Follow me:
Listen on:

#85: Katie Ray – Build an Engaged Community For Your Brand (How to) | Where to Start, how to SCALE, how to Measure

Episode 85

Play episode

Community. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.

And they’re a hell of a nut to crack to build a successful one in any case!

Thankfully we were able to get Katie Ray onto the show this week to give us a masterclass on all things community!

She shared with us some important foundations to put in place, as well as how to manage the unpredictability of growing a community.

It’s a very helpful episode for those of us in the business of building a community to help others!

Watch The Episode

Sign up to our newsletter for the latest news and summary of the best content.

If you enjoy the podcast. Would you kindly consider leaving a short review? It takes only a minute and helps make a big difference in getting those amazing guests! We also love getting your insights by reading the reviews!



George: welcome back to the B2B Playbook. This week’s interview [00:01:00] is with Katie Ray. And Katie is the head of community at Metadata. What’s metadata? Metadata is the OS that makes every dollar count. Now Katie is an absolute superstar. She’s the 2022 C m Xer of the year. She runs the demand community food metadata that I’ve recently joined.

It’s a killer community. We had Katie on to give us a quick masterclass on all things community building and Kev, what were some of the key themes?

Kev: Well, listeners, the first one that she mentioned was building an audience and building a community are two different things, and that’s a pretty important thing to note. We often talk about the two as if they’re the same, but they’re very different. So they each have their own uses, and you need to be clear which one you want.

And that goes back to what is your business goals and which one do you need to achieve those business?

George: Yeah. Something I think Kev, you and I have dealt with is that difference between audience and community, and it was very cool to get Katie’s perspective on that. What I also love, she [00:02:00] said, was how a lot of the things you do in community when you’re building a community, They don’t seem to scale. It’s actually a lot of one-to-one work, but that’s actually some of the most important work in the long run.

So it can’t be.

Kev: that’s right, George. A lot of the one-on-one work, especially being done by you in our case is not scalable, but some of the most important and fruitful work that we’ve seen work .

And another important piece of the puzzle is that you need executive buy-in. This one is something that I have experienced a lot of but in the same way that I experience it on the demand gen side, on the performance side, it’s just as important to get that executive buy-in when you’re building communities and keep them in the loop and constantly align with the direction and the markers of success for building communities because it is a long play, just like content.

When we talk to Jessica about that, it is a long play in building a community and you need those execs along for the ride.

George: And Kev before starting a [00:03:00] community. God, I think Katie was listening to the B2B playbook, or maybe it’s just because we talk about great fundamentals here, but she said, do your research. Don’t start something if you don’t know anything about it. So Katie shares some of the key ways she did research to deeply understand the demand gen community that she was gonna then serve with her community.

Kev: and interestingly, she points back to crowdsourcing. So you can crowdsource almost everything from content ideas to timing of posts, or timing of releases or products or even product features themselves, and even sourcing. The experts that your community wants to hear from the research, from talking to your community or potential community members.

And later, when that community’s built up, you can just ask the question within that community. So very similar to how we always focus in on doing your research, talking to your dream customers. In a similar vein with a community, you need to talk to your dream community members as.

George: And that was just one of the [00:04:00] many, many, many good points that Katie makes. Kev, let’s jump into it. Listeners, fewers, we hope you enjoyed this conversation with Katie Ray.

George: welcome back to the B2B Playbook. Listeners, as you know, we rarely have guests on our show. Instead, we select a future experts who align with our view that B2B marketing is more about people, not platforms. Now, today our special guest is Katie Ray.

Katie is the head of community at Metadata, and for those of you who don’t know, metadata is the marketing OS that makes every dollar. Katie is the 2022 CM Xer of the Year and runs the demand community for metadata that I’ve recently joined

Katie Ray: Thank you for having me. This is exciting.

George: Katie, so good to have you here. Look, the Demand community is probably the best, most organized and valuable community that I’ve been part of, so I had to get you on to talk about community and show us how you did it. Thank you so much for making the time to come on the.[00:05:00]

Katie Ray: Absolutely. Thanks for having me. And I snuck you in there because, and I’ll get into this a little bit more later about, who we’re vetting and who we let in and what that looks like. But I’m excited about this and hopefully this will be helpful for other folks out there. And just excited to dive into everything

George: Yeah, look, I’m a bit of a silent member of the demand community. Admittedly, so thank you for not kicking me out. But it is so full of value. There’s so much productive conversation every day. I probably spend 15 minutes every day just catching up on what’s gone on the day before. So thank you for adding that to my list of things to do.

Katie . But I would like to kick things off with asking how do you define community?

How Do You Define Community?

Katie Ray: So this is always a tough question. mostly because there’s so many different definitions, and I think it really depends on like business schools at the end of the day, because so many folks out there that are evangelists or focused on more brand audiences they still call themselves communities.

And so it’s just of tough [00:06:00] to really define that. So I’ve actually shifted my definition to be more so aligned with business goals than just like a generic idea of what community is because it can be so many different. At the end of the day for me, and this kind of goes to David’s being’s, definition of it is community is all about a sense of belonging.

For us, specifically the demand community it’s meant to be a place where people can connect, where they can actually build real relationships personally and professionally. Where they’re able to speak with peers about topics that are interesting, confusing insightful, you name it. And it gives them an opportunity to have real conversations in a slightly safer spot than just putting everything on LinkedIn all the time.

So to me, that’s how we define community. But once again, I think it really comes down to what your business goals are and how you define community that’s respective to your business. So that’s a bad answer.

George: No. That’s a great answer. That’s so good. I love that you actually made the distinction between, like building an audience and building a community. And I think what you noted there was [00:07:00] one of the key defining features of community is that place, and it’s a place that people turn up to.

They have a safe space and they’re with like-minded people. You also mentioned that it’s really tied back to the business. Compared to, building an audience, it’s something I wanted to explore a little later in this episode, but since you’ve brought it up, the business goals, like what business goals are communities aligned to?

What Business Goals Are Communities Aligned To? & The Distinction with Audiences

Katie Ray: Yeah, absolutely. I think we have to back up too to really define the difference between the audience and the community, because building audiences is also tied to business goals, right? It’s all, it’s usually tied to brand awareness. Affinity, understanding, recognition, all these great things which is it’s so important.

Like none of that should be downplayed by any means. But the biggest distinction between the people that just consume the content, which is traditionally an audience versus those that consume. and converse about it long term or later on and build through relationships through those conversations. I think that action [00:08:00] in and of itself is what converts people from an audience to community.

So for us, with the Demand Community, our main goal is to provide a really safe environment for demand gen marketers to come together, to network, to learn to. Insightful and even if it’s not the most insightful conversation, but at least having conversations where they’re learning and they’re growing no matter what stage they’re in.

And so for us, I think that business goal in and of itself really ties to how we built our community and how we define it. Of course there’s other like KPIs and stuff we can always get into, but I think on a high level, that’s really what the community is meant to.

George: I love that and thank you for giving, I guess that example of the demand community, because as you noted, community is so open to interpretation. It’s so great to have a concrete example of what a community is. Maybe could you tell our listeners just a little bit more about the demand community? You mentioned it’s for demand gen marketers.

Maybe tell us a little bit more.

Katie Ray: Yeah, absolutely.[00:09:00] Whenever I got brought on back in July, 2022, so slowly let, surely get into a year we really wanted to create a space for demand gen marketers. We hadn’t really seen a super active environment yet. And what we saw was. People are cutting budgets, things are getting more stressful, and a lot of times it’s small marketing teams or maybe one person on the marketing team doing demand gen.

Just like in community, there’s usually only one of us, and it’s really lonely and it’s tough and it’s exhausting, and you’re pouring so much into it. That it’s so difficult to get stuff out sometimes, and you need to have those peer-to-peer relationships to keep you afloat, right? We’re not meant to do life by ourselves, and our jobs shouldn’t, be reflective of loneliness as well.

And so we wanted to create a space where demand and marketers could come together and ask questions and know that like we’re not gonna mock them like people do on LinkedIn. You know what I mean? Like you see so much crap on LinkedIn about people. Shaming sellers and shaming other people and talking [00:10:00] poorly about, and it’s just, it’s what good does that do?

And so our community, we really wanted it to be a spot where people can actually ask questions and get answers quickly. Our average response time is about 23 minutes, which even I still think is a little too long. But that’s really important for us, that folks are getting responses immediately.

And we wanted to give our members an opportunity. Talk with peers in different industries and learn how to do things differently and get creative and share those creative ideas in a safe area. And. For us, we started it in July with our beta group, about 150. Slowly grew by word of mouth to maybe three, 400, maybe a little bit more.

Actually, I gotta check my numbers on this. But then we officially went public in October with it. Um, Still only doing organic social, no pay ads, none of that. Still word of mouth. Sometimes we’ll send emails out to our customer list, but that’s about it. We added our LinkedIn page in January and now we’re at 1700 and I think 55 members.

So we are very close [00:11:00] to 2000 members. I’m very excited.

George: It, it’s amazing and I want to try and get into later, as to how you actually created an environment that has sparked that much interaction and that much like genuine. interaction and people are so willing and helpful to help each other out. But before we get into that, I want to ask. When we get guests on here, as you know, we don’t have that many guests on.

But we always like to try and find out if there was a moment when, like that one thing that they’re working on, they were like, oh my God, this is really awesome. I wanna dive so deep into that. This really works. So was there a moment in your career when you were building communities and you were like, holy crap, like this stuff works.

This is what I wanna put my time.

Katie Ray: I think I’ve had a really unique experience in communities. The, a lot of people that know me know, like I come from sales, so it’s a different background. It’s not like a CS background that moves into community or marketing that kind of takes it on. So I guess my perspective on all of it was, Honestly, but I was so [00:12:00] worried that there’s no career path in community.

That was my number one concern when I moved over until I started out at Sales Hacker with Colin Campbell, who’s just an amazing leader and I learned so much from him and the team. But it was really like the conversations that I had. Whenever I started, I was community engagement manager, so my job was to be a part of the conversations, get people responding, checking in on members who just joined, checking in on members who haven’t participated in a while, haven’t logged in.

And our platform was on a custom WordPress platform. So automations and stuff take forever on that type of thing. And so I had, I just remember I started. It planning everything on Google Sheets. Even to this day, I have one, it’s 134 sheets and it’s where I plan all of our community stuff. So I have one document with all the tabs where I can keep track of everything, which is crazy.

That’s insane. Like it, that’s a ridiculous amount of tabs. But I remember in my Google sheet at Sales Hacker. I. Put a list of all of our new [00:13:00] members. And so every day I’d come in, see our new members, and whenever I was there, we grew up from 6,000 to 30,000, so it was a lot. So after a month and a half, I was like, I can’t scale this, but I was sending one to one messages.

and this is where I learned all my skills that don’t scale, was I was sending one-on-one messages, welcoming people reach out to folks who haven’t engaged, and then I would hear stories. And it was really those conversations of, from those folks of wow, this is, this community has actually helped me.

This community has gotten me a job. This community has brought me in and provide recommendations this has. And then so I saw that and I was like, oh my gosh, this is just amazing. Because I think about times in my life where I’ve reached out to my community and most of the jobs I’ve gotten are because of my community, which is amazing, but I never really thought of it in that lens of a community.

And just through those conversations, and I think most committee managers would. It’s that emotional relationship when you’re just like, oh my gosh, this is outstanding. That this is happening. We’re able to help people. So

George: [00:14:00] I.

Katie Ray: just a mushy person.

George: I, I can feel your enthusiasm through the screen. And look, when you get stories like that of like people finding jobs, people finding support, network, like we as humans, we all crave that kind of thing. And I suppose if you are able to provide that, that’s a wonderful feeling. I can see why you’d be hooked on that.

Um, like an amazing, the amazing community manager you are so far, you’ve. Spoken about the benefits of being part of the community, which I think is like something that a lot of people get wrong, but you absolutely nailed that. But I would love to hear more about what benefits there are to building a community for the actual company itself.

So how does metadata benefit from the demand community?

How Does A Business Benefit From A Community?

Katie Ray: So we work incredibly hard. We are a no pitch tolerated type community. And in internally we, we have, I think like our head of sales, a part of the community, but more so like he’s not there to [00:15:00] scope out prospects. He’s not there for any of that. There’s questions that I may not be able to answer and so I tag him into it or in, in what I mean by that.

And here’s good examples. Why is a sales leader a part of helping demand gen? A lot of people right now are struggling with sales and marketing alignment, and a lot of people are having their SDRs and BDRs fall under demand gen on the marketing team. And so it’s a really cool opportunity for him to share different perspectives, what’s worked, what hasn’t worked, and we’re really big on building in public.

in our community if there’s internal metadata employees that are commenting and engaging, that’s all it is, is just sharing personal experiences. It’s not a pitch time. And that’s why I don’t let sellers usually a part of it, . And with that said, you would think I’m crazy, but I just did math today.

and actually, let me just pull this up cuz this was pretty exciting is what we found was that opportunities that had community [00:16:00] members that are a part of that opportunity close 25 days faster than those that don’t.

George: Wow.

Katie Ray: opportunities that have community members a part of that opportunity are 46.6% more likely to close than they are to close, close win than they are to close lose.

And so that is a huge benefit. And so some of the things like we track are influence, pipeline influence renewals. We have a customer channel inside the community and I’m starting to focus on some customer education effort. where it’s so cool with metadata is that what we put out into the world.

It’s really just to help make marketers better at what they do, save them time and money, and make their lives easier. And so it’s cool that a lot of the messaging that we get to put out there is just on that, whether they use our product or not. Ideally, You know, they’ll be like, wow, I could do it easier and faster and cheaper if I had this tool.

That’s awesome. But a lot of the tactics and stuff are stuff that people can implement [00:17:00] with or without our tools. So it’s cool to have numbers like that whenever, like we’re not pitching, we’re not promoting, like we’re trying to keep it separate. So

George: Wow. They are amazing. Yeah, they’re amazing. Hard numbers to see as well. Like o on the business side, I mean there’s a such a great justification for building that community and to see that actually happen. Our. At the bottom end in your pipeline is incredible. Look, it’s clearly working for you guys at metadata.

But is there a particular kind of business in your experience that benefits more from building a community than others? Is there like a particular stage of growth that a company should be in? Can you talk us through that?

When Should A Business Build A Community?

Katie Ray: Yeah. I think the type of business that benefits the most from having a community is the one where your customers or your prospects are asking for a community. I know that’s a generic answer of sorts, but my number one thing, anytime people ask, should we build this? Should we not? I’m always asking who is wanting this?

Us who out there said we need to have something like this. Have you done market [00:18:00] research or are you just doing this cuz you think it’s a good idea? Which to be fair, many of us in community, that’s a lot of how we base our decisions. And so that’s why for this community, I’m really doing things differently and building it by the members and for the members.

So we sat down with 150 some odd people and said, should we do this? Or. And a resounding yes came through, and then that became our betas and how we built the community. I think customer success communities are a huge asset for any organization. . If you have a dedicated community manager, if you have customer success KPIs that are tied to the success of the community, if you have onboarding, implementation KPIs tied to the success of the community, right?

So meaning. How are your customers finding out about the community If they’re not being introduced and forced to sign in and walk through the actual community and onboard implementation, when are they gonna find it then? Oftentimes once you hit that renewal time, it might be too late and they’re gonna churn.

And so like you have to think [00:19:00] about, I think more of the logistics side of things. Communities of practice are really great in coming from a sales community of practice there. There’s a dime a dozen. . When you think about how do you make it successful, it’s more about what are you going to do that’s going to be so enticing that’ll draw that seller away from every other distraction to come into your community.

So those are things like you have to think about. Which once again, probably a bad answer because there’s a lot of, if ands, ORs, . But it’s just stuff you have to think about. Cuz I, I really think lots of companies have great communities in some communities, honestly. Surprise me. . I, so my last sales job, I sold network infrastructure, which is a wildly tenured industry, very old school old sales process.

And I was just like, oh my gosh, there’s no way that there’s communities for folks like this. Like they don’t even wanna put stuff in Salesforce. They’re not going to do anything with community. And then whenever I was going through community [00:20:00] interviews, and there’s one company I was talking with, I was.

because it was the construction industry and I was shocked to hear that they had such a vibrant community with thousands of members, active member. It just, it blew my mind. So I think that there’s really, I think there’s a spot for every type of community really, if there’s like a core group of people that wanna support it.

If you have goals that are flexible goals and I think too, if you. Like a designated person to manage it. I think that’s one of the biggest things. The communities that I’ve seen that have failed or are wildly inactive are ones where they don’t have someone that’s going to be there day in, day out, responding, participating, and like thinking of the programming.


George: Okay, so you need then, from what I’m hearing you like, you really have to have that need, that want from the audience itself and.

Katie Ray: that’s all. Yeah.

George: and you need the resources as well to actually fulfill it. And Katie, you are a huge [00:21:00] resource for metadata at this stage, and I’ve seen you write elsewhere for Crunchbase, I think you said community strategy is really about spending time doing activities that don’t scale. Uh, why is it so important to do these things that don’t scale?

Why Is It So Important To Do Things That Don’t Scale?

Katie Ray: I think if you look in your inbox right now and you went to the spam folder and you saw all the things that came in, those are all different types of. Go to market type techniques that are trying to build a relationship with a potential customer, right? Those are all great things, and sometimes they grab your attention, sometimes they don’t.

But what I have found, and I know that there’s people out there that’ll probably disagree with me, is that when it comes to sales, people oftentimes are going to buy from the person. that they have a better relationship with. If the products are similar and the pricing is similar as well. And so while the demand community isn’t necessarily meant to be like a top of funnel generator or helping [00:22:00] to close deals, what I’ve seen is if I can help build that relationship with that one person in honestly, it really comes down to doing the right.

thing in helping people and that’s what most of us do in community is we try really hard to do the right thing to right by our members, help them at every step we can. If I can do that, then hopefully they’ll remember me wherever they go and hopefully I’ll still be there supporting them as well. , but then they’ll be more comfortable in the product that we have because they trust us, because they have that relationship. that is something that I think makes a huge differentiator, and that’s how you get referrals and word of mouth. And I think people oftentimes forget about the power of something like that. It’s not just about the super flashy stuff on LinkedIn and the communi. Are posted on everyone’s LinkedIn page.

Heavens, you could find someone and see five different communities. They’re a part of eight different advisory roles. You name it. And it’s just

Katie: insane,

Katie Ray: And I think while those are important, [00:23:00] it’s really the relationships. And I don’t think that those people would be in that spot if it wasn’t for the relationships they had.

So whenever I do things at down scale, like one-to-one messaging, I let members and highly encourage members to message me directly if they would like to. Or they have a question that they’re unsure if they should post it themselves. Like I will post it on their behalf. Those activities, they don’t scale.

Our mentorship program does not scale at all. I had to sit with my whiteboard and I had to put 50 pairs of people together and pray that they would match and they’d be the right ones and some were not, and others were awesome. And I’m learning. But none of that scales there. I don’t have a way to do that.

automatically. But that’s the stuff that I think really matters. And that’s building the strong foundations and taking time with the little things like really build up, bigger opportunities later on for them. So

George: So I suppose all those one-to-one interactions, like yes, they’re one-to-one like Katie. You are the one [00:24:00] who has to message that person. You are the one who has to plan these things, but there’s a knock on effect to every one, one-to-one interaction you have. And the better that one-to-one interaction is, the more helpful it is, the more chance there is.

Grow through things like word of mouth referral, like you just being so amazing with this, with the demand community. I’m like, I have to get Katie on here. Hopefully some of our listeners come and join and hopefully some of them turn into metadata customers eventually or something. But I think, yeah, I think that’s something maybe people forget about one-to-one interactions.

Start Small, Scale Comes Later From Empower Community Members

Katie Ray: And everyone sees these big communities. Everyone wants to be the Salesforce Trailblazers, which is an amazing organization, amazing community. , but you don’t have 10 years, you don’t have a staff of 30 people. You’re not getting x million a year for it. And if you look at how they originally started, it was small groups.

And so if you think about that in respect to your own community as well, that’s all very one-to-one, one to few, one to many type interactions in where that. [00:25:00] So imperative is whenever you start to scale. And that’s what we all wanna do with our communities cuz we’re all getting pressure to grow. And so if you think about it, one community manager cannot, pos should not

I mean we probably can, we really shouldn’t cuz we’ll lose our mind. We shouldn’t be hosting three round tables a week, two webinars, doing this, doing that, creating content, hosting the book club, hosting. Mentorship, doing all these things and trying to keep track of everything in the community and that everyone’s following rules and welcoming, you really shouldn’t do that.

So what do you do? You take those really great and strong relationships that you’ve been fostering for the first six months or however it is, and then you start empowering those folks to become community representatives through community leaders, channel leaders. Community champions, you name it. And you find out what’s important to them and where do they want to go.

And so then you can take that one-to-one. And then you’re enabling that person, let’s say they want to be seen as a thought leader. So [00:26:00] you start having them host the webinars for you, and you have someone else who really thrives off of interpersonal relationships. So they start hosting the round tables and then it frees up your time to start thinking more strategically.

Versus the actual actions on everything. So while it doesn’t scale, it will eventually lead to that, but it just takes time to build that.

George: That is so smart and like every great community has that and people want to own those roles and they want to step up and there is like a tangible benefit to them. Just by being part of that demand community, I think it kind of elevates. Your own profile. People probably think, oh, you know, I’m a really motivated marketer because I’m part of that demand community.

You’re surrounded by so many great peers, so many probably like people that you wanna learn from as well. And the opportunity to take some ownership and take a role in there. Like I can see why people would want to do that. That’s so awesome Katie and I can see how that scales Very smart very smart.

I love

But It Takes Time To Get The Foundations Right To Get To A Big Community. And You Need Executive Buy-In

Katie Ray: It just takes time. That’s the thing is [00:27:00] so many people wanna just rush and get to this huge level, but unless you have that really strong fun, it’s like building a house. Unless you have that really strong foundation that took some time. You had to level out the sand or dirt, you had to push it all down.

You had to put all the little metal pieces in so that you could pour concrete or whatever your foundation, but you have to, it takes time. There’s steps that you have to do, and honestly, one of the. things. Biggest problems, I feel like for community builders in general is that a lot of times our executive teams do not give us the opportunity to have that time.

Like they want results day one. And if you do that, you’re gonna be putting so many extra stressors on the community and they’re gonna feel it, they’re gonna know, and you’re not gonna be able to have that growth that you, you really could have without that executive support. So I would, I also think that strong foundation, you need to be talking with your executives.

You need to be talking with your team. in really letting people know, like I meet with my CEO about once a quarter, if not maybe one or two times a [00:28:00] month. And we have these conversations of here’s where we’re at, here’s where we’re going, here’s how we’re pacing here. But you’ve gotta have those conversations or else you really, you’re not gonna be given the time that you need to build something successful. And those are hard

George: and yeah, that’s absolutely difficult. But in those conversations what sort of expectations do you set? What expectations did you set for metadata at the beginning when you were hired to build this community?

What Expectations To Set About Community Success With Executives?

Katie Ray: Yeah. Honestly, that’s hon, that’s really the hardest conversation to have is here’s what I think success looks like. And the thing is, everyone has a natural inclination to want to look at other communities out there, peer companies, stuff like that. See what they’re doing. And the thing is with that, and my only caveat with it, We’re all building slightly differently.

Like we may all be working towards a similar goal, but we have different people, right? We have different funds, we have different resources, different brand awareness. And so you have to work with where you’re at. So we really took the [00:29:00] first two, three months in our beta to figure out like what is a sustainable level of growth?

And also, Do we wanna focus on growth or do we wanna focus on engagement that’ll drive growth. And so like that was a really big differentiator for us and I’ve been very fortunate to be working with Jason Whit up and the amazing team at Metadata where. He was very much, we hired you cuz you know what you’re doing.

Take your time and do it right. And so I’ve been very fortunate to have that. But I also remember some of our early conversations and even trying to figure out what our quarterly goals would look like and how much is too much or not enough. And we took a couple months with that beta to figure out what our pacing was, and then we started to do the math of what that would look like quarter over quarter.

Where is a good stretch goal? Where is a good general goal? I imagine we’re going to revisit our Q2 goals now that we’ve surpassed our Q1 in before the end of q1. So I think we’re gonna tweak that. But I think the biggest thing though, too, when it comes to goal setting for [00:30:00] community. Never put anything in concrete like

Don’t sign anything with blood because it’ll all change. Cuz at the end of the day, you’re dealing with people and people’s lives change. And so you don’t know how people are going to react every single day. You may be able to predict a little. , but it’s not like a consistent group that you’re gonna be predicting off of.

And so that I think is one of the biggest things that we had to have conversations about is the prediction of it’s going to be a little difficult. Difficult and slightly different. Cuz people are different. They’re gonna do people things and so you just don’t know

George: That, that makes so much sense. You’ve said it a few times already that you guys are building it for the community and it’s being built by the community. Sure. You are there, Katie, in the background I guess stoking the fire where you can and connect, helping people connect the dots. But at the end of the day, like so much does come down to the members in the community to help build.

Build out this beautiful community, so I can see why it would be very difficult to say this is exactly where the community is gonna be in three months [00:31:00] time, or, this is exactly what we’re gonna do in six months time.

Always Start With The Business Goals & Tie Numbers & Forecasts Back To Those

Katie Ray: And I think a lot of it too, and this is something I’ve always. pointed to whenever I’ve had these conversations with Jason is at the end of the day, are you going to gimme money for ads? If not, here’s probably what your numbers are going to look like. If you are, here’s what that’s going to look like.

And I think it’s important to show that like you’ve done your research and you’re presenting this to your leadership and saying, here’s where we’re at. If we spend this much, here’s what we can do. If we don’t spend anything at all, here’s what to expect. And it’s, I think it’s so important to give those realistic numbers as well.

And sometimes they’re gonna be a little bit lower than maybe what you want them to be. But I also think like when SCAN has go back to your bus business goals, are you wanting it to be a high growth place with huge brand awareness that. Like a bad reputation because of the lack of engagement by so many different people?

Or do you want it to be like a more resourceful type of a community? There’s just different levers I feel like that you could [00:32:00] play with based off what you’re wanting to accomplish.

George: All right, so always start with the business goals. Listen, it’s very important. Katie. Katie, when you set out to build this community for metadata, you said that you restricted it to a pretty specific audience to demand gen marketers, you real. Don’t let people in unless they’re a demand gen marketer.

Why did you choose demand gen marketers? Maybe this is starting to get into some of your strategy behind the community itself. Why not some other kind of marketer, like a performance marketer, for example, how did you define, decide on demand Gen

Why Demand Gen Marketers ?

Katie Ray: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great question. I was told that ,, that’s what we were doing whenever I first joined. Literally my first call with Jason, I remember it back in May last year. He was like, we wanna build a community in three weeks. And I was like, this is insane. And then the more conversations I had with him, I was like, holy shit, this is awesome.

Like they have no clue what to expect. We could really build anything without the normal constraint constraints that you would get from a traditional. Marketing team [00:33:00] and people who have done a lot of research on community. So it was awesome. I was like, this is gonna be outstanding. And we wanted to follow up with like our demand sub-brand that we have for our demand conference that’s always geared towards demand.

Gen marketers obviously demand gen marketers are our target icp, so that makes sense. And we have a lot of great internal experts that can speak to the industry. And so we had. Group of folks already that we could bring in. Where I have allowed a little bit of Gray room is it’s not just, you know, I’ve kind of opened it a little bit more because through some of the conversations that we’ve had, there’s so many different definitions these days for Performance Marketer.

Like some performance marketers do touch on a lot of what demand agenda does, a lot of aspects and vice versa. Same thing with mo, with mops and like whenever you look at the startup SaaS industry as a whole, we’re all wearing five D. Um, We have some product marketing managers in there who I’ve talked with who are also doing demand [00:34:00] gen functions, and they’re like, I’m being thrown into this because of layoffs and I don’t know what I’m doing.

This is a huge opportunity for them to learn and always remember that like we’re there to support and whatever that looks like. Same thing with like industry wise, like we start off with B2B SaaS and then today I put a poll in there cuz I’ve had a few members ask for. Vertical specific or like industry specific channels.

And I’ve been back and forth on this. Once again, everything we do is done by the community members and I had probably like 150, maybe 200 votes on it, honestly off Shay after this cuz it was insane. I was like, oh my gosh,

Katie: this

Katie Ray: is awesome

George: That’s so

Katie Ray: Um, but, But that’s what’s really driven where we’re at. And so we did start with the demand Gen.

We’ve opened it up cuz we’re all wearing different. But we’re still content wise, still really focused on the demand gen motion itself.

George: Very cool. So it’s really aligned, I suppose, to the target audience of metadata. As you said, you have a whole lot of subject matter experts who are. Can [00:35:00] speak to demand gen. And I don’t know, maybe there’s something about demand gen marketers too in that psychographically anyway. I think like why there are a lot of different definitions for what demand gen is and what it even encompasses.

I think there’s a real movement amongst the demand gen community that we all pride ourselves on at least being accountable towards revenue, which is something that metadata can really help you do. So you guys probably have really good alignment.

Alignment To Dream Customers & Sharing Behind The Scenes Information (“Building In Public”)

Katie Ray: and what’s cool too, a lot of the masterclass or playbooks that we’re now turning into master classes, Are how we use metadata or like how we do our function. And so it’s been really amazing to see the responses that we’ve been getting from folks. Because, at the end of the day, we all wanna know what each other are doing and it, and so it’s cool to provide that behind the scenes look for everyone.

But that’s also been like a big part of who we are as a company is we’re. Building a public, you can pull up my LinkedIn and see we just did a re-engagement [00:36:00] campaign and I asked for feedback and there were some people who were not very happy that I would do this of. If you don’t reengage within 45 days, your account’s gonna be deleted.

But for us, we, I recognize that there people go through ebbs and flows where they’re there a lot and they’re not there a lot. And I even go through that with communities for community leaders. But I also, if it’s not gonna be beneficial right now, like no need for you to get bothered by all the messages that you’re gonna miss out on, and so we thought, we worked through.

We tried it. I actually got really great responses from members who were like, oh my gosh, thank you for messaging me. I didn’t even have this on my phone. And so that made me think maybe in our onboarding we need to be more specific of make sure you have this in your slack on your phone to stay up to date whenever you’re, traveling, whatever.

And then we started getting messages about how people are engaging in the community. And it was just the coolest thing because. This kind of turned my perspective around on who Lurkers are and the value that they have for our community because while they weren’t necessarily replying [00:37:00] or liking using emoji or starting a conversation, they were telling us through these re-engagement campaigns that.

they prefer one-to-one conversations, so they see what’s happening. Then they go and DM the people. And so then I added a new tool to our platform that showed how many messages, and I’m seeing 118, 180 messages a day. And I know that’s not coming in threads, you know, I’m seeing what the threads are and I’m like, wow, they’re still like six years, 70 messages.

Are accounted for and they come from that one-to-one interaction, which is insane. So I’m like, this is outstanding. But that’s really something that, that we try and keep in mind and try and leverage for the community too. So always trying to give those insights.

George: so cool. I saw your LinkedIn post about kicking out people who weren’t engaging and I was like, oh no, I don’t want to get kicked out. I haven’t said anything. And then I read the whole post and you were like, but we’ve def we’ve redefined,

Katie Ray: We redefined

George: I’m like, oh, thank [00:38:00] God I meet that criteria.

I can stay . Katie, you were in. Before you got into these community roles, and now you’re speaking to and with demand gen marketers, did you need to do some kind of research before starting this community about demand gen marketers? You would’ve had a lot of interaction with them anyway, but is there a research process that our listeners should go through before I suppose, starting a community?

Don’t Start Something If You Don’t Know Anything About It. Research

Katie Ray: Definitely don’t start something if you don’t know anything about it,

George: good rule

Katie Ray: I would definitely, I’m not gonna start an art archeology community. That’s just, I know nothing about that. Also, I dunno why I came up with that example. I’m not like, I don’t know. But I I think it’s really important to know something, but I also know I don’t know everything by any stretch of imagination and so I really lean on my members.

You can crowd source content ideas, and experts and be the host of the party instead

Katie Ray: Once again, this is where it’s different, is it is community driven, is I’ll do research after research. And I’ll post topics and put a poll in there and say, Hey, what topics [00:39:00] are you most interested in? Who do you know that you would like to hear from? Who are you most interested in hearing speak about this?

And they’ll come in and share and comment on the poll and respond. And that really helps drive the content that we provide in the community. I also. , I know you got this message and your welcome message, it asks if you’re interested in speaking, doing an ama a webinar, let me know. I get taken up on that all the time.

And so I have our content calendar planned out until May right now of community events. And I’m so incredibly excited about it because I want our community events to be a place where. Our members can come and share ideas that they may be more nervous to share elsewhere of cool things that are creative, of different, unique things that worked well, things that didn’t work well, that could prevent someone else from doing something differently.

And so I’m learning just as much as the next person is in the community and I am doing a lot of research, which I’m very lucky that our company has so much great re so many great [00:40:00] resources. But I definitely think, you know, you need to know and, and luckily, done. SD R B D R efforts tied to demand gen before.

A lot of it’s like a very similar emotion. I just wish I had this type of technology that’s available whenever I was doing it. Cause I did not at all. That’s the biggest learning

George: So you don’t have to be what I’m hearing then, like you don’t have to be the expert, you don’t have to be the life of the party. You can just be the host of the party. You set up the venue for everyone to come in, like you, you make it an area that people would like to enjoy. Then you are also, I notice like you’re the facilitator a lot of the time.

Like you’re introducing people to each. Um, I noticed that when someone has a question, Katie, you always seem to know two or three people who would be the go-to expert for the answer to that particular question. Which I think is really awesome. And like I, to me, I’m just look at you and I’m like, Katie’s a damn good host at this party.

Katie Ray: Thanks, . Yeah, it’s really tough and I think at the end of the day, a lot of people get caught up [00:41:00] in like the LinkedIn popularity and all of that, but in my community. It’s not about me. It’s not about making me the star of it all. My whole job is to help make people, meet their peers, get them answers quickly and provide them an opportunity to have real conversations.

And I think that’s a really big thing, is it’s really about your mindset as a community leader. Is this who’s this really for? And actually trying to build it that way. And I know that the folks I talk with in the community, like they know , like I said, I don’t know everything. And so I’m still learning too.

And I just wanna help facilitate that conversation. And I think like you’re so spot on too. And like even the events we do, like I’ll just be bopping around and trying to make introductions and, oh, you need another beer? I’ll help you get a beer. Or you want some food? I’ll bring it. You know, like, But I also love hosting in general.

, I guess that works out

George: That’s awesome. So cool. That’s some great, I think, insight into your strategy. I don’t know how much strategy that you can have, like when it comes to community, how much of a framework you can have. [00:42:00] You’ve spoken about research, you’ve spoken about, I guess being the host of the party.

Is there anything else that you’d like to share in terms of your own strategy? When it comes to building our community, I guess like for our listeners, Have been asked to build one from the beginning. Is there anything else that you’d like to.

Community Strategy Points: Don’t Reinvent The Wheel, Put Your Spin On It, Make Sure You Have Executive Support In Writing & Keep Going Back To Them

Katie Ray: definitely. I think the number one thing is you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are so many people out there that have already created the community. I would leverage every resource as po like as much as you possibly can. There’s so many great podcasts and websites and tools and resources and even communities where people can share their experiences.

I would take that and then put your own spin on it, figure out, cuz once again, not. Not every cake is going to be the right cake for the right person. , I know it’s like a lame analogy, but it fits right? Not every framework is going to fit exactly what you need when you need it, and so you have to have that lens whenever you look at things and say, , what could I change?

What could I tweak? How could I move things around to make this a lot more [00:43:00] relevant for what we’re trying to build and where we’re at. You’ll always be able to find peers that are in similar spots. But I would never replicate everything straight, straight up. Put your own spin on it, make that work for where you’re at.

Like I said before, getting actual ownership is so important and. You will totally be over me saying this, but everyone’s gonna be excited about the community and everyone’s gonna want this because they’re part of communities and they love it and it’s so amazing and that’s great. But then you sign the contract, you start three weeks in, you reach out to Sarah and development, and they are too busy.

They can’t help support the ticket requests that come in, like all this stuff, right? And you’re sitting there twiddling your thumbs thinking this is going to crash. And. and it, I think the number one way to prevent that is making sure that you’ve got executive support and they put it on paper. Put it on paper, have them confirm it and make sure you can go back to them, build that relationship with them.

Cuz it’s gotta come [00:44:00] top down, right? No one that’s at a practitioner level is really gonna be convincing to the VP or C, right? Like you need it to be top down and have them tie it to KPIs because then, Members are, and employees are gonna take a lot more seriously whenever you ask for help too.

So that’s what I’d really focus on.

George: Wow. You can say that again and again and again, and I won’t get sick of it like you do. You gotta have that buy-in if you want people to see it through. It’s like with any long-term effort, right? If there isn’t that top level buy-in you are gonna make your life pretty stressful. I think

Katie Ray: Yeah, it’s really tough. And I think too, like you’ve gotta have that hard conversation and that realistic conversation with your leadership, whoever you’re reporting to of this is what I can accomplish as one person. And I had this too, whenever I set up my goals for this year was I’ve got a little doc it’s like a governance doc of.

What like our five main category goals are, what those goals are gonna be, what the stretch goals are gonna be, and then who can support those efforts [00:45:00] and like what that time constraint looks like for that. So it’s very similar to the governance doc, but then I also had notes in there of.

Once we get to this level, I’m gonna need to hire someone because if you want this level of performance, I can’t do it on my own. Like as much as I wanna think, I can take everything on and be superwoman, I will end up inevitably crying in my closet and like I can’t put my husband through that again.

George: Oh, we don’t

Katie Ray: had to have that. If we get here, then we gotta bring someone on and that, that has to be okay. And if not, then we need to reprioritize a few things to make sure that we’re focused on the things that we can actually. Pay for right now, so you have to have that. But I also think a lot of it like ends up, it’s all about the relationship you have with your management too.

I’m so incredibly fortunate to have such a great leadership team that I could go to for anything. I know not everyone has that. So figure out how they like to be spoken with and present it in a manner that’s gonna make sense to them too.

George: Great advice. That roadmap is so important. Katie, when it comes down to [00:46:00] measurement, you touched on it a little already, but how do you actually measure if your community is working? And for our listeners, I did the the Dr. Evil inverted, cons there, how do you define Yeah, if it’s working, are there particular metrics that you.

How To Measure Community Success?

Katie Ray: Yeah, absolutely. So once again, back to your business goals. Some things that really matter for us. Membership matters, but I wouldn’t say it’s like the king of all things because you could have a community of 30,000 members and only have 200 active, and while it may be a different 200 every month, that’s still not a great representation of the health of the, I guess actually it’s a great representation of the health because it’s not a super healthy community For us, I’m more interested in what our total number is.

And then out of that total amount of members, how many are actually active? So they’re logging in and they’re engaging in some capacity. And then how many are super users? Meaning they’re logging in, they’re engaging and they’re posting, like starting [00:47:00] conversations on their own. So that’s really important for us.

Influence ARR influence um, pipeline is really, I. , not necessarily, like I said before, not because we’re trying to draw business from the community, cuz that’s not a focus, but because I wanna make sure that our prospects who are going through the sales cycle with us, Are getting the type of support that they need from the community itself.

And so I wanna see like how we are influencing those two areas and if there’s things that we could be doing to better support our prospects through that process. We’re doing events and we’re doing in-person events as well. So are we getting new people to come to events? How many registrants versus attendees and what that process looks like.

 How many community. driven events are there per month, and I’ve, got master classes, AMAs, webinars, in person, round tables. And then I’m also responsible for our customer advisory board as well. And so making sure that we have a positive customer advisory experience.

I’m really, really [00:48:00] big on NPS scores and making sure that people feel happy and like they have a positive feeling. An interaction with us. And so I try and track that with our cabs and just getting feedback post event. And so those are some things that like I’m tracking with the community right now.

There’s some really great tools out there for that, which have been really helpful. Response time is another thing that’s huge for us. so that’s like bunch of metrics.

George: Oh my God, Katie, I’m simultaneously nodding my head and shaking it. I cannot believe that you are responsible for the customer advisory board as well. I suppose it makes sense because you’ve, you know these people better than anyone else, but they’re two huge responsibilities independent of one another.

Katie Ray: though, it’s all part of the process.

George: it’s all part of the process. Absolutely. Final question, Katie, is the demand community, what’s the next major evolution for the demand community?

Katie Ray: Excuse me. So I’m in the process of this [00:49:00] because around Christmas time I went to Mark Huber, and Jason went up and I said, I wanna do something really big in the community. This. I want there to be one thing that’s like a huge splash and I’ve been toying with a few ideas. , I’m not sure quite yet, but we’re about to hit 2000 members, so we’ll probably do something big for that.

Yeah, I’ve got a few things I’m working on that, that it’s gonna take a lot of manpower to get through, so I don’t wanna spill all the beams, but I think that’s really the next big thing is just trying. Iterate, make different changes. There could be platform changes coming up.

There could be educational opportunities coming up and certifications coming through that. I think those are some things I’m toying with right now. So we’ll see about that. But there’s a lot up in the air, a lot of things happening.

George: I love it. I love it. Stay tuned. Listeners Katie, where would be the best place, for our listeners to keep in touch with what is going on in the demand community so they know when that next big thing happens,

Katie Ray: Absolutely [00:50:00] come find us on LinkedIn. It’s the Demand Community Demand is on caps. I don’t know if that matters whenever we search on LinkedIn. Or if you are a marketer and you wanna come join us, come to That is the url. And I’ll get you vetted and popped into the community so you can see what’s happening.

But as always, please feel free to message me. I’m always here to help and share any bit of words of wisdom that I can, so don’t hesitate.

George: So cool. And when you join listeners, you’ll get a personal welcome from Katie. It’s pretty

Katie Ray: will

George: Katie, you’ve been so generous with your time. That was an absolute masterclass. Us in community. I knew we’d be getting one, but you absolutely delivered. I have no doubt that our listeners are gonna feel the same.

Thank you for just being so generous and sharing that brain of yours with us. We’re so grateful for it. Before we round out the conversation, is there anything that you’d like to add to the conversation or direct our audience’s attention to?

Katie Ray: I just think the biggest thing is to know [00:51:00] no matter where you’re at or what you’re doing, like we’re all in this together. Community can be so emotional and just incredibly taxing, and so I just wanna encourage everyone, like there’s gonna be really great times and to hold onto that whenever you’re in the valley sometimes, cuz it can be pretty.

And there’s a whole slew us that are here to help and support each other, so never hesitate to reach out.

George: That’s awesome. Spoken like a true community expert. Listen as follow Katie’s journey Katie, Ray. Katie, where would you like people to find you? Is it LinkedIn?

Katie Ray: yeah, hit me up on LinkedIn. I am not on Twitter , so don’t bother me there. I’m not there.

George: All right, LinkedIn is the place she shares so much gold there really often. So please go and follow her. Katie, thank you so much for your time

Katie Ray: Absolutely. Thank you.

Kev: there was so many great ideas and specific pieces of insight that Katie just shared with us listeners, and frankly, I’m running outta pages in my [00:52:00] notes section as I was editing this interview, but it’s obvious that she cares so much about her community and they’re really lucky to have that and to be part of something so great.

As I’m sure George. And I don’t think it takes a very big imagination to understand just how much that sort of positive emotion can mean for business and a brand.

George: Kev, Katie was built for this. Her enthusiasm was just so infectious and she just shared so many learnings with us. Some of the key points that I really loved from Katie Kev, first of all, was. Look, there’s a lot of things that you do when you’re building a community that don’t really seem to scale.

There’s a lot of one-to-one work, which is gonna seem like a bit of a grind, but that is some of the most important stuff in the long run. So don’t skip out on it.

Kev: and as mentioned at the beginning of the episode, you need executive buy-in, not just from the start, but ongoing. So that’s a very important distinction to make and to keep in mind as well. It’s ongoing support that you need from your executives. That’s the only way you have.

The [00:53:00] time to build the community’s foundations right, and to get the internal support you need to help the community thrive over time as well. And make sure to do your research. Don’t start, if you don’t know anything about what you’re talking about, what you want to build your community around.

Do your research, make sure you have a good starting point. You have this foundations in place, and actually, it’s just the easier way to go about it because you can crowdsource everything from your content ideas. You know what, when you’re posting things, what you’re posting about, what you engage in the community about what product features to release, and those experts we talked about, where to source those, who to source for your particular community or from that same research and within the community itself.

George: And that leads us to the next point, Kev, which. To get going. Don’t reinvent the wheel, like Katie didn’t need to reinvent the wheel. There’s so many resources out there already. Put your own spin on it. Just make sure that your community is [00:54:00] properly aligned with your dream customers and work with those dream customers to help form that community.

Kev: And it can be a bit daunting like everything else when you first get started, but start small like everything else that we talked about with Timbo, a couple of episodes back. Start small. Take your time. You need to do the unscalable one-to-one work, as Katie said, and to build a foundation’s right for that healthy community.

Those foundations themselves will allow you to scale quicker and faster later on. It will give you the community members that you can then empower to lead the community growth.

George: And then care for what I love that she does with communities, that she builds it in public. Not everyone loves to do it. I think it’s such a great approach to really getting exposure, to really building a lot of goodwill in a community, to do it in public. But everyone loves to know what other people are doing.

Always fascinated by it. And building in public really just builds that trust. So definitely look at that.

Kev: Listeners, the last thought we would like to leave you with is there’s [00:55:00] a great section on the metrics that Katie looks at to measure success for communities because it is one of those things that’s a bit harder to measure success on because it’s such a long play, because so many things are unspoken behind the scenes and not measurable.

But she touched on a few key ones. That we really encourage you to look back at and listen to, including things like the percentage of members who are active or pipeline impact and how to measure that from communities and how many people are getting support they need from the community itself. The list goes on, but make sure you check out that section if you’re struggling to get either a gauge on how well your community’s performing or struggling to put those numbers and those insights in front of the executive.

George: Very good, Kevin. Okay. Listeners, go and find Katie Ray on LinkedIn and also check out the Demand Community there if it’s relevant to you. Look, if you’re listening to this podcast, it probably is relevant to you. It’s a great community. I’m in it. Go and check it out. As always, Kevin and I so, so [00:56:00] stoked that more and more of you joining us every Monday by listening to the podcast.

We’ve had a couple of records lately in terms of podcast growth and video growth, and it’s all thanks to you dear listeners and watches. And if we can ask one thing, it would be to please leave a comment if you’re watching on YouTube wherever you listen to the podcast, please give us that five star review.

It’s a huge help to us or even tell someone about the show because we know it can really, really help people. Thank you so much Kevin. Thank you to Katie and thank you listeners. Take care and catch you next week.

Kev: Thank you, George. Thank you, Katie. Catch next week listeners.

​ [00:57:00]

More from this show

Episode 85