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The Impact of Positive Personal Branding

Kerry Guard • Tuesday, September 5, 2023 • 54 minutes to listen

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Elliot Volkman

Join us for an enlightening conversation with Elliot Volkman, Director of Brand, Content, and Community at Drata, as we uncover the impactful combination of personal branding, positivity, and kindness in advancing your company's mission.


Kerry Guard: Hello, I'm Kerry guard and Welcome to Tea Time with tech marketing leaders.

Hello, and welcome to Tea Time with tech marketing leaders. I'm your host, Kerry guard. We are live here on LinkedIn and YouTube. I've made it happen. It was there was some connectivity challenges, but it happened and we are live on YouTube, whether it will get any listeners on YouTube, I have no idea. But we're giving it a whirl. And I'm grateful for it. I appreciate you all being here with us today. If you are on live right now, give us a shout out in the comments. I am paying attention to those. We want to hear from you. We want to know you're here. And more importantly, we actually want your questions. It's like the beauty of being live and the whole point. And Elliot is a source of great answers. So be sure to chime on in. We're looking forward to it. On this episode. I have yours truly Elliot Volkman Elliott's came came to me in a dream. I'm just kidding. No, it was not. It was a post on LinkedIn. It was glorious. I reached out to my network and said, I need new guests. I'm going live and very excited. And I said who who should be on the show. And met Delmon, that wonderful man recommended Elliott, what a treat and a treat we have here folks in this great conversation we are about to unpack for you all. And looking forward to your questions. Because you're going to and you're going to ask them, and we're on the edge of our seat for them. It's gonna be great. Elliot, welcome to the show.


Elliot Volkman: I'm so glad to be here. And I apologize if you heard that little ding, I will tell you with one weird caveat. I'm on baby watch right now. So I'm expecting a baby to arrive at any moment. So if you hear a ding, it's only because my wife will slide through the notifications. Other than that, I am so glad to be here to chat with you. Our InfoSec cybersecurity marketing society is fantastic, as you pointed out, it's a great group. And they like to point me at doing things that I'm not great at which is rambling for hours.

Kerry Guard: That is great. You are great at that. And it's important because it allows us to find those gems that you don't always get with people who are really buttoned up and have the right answer at the right time for everything. So I love this, we are going to deviate all over the place. It's going to be fantastic. Before we get into the heart of our conversation, which is perfect for us, and sort of meta in regards to being on a podcast. Before we get there. Tell us your story. Elliot, what do you do? And how did you get there?

Elliot Volkman: Yeah, totally. So right now, I am a marketing director over at durata, which focuses on brand editorial and community building, which I have a lot of branding. Not surprising. But our swags can cool. So there's that. What brought me here. So actually a fun story, which only most only a few folks that I actually work with even know this but year before joined durata, I was pitched to join the company. And I was hit up by some recruiters as they do. But you know, compliance is one of the most boring things in the world. Why the hell would you want to join a company to focus on compliance? Where's the branding in there? Where's the fun and excitement? So I instead went to a zero Trust Company, which was the most toxic place I've ever been on the planet. Fantastic people that work there, oh, put that there. But overall, wouldn't recommend. It is also the reason why I fell in love with the concept of zero trust and spun off my own podcast. So that that was cool that came out of it. But yeah, so a year before I actually joined. I said no, because it's boring. And then your bank, they showed me what they're actually doing. And it is just so crazy. The way that they have changed. Risk. Well, GRC in general. So that's that piece of the story. But you know, 1520 years ago, I started in journalism. And I will give the same story a million times, but I'm not a fan of ramen noodles. But to my wife's dismay, she loves them. But I can't live on that. So I very quickly switched over to marketing, and worked for a company that was immediately acquired by a company called Deltec. So we focused on government contracting, built out their online community helps with editorial similar stuff to what they do today. But somehow I fell out of that and just went into every other aspect of marketing. So social media, launched a nonprofit in DC had that for seven, eight years with wonderful co founder of mine, where we educated and taught people about that in the same I was learning at the same time. But yeah, so it's demand Amgen product marketing and everything in between, except for maybe partner marketing, I gotta avoid that. Even did Salesforce admin. So literally master of all and master of none. And it's pretty cool. But I'm in my sweet spot now, and a really cool company can't complain.

Kerry Guard: So what are you doing specifically for for Johnny? So you're sort of a jack of all trades? Are you doing all of those jacks? Are you focused on specific trades? What's what's going on these days? 

Elliot Volkman: Yeah, totally. So we have a new CMO. So structurally, I would imagine things are going to be changing in the next few weeks, plus, I will be on parental leave. So I get to be nothing for a little while. It's great. I don't know how to relax or breathe. But right now, I run our editorial team, our community efforts, and our branding efforts. So three pretty large pieces. But I also don't know how to say no. So I help out with campaign development, and probably 100 other activities. So like, I don't know, six months ago, whenever we did a site migration, like, Hey, you can deal with this, right? It's like, yeah, sure, okay. Little time crunch, a little stressful, but I'm glad to not be in the world of web anymore. So those are my three territories. And I have a absolutely fantastic team that makes all that happen. I just yell at them and ramble a little bit.

Kerry Guard: You guide them in the right direction.

Elliot Volkman: Yeah, that's the official way to say it. I don't really do much yelling.

Kerry Guard: I gotta say, I absolutely love the branding, the colors, the logo, it's got a bit of edge and style. It's doesn't feel like the typical I pulled a font off the shelf and wrote our name. It's really just gorgeous. I wasn't gonna say it, but I appreciate that you went there. Yeah, I actually really like love looking at your branding. I can do it all day. So yes, hats off to you and the team on some great work. And we're gonna talk more around where that great work comes from before we get there. We're all human alien life is hard. And clearly, you know, with babies on the way life is even harder for you. And believe me, as you probably you already know, this. I know you have another child, and that child will keep you plenty busy. You'll be fine. Enjoy it. Enjoy not having to do both for a minute. Yeah, sir. And in regards to your job, and your and your three sort of lanes, what's the challenge for you right now? What are you currently facing? That's, that's hard. And you're working through with with the team?

Elliot Volkman: Yeah. So well, I will say one thing. So the look and feel the brand, it can actually pinpoint to one person, which is Chris Jensen, our creative director, absolutely. Just pulling stuff out of his head is crazy. If you looked at her driver's brand, I frickin love it. It was very cool. Anyways, biggest challenge. So obviously, we have new CMO. We're a pretty young and immature organization, in years, but functionally and I just mentioned this, the team, you know, we're like, we feel like a 10 year old company. As far as maturity goes, we're we're going through the growing pains. We've definitely been in a system of supporting too much work a lot of fly ins. And we're fortunately migrating to that idea of less feature driven marketing and more solution and outcome driven marketing. Which, yeah, seriously, as soon as like our CFO was like, we're going to prioritize brand and focus on these things like, Yeah, let's fucking sorry. Yeah, let's go. So that is obviously Excellent. But it takes so much work to change that mindset. So we've got to get everyone out of the put your head down and get shit done mode and focus on what are we actually going to do to get to that level? Or what is what's that change. So change management is pretty critical. I'm also going to be out soon. So I have some, fortunately, interrupts is going to come in with a significant amount of experience to help bridge that gap. So they're not just left hanging to their own devices, which has been stressing me out like no other. But yeah, so that's it. I'd say just change management and maturing the organization is probably the biggest pieces.

Kerry Guard: From a brand perspective. You guys definitely look well mature beyond your years. And I agree with Zack, one sec. Thanks for joining us. Every aspect of marketing is the best way to learn. So yes, I agree when you get to dabble in it all and figure it all out and have especially when you're flying high and you're guiding a team like you are Elliot, it's nice to have sort of an idea on how these things work, not necessarily to their ends degree. You get experts in there to do that. But you get to figure out whether you can sort of feel whether this thing is going in the right direction. Not so yeah, I agree. Claire Claire Hardesty thanks for joining her question is any concerns about the huge increase in automation in marketing, marketers having way less control ai ai is coming to the picture. We're not, we're not slowing down here.

Elliot Volkman: Thank you for opening this, Ken. Alright, so I have a love hate relationship with AI. If you've seen any of my LinkedIn posts, I talk a good bit of crap about it. So here's, here's my perspective, I just did an eval of like a dozen different AI, writing specific tools. Because if there are ways to obviously amplify what my team does, and make them move faster, love it. But as it stands today, there is no program that's going to be able to take some pretty basic information, a lot of these are set up where they're basically just wrappers of chat GPT, or something similar to it, where they just instead of you doing the prompts, it has built in prompts. So it just makes it easier if you haven't played with it. That said, basically, how they function is you throw in a couple of key words, and it will scan your site or scan your brand voice doc, and it'll turn out this absolutely crap piece of content. So as it stands, those are completely unusable. But if you do away with some of those things, you're able to use it for things like building out outlines for your freelancers to help kind of clear some of your writer's block, because it basically just does a Google search on crack for you. So you're putting that information and I'll give you some guidance. And the other thing is like we're in the cybersecurity space. There are only so many marketers who have had that experience and understand cybersecurity, but I'm not saying I I've been in this space for like a decade, I still don't know what the hell any of it is. That's why on my podcast, I have a threat intel guy who does all the talking for the most part. But it does help reduce some of that searching time. So I think as it stands today, it is a great asset to help you move faster, especially folks and niche, well more specialized spaces like cybersecurity, but it does not take anyone's job. If it is I would be surprised if it produces any results. So I I started going to your on my on the soapbox a little bit, but I can see startups be like, Yeah, let's just use one of these tools, we'll pay like 30 bucks a month or 100 bucks a month. And we'll just churn out this crappy SEO content, but no one's gonna read it. There's no brand building to it. So that that's where it all wraps around is like this is actually provide critical value to it will actually align now probably not. Maybe in the future.

Kerry Guard: Zack says the best way I found to use AI is brainstorming, testing ideas, challenging your own ideas. And when I use it for writing, I don't use it to write a whole article that focused for paragraphs or expand on short progress. I've written I totally agree with you, Zack, I do it for the same reason just to get started, or to get. I've used it for outlines as well. Like we're all putting a ton of information and say, Can you give me an outline on this? Really helpful. But yeah, for actually like, true automation? No, Claire, I I don't think a lot of us are concerned, I think we're more concerned for the people who think that they can use it for to automation, and that that just reduces the competition. So like we.

Elliot Volkman: Yeah. That is such a fantastic point. And I think that's it probably comes down to that question of like, why were startups investing in marketing? Who's your marketing hire? Is it gonna be like a brand person, probably not even at you know, like a series B. Most of them don't even hire anyone in that regards. They have a bunch of freelancers, they have masters of none, which is probably why I have such a weird skill set. But they just don't prioritize that. And they don't realize how critical it is. But I can tell you in metrics, it's really simple. Either you spend a shit ton of money on ads and demand gen efforts. And your cost of acquisition is horrible and not sustainable, or invest in the long term, which is brand and editorial and voice and tone. You're just not gonna get that with robots yet.

Kerry Guard: This actually don't help dovetails so nicely into our conversation today Eliot about brand building, and really about how to differentiate ourselves. We when we met, we talked about how crowded cybersecurity is getting or is I think it's depends on what category you're in, or what category you're building. But it is it there are startups popping up everywhere doing similar things a little bit differently. Some are totally different, but generally, it's a pretty crowded space. And you have a very interesting way of thinking about brand and differentiation. So why don't you help us understand in terms of Giada and differentiation how Oh, you're breaking away from the masses and, and allowing Giada to sort of stand on its own.

Elliot Volkman: Yeah, totally. So fortunately, we at the executive level have some very, very smart people who are aligned in this where we don't need to just sell on what you would call legacy GRC, which is just a specific sock to report. Some people like to help them certification is a certification. Instead, it is the bigger piece of the puzzle. So, and I apologize is going to be hyper specific. But the way that we have to look at is like, you just have to change and look at what the future is. Even what we're building right now. There are folks having conversations of what happens after that, what happens after that, and that is where the brand building comes in. That's the magic of it. And I know I talked to you, before we hit record about a thing, before we do that thing. There's all that work to be able to get ahead of it to make sure that you have the foundation and the story and all that stuff. But yeah, so there's two pieces of this puzzle. So I think the market is actually changing a little bit different, differently. So in the past three to 10 years, especially during COVID, there is a significant amount of investment into startups and getting them to a Series A and Series B. But we're now in the mode where most of the money is going towards series C's and whatnot. So there's going to be more consolidation, which is why more than ever a crystal clear, differentiate his story is so important, because consolidations happening, obviously, there's revenue going into these organizations, but you know, how are you going to stand out in such a crowded space. And that's just telling a different story is more important and impactful story, I need to be careful that I don't stay too much, because nothing's quite on paper for some of these crazier things that are going on. But that's exactly how we treat it. It's, you know, for us at the executive level, our co founders, it's all about trust, and that's our story. But it still is going to continue to evolve and focus on outcomes, like how are GRC professionals today going to be different in the future, similar to what we're just chatting about with AI, you know, we're not replacing jobs, no one should ever feel like a piece of technology is going to do that. It should look at optimizations, how you're going to move faster, do more with less, all the things that cybersecurity in generals can train to, because budgets are never there for you.

Kerry Guard: And they're they're getting more defined in terms of budgets, things are not as free flow as they used to be. And everything every dollar is being scrutinized. So yes, in terms of brand building, everything you said around trust and the story, I didn't hear anything in there in regards to features or like what you're building? Is that by design, or is that just because you didn't mention it?

Elliot Volkman: No, I, I think when it comes down to like the competitive landscape. And this is where I will get myself a job. But I've already said it in the public forum, I don't really care. getting in trouble is what I do best. If you look at data compared to our top two, three compares on paper, we're very similar in nature. So features, you should never sell against features anyways, I think in conversations with prospects, and even your current customers, they care about certain things, but they care more about the outcome. So that is where the brand building actually comes in product marketing focus on the features. But it's up to the wider organization to wrap a much more important and critical story there. So features are important. roadmap is obviously very critical. Being able to communicate that but you know, at the end of the day, it's whatever your customers are asking for, and the biggest priority and what will have the biggest impact. Those do roll into the stories and campaigns we build. But you know, I'm not gonna be like, oh, you know, we have like this tiny little thing. Cool, that's gonna get added to a newsletter somewhere. It'll add to communication for customers, because it'll benefit them, or they flat out told us and then we're like, hey, that's available. But yeah, a campaign of yesterday might focus on that, but campaign or the future should focus more on those outcomes in the benefits and making them essentially the heroes.

Kerry Guard: When you say outcomes, you mean.. 

Elliot Volkman: Yeah, I can I can dig in a little more in there. So in GRC and specific, it is a pretty challenging manual process today. So for them, like if we're looking at the enterprise level, they understand the governance aspect for a startup. They're looking at it from a framework perspective, they just need to get this thing because a large prospect to saying we need a sock to report. There's other urgency points that happen there. But it's that thing in the middle, that gray area of like, when does that maturity flip? So, yeah, it's that that we need to nail and that's where I think our team in particular trying to have conversations of like, that's where the future of GRC lives. So at one time, you have a very mature organization that has very specific processes in place, they've used the same set of tools for 30 years, these other startups are just focusing on a specific outcome, which at that point is frameworks, what happens in the middle, that's, that's where the frickin magic is going to be. Because that's where the future is gonna be. So it's got to be a combination of cool, I make it really easy for you to be able to get certain frameworks that you're aligned with, especially if it's like a certification, or a sock to report because of the hard coded deliverable. And the mature organizations, they already understand the value of that. But what happens in between, they're hard coded into specific windows at a time. So basically, for looking at it this way. And unfortunately, I wrote a 30 page research report on this that came out earlier this year. So I don't want to go too far. But the mindset, when it all boils down to is like you don't know what you don't know. And on paper, there's strong perceptions that these things are working great. But when you actually ask them, like whether negative things that happened, like 80% of them said, Yeah, we had like, I don't want to say the D word is data breach. That's not really the bigger thing, but like breaches, incidents increase in events, it's just blind spots. So yeah, the outcome is just making those folks more efficient, being able to get them through the process. But because there are such different mindsets between organizational maturity, you gotta be able to tell a broad sweeping story that applies to all of them, which doesn't exist today. So that's what we're here for. That's what we're building. 

Kerry Guard: Yeah, that's tricky. It's really tricky to talk to different personas, and speak broadly to their challenges as they all they all have different. They all sit in different places and see things differently in terms of those audiences. And how you know that these are the challenge, you said a couple of times that you know, that these are the issues that they're actually facing, how do you know, are you calling them as they're sitting on sales calls? Like, how do you go about understanding your personas and your audience and their pain points?

Elliot Volkman: Yeah, so obviously, we have a lovely product marketing team. And they're fully focused on those kind of situations. I personally love to sit on Gong call. So I block off certain amount of time, most weeks to be able to just kind of go through and look. But I take a more research driven approach. So we do a product market team, they feed us information. But I will just build a hypothesis, go look through Gong, see if there's any conversations that happen, figure out how large those organizations are. And that's usually how, you know I'll build and craft some stories and campaigns around. Because kind of beneficial. So right now we're doing that at the enterprise level. So the million pound gorilla in the room for us is RSA Archer. You know, what we tend to hear is that they don't love it. If you look in Reddit and you do a search for Archer, you will see people it's gross. I don't like it. There was a conversation a day or two ago about that, like, okay, so why, why are you still using it? Because it's built in? It's critical to how they do things is what they know. So yeah, I think it just it's a matter of changing their mindset. And that is a very difficult thing to do. But again,

Kerry Guard: That's hard to get people to move so hard to get people to move. Claire's got a question for us, Claire, I'm so grateful. You're here. These are excellent questions. Too much automation has caused compliance, brand representation, consistency issues and her experience. How to control that.

Elliot Volkman: Yeah. I almost want a clarification. Because are we talking about like compliance in cybersecurity compliance or in regards?

Kerry Guard: Well, Claire, if you're still there, and you heard us chime in with some background on whether compliance is specific to an industry or just in general, that'd be really helpful.

Elliot Volkman: American Thomas going at that, because I think what that probably sounds like is a lot of similar brands and platforms, they'll treat it was like sock two in a box where I would definitely get in trouble this example to add a customer even yell at me for this. But like, let's say you're doing taxes. You and I, we don't want to do it on paper. That's ridiculous. There are CPAs which is of course, an exact route, you can go for some compliance frameworks where you outsource it, or there are tools that will guide you through it. So we do not have to be experts. There are multiple routes and avenues for us to go through. through it. But in these scenarios, a lot of these automation tools can look like it is a structured system on rails where it doesn't have the flexibility and customization that an enterprise organization absolutely needs because they are dialed in again, they understand the actual, the governance piece, which startups might not. So they have to typically spend a lot of time building applications and focusing on development or holding an entire homebrewed system just to be able to navigate around that. So yeah, totally. As it stands today, and again, we'll get myself in trouble. But because I already said it on Reddit, like two days ago, that that is the scenario like they are not designed to be super malleable. There are customizations, we offer custom frameworks. So you can do that. And you can automate it, which is great, but we're gonna cut us off a little bit there. It's just not at the same level, they're not going to go in and replace an archer, would it make sense, there are specific use cases, absolutely. An organization can use all this stuff and still achieve what they want. But, you know, at an enterprise level when they have so many custom processes and documentation and approaches, there's no technology to replace the human element of that. And I think that tends to be a little bit ignored. And I don't mean that from our from our perspective. But yeah, it's more of like a maturity thing, like our space is still pretty young, you can't really expect them to be able to do everything for somebody that's been around for like 30 years.

Kerry Guard: Yeah, I mean, AI, and automation is also still really young. And you still need that human aspect. It's everything we've been saying you, you can use AI to help you do things a little bit faster. But even from a PPC perspective, like we don't trust, we like to build everything from the ground up, make help Google learn what it is that we're doing, but then make thoughtful optimizations back to the bottom line, we don't just sort of hit the automation buttons that Google wants you to so they can spend all of your money, you really have to control it from the foundation. And then kind of keep your hand on the steering wheel at all times when it comes to any AI. Really. Yes, AI is only as smart as we teach it to be. Yes, exactly. Exactly. Coming back to brand, Elliot, and I think we're our currency. And I think this lends itself to the AI piece. And everything you've been saying in terms of differentiation, you talk so much about story and how we need to to make sure that we're not reliant on features and what other brands are essentially talking about, but really talking about those outcomes. How are you using brand to create that differentiation? You You talked sort of about the nuts and bolts, but there's a creative aspect that I think you lend to the picture personally. And I also think that lends itself to AI like, and not disrupting the the human element, like, tell us more about how you've personally impacted the Java brand, through the marketing efforts you've done.

Elliot Volkman: Yeah, so fortunately, I have a good example of this, which I don't receive positive feedback well, and I kind of vomit with the amount of positivity that has come from it. But in June, we hosted our first conference. So on paper how his pitch was to be basically just the user conference, they just just to say nicely, they just said, throw a really awesome fucking party for our customers and go from there. That was it. That was those tasks. I think I had like four and a half budget guidelines. You know, I did a back and I had 24 hours and did back of the napkin math to figure out what the budget was because it was right when we were getting our budget requests in just super fun. I was also off a little bit, but our BD teams amazing. And we brought in a crap ton of sponsorship dollars to offset so I was technically under budget. We're good. Yeah, maybe we'll see. I'm also gonna beg for a lot more, actually, tomorrow. So we'll see how that goes. But anyways, so last month, we did a bang up conference. I've been to these all the time, I built conferences before focusing on like mobile, when Alexa was coming out, we used to do user groups for Amazon's Alexa group, so that we can help them get third party communities anyways. I've been to them. I know how boring they can be. I've got to Trump certain competitors. But you know, like, I don't want to have a boring Ballroom in a hotel. In my own wedding. We weren't going to do that. Like why would you know, we have so many of those. If you're going to look at the biggest conferences where people are just desperate to go even though you know companies won't necessarily pick up the ticket at RSA blackout which happens soon. Even Gartner's events, there were all the besides events, somewhere in between. They're not in those kinds of spaces. And it's just an atmosphere to driving engagement with each other to build connections. So I think if there's anything that I've done from the direct impact, it's probably that deliverable front. But building connections is probably philosophically one of the most critical things that I can do. And I don't mean like just connections to people, but connections to information. Because, again, I've been a journalist for like 20 something years, I don't really know a whole lot. But that is absolutely one of those things that built in, they gave me a good bit of wiggle room on what that would look like. And again, it just, it came out great. I did not get to spend $300,000 on a really cool band. I also got shot down on a few smaller ones. But we still had a good DJ. Otherwise it came out great. So I don't know, I think it again, the impact is about connection. So brand and community go hand in hand that also tends to get ignored. And also don't look at community as some sort of online platform. It is a function of connecting people and pieces together.

Kerry Guard: So much unpack here. So tell me about what was the core, the core mission of the event was connection. It sounds like?

Elliot Volkman: Yeah, mostly Yeah. On paper, we have like an NPS score ratio of like, get 80%. I think we were just under 90% out of 100.

Kerry Guard: Right. But it's that was the outcome of the mission, which was connection, right? Your mission can't really.

Elliot Volkman: Leads? Oh, no, no, no. All right, guys, especially the first year, you're not going to expect this to be like a revenue driver, that there is revenue tied to it, because I definitely seen some very positive things floating as conversations and deals and meetings that took place there and after and before. But yeah, it's exactly it's, it's the connections, please. Because there's one thing that I've seen at RSA, South by Southwest, some of these large conferences, the intangibles, those are the things that you can, you can try to engineer them. But that is where new businesses are formed. The biggest deals that I've ever seen have happened to bars outside of RSA. Like I'm talking large brands, which probably were on the devices of kind of deals that companies had been at did just happen at bars. So it's those connections, you can't, yeah,

Kerry Guard: You can't and but I think if you walk in, if you build an event, with the mission of money, right, it loses its authenticity, which I think is what you're so focused on connection and why I think we all need to make this shift of making sure we can measure it and know what's going what's producing the outcomes at the end of the day, but we can't build the thing for necessarily the money outcome, it's got to have a bigger impact. And I think connection is such an important piece to what we all need today, especially coming out of COVID and lock downs and isolation. Getting in person connection, I think is huge. And why events are just exploding, absolutely exploding right now. So in terms of the connections, going in with the mindset of wanting to create connection, what were some of the tactics or building blocks or elements that you brought to the room of the event to sort of facilitate that?

Elliot Volkman: Yeah, totally. And before we jump into that piece, I do want to highlight not everyone is going to understand the value in that I will say I am again in fortunate very good company where they understand that value. So it was not a uphill battle, or by an I told actually, our VP of marketing when I joined, or in the interview press was like, This is what I want to build. One day, she just said here you go hafod. So it was kind of like that. But you know, anyone who wants to do something is large and impactful is is, you know, it's usually more of an uphill battle. That, sir, what was the actual question? Let me go, 

Kerry Guard: The actual question was, and I want to be clear, obviously, all of our marketing efforts have to be tied to revenue outcomes. So I'm not saying that we shouldn't have we shouldn't measure the success through revenue or, and I think that's what it comes down to Claire. Like when you're talking about building an event, and having success metrics, you you at the end of the day, have to see how it impacts revenue down the road. Sometimes it might take a few months, sometimes it could take a year. But you have to be able to look back and say okay, these were the things that we did. And here's how the revenue shook out not everything's one to one measurable you have to look at attribution and I'm going to reserve But getting back to a In the event and the when you can. My point is, is that when you can put know that revenue is important, you're going to measure that. But come back to the immediate impact you want to create. And for you is connection, Elliot, like, Okay, we bring people together, we need to create connection. What were some of the elements within the event that facilitated the connection and made that happen?

Elliot Volkman: Yeah, totally. So a larger event, you might have tools to be able to do that we, well, I had sticks glue to put some of these the infrastructure together. That is why we'll be begging for more money for proper tooling. Anyways, engineering conversations connections is pretty big. So for starters, we did do your typical call for speakers or call for abstracts. But I wanted to also make sure that we had our customers front and center. So basically, if you weren't a customer, you were, like, waited under significantly for any of those conversations. But we use those as launch points for conversations. And it worked incredibly well. So leading up to the conference, significantly longer than I even knew it was going to happen. We've built series of things that just work. So we have an awesome asking auditor series. And that's a webinar, basically, where we put a bunch of auditors up in front of some folks answer some questions. There's your engagement. And we just replicated that in person. We have a podcast on compliance, uncomplicated, which my producer Alexa puts together, we did that live and in person. We also were thrown around a bunch of other ideas. So it happens so so much earlier on, which means between now and whenever we do it next year, we have to identify some additional series that will be driven to great engagement. Also, if you just happen to have a guy who throw Snicker bars at people, and he does a podcast for you, it's pretty good and also helping drive engagement too. But all of our sessions are designed not to necessarily be vomiting information at you, which is always pretty critical. Obviously, there is some of that it's important. We want people to have the most value walking away from that and learning something. But yeah, it's designed more so for a platform for people to engage. And I think that was the biggest piece. So you know, it is a panel to an extent, but we engineer conversation, we put the direction in place. And we go from there. We also had some more smaller things like small group roundtables where we just put a specific thing. And then they would work together and our customers work together, which is freaking cool. But you know, some of our podcast, guests were showing up, like, Hey, can you help introduce me to XY and Z, I was like, Well, good thing, our entire executive team, that is their only job. They're there to help you build connections and make introductions. Outside of a few of them, which did a few like morning keynote hours. That was there. Their job was just a help be there. make introductions. But that was also the job of everyone who worked at data. So it was literally engineered to help make introductions, if you have a question. It shouldn't be us answering it should be, hey, they're doing the same thing. Let's have that conversation together.

Kerry Guard: That's me. It sounds like there was some clear roles and responsibilities. I heard you mention some of them from MC. Yeah, for the MC to the leadership team being the the ultimate connectors. To I'm sure there was people who were doing interviews and those sorts of things. It sounds like also, you had some pretty strong personalities in the room in a good way in like, you mentioned people throwing stickers around, right? Like, I can't imagine anybody be handed a box of Snickers and say, yeah, that I'm sure you pinpointed the person who was the right role for that. So how did you cultivate sort of the right team, have personalities essentially, to facilitate the the event but more importantly, make it fun and create help facilitate, you know, forces connections more seamlessly.

Elliot Volkman: So that is actually really easy. I can sum it up. So our emcee loves to work and talk. And that's great because that he's a fantastic person. And he would talk even more if he could. So that helped. But otherwise, the internal folks, we did a lot of volunteering. We knew who was set and ready to be able to get in front of people, even if they themselves felt that they were not comfortable. Did I give them tequila shots afterwards? Yes, I 100% and also results in some fun photos. But the external speakers that was a little more complex, because again, I was doing sticks and glue to get in there. But you know, typically, and I just went through the panel picker for South by Southwest so I know how crazy their application is. I did not Do that. For our folks. I just said, give us a pitch, give me three bullet points in the abstract. And it was on us owe me to go through and stalk them figure out, Have they spoken before they done interviews before? What is their personality. And that was basically how I honed in on what topics we ended up doing. Like this topic is going to be really engaging these things people actually care about. And they have a pretty strong voice. So one example that I have is, it's kind of like a church and state thing. And like journalism, which we do. If you're buying ads, it doesn't mean you get to get an article written about you. So it's same thing we had sponsors, it doesn't mean you get in. But there are some sponsors who I know, they can command an audience. They also just have really cool brands, and they can kind of chat through some of these things. So we did include them in there. But otherwise, it wasn't because their sponsor is because we knew that they can command a voice, they can get the attention of the folks there. But again, we didn't have the necessary tooling, which would make life so much easier to figure out how much of a room size that they need stuff like that. 

Kerry Guard: I think, you know, outsider looking in totally wasn't going through it with you, when you're in the thick of it. It's definitely way harder to see the forest for the trees. But no, in meeting you these last couple of times, and hearing you talk so much about the brand and how you show up for it. I feel like you wouldn't have had the right balance of personalities had you not gone through the legwork, manual legwork of hand picking those folks. I mean, it sounds like you had this idea in your head before you even had the job. So you must have had a sense of like what you wanted the room to feel like. And in picking those people. You had that in mind.

Elliot Volkman: Yeah, that's spot on. So I'm sure you can tell I'm not well filtered. And I tend to look at folks who, you know, don't always do the Suit Tie. There is one exception. Our CISO is like the happiest go lucky person on the planet. And I don't even think he likes to curse even in meetings and private meetings. And it's just fantastic to see. And he was also not he was a little nervous. But outside of that everyone else have a little bit of an edge on them. If that makes sense. They're not like a suit and tie kind of person to go up there, down to our CEO who is backstage like you, I've got a video of it. I don't know if I shared it with him. But like, he was like, amping himself up. It was so frickin awesome to watch. Like, he is just hyping himself up in our head of products. You just follow him after he was doing the same thing. I was like, This is so freakin cool. I love this. Yeah, it was definitely engineered. And again, it's not like, against people who don't feel comfortable there. I will throw you up there because I know people have really good ideas. And they know how to talk. Sometimes they just, you know, ignore it. Like me, I hate public speaking but here we are.

Kerry Guard: It sounds like they had an amp themselves up because the energy in the room was so already electric that they like, we're like, okay, I want to keep the energy going like Well, yes, I agree with everybody who gave you props. I wasn't even there. I'm having total FOMO right now and really wishing them. But I have to say in building a brand. And really what coming back to our original conversation that sort of been like underlying through my questions comes back to you, Elliot, you seem to have really showed up and brought yourself not just to work but actually embedded your personality to in some regard into building the brand of Java. Is that fair?

Elliot Volkman: Yes. Probably much to the dismay of some people I work with, I would put heavy bets on if I ever get my ass fired. It's because I bring too much of myself to the table. Maybe it's my age and they just don't care anymore. But you know, you get all me or you get another me and that's just kind of how it works.

Kerry Guard: But I think that it needs in terms of differentiating yourself from your competitors and reason why I think to clear your your questions around AI like you. Each of us is unique and different in how we show up. And you know, masking your no masking and be able to insert that like I the way that I talk is the way that I write. And so when I write all of my LinkedIn posts or when I write blogs or when I do you know the intros for this stuff, I can't. I've tried sort of using AI just to get me started and I end up having to rewrite the whole thing because it does not sound like me at All and you can see straight there actually was joking around with my producer because he was like, I highly recommend that you put Grammarly on your Firefox and just have a little bit of element to help you see your blind spot, total blind spot had it since I was a kid, of the grammatical errors that you create because my brain and fingers are not in my hands are almost moving faster than my brain. And I'm like, I did that. And I've been using it all day. And like I said, my producers like people are gonna think that somebody has commentary. Because it's not riddled with error. Yeah, because it's just it's kind of almost part of my, I'm in the moment, and I'm writing and I want to get something published, right. Like, there's some element of authenticity there that I'm like, oh, that I lose that little bit of edge to your point. So I don't Yeah, I think it comes back to how we build the brand and how we bring ourselves into it that makes the brand itself unique. And I I imagine you had to find the right brand. So it sounds like you found the right place to be able to do this. Yeah. Do you think you could do this anywhere? 

Elliot Volkman: No, absolutely not. I, our executives are just awesome people, they're most down to earth people, you do not typically get to just chat with the CTO and see him jump in on to like, P zero stuff. It'll just join in and help out because that's the kind of folks that we get to work with. And that is no again, that's why I launched my own podcast, where I was able to build that stuff. Why I've always been doing side reporting, because the brands that you work with, it's always suit and tie and buttoned up. But no, and I don't remember if we chat about this, but relationships are built on like that suit and tie mentality. Sure you make the introduction, do your handshake, but How deep can you actually get to know someone. And if you're building an organization like this, it is all about connections and relationships. So at a certain point, you can just rip the damn tie off and like actually get to know someone and have conversations. That that is my approach. I know it is not well equipped for corporate America, where they just try to play it safe. Even our corporate comes first and doesn't yell at me as much as probably I think she could. So yeah, it was definitely find the right spot for it.

Kerry Guard: How did you find? Because you said initially you had gone to another company where it wasn't a good culture fit. So how did you know that drama then was before you even got the job? Like how did you know this was going to be the right place for you? 

Elliot Volkman: Yeah, so I wouldn't necessarily apply in our scenario now because we have like 600 employees. But the last interview that I had was with our CEO, and it wasn't necessarily the culture piece, because like, emotionally I don't really connect with I just don't connect like that. I'm very more psychological and philosophical. But what he's showed me was something that I thought was just well above and beyond it, it is the future state of what I would love to see from the internet, not just what we do. And basically it is what is sort of encompassed in this thing called Trust Center. But if you look at a website right now, and you see a little status icon, it's green, and it shows that it's up. Instead, it's basically a library of your entire security risk and compliance posture that you put out in the open. Now you have controls. So not everyone sees it, but he's sold me on this little green dot that basically says, We are fucking secure. Like, every person on this planet should want that to be there. Like I use Riverside and asana and 30 other programs. But I don't, I don't know, how many times do these things get popped, like art crap is everywhere in the internet, because they're not doing much. But if they had that level of transparency, a little light at the bottom of your thing, which obviously there are hundreds of little lights, but you know, that is what he sold me on but just in general getting to know them their personality, that obviously helps. The mask didn't come off until I was comfortable with it. But you know, I think he was just he sold me on how important the people element is.

Kerry Guard: The mission and vision to how forward thinking it is like I don't know that you always get that level of visibility so early in the interview process. So good. Yeah, like wow, that's definitely a captivating leadership team right there. If you're looking for new hires, I'm sure you're gonna be alright. Yeah. Ah, Eliot, what a conversation in terms of how to balance building brand bringing yourself into it. How to use and not use AI in the in the midst of it all. And to truly find a way to be you and, and put make your mark.

Elliot Volkman: Yeah, totally. And if I can throw one little piece out there, and I love this soapbox too, in our space in particular cybersecurity, I would love to be in a world where we stopped using that word competitor, it's fine and sales conversations, because that's what it comes down to. But that is the other piece in brand building here that I'm so adamant about. It is important to be aware of our competitors, and careful how they're building what they're doing. But if we're just reacting to what they're doing in any cybersecurity vendor or technology or service company, you're just going to tag behind them and follow behind them, you will never get ahead. So the big thing is, I always say let's treat them as peers, especially in a public setting space. People will ask like, how do you compare to XYZ is like, well, that's for you to figure out, here's the things that you should look at, I will give you the tools, but we're not going to bash that we're not going to talk negatively about them. So there's only last little bit that I wanted to chuck out there.

Kerry Guard: I love that I think that just speaks again back to your authenticity of how you think about the world in this positive light that I think we all should be striving towards it comes back to not the features. And not even necessarily, you know, yes, the problems you solve, but how you solve them in your authentic brand. And culture way. Yes, totally.

Elliot Volkman: Absolutely.

Kerry Guard: Brilliant. Before we close out Elliot my people first question for you, have you uh Yes, you are you are more than a marketer and a journalist and we need to we need to know you beyond that. Sure. Do you? Have you picked up any new hobby? No, COVID sort of hit we all got isolated. We all dabbled another area. So whether you still do that or not? Or maybe you came out and you started doing something else? But have you picked up any new hobbies and like the last few years?

Elliot Volkman: Well, unfortunately, I'm blinded with getting a new hobby every three months. Let's say I've enhanced some most the other ones have gone. I have a bunch of chickens in my backyard. So let's call it a chicken tender. That's a bit of a hobby. It is definitely time consuming. But I don't know most of my energy tends to go towards like marathon and ultra marathon training, then 200 to 100 milers hopefully no more of those again, I'm doing a 50 miler in the year and that's like the most mileage I'll do because obviously it's baby coming. But yeah, I think that's it's cheaper than therapy and it works way better. Anyways.

Kerry Guard: Yes, exercise for everyone. I ride my bike everywhere. It was raining today. And I was like, I don't care. I don't care if my daughter's gonna ride on my back on my bike in the rain because I just need to get out and have fresh air. She was not happy with me. But we made it home one piece, just in a little damp workload. What a joy. I'm so grateful.

Elliot Volkman: Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it. Again, have things that come out of my mouth. I don't really know what I'm saying. So I definitely like to ramble. But yeah, always appreciate being able to chat, authenticity and brand building.

Kerry Guard: If you'd like to learn more about Elliott's journey and the great work he's doing a virtual you can find him on LinkedIn. And if you haven't gotten enough of Elliot and looking for more go check out his podcast adopting zero trust. Thank you for listening. If you found this episode helpful, please share it with your friends and make sure we're connected you can catch the next one next week with Brian Grover, don't miss it. This episode is brought to you by MKG Marketing that digital marketing seeds that scales brands through meaningful relationships fueling their ability to push their mission forward to so by me Kerry guard CEO and co founder of MKG Marketing, Music Mix and mastering done by our amazing team at MKG. And if you are a digital marketer in this crazy b2b world and would like to be a guest shoot me a DM love to connect.

This episode is brought to you by MKG Marketing the digital marketing agency that helps complex tech companies like cybersecurity, grow their businesses and fuel their mission through SEO, digital ads, and analytics.

Hosted by Kerry Guard, CEO co-founder MKG Marketing. Music Mix and mastering done by Austin Ellis.

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