We are excited to have two guests, Tim Thorpe, Director of Digital Content and Anna Lewis, Global Marketing Manager from Black & Veatch. While Anna has a background in Marketing, Tim’s background is heavily seeded in the IT world. Part of Tim’s role is to help mesh the more traditional aspects of Marketing and IT into a cooperative partnership within Black & Veatch as it pertains to various digital initiatives.
On this show, we dig into the storytelling aspect of marketing using rich media. One example is the Global Success Stories series, a video component launched by Black & Veatch earlier in 2015 as a venue to share with an audience major projects spanning multiple years. It is a way for them to highlight the way they have a small hand in improving our communities and the way we live in our communities.
More importantly, the series helps the direct customers of Black and Veatch educate their client’s customer on the scale and process of potential projects. The key is “getting out of the way” of the message and allowing viewers to develop an emotional connection with the message; to envision themselves as the client, the partner or even the community member. Not to mention, it just feels good to make an impact!
Tim utilizes the experience by creating personalized landing pages based on the user type. He wants to ensure Black & Veatch has the best handle possible on their customer and carefully crafts the message to be relevant to their interests. Having a good understanding of the IT and Marketing realms becomes paramount to delivering the optimal user experience.
- Relationships – Get our SME’s and Business Development in front of the right people at the right time.
- Engage – Use Marketo or a similar tool to stay in front of the client.
- Creative – Get the Creative people in the same room as the content creators.
- Focus on Data – Make sure you are collecting accurate data that matters to your business
- Center of Expertise Teams – Bring your Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) together and leverage their knowledge to reach your audience
- Internal Relationships – Communication is at the center of great businesses. To allow for the level you need, you need healthy relationships between departments and the people within.
Well, welcome back to the Midwest Marketing show. Today, I have two guests, which is a first time, but it's also the first one in our second year. So welcome guys. How's it going?
Good, great to be here great,
Great, so I've got Tim and Anna from Black & Veatch. And starting wit Anna, why don't you tell us a little bit about your background and kind of how you got started in marketing.
Sure, my background, I guess we can go back as far as college. I went to K-State, studied in public relations and then at the time, it was called electronic journalism but it's now digital media. It's kind of evolved since then. Then I came back to Kansas city, worked for a nonprofit in marketing and sales for about a couple of years. After that, moved on to Black & Veatch and worked with Tim on the digital content team as a digital content specialist and worked with social media. Recently, I've just started working with our marketing group within kind of our corporate group within Black & Veatch as a marketing manager. So that kind of entails, we make sure that the brand is represented well and accurately across the company in our different business; externally, internally and then also across our different regions around the globe.
What about you, Tim?
Well, I don't really have a traditional background when it comes to marketing, Jeff. I'm not going to go all the way back to college if that's all right. Those days are some time ago, but I really spent all of my career in the IT world, largely, prior to being at Black & Veatch. And so a lot of my experiences, large-scale infrastructure, projects, software development, those types of projects over time. Then later in my career, before I came to Black & Veatch, I was with YRC Worldwide at the time, and I worked there for a number of years. And when I was there, I really had a role where I was bringing together the business and the technology world and making sure that everybody was talking the right language and translating and understanding how do we use technology to solve business problems, and that could be things not marketing related, finance or other related things. And so one of the specific reasons I was hired by Black & Veatch is that they wanted somebody in more of a marketing department that really had the technology background. And so a lot of times, when I do a podcast like this or a webinar or other speaking engagements, a lot of the things that I like to talk about are in today's world, that you're really bringing together, things that were more traditionally not technology that had become very technology-oriented today. So I had always been in CIOs type of chain of command historically, but since I've been at Black & Veatch for about five years now, I've been in marketing organization and doing digital marketing and then my team leads all of our marketing technology for the company.
Awesome, cool. So we'll definitely want to talk about that, especially from the data perspective and your background. We have a similar background. It's just the move that has to happen--
Yeah, that's right.
As we change those organizations. But when I think of big companies in Kansas city, I definitely think of the Hallmarks, the AMCs, but definitely Black & Veatch. And I've known engineers, who, you know, from school, that went there, and it's an exciting company because it has a very well recognized brand, but the people in the organization are awesome. And so can you tell us a little bit about the company? And then also, this is your 100-year anniversary, your centennial, which is, you think of countries, when you think of centennial, not necessarily companies. So what's that been like?
Well, so Black & Veatch, I guess a quick overview for people that don't know, is a large global engineering construction and consulting company. We're based in Overland Park, Kansas. That's where our world headquarters is, but we have over 100 offices worldwide, probably about 7000 projects going on at once.
[Jeff] Oh wow.
So we're a very large company, and you say that, you know, some people know us and Kansas city is a big company, there are a lot of people that aren't really sure what we do. We work in the engineering, or I'm sorry, we work in the energy, water and telecommunications space. We build the infrastructure for those markets. And then, yeah, so as of recently, we celebrated our hundredth year anniversary. We were founded in 1915, and it was a pretty exciting year. A lot of build up, a lot of work ahead of time before centennial, especially within our marketing group. We celebrated across 16 time zones. Everyone in the company was able to celebrate. They had their own event, we had a major event here in Overland Park that brought nearly 6000 people. We had a band, we had food trucks, we had games for our children and their families, and everyone had a great time. So it was a pretty awesome event. The marketing group spent a lot of time to make sure that it was special for everyone. We also had different take-away pieces for that event, one of those being a Centennial book. It celebrates our 100 years. Going back with the pictures and the projects and the people that made this company what it is today, it's a pretty cool keepsake. And then we also created a video that kind of explains what Black & Veatch does, you know? A lot of people, not really sure what engineering and construction really means, but in the end, it gives you the power, it gives you the ability to talk to people on your cell phone. It gives you the freshwater access to your home every day and to kind of bring that to reality through a video was really cool to see, and I think that was probably one of our most popular marketing pieces that we had from the centennial celebration. So Tim, you can probably touch a little bit more on that too. He had a pretty big involvement with that as well.
Yeah, so when I think about Black & Veatch and the time that I've spent with the company, what I think is when I first started working there, I thought, oh, Black & Veatch, known about the company for years, if you lived in Kansas City. And what I realized really quickly within about two weeks when I started working for the company is I had no idea what the company really did and the amazing things that the company has done over the years. And so that was driven home really quickly when I started working for the company. But one of the things that I also learned about Black & Veatch, and that is in Kansas City, to your point and your question, is that you cannot escape the Veatch, is what I'd like to say. So it's kind of a funny joke because really, the company does have such a big impact on the Kansas City area, and that the number one question I've been asked at Black & Veatch since I've been there is do you know such and such, and it's usually an engineer is what someone is asking. And so I usually don't know them because it's such a big company, but it does have a big impact on the Kansas City market. I think one of the most interesting things about the hundred-year anniversary is how the company looks at that. And they really do look at it as more of a milestone. And so definitely a big event and the things that Anna talked about. I mean we really did a lot this year that was around celebrating the milestone of the hundred-year anniversary. But what's great, I think, is that the leadership of the company largely sees it as a, this is a milestone and we're really focused on the next hundred years, and so once we hit that milestone and now we're past it and heading into 2016, how great it is that we're really focused on what can we do that is going to make Black & Veatch an even bigger company and a better company at what it does? So I think that's one of the big things that resonates with me. I think, really over the last couple of years in coming up on the centennial, what I feel great about from a marketing standpoint is we're doing a lot of things that other companies maybe haven't even started yet, or that are just beginning to kind of turn over the stones and look at. And so when I compare us to what other companies of our size are doing and like how we're trying to be progressive as a marketing organization, when I do that comparison, I feel pretty good about what we're doing and it's exciting to be able to be involved in some of the things that are kind of cutting-edge or at the forefront of modern marketing.
Yeah, I mean, that was surprising too. I sat through your presentation at the BMA, and when you talked about having recently deployed Marketo and using automation to sync up CRM, I was like, really? You know, I was like, I know like companies that are B to C and have thousands of customers here in town that aren't even coming to that. You guys, I can imagine, you have very big engagements but very few people you interact with during those engagements. So to put the automation in front of it and to allow for that interaction between the digital and the CRM and communication to kind of unleash, it was exciting. I mean, I was flat out floored and just talking to you guys and seeing how you've embraced it, it's been great.
In the future, Jeff, we want you to just assume that we're already at the forefront and not be surprised at all by the amazing things we're doing. That's the goal.
That's good, I mean, that's like the milestone, right? Because you think a hundred-year-old company is not necessarily going to be as digital as you guys are. And another thing that I thought is really cool is that I've been confused why people don't embrace the stories that come out of their projects, especially when you talk about engineering and like how it changes the city or a rural area or when you go into countries that don't have water systems and you put these things in place. It's an amazing story but they just, you know, they show a picture of somebody installing it, but you guys have embraced the kind of storytelling aspect, bringing people in the video and starting to use rich media more than just images and like specs on a project. So can you tell us about some of those pieces of content you guys have used this year?
Yeah, yeah. As of, I guess, last year or earlier this year, we've launched our Global Success Story series, which is basically highlighting our major projects that we've been working on for multiple years. Black & Veatch builds big infrastructure projects, so it's kind of hard to show them as they're kind of progressing along. It takes years and years and years to build some of these large-scale power plants or water plants or telecommunications. So it's important for us to be able to showcase that to not only our clients, but also to the public to see, this is how we're improving your communities the way that you live in your communities. And obviously, a big-scale project has an impact on the community and we want to make sure that people understand what it does. So the Global Success Series is one thing that we do that's a video component. It has photography, it also has the written story behind it, the people telling, that have worked on the project, the utility that manages it, the client that manages it, and explain, you know, what the benefit is for it. We think that this is really important because there's a lot to be told behind the scenes. You know, if we are creating a plant, a water plant, for example, that is providing clean water or turning wastewater into clean water, it's an interesting story to tell, and people, I think, you know, are not really sure about it, but we have an opportunity to have that education process to help the client talk to their consumers about what they're trying to do to get that buy-in, to explain how we're trying to benefit the community that may be in drought or facing some sort of other climate change issues. So that's a really exciting project that we've been working on throughout the year, and I think it highlights our work as well. But also, you know, what our clients are bringing to the community.
Yeah, it's one of those things that like, you watch the video, you hear the story. You assume Black & Veatch is involved, right? And so you don't need to hear the sales pitch, you want to hear the story. And I love when people embrace that part of the video. It's like, let's get out of the way and let's tell the story and then have that emotional buy-in so that way a city feels comfortable sharing it with their residents and saying, look how cool this thing is that we did?
The things that we talk about, like on bv.com or in social media, I think the thing that is the neatest part about being with the company is really the fact that those are things that really do make a difference, right? I mean, it does impact people's lives. And so sometimes, you get caught up in the business and the corporate world of what's involved but when you do look, when you work with those pieces more closely and understand what went into developing the things that are being shared, you really do get a better sense of how much it is making an impact on people's lives. From a content standpoint though, I want to talk for a minute about some of the things that people don't think so much about that is related to this discussion but is maybe not the flagship, project success stories or strategic directional reports or some of the other things that are really noteworthy. I think one of the things that I think is the coolest for a marketer is all of the different things that we have started to build out, both using our CMS platform with bv.com as well as Marketo. And so all of the different landing pages, where we're creating these user experiences that are very specifically targeted at you, if you're in the natural gas industry and are focused on certain regulatory things, or another interest or type of stream of thought, then the idea that we can create a place that you would go to or that we would invite you to come and that user experience is completely designed around what your background is and what your interests are, those are the things to me that are kind of the future of marketing, where we're crafting a message that is very specifically targeted at you. And so, like we talked about a few minutes ago, a lot of the tools and things that are now available allow you to do that, and it's not a monumental effort. You could probably have done that a long time ago, but just the sheer amount of effort that it would take without some of the sophisticated tools to get it done would've been too much.
And it's like the decision-maker role at the time, 10 years ago, sure, developers could bring in, put a cookie on your machine, determine who you were, look up who you were, pull a transaction out and then used content to publish that way. But IT wasn't concerned with delivering that experience. We wanted to get the marketers out of the way, so give them the page that they want and let's put the site up and let's go back to doing fun things.
And so it did take that shift for somebody who is concerned with the experience of the client to really drive the project.
Exactly, and that's really what we're talking about today, is that more and more of that technology experience and the people that are touching those things and actually doing them, those are people in marketing, to your point, years ago, that would have been somebody in a developer role that was sitting in a CIO chain of command. And so their focus versus someone that's sitting in the marketing department is going to be very different. And so we've gotten to a point now where part of that experience that you're creating, yes, you have the flagship content and the other big element but part of creating that experience is making sure you have that foundation laid so that I can present an experience based on your specific interest when you come to visit me.
Yeah, so I think that kind of goes along the lines of where I wanted to take the conversation. So now that you have these landing pages that are adaptive based off of who you are and your interests, how are you kind of using technology to pull that back into the CRM system and then sharing that with the other departments who are really interested in that person and their engagement and watching what they're doing and then finding that pivotal point to when they should engage themselves into the conversation?
Right, right. So that's a great question. What I would describe, related to marketing automation, for every company, and this is not just for Black & Veatch, is it's a journey that you're going on; and especially if you're in a really big company, it's a longer journey because of all of the moving parts and the breadth of services and markets that you may serve and things like that. So what we have done is to go with someone like Marketo, that, out of the box, they're providing a lot of that connectivity and those integrations. With the BMA KC conference, that's what we talked a lot about, the future integrations and people who will hear me say that over and over again. So what we're doing is we're really building out all the things we just talked about in Marketo, but then we're creating an active integration to our dynamics CRM platform that will pass those qualified leads directly into CRM. So now marketing is really providing all of that, and those are going directly into CRM, and someone in sales is able to see that activity and know whether a lead has had a lot of interesting moments or other flurry of activity that would generate a more focused interest from the sales organization. And so that's something that takes a while to get there, and we've made a lot of progress on it. But really, I think the idea is that you're automating a lot of those things completely so that we're taking the people out of the middle of trying to pass those through and manage that and put in the power, as you mentioned, right into people's hands, whether that's sales or marketing folks. They can go in, look at the information and the data and evaluate it on their own without having to have a middleman there managing it for them.
It takes away the whole notion of "We got to close this thing, we got to get on the phone "with these people," because you can go online and see that they're on the website. So people are smart, they're doing their... They're investigating. You have the content that's there. It's like the job is getting done, but if you couldn't put that in with the activity, of the emails they sent and the phone calls they made, they assume that they're not coming to the site.
They assume the lead has cooled down, and they need to warm it back up. And that could cause frustration on the other side, so I love the integrated piece, and then I like that you are leveraging the marketing automation system to surface some of those pages, where some of them, some people will just see that as a middle layer between the CMS and the CRM and to put everything in CMS and then try to bolt it in there, but you're truly taking advantage of what Marketo is strong at, and then what your CMS is strong at and then bringing all the worlds together. So really cool. Do you have any cool data talking points for--
I mean, this is usually Tim's role. I kind of sit back and nod my head because he's the expert in that. But no, our team is very integrated. Our global marketing communications group, whether it's something that we're planning an event or you know, pushing out print advertisements to reports that we're creating, content pieces and then the behind-the-scene method of getting it out on social media, putting it on our website, getting out to our internal folks and then also, you know, through marketing and automation, I think what we're doing right now at Black & Veatch and marketing is trying to complete that circle from marketing to sales, and making sure that it continues to go. We're building that gap between marketing and sales and making sure that when people are coming to our site, they're getting our information wherever they're coming from. They're getting to the appropriate spot and then along the way, we're helping them with that journey. So you know, the physical one-to-one interaction, the face-to-face interaction is always going to be there. That's what kind of B2B, how B2B works, is building that relationship. But what we're ensuring is that the underlying, the buyer's journey is still continuing and we're filling the gaps that may be there when there's not a physical salesperson or someone there to talk with the client. And then we see that our sales group is buying into that and they're really accepting that role and understanding how marketing can really help them reach out to the clients and keep them engaged.
Oh, yeah. So we have a section on the show called The Threes, and so starting with Anna, kind of what are three tips you would give marketers of large companies? Because we see a lot of marketers of small companies and the tips that they would receive are they're formatted for a small company because they have to deal with a lot of different roles by themselves. But with a large company, it's almost like the relationships between the marketing team is what drives the ability to work. So what are some of the tips you would give marketers in large companies to help them kind of show the importance of a marketing team and also improve the business as a whole, because I hear a lot about... It's still seen as a cost center, it's not leading, it's not in the periscope leading the ship where, really, we are. So what are some of those tips you'd give?
Yeah, and I think the key thing that you just said there was relationships. That's still everything, that's always everything within marketing and within any organization, especially with B2B. That's the biggest thing that we have to sell, is our people, and making those relationships with our client. So I always say, you know, the more that we can get our subject matter experts and our business development people in front of clients at the right time, at the right place is the best thing that we can do for the organization. So I see my role as a marketing manager is mostly just facilitating a lot of those relationships internally so that they can be turned externally and focus on what we're trying to do for the client. And a lot of that is just being in a big organization is making sure the right people are connected to the right groups, to make sure that they're doing the right thing and everything is not siloed, and we're working together towards the same goal. Secondly, it's kind of what I spoke about earlier is once you get those relationships made, we want to make sure that we are continuingly engaging with those people and with those relationships. So Marketo and marketing automation is a great way to do that. Once you have that connection made, bringing those people along and being able to continually feed them the content and the things they need to know about the business, about the industry, thought leadership is a key component of what we do as an organization and mostly for a lot of B2B companies. So always thinking about what does the client need to know, what are their pain points, how can we address that, and then feed that to them at the right times throughout their journey. Then third, I'm a big proponent of getting our creative people in the right room with the people that are creating content and are interacting with our clients. And I think that, that's kind of a... Some people think of that as like a no-brainer, but then other people are like, well, usually, someone is the mediator and then they bring the ideas back to the creative team, and then the creative team are trying to interpret what is being said. It's just easier if you get them in front of the table at the same time. So what we're doing right now is we have a big initiative with our smart integrated infrastructure group which basically leads smart city efforts. They like to, you know, they're in the business of we build the infrastructure, we also can run the technology, the Internet of Things behind it. So what we're doing is bringing our graphic designers, our video people, people that work with building infrastructure modeling, bringing them all into one room and say, how can we build something, you know, graphically or a video to explain what a smart city is and what Black & Veatch can do? And I think that conversation has led to many like eye-opening moments where people didn't know that we could do this in one part of the organization, but had never maybe talked to one of these people either within our graphics team or technology group or whatever. So that kind of interaction is important because then you can really see that brainstorming and that creativity come out, and then you come up with those big ideas and you can work together to create a better product than some kind of siloed effort. So those would be most of everything out of the three that I mentioned there. It's all about getting the people connected at the right time, and I think that's really important when you're ultimately trying to get out the message about your company.
Yeah, I like that. It's a lot along the lines of the disruptive model that Intuit used when they were just QuickBooks, and they kind of put off these little internal projects to show what was possible with mobile, to show what was possible with web, and they would bring in the other groups to see what was going on. And you do, it allows for disruption to occur with a large organization like yours, where normally you think you're the ones being disrupted, but really, you're the disruptors because you can put somebody out in front and say, just dream, right? Do something big. And then when you see it, you're like wow, we can actually do that, and we can do it now. It causes some amazing things. Cool, what about you, Tim?
It's a hard question to answer because there are so many things that you could give as tips, and I think you made referencespeak, done speaking engagements on different things, where you can spend a half-hour, an hour just talking about how do you do some of these things. I think the number one thing that I would say is if you start out with a lot of these type of projects, we've covered a lot of territory in this discussion, but if you start out from a marketing standpoint with a focus on data, data quality, ease of data usage across your different groups that are stakeholders and whatever it is that you're doing, Anna mentioned several of them, if you have a focus on data when you start out, down the road, it's going to pay off dividends. When you first start, a lot of times, it's difficult to get people in the mindset of that being important. One of the things I really appreciate about Black & Veatch that was done some time ago, even before I came to the company, was that there were some really good data, quality processes that were put in place to ensure that we kind of have a marketing repository of data that is really good, as good as it can be today, and then it's going to get better overtime. Having that in place enables you to do so many things long term. And so one of the big things I would always tell someone is if you have a focus on data, then there's going to be a lot of things that you can do long term. But if you don't have a focus on data, it's going to be very difficult because you can't go back to that data as a resource. And so that's a big thing. The second thing I would mention would be what we call our center of expertise teams, and we have those. Some are small because we're just getting started, others are much larger. And I think those have been really effective support at creating and supporting what Anna mentioned, and that is creating relationships, where people see you as, and when I say you, I don't mean marketing, I mean the team across all of the business that is working on these different initiatives, whether it's CRM or marketing automation, or a creative process where we're developing flagship content, people see those center of expertise teams as places that I go and I get really good things. And they help me, and they help me come up with ideas that I wouldn't have thought of on my own. And if you have those in place, kind of similar to what I mentioned with data, if that team exists and it's viewed as someone that is valuable, and those are people I go to and get good information, then now you're fostering those relationships that you need across the organization. And so that's something that we've had for some time, the center of expertise teams, and we just continue to build more of them that are more focused on this is going to be the analytics team, it's going to be people that are making content decisions based on what the analytics show, or the CRM, COTE, that's something that really fosters a lot of interaction across the company. And then last is really just more to what Anna mentioned, and that is the necessity of building relationships to do a lot of the things that we've talked about today. Many of the things that I've done at Black & Veatch and that we've been successful on and that we touched on today never would have had the level of success if we weren't able to build the relationships internal to the organization that's bringing together marketing, sales, some of the operations folks from the standpoint of their interest in the data that we're talking about as well, so it's not just marketing data. If you can't do that, or if you don't have the right team in place to build those relationships, it's going to be very difficult to have a lot of success with these things that we've been talking about. So maybe my last point is the right team, the right relationships. I mean, those things are really kind of hard to separate. To me, they're kind of a ball all rolled up into one that you can't really separate some of those skills or people from what you need.
Yeah, I think you guys are doing some great things, and it's exciting to hear about it and I want to have you guys back after some time so I can hear some of the post milestone things that occur in 2016. But as we wrap this up, I always ask the question, who are you influenced by or who do you go to for insights when you run into problems or when you're looking for the next big idea?
I'll go first. I go to a couple of places. The Content Marketing Institute has great material about modern marketing, things that we're doing today within our group. I think that they are pretty spot on with what they recommend. Or if I know that I'm trying to search for something very specific, they usually have some sort of material on it. From a non-marketing standpoint, Harvard Business Review has some great articles. And within our industry, I feel like it's just as important to know about how the business functions as it is to learn about the marketing, the best practices. So I try to integrate both kind of facets of a business side and a marketing side so that I can truly bring some new thoughts and ideas to what we're trying to do in our marketing group.
That's a really hard question to answer for me, Jeff. I think one of the things that has influenced me a lot is by being present at some of the places where you hear about new things, or where you get to interact with people that are doing things. And so one of the places that I've been to many times is Microsoft's big CRM conference that they have every year. It's every spring, and it's an opportunity to interact with organizations, both big and small, that are doing like really big things, and then other people that are really small that are much more progressive. And so I think interacting with the other companies that are doing things and learning from what they're doing, I think one of my biggest group of influencers, if you will, is the peers to us, not in our industry, but in other companies of our size, to understand what they're doing, how are they solving the type of problems we have, and then vice versa. And then one other thing that I'll confess to you is I am a real Google News junkie, and I spend a lot of time on Google News. And the thing I like about it is just... It's kind of a dumping ground for like everything, and so as I use it and Google, like, reindexes the things that I'm looking at, it says you might be interested in this, I find a lot of things that are interesting and that are kind of a learning experience for me to consider something maybe that I would've never looked up on my own. And the thing that I like about that, is it's just presenting things. It's surfacing things to me that maybe on my own I would not have gone to look at. And so a lot of the news sites that have that type of functionality or something that I just go back to again and again because I'm hitting all of the things that Anna is touching on, or other publications maybe that are a little bit maybe not front and center in the news world. And so that's something that I just continue to use and I hope that they don't change the laws to make it to where Google News goes away, and it doesn't exist anymore.
Or like they killed off Reader, that was my go to tool. I lived in Google Reader.
When they killed it, it was just like, I don't know what to do, and Feedly is not just the same!
[Tim] Yes, yes.
Cool. Well, thank you guys for coming on the show and for all that you're doing for Kansas city. We definitely appreciate the cool content you're putting out, the work you guys are doing with the STEM programs. I suggest you guys go out and check the Rube Goldberg machine video for the holidays. That was really fun. But thanks for coming out.
[Tim] Great to be here.
[Anna] Thank you, thanks for having us.
[Tim] Yes, thanks so much.