Hi, my name is Cameron.
Today we're going to be speaking about how to
create killer trend stories using data
that's inherently part of your business.
A few things about myself,
I help young companies that are facing developers
grow very quickly in a 24-month period.
I've worked with two companies in the past four years.
The first one is a company called Redis Labs.
We provide a fully-managed Redis as a service.
We've raised a total of $20 million in series B funding.
I've led our marketing operations as VP Marketing
for the past two years.
Under that, I've helped us to grow to more than
5,000 paying customers over an 18-month period.
And it's completely SaaS based.
And before that, I worked with a company called Newvem.
I was also an investor in this company.
What Newvem does, or what it was doing
before it was acquired, was analyzing Amazon
cost and usage, much as Trusted Advisor does
within the Amazon Cloud. We raised a total of $4 million in series A funding,
and we were acquired by a large MSP
So what you see here
is the result of a trend story at Newvem after being
in the market for six months.
The challenge that we had was
we made a funding announcement,
we made a G announcement and we're left with
very little to tell the public media.
After this story, and I'll give the example
in a few minutes, we had more than
1,000 unique visitors within 72 hours.
It was featured on VentureBeat,
and even Guy Kawasaki mentioned it
and also retweeted to social media feed.
And once we pushed this to our blog post,
as a blog post it achieved more than 10% of users
over 30 days and was one of the top 10 pieces of content
in our inbound marketing until we were acquired.
Marketing With Trend Stories
Why trend stories?
Why are these important?
These days, the objective, if you're trying to market
yourself to developers, is to earn their trust.
The best way to do this is to literally surround
the IT organization with content
about the problems that you're trying to solve.
It doesn't matter if the organization is one person,
if it's 10 people or 100 people.
At this stage in the game, developers are so suspicious.
I put this image of this cat for a very specific reason,
because a developer is suspicious,
isn't very trusting of brands, and is literally,
as I've always kind of fashioned it, like a little cat in your house that is a bit timid
and comes out and will scratch you
if you get too close to him or her.
There are great facts to substantiate this.
Forbes says that 67% of the IT-buying journey
is made with research. So this means that
when you're at a stage where you're selling your offering, if you get an inbound lead,
by the time a salesperson speaks to that lead,
they already know everything about your offering.
They're already speaking to your competitors,
and they're already armed with enough research
that they can have a real discussion. There isn't much education left
when you speak with a hot lead.
Secondly, if you are an early-stage company,
just raised series A or series B funds,
there's no way you're going to outbuy your way through.
You're not Oracle. It's not going to happen.
Number three is if you did go so far as to make
a funding announcement, or you made a G announcement,
or made product announcements, these are very great.
But it's very hard to get that consistent coverage
from influencers and from bloggers that are interfacing
with the people you're trying to engage.
The fourth one is there's a lot more to your business,
if you think about it, than just offering a service.
Because you're a specialist in the problems that
you're solving. You can literally transform a lot of the
data that you have, you probably don't even know about it,
and become an expert and literally a news channel
that will feed this news to people who want to see it.
The fifth thing, and probably the most important thing
is that when you make the right kind of story
and you promote it correctly,
it delivers itself time over time.
We still have articles, actually at Redis Labs,
you may not even believe it, but we still have content
that was published months back,
and bloggers are still referencing this content today.
Creating Trend Stories
So when it comes to creating trend stories,
there's really two different approaches.
The first one is hijacking stories.
And this literally means, let's say for example,
that you're a monitoring company.
If you see a lot of coverage from larger players,
the idea is to be a bit reactive, right?
It's to reach out to those blogs and say,
"Hey you know, this is what I'm doing. We're relevant as well."
This is a very difficult game to play.
It requires a lot of resources
and quite a bit of dedication.
The second one, and what I'm going to focus on today,
is curating content.
That's about discovering content that's behind the scenes,
creating it in a way that it's very easy for a blogger
influencer to understand, and to promote it.
There's three forms that we'll be discussing,
first one is customer data.
This is literally the data that you see within your system
that can substantiate a very interesting claim.
The second one is using lighthouse stories
from some of your best customers
to tell your story better than you can.
And the third one is using user behavior
of the community that you're engaged with.
Let's speak about getting customer data.
So imagine you have a few thousand customers,
it could be free users.
Why is the information that they have
inside of your system important?
The first one is, you may not know it,
but you actually are already an expert
in the domain that you're facing.
A good example of that is, at Newvem,
we were experts in how
users were using the Amazon Cloud.
They used our service because they wanted to reduce costs
and improve their usage of Amazon,
but we were able to see
what they were doing behind the scenes:
utilization, availability, cost and security. We literally had this awesome
treasure trove of data that an analyst
or blogger would die to see.
The second one is analysts and writers.
They love this stuff.
Because, as an expert in this space,
they don't want to hear an opinion.
They don't want to hear someone's perspective.
They want to see real numbers and real facts
to substantiate why that community actually is relevant.
The third thing is if you create content
and you produce it right,
and you do it in a very concise way,
it's very easy for a blogger to digest
and, ideally, to promote.
So the main message here is that there's much more
to customers than just looking at them as dollar bills.
Let's look at an example of that.
This actually goes back to the example
that I started off with. So six months, you know,
great, we've got this great visibility.
We're growing, but we don't see
a consistent amount of visibility
in the bloggers that we're trying to engage.
We're just a startup,
at the time we were based in Tel Aviv.
We're off the map.
So we had been thinking, "How can we show some kind of
expertise in something that's important
in the Amazon Cloud today?"
We saw, at the time, there was a lot of buzz
about reserved instances,
which I'm sure you guys know about, so I won't go into that.
But no one really knew what it is,
so there was lots of talking heads.
Like, "Reserved instances are good." "They're bad."
"The reserved instance is like the death of the Amazon Cloud."
"It's the birth of the Amazon cloud." It's just crazy!
There's too much talk about it.
So we decided, "Let's take a look at the data
of our users, that are using reserved instances, and see what they're using it for."
We created a cool report which I'll show in just a second.
We made it into an infographic, which
an infographic could be debated today,
but at the time it was an easily-digestible piece
of content for developers in the space.
We fed this to a writer at VentureBeat,
and he took it like crazy. It was amazing.
It was retweeted across the social space,
including Guy Kawasaki.
And the end result of this, and the end result of
any kind of activity like this, is going back to
surrounding your end user with content.
We established ourselves as an expert
in reserved instances.
And as a result of this, for the next
10-12 months before we were acquired,
I would still get phone calls and emails
from analysts and writers that were saying,
"Hey Cameron. I want to know more about
reserved instances. What do you guys see?"
Using Customer Data
Let's go into some steps that you can easily execute.
Now this is not a prescription, all right?
It depends on how your business works.
But here's a few guidelines on how to come up with
a great story based on customer data.
First one is take a very deep dive into what your
customers are doing, and take a look at the full funnel
from the time that you see them coming to your site,
where they're coming from, when they come,
all the way to when they try, when they buy
and when they leave.
Go very deep into this and see if there's any data
that you can match and latch onto
for a very popular trend.
Second thing is when you take a lot of this data,
and your sample is statistically referenceable,
you can essentially anonymize the data. That means you're not speaking about
what a customer did with this data.
The third thing is create a very simple report.
This is an example of an infographic. I mean, it looks kind of crazy, but
what you can't see behind this infographic
was the pitch that we gave to the bloggers,
and it was very simple.
We took three main takeaways. Right? Takeaway one, two, three, do you want to see more?
See below, and we would list out
all the data points that we had.
This created a response, not necessarily a yes,
but at least a means for us to make a discussion
with that blogger.
Once you identify the top-tier bloggers you want to engage,
find a lighthouse blogger or influencer
that will lead in a break-in,
stratifying the one with the largest microphone.
At the time it was a cloud writer at VentureBeat.
Then take it to your social channels,
take it to secondary influencers.
Once you get this initial burst, you can then
take it to your own blog, post it as a blog post,
and push it out to your community and your leads.
Using Customer Stories
The second one is a customer story.
Now, it's not a case study.
Case studies are great, but what a customer story
really is about is figuring out how you can ride,
how you can make their success your success.
Why is this important?
Bloggers and analysts don't really want to hear about you.
They don't want to hear from you. It's annoying.
It's like vendor blah-blah.
Your customers will tell you the best stories,
especially when you find high-visibility ones.
Second one is no one cares about you
after your funding announcement.
No one's going to listen to you.
No one's going to open up the emails. Nada.
The third one is when you can solve the customer's
end challenge, and not like an infrastructure challenge.
But think about how you could help a large
consumer-facing application, to solve a challenge of
how they were able to keep their shopping cart up-time
by 99%, or how they're able to win Black Friday,
or Cyber Monday, and I'll talk about an example
about how we did that exactly in a moment.
The fourth thing, and it's
probably one of the biggest secrets that I think
is in this space, is all of the marketing PR efforts,
in any of these companies, is all pushed
to their main offering.
It's not pushed to their R&D team.
So the R&D team is actually, in PR currency, very poor.
They don't have a spotlight onto the technology,
and as a result, they can't create a nice pipeline
of talented developers to join the company.
Let's see an example of that.
Redis Labs last year, it was November.
Just came back from Amazon re:Invent,
boring time, right?
Can't do anything with these leads.
Bloggers are going home. The whole business is,
not our business, but everything just seems to be
coming down to a slump. So this is
a great opportunity for us to look at
what's happening right now and ride on that
with a really easily understood story.
We thought a lot of people who use Redis
are ecommerce sites and travel sites,
and they're facing huge challenges
with Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
So I thought, "Let's create a story on how
a great, well-known ecommerce or travel company
really won Black Friday and Cyber Monday,
and Redis was a key part of that win."
I shopped around. One of our lighthouse customers
is Hotel Tonight.
CTO was like, "Yeah, this is kind of interesting to me." I said, "This is a great opportunity for you,
not just to, you know, give some love back to
Hotel Tonight, but it's also a great way to give love back
to how you actually built the technology in the stack out.
Not to mention we're going to put this in front
of some awesome developers that are going to see that,
and that could turn into some nice
developer pipeline for you."
Created a nice story, said, "Yeah, as a matter of fact,
we had a pretty big load for a promotion that we ran,
and thank God for Redis."
"This is great, let's run with that."
So the story was very simple, you know,
how Hotel Tonight, if you can't read that,
it's how Hotel Tonight handles the demand
for instant booking and check-ins.
He featured a challenge that they had which was we had this seven-dollar reservation deal,
and traffic increased eightfold,
and a key component of how we were able to handle that
Writer took that, made a great story
and told the story about Redis better than we could
as a vendor.
In this article we had eight mentions of Redis,
and he literally said, "It's just
a must-have part of your stack." It was great.
We were able to get in that discussion about how
a very specific customer type is using our solution
One important note that I want to add here is
many cases, if you're fortunate enough on
TechCrunch or VentureBeat, or some of these
high-visibility blogs, you may not get linked
anymore to your site.
The days of expecting huge waterfalls because
they link you are officially, effectively over with.
You might get lucky, but it doesn't always happen. So many cases they'll link back to the CrunchBase page.
They might link back to a blog post. They might link back,
in this case they even put some links
to open-source Redis, which is still very good.
The goal here is you want to be part of that discussion,
and again, to surround your user base with content.
How can you do this?
One is find customers that you have
that are celebrity customers.
It doesn't matter if it's consumer-facing companies
or B2B-facing companies,
find them in your own customer base.
If you don't have them as customers, find them as leads.
If you can't find them as leads,
find them in your respective communities.
Go on Twitter, look for them.
And even if you have to onboard them to bring them
as part of the story, probably will be worth it for you.
The second thing in what really separates this, from
being a practical case study into a real customer story,
is you've got to find timeliness in the industry.
Forget about going to the typical
You need to go to consumer-facing bloggers
in the industry that you're trying to engage.
In this case we were not really touching so much
developer-facing bloggers. We're touching guys
that are covering B-to-C startups, travel.
Number three is create a very simply,
easily-digestible story that a blogger can easily look at, look at like three main takeaways,
and tell you yes or no.
Four is pitching to the number one R&D challenges.
Which is they can't find developers.
I need them in my company.
Or I found the developers but I cannot keep them focused
on what I really want them to do.
And number five is promote it very aggressively
with your tier-one bloggers you want to engage.
And then circulate it in the same way as we discussed.
Looking at User Behavior
The last one is about user behavior.
User behavior is going outside of your customer box, and taking a look at
the community you're trying to engage,
and making sense about what's important to them
outside of how your offering impacts them.
Why is this important?
First, it's actually fun and it's fairly easy to collect
because you're suddenly having a discussion with a lead
that isn't really about your offering. It's actually about
the general problems that they're suffering from. The second one is it surprisingly builds
great rapport with prospective customers
and also your current customers.
Actually, surprisingly, people like to discuss
their general challenges.
And when you come in as a consultant,
it's very easy to establish a meaningful discussion.
Number three, it creates a sense of priority
to get a little bit deeper with your current customers
and understand how you can take some of that feedback
and incorporate it into your product roadmap.
I put this image here for a specific reason.
This is a screenshot of people who
are just sitting at Amazon re:Invent.
Most cases, when you're a vendor and you're
sponsoring the event, I've sponsored at every one of
the events, it's very easy to look at all of these
guys as leads that will eventually buy my offer.
But in reality, what you have here are really impressive
people that know how to use the Amazon Cloud
and either paid or had someone pay for them to go
to this event, and therefore they have a tremendous
amount of knowledge you can actually benefit from.
Let's look at a real example of this in action. It was November last year.
The Hotel Tonight story came out, nice.
Again, dead. It's November, right?
We came back from the Amazon event,
and you know, practically can't do anything
until the beginning of the year
because it's November/December.
So I looked at the leads that we had generated,
and I thought, "You know, one of the challenges
that we have is Redis is an In-Memory NoSQL database,
and it's a fairly new one,
so the discussions tend to be around that,
In-Memory databases, NoSQL databases."
The challenge was how can I get into a discussion
that is much bigger, that's out of that?
So I took a look at these leads that we've collected.
I'm like, "These are some of the most
pristine Amazon users.
Let's run a survey and see how they
run databases on Amazon Cloud, and therefore it will help us to establish some type
of expertise in how to deploy a managed database
on the Amazon Cloud."
So we created 10 questions,
10 very simple questions, all mandatory,
just clicking buttons,
drop-down boxes and I'll show an example in just a moment.
We took a very aggressive approach
in that I wanted to see results,
and I wanted them to be specifically referenceable.
You get a survey result and you have 10 people
respond to it.
The end result here is we emailed this to
roughly 1,000 leads, and we had more than
a hundred actually respond to the survey,
which is a very high conversion rate.
The reasoning for that is
we kept a very focused effort.
No one wants to complete a survey.
So what we do is
we gave an offer that developers love, which are drones,
a chance to win an awesome DJI Phantom II drone.
Someone is going to win in 72 hours.
Complete this in 72 hours.
Email one goes out on hour zero,
and email two goes out after 48 hours,
and the winner was drawn.
72 hours, the story was finished,
and the data was collected.
Suddenly we could actually join discussions
that a lot of influencers were making out of,
I don't know, in spite of their own knowledge.
The one thing that personally irritated me is
I would see some of these stories that are like,
"NoSQL is the death of SQL" and,
"Relational databases are here to stay,"
and "NoSQL is only used for some stupid use case."
What the data that we collected proved
is that with hard data we showed
that developers have a very wide variety of databases.
And, actually, the most popular database is MySQL,
and they use Redis, Cassandra, Mongo, all in conjunction.
Surprisingly enough, the databases are usually used
to support a very specific use case.
So we mapped it out, we had numbers to prove it,
and we took this PR firm that we're working with,
we took it over to VentureBeat.
Most of these examples use VentureBeat but
it's not inclusive to VentureBeat.
He took it and within, I think it was around 48 hours,
it was up. And it was awesome.
You wouldn't believe it, but even today,
I still see that this data is actually referenced
in a lot of talk about what database is right
for specific use cases.
So how can you do that?
This is probably the most interesting one,
probably the one that, at your fingertips, you can do today.
First of all, challenge yourself by
trying to find a wider topic.
I'll go back to the example of
a monitoring application.
You can, if you stay in the bucket of
monitoring-specific, I don't know, topic,
interesting. But if you want to be part of a wider discussion,
try to find something that's pertinent today,
and zero in on that.
Surveys With Incentives
Number two is create a very simple survey.
I've always stuck with 10 questions tops.
Each of them are mandatory.
And each of them is multiple choice drop-down box.
There's no probes here, right?
I would like the end user to complete this survey,
in the same way that I would, which is like,
one minute maximum. I don't have time for this stuff.
Test the questions with your developer consiglieri.
The developer consiglieri are your
top-10, closest developers. Maybe they participated in your beta program. They're most responsive to you.
Test them out, and make sure that all the
questions that you're asking are relevant.
The design, after testing this,
and my assumption always was true,
is that the design should look like it was totally effortless.
In this case we used a template from SurveyMonkey.
We didn't use any investment into that, something very very simple.
And definitely just on one page.
Nothing that you have to click through
to complete the survey, something super super easy.
Irresistible incentive, find what that is.
Maybe drones are too old now. I have no idea.
But they always worked.
Make it worth it. Who cares about winning $50?
I want to win an awesome drone.
Something that's really meaningful.
As a result of this, you can literally
become a news source.
One thing that's really important to mention about this
is, if it works,
if it gets coverage and it gets interest,
you can take the same kind of survey and you
can replicate it on a quarterly, biannual
and, even, annual basis.
You're literally giving reports every quarter
about the stage of X topic.
Now you've made these great
efforts to get coverage, what else can you do with
the efforts that you've already invested your time into?The end result is just you have really
good collateral that can be applied in different
parts of your business, depending upon the stage.
Probably the most explicit one is you can use this
and you can implement this as part of your sales channel.
Think about, "How I can put this into a nurturing campaign?"
Sales guys are notoriously coin-operated.
And this is actually a really great icebreaker.
If you have a rapport, like some of our sales guys
will call up and say, "Hey, you know, we just did a report
on how databases are proficient over the Amazon Cloud. Do you want it?"
It's a great way to start a discussion.
The definitely-great pieces of content that you can
push to your community in your newsletter.
If you're working with an open-source community,
it's a great way to help grow that community as well.
Adding it within social profiles and signatures
is also a great thing.
Another thing I wanted to add here is
as a recruiting tool it's also very powerful because
it helps you to establish some type of precedence,
credibility within the domain that you're engaging.
That's it. My name is Cameron. You can reach me
on Twitter at @cameronperon. Feel free to open up a discussion on that.
I love to chat on that.
If you have any questions,
please email me at this email address.
I'm currently phasing out of my role as VP Marketing
at Redis Labs. And I'm looking into new opportunities
to partner with talented guys
and do something pretty amazing.
Qualifying Celebrity Customers
Yeah, that's a really good question. The short answer is just find the ones that get the most buzz.
In our case, Redis is part of a stack
for most B2C-facing companies.
It's almost impossible not to use Redis.
Naturally, it's very easy for us to
look for unicorn, or unicorn-close companies
that were there. So a good way to quantify that is
cross-reference them like on CrunchBase.
See how much they raised. Look at Alexa rankings.
If you have a huge list, and you don't have time for that,
just outsource it on Odesk.
Is Alexa Relevent?
It gives you a guess on how much Web traffic they're
engaged in. If that's important to you,
it can kind of give you a sense of
how well your application
or your solution is supporting that, right?
For example, Hotel Tonight was
a good one for us at the time because
I had identified them as something I use.
For me that was a pretty easy one.
And they're really hot right now.
It was pretty natural for me to go over there
and start this discussion.
Depending upon what you're doing,
you might be solving a problem that
they don't want to have any exposure to, right?
So it's always important to find out how
their success was your success.
The questions that
I always ask customers like this
is how they solved a problem related to
a trend that I saw outside.
So for ecommerce, a pretty simple one was,
you know, Black Friday, Cyber Monday.
That was a pretty easy one.
If you're working with something that's really tricky
like, let's say something that's related to security,
that's a very tough one because in many cases,
people don't want to have visibility to
problems that shouldn't have happened in the first place.
I would always try to frame the question is such a way
where you help them to solve a problem,
like on a new project,
as opposed to solving something that was a failure. Like how you helped them to improve a specific use case.
This is how I would try to do it.
Many of the customers that we worked with,
even for case studies, they simply don't want
the exposure, right?
It's like a cultural thing for them.
But I always go back to like, "Alright,
let's talk about how maybe we helped you
with something very simple or something that
wasn't as business-pertinent, or maybe it was for a new project.
And yeah, if a blogger doesn't want it,
I'm a firm believer in you give people
what they want, not what they need.
So if they don't want it, then you've got to go back
and find someone else
or frame the story better.
Endorsement Deals With Customers
Oh, I don't like that.
Yeah, yeah, this could definitely be debated. I hear people doing this.
I think this is a huge mistake.
I've never done that. Fortunately I've never done that, and I've always found
this is really ugly.
It depends what size the company is. Let's say that you
find a really awesome Fortune-500 company,
The thing is if you
close a deal like that, it usually has to go through
several different layers
within this company you don't really have any touch, with
like the PR or legal, and this can get really ugly.
And then what?
I mean, then if he doesn't agree, you have to say,
"Oh well, you signed on the contract?"
I mean, this is a stupid discussion.
It can work.
But I really want to try to find a way that
I helped the customer to win. I helped not the business, but
the specific person that's using the solution,
how I helped them to win. And I really want them to reflect on the story.
Literally I want to make him famous.
This is the business proposition. I'm going to help you
to make your stack and your work famous
because your PR firm is never going to do that.
And, as a result of this, I'm going to help you find
probably some great developers that will be
inspired by what you've done.
When to Use Customer Data
Yeah, yeah. That's a good question.
I think it really depends how you phrase it, right?
At Newvem we analyzed four main categories at Amazon.
One was cost, availability, usage and security.
Security was really interesting because we had
crazy insights. We showed that something like more than
half of the Amazon Clouds we were analyzing
had a security vulnerability of some kind, right? It was crazy.
We didn't when we took this to the press.
But the reason why we did so is
we want to expose some of the problems that people are
facing and show you how you can remedy these problems by taking these kinds of steps,
or you can use our offering to help you resolve that.
That's how we went about doing that.
I never encountered any kind of negative feedback
about that. On the contrary, I had people that were like,
"Thank you for letting me know about that."
Or suddenly we would see an increase in the amount of
secure measures that many of our customers took.
I think it really is how you phrase that up.
You definitely can not share how,
you know, a specific customer did it,
but I think it's actually very informative.
Especially if you're in a specific niche.
I'll use the example of an ecommerce.
But if you see a category as part of your business
that's very popular, and you share best practices,
you share the problem and best practice in how to
resolve that, and by the way, I can do it for you, too.
I think it's a great win.
The real problem, though, actually, on that is
how the blogger, or the influencer, or whoever's
going to publish that information externally,
how they decide to message it out.
And you don't really have that much control over that.
I don't know, some cases this could be manipulated, but I haven't really encountered
a problem with that in the past where
it came out as being creepy or there's some kind of
negative repercussions with that.
Measuring Web Traffic's Effect on Sales
Oh, that's a good question. Yeah, right?
What's the point of all this stuff, right?
So the answer is that if you're a good marketing person,
you answer this by looking at the influence that that has on your sales flow.
I think that the days of getting one-offs, I've seen it, we've done it in the past,
where we get great funding announcement
or great trend story, and we get some really
awesome early adapters from great companies
that will try and buy, right?
But when you look at any kind of conversion funnel,
I think it's really critical that you map out
the metrics that are important to you.
And this is really far down the pipe
than trying to close a deal from that.
So I always go back to showing how we were able to
surround this IT organization with content.
You can even apply a share voice metric
as the good PR firm will try to do.
But it's really with this education
that I've seen over time
an increase, when we see the increase of visibility
that we get from external media like blog posts,
on blogs outside, and the amount of
organic traffic that comes to the homepage,
and the amount of free users and paid users.
I see a very positive correlation,
and usually an explosive growth in the last two.
So the short answer is these all work together.
It is not like I will
invest my time into a blog post that will be published
on TechCrunch, or VentureBeat or some other site,
therefore, I will get paying customers.
I don't think it's realistic.
All right, cool. Thanks guys.