In last month’s episode of the Revenue Rebels podcast, Rhoan Morgan sat down with Kristy DelMuto who shared her journey leading a content marketing effort that boosted drastic results for private equity firm, LLR Partners – like a triple-digit increase in engagement.
In part two, DelMuto shifts the discussion from strategy to execution to provide listeners with specific tactics their companies can implement to elevate their content marketing. Listen to the full show to learn:
- How to create content that excites top-level executives
- How to effectively engage your entire team in your content efforts
- Why data is key to content success
About Our Guest
Kristy DelMuto, VP of Strategic Marketing, LLR Partners
As the leader of LLR’s strategic marketing, Kristy works to codify why growth happens and help business owners access the capital, insights, and resources they need to scale. She translates actionable growth advice from LLR’s portfolio companies, network of senior operators and team into digital and live content, creating opportunities for best practice sharing among business leaders.
Kristy also manages LLR’s brand, marketing, public relations, and social media presence, enabling intermediaries to stay informed on the firm’s investment focus and helping executives determine if LLR is the right partner to support their company’s growth.
Unable to listen? Read the full interview transcript below:
Rhoan Morgan: Hey, listeners. We are back with another episode of Revenue Rebels. And we are welcoming back today a former guest, Kristy DelMuto. She's the VP of Strategic Marketing at LLR Partners, and she's here for part two of our talk around content marketing. Really happy to have you back.
Kristy DelMuto: Thanks for inviting me back. Glad to be here.
Rhoan Morgan: It definitely warranted two parts, as we had a discussion before even getting into the first podcast, we knew that we were going to need at least two conversations.
So for any of the listeners that missed last month's podcast, we spoke to Kristy on the strategy behind her content marketing work. So go ahead, head over to our site, take a listen if you haven't heard it yet. It's a great precursor probably to this conversation.
So, Kristy, for our new listeners, can you give us a brief intro into your background and your role at LLR Partners?
Kristy DelMuto: Sure. So LLR Partners is a middle-market private equity firm, meaning we're investing in pretty mature businesses and providing them capital and a variety of resources to help them grow. And the way that they put that capital to work is usually in areas like talent, marketing, sales, finance, M&A.
My job at LLR is to champion our brand and to lead all of our marketing that supports the effort to find and, more importantly, nurture deal opportunities for us.
At LLR we have to look at a thousand deal opportunities or more a year, just to make anywhere from five to 10. And so the audience is very broad. The opportunities and the competition out in the market is very strong. And the importance of differentiating your brand and really nurturing those relationships is absolutely critical to getting deals done.
Rhoan Morgan: So that's going to be a familiar topic in just about any industry. Most of our listeners, while they may not be in the private equity space, what you just described is what every one of our clients is dealing with. So I think that there's a lot to be gained here. I'm really excited.
Last time you joined us, we had a really great conversation around building content marketing strategy, and we heard a bit about some of the results that that's driven for LLR.
So today, we're going to talk about execution. And we're going to talk about measuring success, collaborating with internal stakeholders and getting the team on board to really drive a content initiative like this. So why don't we begin with an overview of the content marketing initiative and the work that you've done with LLR? And then talk a little bit about collaboration.
Kristy DelMuto: The short story of the content that we're producing is that we've realized that, over the course of 20 years that LLR has been around, we are working every day with these companies to help them grow their businesses in all those areas I mentioned earlier.
And there's a phenomenal amount of knowledge across our firm and across our portfolio companies and all these sort of associated advisors and people on our board of directors, et cetera. But that knowledge sort of lives within the walls of those in our own organizations and within people's heads. And so there's a tremendous opportunity for us to try to harness that knowledge, codify it, put it in written format, create blog posts or e-books or other types of content out of it and share it with a broader audience. And by then sharing it, it differentiates us and it kind of keeps us top of mind with those executives that we're building relationships with to potentially invest in.
And so collaborating across our organization is absolutely critical to not only gathering that content but also executing on sharing it. So I'll talk about both of them on this podcast.
In terms of gathering that content, the investment teams across LLR, they're the ones who are working with these portfolio companies every day. So I spend a lot of time on my internal partnerships with those colleagues to uncover new content ideas, to get suggestions for guest authors. They know who's doing what within the portfolio. They know what's working, what's not working. They're hearing stories about interesting strategies or templates or processes being put in place. And so I have to work with them to kind of find out what's going on on the front line.
At the same time, they're also the ones who are sitting down with our target audience on a regular basis. So fast forward to after we create content and after we push it out over time, my favorite thing is to have one of my colleagues come back from a meeting with a CEO they're talking to about potentially investing in, and that CEO says to them, "Hey, I love getting these GrowthBit emails from you. Keep them coming. That stuff's great. There's so much good advice in there."
Because that not only sort of builds excitement with our investment team, they can keep staying involved, but it shows that the quality of the content is good. The cadence we're putting it out is good. And so our target audience is giving us direct, helpful feedback.
The other component of LLR that's really important to collaborate with is our value creation team. And so that's the group here that's made up of very senior level experts in the areas I talked about: talent, finance, sales, marketing, M&A. They're employees of LLR, but their whole function is to work with the portfolio companies on those kinds of key growth drivers. So they are often authors of our GrowthBits as well, where I'm trying to kind of pull out the best practices, the things that they're working with companies at this kind of critical growth stage over and over again. So I say to them, "What's the biggest thing you've had to focus on from a talent perspective this year?" Portfolio-wide. Great. There's a topic. Because you know if our 25 portfolio companies are dealing with that, then hundreds more out in the market are dealing with it too.
Rhoan Morgan: Mm-hmm. Hey, have you ever had a conversation with some of the folks on the value creation team or anybody else that you're pulling topics from or hoping that can actually even write a little bit or provide some of the content that can then be written through a ghostwriter? Do they ever come to you and sort of suggest or wonder like, "Hey, doesn't everybody know this stuff already?" Or "Hasn't this already been talked about enough out there?" Is anybody ever sort of pulling back and saying, "It's not interesting; it's not news"?
Kristy DelMuto: You know, surprisingly, no. And I think part of that ... Or I should say not often. Can't say it never happened. But I think that they know by being involved in this process and this strategy from the beginning that the way we're going to approach these topics by first off, choosing something that is very clearly a real-time issue with or for companies within our target audience range, because we hear it every day, but that also the end result for us is going to be content that is extremely actionable.
Yes, if someone really wanted to sort of find a solution, they could go out there and Google it. But wouldn't it be so much easier if an email popped into their inbox with a thousand-word article and a template on how to hire a sales development rep? Right at the time when we know that that CEO is struggling over how to hire sales development reps?
Rhoan Morgan: Yeah, well, that makes a lot of sense. And making sure that in everything that you're doing, it's actionable, it's easy to access, and you instill that confidence in the team that you're working with. How do you communicate the importance of the content that you're creating to your team?
Kristy DelMuto: I'm glad you asked this question because I think that a successful content strategy is absolutely dependent on your own employees being your advocates. So you as a marketer don't have advocates for your strategy outside of your marketing team, within your organization, you're going to really struggle to see the results that you're looking for.
And here's why. My communication is with the full LLR team, so that includes everybody on our investment teams and anywhere else in the organization, from our back-office, accounting, to our admin, to the people doing deals ... My communications with them started all the way back in early 2017 when we were redoing our website. So I mentioned in the first podcast that the website is really the hub for housing all of our content. But a lot of people I think outside of marketing, they just think of, like, you're redoing the website and that's all you need to do and now suddenly you've got this [crosstalk 00:08:55] brand. They don't realize how much more goes into it.
Rhoan Morgan: Right.
Kristy DelMuto: But during that process, I really engaged people one on one. And I wanted to make sure they feel like they had input as the site was being developed and as the brand was developing. And they did, they had a lot of really good ideas that came from that conversation. But my kind of secret long term goal was to build enthusiasm for everything I was doing.
Then about a week before the site launched, we did a preview lunch-and-learn for our whole firm to show everybody what we were doing, to talk about their content strategy. At the end of that meeting, I asked for one thing. I said, "Listen, I'm going to ask you guys one thing only. I'm telling you, we're creating all this content, calling it GrowthBit. Here's how we're going to start sending it out. All I need you to do is to share it on LinkedIn every time we have a new piece come out. It's only going to be twice a month. I'm going to send an email around with a link to that post. I need you to click on that link and you do a quick share. That's it. Let's start there."
And I showed them the data at that time of the power of our combined network and tried to explain that this is how we're really going to reach the level of visibility that we're looking for here.
Then what's critical is that you have to follow up. So a month here and then three months later I had more lunch-and-learns to report back on the impact they were making by clicking “Share.” We even had a couple of contests in that time frame, you know, who was the biggest brand champion, who was sharing other things that we were doing. And so that kind of got people into the habit. It doesn't mean they're going to stay in that habit, so you have to kind of follow up with them and keep reminding them every once in a while.
You know, that was two years ago. This past week, when we put out another new piece of content, I kind of put core but big, bold message in there and saying, "Remember, every individual effort matters to getting this the visibility we want."
And then over time, once we kind of got them over that hump of sharing on Linkedin, I started asking for more things, like "Can you link to some of this content in your email signature? If you are talking to a CEO about XYZ topic, put the link to this GrowthBit. They might like it."
So we got a little bit more grassroots with some one-on-one sharing as well as other marketing tactics of how we can continue to push the content out there. But it was through the employee base, not just through me, through everybody else.
Rhoan Morgan: Yeah, so it sounds to me, some of the key aspects of success here, in terms of getting the rest of the team involved, and this is outside of marketing as well because that's really critical, you had a really good internal communication plan. You had lunch-and-learns and a variety of other ways of talking to folks. You actually asked them for a pretty low-lift commitment. Do one thing, twice a month. You made it really turnkey and also focused on making it somewhat habit-forming, right? You wanted to create something that you could build on. So these are critical components, I think, of building out your plan.
Now we're going to take a break. It is time for us to take a quick break. When we get back, I want to talk about how you made sure that you got to the right people. And we will be back after this quick break.
Rhoan Morgan: Thanks so much, Paul. We're back with Kristy DelMuto, talking about content marketing that drives results.
So, Kristy, we had just finished talking about how you pulled the team together and really got everybody involved with the company. Can you share a little bit with us about how you made sure you were reaching the right people? How do the teams outside of marketing get involved to make sure that you're reaching the right target audience?
Kristy DelMuto: Sure. I think that is very important for the second half to the earlier question about how you're communicating internally and how you need to leverage your own employee base as your advocates.
So in an organization like ours and in anywhere else, I mean the people that you're trying to market to if your core audience is the people that are in your database ... So LLR, for example, we're not buying lists, and we're not sending out our content to strangers. We're only sending our content to people who have been identified by a colleague, identified by our sales development team or our investment teams, as someone we want to target for investment. We've actually had a phone call with them, put them in our database, we've got notes, we're going to follow up, we've got a plan, or people who have opted in to subscribe to our content.
So the key there is that these people are in our database. And for anybody who is leveraging email marketing into a database, then your success is only going to be as good as the quality of the data in your database.
And if you're relying on everyone around you who are meeting these contacts, they're having these conversations, which means they or whoever they handed off to has got to get the right name and the right email address and the right timing, all of that, into Salesforce or whatever your other databases are. Ours happens to be Salesforce.
So this is where other private equity firms they talk to struggle. This is where all kinds of companies struggle. This is why the quality of your database is so critical to making content strategy successful.
And I'll put the other caveat. It's that it's also ... If you're trying to do this all on more of an organic basis, meaning we're not engaging right now in paid content or any syndicated content – we're distributing all of our content through email and social media - then I think the next step from there, and this is how you should take that content to the next level – by no means did we have all of these pieces in place in the beginning – but when you have the right information in your database about your target audience and you're distributing your content effectively through a tool like Marketo and you have those technologies talking to each other, then you can report back on the results.
And so for me, we have put in place a lot of different reporting mechanisms and sort of daily digest and alerts so that our investment teams, who are the ones who have the relationships with the CEOs in our database who we're targeting with content, they can understand the engagement levels. They can use this data as trigger points. They can be smarter about how they're going to market and how they're nurturing relationships, which is what I said in the first part of this series was kind of a key goal for us. Then they have the data at their disposal to do something with it and to make that process more powerful.
Like I said in the beginning, we put a lot of effort and it's an ongoing effort. It's a very, very grassroots sort of effort to get people entering data and kind of following processes. But when you finally get momentum there, you really start to see the difference.
Rhoan Morgan: It does. And we see this again and again. You're not alone. As you already said, most companies are struggling with data. And as soon as you're looking to do something even slightly one step more advanced than what company might be doing: segmentation, proper scoring, A/B testing, and you've got a massive, massive database. Any sort of targeting, you're going to run into challenges if your data is wrong, missing information, you've got too many duplicates ... Well, you've got any duplicates, actually. Let's be real. You don't want any. And data really is, and I can say I definitely admire, I think the rigor that you have put behind this, it is a major asset for any company. I think sometimes people forget how much their data is worth and how that value can degrade very quickly over time. So it's following those processes, but then it must also be sharing with everybody the results of the rigor that they're putting in on as an individual so that they can see the reports.
Can you walk us through some of the results that you've seen from the work? Some of the results that you've been sharing with your team?
Kristy DelMuto: Sure. So we are now at a point where we've got about two full years of results. This is exciting to see because we can now do a comparison year over year. And in the first year that the GrowthBits was launched, we focused primarily on expanding our reach, which we defined by the size of our mailable contacts database. And I say mailable, I said earlier, there's duplicates, there's bad data, that doesn't count, right? So you've got to be realistic about this and it's how big is your mailable database, plus our social following on LinkedIn. That's how we define our reach.
And we also kind of focused in on engagement, meaning how well are our audience members reacting to our content. So in that first year, we increased our level of engagement with our content by about 32%. We defined that by click-throughs. Open rates are great, but that doesn't ... Only gets us so far. So clickthroughs are what's really important.
And we also converted our website visitors into subscribers of our content by filling out forms at a growth rate of 18% month over month throughout the year. So we definitely have picked up momentum over that time. And in that timeframe, we also saw our followers on LinkedIn increase by 62%. We had a decent following before all of this started. And LinkedIn is sort of good at kind of showing you other private equity firms in the analytics and for companies like yours and to show you how your followers compare. But it was noticeably increased once we started – It's just a matter of posting more often, but also posting quality stuff that people want to subscribe to.
And so then in our second year, we have really felt like our readers recognize the quality and the relevance of the content. That's my interpretation that we haven't necessarily done extensive surveys to define those two points. But my read on the fact that our engagement rate has grown by nearly 200% with our content, the number of our subscribers doubled in the second year, to me that's showing that people are getting it, and once they start reading it they're realizing, "This is good stuff and it's highly relevant to me. So I'm going to keep reading it. I'm going to share it with other people."
I'm now seeing some anecdotal evidence where somebody pops into our database because they filled out a form on our website and they're clearly a colleague of someone else we're talking to. So we know that their colleague got our email, and then later that day they must've forwarded along and sort of said, "Hey, you should read this." And that prompted that other person to subscribe. So, love that sharing.
In another anecdotal example, our eBook that we have now put together two years in a row is a compilation of all of our GrowthBits from the prior year. So we just simply are thinking creatively about how we can recycle and reuse and repackage content. So we take about 20 to 22 GrowthBits over the course of the year, put it into an e-book, make it a PDF, make it a download off of our website. And the first year that ... It did pretty well, and it kind of had an initial response, the rolling response through primarily putting in email signatures throughout the year. But year two, and this is just a couple months ago when we put out our 2019 eBook, we got more downloads off of just two emails than the 2018 counterpart got during the entire year.
Rhoan Morgan: Wow.
Kristy DelMuto: So that was really exciting to see. And I personally get an email alert every time somebody fills out a form, so on those good days, my inbox just completely blew out, which I'll take any day.
Rhoan Morgan: Yeah, I love it. I love it. Well, and that eBook, which of course I know about, is incredibly valuable. That content is stuff that's been collected over the course of the year. It's relevant and timeless, and the people that you're targeting are hungry for this knowledge.
It sounds like you didn't try to boil the ocean at first. You set realistic goals and you had a strong sort of phased approach, and you saw some great outcomes with that, which is awesome. Just really exciting.
We have a couple of minutes left, so we're just about at the end of our time. I'd love it if you could give us a peek into your marketing toolbox. What platforms, tools or processes do you consider central to the success that you've seen so far?
Kristy DelMuto: From a distribution standpoint, we use Marketo as our core email distribution platform. And DemandLab is our partner for managing that, which is a huge load off kind of my plate because I'm not technical and I don't have the technical background necessary to operate it myself. And so it's great to have a partner who can guide us through all the possibilities of what a tool like Marketo could do.
And then I mentioned earlier Salesforce is our database. Requires a lot of customization. We're using it to track investment opportunities. So that's very unique to a traditional, say, software sales opportunity, but we're trying to kind of replicate that model within Salesforce and be able to track investments through opportunity stages, just like you would if you were selling a piece of software. We also invested a lot, and continued to, in sort of outside consultants to make sure we're customizing it right, and we're making all the links between Marketo and Salesforce do the right thing.
Our next step is actually hiring a data analyst. So we feel like we've gotten to a point both with our content marketing, other marketing activities we do. And then we'll also largely, with our market development team, who is a group at LLR that's kind of like an inside sales team, and they're doing a large-volume direct outreach to our target audience by phone and email. We're going to be bringing in a data analyst to help us kind of look at all that productivity data, all of the results of our campaigns, and bring it into kind of a dashboard. Something like a Tableau is what we're looking at to see how we can draw more insights out of it. And then how also we can create reports and continue to make our colleagues within the organization more aware of what we're doing. I think that'll help us just continue to build excitement for it as we can report on it in a nicer and more easily digestible way than we have so far.
Rhoan Morgan: Yeah, yeah. Well, and that is a really natural progression, you know? Starting out with the simple reports with the systems you have, no need to bite off more or spend more investment resources, and where you're at now ... It's ... Really sounds like the perfect time to bring in the data analyst and to look at the BI tools that can support all of this.
And as you said, actually make the reports easy to digest and sort of real-time, quick access, for all the stakeholders and the decision-makers there. Wonderful.
Well, this was the end of our show. Thank you so much for joining me again today, Kristy. It was a great conversation. I'm sure our listeners got a lot out of it. And can you share again what the best way is for our listeners to reach out to you? Don't forget to spell your last name.
Kristy DelMuto: Sure. So you can always reach me at K, as in Kristy, K-D-E-L-M-U-T-O at L-L-R partners dot com. You can also go to our website at llrpartners.com, and I'm right there on our team page. My email address is there as well. You can check out our GrowthBits while you're there.
Rhoan Morgan: Yeah. Awesome resource for any business looking to scale and grow. All right, so a big thank you to our listeners again for tuning into Revenue Rebels. I'm your host Rhoan Morgan, and you can find me on LinkedIn by looking up DemandLab or searching for R-H-O-A-N Morgan on LinkedIn. Thanks so much.
And now, back over to you, Paul.
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