When Toby Lee joined the tax & accounting division of Thomson Reuters in 2012, he was asked to bring excitement to the conservative (and sometimes stale) industry marketplace. His Silicon Valley marketing background was a perfect fit for an organization hungry for inspiration and change.
“They didn’t care that I was new to the industry because they wanted someone who understood marketing,” Toby says. “When I arrived, expectations were running high, which helped generate momentum and support for a new world order.”
As such, Toby and his team were able to help create something that all marketing leaders strive for — an action-oriented marketing culture that works hand in hand with the sales team.
His success recently led him to a new role as chief marketing officer for the legal division of Thomson Reuters, a 3.5 billion-dollar business with marketing employees all over the globe. He also is a finalist for CMI’s Content Marketer of the Year.
Here are some of the lessons he’s taking with him as he embarks on the next phase of his career.
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Creating and valuing personas
One of Toby’s passion projects was delving into persona work; he and his team developed 45 distinct personas and 25 customer-journey maps to help guide content creation and demand generation.
The research showed that one key persona — people who work in the tax department — tend to be introverted and reticent to push for change in the business. His team created the concept of the “taxologist” — a tax professional who uses leading-edge technology to get results. Toby’s team developed an arsenal of educational and inspirational content for taxologists.
“The taxologist (content) celebrates our customers and gave them an aspirational brand. It’s taken off like wildfire,” says Toby. The term has become so widespread that taxologist is now an official skill set on LinkedIn and customers are asking to use this title to describe their profession.
The taxologist concept is brought to life at an annual user conference, Synergy, hosted by Thomson Reuters and recently attended by more than 1,500 tax professionals. The culmination of the event is a Taxologist awards ceremony. Explains Toby, “The emotion and reaction from people who win is amazing. We pick them up in limos, give them a suite in the hotel. One winner lady broke down and cried at the award ceremony saying she’d never been treated this nicely.”
Based on customer feedback and industry accolades, extending the taxologist concept was a no-brainer. The Taxologist of Tomorrow program, a partnership with Junior Achievement (a nonprofit youth organization), offers workshops to high school students interested in learning more about how technology but also business acumen will be a key driver in their future success. Workshops have been held in New York and Dallas, touching hundreds of students with more on the way.
“There’s a really robust platform around the taxologist,” says Toby. “It embraces good content, it understands who it is talking to, and what is contextually relevant to them.”
The personas also help the sales and marketing teams speak more directly about relevant conversations and influencers in the buying cycle.
For instance, an individual signs up to attend an income-tax webinar. The Thomson Reuters content team enables the conversation to go further than a one-time interaction and extend beyond that individual. In this case, Toby’s team offers content to spark a dialogue between that individual (typically a user) and their manager since we know decision-making in B2B companies doesn’t fall to a single individual.
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Connecting content marketing to sales and revenue
“We’ve tried to switch the marketing mentality from a checklist to more of a revenue contributor,” Toby says.
Instead of just churning out content, Toby champions continual engagement and collaboration between sales and marketing, and lets data point the way to achieve greater efficiency and returns.
For example, staying focused on the science side of marketing helped the team realize that the longer it takes a customer to transition from purchase to adoption, the less likely they are to renew and realize the true value of their purchase. Shortening that cycle allowed the team to improve customer lifetime value and create a positive customer experience — both of which impact profits.
Another cultural change that places a greater importance on effective content is the emphasis on lead quality. The company is piloting compensation programs with field marketers to drive a strong correlation between performance and pay. In addition, the phone-based lead-qualification team is rewarded based on how many leads are accepted by sales.
In that environment, the front-line sales and marketing team has a vested interest in using and benefiting from the most on-target, best-timed relevant content. And the content marketing team has a vested interest in creating the most effective content.
“If numbers are down, we are going to ask: Should I switch the message, the content, alter the distribution channel? What do I do as an active, engaged marketer,” Toby explains.
Toby’s marketing team also partnered with sales in a social-selling program that is further enabled through gamification. The pilot project helped close over $500,000 in business in 2015. It’s now being rolled out in other divisions of the company.
“We provide sales people with social-ready content and links via platforms like LinkedIn, and then fuel it with an app called GaggleAMP, a gamification platform,” says Toby. The app keeps tabs on which salespeople are posting content — with high performers getting prizes, as shown in the screenshots below. “It really connects with the sales mentality and is a good representation of the ways in which we’re trying to be better sales partners,” says Toby.Provide sales people with social-ready #content and links via platforms says @CMOTobias #cmworld Click To Tweet
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Changing mindsets requires accountability
When Toby joined Thomson Reuters, he knew he would have to earn his colleagues’ acceptance and respect to truly create an action-oriented marketing culture. He offers these tips to help foster a similar environment in your company.
Stand your ground
“In our company, there was a lot of adversity to change,” says Toby, especially among people who had been employed 25 to 30 years. What worked was being very clear about objectives, then laying out a plan and adhering to it, he says. “We spent a lot of time talking about what attributes we wanted the team and our brand to be known for. Once you cultivate that and define it with your team, it’s all about staying the course. Hard conversations and choices are part of that, but if you waver, you open yourself up to inconsistency,” says Toby.Be clear on objectives, lay out a plan, & adhere to it says @CMOTobias. #cmworld Click To Tweet
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Prove your worth
At the executive level, Toby knew he needed to uphold transparency, particularly given Thompson Reuters’ position in a highly regulated industry. To do this, Toby shares reports consistently. “In marketing we are all speaking in that same language and work in cadence with the rest of the organization,” he says.
One of the more unique metrics Toby’s team uses is a scoring model related to awareness and engagement. Rather than simply tallying up how much traction a piece of content gets via public relations, every article’s engagement is scored manually by an agency Toby’s team works with. The score is based on three components:
- Message – 30 points – Did the article capture the intended message?
- Prominence – 30 points – Is the company spoken about with positive sentiment? Is there more reference to us than our competitors?
- Relevance – 40 points – How strategically relevant is a mention to the division based on authority, the publication, and the author? For example, a Wall Street Journal placement would have more value than the Dallas Morning News.
This scoring (along with other analytics related to cost per lead, conversions, and a customer relationship score) sends a message to the executive team that the team cares about the bottom line, says Toby.
“When we’re diligent and transparent in terms of getting people to understand how we are more business-minded about revenue contribution by quarter, it shifts the conversation,” he says.
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Keep everyone informed
Under Toby’s direction, his division began publishing a monthly newsletter to the 7,000 tax employees at Thomson Reuters, including news about what Toby’s marketing team is focused on and why. “Things get kind of messy, so a simple newsletter was grounding to some degree,” he says. Along with that was having quarterly business reviews, checking in on a regular basis with other teams, and ensuring that his team was staying connected to the business priorities.
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As he jumps into his next endeavor at Thomson Reuters, Toby is confident that he can apply what he has learned and continue proving the true business value that marketing can bring to the organization. At the end of the day, success is all about people coming out of their silos to work together toward a common goal. “When it comes down to people, process, and technology, I’ll take people every time,” says Toby. “You can have the best platform in the world, but if you don’t have the adoption of the sales team and the partnerships with marketing, that old-school stuff, then it’s not going to be that effective.”Success is people coming out of their silos to work together toward a common goal says @CMOTobias. #cmworld Click To Tweet
Editor’s note: A special thanks to Ardath Albee who scoured the planet looking for the best of the best content marketers. She was instrumental in helping us find our 2016 Content Marketer of the Year finalists.
You can be there in person to learn who the Content Marketer of the Year is — and learn from dozens of experts in the industry. Register today for Content Marketing World with code BLOG100 to save $100.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute