Make a SXO Plan Work for a Legacy Industry with Ashley Kizzire, Vice President of Marketing at Advancing Organizational Excellence (AOE)
Speaker 1: Welcome to Page One or Bust!, your ultimate guide to getting on page one of search engines. In this episode, we're talking to a B2B marketing leader early in the SXO journey. Ashley Kizzire is the Vice President of Marketing at AOE and has been creating content that drives results since the 90s. Today you'll learn how Ashley is bringing the SXO revolution to the construction industry, a space historically dominated by in- person marketing. You'll hear insights from Ashley's journey so far, like how to get content in front of a harder- to- reach audience. But before we get into it, here's a brief word from today's sponsor. Page One or Bust! is brought to you by DemandJump, get insights, drive outcomes with DemandJump. Get started creating content that ranks at demandjump. com today. And now, here are your co-hosts, Christopher Day and Ryan Brock.
Christopher Day: Welcome back to Page One or Bust! This is your co-host Christopher Day, the CEO of DemandJump. And as always, I'm joined by my co- host Ryan Brock. How's it going, Ryan?
Ryan Brock: Yo, doing well today, Toph. How are you?
Christopher Day: Never been better. Ryan is our Chief Content Officer at DemandJump. And today we are super excited. We're joined by Ashley Kizzire. Ashley is the Vice President of Marketing at Advancing Organizational Excellence. How's it going, Ashley?
Ashley Kizzire: It's going great. I'm glad to be here. Thanks for having me.
Christopher Day: Absolutely. We're going to have fun today. So we are going to go on a journey with Ashley. Ashley is a B2B marketing leader early in the SXO journey. And to our audience out there, as you may recall from previous episodes, we use SXO on purpose. So SEO is dead. It is in the garbage can never to be retrieved again, and we are moving as marketers to search experience optimization. So with that, let's kick it off, Ashley. Just talk to us a little bit. Let's loosen up and talk about your career journey in marketing and how you got to your current role. Tell us a little bit about your background.
Ashley Kizzire: Great. Well, I began my career, and I would say it's in marketing in a way. It was loosely related. I was the editor- in- chief of some construction industry publications, and I got to know the owner of a PR company because she would place articles, content in our magazines. And this was way back in the late 90s, early 2000s. And anyway, ultimately I ended up joining her team and it was under another name at that point. We merged with another company, became AOE in 2018. And I was an account manager for our clients who are in the construction building and concrete industries primarily. We have clients in other sectors as well, but a heavy emphasis in that construction space, concrete and building space. And we serve them with content primarily. We help with consulting, with content creation. And we created a new position, vice president of marketing, and I came into this position at that time. So we were kind of like the, what is that old saying? The shoemakers kids that have no shoes.
Ryan Brock: The cobbler's son.
Ashley Kizzire: The cobbler's son. That's exactly what.
Ryan Brock: We talk about that on almost every episode of this podcast. It's so funny. Everyone says that about themselves.
Ashley Kizzire: Yes.
Ryan Brock: Yeah. I know.
Ashley Kizzire: I felt like, I mean, we did a great job for our clients, and then we really started realizing it's time to focus on our own efforts as well. So that's how it began.
Christopher Day: I have to say, Ashley, you're after my heart a little bit with construction. Way back early in my career I used to build hospitals and stadiums and things of that nature. And you're talking about concrete. I digress a moment. And I think I may have forgotten the five ingredients in concrete now. But people always call concrete cement and it drives me crazy because cement is merely an ingredient in concrete.
Ashley Kizzire: That's right.
Christopher Day: Right? It's air, aggregate, sand, cement, and something else.
Ashley Kizzire: That's right. Water.
Ryan Brock: We have promised to educate our listeners.
Ashley Kizzire: That's right.
Ryan Brock: And they are coming away with some new information today.
Ashley Kizzire: That's right. I know. That is one thing that we like to say, " Hey, when you hire us, we already know the difference between concrete and cement." So yeah, exactly. That's great.
Ryan Brock: That's so fun. And I think anyone who works in content and marketing has that same experience. My team talks all the time about how there's never going to be a trivia night at a bar where they're asking about pharmaceutical companies and construction equipment and all the things that we learned about when writing.
Ashley Kizzire: Right.
Ryan Brock: But if they did, we would be the winning team every time.
Ashley Kizzire: Yes. Yes. I agree.
Christopher Day: So Ashley, talk to us a bit more about, so those methodologies that you were using back in the day in construction space, your old way of trying to reach their target audience and understand their target customers behavior and what wasn't working. When did you start to think, gosh, we can't measure it, or this doesn't seem to be as effective as it should be?
Ashley Kizzire: For us and growing our own client base as an organization, we traditionally focused on word of mouth and, second, speaking engagements. We got that most of our business came, a new business for us came those two ways. And I think we just realized that the new generation of people, of workers, of customers of ours, we are needing to reach them online. We need to find... That's where they're getting their first source of information. They're in that search first mentality looking, searching up something. If they're looking for a new consultant like us in our space, they're going to likely search for it. So that's where we realized that was a need.
Ryan Brock: What kind of speaking engagements? Are you talking industry association type things or marketing conferences?
Ashley Kizzire: Absolutely, yes. Speaking, being speakers at our potential clients meetings and conferences, like the association, any industry association that they would all be members of. So AIA, the American Institute of Architects. We would speak at local engagements for that sort of thing. And that's what we did a lot. And we still do it. It's still a great thing.
Ryan Brock: Yeah. I was going to ask, is that still part of your strategy moving forward? Because I think, when we're talking about SXO or pillar- based marketing, finding your customers where they are, that's the analog way to do it, right? It's the analog to the digital. I think...
Ashley Kizzire: It is.
Ryan Brock: ...being where your people are is the best thing you can do.
Ashley Kizzire: That's right.
Christopher Day: So talk to us a little bit about your clients advancing organizational excellence. What type of clients do you typically engage with? Talk just a little bit about that client base and how they think about these things.
Ashley Kizzire: So typically, our clients that we work with are people who are managing marketing for a, it might be an association in this space, in the construction building or other technical space. It might be a contractor. But usually, it's typically the person who is handling marketing, or there are times, there are a lot of companies we work with because they don't have a marketing and internal marketing person, so they bring us in as the consultant, as the outside consultant.
Ryan Brock: So you're working with sales or even the CEO because nobody else is doing it, right?
Ashley Kizzire: Yeah. Yeah. Whoever raises their hand and says, " I'll do it."
Christopher Day: Exactly. So we have a large construction company that uses the platform and they use it primarily to try to hire engineers. So construction engineers or those types of things. It's a very competitive market out there. What are some of the discussions look like when you're talking with your clients and how to make sure that they start forward- thinking if they aren't yet, if they're still stuck, we're just a construction company.
Ashley Kizzire: Yeah.
Christopher Day: We're going to hand combat, do competitive bids, and that's just how we've always done it and that's how we're going to stay. What does that conversation look like as you're talking to them about becoming forward- thinking and organically aligning to their target customer behavior?
Ashley Kizzire: I think it is a lot of that education. Part of what we do, we are constantly educating our clients and trying to help them through that process to think about how the current workforce, their current audience is looking for information, how they're looking for information. And I'll be honest, a lot of times it's when, I've had a lot of success in this matter with some of our younger counterparts, when we have someone who knows that because that's how they do it, that's how they're finding their information, searching online and they realize and they get it from the get- go. But it is part of that education process, I think, with all of our clients.
Ryan Brock: Toph, this has me thinking. On this podcast so far, if you've been listening along, I think virtually every guest we've had has either been in SaaS or E- commerce or maybe they're running a marketing agency and they're in the SEO world every day. But it is interesting. It's something we haven't thought about, that we're in an industry that changes every five minutes. And so those of us who are steeped in it, we're comfortable with that change. But I'm fascinated to hear more. Is there an emotional component to your job, Ashley, trying to market to these people and say, " I'm not here to threaten you. I'm not here to change your world. I'm here to make you better"? Because these are industries that have existed long before the concept of SEO or SXO, right?
Ashley Kizzire: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think you hit the nail on the head. We're really new at this journey ourselves too. But that's what we are seeking to do is to educate and help them understand and tell that story of how to reach workers, whatever they need.
Christopher Day: Yep.
Ryan Brock: Do you anticipate frictions? When you're going to someone who's maybe never done digital marketing before, do you anticipate just being stonewalled ever? Or am I maybe thinking a little bit generally there and it's not fair?
Ashley Kizzire: No, I think you're right. I mean, I think COVID accelerated that. So yeah, I think it's always in the back of my head, there could be some resistance on the other end. We really have to educate and help people understand.
Christopher Day: So Ashley, I have to share just another fun story because construction it's just near and dear to my heart.
Ryan Brock: I've never seen you geek out about this before. This is fun.
Christopher Day: Yeah, I mean, it's just awesome. So I graduated from college right about the time where we were all issued these things called email addresses. And I remember having one of those in college, but nobody ever did anything with it. We didn't know what to do with it. So graduated from college and in my first job, we were building a large construction project. And I went to the human resources person or an IT person, I don't remember who it was. I'm like, " Hey, do we have these things called email addresses here?" And they're like, " Well, yeah, we do you. Let's set one up for you." But nobody really used them in the company. But they had them just because everybody who's cool was getting these email addresses. And so I was really proud of myself. I sent an email with some information that the architect had requested. So I'm very familiar with AIA and all those fun things. And so I sent an email to the architect in advance of a construction management check- in meeting every month. And I'm like, " He's going to think I'm so cool and so hip that I sent this email to him with that information." And we get to that meeting. It's few weeks later. And at a point in the meeting he said, " Well, and I've requested this from," the company I worked for. " I've requested it from you, but you've never sent it to me." I said, " Oh, yes I did. I emailed it to you." And he said, " What?" And I said, " I emailed it to you." And he said, " What's that?" And so I explained it to him and he goes, " I don't know." He said, " My assistant probably set up for me." He's like, " Fax it to me."
Ashley Kizzire: That's right. That's right.
Christopher Day: And that's how all the transition happened. And so I think this transition from, I think the meeting in person, the speaking engagements, these things are very important, right?
Ashley Kizzire: Yeah. For sure.
Christopher Day: Thought leaders and engaging with the community, the ecosystem, your customers, et cetera. There's a stat that just came out that 70% of B2B buyers, which that industry falls into, 70% of B2B buyers are now doing all their research and evaluation digitally before they ever talk to a human.
Ashley Kizzire: Wow. Yeah.
Christopher Day: And so they're making choices.
Ashley Kizzire: Yeah.
Christopher Day: They're making suppositions. They're looking at thought leaders digitally before they engage with sales, which I just think is interesting.
Ashley Kizzire: Yeah. It really is.
Christopher Day: So strategy.
Ashley Kizzire: Yeah.
Christopher Day: So you started thinking about this, right? You're somewhat early in your journey, but you've made some really big decisions recently in settling on a strategy. So what kind of strategy have you adopted and how are you thinking about moving forward in this SEO to SXO journey?
Ashley Kizzire: Yeah. So we are really working on our content on our own website and our first group, our first cluster, Ryan, I might be using all the wrong words, I'm sorry, but it's the pillar page that we're working on.
Ryan Brock: Yeah.
Ashley Kizzire: We identified using the analytics in DemandJump that social media marketing was a really good opportunity for us to, it's an important market for us. A lot of what we do is manage social media for clients. And so we really wanted to promote ourselves in that area. There were also some key analytics that we looked at that were in DemandJump that helped us identify why we should focus on that pillar page first. And so we've been working on content for that. And we've got an in- house person who is helping. And it's funny, I see the advantage of having someone, we're outsource, people outsource work to us. So I see the benefit, well, anyway, we get distracted with the client work, in other words. So it's something that we are working on and plugging away at. So anyway, but yes, that is our plan. So we have a pillar strategy, social media marketing being the first one we want to tackle, and other areas of our business are going to fall in line there.
Christopher Day: So Ashley, I have to share a couple of... So since you're bringing this new way of thinking right to an industry, I just have to share a couple of stats that I think will make all the listeners out there that are in the industries that may not have adopted some of these strategies yet, that the people who are deep into search optimization, 90. 63% of the webpages and blogs that exist out there get zero traffic.
Ashley Kizzire: Wow. Yeah.
Christopher Day: So four and a half million blogs are getting written today as we speak, sitting here right now, four and a half million are getting written right now. 90. 63% of those will never see the light of day because they're written in a one- to- one keyword kind of a concept instead of thinking of things in an overall network around a given topic. And so you're way ahead of the game, Ashley. You're already way ahead of the game in just how you're approaching that go- to- market strategy and thinking about a topic with a collective set of keywords versus a one- to- one relationship of keywords. So congratulations on that.
Ashley Kizzire: Well, thanks. It is a new and a shift in thinking for us because for years, you described us as an organization. We've written what we think we should write about, but we didn't have any data behind it. We didn't know for sure, but we just thought that's probably what our audience would want to hear about. So now we know, now we can have the data. And I really like that, being able to show that.
Ryan Brock: Do you think that the topics that you're writing about right now in that new pillar that you're working on, would you have ever chosen those topics? I mean, that's an impossible question to answer, but what does your gut say? Do you think that, oh, yeah, I think would've thought that this was a good topic to write about? Or are you a little surprised to find what people are asking about?
Ashley Kizzire: Yeah, I think a little bit of both. A little surprised though. I don't know that we specifically would've ever stumbled across, again, writing about those specific blogs, answering those questions. We were thinking about it a whole new way now. Answering a question in a blog and that question is something that people are searching for according to the data that we're finding. So I feel like we probably have a lot of content out there that we can rework even and just put the right questions and just rework it so that it's better fitting for our audience.
Christopher Day: So what does it look like when you go to an" old- school board" or an industry that's not traditionally had to rely on digital, how do you convince them to invest in this digital strategy? What do those conversations look like? There's a lot of people out there that are trying to do the exact same thing that you've been successful at already convincing, " Hey, there's a supplement to our go- to- market strategy here."
Ashley Kizzire: I think just really showing them. I think what has really helped our clients is seeing how they stack up against their competitors. And so we can show them, " Oh," and it gets them fired up like, " Oh, well, so- and- so is beating us in this search for our key topic." And I think that speaks for itself and it really gets them excited. " Oh, we got to do better than that."
Ryan Brock: Data really can cut through that emotion quickly.
Ashley Kizzire: Yeah. Yeah, for sure.
Christopher Day: The favorite word of any human being is their first name. It's kind of the old adage, right? It's like Ashley, your favorite word's Ashley, and my favorite word's Toph, and Ryan's is Ryan. And so I think that transcends into human nature for how we market historically is we want to talk about what we're good at. If somebody makes coffee cups, presumably they have domain expertise around coffee cups.
Ashley Kizzire: Right.
Christopher Day: And so the human tendency is I'm going to tell you how great my coffee cup is. But Ryan doesn't care how great my coffee cup is. What he wants is a shiny, stainless steel coffee tumbler, not just a coffee cup. And if I don't know that he wants a shiny, stainless steel coffee cup tumbler and he's asking questions about that, then we're just going to miss in the night. We're never going to find each other on this thing called the internet.
Ashley Kizzire: Yeah.
Christopher Day: After all, it was built for us as individuals, not for companies. So I think that's, I don't know, that's probably the biggest mindset difference that all of us as marketers have to be comfortable letting go of. Let go our domain expertise and listen, let the data tell us the voice of the customer. And if we align to that, we win almost every time.
Ashley Kizzire: Yeah, so true. I agree.
Ryan Brock: So Ashley, I'm interested because I don't know if I've really ever met someone in your exact role to be honest.
Ashley Kizzire: Okay.
Ryan Brock: I don't know if I've met someone who is the person in charge of marketing for a marketing agency. It's interesting because I've heard it said before that marketers, everybody has an opinion on a marketer's job. Here at DemandJump, we've got engineers that I'm not even close to as intelligent or experienced enough to have an opinion on how they do their job. They do their job. They're good at that. But everybody cares what the marketer's doing and everyone has an opinion. How easy has it been for you to navigate that and start to say, " Look, I want to really shift our focus to this new go- to- market strategy." You got a bunch of marketing experts surrounding you. What's it like steering that ship for your own agency?
Ashley Kizzire: It has been a really, gosh, a great process I think for us. The team has really embraced and accepted this. And I feel like I just keep hearing, " Oh, this is the missing piece. Oh." We have been writing content. We have been...
Christopher Day: Interesting.
Ashley Kizzire: ...doing this for 20- plus years, but now we know what to write about. Now, I mean, it's really cool. So yeah, the missing piece is I think how I would explain our team's internal acceptance of it and a very supportive group that's really adopted it, just real excited about it.
Christopher Day: We discovered, it took us five years of testing multiple, we like to call it math. A lot of people say AI. We just say math. AI is nothing more than math and a bunch of algorithms. And so as we were trying to figure out this whole content SEO world, content world, and looking at it through an entirely different paradigm, we discovered that over the first few years of our company, we're deep into this every day, we discovered that out of 400 pieces of content that we had written, only three of them mattered.
Ashley Kizzire: Wow.
Christopher Day: That's pretty insane.
Ashley Kizzire: That's eyeopening for sure. Yeah.
Christopher Day: It's eyeopening, right?
Ryan Brock: And that's probably true of every marketer five years ago. And we were all just used to accepting that, which I think is crazy now in retrospect.
Christopher Day: If we all went to bed at night knowing that nine out of 10, 90% of our time the next day would be wasted. Oh, that would be a...
Ashley Kizzire: Yeah, I know because so many of us on our team we write, we're writers, and then it's like you're baby that... It's like, well, nobody is paying attention to this. I worked so hard on this. Nobody is looking at it.
Christopher Day: Oh my gosh. All right. We're going to move into a couple of rapid- fire questions. So what would be your best piece of advice for a marketing leader that is trying to help transform potentially industries that are somewhat laggards when it comes to digital?
Ashley Kizzire: I would just say...
Christopher Day: This is a hard one, Ashley, by the way.
Ashley Kizzire: inaudible like a hard one. But I would just, gosh, persistence, just continue to just be enthusiastic about the data behind the content that you write and just the need for really getting that missing piece in the puzzle.
Ryan Brock: I mean, to me, it keeps coming back to it. When I owned an agency and I was in your role and every other role because we were a small, little tiny baby agency, the difference between the before times when I didn't pay attention to data and then selling in the after times when I had data, it's night and day. And I'm not a math guy at all, but data is my new best friend because it makes your decisions and your promises for you.
Ashley Kizzire: It does. I mean, then you know. It takes the guesswork out of it. So yeah, agreed.
Christopher Day: Yep. We like to equate that if we process data properly, it forms the yellow brick road to the right actions and right answers to take. So how about top three tools, marketing or otherwise, top three tools that you can't live without?
Ashley Kizzire: Oh, wow. I think everyday tools that I use at work. We use a project management platform that works so great for us to keep track of all the things that are coming and flying. Project management.
Ryan Brock: Which one?
Ashley Kizzire: We use Basecamp.
Ryan Brock: Yeah.
Ashley Kizzire: That's a project management system that works pretty well for us. And we use scheduling software for social media management. We like the kind that have good pictures of the data for all the people that we work with. Sprout Social. There's so many out there.
Ryan Brock: Oh, yeah.
Ashley Kizzire: But Sprout is one that we like to use because it gives good graphs, pictures for people inside that we work with. It's easy for them to understand. DemandJump is quickly becoming that, good tool and resource. And I'm going to go back, email is a big part, but I'm trying to shift a lot more of that to Basecamp. So, yeah.
Christopher Day: Yep. Excellent.
Ashley Kizzire: Is that three? I don't know.
Christopher Day: Yeah. Might have been. Yeah. Ryan, any other questions for Ashley while we have her?
Ryan Brock: I got one more, one of these rapid- fire questions. I love it when I can talk to marketing leaders. Professionally speaking, I mean, there's a lot of reasons to be afraid of the world. Okay, Ashley, but professionally speaking, what keeps you up at night?
Ashley Kizzire: Ooh. Gosh. And I go to bed pretty easily. I can fall asleep fast, but I'll wake up at three in the morning and I'll be thinking about getting everything done, all the things on my list. That's it. I mean, I'll be thinking about my to- do list. So I don't know and get just, yeah, figuring it out.
Ryan Brock: All right. Someone's got to get working on an algorithm that could figure out our to- do list for us so there'd be the next big revolution.
Ashley Kizzire: I know. Yeah.
Christopher Day: Ashley, we had a person come in, we had a whole series of kind of seminars, one was around balance late last year, and I used to do this, I kind of got away from it, and he encouraged us to get back into it. But when our brains are racing a million miles an hour when we're laying in bed at night, it was write it down, have that little pad of paper next to your bed so you can get it out of your brain.
Ashley Kizzire: Yeah.
Christopher Day: I started doing this again recently in the last month or so, and gosh, it helps me because otherwise our brains just won't shut down sometimes, keep firing.
Ashley Kizzire: Yeah.
Christopher Day: And getting that out of my brain, out my arm, down my fingertips onto a pad of paper has been so helpful.
Ashley Kizzire: Yeah.
Ryan Brock: Ben Franklin did that every night. Fun fact.
Ashley Kizzire: Good to know. Yeah.
Ryan Brock: So it's got to be something there.
Ashley Kizzire: That's what I need to try at 3:00 a.m. next time.
Christopher Day: All right, Ashley, how can people find you if they want to reach out?
Ashley Kizzire: Well, I can be reached by email or LinkedIn. Email is ashley. kizzire @ aoeteam.com, or I'm on LinkedIn as well.
Christopher Day: Awesome. Well, this has been a great conversation, Ashley. There are all kinds of people out there listening to this show that are just getting started in this digital space and others that are trying to convince various industries that might be a little bit of laggards to come into this space to help their organization. So change is great, right? It's a little scary, but the results always turn out to be great. So thank you very much for sharing a little bit about your journey today. And until next time, this is Page One or Bust!. And we'll see you all soon.
Ryan Brock: Thanks, Ashley.
Ashley Kizzire: Thank you.
Ryan Brock: Bye, everybody.
Speaker 1: Page One or Bust! is brought to you by DemandJump. Know the exact content to create to increase first- page rankings and drive outcomes with DemandJump. Get started for free today at demandjump. com.
Not every business is on-board yet with the SEO revolution, and that’s why we’re talking to Ashley Kizzire, Vice President of Marketing at AOE. She’s leading the SXO charge in the architecture, engineering, and construction space, and has been creating content that gets results since 1995. In this episode, Ashley shares insights from her journey so far—like how to convince leadership to adopt your vision, as well as advice for getting content in front of a harder-to-reach audience that can apply to any legacy industry, and much more.