Understanding how to become an effective digital change agent

As technologists, we tend to get caught up in the computer side of things when it comes to try to get stuff done in our organizations. So often we forget that the real drivers of change are the people behind the screens. In new research that my colleague Brian Solis has just published, he documents exactly how enterprise digital transformation happens, and talks directly to some of those “change agents” that he has known for decades as an analyst covering the IT scene. His Manifesto is available now for downloading and reading, I strongly suggest doing so. (Other than registering your email, it is free of charge.)

With most organizations, “these digital transformation efforts often take place in isolated pockets, sometimes with little coordination and collaboration across the enterprise,” he writes. Often it is a solitary individual who drives change and introduction of particular digital technologies and methods at a grassroots level — and often fails to go further across the enterprise. His manifesto puts together a solid ten-point plan (shown here) if you want to be more effective in bringing this about at your company. This includes embracing yourself as a catalyst, obtaining leadership support, creating a roadmap and democratizing idea creation. Some of these are obvious, some aren’t. 

He says that “digital transformation is more of a people problem than a business problem. Trust is the least measurable but most important factor to build.” Without this trust, your colleagues can sabotage or block your efforts. One of the biggest obstacles in building trust is in managing your own ego as a change agent. When you display too much ego, you make the change all about you, rather than the benefit to your company. The same is true when managing your colleagues’ egos too.

On the other side of this is managing your own doubts about what you are trying to do. “Although it may seem counterintuitive to manage detractors, change agents ought to listen closely to their feedback. It is better to let them voice their concerns than to let them detract in secret.” Indeed, listening is often overlooked when advocating change. The better listener you are, the more you’ll get done. 

Solis mentions that when a change agent has the full buy-in of the executive suite, real change becomes possible and turns from a suggestion to a corporate mandate.

“Digital Darwinism is increasingly becoming either a threat or an opportunity based on how organizations react to change,” he says in his report. Digital change agents can become the next generation of leaders and help to be instrumental in having their companies more effectively compete in this digital economy.




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How to get better at creating Internet content

For the past several years, I have been a fan of the videos produced by Taylor Ramos and Tony Zhou, a Vancouver couple that are behind the Every Frame a Painting YouTube channel. And today I am very sad, because they announced that their day jobs of film editor and animator have gotten in the way of this passion project, and the video that they posted last year will be their last in the series.

Zhou and Ramos’ videos were very fast-paced and clever examples of how to make better movies, drawn from hundreds of feature films and TV episodes, some famous, some infamous, and some that I have never seen before. The videos were a foundational course in how to think visually and learn how to be better at doing it. “Instead of showing a clip and talking about the plot, we were showing the clip and talking about the clip.” They didn’t talk about story or characters, but how the movies were made the way they were.

For example, one video talks about how filmmakers use Vancouver as a stand-in for other cities, but never recognized. Another talks about chairs and how they are used in movies. And why you can’t remember any musical themes from the Marvel movies, but can certainly hum the Star Wars or Harry Potter themes. And how the Orson Wells F is for Fake movie was a seminal work for the duo. The videos were quirky, fun, and very instructive. Plus, they were very enjoyable, and made me want to watch some of the films that were used in the examples.

Now, I am a fledging Internet movie-maker, as you might know, although a very specialized one: I create a series of screencast videos about enterprise IT products. And even in this very small corner of the video universe, I learned something from the Painting videos.

Some of their videos have clips for more than 50 different films to make their points. For example, here are two clips from the Transformers movie and from West Side Story. See if you can tell what they are trying to say by watching them.

But Zhou and Ramos are still teaching, even in their swansong Medium post that describes why they aren’t going to do any more of their videos for their channel. They make these important points that have a larger context to help improve all of your Internet-created content:

  1. Understand the content creator’s triangle. Faster, cheaper, or better – you can only pick two out of the three (see the diagram here). Don’t try to think you can cover all three bases.
  2. To have a successful YouTube channel (or a blog or anything else online), you need to have a solid style guide. They ran into problems with their style choices down the road, but initially it gained them a solid audience (some of their videos have more than a 1M views).
  3. Let ideas for your posts marinate for a while. Your brain will forget the weak ideas, and you’ll still recall the promising ones.
  4. Do your research offline. Go to the library and read books. Yeah, there is that Google search thing. But if you want to break out of the online regurgitation cycle, and find some original ideas, then go to the library. (The irony of having two visual people tell others to read books wasn’t lost on me.)
  5. Make sure your essays are addressing the right question. Test your ideas constantly, and don’t be afraid to toss them and start again. It is helpful to have a partner that you can use as a sounding board or a foil.
  6. Be organized. The couple used a series of index cards to outline their essays and organize their points. This way, they got to the strongest and most cogent arguments. If index cards seem so last century, find something else that will work. To produce my video screencasts, I have a series of tools that I use in a tight sequence every time.
  7. Maintain a solid boundary between you and your audience. That doesn’t mean you should ignore your audience, au contraire, you should know their hopes and fears and what they are getting out of your work. But don’t let them control what you do.

Goodbye Every Frame videos. I wish the couple well on their next project, and hope you enjoy the video channel as much as I have.

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FIR B2B podcast #85: How Digital Channels Are Transforming B2B Sales

Our guest for this week’s episode is Ray Grady, the President of CloudCraze. In a recent report, CloudCraze uncovers the value B2B organizations are seeing from digital channels and their future expectations for online sales. Forrester expects eCommerce to reach $889 billion and represent 11% of total B2B sales in the U.S. by the end of 2017. Without a doubt, a digital revolution has taken place in B2B, leading to explosive growth for those who have invested in eCommerce. 

We ask Grady about his survey, which covered 400 representatives of consumer packaged goods, manufacturing and software companies. It found some interesting and perhaps non-obvious results:

  • More than half of B2B businesses (56%) give self-service access to all of their customers.
  • For the first time in B2B history, nearly half of B2B businesses sell their full product line online.
  • Sixty percent of B2B decision-makers indicate that the growth of digital has caused their sales team to grow along with it.
  • European businesses are generally more advanced than U.S.-based businesses when it comes to the maturity of their digital commerce sites. They have more of a global mindset, a greater willingness to embrace agile systems and present their site in many different languages. EU buyers are also more comfortable buying B2B products and services online.

You can listen to the 21 min. podcast here.

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FIR B2B Podcast: Seth Greene on making effective podcasts

This week my podcasting partner Paul Gillin and I talk to Seth Greene about how to market small (and large) businesses using some time-tested direct response marketing methods that begin with creating podcasts. Seth is the author of Market Domination for Podcasting, as well as several other books. He offers so much great advice in this interview that you’ll want to have your notebook handy. Among his tips and observations about podcasting:

  • Global smartphone proliferation and Apple CarPlay have been big factors in the recent rapid growth of podcasts. It’s time for businesses to take notice.
  • It’s not about big markets – A few hundred regular listeners can give your business a great boost if they’re the right people.
  • Optimal length is 20-30 minutes, which is the length of the average workout or commute.
  • You can do a lot of your own promotion. Use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. Send email to your clients. Ask your guests to promote to their lists.
  • Interview formats work well for a couple of reasons. One is that it’s hard to keep a narrative going all by yourself for a half hour. Another is that guests will often promote to their friends and associates. If you have a co-host, it’s even easier to keep the discussion moving. In Seth’s case, a partnership with TV celebrity Kevin Harrington has been a huge boost to listenership.
  • The biggest mistake B2B marketers make with podcasts is being boring. You’ve got to bring personality to your show.
  • Don’t turn down any opportunity for media promotion of your program. You never know who’s reading/listening.

Greene’s Market Domination firm has been one of the fastest growing direct response marketing firms in the country. He is the only person in history that Dan Kennedy has nominated for marketer of the year three years in a row and he’s been featured on numerous TV shows and quoted frequently in national business magazines.

Check out his SharkPreneur podcast, co-hosted with Shark Tank’s Kevin Harrington, and follow Seth on Twitter.

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Why Your Survey Won’t See the Light of the Media Day

I wrote this piece with Greg Matusky, the head of the Gregory FCA agency.

As a marketer of a security firm, you know that surveys can serve as high-impact marketing tools when shared with clients, used to power top-of-the-funnel lead gen campaigns, punch up sales literature, incorporated into white papers, and create great content for any number of channels.

But when it comes to gaining media attention for your survey, well, that can be a struggle. The media is inundated with corporate-funded surveys and often turn a jaundiced eye to them precisely because of their inbred biases.

Gaining exposure in the media or by having the results “go viral” on social media requires you to create surveys that deliver results that withstand media scrutiny. But these surveys also must meet the definition of what is new, what is newsworthy, and what is interesting to an audience eager to better understand the changing world of cybersecurity. Above all, you need to put away your marketer’s hat and assume a reporter’s perspective in order to create results welcomed, not ignored by the media.

If you would rather listen than read, check out this podcast episode that Paul Gillin and I did about surveys, from our FIR B2B series.

Here’s what you need to know.

Man Bites Dog. Findings should be unexpected, counter-intuitive, unusual, or all three.

Having a survey that repeats common wisdom is a sure way for reporters to instantly hit the delete key.

This Barracuda survey found that 74 percent of respondents stated that security concerns restrict their organization’s migration to the public cloud and have prevented widespread cloud adoption. So tell me something new! The results might have been news back in 2000, but not now.  A great survey breaks new ground. It adds to the common knowledge and doesn’t just repeat it. Push your organization to formulate questions that produce the unexpected, counter-intuitive findings that media love.

Bigger is Better!

Sample sizes need to be big enough to impress – and be meaningful. Sample sizes of a few hundred participants, based on some non-random selection, such as people filling out a SurveyMonkey form, isn’t going to cut it. You can’t fool the media. They want statistical validity and the credibility that comes from large sample sizes.

Want a prime example? Consider Kaspersky Lab and B2B International release of a survey that drew on 5,000 companies of all sizes from 30 countries. Now that carries heft, and indeed, the results were cited in several places, including that the average cost of a data breach for enterprise businesses in North America is $1.3M. Another survey from Bitdefender interviewed 1,050 IT professionals in several countries to find out their cloud security purchase decisions. Both of these surveys are keepers.

Compare those surveys to a Beyond Trust study of nearly 500 IT professionals and concluded the “5 Deadly Sins” within organizations that ultimately increase the risks of a data breach. Yes, that will be conclusive – not. You are cherry picking the results here for sure.

But sample size isn’t enough. Take for instance a recent survey conducted by One Identity. It asked 900 IT security professionals for their thoughts. Seems like a promising sample size. But the results talk about inadequate IT processes around user access by disgruntled former employees and other nefarious actors — providing a widespread opportunity to steal usernames and passwords, risking the infiltration of their entire IT network. That brings us to our next point.

Blind them with science!

Make sure you ask the right evidence-based questions. Many surveys focus on “soft” assessments, such as “Do you believe your cybersecurity is better/worse this year when compared to last year?” Can anyone really answer that question with hard facts? Probably not. To win media coverage, show the reporters the evidence behind the questions, or ask for specific information that can be based on more than just a “feeling.” As an example of what not to do: “Most organizations are worried that the technical skills gap will leave them exposed to security vulnerabilities,” which is from a Tripwire survey.

Here is another result from that same Tripwire survey that doesn’t really have any solid data behind it: “Seventy-nine percent believe the need for technical skills among security staff has increased over the past two years.” Where did they get their beliefs from?

And then there is this survey from ABI Research, which finds that 40% of respondents believe that data security is the leading barrier to adopting innovative technologies. Again, how did the participants rank their beliefs and come up with this conclusion? This survey says nothing.

Consider the source of the discontent.

Sometimes having surveys come from surprising places, such as academic researchers, is a sexy way to interest media. Third parties make the findings more newsworthy and citable. Here is a report about the relative security of swiping patterns versus a six-digit PIN code that was done for the US Naval Academy. They surveyed more than a thousand people to find out that “shoulder surfers” (busybodies who look over our shoulders at crowded places) can remember the swipe patterns better than the numeric PINs. It also provides an unexpected result too. Could your organization team with a similarly credible third party to tell its story?

The best surveys use data that isn’t easily available.

Data such as server logs or actual threat data that show particular trends is useful and notable. Many security vendors now report on data from their own networks, using their monitoring tools that track what is actually being observed “out in the wild.” There is no belief system required: This is cold, hard data. The king of these kinds of surveys is the Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, which has been coming out for the past decade. This report examines the actual attacks and isn’t asking for anyone’s opinion or feelings. It is encyclopedic, comprehensive, thoughtful, and analytical. Because it has been around for so long, the analysts can pull together trends from its historical records. And, at least until Verizon was itself breached, the data came from a solid brand too.

As you can see, there are some surveys that are worthwhile. The best ones take time and cost money to pull off properly. But they are worth it in terms of great media coverage.

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FIR B2B #83: Making better B2B podcasts

I have been producing various podcasts for more than a decade. I got interested in them back in the day when I had a long commute and listened to Adam Curry’s Daily Source Code and Mark Nemcoff’s PCH podcasts. After a long hiatus, podcasts are again on the rise, and you might be interested in reading this piece about the three fundamental moments that have contributed to podcasts’ recent resurgence.

As you know, many of my podcasts were done with my partner in crime Paul Gillin. We took some time on a recent episode of our show FIR B2B to look at what corporate marketers should do to make better podcasts.

First, you need to think about podcasts as one part of your overall online media and brand-building effort, and not just a one-off. You want to build an audience over time and complement what you are doing with blogs, social media, and other content.

All successful podcasts contain multiple voices and aren’t just a single person talking; those get boring quickly. Use multiple elements, such as listener mail, headlines, short takes, offbeat items and quizzes. Find a theme that can work across multiple episodes. The theme doesn’t have to be “brand promotion,” indeed, podcasts work best if that isn’t your theme. And while you are thinking up a theme, find some royalty-free (what is called podsafe) music intro and outro that you can use to punch it up and make it sound more professional. Amazon is one of many places where you can find low-cost podsafe music.

The optimum length is tough to predict. Some podcasts run out of steam at five minutes, while others can hold your attention for 45 minutes. Factors to consider include the number of topics to cover, the depth of the discussion, the chemistry of the speakers and the attention span of the audience. Ask your listeners for feedback.

As you can see here, show notes add keywords to your posts, which helps to increase search engine traffic. Add ID3 tags to your audio files for the same effect, because search engines can’t read audio.

If you are looking for a good list of hosting providers, check this one out. Really, any hosting provider that allows you to FTP your audio should be fine.

Finally, don’t despair about measurement and metrics. While you can measure downloads, that doesn’t tell you whether someone actually listened to the entire episode. David uses Wistia metrics on his screencast videos to track all sorts of granular activity, but there’s no tool that we know of to measure actual listenership.

You can listen to our episode here:

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Do you need a chief trust officer in your c-suite?

I recently read this blog post which talks about having a chief trust officer as part of your executive team. This is a different kind of title from someone working at a bank that actually involves managing financial instruments with that name, so it is a bit confusing at first. But what the post talks about is someone being in charge of overall data and customer trust relationships.

The author says, “In our internal discussions, security is not the sole realm of the CISO. The concepts of trust, reliability, and security figure into every aspect of our business.“ Informatica moved its CISO from its IT organization to its R&D group and gave him this new title as a way to increase transparency and improve overall security and communications. Certainly the recent events surrounding Equifax and other data breaches have brought these issues to the forefront.

Certainly, having new kinds of staff titles is a growing trendlet. We have chief people officers (which used to be called HR), chief fun officers (now that is a job that I could do), chief curator (this one decides what content to put on a corporate home page), and chief amazement officer or chief troublemaker (who both turn out to be the company’s founder). Certainly, some of these titles are just annoyingly cute, and could be more confusing that clarify any particular corporate role.

But I think the chief trust officer is actually a title worth thinking about, if you dive into understanding why you are giving it to someone.

I spoke to Drummond Reed, who is an actual Chief Trust Officer for the security startup Evernym, about why he calls himself that. “We choose that title very consciously because many companies already have Chief Security Officers, Chief Identity Officers and Chief Privacy Officers.” But at the core of all three subjects is “to build and support trust. So for a company like ours, which is in the business of helping businesses and individuals achieve trust through self-sovereign identity and verifiable digital credentials, it made sense to consolidate them all into a Chief Trust Officer.”

Reed makes an important point: the title can’t be just an empty promise, but carry some actual authority, and has to be at a level that can rise above a technology manager. The chief trust officer has to understand the nature of the business and legal rules and policies that a company will follow to achieve trust with its customers, partners, employees, and other stakeholders. It is more about “elevating the importance of identity, security, and privacy within the context of an enterprise whose business really depends on trust.”

That brings up something else. How many businesses don’t depend on trust? Those that are out of business, it seems. I think it is appropriate to signal not just that someone is in charge of infosec or privacy issues, but covers everything in the trust workflows and lifeblood of the business.

So whether you have trendy titles in your company or not, think about having a chief trust officer. If you are serious about building (or in the case of a post-breach, rebuilding) trust with your customers and staff, it might make sense. And dollars, too.

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FIR B2B podcast #82: Doing data-driven marketing right

Can data drive a marketing campaign and still keep it creative? Yes, provided you bridge the divide between art and science by benefiting both sides. Paul Gillin and I examine a recent article in Marketoonist that discusses this issue. Blogger Tom Fishburne quotes an agency head who heard a principal from another agency say, “Data drives every piece of creative we put out today.” The agency chief’s reaction: “Boy, your creative must really suck.” When marketers stray from being data-driven to being data-blinded, campaigns fall flat.

One piece worth reviewing about this appeared on one of the Google blogs last year. Google, DoubleClick and an ad agency collaborated to explore how to best do data-driven campaigns, and came up with three suggestions:

  • Know all the sources of data available, and figure out which can fuel smarter creative.
  • Bring in the agency at the start of a project and talk about what data makes the most sense before any creative program is designed.
  • Collaborate and communicate to the extreme.

Fishburne cites an example of a creative video campaign for the state of Tennessee that struck the right balance. Data was used to determine what versions of pre-roll ads to display, with the creative being designed to evoke an emotional response.

Speaking of creative, Amazon has unleashed a slew of actions by various cities around North America in its response to its quest find a site for its second headquarters. Tucson delivered a 21-foot Sagauro cactus, while Kansas City posted creative product ratings on Amazon’s own site to explain its advantages. Some mayors have put together their own wacky YouTube pitch videos. This is every bit a B2B campaign, although not one most marketers can relate to very closely. What we like about it is that Amazon didn’t state the rules too clearly, leaving a lot of room for bidder interpretation. That led to greater creativity. We can’t wait to see who wins (hope it’s St. Louis or Boston).

You can listen to our 16 min. podcast here:

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This week we discuss several aspects of social media: how to use and abuse analytic tools, whether your CEO should have social media accounts, and understanding the differences between using social media as a “narrowcast” one-way medium vs. having actual interactions and conversations across various networks. We cite two different studies.

Domo and released their annual CEO social media survey earlier this summer. They found that 40 of the Fortune 500 CEOs have a Facebook page, down from 57 two years ago. We don’t think the drop is necessarily a thing. Every corporate executive should have a solid account and profile on LinkedIn – and we suggest that CMOs should take some time to review those accounts to ensure that they reflect well on both the individual and the corporation – but engaging on social media creates an obligation to continue that engagement, and not all CEOs are comfortable with that idea.

We also examine a Forrester report from earlier this year. (PDF here) on how to measure social programs. The authors point out that many marketers say they haven’t been able to show the impact of social at all, and that it can be hard to pin down its actual impact. Marketers mistakenly expect social metrics to parallel digital performance channels rather than augment these channels help guide their efforts and add color or feedback at the appropriate places. If you expect social media to deliver an immediate boost to sales, you’re probably barking up the wrong tree.

Listen to our 16 min. podcast here.

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The Equifax data breach that was revealed last week has so far been an unmitigated disaster – for the company. While we could spend the entire show talking about the firm’s missteps, we just touch quickly on the lowlights, including poor IT management, the lousy breach notification, a confusing website that was constructed in haste and with overwrought legalese, the lack of quality reporting from the general and security trade press about the incident, and how hard it is to find out whether your own personal information has been compromised. Sadly, this breach will be a case study of what not to do in marketing communications for years to come.

We move on to something that we both have spoken and written about frequently, keyed to a piece that ran this week on Sam Whitmore’s Media Survey (We’d give you a link, but the site is behind a paywall.) It’s about David’s attitude toward PR pitches. He and Paul go over some of his their preferences on things like the length of pitches, whether to mention competitors, how pitch use metaphors and the value of third-party support endorsements. One thing we agree on: Re-pitching – or following up on an earlier pitch – is a good way put yourself in the doghouse. and end up in the deleted email pile.

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