Cyber Security is Now an Important Part of Your Brand

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In workshops, presentations and executive briefings, I continue to push one clear message. Experience is the Currency of Your Brand. This new consumerverse that we have found ourselves in goes beyond the simple notion of being “customer centric” – to the heart of what it means to be invited into the lives of our customers. For no matter whether we are engaging prospects in a buyer’s journey and nurturing their engagement through to a purchase, or we are working with a community of passionate brand advocates (and yes, they do exist), it’s important to remember that the brand – our brand – never really sits at the centre of our customer’s lives. They sit at the centre of ours.

Increasingly, the experience of engaging with a brand occurs online. When you map out a customer or buyer’s journey, it soon becomes clear that the majority of brand touchpoints are digital. It could be a banner or Facebook ad that kicks off the process for a buyer. It could be an Instagram photo or associated hashtag. It is estimated that around 60% (or more) of the purchase decision is made before customers engage a brand – so that is a significant percentage of non-owned brand experience that is taking place.

Moving your customer from unknown to known

One of the simplest ways of moving your potential customer from unknown to known, is for them to share some information with you. It could be their name, an email address or a Twitter handle. They may leave a comment via Facebook or Instagram. Or they may even call your call centre. But as soon as they do, it means you have an opportunity to engage them more directly. It’s a great opportunity for personalisation or targeted content/engagement.

BUT there are also risks.

Cyber security is about brand trust

When storing customer’s details, you have a duty to do so securely. Not just because of privacy policies or even local laws. Your duty is to protect the TRUST that has been bestowed upon you. And we will hear more about this through 2016. As I write, books are being printed on the subject of “trust” by thought leaders, analysts and marketers around the world. It’s a hot topic because it has a direct impact on our ability to deliver our brand promise. This flows on to brand reputation and even market capitalisation.

Trust is also a hot topic because we are now seeing far more sophisticated digital attacks that are difficult to detect and fix. Take, for example, the strain of malware that impacted the Melbourne Health computer networks in early January 2016. Malware is a type of malicious software that is used to gain access to computer networks to gather information, show unwanted information/advertising and to generally disrupt computer operation. In more extreme examples, we are seeing a type of malware called ransomware encrypting whole networks and hard drives and demanding a ransom to unlock the system.

As IT News reported:

The malware downed the hospital’s pathology systems and forced staff into manual workarounds.

It made its way into the health department through an unnamed zero-day exploit in Windows XP computers, past the agency’s full enterprise antivirus suite.

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The Melbourne Health attack has been programmed to “self mutate” which means that it is constantly changing its own internal software structure, writing and re-writing itself as a way of escaping detection. Three weeks after the infestation, it seems that the Melbourne Health IT Team is starting to come to grips with the challenge.

But ask yourself – could your business cope with three weeks of business disruption? How would your new “autonomous vehicle” product team deal with the kind of challenge that Fiat Chrysler encountered last year? Would your new “internet of things” startup cope with a security breach due to something like the Heartbleed bug?

Perhaps the greatest lesson we can learn from the Ashley Madison hack is about the importance of trust and fidelity. To paraphrase Ashley Madison’s tag line – “Customer attention is short. Have good security”.

When Your Dev is the Centre of Your Universe

The NORAD of ABC in Austin

I like to think that when I ran a digital agency that my team loved me. I like to think that my demands were, for the most part, not unreasonable. Or that my scoping and project planning came close enough to achievable. But I also know that my expectations would sometimes be unreasonable. Or that “going above and beyond” really did mean going to the CEO’s house.

The thing is, marketing without IT is almost impossible now. Imagine if you had to revert to faxes (what are they?). Or hand drawn mock-ups. Or “camera ready art”.

This is why marketers and technical teams need to work on better relations. We need better ways to communicate. And even just respect some professional boundaries.

Will it happen? It can. And it needs to. Because your dev is the centre of your universe.

11 Types of Content to Make Your B2B Marketing Sing

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Be under no illusions – content marketing is hard work. It takes planning, resources and focus. But it is also one of the most rewarding forms of marketing that you can do professionally and individually. Not only does content marketing challenge you to clearly communicate – it often brings you up close and personal with customers as well as your sales teams.

These meetings give you the chance to listen, absorb and understand the challenges that people have in their work. And if you are lucky – and creative enough – you can design content that will help them solve that problem. Or understand a solution better. Or simply just bring a smile to their face.

Content marketing is a performance

When I studied theatre I was fascinated by the way that text on a page could be brought to life by an actor. I loved listening to the way that words could be rolled around the mouth and thrown into an audience. A good text in the hands of a great performer can take your breath away. Brilliant writing when coupled with an electrifying performance can change lives.

Now, I am not saying that your content marketing needs to profoundly change lives. Done right, it can. But you do want your content marketing to stand out from the crowd. You want it to become indispensible to your audience. And for that it needs to perform.

This infographic from Feldman Creative is a great reference on the 11 types of content that can help your marketing perform better. It includes handy information on benefits, costs to outsource and even a couple of power tips.

What are you waiting for? Get planning and then producing. There’s an audience waiting.

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Done Right, Content Marketing is No Swindle

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In my first real marketing role, I felt like a complete fraud. I had stumbled into marketing and strategy while working for IBM and had the good fortune to work with a “startup” (whatever that was) developing a platform for online communities. I was simultaneously a product manager, sales exec, marketing director, tech support and partner manager. I was the only person within IBM who knew anything much about this amazing new technology and it was my job to convince the sales teams that their media, sports and retail clients needed to learn more. The thing was, I had no idea what to do.

I needed a plan.

Each day I would arrive early and trawl the intranet. I’d find templates for presentations and customer pitches, information and technology architecture, marketing plans and branding. It seemed like there was a system to marketing that could be pieced together if I just had the time. But it was IBM. No one had the time.

So I doubled down. I chose to study late and early and put what I learned into practice. I set meetings with sales execs and asked them lots of questions. I listened, followed up and gave them what they needed. Gradually, a strategy came into view. By the time I moved to a new role, I had a mental system for sales enablement. I had a marketing plan. And I knew how the puzzle pieces connected.

Suddenly in a new role for a management consulting firm, I was amazed to learn that there were no fundamentals in place. No messaging. No positioning. No brand consistency. Certainly no aspiration. There wasn’t even a presentation template that could be used. It felt like the brand had stepped out of the 1950s and liked the cut of its own jib.

So I started planning. I needed the sales team on side. I needed the consultants to rethink the way they talked about the brand. And I needed to set an example. Most importantly, I needed to overcome the massive store of legacy collateral that consultants carried around with them. After all, our challenge was growth, and it’s hard to grow when your eye is locked on the past. The solution was staring me in the face – content. Good quality content.

Quality content is a business asset

I realised that if I wanted to get consultants to use my (and by “my” I mean “our”) new branding, case studies, templates and so on, then they needed to be better than what was already available. The presentations needed to be fresher and more direct. The case studies needed to be current and relevant to client needs. And we needed to focus on recognisable talent – CEOs of major clients, CIOs that knew how to bring business and IT together, and CFOs who wanted to prove they had business nous to take the next step.

So again, I started with a plan.

Our research and client interviews yielded vital insights. We needed data. We needed real world business problems. And we needed proof points that reinforced our new, strategic offerings and traditional service lines. So we scheduled interviews and follow-ups. We measured website traffic and downloads. I worked with my team to write dozens of new offering briefs, solution profiles, case studies and one pagers. All of these were on-brand and on-message. Then we briefed the CEO and the Board, sent out internal communications, updated the intranet, shared new templates and tools and launched the new website. We even had new plasma screens installed in the reception area to greet clients, with a customisable message and co-branding.

Pretty soon we realised that we had created a whole new class of business asset. Consultants from across the country started requesting interviews and case studies using our new formula. We produced internal podcasts – or what we now call “podcasts” – as downloadable MP3 files containing the latest news updates, client wins and thought leadership interviews. It was content marketing way before content marketing. And it worked:

  • We improved our revenues
  • We improved our profitability
  • We launched new products and service lines in record time
  • We scored new clients.

Perhaps most importantly, we gained the respect of our colleagues.

Content marketing is old school B2B marketing in a new frock

These days we have better tools and processes. We can create content much faster. We can generate whole infographics not just charts with just a few clicks. Videos can be shot, compiled and edited, uploaded and distributed right on your phone. Checklists, lists and websites can be updated more easily – and marketing automation not only sends emails but tracks, nurtures and sequences a whole customer journey.

Even still, the principles are the same. Content marketing is a lot of work. It takes effort and planning. It’s still B2B marketing, just gussied up in a new frock. But it does the heavy lifting of marketing super effectively. As Sarah Mitchell explains on LinkedIn:

When done well, content marketing turns your marketing expense into a long-term business asset. It’s a highly effective way to attract an audience and build trust with your customers and prospects. It’s less expensive than traditional marketing and advertising methods – a lot less expensive. If decision makers and budget holders think content marketing doesn’t work, they vote for the easy alternative – advertising and traditional marketing. Both are less effective and leave you with no asset from your expenditure.

Sarah also shares some great tips to help you figure out whether your content marketing team (or agency) are delivering the value you need. There’s 25 indicators that help you determine “if a swindle is in play”, but these three are my favourites. Read the full list here.

    1. If you’re buying into content marketing without taking the time to develop a strategy, you’re being swindled
    2. If your content marketing is focused on social media with no plan to convert or move your audience off the social channel, you’re being swindled
    3. If there’s no plan on how to measure your effectiveness, you’re being swindled.

Reputation Even Over a Resume: Why Personal Branding Matters in 2016

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Take a moment to look back over your career. Even if you are “new” to the workforce, you’re likely to see a hotchpotch of connected experiences. There will be paid and unpaid work, some volunteering maybe. You’ll have passion projects that took weeks or months of your time – like the time you decided to build your sister’s website to save her money, only to find that after it’s all up and working, she took a new job and was no longer interested in “going freelance”. There may even be whole folders of documents filled with words that one day will become your great business, breakthrough book.

Now, take a look at your LinkedIn profile and ask yourself – what’s the story it tells?

I have been saying this for years – but it’s a fact that grows stronger over time. Your resume is as dead as the tree it is written on.

In 2016, you are what you publish.

LinkedIn as an inbound channel for your personal brand

I used to think of LinkedIn as a place of business, connection and social selling. It was a vastly under-utilised space where a strong profile and a good network would help you stand out from the crowd. But a crowd it certainly is. It is the place where careers and connections collide.

In short, LinkedIn has become the “internet of careers” – the internet that we look at when we are looking to find a job, an employee or a customer.

But these days, LinkedIn has a broader agenda, transforming from a massive database of resumes to a business publishing platform and a social selling engine.  Every person with a profile can publish their thoughts, ideas and status updates just like Facebook. Or Twitter. Or Google’s Blogspot (remember that?!). And with the opening up of the LinkedIn Pulse publishing platform, there has literally been an explosion of content – some of it written by individuals and some of it written by ghost bloggers. Some is pure PR spin. Some is heartfelt and personal. There are even birthday notifications (as a side note, I find this mildly disconcerting).

And while this has made it more difficult for the average person to attract and engage potential business collaborators, clients or employers, there is still a great opportunity to use LinkedIn as an inbound channel for your personal brand. What does this look like?

  • Share the message, own the destination: Ever noticed how everyone’s profile on LinkedIn looks the same? Makes it hard to stand out, right? Like all good strategy, I suggest you share the message – post your insights, presentations, speeches and updates on LinkedIn by all means, but own the destination – have a website or a portfolio that keeps track of all you do. Use that destination to more fully contextualise your work, purpose and outcomes. I use gavinheaton.com as a catch-all for my activities and ServantOfChaos.com as a showcase. DisruptorsHandbook.com focuses marketing-led innovation and practical strategy. And everything that is posted on one of these sites is cross-posted to LinkedIn.
  • Treat your LinkedIn summary like an elevator pitch: Can you describe your job, best projects and outcomes in 30 seconds? Rather than writing a career summary for your LinkedIn profile, write a summary of how you can help clients, employers and business partners. Make it less about you and more about the value you create.
  • Write case studies on your best projects: Sure LinkedIn’s publishing platform is a hot mess of content, but every time you publish an article, it reaches into the feeds of your network. That means that people you know, or would like to know, are learning more about you. So give your networks something worth reading – warts and all case studies of the projects you’ve worked on. Include the passion projects, the skunkworks and even elements of your day job that is reasonable to share. Showcase not just the results, but the workings of how you delivered value. Connect the dots, tell the story and bring the dull parts to life with anecdotes, quotes and images.
  • Treat yourself like your #1 client: Imagine you are writing a brief for a client – except that client is you. Determine your value proposition, key message and proof points. Put your best storytelling foot forward and explain just why you are the best person for the job/project/collaboration. Just remember, it’s hard work. Keep refining your message. Get feedback. Listen honestly and always seek to improve.

For more great ideas on building your personal brand, take a look through this presentation from Leslie Bradshaw. It’s chock full of practical suggestions that can help you shift from being a “thought leader” to a “do leader”. And in a world where you are what you publish, it’s not about the what you say, it’s all about who believes it.

Big Data and the Trust Paradox

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We have all become blasé about the information that we share on the internet. We openly tweet, share updates, create photos and post images about where we are, what we are doing and who we are with. We carry our mobile phones with us everywhere – and have become so reliant upon them that we have had to name a condition for the state of anxiety we find ourselves in when we leave our phones at home. It is “nomophobia” – literally the fear of having “no mobile”.

And just as our internet connection is “always on”, so too is our phone. And being always on, it’s always collecting, sharing and posting data about us. Even when it’s sitting “idle” in our pockets it is triangulating our position, beaming our latitude and longitude to satellites, connecting to wifi hotspots and cellular phone towers. Many of the apps that we use also collect and share our location – some are obvious like Google Maps and Facebook. Others not so. But it’s when we start using the phone, that the data really explodes.

The following infographic is now quite old, being originally published in 2010. It shows the “meta data” – the hidden data that is relayed along with every update that you make using Twitter. It’s not just the 140 characters of your message, but hundreds of additional characters that accompany your message, including your:

  • User name
  • Biography
  • Location
  • Timezone
  • Follower / following statistics.

And more. So much more.

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Trading privacy for convenience

The accepted wisdom is that users of these services are knowingly trading privacy for convenience. The reality is vastly different. After all, when using the internet, we are not working in full knowledge. In fact, our understanding of what we are doing, how much information we are revealing and where our data goes is extremely limited. And even when we choose to share location information with an app or when we accept notifications, chances are that we will forget that consent has been given. Or the context in which that consent was given will become lost in the daily grind of our busy, connected lives.

This plays well for those platforms that collect, harvest and sell the data of their users. In fact, it’s one of the business models that many startups rely upon – data collection, harvesting, sale and exploitation is the name of the main game. But there is change in the air, and we can expect that these business models will increasingly come under greater scrutiny and pressure. A 2014 an EMC poll revealed that only 27% of those surveyed were willing to trade their private information for a more convenient online experience. And over half (51%) straight out said “no”. Moreover:

The majority also believed “businesses using, trading or selling my personal data for financial gain without my knowledge or benefit” were the greatest threat to their online privacy.

These beliefs and expectations were further reinforced in the Pew Research Center’s Future of Privacy report, where “Some 55% of these respondents said “no” they do not believe that an accepted privacy-rights regime and infrastructure would be created in the coming decade”.

Yet despite an inherent and ongoing suspicion of corporations and governments, the Edelman Trust Barometer for 2016 reveals that the general sense of trust is improving. Edelman’s research describes a well educated and well-resourced segment of the population (approximately 15%) as the “informed public” – and measures trust in the wider population as well as this narrower segment. To qualify for the segment “informed public”, people must be:

  • Aged 25-64
  • College educated
  • In the top 25% of household income per age group in each country
  • Significant consumers of media and report high engagement in business news.

This also means that the “informed public” would be considered a “tech savvy” audience.

While trust has grown overall, it has accelerated faster between 2015 and 2016 in the “informed public” segment. And this is what makes this report so interesting. Despite a wide and growing concern around big data, meta data and data analytics, those who are MOST LIKELY to know and understand the use to which their data will be put, are reporting an improvement in their sense of trust.

And it is this “Trust Paradox” which offers both hope for business and a warning. For while trust has been improving, business and government is only as trusted as the last security breach or unexpected outage. The IBM/Forbes’ Fallout Report estimates that “lost revenues, downtime and the cost of restoring systems can accrue at the rate of $50,000 per minute for a minor disruption”. A prolonged problem would take an even greater toll on brand reputation and business goodwill.

The risk of a breach or outage, however, is not shrinking but growing, thanks to the proliferation of “shadow technology”, expanding supply chains and growing online activism. And as digital transformation continues to take on an ever greater role in customer experience, the potential for consumer impact and reputational damage also grows.

John Hagel suggests that as brands work towards a “trusted advisor” status, that they will have a “growing ability to shape customer purchasing behaviour”. But brands will only have this luxury while the Trust Paradox works in their favour. At present, the Edelman Trust Barometer suggests the balance of power remains with our peers. We trust them more than anyone else. And that means securing or “scaling trust” (using John Hagel’s terms) remains our real challenge in the years ahead.

The Slow March of Digital Disruption

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The editing work that started my career was laboriously done with pen and paper. Each day, I would literally cut and paste strips of text from one printed book over a new version, proofread and check the flow of the text, package it up in a large yellow envelope and send it “downstairs” for typesetting. That’s where the magic happened.

The typesetters, using specially-designed keyboards (not qwerty mind you), they would enter the changes into the publishing database and spit out “proofs” for proofreading. Those yellow envelopes would be sent back upstairs and, after another round of checking, I’d approve them and request “camera ready art”. I can still remember the smell and fell of those warm, thick, slightly sticky pages that would be carted off for photographing and printing.

Even in my earliest years, however, I could see the massive opportunities offered by what we now call “digital disruption”. I helped my company lead the digital charge – moving my products out of the production line and into online coding. This meant coding up changes on floppy disks and sending the disks down in the yellow envelopes.

From there, I pushed into desktop publishing, tapping directly into the data warehouse to edit and produce the proofs for printing. These changes produced massive changes in a highly competitive business. Our publishing cycles improved by 66%. Costs fell dramatically.

By 1995 I was hand-coding websites for clients. I had fallen in love with the speed of digital and the ease of online publishing. Sure it was still technical, but it was also democratising an ancient process that had been slow to change.

But that was 1995. Twenty years later, the forces of digital disruption are still playing out in the publishing and media industries, and it is not over yet.

Often when we talk about digital disruption, we do so from a point of fear. We fear for our jobs and our careers. We fear for the changes that we expect will overwhelm us.

But in reality, these massive changes take time to work through an economy. They take time to reach mainstream acceptance. And they take time for the legal system to catch, hold and support them.

Digital disruption is coming, but it’s a slow march for most of us. The question is, can you hear the drums?

My New Book: Skills for the 21st Century – It’s Marketing But Not As We Know It

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It is clear that the skills that brought us through the 20th Century have not prepared us for the next 100 years. Or even the next decade.

Technology, social media and consumerisation has disrupted industry after industry, and while marketing operates in most firms at the forefront of customer experience, many marketers feel out of their depth with the vast array of skills and capabilities that are required. The disruption adds to the anxiety that ripples out across the organisation.

Over the last year I have spoken at conferences and forums in Australia and internationally, consulted with organisations and governments and helped develop new capability roadmaps, skilling programs and events. And the challenges and fears are largely the same.

What I have found, is that this anxiety is reverberating far beyond the marketing department. In the 21st Century, we are all marketers, and we are unprepared for this new future.

In response, I have written an eBook that builds on a series of blog posts and articles, observations, projects and presentations that I have made throughout the year. It looks at the shifting landscape and suggests ways forward for individuals and teams.

This eBook is available for immediate download as a PDF.

How to Avoid Busy Brain

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There is no doubt that we all feel overwhelmed from time to time. It’s natural. But a few years ago I noticed that the pace of change had markedly accelerated to the point where it was changing other things. It was changing our capacity to create and innovate. It was crippling our ability to effectively “spend time” with people that we care about. And it was skewing our sense of entitlement and investment.

What we all seemed to be suffering from as the state of “busy brain”.

Think, for example, how many times you have done the following in the last week:

  • Shared a link without checking it first
  • Stayed awake too late at night doing work
  • Relied on alcohol or drugs to slow your body rhythms
  • Avoided exercise because there is not enough time in the day
  • Were impatient with a child or a colleague

Because we are consistently rushing from meeting to meeting, task to task and tweet to tweet, we forget.

We forget the reason. The purpose. The force of the activity that drives us.

And we do so because we have given over to busyness rather than focusing on business. Sometimes it seems that we are barely in the business of living.

We are not just distracted but alerted. Buzzed and connected. We hurry between places, spaces and events not because we fear missing out but because our presence is marked on a hidden scale of check-ins, appointments and leaderboards. We have given over to the machine and it keeps its own counsel.

So what are we to do?

I like these simple suggestions from Deepak Chopra. And like everything simple, they require us to forego complication. Here’s to a less busy brain. Sleep well.

Don’t Tweet at Me in that Tone of Voice

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Setting tone of voice in social media is a challenge. How do you balance the assertiveness and authority with a sense of engagement and approachability? How do you strike a tone that delights your customers and attracts new prospects? And what is that “distinctive” personality that can only be expressed through text and how do you create it consistently?

Tone of voice is not just a problem for social media. In a business world where communication occurs largely through the written word – in email, messaging, enterprise social networks and so on, a misplaced word or misconstrued meaning can cause much drama.

Consider the hastily worded email that you sent after a bad meeting. Or the tweets you made in response to a troll. What about the situation where you really wanted to recall an email but realised that you could not?

IBM has been experimenting with language and semantics for some time. Their Watson platform specialises in natural language processing, and with the Tone Analyzer service, you may just catch an overly aggressive email in the nick of time.

How Tone Analyzer Works

We often rely on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to help us profile individuals. It is still widely in use despite being largely dismissed as a scientific method – but I have always found its indicators lacking. I much prefer Sam Gosling’s OCEAN framework. It measures:

  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extroversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

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This framework is used by IBM to assess your social tone of voice. Watson also gives you a score on writing tone and emotional tone. You simply cut and paste your text into the field on the demo page and have Watson analyse your words. It then returns a visual assessment. This is the assessment from the first half of my last blog post. You will see, the post was:

  • 80% analytical (good for this kind of article)
  • 96% confident (I do want you to believe me)
  • 87% agreeable (please, please like and hire me).

You can also integrate this platform into your enterprise tools using the API platform. That could make for a very different form of communication within and beyond the enterprise.

But here’s a question – would you dare to run your marketing copy through this system? What would you find?