When you do content marketing for technology companies, it’s important to stay abreast of the latest IT developments and trends. This is especially true in a field like cybersecurity. Fortunately, as part of client projects I’m often able to attend conferences and trade shows that both keep me up to speed and provide the fodder for high-quality thought leadership content.
Last week I attended a government forum on cybersecurity sponsored by FireEye. It was an eye-opening experience regarding how persistent the attacks are against the United States, and what can be done to improve national cybersecurity.
FireEye CEO Kevin Mandia laid out the challenge clearly in the opening keynote. Mandia is a former Air Force intelligence officer, and talked about how when he first started saying cyber breaches are inevitable it was an extremely unpopular message in government circles. As he put it the bad guys only need to be right once, while good guys need to be right all the time, and are always on the defensive.
National cybersecurity is hampered by the lack of any no rules of engagement. The United States is also more vulnerable than some other countries to cyber-attacks due to our reliance the Internet connectivity and our open society. There has been a significant rise in the release of stolen information to embarrass and discredit prominent citizens and the government. This isn’t much of a threat to countries without a free press to disseminate the information.
Mandia laid out five areas of focus for what the government could do to better protect critical infrastructure and the country at large from attacks:
- Defend our networks – there needs to be better information and vulnerability sharing.
- Develop a true deterrence – our adversaries know there is no cost involved in attacking the United States. Mandia explained there are only two kinds of deterrence – “money or might.” Either attackers are made to pay financially, or the United States needs an offensive capacity for proportional responses.
- Attribution – the Internet is not anonymous. Get attribution right, and make it public whenever possible to raise awareness.
- Work for international norms – this will not be easy, but over time it will be possible to segregate the bad actors, nations that want to exploit the Internet and modern connectivity for destructive ends.
- Design a “Shields Up” capability – even in American intelligence knew of an imminent cyber-attack, there is nothing we could do today to protect the targeted asset. This capability must be developed, then applied first to critical infrastructure and then to more and more potential targets in our country.
There are some signs things could be changing. Justice Department indictments of Russian intelligence officers for the massive 2014 Yahoo breach are good examples of the kind of attribution needed to identify and isolate bad actors. Government CISOs at the forum talked about moving beyond compliance to more proactive risk management online, and a growing understanding that security isn’t something you buy, it’s something you do.
America invented the Internet. It has powered an explosion in innovation, productivity and personal connectivity around the globe. But it was not designed with security as a priority. Today certain countries are operationalizing efforts that exploit that insecurity, and have turned cyberspace into a hostile environment.
It’s time we started defending ourselves better.
When StoryTech Consulting launches a web property for a client, we’re usually told something along the lines of “we’d like to know everything visitors do when they hit our site.” That’s a very logical request. With our content marketing focus, usually the most important visitor information the client is looking for is company name, physical location, the specific stories read and the referrer to the site.
Unfortunately, the next line we often hear is “there is no budget for web analytics, do the best you can with Google.” Google Analytics is an effective and powerful tool, especially considering it’s free. But it was designed to illustrate traffic trends, not identify visitors who have yet to take an action (such as a registration) on a client site. There are steps you can take — writing customized scripts, combining Google Analytics with other free or low cost traffic tools — but the visibility into users is never simple or complete.
Now we have a better tool. Recently a StoryTech client allocated some budget to improving our web analytics and better identifying our visitors. We’ve begun using a service called LeadForensics, and the initial results are very promising.
In a nutshell, LeadForensics works by matching up visitor IP addresses with databases of company IP addresses it has compiled. (More detail here from the company on IP tracking and correlation). Google Analytics tracks the IP addresses of visitors as well, but does not match up those IP addresses with specific companies. LeadForensics identifies the company, the geographic location, how they got to the site, all pages visited and more.
We log into a clean, customizable dashboard and now see visitor listings like this:
For an additional fee, LeadForensics can also provide a list of decision-makers inside the company, with contact information. (My client is not utilizing this feature.) Such IP tracking does not close the mobile gap in web analytics — for example, if someone from Company Y is working from home and surfing over their personal Internet connection, IP tracking won’t know them. But it’s such a pleasure to be using a tool designed specifically to identify previously anonymous web traffic, a challenge virtually all our clients face.
This kind of improved visibility delivers many benefits for the client. Obviously, seeing what content is most popular with our target prospects drives our editorial calendar. It allows the client to fine-tune our lead scoring methodology, and make smarter decisions on how to guide prospects through the sales funnel. And by knowing exactly who these visitors are, we’re in a much stronger position to execute real account based marketing, tailoring specific stories to specific prospects.
Every new LeadForensics customer gets assigned a “customer success manager,” and we haven’t met with ours yet. There may be additional benefits to learn — if we identify some I’ll update this post.
One more benefit – you can test drive the service via a seven day trial with no obligation. If your current web analytics tool struggles to identify anonymous traffic, I recommend you consider LeadForensics.
Merry New Year! It’s been a great year at Work, Wine and Wheels, though the time demands of my consulting firm again cut down on the number of stories published. Before the clock runs out on 2016, here’s a final post touching on all three site topics.
On the Work front, I’m thankful that StoryTech Consulting continues to grow and add clients. One of the positive developments this year has been a collaboration with Government Executive Media Group, the research and custom content division of Atlantic Media. Many years ago I worked at the National Journal, another GEMG property. So there is a bit of a “returning to the fold” element to the developing subcontractor relationship.
One of the projects StoryTech worked on this year was event extension work relating to Brocade’s 2016 Federal Forum conference. We developed almost all the content for a series of post-event ecourses and the web site ModernizeYourNetwork.
Call it content marketing, brand journalism or thought leadership. By whatever name, there is continued momentum towards B2B marketing that educates prospects on how to solve their business pain points, as opposed to a message focused on the company itself or its products. This indirect approach requires a steady supply of editorially excellent content to be successful, eventually turning prospects into leads and guiding them through the organization’s sales funnel. At StoryTech we’re spending less time evangelizing this approach and more time executing it, which is exciting and promising for the future.
The holidays are naturally a time to enjoy some new items on the Wine front. Gabriele and I received some nice wine gifts this season from family and friends. Some of our favorites were:
Baccio Chianti Reserva 2009 – a nice wine with fruit up front and easy tannins, tasty enough to drink on its own but still a food wine as well.
Cakebread Cellars Pinot Noir Annahala Ranch 2014 – beautiful Pinot, definitely Californian in style but not over the top heavy at all, balanced well with some earth and minerality.
A friend opened a bottle of Barbi Brunello di Montalcino 2004 when we visited last week. The time in the bottle lessened the often chewy tannins, and the wine brought together raspberry fruit, tobacco and spice beautifully.
Gabriele is a big bubbly fan, and she recently discovered a new favorite at the local wine shop Unwined. The Wolfberger Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose (non-vintage) is a delicious sparkler, not overly sweet and with a smooth structure.
Two old favorites that deserve a renewed recommendation are the Thorn-Clark Terra Barossa Winemaker’s Selection Shiraz and the Conn Creek Anthology. The former is a juicy crowd pleaser next time you want to bring some wine to a party, with a one liter bottle costing $17 at Total Wine. The Anthology is beautiful Californian Cabernet with a small amount of other varietals mixed in, and apparently more and more people know about it. The price that has crept up in the past few years.
For Wheels, the biggest item was our accident two months ago and Gabriele needing a new car. We’ll always remember how our Grand Cherokee protected us in the rollover. However, Gabriele would have liked better acceleration, and it did not have a front camera. After some quick searching while the other driver’s insurance paid for a rental car, she decided on a 2017 Ford Edge Sport.
The Sport on the end of the name is important, because the Edge is sold with three different motors. The Sport comes with a pretty impressive six-cylinder turbo engine, good for 315 HP and 350 lb-ft torque. This beefed up crossover is fast, and relatively roomy. And it has a full roster of gadgets, including the front camera. We should be set for another three years, barring any other surprises. The runner-up was the Mazda CX-9, another good vehicle to consider if you’re in the market.
The past few months I’ve enjoyed DIY events as a member of the National Capital Chapter of the BMW Car Club of America. By M car standards, my two soon to be classic cars have been pretty problem free. The big job in the spring will be front rotors and pads on my M3, which will be an exciting new DIY threshold for me. Being surrounded by fellow owners who’ve done the job on their cars will be invaluable.
My stories on the BMW SULEV warranty issue continue to draw traffic and have even made me something of a thought leader on the topic, albeit in a very niche way. Recently two more readers gave me credit for helping them get BMW to honor the warranty and save thousands of dollars, which is extremely satisfying for me. One of them, Mark Lawson of Long Island N.Y., gave a public shout out on his Facebook page:
I picked up the car today and they replaced the fuel tank and everything that goes in it. All under warranty. I asked what the job would have cost me and she said the parts were $9,600 with 6 hours labor (@ $146/hr). With tax, this would have been an $11,380 job!! (Although I have seen the tank online for $6,000, it is still nuts).
So, if you have one of these cars and it was purchased in NY, CA, MA or VT (the M56 engine can be easily identified by the location of the oil cap, which is over on the passenger side of the engine) be aware that this is a warranty job.
Thanks to Mike Miller of Roundel/Bimmer tech fame and Chris Parente, who has a website dedicated to this: http://chrisparente.com/2012/07/17/helping-bmw-owners-with-super-low-emission-vehicles-sulevs/ , for making the BMW community aware of this issue.
If I ever needed it, there’s a reason to continue this site no matter how busy I get running my firm! Many Work, Wine and Wheels subscribers have been with me for years. If you’re one of them, thank you for coming along for the ride. And for sticking around despite the decrease in story frequency.
Enjoy your celebration, and see you next year!
If you market to the government market, you know what a complicated process it can be. It’s often a challenge to know exactly which government decision makers within the agency to communicate with, and to know exactly what those decision makers are looking for from a contractor partner.
I recently attended a government marketing event that focused precisely on this challenge. It was the recent GAIN 2016 conference, put on by the Government Marketing University. There was a fascinating panel with four senior level federal executives sharing their perspectives on what kind of information they value, and how that information should be delivered by vendors.
The panel consisted of:
Kimberly Hancher, former CIO at EEOC and GMarkU Ambassador
Karen Britton, former Special Assistant to the President, CIO at the Executive Office of the President
Kathleen Turco, former SES CFO and GMarkU Ambassador
Martha Dorris, former Deputy Administrator, Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, GSA
The first thing the panel stressed was that a solicitation should be viewed as a journey, not an objective. Vendors should be thinking two years in advance for large contracts. The panel shared the graphic below to explain how pre-solicitation activities are processed internally:
Supporting the point about planning two years out, Kathleen talked about how the 2018 budget has already been delivered. She advised the contractors in the audience to track federal funding, not just track contracts. The money is there for IT projects, especially when there is internal coordination:
“The challenge for the agency CFO is understanding where the CIO is trying to go. There is great support for funding IT, when there is a strategic plan that clearly ties to mission delivery. And there are funding options – annual, two year, working capital fund or a franchise fund. But the internal communication between CFO and CIO is critical.”
Martha encouraged vendors to challenge themselves on the differentiation front. How are you truly different, and do your customers become ambassadors for you? She also looked for IT partners who could show some empathy for the challenges government professionals often face.
And when a company secured a meeting, they needed to come in prepared:
“When a company came in to talk to me, I wanted them to show they understood my environment and my specific problem. Don’t waste my time. And the other thing I wanted to see was, how were they solving this problem for other government clients? How did they improve service, save the agency money, etc.? I value quantifiable examples.”
Karen counseled to be reasonable with your meeting goals. It’s often best to begin at the PM level, and demonstrate how you can deliver some of the attractive savings moving from legacy infrastructure to the cloud. Know your abilities, because she always wanted options:
“At the WH I had to move fast, and I was able to do so because my CFO understood our IT path forward. We were also not afraid to reach out to vendors, to bring them in for technical presentations. By doing so they knew we had a clear vision, and they also knew we were encouraging real competition for our contracts.”
Kimberly suggested the earlier the interaction between business and government, the better for IT solutions. She cautioned contractors that a prospect is far from monolithic. There are multiple decision-makers within an agency, and each one has different pain points and priorities that must be addressed.
This slide gives an idea of these players, on both the business and technology sides within an agency:
Kimberly also had some very strong advice for incumbents facing recompetes:
“Don’t take incumbency for granted – your client doesn’t love you as much as you think they do. Don’t hit your client with too much FUD – fear, uncertainty and doubt. You are not the only game in town. Don’t let costs and salaries creep up to the point where it creates openings for competitors – keep costs down for your government clients. And finally, don’t simply rehash old case study and customer success stories from the past. Make sure you’re also talking about the future, how you are going to innovate and improve.”
The federal IT market is huge, but it is very competitive and no longer growing every year. Knowing how to best to target your time and resources as a contractor is vital. It was time well spent for me to attend this GMU event and hear from government decision makers themselves on how best to pursue federal IT contracts.
Last week I found an article/video on content marketing that just nailed it in multiple ways. It was a guest post on Convince and Convert by Joei Chan at Medium. The post made five predictions about content marketing trends in 2017.
Joei assembled an all-star cast of content marketing influencers. She talked to Rand Fishkin, Larry Kim, Benji Hyam, Sam Mallikarjunan, and Sujan Patel. The predictions were clear and well supported. The accompanying video was well produced and concise. The excellence is execution gives a lot of added authority to the prognostications of these content marketing leaders.
Their five predictions for 2017 are:
- Brands will become more creative with format
- Messaging needs to be more niche
- Video will reign supreme
- Content Marketing will outshine traditional advertising
- Consistent engagement will prove vital
I also enjoyed this video because many of my clients are already executing on some of the best practices outlined. Echoing Rand Fishkin and Benji Hyam, they go beyond high level and get to tactical specifics with their content.
My client publication WorkSpace Today looks at collaborative technology in the modern office via specific business functions — Finance, IT, Human Resources etc. The SatCom Frontier blog I maintain for a commercial satellite client outlines new technologies and makes clear policy recommendations to improve procurement and deliver more innovative technology for the DoD.
My clients are also on board when it comes to running paid campaigns in social media to support their content, as recommended by Larry Kim. You can deliver excellent results without spending a lot of money. I wrote about some of StoryTech’s results on the social media advertising front in a post last year.
StoryTech is currently negotiating with a production agency to make high quality video production easier and more economical for clients. Based on the video below, I’d say Medium is definitely acting on prediction three – video will reign supreme.
If you like the video as much as I do, give Joei a share. And let me know via the comments where you see content marketing going in 2017.
I’ve been writing about Mary Meeker’s State of the Internet report for a few years now on this site. Her 2016 edition was just made public. Here’s the entire slide deck courtesy of KPCB and hosted on LinkedIn.
Mary has widened her scope over the years and the deck is up to 213 pages. If you’ve got 24 minutes, here’s an edited/condensed video of her presentation at the recode conference a few days ago. If you don’t have that much time, here are my takeaways.
- In 1985 global productivity was $19 trillion, and Japan/Europe/North America was 63 percent of that number. Today it’s $114 trillion, and 29 percent.
- Global population growth is slowing, falling from 2 percent a year in 1960 to 1.2 percent and is projected to continue declining through 2050.
- Advertisers in North America continue to be over-indexed in print (as percentage of time spent vs. ad spend) and under-indexed in mobile, a consistent Meeker theme.
- Slides 61 – 70 are a good overview of the evolution of retail.
- Same for slides 100 – 110 on messaging.
For another source, here’s Inc.com on what they thought most significant.
As you can tell, Mary’s report has expanded considerably beyond just the state of the Internet. While it’s all interesting, you may need to sift to find the items truly relevant to you. However, this report has become an annual tradition and is a notable example of a firm releasing interesting research free of charge to bolster their thought-leadership and name recognition.
You know your report is famous when a parody video gets made. Here’s a humorous suggestion for how to adapt such a long powerpoint presentation for Millennials.
Analytics are a big part of all StoryTech Consulting client engagements. Specific success metrics vary by account, but every content marketing program needs data to show what content is resonating and how that content is contributing to shortening the sales cycle.
My clients use many different analytic packages, but Google Analytics is often the starting point. Google Analytics is a powerful tool, and even more importantly it’s free. In a perfect world every client would have a healthy budget for sophisticated backend analytic platforms, but unfortunately that is not always the case.
Recently a client asked me to get more out of Google Analytics. She wanted more specific information about anonymous visitors to our branded publication. Anonymous refers to the fact these visitors had not taken any action to share information with us — sign up for email, registered for a white paper, etc. More detailed information was needed to engage the sales team and let them know as much as possible about which companies were consuming our thought leadership content.
We wanted to get four dimensions on specific visits — Network Domain, physical location, source and content accessed. For example — Company X in San Jose visited via a LinkedIn click and read our story about Y.
I’m fairly proficient with Google Analytics and knew that most of this information was tracked. I had no idea, however, how to pull it regularly as part of an automated report. So I began reaching out and talking to very knowledgeable people in the area of analytics about how to make this happen.
It was surprisingly difficult to get an answer. Google Analytics provides hundreds of preformatted dashboards providing all kinds of information, but none of them provided these four metrics. I spoke to a couple of analytic firms that couldn’t work on the problem without me committing to spending thousands of dollars.
I found the answer by leveraging the wisdom of the crowd via the freelancer site Upwork. For a reasonable project fee, I found an excellent freelancer who used the Google Analytics public API to pull just the information my client needed. Now I’m providing a much clearer picture of anonymous visitors every week, and I have a methodology that can be replicated for other clients.
The report isn’t perfect by a long shot. Of course we don’t know individual identity. The location information is based on reverse IP lookup, and won’t be accurate unless the visitor is accessing our publication from their company network. (A lot of times the visitor’s ISP is shown as the network domain, and the report weeds those out.) The new report is no substitute for giving visitors compelling reasons to self-identify, for example via newsletter lists and proprietary research.
That said, it provides what we needed and the sales team is jazzed by the additional visibility. We’ll continue to review additional analytics tools for future use. In the meantime, getting the clearest visitor information possible from Google Analytics has given this content marketing campaign a strong foundation for success.