kind of people because I told everyone it can't be your grandma.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Right. You just have to be real.
Stephanie Cox: crosstalk real.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Because people know that when you actually are looking at reviews and Apple knows that and all the other reviewers of reviews know that.
Stephanie Cox: So that's how we did it. We set our dream goal of how many reviews would be X and how do we work towards that? How do we do creative ways of doing it? Because by nature, and I'm so guilty of this, I listen to shows and I never rate or review them, even though it says at the end to do it and I don't do it and I don't know why. It's not because I don't love the content. I'm more likely to go on Twitter and tell you how much I loved your show or a certain episode than I am to write a review on that in iTunes. crosstalk
Lindsay Tjepkema: Just cause...
Stephanie Cox: Just because no good reason but...
Lindsay Tjepkema: Right. Yeah, people need to be nudged and asked. I think that's the theme of the show, ask. Ask for it.
Stephanie Cox: Yes.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Ask for the guest. Ask for the review. Ask for the rating. Ask for the listen. Ask. What are the results been for you? What have these great guests done for your show?
Stephanie Cox: I think a couple of things. I think first, the thing that's been really interesting, which shocks a lot of people when I say it is I've not had a single client on our show. So everyone I talk to isn't a current customer.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Have any turned into customers yet?
Stephanie Cox: Hopefully. Look on that.
Lindsay Tjepkema: crosstalk Stay tuned.
Stephanie Cox: crosstalk Yes. Stay tuned. But that's been different. So the show isn't about us. It's not about what we do and I think there's a lot of people that think like," Well, You can use the show to turn into sales." And I always tell people," You can but that's not what I'm trying to do." Does occasionally our sales team reach out to people weeks or a month or so after a show and say like," Hey, I really liked some of the things that you said. I'd love to have a conversation about if we could do something for you." Yeah. That's happened. But what's interesting and cool about it, it's that brand awareness effect. You see Lumavate and eBay, Lumavate and Amazon, Lumavate and Crayola. We're talking to the CMO of MGM Resort. A lot of people see those brands together and it puts us in a different conversation and it elevates us in such a way that really is hard to pay for. The other thing that's been really, really great is people now really see, which I think was the whole purpose, right? We do mobile. My background happens to be in mobile for more than a decade, but they look at us as a company and we as this really big expert in the space because not only are we talking to other big players and digital and in mobile, but we're also having really intelligent conversations. And we're talking about some of the latest topics. We're talking about what's coming up that people don't even realize. I just had a conversation with someone yesterday and they were talking about 5G and they just were like," Well, I thought 5G originally was just another marketing ploy." And they're like," But then I listened to your episode and realized, Holy crap. It's not. It's something totally different." So that's been I think really interesting is how much we've been able to educate people on what's happening in this space that you just don't realize and how much, especially the web has changed. I can't tell you how many people don't understand how much the web can do today because we just assume it can only do the things it did five years ago. And it's totally different.
Lindsay Tjepkema: That's it for the show. Thanks to our guest, my friend, Stephanie Cox. To learn more about Stephanie and to see Casted in action with clips of this episode and related content, go to casted. us.
Stephanie Cox hosts the Mobile Matters podcast, which facilitates conversations with mobile thought leaders. She is also VP of Sales and Marketing at Lumavate, a platform for digital marketers to quickly build, test, publish, and manage Progressive Web Apps. And if all that wasn’t enough, Stephanie also recently launched a second podcast called Strong Opinions.