C-Suite Network™

Marketing Personal Development Technology

Are You Using the Right Content Marketing Metrics?

Years ago, I took my three year-old to her second dentist appointment. I wasn’t expecting any problems because she had dealt with her first appointment like a champ and I had assumed that the first one would be scarier than the second one. And the second appointment went swimmingly–in fact, she seemed uncommonly cheerful when I told her where we were going. Then. when we got home, she asked, “When do we go to the party?”

She hadn’t been invited to any party, so I had no idea why she was asking that. After some back and forth and some head-scratching conversation with her mom, we realized that she had indeed attended a friend’s birthday party following her first dental appointment, so she had put those events together into one firm (and happy) memory and now was expecting the other shoe to drop after seeing the tooth doctor again.

We were able to explain to her that there was no party for her today, and she understood, but it caused me to recognize something all of us human beings do–and not just when we are three years old. We tend to impute meaning to coincidences. This is deadly when making data-driven marketing decisions.

I heard a story–don’t know if it is true–that back in the summer of 2012, the Sprint social media team was happy when their positive mentions starting increasing dramatically. At least at first. A little digging showed them that the mentions were about the Olympics and that the happy conversations around the word “sprint” in that context was not something they should take personally.

Another time, I showed a set of results to a client and told them we had tested them and that they were 90% accurate. The client took a quick look at the first 10 results on the screen and insisted, “That can’t be true–look, the first one is wrong!” The other nine were correct, which is what 90% means, but he distrusted the system anyway.

These examples probably seem silly to you–because they are mistakes you didn’t make. But I see clients performing unnatural acts with numbers all the time just because no one is really thinking about what they mean.

One former client told me that they use their web analytics to see the conversions related to every piece of content in their system so they know what the best content is. Unfailingly, the “best” content was for their best-selling products. Maybe you think that products are best sellers due to marketing content alone, but I have my doubts.

Instead of using simple correlations of which pages lead to conversions, perhaps they need to dig deeper, as the Sprint team did, to really understand their numbers. If you are ready to dig deeper–to think in a new way–you can use AI analysis to remove a lot of spurious correlations to get to the underlying causes of what is going on. Once you do that, you can really work on improving the right things.

But if you keep thinking the same old way, someone might have to tell you that there is no party for you today.



Best Practices Growth Management Personal Development Technology

Security is Not Insurance – Debunking the Myth

Since 2005 I have been in the Information Security consultant and today I consult and coach security executives on strategy, compliance, messaging, and teams, so today I am going to talk about something that is critical to any organizational leader: information security. More specifically, the myth that security equates to insurance.

Many people in the security industry have used the security analogy for a very long time to explain the importance of security to an executive or client who has said,  “Why do I need security? It’s expensive and nothing has happened to my network; my company’s data is fine.”

The response often provided has been “for the same reason you need car insurance or medical insurance, you never know when there will be a problem.” Using a real-world situation to help explain something that is not always clear makes sense, but this analogy is not correct.

The reason it’s not a good analogy is because security is not insurance. Insurance attempts to make you whole again. It is there to replace your car, rebuild your house, allow you to replace lost or stolen items, or help you regain your health. Security on the other hand does not make you whole; once your data is stolen, your network breached, or your systems locked up with Ransomware it is not security that will make you whole again. There is insurance you can purchase to use when the hacker on the other end of the phone says we want 20 Million Dollars to unlock your systems, but that really is insurance.

If we are going to use analogies, then security is your force protection, it is proactive. You know the guys (or gals) at the perimeter with the big guns that are going to keep the bad guys (or gals) out in the first place. When I used to work at the Pentagon, there were armed guards with very big guns making sure only the people with the proper access could enter the building. Then there were locked doors within the building that could only be accessed by another select group of people. That is security! We don’t call them insurance guards we call them security guards (or in this case military police).

The same is true for access to your computer systems, network, and data. Your Information Security or Cyber Security (if you are using that term) team is the armed guards; it is their responsibility to keep the bad people out, to monitor for intrusions, and to react if or when a breach is observed. If you are treating this group as insurance you are not giving them the level of importance they deserve, the funding they need, or the authority they require.

For small organizations, you might think, “Who wants my data? I’m good till we get bigger; the hackers are out there looking for the big guys to steal from.” But that is not true at all. It’s like the burglar who will just move on to the next house when they see the ADT sign in your neighbors yard. If your neighbors are the bigger companies with the fancy security and armed guards it is your network the hackers are after because they know it will be easier.

But you want to say “I don’t have anything worth taking” and that might be true at the data level, but you do have something worth taking. It is your resources, your connection to other networks, and it is the fertile playground you are giving them to practice their craft. By allowing your network to go unprotected, you are allowing hackers to practice, to find vulnerabilities they can use against other networks, and to potentially use your network to launch an attack on another organization.

I am writing this so that we can stop equating security with insurance. Stop looking at this as a cost and start looking at is as a responsibility. You are not only protecting your data, your employees, and your customers; you are also protecting other organizations by putting the guards up around yours.

If you do not have a security team or strategy, don’t worry. It’s not too late and it does not have to be scary. There are lots of great consultants out there who can help. As a 12-year veteran of the information security and compliance space,  I invite you to send me an email at sharon@c-suiteresults.com or reach out via LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/smithsharonj/ to ask any questions you might have on this topic.


Best Practices Growth Management Personal Development Technology

Is Your Marketing a Business or a Religion?

That might seem like an odd question to pose, but I have run into one too many B2B clients lately who have convinced themselves over the years that marketing is just a waste of money. Often, these executives cut their teeth in the 1980s and 1990s when B2B Marketing was truly not terribly important. No B2B companies had CMOs back then because there was nothing C-level about the job. It doesn’t take a high executive to decide what the brochure should say that we bring to our booth at the trade show. And that’s all that B2B marketing was.

Fast forward to today. Those same executives that grew up in the era of unimportant B2B marketing have not realized that times have changed. Digital marketing has made B2B marketing expenditures hugely important. Prospects don’t even have you on the list if they can’t find you. And even if you were referred to them, they check out your website before they even call.

But I have run into a spate of B2B execs over the last few weeks that look me in the eye and say, “Yeah, well. I just don’t believe that more marketing will bring us any more sales.” Folks, that is a religious statement. Nobody is asking you to believe. We’re asking you to experiment. We’re asking you to give it a try. Make a bet. See what happens. We’re asking you to treat marketing the same way you treat every other decision. You don’t invest in new products because you believe in them. You know that most of them will fail. You invest in them because you know you have no choice because you won’t find the ones that work if you don’t invest in all of them. That’s business, not religion.

 The problem is that you can’t teach anyone something that they think they already know. And if you take the attitude that you already know that marketing is a waste of money, then you can’t learn how digital marketing is a new way to play. So, you can stick to your religion and operate like it’s still the 1980s. Or you can recognize that the browser on your computer and the phone in your pocket and the iPad by your bed are the new way to reach your audience in an efficient and effective way, and if you are missing in action, they will just find your competitors.

You don’t need to believe in it. You just have to give it a chance to prove it to you. Just like you do with the rest of your business.

Growth Personal Development Technology

Is Your Business Changing as Your Customers Change?

Some e-newsletters are sent weekly. Some are even sent daily, like an email I get from RetailWire.com, a publication that is read each day by thousands of people in the retail industry. This is the number one forum for discussions about issues that are important to their industry. Even though RetailWire.com focuses on the retail industry, many articles are relevant to virtually every business in every industry.

Here is an example: a recent article in RetailWire asked, “Will virtual reality make brick-and-mortar stores less relevant?” Just in case you haven’t experienced virtual reality, allow me to describe the process and the incredible results. After you put on a goggles-like device, you can see the most amazing three dimensional images and videos. Okay, let’s get back to the question. My response is that virtual reality and augmented reality are just enhanced ways of viewing and experiencing products online. That’s all. Sure, they will change the way people shop online, but that’s still “virtual” shopping. It’s not real! For example, you can’t actually touch the material to determine the quality of the suit or dress you’re looking at through a virtual reality headset. You can’t try it on either. So, how could this technology make physical stores less relevant?

Actually, the discussion of physical stores becoming irrelevant is not new but has been a topic of conversation for years. Do you know when the first online purchase was made? Nearly 23 years ago! According to a video produced by Shopify, an online shopping software program, the first online transaction was on August 11, 1994. On that date, a friend bought a Sting CD over the internet through Dan Kohn’s online startup company. Many people claimed though this radical way of doing business would never work. People would never buy online. Well, never say never. Shortly after that CD purchase, Amazon came into being.

How far have we come from there? Research from Adobe claims that last year’s Black Friday’s online sales were over $3 billion. And Cyber Monday’s sales, just three days later, were also over $3 billion. In fact, Forrester predicts that by the year 2020, just three years from now, online sales will exceed $523 billion!

So, should brick-and-mortar retailers be scared? Maybe … if they aren’t willing to change. There have always been companies in virtually every industry that haven’t been willing to change that have found a path to extinction. So, here is the lesson:

Business – in all industries – is changing. The old saying is true: The only thing that is constant is change. So, get used to it.

Will online stores kill physical stores?
Did ATM’s eliminate bank tellers?
Did “Video Kill the Radio Star” when MTV went live back in 1981?

The answers are no, no and no!

Yes, the consumer is migrating to do more shopping online. The result may make a physical store a little less “relevant” – but it certainly won’t make the retailer less relevant! A retailer, as anyone or any company in business, must adjust and change. A retailer won’t become less relevant simply because sales are moving from in-store to online. It will be because the retailer doesn’t adapt to the way their customers want to buy.

It’s the same for every business. Your customers buying habits are changing. Adapt or watch your business die a slow and painful death. To ensure future existence and profitability, you must be willing to change – as your customers change.

Marketing Personal Development Technology

How Can CMOs Be Ready for Big Data?

Many will tell you that we are already in the age of Big Data, and maybe we are. But the truth is that whatever pile of data we have today will look puny in just a few short years. Big Data keeps getting bigger, so whether you think we have already arrived or Big Data is around the corner, how can CMOs be ready for what comes next?

It’s not that complicated, actually. The most important step any CMO can take is to move to a data-driven decision-making process. What that means is no more “golden gut.” What that means is that we don’t ask the CMO what to do–we ask the data what to do. It doesn’t matter whether the data we have now is big or medium-sized. The truth is that most companies do a crappy job with small data.

How would your job be different if every time someone asked you to decide something, you asked what the data shows? And if there is no data, you asked how we could get some? And if no one knows how to get the data, you ask what kind of experiment can we run to get the data?

For some CMOs, that’s very threatening. They believe that their job, like any good executive, is to make the tough decisions. And that’s true. But what if the toughest decision you will ever have to make is to give up your own personal control and seek the data to make the decisions?

Data-driven decision-making is a culture change. It says that instead of believing in our own opinions, that we will focus on our customers’ opinions. When we focus on data that tells us what our customers want, it’s amazing what geniuses we become.

It feels like data-driven marketing is a loss of control. But what we need to accept is that depending on our own opinions is the most out of control we can be. Each decision that we make personal might feel under control, but competing against companies that decide based on data will quickly make us extremely uncomfortable–because they are making better decisions than we are. And in just a few years, we won’t be making decisions based on data–we will be providing rules for computers to make decisions based on data. We’ll do that because people can’t decide fast enough.

Have you reconsidered your reliance on data for decisions? Moving to data-driven processes prepares you for the onslaught of data that is coming for all of us.

Marketing Personal Development Technology

When Your Marketing Needs Machine Learning

Machine learning seems to be the flavor of the week, so I’ve been getting a lot of questions from clients who want to know what they should know. And some requests for some kind of magic that sounds like, “Can you ladle out a dollop of that machine learning on this?”

So, first off, machine learning is a kind of artificial intelligence–that sounds lofty, but what it really means is that it provides a way for computers to solve problems that they weren’t explicitly programmed to solve. Standard software can solve a problem because a programmer researched the problem, talked to experts, and designed a solution to that particular problem. Machine learning allows computers to tackle a range of problems that the programmers and the experts wouldn’t necessarily know how to solve on their own.

Let’s take an example. I’ve designed a machine learning system for a company that performs sentiment analysis for social media conversations–such as whether a tweet is positive or negative. Now, human beings can identify sentiment accurately around 89% of the time (yes, that low), but standard software is much worse–maybe 60%–because it is hard to code a set of rules that cover all the cases. This machine learning solution is actually more accurate than human beings at times.

How does it do that? It collects training data from what the human beings decide and it looks for patterns that help it identify which tweets are more likely to be positive or negative. With enough training data, it can do a better job than a person. And it is certainly much faster and cheaper.

So, of course you’d like such a technology applied to all sorts of marketing problems that you have. But you might not be ready. Recently, a client approached us, asking that we replace their human content approval system with a machine learning system. They explained that their current process takes each new web page and subjects it to the judgement of several human experts (legal, brand, product, and more) before it is approved to be promoted to the production website. The current process is frustrating and time consuming–often two weeks go by before the approvals are in hand. They desperately want to get the approval process to a day–or even minutes.

But they aren’t ready yet. Machine learning requires that you have very tight processes with well-defined tasks and a history of data that shows that human experts generally agree with each other (such as in the 89% sentiment agreement). This client had none of that–no written standards, experts who disagree, no records of prior decisions–so they weren’t ready yet.

That’s OK. We walked through how they can fix all of those problems over the next few months. Just doing those things will make the process more consistent, less frustrating, and a little faster. At that point, we can start thinking about machine learning to gain even more. It’s always important to provide business value at every step–even what seems like the preparation step.

So what are your thoughts on machine learning? Anytime something new comes along, it can be a personality test. Some people say “we don’t need that yet because it isn’t proven” and others say “we need to do that now and get a jump on the competition.” For machine learning, it’s best to analyze the situation and start preparing your processes to take advantage–because the day is coming where no one will say it isn’t proven yet.

Growth Leadership Personal Development Technology

Are You Media-Ready?

Nowadays, it’s not enough to be really smart, to be the boss, or to have brilliant ideas. It’s all about your presence, and how well you communicate those brilliant ideas, if you want others to see your vision and get on board.

Specifically, it’s about what I like to call vocal executive presence, and if you have it, you can master the Three Cs, to Command the room, Connect with the audience, and Close the deal, in any context.

Whether on camera, at the microphone or in person, your ability to look and sound like the right kind of leader will make or break the impact and success of your message. To ensure that you come across as confident, natural, relatable, and persuasive, you need to have an expertly crafted message and flawless delivery.

That’s why I’m excited to share with you “Capturing Your Confidence on Camera,” a six-part series of straight-to-the-point, down-and-dirty, DIY mini-videos that show you exactly how to turn any speaking opportunity into a home run performance. (And they’re just as applicable when you’re not on camera!)

Maybe you’ve been invited to be a guest on a podcast, to be interviewed on TV, to speak at a conference, or maybe you want to create your own promotional video for your company. Beyond being able to say, “I did that” and check it off your bucket list, do you know what outcome you want from the experience? Have you thought about what effect you want to have on the audience? And most importantly, do you know how to do it?

In this series, I’ll show you how to overcome some of the most common challenges, including:

  • Connecting with the audience
  • Starting and ending with power and clarity
  • Overcoming anxiety and not letting your nerves get the best of you
  • Speaking with a great-sounding voice
  • Moving naturally and easily
  • Navigating interviews with confidence and poise

Remember: I am not a professional actor or singer; my strategies do not come from the theater (although I’m sure there is plenty to be learned there), and I have no intention (or ability) to teach you how to act.

However, as a linguist, I can help you understand how language works, why the reputation you want is different from the reputation you have, and how the smallest changes in word, voice or gesture can have enormous influence on how your message is received.

Most importantly, instead of teaching you how to act in front of the camera or microphone, what I want to do is to show you how to use this knowledge to project your best version of yourself.

And then – here’s the kicker – once you see the difference in how people respond to you when you use these strategies, you’ll realize the value in having them become part of your new normal communication style, so that you can have your desired impact on an audience every time you open your mouth to speak.

So find the minute or two over your coffee break to watch each video when it comes out – I’ll share another link here each week – and see how you can immediately apply what you learn to your interactions on and off camera.

I hope you’ll share your experiences and experiments, letting us all know how they change the way people respond to you.

Remember: more than a role, “leadership” is an image that stems from how well you get others to understand your vision and make them want to get on board. With awareness of what influences that image and how to control it, you can ultimately master the Three Cs of vocal executive presence, so you can Command the room, Connect with the audience and Close the deal.

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