Managing the Private Cloud at 35,000 Feet| By |Ariel Maislos

On a recent business trip, I remembered how significant the challenges of managing a Private Cloud (or any data center) operation model can be. Without reliable voice and video communication, and sometimes low-bandwidth data connectivity, tools used have to sip data, not gulp it. They also need to work offline whenever you’re doing something that doesn’t require connecting to an external service or server. Even in cases when you’re working with Public Clouds, most of the same challenges exist. With minimal space to work, using a full function laptop may just not be an option. So what tools can you use to get the job done?

  1. A text editor or code editor. Scripting and minor coding is something that can easily be done between airports. You may not be able to test if there’s no in-flight Wi-Fi, but you can tap out scripts to have them ready to go when you land. The key here is simplicity in the interface, and support for multiple scripting/coding languages. You don’t want to have 18 different sidebars or pages and pages of settings just to get to the point where you can start typing code. Whichever product you choose, make sure it can sync with the cloud file service of your choice. You will need to be able to move this stuff between your desktop, tablet and laptop quickly and easily.
  2. An SSH client. There’s a ton of these for iPad and Android, and of course you can use the native tools on Mac and Linux, as well as alternatives like PuTTY for Windows. You’re going to want to use your cloud platform’s web interface for as much as you can, but nothing can replace SSH for a lot of common tasks. Have one in your tool-kit, and for the tablet tools make sure you pre-configure the servers you’ll use and test the connections before you leave for your trip. Make sure they also have any key pairs you need to log into VM’s and services. Nothing is more frustrating than realizing you can’t log into a VM because you’re using keypair authentication and your tablet doesn’t have a way to just grab a key file.
  3. A robust web browser. Safari mobile and Microsoft Edge are not bad browsers for most general use operations. Cloud software/provider web interfaces are not, however, general use. They leverage a lot of JavaScript, sometimes even use plugins, etc. I’d recommend using a third-party browser like Chrome or Firefox portable on your tablet devices; or the full-function browser of your choice on your laptop. Double-check before you leave that these tablet browsers are set to emulate desktop so that they don’t identify themselves as portable browsers and hamstring you while in-flight.
  4. A VPN client and service. Your company may provide this for you, and that’s not a bad thing – use it! For those cases where VPN connectivity isn’t required (such as accessing the AWS websites), or where your company doesn’t provide VPN services for you; remember you’re still sharing a network on-board with dozens of other people. Since you’re probably touching systems that contain proprietary or confidential info, you don’t want your browser leaking into to everyone on the plane with a packet sniffer going. So even if your company doesn’t provide a VPN for you to use, invest in a personal VPN to at least get your traffic outside the plane in an encrypted stream. I have personally used Witopia (witopia.net) as they support just about every device out there from desktops/laptops on Windows, Mac and Linux to iDevices, Android phones and tablets, and Windows-based tablets. One annual fee and you’re safely getting your data stream outside the in-flight wireless provider without anyone being able to snoop on it along the way.
  5. Instant Messaging clients. If your company uses Slack, Skype for Business or other messaging platforms, make sure they’re on your mobile devices and set up for the lowest bandwidth use possible. Slack, for example, can shut off trying to download and display video and images unless you purposely click on them. This ensures you can keep in touch with your team in close to real time, but not have to wait half an hour just because someone posted a .gif to the chat channel.
  6. Mobile versions of your business applications. If you’re using Google Apps, Microsoft Office, etc., make sure you’ve downloaded and configured them prior to boarding. Nothing will bring productivity to a halt than to find out you need to open a document to edit it, only to find that you forgot to install MS Word or configure Google Docs for offline use. Open each app you will use while you’re still on the ground, as most will need to periodically re-check. Your subscription or perform a login operation – something you don’t want to have to do at 35,000 feet – or may not be able to do if there is no in-flight Wi-Fi.
  7. A Cloud File Sync service provider that allows for selective sync of specific folders to mobile devices. This allows you to hold your work product someplace that will end up synced between devices, but not have to worry about a dozen GB of data all getting dumped into your mobile device’s memory. Set up a folder for work-in-travel, and place what you’ll be working on when you’re traveling into that folder. Ensure that all your other tools can also save their data to that sync service in order to make sure anything new you create also gets sync’d up. DropBox and many other tools have this functionality and integrate seamlessly into tons of mobile applications.
  8. Possibly not required, but definitely recommended – grab a combination external battery and Wi-Fi router. The battery is a lifesaver on longer flights if the aircraft you’re on doesn’t have in-seat USB charging ports for your tablet. The Wi-Fi router can make your hotel stays a lot easier since you can just connect the router to the hotel Wi-Fi and have all your devices connect to the router. No more trying to get every device individually walked through the captive network logon, and no more individual fees for each and every device just to get online. I’ve used HooToo products for years, and they’re great. They make several, so pick the one that has the battery size you want, as they all handle the Wi-Fi router functionality excellently. Bonus: Most come with multiple USB charge ports, so your seat mates will love you when there’s just one outlet to share between the whole row.

Now that you’re properly armed for working at the speed of flight (or train, etc.), you can get out there and be productive while you wait to arrive at your destination!

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Managing the Private Cloud at 35,000 Feet| By |Ariel Maislos

On a recent business trip, I remembered how significant the challenges of managing a Private Cloud (or any data center) operation model can be. Without reliable voice and video communication, and sometimes low-bandwidth data connectivity, tools used have to sip data, not gulp it. They also need to work offline whenever you’re doing something that doesn’t require connecting to an external service or server. Even in cases when you’re working with Public Clouds, most of the same challenges exist. With minimal space to work, using a full function laptop may just not be an option. So what tools can you use to get the job done?

  1. A text editor or code editor. Scripting and minor coding is something that can easily be done between airports. You may not be able to test if there’s no in-flight Wi-Fi, but you can tap out scripts to have them ready to go when you land. The key here is simplicity in the interface, and support for multiple scripting/coding languages. You don’t want to have 18 different sidebars or pages and pages of settings just to get to the point where you can start typing code. Whichever product you choose, make sure it can sync with the cloud file service of your choice. You will need to be able to move this stuff between your desktop, tablet and laptop quickly and easily.
  2. An SSH client. There’s a ton of these for iPad and Android, and of course you can use the native tools on Mac and Linux, as well as alternatives like PuTTY for Windows. You’re going to want to use your cloud platform’s web interface for as much as you can, but nothing can replace SSH for a lot of common tasks. Have one in your tool-kit, and for the tablet tools make sure you pre-configure the servers you’ll use and test the connections before you leave for your trip. Make sure they also have any key pairs you need to log into VM’s and services. Nothing is more frustrating than realizing you can’t log into a VM because you’re using keypair authentication and your tablet doesn’t have a way to just grab a key file.
  3. A robust web browser. Safari mobile and Microsoft Edge are not bad browsers for most general use operations. Cloud software/provider web interfaces are not, however, general use. They leverage a lot of JavaScript, sometimes even use plugins, etc. I’d recommend using a third-party browser like Chrome or Firefox portable on your tablet devices; or the full-function browser of your choice on your laptop. Double-check before you leave that these tablet browsers are set to emulate desktop so that they don’t identify themselves as portable browsers and hamstring you while in-flight.
  4. A VPN client and service. Your company may provide this for you, and that’s not a bad thing – use it! For those cases where VPN connectivity isn’t required (such as accessing the AWS websites), or where your company doesn’t provide VPN services for you; remember you’re still sharing a network on-board with dozens of other people. Since you’re probably touching systems that contain proprietary or confidential info, you don’t want your browser leaking into to everyone on the plane with a packet sniffer going. So even if your company doesn’t provide a VPN for you to use, invest in a personal VPN to at least get your traffic outside the plane in an encrypted stream. I have personally used Witopia (witopia.net) as they support just about every device out there from desktops/laptops on Windows, Mac and Linux to iDevices, Android phones and tablets, and Windows-based tablets. One annual fee and you’re safely getting your data stream outside the in-flight wireless provider without anyone being able to snoop on it along the way.
  5. Instant Messaging clients. If your company uses Slack, Skype for Business or other messaging platforms, make sure they’re on your mobile devices and set up for the lowest bandwidth use possible. Slack, for example, can shut off trying to download and display video and images unless you purposely click on them. This ensures you can keep in touch with your team in close to real time, but not have to wait half an hour just because someone posted a .gif to the chat channel.
  6. Mobile versions of your business applications. If you’re using Google Apps, Microsoft Office, etc., make sure you’ve downloaded and configured them prior to boarding. Nothing will bring productivity to a halt than to find out you need to open a document to edit it, only to find that you forgot to install MS Word or configure Google Docs for offline use. Open each app you will use while you’re still on the ground, as most will need to periodically re-check. Your subscription or perform a login operation – something you don’t want to have to do at 35,000 feet – or may not be able to do if there is no in-flight Wi-Fi.
  7. A Cloud File Sync service provider that allows for selective sync of specific folders to mobile devices. This allows you to hold your work product someplace that will end up synced between devices, but not have to worry about a dozen GB of data all getting dumped into your mobile device’s memory. Set up a folder for work-in-travel, and place what you’ll be working on when you’re traveling into that folder. Ensure that all your other tools can also save their data to that sync service in order to make sure anything new you create also gets sync’d up. DropBox and many other tools have this functionality and integrate seamlessly into tons of mobile applications.
  8. Possibly not required, but definitely recommended – grab a combination external battery and Wi-Fi router. The battery is a lifesaver on longer flights if the aircraft you’re on doesn’t have in-seat USB charging ports for your tablet. The Wi-Fi router can make your hotel stays a lot easier since you can just connect the router to the hotel Wi-Fi and have all your devices connect to the router. No more trying to get every device individually walked through the captive network logon, and no more individual fees for each and every device just to get online. I’ve used HooToo products for years, and they’re great. They make several, so pick the one that has the battery size you want, as they all handle the Wi-Fi router functionality excellently. Bonus: Most come with multiple USB charge ports, so your seat mates will love you when there’s just one outlet to share between the whole row.

Now that you’re properly armed for working at the speed of flight (or train, etc.), you can get out there and be productive while you wait to arrive at your destination!

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Are Companies Rushing Into the Cloud Without Knowing How to Keep Their Infrastructure Safe?| By |David Libby

While cloud adoption seems to be rising, according to a recent report from McAfee, security confidence still seems to be in the fog. “The problem,” says Tom Smith, Research Analyst at DZone.com, “is the code and applications hosted in the cloud have inherent security flaws because companies are more interested in getting a product to market and generating revenue than they are ensuring their applications, and the data they are collecting is secure.”

Smith, who has had the opportunity to speak to hundreds of IT executives about cloud computing, security, and many other IT issues, has found that there is “still a tremendous lack of knowledge, expertise, and trained professionals focused on security and everyone should be relying on the recommended ‘security best practices’ and security tools provided by the major public cloud vendors.”

People Are People

CloudSploit’s Founder Matt Fuller begs to differ. Most cloud security failure is the user’s fault. Fuller recommends that vendors continually monitor for security and configuration vulnerabilities. “Even the most secure cloud providers only offer security of the cloud,” says Fuller. “The user is responsible for security in the cloud. As groups, roles, and devices change, oversights and misconfigurations open vulnerabilities that lead to outright hacks. Unfortunately, a single misstep can compromise your entire infrastructure.”

But, even the most diligent may not be able to keep up the pace. “Today, the average company is utilizing hundreds of cloud apps and may not even know all of them,” says Nick Belov, Chief Information Security Officer at Computer Generated Solutions, Inc. “Know and understand where your sensitive and confidential data is stored and processed. Ensure that those systems are evaluated by a credible security assessor, and review the results.”

The Data is Key

According to a recent report from Thales e-Security, two of the top three concerns of adoption and data security within cloud environments are 1) 60% of enterprises would increase cloud use if cloud service providers offered data encryption in the cloud with enterprise key control and 2) ‘lack of control over the location of data’ (55%).

“Safeguard the data,” advises Jim Crook, Senior Product Marketing Manager at CTERA. “Make sure you own user identities, metadata, encryption keys and always control, data residency, network countermeasures and internal and external sharing policies.”

“This is what the good guys need to do before the bad boys get there,” says cybersecurity expert Ashwin Krishnan. He recommends identifying the sensitive assets in the cloud, encrypting the same, and most importantly keeping the encryption keys locally or on another cloud. The “rationale being it is akin to keeping all your key assets in a safe deposit in a bank and keeping the keys to the vault in the same bank.” Not the best of ideas.

Help is On the Way

The Thales e-Security additionally reported highlights that organizations interested in both taking advantage of advanced technologies and keeping data secure can do including:

  1. Consider deploying security tool sets that offer services-based deployments, platforms and automation;
  2. Discover and classify the location of sensitive data within cloud and SaaS environments
  3. Leverage encryption and Bring Your Own Key (BYOK) technologies

“100% of companies have been hacked,” adds Smith. “The good ones know this and have taken steps to mitigate the damage done and the information lost. The ignorant ones stick their ‘heads in the sand’ and refuse to admit it – ignorance is bliss.” At least it is until you’re lost in the cloud.

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WordPress Hosting: Does it Really Matter Where You Host?| By |Cam Secore

There are a lot of articles and blog posts about the general question of what host do you need. Most of these articles address the needs of the common webmaster, regardless of what CMS he or she is going to use or what the users really wants to do with his or her website. But, there are fewer articles that concretely talk about what specifically the WordPress user needs. Does it really matter what host you use for WordPress? It’s such a common CMS, so every host should be able to host it, right? Not exactly. While nearly every host meets the minimum specifications, there are other things that you need to think about with this CMS. WordPress is easy to host, but you need the right host to make the most of your experience.

Minimum Requirements

WordPress has a very small list of minimum requirements. The host needs to have at least PHP 5.2.4 installed and they must use MySQL 5 databases (the version numbers might change in the future). PHP is required because this is the programming language that WordPress is built with, so it would be impossible to run the CMS without PHP. MySQL databases are needed because they hold the information, such as posts and account information, that blogs need. If you are comparing hosts, then I can guarantee you that at least 9 out of 10 will match these minimum requirements, so that doesn’t help answer our question.

Number of Databases

This is something that a lot of people don’t think about when it comes to WordPress. Unless you plan on just building one blog, the number of databases will be incredibly important. You’ll need at least one database for each WordPress installation. Not one per domain, but one per installation. Some people might have to install this CMS more than once on a domain. This is especially true if you have subdomains or just want different blogs on the same domain for some reason (rare, but it does happen). Most hosts offer multiple databases, but be sure to check what the host is offering before spending a dime. Make sure that you are getting enough databases for your needs. Automated

Installation

Installing WordPress by yourself is fairly difficult. Some would even consider it impossible if you aren’t tech savvy. You need to manually access the database, use shell coding, work with phpMyAdmin and so on. It’s a real pain, and it turns this simple CMS into a nightmare. So we can safely say that 99% of WordPress users will need automated installation. The good news is that this is easy to find. There are tons of hosts, like BlueHost, that advertise their “One-Click WordPress Installer!” There are also other hosts that market themselves specifically as WordPress hosts because they have the same technology. However, almost every host that uses cPanel (which is most of them) will have this same feature, but they often advertise it in different words.

For example, you might see that many of the best hosts offer Fantastico, SimpleScripts or Softaculous. All of these are automated script installers that can install scripts like WordPress, Drupal and ZenCart, just to name a few. While automated installation certainly isn’t a requirement, it’ll be a necessity if you don’t want to go through the trouble of a manual installation. However, once again, most good hosts are going to offer this feature because people love it and it’s standard with cPanel. Some other control panels have this as well, but it’s standard with cPanel hosting.

Resources

Do bandwidth and disk space matter? To the common webmaster they certainly do. However, we are talking specifically about the needs of the average WordPress user. You have probably seen a lot of blog posts and articles talking about the evils of unlimited bandwidth and disk space and how this is impossible and not worth the money. However, let’s take a step back and really examine the resources needed for this CMS. WordPress needs very little disk space, so much so that it’s not worth mentioning in the minimum requirements. The CMS just needs 4MB of space, and even active blogs (dozens or hundreds of 1,000-word posts) will just need about 50MB to 100MB of disk space. While unlimited disk space is vague, you can usually expect to get 1GB or more (usually more), which makes this more than enough. Unlimited bandwidth is another issue, but once again, the pages are very small. You normally get about 10GB of bandwidth from these hosts, which should be enough even if you get an active readership. So, even unlimited hosts will satisfy your blog, at least at first. While you might need to scale up, you can easily scrape by with even mediocre hosting like this.

Security

I’ll be honest right now: WordPress isn’t the most secure application. It’s hard to crack, but not so much that hackers can’t get into it. Obviously you don’t want hackers to break into your blog, but there’s only so much that you can do. You can use strong passwords, limit access and check access logs, but your host needs to help you out, too. A good WordPress host will do several things to help keep you safe. First of all, the host needs to have the latest version of this CMS because this program is constantly updated to fix existing security problems and exploits. The host should also be willing to help you if there is a problem (ask your host now or before buying hosting to see what they will do). Lastly, the host should also backup your data on a daily basis and help you recover your website so that any damage is reversed. While most hosts will backup the data and have the latest WordPress version, it’s a little harder to find hosts that will actively help you fix the website once it’s hacked.

Conclusion

So, does it really matter which host you use? Kind of, but not as much as you would think. While you need a host that will meet the minimum requirements, this describes most modern hosts. You should also get enough databases and resources, but once again, most modern hosts will offer more than enough for your needs if you are just starting out. Honestly, it’s best to just pick a good general host, be it shared, VPS or dedicated, to host your blog. Most hosts will give you everything you need, so just be sure to get enough resources and security so that you can comfortably operate your blog.

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Continuous Integration and Delivery Require Continuous Cost Control| By |Jay Chapel

continuous cost controlToday, we propose a new concept to add to the DevOps mindset: Continuous Cost Control.

In DevOps, speed and continuity are king. Continuous Operations, Continuous Delivery, Continuous Integration. Keep everything running and get new features in the hands of users quickly.

For some organizations, this approach leads to a mindset of “speed at any cost”. Especially in the era of easily consumable public cloud, this results in a habit of wasted spend and blown budgets – which may, of course, meet the goals for delivery. But remember that a goal of Continuous Delivery is sustainability. This applies to the coding and backend of the application, but also to the business side.

With that in mind, we get to the cost of development and operations. At some point in every organization’s lifecycle comes the need to control costs. Perhaps it’s when your system or product reaches a certain level of predictability or maturity – i.e. maintenance mode – or perhaps earlier, depending your organization.

We all know that agility has helped companies create competitive advantage; but customers and others tell us it can’t be “agility at any cost.” That’s why we believe the next challenge is cost-effective agility. That’s what Continuous Cost Control is all about.

What is Continuous Cost Control?

Think of it as the ability to see and automatically take action on development and operations resources, so that the amount spent is a controlled factor and not merely a result. This should occur with no impact to delivery.

Think of the spend your department manages. It likely includes software license costs and true-ups and perhaps various service costs. If you’re using private cloud/on-premise infrastructure, you’ve got equipment purchases and depreciations, plus everything to support that equipment, down to the fuel costs for backup generators, to consider.

However, the second biggest line item (after personnel) for many agile teams is public cloud. Within this bucket, consider the compute costs, bandwidth costs, database costs, storage, transactions… and the list goes on.

While private cloud/on-premise infrastructure requires continuous monitoring and cost control, the problem becomes acute when you change to the utility model of the public cloud. Now, more and more people in your organization have the ability to spin up virtual servers. It can be easy to forget that every hour (or minute, depending on the cloud provider) of this compute time costs money – not to mention all the surrounding costs.

Continually controlling these costs means automating your cost savings at all points in the development pipeline. Early in the process, development and test systems should only be run while actually in use. Later, during testing and staging, systems should be automatically turned on for specific tests, then shut down once the tests are complete. During maintenance and production support, make sure your metrics and logs keep you updated on what is being used – and when.

How to get started with Continuous Cost Control

While Continuous Cost Control is an idea that you should apply to your development and operations practices throughout all project phases, there are a few things you can do to start a cultural behavior of controlled costs.

  • Create a mindset. Apply principles of DevOps to cloud cost control.
  • Take a few “easy wins” to automate cost control on your public cloud resources.
    • Schedule your non-production resources to turn off when not needed
    • Build in a process to “right size” your instances, so you’re not paying for more capacity than you need
    • Use alternate services besides the basic compute services where applicable. In AWS, for example, this includes Auto Scaling groups, Spot Instances, and Reserved Instances
  • Integrate cost control into your continuous delivery process. The public cloud is a utility which needs to optimized from day one – or if not then, as soon as possible.
  • Analyze usage patterns of your development team to apply rational schedules to your systems to increase adoption rates
  • Allow deviations from the normal schedules, but make sure your systems revert back to the schedule when possible
  • Be honest about what is being used, and don’t just leave it up for convenience

We hope this concept of Continuous Cost Control is useful to you and your organization – and we welcome your feedback.

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How To Reach The Buyers That Matter With Intent Data| By |Will Humphries

Earlier this week we discussed how to get the best results from b2b content syndication. So let’s talk about amplifying the value of your content syndication by integrating intent data.

Intent data can help identify higher quality leads by assisting you to understand when, where, and what topics your prospects are interested in.

It goes beyond the basic demographics, geographics, and firmographics by helping you to target customers who are searching for products and services that your business (or a competitor) offers.

And let’s face facts here. What sales person wouldn’t want to be in contact with those accounts? Why waste precious time prospecting companies that you are hoping will be looking for a solution that you provide? Wouldn’t you rather be speaking with the accounts actively researching topics related to your products and solutions?

So let me introduce you to the role of intent data within content syndication, along with insights on how to leverage it for optimal results for your sales team.

What Is Intent Data?

In the simplest terms, intent data demonstrates when a prospect or account is exhibiting the most propensity to buy.

As business people, we all research topics that are of interest to us. B2B buyers and decision makers do the same.

Intent data comes in two forms: internal data and external data.

Internal Intent Data: Your ‘Contact Form’ on your website is one example of internal intent data. It is called first-party data because it happens on your website. The person contacting you is openly revealing their intent – that they want to know more about your products & services.

Also, the customer data you have on your CRM or marketing platform that your marketing team uses to score leads as they move closer to becoming sales-ready is also internal data.

External Intent Data: This type of data is only available through third-party providers. It is whereby large publishing companies collect data at the IP level or via shared cookies, curated from millions of visits to hundreds of thousands of websites. For example, it can be used to see how many times a white paper was downloaded, a video was watched, an infographic was clicked, or a search was requested for a particular term.

Connecting Intent Data To Content Syndication

Traditionally, the goal of building a target market profile or buyer persona was to understand the traits and interests of the audience. With this knowledge, it is easier to create content that aligns with the market’s respective needs and preferences.

B2B external intent data allows you to go a step further. Providers of this type of data help customers achieve this by identifying which accounts are showing surging interest surrounding a particular keyword or topic.

By informing you of the surging topics being searched for and aligning that surging interest at an account level, you now know what accounts are researching what topics.

In essence, this data eliminates the guesswork or the necessary step of trying to connect your content to the buyer’s interests. Instead, you know the prospect’s intent based on the frequency and volume of searches from that particular account.

leveraging intent data

What Are Surging Topics?

Surge data, combined with intent data, creates a powerful synergy.

Surge data identifies which companies are actively researching your services, signaling when and what they want to hear from you. Many companies have buying committees, meaning there are many decision makers across an organisation. The average number of decision makers on a buying committee is 5.4 people.

By recognising a “surge” on a particular topic from that specific account helps you know that many people within that company are searching for services like yours.

This data tells you which companies are most engaged in searching for content based on a list of intent topics.

An Example Of How To Use Intent Data In Marketing

Let’s consider a business that sells accounting software. Naturally, your target market is companies that could use the software for accounting processes.

So your marketing team decides to do an email marketing campaign targeting all of your finance contacts in your database. Fingers crossed that they click they link sending them to the landing page where your new eBook is about the latest accounting practices.

If they even open the email in the first place.

Now think about this: what if you knew in advance that certain accounts were searching for information about cloud-based accounting software? You could now target a number of people (the CTO, Finance people, compliance people) within each set of accounts showing intent for that surging topic – using that topic as the hook.

Intent data enables you to engage with these potential clients, plus craft topical content that more precisely addresses these desired features with the top benefits your solution offers.

discussing the importance of content syndication

Strategies To Effectively Leverage Intent Data

To leverage intent data, you have to go against the current flow. Only 17 percent of companies are advanced in behavioural marketing analysis, including the use of intent data. However, recognising the benefits of a more direct correlation between your buyer’s motives and your content sets the stage for a huge competitive advantage.

To maximise the collection of intent data, correlate it with other demographic, firmographic, and geographic data that you collect. Otherwise, it is difficult to know which behaviours match with particular customer profiles.

Create and Pinpoint Content – When you understand the intent behind buyer persona research, you are in a better position to create content that is relevant and useful. Develop articles that speak to the background of your target market, address their business problems, and the particular interests signalled by their intent data. When you do these things effectively, you establish authority and credibility as a provider.

Finally, distribute your content to expand your reach, including execution of a targeted content syndication strategy as shown in my earlier example.

All the pieces of content marketing are now in place. Develop content that matches prospect intent and achieve optimum value from it through syndicated distribution.

Competitive Advantages Of Intent Data

These should be fairly obvious by now. There are numerous competitive advantages to utilising intent data. But one of the most important is the ability to target different buyers across an organisation. In some cases, you have distinct target markets or personas under the same company roof. What is important to an executive in one division or department is often very different than what matters to a leader in another.

Therefore, you can tailor content specifically made for each person involved in the buying process. Multiply that by hundreds of companies searching for similar keywords, and you now have a very targeted content marketing campaign.

Intent data makes you better equipped to present your solutions and content to prospects with a more precise customer profile match.

Wrap Up

A lead generation plan using content syndication and the latest technologies as outlined above gives you a competitive edge in B2B sales.

To set yourself apart from competitors, and to increase your chances of becoming an industry leader, leverage intent data in your content marketing and syndication. Build a more direct and seamless content strategy that matches with the intent signals your targeted prospects put out when they conduct searches related to their business problems.

Not only will this help your marketing efforts to generate better quality leads, but it will also impact your bottom line. Your marketing campaigns will be more successful, which in turn means your sales teams will spend more time with the right accounts and close more deals.

And that is what marketing is about – creating demand and supporting your sales teams to help close more deals.

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How To Unlock Your Potential For Innovation Through Crowdsourcing| By |Chris Cancialosi

The human mind has an incredible capacity to learn, recognize patterns, and connect pieces of information together to find new ways to approach old problems.

Unfortunately, our problem-solving abilities are limited by individual knowledge and experience. When problems are large and complex, we might not have the right data available to have any hope of finding a solution if we go it alone. And when we get stuck, collaboration can be a powerful way to find the best solution.

By sharing knowledge and experience amongst a diverse group, we can often tackle complex problems that cannot be solved alone.

In a previous article, I explored how dialogue and diversity within a group can ignite this innovative thinking. And with the right environment, talent, and process, organizational innovation can flourish.

This got me thinking: What if you simply don’t have the internal resources to support a culture of innovation? How would organizations effectively look outside of their walls for new ideas that they can potentially bring to market?

Digital and industrial giant General Electric seems to have found a solution with their crowd-powered open innovation platform, GE Fuse. Fuse harnesses the knowledge and experience of a global community of engineers to help GE customers solve major product challenges.

“The ultimate goal is to accelerate product and technology development,” says Amelia Gandara, Community Leader at Fuse. “This is truly a community of curious minds eager to apply their technical skills to a project that challenges them as engineers, scientists, and problem solvers. For example, one of our community members is a stay-at-home father with an advanced technical degree. The platform gives him a place to continue to work his skills while also taking care of his children at home.”

Engaging a diverse, global community doesn’t come without its challenges. Amelia shared several lessons for organizations looking to adopt a similar model for crowdsourcing innovation:

Understand The Experiment

“Innovation is a word that gets thrown around often, but it’s important to lay out what your company means by innovation,” says Gandara. Is it internal, or will you engage external participants? Is the goal to make product development faster, or less expensive, or both? Will the focus be on new products or enhancements to existing ones? Answering these questions can help bring clarity and alignment around your initiatives.

Learn From Each Experiment

Doing the same thing over and over again without improving and iterating is a wasted opportunity, so it’s important to learn from each experiment. For example, Fuse launched with four challenges for the community to solve. After each challenge, Amelia and team examine what was successful and what should be considered for the next challenge. “We frame each challenge structure as an experiment to see what will resonate most with our online community.”

Leadership Must Be An Ambassador

A new initiative, especially on a large-scale, is risky and can take some time to prove itself. So, it’s critical for leaders to remain a steady supporter of the cause. “It can take up to two years to see business-shifting results,” according to Gandara.

Visible support from senior leaders helps maintain the high energy momentum while you’re in the thick of it. “Leadership must be a loud ambassador, acknowledging and leaning in to the associated risk to give the rest of the team the confidence to give their full investment of time and resources.”

Alignment Between Distributed And Internal Participants

A separate innovation initiative can feel like an assault on your current product development processes, so communicating value and sharing in the risk are crucial,” Amelia shared. Fuse, therefore, exists to enhance internal capabilities, not replace them. The platform achieves this by solving problems and taking risks that are beyond the internal teams’ capabilities.

In fact, some of GE’s more adventurous internal subject matter experts are partners. “For example, our second challenge focused jet engine inspection. A team of subject matter experts from GE Inspection Technologies and GE Aviation partnered to prepare and launch the challenge. The enthusiasm of the team is tangible, and the outcomes will be shared to help continue building excitement about the Fuse model.”

Whether or not your company can adopt a similar model largely depends on your available resources, but the benefits are undeniable. By expanding your collective knowledge and experience to stakeholders outside of your organization, you can collect a much broader spectrum of new ideas, potential risks, and feedback. It also provides your internal teams the opportunity to broaden their knowledge, sharpen their skills, and harness the power of the collective to uncover new and innovative solutions to everyday business problems.

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