Understanding Twitter Behavior

Looking through Twitter streams and lists today something was striking; it is impossible to truly understand the behaviors happening on the platform. Not only in the whole, but simply in your own follower/friends base. Even simple tasks are impossible and questions go unanswered:

  • What are the top conversation topics amongst my followers?
  • What are the trending topics, in real-time, amongst my followers?
  • Who amongst my followers follow one another, and engage with each other?
  • What behavioral patterns exist amongst my followers that would tell me when and what they want to discuss?

The big problem here is that ‘studies’ come out all the time pontificating on ‘the best time to Tweet’, ‘top topics’, and ‘best way to engage’. Don’t listen to any of these blog posts, and if you do you are either lazy or crazy. These are YOUR followers (or your brand), so how does some blogger at Hubspot know what they want to talk about, or when? They don’t.

You need to do the work to make this happen, and that means using behavioral analytics and data visualization to actually take a look at what your community is talking about, to whom, and when. If you put that work in, and ignore the ‘pundits’, you’ll be much better off. The big question you should have is, “how do I get started doing that, today?”

Why Write? Because I Must.

Writing is the most powerful tool that has ever been in my hands. Each day it is of utmost importance to me, my job, my life, my family. Even when my words are trite and perhaps contrived, serenading over the people looking for ‘answers’ on social networks, they are still powerful and create an impact. Yet, for all those words I’ve used, they have added up to little the past few years, at least publicly. My consistent snark and sarcasm online, although fun, is wearing my soul. And before a rip eventually forms, it is time to start writing again with more substance (but no worries, my Facebook feed will still be full of snark, and sometimes outright lies…because that’s still fun, and the perfect platform for such antics).

Nearly two years ago we sold the startup, and more than a year ago that adventure started again for me. During the past months my writing consisted mainly of business-focused prose. Messaging and branding platforms; demand-gen plans; website copy; enormous RFPs; detailed late night emails expounding on strategy; and of course the format I grew up on, the press release. Long days and nights compounded themselves, and it was with the last bits of energy that I even mustered the bullshit thrown out on the Facebook, or even the Twitter (whether as myself, or my alter ego). Finally it came to a head with the realization that the once refined ability to write out opinions in long form had begun to leak out of my brain. Although exercise remains a daily routine physically, and mentally the brain gets a lot of reps in at work, the fact remained that cross-training was no longer helping the grey matter between my ears.

Writing is the platform on which we stand our opinions, and although they may verbally be expressed at some point, the words are often imprinted before that on paper (or LCD). This ability to construct a well written opinion or argument is important to our ability to then do that mentally in the ‘heat of battle’. The function of process, of stringing together words to form a sentence, to form a paragraph, to form a post, to form prose that convinces; it has not been part of me for quite some time.

Until today. It is back. I write, because I must.

Louis C.K. Is The Greatest Email Marketer. Ever.

Email marketing is all about connecting with your community and providing them value. We all know that and we all try and practice that in real B2B marketing life. But the emails I learn the most from, the ones that truly inspire me to try new things with our email marketing campaigns are those from consumer brands or celebrities. And this week I received the very best email marketing campaign I have ever laid my eyes upon.

First, a disclaimer. I love Louis C.K. And when I say the word love, I mean I literally love this man as if he is my older brother (much older). Watch his show, see him in concert, buy his concerts. If you appreciate a person who has truly honed his craft to the point that when you are watching him live you feel grateful that you are actually alive to witness this happening while alive, then you need to get some Louis C.K. in your life. End disclaimer.

One of the other great things that Louis has done is build a tremendous community, but it goes so far beyond the typical Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr stuff, and he uses email as effectively as anyone I have seen. Look:

Louis_ck_email

Email Marketing Best Practices

What are you looking to do when you craft a great email marketing campaign?

  1. WRITE WITH PERSONALITY: Nobody reads form letters or emails drafted by drones based on a template you pulled out of some bullshit marketing book. Write an email as if you are writing directly to someone in your database. Don’t know how? Pick someone in your list. Google them. Check out LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. OK, you kind of know them at this point, now write your email is if you are writing it directly to this person. That is what the above email does. I read it and truly believed Louis wrote to Kyle. I know better, but I still felt that way.
  2. IMPLEMENT CALLS TO ACTION: Read the letter again. There are multiple calls to action, all of which will ultimately make Louis money, well deserved money. But you hardly see them because they aren’t “offers”, they are calls to action. If you follow rule #1, this one becomes MUCH easier.
  3. MAKE THEM LAUGH: My inbox is not funny. Neither is yours. So when an email comes in that makes me laugh, well I’m going to read it again.
  4. REMOVE THE CLUTTER: Notice the design on this email? Yeah, there isn’t any. No stupid logo, no dumb shades, no images that don’t come through anyhow. It’s just an email from a guy to another guy. And I love it.

Really, that’s all you need to know about email marketing. Now go and thank Louis C.K. for me and tell him Kyle Flaherty owes him a reply.

Best Infographic Example. Ever.

It’s simple actually, and been replicated time and time again:

Periodic_table_of_elements

Think about what the Periodic Table of Elements has, and what your goals are for an infographic.

  1. Illustrates information clearly and concisely
  2. Simple design that allows you to read from left to right
  3. Decent use of vertical space, but doesn’t run on and on
  4. It is a resource you would want to share with other people
  5. It is highly adaptable and can be updated

Sounds like what you want out of your own infographics, right? 

Lead Development: 6 Tips for Building Lead Workflow

Lead development is an art wrapped in science, wrapped in modern art, wrapped in prosciutto. It can help a company grow significantly, only if you put in place the workflow, conventions, methodology, and discipline that must happen in order for it to succeed. These for founding principles of lead development will be looked at over the next few days, and it is important for us to start at the very beginning, lead workflow.

Marketing gets the leads, scores the leads, and picks them up like produce at the farmer’s market to be sure that it is supple and fresh, worthy of being deposited into Salesforce.com. Sound familar? There isn’t really that much to proper lead workflow from marketing to sales, all it takes is some sensible planning and understanding of the way your company works today, and the way you hope it will work tomorrow.

Marketing-to-Sales Lead Workflow Best Practices

1) Listen To Sales

Sales can be stubborn, since their livelihood literally depends on the deals closing. Marketing can be stubborn, since our livelighood is based on implementing ‘best practices’. The two often conflict, but typically not as much as you think at first. This is where it becomes important to get sales input before making any suggestions to lead workflow. Listen to their nomenclature about lead source, versus campaigns, versus opportunity stage. The actual words they use will be important, you must harness those in the proposed workflow you put together in order to create a level of comfort and buy-in so that your processes are actually followed.

2) Go Through The Process

In most companies, particularly start-ups, the sales process can differ wildly from opportunity to opportunity. Walk through as many different instances as you can with the sales team, you’ll find out a ton about how the “typical” process works, helping you to build your opportunity stages and associate them with decent forecasting percentages.

3) Involve Others

Sales and marketing must be the four legs in the three-legged race (wait, what?) but there are others to consider, and I mean besides the CEO and CFO who are dying for those forecasting dashboards to be accurate. Think about the product delivery team who may get a lot out of this data including priority scheduling and forecasting of their own. Think about services/support, product management, and even development. All of these groups touch the sales cycle in some way, their thoughts won’t necessarily guide your workflow process, but it will have an influence.

4) Present Clear Gateways

Trouble arises when the workflow does not have clear and defined gateways, for example what exactly happens to a web lead? Does it go into the marketing automation system first? When does it become Marketing Qualified, and why? When it goes into Salesforce.com does it auto-assign to sales, how? When does a lead become a contact? These are all legit questions and can be addressed with a clear ‘gateway map’ that actually shows the workflow scenarios that you’ve discovered above.

5) Provide Benefit Examples

In a company that has not implemented lead workflow in the past there will be a lot of ‘why’ questions, and the best way to answer those is to provide the benefit that will come from implementing it in that manner. The reason you are building out opportunity stages in that way is so that sales can more accurately forecast revenue and prioritize responsibilities. The reason you are shifting campaigns is to accuartely measure the impact of marketing activity. You get the picture.

6) Future-Proof the Workflow

The company has a short-term growth plan, work that into how you are building this lead workflow. For example, you may build in a few more lead sources that currently you aren’t using, like “Partner Referral”. Or have an opportunity stage development that has a bit more granularity than you have in the current sales process, because you know you’ll need it one day. Once this thing gets cooking you will hate yourself for not looking into that crystal ball, at least a bit.

Lead development workflow is not easy, but it starts with buidling a proper illustration of what you want to see, how it will work, and why it is important for everyone.

Today’s Marketer Has Got To Play Dirty

Change has happened, as I discussed a couple of weeks ago, and currently I sit in my new office here at 21CT as the Vice President of Marketing. A new life of fast cars, expensive sushi dinners, and jet-setting across the continents awaits me now that I have this glamourous new title and have worked my way up the corporate ladder. Right? Well, not really…in fact, it’s just plain wrong. Today’s marketer, no matter your title, needs to get their hands dirty. And if you are at a startup poised for big growth in a hot market, you’ll be dirtier than most.

And I’m loving it.

CMS, GA, PHP, OH MY

Fortunately for me, at my last gig, we had grown our team quite significantly. Five years ago it was a team of three, and when I left there were a couple of dozen folks in the marketing organization. Often times, as we move up the marketing levels, we forget how things work. Oh sure, we create an exciting new and creative lead gen campaign. And perhaps I crafted all the copy and put together a killer strategic plan. And then POOF, it just happens! How quaint. We forgot about:

  • Form creation
  • Backend Salesforce.com integration and campaign creation
  • Website updates
  • Public relations
  • Social media comms
  • Sales training and communications
  • Analytics monitoring
  • Adword buys

The list goes on and on, and now, I’m starting all over again. And this means, naturally, I’m relearning and learning a LOT of things, most notably I’m brushing off my PHP, HTML, and CSS skills. But also finding out how amazingly better Google Analytics is for truly giving me insight into my website. Ultimately though getting my hands dirty does more than break the rust off my aging skill set, but more importantly it provides me actionable information to make recommendations on a variety of elements including:

  • Moving to a new CMS system that is more flexible for the company (and not based on PHP).
  • Moving to a new marketing automation suite that is…well not so sucky as the one we have.
  • Dramatically updating our SEO based on initial research and analytics.
  • Determining my next few hires based on where I can see holes.
  • Helping to shape my mind around messaging and branding for the organization itself, something that will have a huge impact on our future.

Getting your hands dirty is part of the marketers job now, and you have to dive in with both hands. But what you learn will allow you to grow your organization to the levels it will need to be in order to meet the objectives of the growing company. Go get dirty!

Making A Move. Time To Reflect.

Two years after taking my current job Forbes.com wrote:

Twitter? For job-seeking? Consider Kyle Flaherty’s story.


He left a marketing agency position in Boston determined to find an in-house job. He tweeted about his decision and included a link to his professional blog, where he described the kind of work he was looking for. Within days his tweet was retweeted. That is, an acquaintance forwarded it–to his current boss.


“I don’t think I would have gotten this if not for Twitter,” says Flaherty, who moved from Boston to Austin, Texas, for the new job with a pregnant wife and 2-year-old son.

The story glosses over many details, but in the end and for many reasons, I started working at BreakingPoint Systems.

The opportunity was HUGE. Get to work with a ton of really bright people in the network security testing space AND be super creative AND hone my marketing chops after years strictly in the communications side of the house. Not to mention, I was about to develop relationships with some of the smartest and most admired talent in Austin technology, giving me an opportunity to establish a true career in the city and learn what it takes to grow a successful company. No brainer, let’s move to Austin!

Nearly five years later I’m making another move, and this time there is no cutesie social media story, nor a new city. It is a story built on the foundations of startup success, hard work by a LOT of people, mentors that I will now have for a lifetime, colleagues that have become my friends, and the leadership that is needed to drive it all forward.

On Monday I take the reins as Vice President of Marketing at another Austin technology startup (I’ll write more about that in the coming weeks), 21CT. But today, with only 48 hours left in my current role, forgive me while I reminisce and share some thoughts from the past five years.

Growth Is The Adventure

Change is always a mixed blessing, but when you enjoy walking into your office each day as much as I do, change is hard to make. We built an awesome team here at BreakingPoint, a team that created amazing and breakthrough products, and a team that established award-winning marketing campaigns, created a globally recognized brand, and proved that the new era of marketing is upon us all. Our success was recognized not only by our customers, but another company, who wanted to make sure they had this talented team to help them grow, and hence our acquisition by Ixia in July of last year.

Working at a startup technology company is a blast. Of course it’s hard work…really hard work, but you always have a goal: growth. You grow your employee base. You grow to revenue goals. You grow to profitability. You grow into new markets. You grow product functionality. You grow your employees development. You grow into new regions. You grow so much that you get acquired or go public.

And then you grow into a new adventure, one that I truly enjoyed the past six months with Ixia. In that short amount of time a global team of people came together to integrate not just one acquisition, but two! During this time I was fortunate to head up the global corporate communications team (branding, PR, web, digital, content, and social)…and put together a large team of intelligent folks working towards new growth goals. It was an amazing experience and one I’m truly blessed to have gone through. Ixia is going to be a thoroughly successful company and I’ll be watching all of my friends as they dominate, elevate, and accelerate the market!

Know Thy
Self

Prior to making the BreakingPoint decision I sat in a bar with my good friend Michael in Charlestown (“The Town” for Trish and Martha) and I weighed the pros and cons of making a significant professional and personal move. At the time I sketched out how, if all went well, I could work at a great startup, learn a ton about marketing, business, and technology, see it through a fantastic exit, and try and do it again at another startup, but this time as the Vice President of Marketing. First-hand knowledge of what it takes to grow a business and a marketing organization was what I was seeking, and I got that in bucketfuls each day.

The role I had at BreakingPoint was never defined by a title or even a job description. Marketing may have been the ultimate role, but we were all intricate in the creation of a business and the happiness of our customers. And my sights were set on not only helping to build a successful marketing organization, but to continuously break down the barriers that have often hampered these marketing organizations by establishing a better connection with engineering, support, sales, and more. Each day was an opportunity to talk with someone who had more intricate knowledge of our technology, our product roadmap, our sales process, our revenue recognition, and it was amazing and humbling.

Marketers, we live in a world clearly driven by technology, serious and innovative technology that is changing the way we communicate, drive, relate, and adapt. Get to know the people who are creating this technology or managing it within your organization. These are the drivers, the content creators, the raw inspiration for the marketing campaigns of the future. It can be intimidating because you will no longer even be close to the smartest person in the room, but it will be your path to success in this new era.

Be Thankful

Too many folks have helped me get to this point in my career, spanning many, many years. And I could honestly list a hundred people from BreakingPoint who helped, even if they don’t know the impact they had on me over the past five years. Pam, Dennis, Des, Evan, Mike, Scott, Steve (x2), Andrea, Phillip…the list could truly go on and on and on, but I’d always miss someone along the way. I have told you each how much you mean to me and my thanks for the help you provided and will provide.

Monday I will miss walking through that door yet again and seeing all of these faces, but I am forever thankful that they were and will always be a part of my life.

Monday it all starts again, a new adventure…but for 48 more hours I’m going to enjoy the amazing people around me one last time.

B2B Marketers, Talk To Your Customers

We all get busy. Deadlines approaching, inboxes filling, emergencies squashed. And although we believe the marketing campaigns we are putting together are the right ones to meet business objectives, we often don’t ask the people we are actually targetting, our customers.

In that crazy world we call ‘comsumer marketing’ they have us beat in this area, by a long shot. Those pesky little B2C folks are always running focus groups and other fun-filled studies. Hell, they can just walk out the door and ask twenty people on the street what they think of a campaign for the next great energy drink. For the B2B tech marketers like myself it can be a little more difficult, but all it means is putting in some extra work, and some extra miles.

The past two weeks I’ve been traveling around quite a bit and part of that has been sitting down directly with users of our solutions. These are very smart people, typically engineers, and on the front line of optimizing network performance and security. And they love talking with you about what they do, how they do it, and what they respond to when it comes to marketing. Nothing can beat the input you get directly from the customer, it will shape your marketing activities almost immediately.

But remember one really important thing when talking with a customer…don’t talk…LISTEN.

Want To Be The Next Great High-Tech PR Manager?

Now in my new role, I’m looking to hire at Ixia! Come join me as our newest employee? See below! If interested email me at kflaherty at ixiacom.com.

Title: Public Relations Manager

Location: Austin, Texas

Job Summary: Ixia is hiring the next great technology PR public relations manager! The ideal candidate will be looking to join a growing and dynamic technology provider and drive to create coverage and attention for the company’s performance management and cyber security business. This person will have a proven track record of successfully managing B2B public relations in the technology industry and have already established relationships with target media and industry analysts, along with superior writing skills. This person will bleed creativity and excitement for creating PR programs that support overall business goals, counseling internal clients, and measuring results.

Responsibilities:

  • Develop external communications strategies for Ixia with an emphasis on traditional and social media, and key industry influencers.
  • Manage, maintain and grow relationships with traditional and social media, industry analysts and key influencers.
  • Develop and maintain spokesperson message map that supports the overall corporate-level messaging and business goals.
  • Ability to translate technical content into compelling customer value and industry trend stories.
  • Counsel business unit, marketing and product leadership on effective communication strategies.
  • Identify and submit for speaking opportunities for leadership, product marketing and customers to participate in that will promote Ixia as a thought leader and elevate its brand.
  • Create and/or review all external communications including but not limited to news releases, contributed articles, award submissions, presentations and speaking abstracts.
  • Collaborate with corporate communications team to create blogs, video, graphics, etc. to elevate the reach of all PR campaigns.

Qualifications:

  • Minimum of 5-7 years related experience in technology public relations or related field – test and measurement and/or security experience preferred.
  • Bachelor’s degree or above in communications, journalism or related field.
  • PR agency experience a plus.
  • Skilled verbal and written communications with strong technical writing experience.
  • Proven track record planning and executing successful PR campaigns and programs.
  • Experience interacting with and counseling leadership, marketing and product managers across the organization.
  • Demonstrated ability to drive results while balancing the needs of internal and external stakeholders.