Episode 219 Featuring Alex Bond

Community Driven Marketing with Kathleen Booth

Community Driven Marketing with Kathleen Booth

Kathleen Booth joined Pavilion as a member in 2019 and went on to become a founding co-chair of the Washington DC chapter, a Pavilion Ambassador, and today, the Senior Vice President of Marketing. On this episode we discuss the importance of community in marketing, Pavilion's Immersive Learning Framework, the intangible philosophies behind strong marketing, and much more.


What is Pavilion

Kathleen Booth: Pavilion is the world's largest community of go-to-market leaders in high growth B2B technology companies. We are essentially a private community that also incorporates education and events. And insights. We do a lot of research, but our whole goal is to help go-to-market leaders achieve and unlock their full professional potential. 

Alex Bond: That sounds awesome. Full professional potential because you know, I hear a lot of go-to-market strategies and stuff like that, so frankly, I guess my question there is, the importance of community, is that something that you feel the e-commerce industry is lacking due to the unavailability of education on those proper subjects? Or is it something that just hasn't been fully utilized yet?

Kathleen Booth: I mean, I think there's some interesting things happening within the world of e-commerce with community. Like especially I've watched with a lot of interest over the last couple of years, as particularly a number of direct to consumer brands have done a really effective job at creating their own communities.

But I think there's a lot more work to be done. And I think this whole topic of community is somewhat ill-defined. You know, like I'm a marketer, marketers, and go to market leaders in general talk about community all the time, and we give a lot of lip service to like, oh, you know, either we need a community or what's our community strategy?

And the challenge is that there are different types of community strategies you can create a community. Of your own, you can sponsor somebody else's community. You can simply participate in someone else's community. Those are three different strategies, and within create a community, there are three different approaches.

There are communities of product, there are communities of practice, and there are communities of interest. So there's a lot of different ways you can go when it comes to this, this topic of community. And I don't know that that's really been explored really well. And I don't know that people. Have really given a lot of thought to like why one particular approach would make sense over another.

And once you have your approach, how to do it right. You know, like the thing that's so interesting about Pavilion, and I should clarify, I started as a member before I was ever a member of the team. I was a member for three years. And it was such an impactful thing for me personally that I decided to come on full-time.

We've grown tremendously in the last. Three to four years and I think we've hit a little bit of lightning in the bottle and I can't take any credit for it cause I came in late in the game. But it's enabled me to really understand both as a customer of the organization and as an employee, what it means to do community right. So I do have a lot of opinions on that. 

Role of community in marketing

Alex Bond: So I guess on a more base level, just take a step back, what should the role or the job of community be in marketing? 

Kathleen Booth: Yeah. So again, when we think about go to market strategy, right? Community comes up a lot, and I guess we should break this down along somewhat along the lines of what I mentioned before. 

So the first is, when you think about community for your brand, you should be thinking about either one of the following three things, either creating your own community or leveraging the tailwinds of a community that are already exists. And there are two different ways to do that. 

One is to have your brand formally sponsor it. And to affiliate your brand with that existing community. And three is to just have your employees participate actively in communities as a deliberate part of your business strategy, not as an afterthought, not as something they do for themselves, but like for the business.

So those are the three different ways that community can be a part of go-to-market strategies and I think the thing that e-commerce companies or brands need to think about is, which one is right for me? Or what combination of these is right for me? Cause it doesn't have to just be one, like for example, talking about creating your own community.

It can be an incredibly powerful play as part of a go-to-market strategy right? And there are a lot of companies out there that have done really great jobs of this, and it's become very impactful for them, but it's very resource intensive. And if you're small, if you don't have a big team, it could become a drain. And so you have to think through like, what am I willing to put into this? Knowing also that creating your own community is a long-term play.

You are probably not gonna see, you know, sales coming from community creation anytime in the near future. But, you know, a year from now, two years from now, it could tremendously pay off. And so it's an investment you have to be willing to make, and you have to have the patience to wait for the ROI. 

Alex Bond: If you don't mind, I imagine that if you create a community over time, you have to calibrate that community and maintain it too. So that's kind of an added thing as well, right? 

Kathleen Booth: Yeah, and you need to think about what type of community you're creating. So earlier I mentioned there are three types of community, communities of product, communities of practice, communities of interest. 

So communities of product would be like, literally users or customers of your product. And so the community is around, how am I going to use this? So you see this a lot, for example, in like meal delivery services where people okay, get the meals or even like produce delivery boxes.

Like I am a customer of Hungry Harvest and I get my box of produce every Saturday. I am a member of their community of product, which is Hungry Harvest customers, and we talk about what are we gonna do with our box of vegetables this week? Like what recipe are we gonna make right? 

Versus a community of practice for example, maybe you're selling fitness equipment and maybe your community isn't about your equipment, but it's about the practice of being a trainer. And so that is a community of practice and you have people who in the course of their job, are probably gonna use your equipment, but you're not expressly talking about your product.

And so that's a little bit of a slightly longer play, like a community of product is, gets you the fastest results. Right? Because it's your customers, they're in there, they're talking about the product, it's gonna incentivize them to buy more.

Community of practice is a little bit more of a medium term play because these are your customers and they're talking about how to use things like your product, but not expressly about your product. 

And then you have communities of interest, which is like in that example, it would be like fitness, right? I'm interested in fitness or healthy lifestyles, and that is a even longer return. But with each of these, the audience gets bigger, right?

The community of product is a certain size. The community of practice is that size plus. X and the community of interest is that size plus x plus X. So there are trade offs involved in all of this, and I think just understanding these options is an important place to start. 

Alex Bond: No, totally. And I think that's a good segue into pavilion. So, you know, for example, there is a community of people who use say Pavilion, which is also a subset of people who are trying to learn more about being professionals in the e-commerce industry versus you know of interest people who are in the e-commerce industry? 

Kathleen Booth: Yeah. I would say Pavilion is a community of practice because people come to us because they're either the head of marketing, the head of sales, the head of customer success, or the head of ops, or they're the founder. And that's the go-to-market leadership team. And so we are there to enable and empower, go-to-market leadership team members to be successful. So we are a community of practice. 

Immersive Learning Framework

Kathleen Booth: The three pillars of our thesis of how you succeed in your career are education, community, and then what I would call connection, which in many cases comes from in-person events. And in this case we're talking about education. But we thread community through everything we do. And so we do have Pavilion University, which is schools and courses. And so our schools are longer, they could be like 10 week long programs. 

For example, we have Chief Marketing Officer school where somebody enrolls, and it's a very immersive program, meaning you are studying substantive material, you're spending an hour a week in class. You have an hour a week outside of class in a smaller study group, and sometimes there's practical work in between classes, and that's one form of learning.

And then there's also our shorter courses, but with all of it, we have number one, all of them are taught by actual practitioners. So there's a famous old saying that those who teach. Exactly. We are where those who do teach. So all of our instructors are practicing leaders doing the job today.

And that's so important because like, you know this, everything changes so fast and if you're talking about go-to-market strategy, it's constantly changing. Like we're living right now in a time of tremendous economic change and uncertainty. If you just hired like a professor to teach a class, they're not living and practicing go-to-market leadership in this environment. 

And so we pride ourselves by having people who are in the job now teaching the classes. That's number one. Number two, it's we have this community behind it. And so when you finish class, you go into your discussion boards or you go into your, I'm a marketing leader, so I'm in what's called our chief marketing officer channel.

And I can talk to hundreds if not thousands of other chief marketing officers and say, hey, I just learned about X. What do you think? Or, does anybody have an example of of this? And I get answers right away. 

And we store all that information in a knowledge hub, so I can always draw on that for historical information. And so it's this like, it's learning, taught by practicing leaders backed up by the power of community and peer networks. That's what makes it immersive and really powerful. 

Alex Bond: And it feels that way too. It feels authentic when you have people who are actually in the industry currently teaching that sort of stuff. Am I correct in assuming that this isn't a full-time job being a member or a student in these classes. I mean, I'm assuming that people can work full-time jobs while being able to attend these classes at the same time is accurate. 

Kathleen Booth: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. In fact, most of our community is at the executive level. VPs are above, and so they have very demanding full-time jobs. In fact, extremely demanding and so, you know, it's there and it flexes to meet your needs. And that's why I think having community as the basis is so important. Cause you can drop in community is what you make of it at the end of the day.

And this is something that's been really interesting for me to learn in my time at Pavilion, is I've seen people come in to the community with very differing expectations. Some are ready to roll their sleeves up and participate and give and share and ask questions. And those tend to be the people that get the most value out of it.

And then there are others who come in thinking like, I'm going to be served up this set of offerings and derive value. And you can derive value without participating a lot, but it's not gonna be nearly the same as if, you know, that's what makes community work is there's a sense of reciprocity. There's a give and a take and without that, It's not really a community. 

Difference of the curriculums based on your role

Alex Bond: I can imagine there's a lot of attention to different ideas people are bringing to the table. And you being able to kind of like curate them, aggregate them, and cipher out kind of fits with what you know, at the same time. And being able to, I don't know, kind of funnel that through the, those different channels. So I think it's a really cool idea. 

How different are the curriculums depending on a member's occupation or role? Like is the educational material vastly different for a CEO versus an analyst or say a sales team versus a marketing team? 

Kathleen Booth: Yeah, so there's functional differences, meaning like for each of our key functional areas, we have a school. So there's Chief Marketing Officer school, Chief Revenue Officer school, Chief Customer Officer school, CEO school.

And then we have these courses, which, and by the way, anyone can take any of these, like you can be a CRO O and take CMO School. And I actually tell people they should because it helps you develop a tremendous amount of empathy for your peers. But we also have a lot of electives and they span.

You know everything from teaching SDRs and frontline sales managers how to do their job to product marketing fundamentals, courses to, I've took a class on executive compensation and negotiation, which teaches executives like how to negotiate their salary package and how equity should be structured, like stuff that you don't get taught in school, you know?

And so it's not always about the function of your job. We also have classes on leadership and listening and telling stories through data. It's the full breadth of skills that a leader really needs to be successful, which isn't always about like the tactical skills you need to do your job. It's about the soft things like managing people and reporting to a board and building relationships. 

Alex Bond: Yeah. So I'd like to dive into that part a little bit. So we've talked about kind of the broader emphasis on community, and I think one way that you guys articulated is unlocking professional potential.

So on a more specific level, what are specific skills that a member can expect to learn? I really like the idea of a class on negotiating essentially. So what are some more of those specific skills that say someone listening to this who wants to sign up could expect to learn from this? 

Kathleen Booth: Yeah, we have so many different classes and it's really amazing cause our Pavilion University team has put together a pretty robust curriculum. And it's interesting, like it depends on what your needs are. And so I can give you an example of what I've taken. Probably the easiest way to do it. 

So like I said, I took executive compensation and negotiation. I took building high performing teams. I've also taken the Excel Bootcamp because I wanted to be better at using Microsoft Excel. And Revenue Architecture, growth School, which is like a theoretical class about different revenue growth models which is fascinating. I've taken CRO school to learn what ahead of of sales deals with so that I could work better with my sales counterpart. Took forecasting and budgeting.

You know, there's a lot and there's a lot that's still left on my list that I want to take. So it's really about understanding where your deficiencies are or where there are opportunities for growth. And I think the thing that I've learned is that most leaders I know have tremendous imposter syndrome.

Because think about it, it's a lonely job. Like if you're the head of marketing in a company, you're the only head of marketing there unless it's like Proctor and Gamble, and then you have your head of marketing for North America and you're head of marketing for emea. But most companies have one person in these jobs, and so you don't have a group of peers internally that you can go to for advice. 

So you have imposter syndrome because you don't know what you don't know, like you just don't even know sometimes the questions you should be asking. And here's the truth, most of us are pretty good at our jobs. We just don't realize it. And so this is one of the really great things about coming into a community.

It's all of a sudden you do know what you don't know because you can sit in a discussion board and see the questions that other really smart leaders are asking and you can say, oh, maybe I should be asking that question, or I never thought of that. Or, oh, I know the answer to that and I'm really good at it.

And all of a sudden you start to calibrate and get a sense for where you fit within this landscape of other leaders. I'm really good at these things where other people might not be, and here's the areas where I feel less confident, so I'm gonna go take some classes on those and it becomes this like pathway to alleviating imposter syndrome, which is just tremendously powerful. 

Alex Bond: No, that's great. And I imagine that can kind of come from being in a group of peers at the same time. Do you find that some people struggle with that and they're actually putting themselves out there to try to connect with people and network and be more community driven because that's something that they're weaker at, or people lean into their strengths by doing something like this?

Kathleen Booth: I mean, I think it's a combination of the two. You know, and it's important. I guess this goes to my other point about like how to do community right. You know, because it's one thing to participate in a community and it's another to do it correctly. And community can be a tremendous revenue driver for companies.

Like, I don't wanna lose sight of that. It's, we are all about, you know, helping our members succeed, which is a very individual. Value proposition, but there are a lot of companies that have grown tremendously and made a lot of money because of their participation in pavilion. And the same could be set of other communities.

It's not specific to us, but what I've seen is that some organizations know how to do this and others don't. And the ones who know how to do it well realize that you have to participate in an authentic way. And so it's the same thing that works for individuals to get value out of it. That works for companies.

If you come in with an attitude of like, ooh. There's a bunch of people in here who could be customers of ours. I'm gonna go sell them. I'm gonna go pitch them. I'm gonna hit them up on LinkedIn. You are not gonna get value. It's not gonna happen. It goes to that reciprocity thing like you have to come in.

You have to build real relationships. You have to establish trust. You have to be authentic. Be a participant in conversations. Be somebody who gives before they take. And if you do that, you will unlock unbelievable opportunity for yourself individually. But also for your organization, if you so choose to leverage it for that.

What makes Pavilion different from growth agencies

Alex Bond: So as part of your role as the senior VP of marketing and member success in providing Pavilion members and go to market leaders with strategies to transition from startup to scale up, but with Pavilion, it seems that your philosophy isn't based in tangible strategies. That's actually kind of more all encompassing like, like we've been talking about.

They're more for ideas for specific, not necessarily ideas for specific business practices. It's more focused on unlocking professional potential that can be implemented on a wider and broader scale. So is that philosophy? A way to separate yourself from other kind of growth agencies, or have you found that that ideology to be a more useful way to help entrepreneurs with marketing and growth practices?

Kathleen Booth: Yeah, so this is a very interesting question and something that we've talked about a lot and how I think about this is that, you see a lot of people out there, and this is actually very prevalent in the e-commerce world. You see a lot of people out there that sell what I would call blueprints or methodologies or courses, and they're selling a specific way of doing something like, this is the way you should do email for e-commerce.

Buy my course, I will tell you how to do it, and then you just go do it. Right? That's a little different than what we're doing. I think this is especially applicable because we are. Catering to an executive audience. And so our assumption going in is that number one, everybody in our community is really, really bright.

Like they wouldn't have gotten to where they are if they weren't. Number two, there is no such thing as a one size fits all blueprint. The world changes too quickly. Every company's different, every situation's different. Every customer audience is different. And so what we wanna do is give our members the building blocks.

So that they can take those building blocks and assemble them into the right blueprint for them. And that's the difference. Like, we're not gonna tell you how to do your job, we're not gonna tell you, you know, what your go-to-market strategy should be. We're gonna tell you how to do forecasting, we're gonna tell you how to think about product marketing.

You're still gonna have to build your product marketing strategy. You know what I mean? Like so we're, it's a Teach Amanda fish model. Is really what it is as opposed to giving the man the fish. Sure. Which is what I think a lot of these other programs do, is they give the man the fish, and that doesn't really create self-sustainability.

It doesn't help you build a successful career. It helps you solve a problem that you have right now. Whereas when you teach man to fish, in this case, give them the building blocks. You're setting them them up for success throughout their whole career because you're giving them those fundamental ingredients that they need to make great decisions and be a strong strategist and a strong teammate.

Alex Bond: No and I love the idea of that philosophy, and that's a great analogy for it. Have you ever dealt with people who came into pavilion or signed up and expected the fish instead of the fish and rod, and then you had to kind of navigate that with them? 

Kathleen Booth: I mean, I'm sure that exists, but it's not something I've seen a lot, and I think people understand that. You know, you're coming here to learn from your peers. And when it comes to learning from your peers, everybody's experience is different. 

And so you have to be discerning in taking away the pieces of those lessons that apply most to you. But the thing about community that is really the secret sauce, if we wanna get down to the core of it is there's a cheat code, and that is that I always say community's the new Google because the cheat code with community is you get a lot of answers, right? 

But you also get a lot of answers when you Google something. The difference with community is you know what to trust. The information has been vetted. You know where it's coming from. You understand that the person giving it to you is really good at their job. They're seasoned, they've accomplished a lot. 

And so you save tremendous amount of time by coming into a community and asking a question, like, Hey, you know, does anyone have a really good template for reporting on marketing performance to a board of directors. That question comes up all the time right all the time. If I ask that in Google, I'd get lots of answers, but I wouldn't know really, like, is this really good? Do boards really like this information, like, who is writing this or is this just some vendor?

Putting a template out that I can't trust. Whereas if I go into the community and I get templates from 10 CMOs who I know are leading really impressive companies and have to report to boards all the time, I'm gonna be so excited, cause I'm gonna know I can take this, I can build on it. It's good. It's been vetted, it's been used out in the wild and it's trustworthy.

Alex Bond: And when you ask that question in Google, you then have to get six different answers and then review the truth of the website that you're getting it from and you have to vet. The actual source and then decide not on the actual material, but on the person who's giving it to you.

Which creates some kind of like cognitive dissonance a little bit where you could be seeing something, or even confirmation bias where you see something, you're like, yeah, I agree with that, that makes sense. 

The value of being community-driven

Alex Bond: As someone with a background in marketing like yourself, were you always community driven or was that something that you learned the value of over time? 

Kathleen Booth: It's a great question. I mean, I think I sort of fell into it. I've always been a big joiner. Like, it's funny, my husband always laughs at me like, when you open up my Slack instance, I have more Slack communities I'm a part of than almost anybody else.

I know I'm a member of a ton of Discord communities. I am a member of, you know, lots of LinkedIn groups and other professional associations. I think it's because I was an entrepreneur for 11 years. I owned my own digital marketing agency and in that time, because we weren't huge, I had to be the head marketer, but also the head salesperson. I had to go network and do business development and that turns you into a joiner. 

So I, I've always been a joiner. But I will say it was a few of the roles I've had where we've built community that really gave me a front row seat to the power of it and what it could do to pipelines, to people's careers you know, the impact it can have on members. It was just so powerful to watch. And so I am a believer. I'm drinking the community Kool-Aid. 

Inbound Success

Alex Bond: And you're dishing it out too, honestly. I mean, I'm learning a lot throughout this conversation and I imagine some of our audiences. You're involved in so many communities, we were talking prior to the show that you previously hosted your own podcast called Inbound Success, which I'm sure people can definitely still find and listen to. Can you tell us a bit about that and what your goal was for that project and how you may have achieved it? 

Kathleen Booth: Yeah, so I hosted the Inbound Success Podcast for five years, and I started it when I still owned my agency. And originally I think when I started it, I was thinking, oh, I'll talk to people who are getting great results from inbound marketing and  the listeners for this will naturally be great customers for my inbound marketing agency, and I'll get lots of leads. Right?

That was the thought. That was a dumb thought. It just was, it was. That's not what it turned into. Thank goodness.  It turned into an incredible opportunity for me to meet a lot of really amazing marketers and learn from them. And for my audience to learn alongside me.

You know, really it was more about building a virtual community in some senses of the guests that I interviewed, as well as the listeners that I had, and that community still exists for me today. Even though I'm not podcasting anymore. I mean, it's been amazing, the network personally that I've been able to build through that and the knowledge that I've been able to gain.

Alex Bond: And I feel like when it's part of the underlying thing we've been talking about this whole time, which is authenticity. We talk about this on the show frequently and what I hear you say, Kathleen, is that if the goal was to develop leads initially and it wasn't really working then that's because there was like a hint of authenticity that may have been missing.

There is kind of what I'm hearing you say a little bit, and that you eventually learned how to develop what the goal was with your goal being more all encompassing and larger and community driven. Is that accurate? 

Kathleen Booth: Yeah, I mean, I think it's just not a transactional thing. I also sold my agency not long after I started the podcast, so that was part of it.

But I think anybody who goes into podcasting thinking it's gonna be like an instantly generator, I mean, it does happen, but I just don't think that that's like, I don't think that's the right goal for a podcast. It's a longer term play, just like I described community as being, it's about relationship building. I think it's the best form of account-based marketing. 

You can meet amazing people who should be your customers, but who aren't already, and they might not be buying right now, right? This is why I say it's not a lead generator. Like I've done this at some of the companies I've been at where I've started podcasts, and the guests have all been people who were on our target customer list, but they weren't in a buying cycle. 

So like to expect to get a lead out of it is disingenuous. Like someday they might buy from us. Great, but in the meantime, you know what happened more than anything else, they would tell other people about us and we would start to like, we started to get some buzz within different communities and people just liked our brand more because they didn't see us as trying to be always selling ourselves and always pushing our product.

It was more about we were supporting the industry, we were shining the spotlight on people doing good work, and that made us a loved brand within the space. That's what I think is really powerful about something like podcasting. 

Launching Pavilion Digital

Alex Bond: And part of your story there that we haven't really talked about that I'd definitely like to talk about before we wrap up is your marketing agency, which you founded and then sold. I recall correctly, you essentially had your own digital marketing agency for like 11 years, right? 

What drove you to start your own business? 11 years is a pretty long time. So what did you learn through that process and why'd you decide to sell essentially? Those are kind of two or three questions there, so yes, I just would love to talk about that, honestly.

Kathleen Booth: Yeah, I mean, this goes back aways cause I started the company with my husband in 2006 and we both just were at interesting points in our careers where we wanted to make a change and so we started the company at a time in our lives when it made a lot of sense and it was great. We had an 11 year run, we worked really well together.

We're still married after being business partners, which is amazing. But we sold because we were then at a different point in our lives. Like we had a couple kids in college. We were working more closely with a lot of B2B technology companies as customers, and we were interested in getting more deeply involved in that space.

And so today, both of us work in-house as heads of marketing at different companies. And it's funny pavilion, even though we're community, we are also a technology company because we are launching our own digital platform in the coming months. And so my husband's the head of marketing for open source software company. So we decided to sell for that reason, we wanted to go in-house and really like work on one company at a time. 

Alex Bond: Cool. That's amazing. So what's this platform that y'all are about to release? 

Kathleen Booth: Pavilion Digital. So, okay. When you become a Pavilion member or a user even, we will have we have a logged in experience. You know, you think something like a LinkedIn right? Except it's a private paid community. So you will log in and in that logged in space, you'll have access to all the things that Pavilion does to the other members. And that'll be your, the sort of the front door, the gateway into the pavilion experience in the future.

Alex Bond
Alex Bond

Meet Alex Bond—a seasoned multimedia producer with experience in television, music, podcasts, music videos, and advertising. Alex is a creative problem solver with a track record of overseeing high-quality media productions. He's a co-founder of the music production company Too Indecent, and he also hosted the podcast "Get in the Herd," which was voted "Best Local Podcast of 2020" by the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia, USA.

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