Monday, April 16, 2012

The B2B Twitter breakthrough

It's a big day for FirstRain today - but also a big day for the social enterprise platforms like Chatter, Yammer and Jive because now, for the very first time, Twitter is useful for B2B professionals in their social enterprise platform.

Up until now media and brand monitoring solutions like Radian6 have been tapping into Twitter so vendors can see what their customers are saying. United lost your luggage and you gripe about it on Twitter - United can see that. But the solutions that provide consumer monitoring are hopeless if you are a B2B professional trying to find breaking industry news on Twitter.

We've solved that problem and are announcing FirstTweets™ today. This is the world’s first solution for extracting business-relevant Twitter Intelligence. FirstTweets™ is a part of our FirstRain Enterprise Customer Intelligence System and is included for our customers (but can also be purchased stand alone).

It is a technology breakthrough that solves the Twitter problem for business executives: how to get business value and intelligence out of the 250 million tweets that Twitter produces daily. Our analysis shows that more than 99.9% of all Twitter is non-relevant to business professionals, making it effectively impossible to get to the daily intelligence it contains.

Now, by using FirstRain’s semantic analytics, our system provides the ability to easily and effectively access the business intelligence hidden within the Twitter stream. FirstTweets™ collects and organizes real time industry and customer specific information to uncover revenue opportunities, including customer developments, industry trends, news, market analysis, emerging themes and so much more.

This intelligence is then easily integrated into different workflows, including iPads and other mobile devices, CRM systems, social enterprise platforms like Chatter, Jive, Yammer and SharePoint, or any workflow that works best for sales and marketing teams.

For example - you are a sales rep selling to Cisco. You want to see the Tweets about changes in Cisco's market that impact your sales strategy but if you try to look for Cisco on Twitter 99% of what you'll see are consumer complaints about Linksys which drown out the interesting news about Cisco's business.

Or maybe you are a marketing person trying to put high quality information about your own market up on your internal portal for your sales and executive team. Now you can add in a widget with the business-relevant Tweets about your market, or feed the FirstTweets stream right into Yammer so everyone can see it. It's just that easy.

You can see more examples on FirstRain. It's flexible and you can feed your B2B Tweets into widgets, feeds, your phone - whatever makes it easiest for your team to see the B2B Twitter news real-time.

Tweets on the Telecomm industry - but this can be easily filtered to whichever segment of Telecomm you find interesting

Or Tweets inside Chatter about developments at your favorite customers

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Flowers in the desert

In the middle of a smoky casino, full of people who have had too much to drink, children crying from over stimulation and various packs of both genders slurring "I'm getting married tomorrow" there is an oasis of calm. The Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas grows and creates a rich, deep flower garden five times a year (for the four seasons and Chinese New Year which counts as a season given the money demographic in Las Vegas now).

This Spring is a radiant bulb display. Hyacinths, daffodils, lilies and every color and shape of tulips you can imagine. The hyacinth borders are so deep that even as I walked through the garden the delicate scent tickled my nose and drew me in until I was on my knees, face deep into the bulbs. Giant bees fly overhead drinking from giant daffodils, a giant mama swam swims ahead of her two signets, riotous rich color everywhere. Quite perfect.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Girl, stop crying and talk like a man

The same issue comes up every time.

"I offer an idea at a meeting, no one listens to me and then a man says the same thing and everyone listens".

This is what I hear again and again from women in tech. Often they are the only woman on a team and so the only woman in the room. Often they are smart, nerdy and not very assertive. Sometimes, not always, they are very polite too. Their ideas get overlooked and it upsets them. And they ask me for advice.

And my advice is always toughen up, get over it and learn how to assert yourself in a male world. Until you are the boss, or you are in a team that is 50% women, you need to learn how to talk like a man. If you went to France to work on a team of French people you would learn French. If you work in a world of all men you need to learn how to talk Man.

There is a textbook for how to do this. Deborah Tannen's brilliant "You Just Don't Understand". Professor Tannen, after years of research, points out that the way women talk creates connection while men's language transfers information. (This is especially true of engineers). Women are creating community as they speak, men are establishing status. We are brainwashed young -- women are in the home, men are on the hunt. So while we make nice, men figure out who's on top.

Knowing this is power and the start of the solution to the problem of your ideas being ignored. Complaining about it is a waste of time and energy. Take an assertiveness class, practice speaking up and being heard, find a man on your team who is aware enough to listen to your desire to change and who will help you. But don't expect the group to change, that's an unreasonable expectation until they are working for you or the group has several women in it.

There is one other thing that can really help with the mental toughness necessary to be gender-isolated every day at work and that is to sign up for some challenge that stretches you and raises your confidence and assertiveness at the same time. Train for a half-marathon, sign up for a triathlon, join toastmasters  -- and then take the same steel that your challenge requires into your meetings, and remember to smile as you make yourself heard.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Your Facebook posts are Your Personal Brand

What is so hard about this concept? Everything is public now. Everything you do on line, everything you post, and -- unless you are extremely disciplined about Facebook use and who you friend -- what you post will become visible in your work life.

Over the last week much has been written about employers asking for Facebook logins so they can investigate a candidates online presence before hiring. It's creepy, but from an employers perspective it makes sense. They want to know what liability is sitting out in the prospective employees Facebook timeline. From the candidates perspective it's an invasion of privacy because his/her personal life on Facebook is personal - right? Right in theory, wrong in practice.

The truth is it's all public -- or can be (will soon be) with little you can do about it.

We see the dumb posts with politicians and celebrities and laugh about them, but it's amazing how many people post non-work related posts that if they really thought about it they would not want a work colleague to see. There are the harmless ones - endless photos of their kids; there is humor, sexy tumblers, food and in the single dating pool the cryptic comments like this one from a work contact tonight:

Like it or not, unless you ONLY friend true, lifelong friends, Facebook is a public communication channel. Like Twitter it is your own PR news wire - "here's what I want you to know about me today". So every post we make sets an impression of who we are, forever.

You, and only you, are in charge of your PR and when you post it's like a PR event that says something about you. Who you are in the world and what you stand for - your personal brand. You can turn this into your advantage if you are smart - like my friend Rick Hyman who took several months off to ski and posted every day photos and tales of his (and his dog Bandit's) experiences and created an image and brand of his lifestyle as a result - but that takes conscious planning and discipline.

Like your career, or your PR, you have to think about your social media presence and plan it like any other brand creation exercise. Unlike teenagers, who have the excuse of not knowing better (although I suspect some of my teenage "friends" will regret some of their posts in 10 years) working adults must remember in the end, everything: email, voicemail, social media is all discoverable and hackable. Unless it's a whisper in someone's ear and you are 100% sure it will never get repeated, or you are in the safety of your home with close friends, everything we do is public and now so more than ever before.

You are your brand. Manage it.

The role charm plays in your leadership today

Charm as a leadership currency seems to change with every wave of silicon valley engineering companies.

In the old days of the early semiconductor firms the CEOs were often gruff white men. Most came up through the ranks of real products, dirty products, chemicals in the manufacturing process, union labor forces... and charm was not a necessary part of the job. Like the famously paranoid Andy Grove of Intel and the crusty Wilf Corrigan of LSI Logic. They didn't have to be charming -- they had to be in with their boards and drive global market growth for their products. They barely even worked the customers after the first few because it was an engineering and distribution driven business.

Then we had the wave of computer companies like Sun Microsystems and HP and large enterprise software firms like Oracle. Now the CEO's had a bit more charm but it was B2B charm of the likes of Scott McNealy and John Chambers. Stay focused on the major customers and charm the sell-side analysts that covered them. Build a world class team, set high goals for your sales team (give rousing speeches at Quota Club meetings in Hawaii), pay well and drive global growth to large customers.

But now we have the wave of internet and media companies where charm on a global scale matters. This new wave of leadership focuses on accessibility, charming the media, long on user-experience and number of users, shorter on hard engineering. Old school style back fires as Carol Bartz found out at Yahoo. Open communications like Larry Page's recent letter, mea culpa as Reed Hastings did at Netflix, charm on a global scale as Arianna Huffington did for the HuffPo and the relentless visibility of the very charming Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook fame are part of the global marketing machine.

The first group of CEOs were often engineering based and visible only in print -- rough was OK. The second group was often sales based -- smoother but customer focused and sometime visible on CNBC. Now we live in the era of the media-savvy CEO who is visible everywhere, all the time. Still technical, but the darlings of the tech press are the ones who know how to work the media, and social media, to their advantage.

But wait. Even today charm only goes so far. You still have to produce top line and net income growth for your investors. Charm and modern communication skills are essential in the media and internet world which is so over covered today, but they are a necessary but not sufficient condition for B2B success (unless, of course, you can get bought for technology before you figure out your revenue model).

So if you are in a B2B engineering-based product business focus on the fundamentals of your technology and your customers, but don't forget to hone your charm skills for this new era.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Tribal Knowledge is Treasure

We try to capture everything - we really do. But the reality is so much of our wisdom is in our heads and it's never more apparent than when trying to train someone new.

At FirstRain we have a new executive - the fabulous Daniela Barbosa who just joined us from Dow Jones. She's smart and experienced and I want to bring her up to speed as fast as possible but pointing her to our systems is, I know, simply insufficient. We think we capture everything about our users and workflow in our salesforce CRM system. We think we capture our contracts in Netsuite and our central wiki. But of course so much of the deep knowledge is tribal - to quote Wikipedia "Tribal knowledge is any unwritten information that is known within a tribe but often unknown outside of it."

The reality is that the really interesting stuff about your customers, your technology, why people truly buy is in people's heads. Our customer facing technical team knows the customer's workflow, the nuances of why they want one choice over another, what internal projects - and opposition - they are facing and need our system to help them solve. It's impossible to write it all down, and so it's crucial to share as much verbally as possible.

And it's one of the reasons that turnover can be so damaging to companies.

Sometimes turnover is good. If you want to change the culture of a company you typically will have to change 50% of the leadership -- or more as when Cadence fired it's entire executive team. If you want to dramatically change your strategy and go-to-market you have to change your business team -- as Dell is now bravely doing.

But short of dramatic change, turnover is expensive simply because you lose and have to re-learn so much tribal knowledge. Especially with your R&D team and with customer support. The R&D team knows where the bodies are buried in the code; the customer support team knows the truth about customer use and where they find value.

It is, of course, important to document the knowledge you have, but when you are growing and moving fast it is also important to value, and protect tribal knowledge and bring your team together frequently and efficiently to talk through and share what's in people's heads.

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