In this month’s Q&A, we visit with Kathy Zant, a long time geek who started creating websites with Active Server Pages.
Kathy is the Director of Marketing at StellarWP.
When she isn’t wrangling WordPress products, she loves hanging out with her husband, her dog, and fosters kittens.
What is your WordPress origin story?
I actually started developing data-driven sites before it was cool to do so. Active Server Pages and SQL Server, but moved to PHP/MySQL around 2000 for my personal projects. It was even before PHPMyAdmin had to do everything on the command line. WordPress used the same PHP class for database connections, so I took note and started using it for blogging.
There weren’t any plugins, and I was re-theming my personal blog about once a month. I didn’t start using it for client work until about 2010. When Automattic bought WooCommerce, I moved some client sites off my own cart application into WooCommerce and the rest is history. I did it mostly on my own and didn’t really engage with the WP community until 2018.
Are you a marketer, salesperson, or a developer? Which do you like more?
These days they call me a marketer, but I consider myself an evangelist and empowerer. I help people get more out of the platform and the solutions as best as I can. Having grown up in the early days of the internet, I feel like I owe it to share my experiences with others so they can find success in building and owning their platforms.
What is your advice to WordPress agencies and consultants about improving their marketing efforts?
Find your customers’ needs and fulfill them. Do that at scale and you win. Marketing is about consistency and repetition. Every success is an opportunity to toot your own horn.
What are some challenges you have had in your WordPress career?
I guess in the agency days, it was finding people to help. That was a long time ago. My challenges now are mostly that I want to do a lot of different things and there is only one of me. I want to head back to WordCamps soon, but balancing that with demands in my personal life is going to be a challenge.
Where do you see the future of WordPress going?
I’m actually really excited about where I see WordPress going. When Gutenberg first arrived on the scene, I dove in early but wasn’t that impressed with it. I could see where it was going, but it wasn’t until I started playing with Kadence that I saw the potential of the future of WordPress.
You wrote a book. What did you learn about that experience?
It actually started out as an experiment. I asked the question of what would happen if a group of people got together and focused on a positive wealth mindset for 30 days. What would change? I actually used WordPress and a barebones membership plugin to run it!
There were about 500 people who started out with the project and by the end of it, there were enough entries for a book. It was an interesting process, and I just self-published using Amazon KDP. I then ended up working with a number of authors to help them self publish, including the author of The Book of est and The Dice Man, Luke Rhinehart aka George Cockcroft.
It was a fun and interesting time. After helping with some of that self publishing, I ended up building author sites. Got super interested in security for a bit and then somehow ended up here.
What do you like to do when you aren’t WordPressing?
My life is pretty full being a caregiver to my husband who had a stroke a year ago. It has been an adventure that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but he’s still here, so I am grateful for that.
I know you love animals. What have you learned from animals?
Yep! I’ve fostered two litters of kittens, and I was the crazy lady who would go for a walk with one dog and end up at home with 5 neighbor dogs following me.
My daughter rides horses, so I get to spend time with them, too. Animals are pretty pure hearted. I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like animals. And people who love them are my kindred spirits.
No birds for me, though. They kind of freak me out a bit!
What is the biggest challenge you have had to overcome and what did you learn?
I’m going to have to go with my experiences over the last year. From finding out too late that “food poisoning” was actually a stroke to dealing with an unforgiving healthcare system and learning how to care for my husband and work through the hell of rehab all while starting up a new job, losing the husband’s income, becoming a single parent in a place where I don’t know that many people.
It’s been soul crushing at times. I’m pretty thankful to the team at iThemes and Kadence and the kindness and support I’ve received from them throughout it.
I will say: “Once you face your greatest challenge and survive it, there is nothing that you cannot accomplish. I am looking forward to the next chapter of my life.”
What is your advice for busy WordPress agency owners who don’t have time to blog but need or want to?
Your story is unique and no one else can tell it, just like you can. Even if you think you can’t blog, you can probably podcast in a structured way and add a transcript to your site that can have a similar positive effect to providing ways of connecting with your audience.
My life is better for telling my stories, from being a parent, fighting malicious hackers in the security space, building sites, or just being a devoted wife who wouldn’t give up on her husband when everyone else did… these are the stories that make me unique and connect with audiences. Your personality and your values matter, and when other people can hear those stories, they’ll reach out.
Business is more than just the bottom line. It’s about developing relationships that are authentic, serve everyone involved and provide wins all around… a win for you, for your customer, and for the world as a whole. If you can do that, you’ll see expansion in your business and in your influence you’d never see any other way.