Massive Migration: 23 Domains into One
Stephanie Cox: Welcome to REAL MARKETERS where we hear from marketers who move fast, ask forgiveness, not permission, obsessing about driving results and are filled to the brim was crazy ideas and the guts to implement them. This is not a fireside chat and there's absolutely no bullshit allowed here. And I'm your host, Stephanie Cox. I have more than 15 years of marketing experience and I've pretty much done about everything in my career. I believe speed is better than perfection. I use the Oxford comma. I love Coca- Cola. Have exceptionally high standards and surround myself with people who get shit done. On this show, my guests and I will push boundaries and share the real truth about marketing and empower you to become a real marketer. So, first question for you. Tell me something about yourself that few people know.
Kacy Maxwell: So I lived out in LA for a while before I got into marketing. And so I was trying to do the acting thing, which means a lot of waiting tables. And I got a commercial. It was a non- union and it was a car commercial for AAMCO and the premise was people who had car problems wrong with them. And I was in an office building and I didn't actually have the problem wrong with me. Somebody else did, and they had bad breaks. And so the commercial was them running into a bunch of different people. And I was one of the people that they ran into and I threw up the papers and fell down and I did that. I had a stunt man, teach me how to fall for that two second commercial that only aired in select small markets. So most people have never seen that.
Stephanie Cox: But the question is, is it on YouTube?
Kacy Maxwell: It's not, it's not. I had it on YouTube for a while. I put it up because they gave me a reel and somehow it got taken down by AAMCO a while ago. And I've never put it back up, so I have it, but nobody else does.
Stephanie Cox: Because usually when someone tells me something like that, my first instinct is to Google. I want to see if I can find it while you're telling the story.
Kacy Maxwell: Well, now, I'm going to have to put it up there or else it seems like I just made it up for this podcast.
Stephanie Cox: Well, what's funny about that. My brother- in- law many, many years ago when he was younger thought he wanted to be a stunt man and he moved out to LA too. And you don't think that there's a right way to fall, but there is a way that you learn to fall so you don't hurt yourself when you do stunts.
Kacy Maxwell: Yeah. Yeah. I had actually learned the right way to do that in high school. And you have to break your body down into segments so that your entire body is not hitting the floor at one time. So you reduce the impact that your body takes. So the stunt man taught us in a different way to do it, but I had already learned that lesson in high school.
Stephanie Cox: Very cool. Well, now as you mentioned, career marketing. So I want to talk to you about really one of the big changes that's happened at your current company. So why don't you tell us a little about where you're at right now and what your business does?
Kacy Maxwell: Yeah. So I work at Ramsey Solutions out of Franklin, Tennessee. A lot of people will know our company for our founder, Dave Ramsey. He hosts a radio show and he's been around for about 25 years helping people get out of debt. In those last 25 years, we've expanded significantly from just our get out of debt to, we are in a lot of different areas of finance, whether it's helping you get a house, whether it's getting the right insurance, using a budgeting tool. Businesses have our program where they're able to give that to their employees and help their employees get out of debt. We're in schools where we teach high school students, how to prepare for college and go to a debt- free and set themselves up in life. But we're also in career and we're also helping people find jobs that they love. And so we're moving into all these other areas, which is one of the reasons we had the problem that we had to end up solving. So I lead the website team and the project that you're talking about is we had across the organization, 23 different domains that we made the decision to merge into one domain for the company. So that has been my life for the last 18 months. And we just successfully launched that at the beginning of April.
Stephanie Cox: Yay. Well, congratulations. I'm sure that was a huge weight off your shoulders getting that done.
Kacy Maxwell: Yeah. When the majority of the company's revenue relies on you not messing that up, that puts a level of pressure on the project succeeding that I've not had in any other project that I've ever led.
Stephanie Cox: Well, maybe let's talk about the decision to have the 23 different domains. So when that decision was made, I assume years ago, what was the thought behind that?
Kacy Maxwell: Yeah. So we are a very entrepreneurial company. So at this point we are at close to a thousand team members, but when we started 25 years ago, we obviously didn't start with that many. And so the way that our individual businesses within the company was very much with this entrepreneurial mindset. So they would be their own business and they'd figure out how to make money and how to serve the customer. And yes, they were tied to each other via the radio show, but they just kind of spun up and had their own things. So they would hire their own marketers and their own designers and their developers would go in and develop things. And so there were decisions that were made to say, for instance, every dollar, which is our budgeting tool, we said," Well, people that don't know our web show and don't know, Dave Ramsey will still use this. So let's create its own brand." And so we put that on everydollar. com and we started launching personalities and we gave them their own websites because it made it easier just to connect people directly to that brand. And so that happened again and again and again, and the strategy that worked early on, all of a sudden became unmanageable when we think," Hey, we're continuing to grow. If in five years we continue with this strategy, we're going to have 35 websites and then we're going to have 50 websites. And that means there's going to be 50 stores that we have to do. And our blogs are competing with each other in a search." And we were going to have to scale our business in the same way. And we don't want to do that. We were like," There's got to be a smarter way. There's got to be a better way to do this." So the strategy wasn't wrong at the time, but where we are today and where we see that we're going, we knew pretty quickly we were going to have to shift course.
Stephanie Cox: Well, it's interesting that you mentioned that, and we were talking about this before we started recording this idea of decisions that old you, or the older part of your organization maybe have made years ago were probably the right decision for your business back then. But times change, the business changes, consumer behavior changes, and you have to think about, and look at things in a new light. So for you, as you thought about this decision, what got you to the point where you said," Okay, we've got to take 23 domains and go into one." What was that decision making? Because to be honest, that gives me anxiety right now, just thinking about it.
Kacy Maxwell: Yeah. I mean, the project was a success and I still look back and I'm like, "Did it really happen? Did we really pull it off?" There was a lot that went into this decision that all of these sites combined there is a significant amount of traffic and revenue that comes for our company, from them. We're in an average of like six million sessions a month. And a lot of that is from organic. So SEO. And so the consideration was not taken lightly because we knew there was so much risk. And if we did it wrong and we knew that regardless of, even if we did it right, there was going to be some pain from an SEO perspective that we were going to have to feel. But two of the main factors was when we look at succession at our company, we are very intentional about setting this company up for the future. Most of this company is tied up within Dave Ramsey, our founder, and he and the board have been so great of saying Dave's not going to be here forever. We cannot rely just on him and his name to be able to propel us forward. We got to think of where does this company need to go? And so, as we looked at global branding is what we called it. What does the brand of Ramsey need to be, and need to become? And so, when you looked across our sites, our main site was daveramsey.com. And so that being the URL of our site going forward, it was one of those things that just didn't jibe with where our brand needed to go. And so Ramsey Solutions, which is the name of our corporate office, but also who we are as a company was the right domain. But to get there, we had to really dig into all the branding aspect of that, making sure it made sense, connecting all of those tissues back together, because we had done such a good job, creating all of these individual brands that sometimes the consumer didn't know they were one part of one ecosystem. So we took where we wanted to go, and then how our users will experience our brand to lead us, to make that decision. Now, there were other factors, but those were two of the major things that we took into account.
Stephanie Cox: So once you make this decision, the next thing you have to do is get your team on board. And how was that knowing that you're going to make this decision, but now there's a while work that needs to get done. And the thing that I think some people don't realize is because you have so much traffic coming from SEO, it's a lot of a really important work that has to get done, right? To not have an detriment to your business. So how do you get everyone excited about this type of project?
Kacy Maxwell: Well, before we started pushing this on the team and trying to rally everybody, one of my leaders, his name is Herb Jenkins. He gave me a thought exercise to walk through, to get me ready to lead something like this. He said," Before you lead a big project, what you need to do, go take some time, take an hour and a half, two hours, sit down and ask yourself the question for this project to be successful. What needs to be true of the person leading it?" He said," Don't put yourself in that." He said," Don't say, what do I need to do to be a successful leader?" He said," Take yourself out of it. What does that leader need to do?" And so I sat down and I said," Well, this person's got to really understand all of this. I'm a marketer by trade, but this person needs to understand marketing. They need to understand the technology. They need to understand the creative. And then just the business impact." I said," This person's got to be amazing at communication. There's a thousand people in this company. There's a lot of business units. There are thousands of pages that we need to migrate. If this person's going to move this company in the right direction, they've got to communicate the right information to the right people in the right setting. Because people freak out when they hear information in the incorrect context, because it feels like they missed something." And so I went through that and said," Okay, they need to be this. They need to be that. And they need to be that." Then I took myself and put myself in that setting and said," Okay, where do I fit the bill? And where do I see deficiencies?" And so what do I need to change about the way that I do things? Who do I need to bring alongside me, be part of my core team to be able to be this leader and make this a success?" And communication was one of those that I said," I have got to be a master communicator." And so I put together an entire communication strategy as a result of that, that had," Hey, here are the people. This is when I'll tell them this. It'll communicate via email, we'll have stuff and staff meeting." Which I wouldn't have approached it that way. I would have said," Okay, well, I just need to focus on how do we do the project." But the how was important. But without the communication, it would have been a major failure here. So I started with what needs to be true of me and my leadership team. I had my leaders go through that exercise as well, before we even started involving the team.
Stephanie Cox: That's really good advice. So once you started involving the team, how did you think... I mean, you mentioned this is 18 months, right? How did you think about breaking up this project? What does that look like when you're taking on something so daunting and critical to your business?
Kacy Maxwell: The old saying is how do you eat an elephant one bite at a time? So the way that we looked at this project is this is a mammoth project. We knew based on the business and the way we had thought through the project, kind of a target date. We knew we wanted to launch in April of this year, but we knew," Hey, there are some key milestones that we just need to have to make this happen. We did what we called affectionately, the light switch approach, where we turned all of those domains off at one time and turned ramseysolutions. com on. SEO across the board, if you put 10 SEOs in a room, maybe eight of them would say, that's the right way. And two of them would say no. So we felt good enough that was the right way to go. But we started saying," Okay, what is the first milestone that we need to hit? And then what is the next milestone? And then the next milestone, we had to break it up in sort of these big phases." And every time I would get up to present, I would show these phases and say," Okay, we're in this phase today, this is what this phase means. This is your responsibility. And know that this is the next phase that is coming." We didn't get all the way to," This is the eighth phase." Because it's too far away. And it's too much for someone to take in. We just said," Okay, here's what you need to do now. And then here's the next thing that is coming." But one thing that when I did that analysis of what needs to be true of this person, one of the things that I put on there was this person has to believe without a shadow of a doubt that this is the right thing to do, because I knew that this person was going to have to have a lot of conversations with people who did not believe that it was the right thing to do. And if that person didn't 100% believe it, they were never going to be able to get everybody else on board. Nobody follows a leader that's kind of like," Well, I guess let's just do it." And when I put myself in that role, I said," Do I believe this is the right thing?" And I got myself to a place where I did, and I had a lot of those conversations. And as I had those conversations again and again and again, I started to be able to convince people to believe what I believed, but it took time. And I had to say it so many times that people could do an impression of me, but I had to be consistent-
Stephanie Cox: I've been there.
Kacy Maxwell: Yeah, right.
Stephanie Cox: When you say something so many times, and you're like, "I know I've said this a hundred times. I'm going to say it again because I need you all to hear it again."
Kacy Maxwell: Well, it's amazing how you say that and someone's like, "Huh, I've never heard you say that before." And you're sitting there going, "I think I say that every day."
Stephanie Cox: You know what? It's kind of about marketing though, too. I always tell my team by the time we're tired of our messaging and our branding is when everyone else in the world is finally paying attention to it.
Kacy Maxwell: Yes. Yes.
Stephanie Cox: So it's kind of like that. I know I say this all the time, but you're right. Some people probably were like, "No, I'd never heard you say that." And in my head, I'm like, "No, I swear. I say it like four times a day."
Kacy Maxwell: I specifically remember saying it to you yesterday.
Stephanie Cox: Like in the exact same way. And I probably had the same look on my face when I said it. And it was interesting for me is I'm a former cheerleader for a lot of years. And so I am just like a really optimistic peppy person in general. And so, I'm getting everyone on board. It's really hard for me not to break out into like my team calls it cheerleader mode, which is like, this is going to be great. I'm super excited and I really do mean it, but they always give me a hard time about it.
Kacy Maxwell: Yeah. So I mentioned that I have acting in my past, I would have to get up in front of the organization, which I say is around a thousand people and get them to care about backlinks and QA the site and all of these super boring topics. And so every time I would be presenting with someone, I'm like," How do we make this intriguing? How do we make people have fun with this?" And so whether it was the way we presented it or the examples that we gave or the visuals that we gave, I always wanted to have a little bit of laughter, a little bit of fun so that they would actually internalize it versus like,"Okay. What do you want me to do? You want me to move another page? You want me to check a link?" I wanted it to be fun and memorable or else they're just not going to do it. It's like, okay, it's another thing I need to do. And they were not going to care like I cared.
Stephanie Cox: Well, another part is too, when you are finally done with it, you want not just your team, but the whole organization to rally around the huge success that it is. And if people don't care about it, then when you launch it, it's not a big deal to them.
Kacy Maxwell: Yeah. Agreed.
Stephanie Cox: So during this 18 month process, what do you feel like you learned from it? What were things that, Gosh, I wish I would've known that before." Or," This went really well and I didn't expect it to." What are those key learnings that you really have from this?
Kacy Maxwell: Yeah. If there are a couple key roles and a couple key people that I had on the team that had I not had that, this project would have gone south very, very quickly. And one of those, her name is Lauren Turner. Her title is a technical SEO. So she is focused not necessarily on the written word, like the content side. So we have a content marketing team that does that, but she was the one that gets into really the nitty gritty, whether it's the information architecture or whether it's schema, all the backlink profiles. She was the one that managed the entire map of when we put all these redirects, I said, here are all the old links. And they go to this link. She was so detail oriented and she set herself up in a way where she would have these mastermind groups with other people in the SEO community to run through," Hey, here's how we're looking to approach this." And she would get feedback. And she would always bring that into the process. Without her, this thing would have failed many times over just these numbers alone. So we had a thousand pages that we needed to migrate. On top of that, over 2000 blogs, that had to be migrated.
Stephanie Cox: Oh my gosh.
Kacy Maxwell: Yeah. The final URL map was over 13,000 lines long. And the number of in- page links so links on the page. Because of SEO, not using upended links is better, which meant that all of our links in page needed to be changed and updated. And so there were over a hundred thousand of those links that needed to be changed. She was one of the people that was in charge of making sure all of that happened. Those numbers still boggle my mind that we were able to do that because as we looked at what's going to make this project a failure, and it is if something of our redirect mat breaks, or if we start getting a ton of 404s. We completely redid our information architecture. We were a very business focused information architecture, and we moved to a very consumer friendly topic, based information architecture. All of that stuff is super nitty gritty and super in the weeds that for me, I couldn't imagine getting in there and doing that, that was life to her. She absolutely loved it. And it was so exciting for her. And she is a big reason why this was a success.
Stephanie Cox: My head is just spinning from those numbers. I think the most I've ever had to deal with redirect wise is a couple hundred and that was a nightmare. So I can't even imagine what this was like. And when you're talking about all of those links and content, those are things that you had to manually change, weren't they?
Kacy Maxwell: The in- page links, we got some smart developers that we were able to get a script that was written to get the majority of those, but we still had to go in and do a significant amount of the other ones.
Stephanie Cox: Oh. And what people don't realize, right? You're talking about 404 errors. So can you just explain what that is for someone who may not be familiar with the term?
Kacy Maxwell: Sure. A 404 is when you're trying to get to a page and you get that... Some people do a good job with it and make it fun, but it says," Oops, this page doesn't exist. Do you want to try these other things?" If Google sees you have a spike in that it starts questioning what you've done on your site. And we knew we were only going to get really one chance to put our best foot forward. And that was in the initial crawl of ramseysolutions. com when we launched all these redirects. So we went through that process over and over and over again, to make sure that all of those were right because every, if you go and start looking at site migrations and look for the case studies of when it fell apart, they did something wrong with their redirects, their information architecture wasn't solid, or they had a ridiculous amount of 404s. And they either didn't know about it, or didn't change it in a quick fashion.
Stephanie Cox: So I'm hopeful that she's taken some time off after managing that large project and giving herself a little bit of a break, because I can't imagine what that must've been. But personality wise, I assume super detail oriented and that just really fit what she likes to do.
Kacy Maxwell: Yeah. It's funny. So we have a value here of getting people in their sweet spot. And she came in on another business unit, the Ramsey plus business unit, and she was doing SEO there. But when this project came up, we realized that she had a lot more expertise in that sort of technical side. So we had some conversations met with that other team and said," Hey, we actually want her on this project and on this team moving forward." And when you see that person come to life, all of a sudden she came to life when she leaned into this. And yeah, she loves spreadsheets. She throws them up on boards and starts walking through and they start to... Do you remember those magic eye posters where you stare at it long enough inaudible pops out Sometimes I can have that feeling when I'm looking at a really detailed spreadsheet, but for her it's just life. And she was able to create that and manage that. And yeah, she's actually on vacation this week. She had a vacation a week ago, and then she came back for a week and then she took another a week. And well- deserved on her end.
Stephanie Cox: Yeah. Well, I love that you mentioned about finding people's sweet spots because to me that's what makes work, not work. And what I mean by that is, you can love what you do and it can be part of what you're passionate about. And then when you do your work every day, it doesn't feel like you're working. You actually look forward to doing what you're doing. So how do you think about finding and determining what someone's sweet spot is? So you can get them in the right role so they can just really shine.
Well, I think that's a main responsibility of any leader is to do that. And some of it is, if you don't raise your head above the work that you have to do today, you're never going to see what your team actually needs. We do regular one-on-ones with our team members and we sit down and have conversations. And sometimes it's about the work, "What do we need to get done this week? What do we need to do?" But it's also like, "Hey, let's check-in. What are you working on? What's exciting to you? What's not?" And everybody has stuff about their job that they don't like, so you're not going to go, "Oh, you don't like that. You never have to do it again. Let's just do all this fun stuff." But you start to see these sparks and you start to see people perk up. And the way that they communicate information to you is different than when they're communicating the stuff that is kind of stuff that they want to do. And so when we asked her to be part of this project, when she would come in and start talking about this, she would get a little bit more excited. She would be," Oh, and I'm going to do this. Oh, and I'm going to do this. And oh, we need to think about this." And we didn't ask her to go meet with all these other SEO meetups and everything. She just said," Oh yeah, I'm doing this. And when I was in there, I asked about this and I brought some good feedback." And you start seeing these signs if you're looking for them of like, I think it's Benjamin Zander, the musician who says," You look for the sparkle in someone's eyes. And when you see that in their eyes, you're like, Oh, okay, we've unlocked something. How can we lean into that?" Because again, it's like working a little later when you have to and doing some of that stuff, it becomes less of a chore when you are super excited about the work.
Stephanie Cox: Well, that's what I mean, right? I mean, it's still work and you sort of pay for it, but it doesn't become work either. A lot of times I think I get paid every day to do what I love to do. And I think if you're not doing that as a marketer, it's totally different when you find it. But I think you're right, as a leader, it's important for us to help our teams get in roles where they can have that sparkle and shine because you get a couple of things. One, I think you get a different level of work out of them. And what I mean by that is it's not maybe a different amount, but it's a higher level of excitement, intensity, passion. And whether they're doing things like, architecture for your website, whether they're writing content, doing your social media strategy, there's a difference between someone who loves what they're doing and someone who is just doing it because it's part of their role. And I think the other big thing is it also creates this really great comradery within your team when everyone's in the right seat. And they know that you're looking out for what's best for them, you see where they shine and you want to push and help them grow in that area. And maybe in other areas where they don't realize they could shine yet. It's to me, one of the best parts about being a leader.
Yeah. And you're talking about giving somebody a" Why." We believe that we're on a mission here. It's not just, we want to sell money tools, or we want to sell stuff for your career. We believe our mission is to help people. And that a lot of systems around this country are kind of set up not to help people. So we get excited because we have people that when they use our systems, their life changes in a positive way. And so we share that stuff in staff meeting all the time, people screaming that they're debt free, or people sharing a video that they got life insurance. They didn't think they needed it, but they heard that they should through one of our things and they got it. And then the worst thing happened, but they're okay. And they're taken care of. That kind of stuff, if you can embed that within a team member, they will get excited and continue to do stuff that is the push through the mundane stuff, because they know," Hey, this is mundane, but I know that the person on the other end of this is getting helped." And so we have passion and purpose and mission are some of our core values that we push to get people excited. I also, one of the things we didn't touch on actual launch day, but I always want to make things fun. I want to make it memorable. I like humor. That's kind of where my sweet spot is. I don't know if you've ever done the Brené Brown, Dare to Lead stuff, but within there it says," What are your core values?" Well, one of mine is humor. And I always tell my leaders. If I can't be joking and having fun in a situation something's wrong, I'm either super stressed or I'm completely consumed with something else. And something's something's going on there. So launch night, it was not an easy, quick process because we were moving all of those domains. So when we got the team together, we did a few dry runs and put together a launch plan that was 18 phases long, and ended up being 10 hours long. We started on April 5th at around 1:00 PM. And we turned on ramseysolutions.com. And then we started the process of migrating, testing, confirming everything's okay, thumbs up, moved on to the next one, moved onto the next one, moved onto the next one, but we wanted to make it fun. So everybody got a hoodie that night and we called it Operation Light Switch. And on the back wall, we had all of the websites with an uplight underneath it. And there were checkboxes of each of the things that needed to be verified. And as we would do that, we would go over and turn off the light and say, "Hey, this site's no longer here." We turn off the light. Everybody would cheer. And we did those lights on either side. And we went back and forth, back and forth until we got to daveramsey.com, which was in the middle. And we got there at 10:30 that night. And so when we turned that off, the cheer that went up there was a lot of people that was involved in this project. And so just the building of anticipation, and you see the lights going down all into one, it just made it an event. And so much fun that people were excited to work 10 hours to launch this thing. They weren't like, "Oh my gosh, I had to be there for 10 freaking hours." I had team members coming up to me afterwards and go, "Man, I just wish I could have been there." And I'm like, "Where else do you see people saying, man, I wish I could have worked 10 hours until 10:00 PM at night." It's that kind of stuff. If you can unlock that with your team, there's nothing that's going to stop you.
Stephanie Cox: Well, I think that goes back to what we've been talking about which is getting people to do what they're passionate about, where their sparkle is. It goes back to what you were saying earlier about getting your team on board and getting them excited, showing them how much you believe in it. So they believe in it. Right? And breaking it down and showing them path to success. So when you get to the end, it is a celebration. Yeah. It might be a lot of work to get there even while you're doing the celebration, but it feels like this massive accomplishment.
Kacy Maxwell: Completely.
Stephanie Cox: So last question for you. If you were starting the process over again, what is one thing that you would have done differently?
Kacy Maxwell: Early on, we formed a core team, which is about five people to push this forward. We focused on communication and getting the right people in the room and let people know what was happening when. When we got close to the launch and the way that we came up with the launch is we expanded that to a cross functional group that brought a different kind of thinking. So instead of it just being this smaller group, we expanded that group and if that core team would have put together the launch plan on their own, it would have been a failure. So we had all of the people that are leading in those respective areas, come and sit in a room for a day and put together this launch plan together. And what I saw in that is that as one group was asking a question, a group that you wouldn't necessarily know, they don't interact. There's nothing about their area that interacts. They would ask a question that would make this person who was sharing, think and go," Oh yeah, maybe we should consider that." And so many times when we look at a big project like this, we look at each individual discipline as something in and of itself. And we forget if we bring this altogether, all of those individual people need to understand the entire ecosystem. It doesn't matter if you're an awesome creative. If you don't understand the dev side and the marketing side of it, it's not going to work. You could be an amazing dev and deliver the cleanest code ever. But if you don't really understand how it needs to function for the user or what the goals or the KPIs are, it doesn't matter what you're going to design. It's not going to work well. And so getting all of those people into there, I would have got them into rooms sooner and had more of those types of conversations as we went, because it was just such a different level that we got to when they were all able to hear the same things at the same time, versus in individual pockets.
Stephanie Cox: You've been listening to REAL MARKETERS. If you love what you've heard, make sure to subscribe, rate and review our podcast. And don't forget to tell a friend, all of this marketing goodness, shouldn't be kept a secret.
Consolidating 23 domains into one site may seem like a daunting task to some, but for this marketing executive, it's been his reality for the last 18 months.
In this episode, we chat with Kacy Maxwell, Executive Marketing Director at Ramsey Solutions. For the past 15+ years, Kacy has worked in all areas of marketing, from managing large-scale social media and website marketing campaigns to launching and managing eight eCommerce websites. Today Kacy leads a cross-functional team of marketers, writers, designers, and developers building the website platform and martech integrations for a site that boasts an average of 6 million monthly sessions.
We’re talking about how Kacy and his team consolidated 23 domains into one, his secrets for managing a huge project, what he wishes more leaders would do, and so much more.