Important Metrics of E-mail Marketing

Posted by SMstudy® on June 22, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing, Customer Engagement, Content, Social Media, Email Marketing, Metrics

E-mail marketers use a number of metrics to help determine the success of campaigns and provide guidance on how to improve e-mail marketing efforts. Among the most common metrics are the following:

  • Open Rate—This metric refers to the percentage of e-mails in an e-mail campaign that is opened. A high open rate is an indication of high engagement. Oftentimes, high engagement is the result of a strong and appealing subject line.
  • Hard Bounce/Soft Bounce—A hard bounce occurs when an e-mail fails to be delivered as a result of a permanent issue, such as a non-existent address. A soft bounce occurs when an e-mail fails to be delivered as a result of a temporary issue, such as a full mailbox or an unavailable server. This metric provides an indication of list quality.
  • Click-through Rate (CTR)—This metric represents the number of unique clicks on a given URL divided by the number of times the e-mail is opened. An even better indicator of engagement than open rate, a high CTR indicates that the content was compelling to the reader.
  • Conversion Rate—This metric indicates the number or percentage of recipients who respond to the call to action in an e-mail marketing campaign or promotion. A measure of an e-mail campaign’s success, conversions can be measured in sales, phone calls, appointments, and more.
  • Cost per Thousand (CPM)—This metric refers to the cost per 1000 e-mail addresses on a purchased or rented list. A rental list priced at $100 CPM indicates that the list owner is charging $0.10 per individual e-mail address.
  • Opt-in Rate or Subscribe Rate—This metric measures the growth of the e-mail list. Opting-in or subscribing to an e-mail list requires an individual to choose to receive e-mail communications by supplying an e-mail address to a particular company, website, or individual. Customers who opt-in or subscribe accept inclusion on the list and grant permission to the company to send them e-mails. Subscribers can often indicate areas of personal interest and/or indicate which types of e-mails they wish to receive from the sender. A growing opt-in rate is an indication of expanded reach.
  • Opt-out Rate or Unsubscribe Rate—Opting-out or unsubscribing from an e-mail list is the result of someone choosing not to receive communications from the sender by requesting the removal of his or her e-mail address from the mailing list. Regulations regarding the use of e-mail lists vary from region to region. It is generally not acceptable to send list-generated e-mails to receivers without their permission. Unsubscribe options are often mandatory on subscription e-mails.

Here is an example of E-mail Marketing Metrics:

  • Customers who register for program loyalty cards usually have the option to join an e-mail list. They can be given further options to receive e-mail offers and information from associated companies. A customer agreeing to participate in all e-mail lists after registering for a department store loyalty card can anticipate follow-up e-mails from the department store and other consumer product distributors. The department store will want to track its opt-in rate to measure the consumer’s perceived value of receiving ongoing correspondence from the store. The opt-out rate will help to quantify the actual quality of the correspondence being sent. Regularly sent e-mails that do not provide value to the customer will have a high opt-out rate.

How to make your content go viral on Social Media?

Posted by SMstudy® on June 21, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Social Media, Digital Marketing, Internet marketing, Online Marketing

Out with the old, in with the new. This motto has taken a whole new meaning with the advent of the Internet. Technology is changing at such a fast pace that people and companies need to be willing to keep up. Today, social media is redefining the way people share information. Before, if we read an interesting article you could call up a friend and share the information verbally. Now, you can literally share information and visuals almost instantly with your entire network by simply clicking a button.

It makes sense that companies would want to advertise their brands on social media to maximize their reach, but how do you utilize social media in a positive and productive manner? Because in the digital age, sharing is the key to social success.

According to Digital Marketing, book 2 in the SMstudy Guide®, “Consumers share content they like or find useful; thus, a high number of shares indicates that a large number of customers or potential customers perceive the company as helpful and knowledgeable and, by extension, may be more likely to purchase the company’s products or services.”

You can easily spread your brand successfully with the help of social media with three easy steps:

  1. Get on board- everyone and everything is on social media right now. Social media is a source for free advertising, so companies cannot afford to miss the opportunity.  If you are not advertising your brand on social media, you are making a serious mistake. 46 percent of people said that companies that are proficient at social media marketing are viewed as more credible. So, if you aren’t utilizing social media then you can potentially be viewed as untrustworthy.
  2. Create the right content- 73 percent of people process information more thoroughly when they share something. So, a company must ensure the content is engaging, easy to grasp, and attention-grabbing. You can increase engagement by following one simple rule: create content for your audience, not for your business. Identifying trending topics also makes content feel tailor-made and makes your company look up to date with the current market.
  3. Use Visuals- Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text. Thanks to the rise of social media, customer’s attention spans are shorter and they expect more from an advertisement. So, visuals are a great way to boost engagement. Studies prove that images and videos drive more customer engagement which means more sharing. The image must capture the essential message of the brand. If the image does not align with the product consumers will skip it rather than share it. Your image needs to be visually appealing enough to drive audiences to your website for more.

Social media marketing is like oxygen for small business and start-ups, so in order to keep on keeping on, you must simply inhale. Happy Marketing!!

For more information and resources visit smstudy.com/articles

Utilizing User Personas and Use Cases to Design and Develop a Mobile App

Posted by SMstudy® on June 16, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Social Media, Digital Marketing, Internet marketing, Online Marketing

User personas depict typical customer profiles. A user persona may include age, gender, occupation, location, relationship status, type of mobile device owned, personality type, and any other features that are relevant for defining customers of mobile apps. It also helps to name user personas so that the team can think of a persona as a real person. Each persona should be based on market research that focuses on identifying specific types of customers who are most likely to use a company’s mobile app. The number of different user personas created and referenced should be manageable. For apps that appeal to a narrow segment of customers, three to five user personas are generally sufficient.

After user personas are defined, developers create user stories for each of the personas. These stories contain an indication of how the personas would use the app, what the personas might seek to do with the app, and the specific features that will enable the personas to effectively perform the tasks that they seek to perform. The objective is to eventually define user requirements by collating all of the user stories.

Mobile content developers use user stories to derive a use case, which is a list of steps that define the interactions between the user and the mobile device. After use cases for all personas are drawn, all use cases are combined in a single diagram to determine the key features that are required in the app.

This method does not determine all features that should be included in an app but only those key features that have been identified as part of the persona and use case development process. There will be a number of features that support the key features and that can be defined during a more detailed planning step undertaken later in the planning process. For example, sharing match results may need the app to be integrated with apps that enable sharing, such as e-mail apps or social media apps. This integration is a supporting feature that can be identified at a later stage.

Utilizing personas and use cases ensures that no key features that are required by the target markets are missed and that such features form the core of the design.

Why is Formulating Social Media Strategy Important for Business?

Posted by SMstudy® on June 14, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Social Media, Digital Marketing, Internet marketing, Online Marketing

“Social media” is an umbrella term that includes web-based software and services that bring users together online and allow them to exchange ideas, discuss issues, communicate with one another, and participate in many other forms of social interaction. With the proliferation of different forms of social media, such as blogs, forums, audio-visual sharing sites, personal networking sites, and professional networking sites, consumers are constantly bombarded with many marketing messages.

Social media refers to all channels where people and customers are able to interact with each other via digital media that are public or accessible to multiple users. There are a number of social media websites, each of which has created its own model for enabling people to communicate with each other. Social media sites use content in various forms to build digital communities in which ideas and content are shared and discussion and comments are encouraged.

It is important to keep in mind, when planning a Social Media Marketing Strategy, that consumers will not always react positively to a company’s updates and content on social platforms. Negative comments about a brand and its products are inevitable even on the company’s own social media platforms.

Some companies will choose to exert control over comments on their own platforms and delete those that they feel reflect poorly on the brand. Other companies may choose to allow the negative comments to remain and respond in an empathetic way by offering an apology and/or a solution to issues. Leaving negative comments online, along with the company’s responses shows that the company is open, honest, and transparent. This also provides an opportunity to turn disgruntled customers into a brand evangelist.

It is also important to understand the distinction between “earned” and “paid” opportunities for “sharing.” For example, building “followers” or “shares” through the development and posting of valuable content is “earned.” Alternatively, several social platforms provide “paid” opportunities for advertising and promoted posts in order to share information. Earned and paid strategies on social media are not mutually exclusive and often the most effective social media strategies employ a combination of both. 

What is Affiliate Marketing and How Does It Work?

Posted by SMstudy® on June 12, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Affiliate Marketing, Social Media, Digital Marketing, Internet marketing, Online Marketing

Companies may wish to partner with entities—such as publishers that are individuals or other companies—that can be beneficial to the brand. This can be a productive way for a company to expand its reach and marketing efforts. 

There are two ways affiliate marketing is approached: companies offer affiliate programs directly to other companies/individuals, or they can sign up to be an affiliate through another organization. The company that is offering or controlling the affiliate program will pay a commission for every lead or sale the affiliate delivers to the company’s website.

Affiliate marketing is performance-based marketing where customers or partners are rewarded for designated actions that help market the brand. For example, a customer might mention in a Facebook post that he or she purchased a product and gain a certain number of reward points for their post.

The affiliate marketing program may be structured so that when more than ten friends like or comment on that post, the individual earns more points. The affiliate can then redeem these points against the company’s products or some partner brands.

Affiliate marketing helps widen a company’s reach exponentially using the most credible medium—existing customers. Websites offering price comparison services, coupons, shopping directories, and virtual currency platforms are the most popular affiliate marketing websites.

To look at affiliate marketing in a simple way, it is a cycle consisting of three key entities. These entities are the “merchant,” which is the brand whose product is being marketed, the “publisher” who is the affiliate, and finally the “customer.” In simple words, the advertiser pays a certain commission to the publisher for bringing new customers to the business.

Through affiliate marketing, merchants or companies gain a wider reach to sell their products or services, which is usually a key element to any marketing strategy. This approach can also allow the company to build a strong image or brand name.

One of the main advantages of affiliate marketing is that companies can gain more customers with limited dollars, since the approach is commission based or points based. However, there is the possibility that some merchants may incur high commission, maintenance, and initial setup costs, depending on the nature of the business.

Affiliate marketing is different from referral marketing in the way that it uses online marketing platforms—social media, search engine marketing, and more—to market the product while referral marketing is primarily based on word-of-mouth and relies heavily on trust and personal relationships between existing customers and prospects.

Affiliate marketing can be a powerful tool for a product brand because, in addition to helping grow the customer base, it can also aid brand presence in the market and create a buzz around the brand and its respective brand identities.

Attracting the right affiliates is very important for the affiliate program to be a success and in determining the volume that can be expected from the program. Updating content regularly and staying up-to-date with recent trends is equally important to help ensure that customers respond to the company’s offers.

A product or service does not have to cater to a niche market. Common-place brands, even fast moving consumer goods brands, can benefit greatly from affiliate marketing with the help of the right offers and efficient partners.

Getting products onto as many sites as possible is not necessarily the most important goal. Marketers must also consider the relevance, value, and traffic of the sites and platforms that one is able to reach.  

There are some common mistakes affiliates tend to make, and businesses need to be aware of them. The job of the affiliate is to “market” the product, not “sell” the product. Selling is the job of the advertiser itself. Trying too hard to push customers to buy the product may only push prospective customers away.

Partnering with too many affiliates can be another mistake that brands need to carefully consider. Being everywhere can serve to dilute the customer perception about the brand and undermine its credibility. A crucial component to help ensure success with affiliate programs is to have robust analytics capabilities in place and to use them regularly. This will enable the company to understand which affiliates bring in more business, the value of that business, and where they should increase or decrease their efforts and investments in affiliate marketing. 

Get found - optimize your website content for search engines

Posted by SMstudy® on June 01, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: SEO, Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine, Internet Marketing, Digital Marketing

A key element of improving the performance of a website is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is the process of affecting the position of a website in a search engine’s organic (unpaid) search results. A website that is search engine optimized will appear higher in search results resulting in a greater number of customer visits to the site. A high organic rank also helps build trust in the minds of the consumers as they generally associate a higher ranked website with being a strong, more established brand with greater reliability. This perception in turn leads to greater conversions on the website and supports the fulfillment of the corporate objectives for the brand. 

Search Engine Optimization is an Internet marketing tactic that takes into consideration how search engines operate and ‘rank’ websites, how people search for keywords, the keywords that are most frequently searched, and the kind of searches (text search, image search, video search) that consumers are likely to use to learn more about the products, services, and business as a whole.

Typically when a business adds a page to its site, the various search engines send a spider (or web crawler) that stores the page on the search engine’s server and then indexes the page (i.e., gathers relevant information on the contents of the web page and the links that it contains) for fast and accurate information retrieval when an online consumer registers a search query on the engine.

Optimizing a website for online searches involves editing the content of the site, tagging or coding the pages to increase the website’s relevance to specific keywords, and removing barriers to the indexing activities of search engines. Promoting a site to increase the number of backlinks, or inbound links, is another SEO tactic. 

Mobile SEO

Mobile devices and tablets are being used increasingly by consumers to access the Internet, therefore, it is important for organizations to ensure that their websites are optimized for mobile devices. Also, since many consumers use voice search features, websites and keywords must also be optimized to account for this changing trend among mobile users. When businesses optimize for mobile devices, they should ensure that the website is responsive to mobile devices and tablets; maintain a separate mobile site since mobile users prefer websites in which content can be consumed on a smaller screen and on the go, and provide only relevant content and maintain a light mobile site to ensure faster loading of the mobile site.

An Example of SEO Skills:

A website that sells kitchenware had issues with site structure and on-page targeting. Their category level pages were at subdomains (e.g. category.sitename.com) while each sub-category was back on the main subdomain (e.g. sitename.com/product2=url?xyz). Category and sub-category pages had a distinct lack of semantic HTML or term targeting. Steps such as getting H1 tags onto each page, improving title tag structure, clean & friendly URLs and adding internal links with appropriate anchor text were taken. The site saw ranking improvements across the board, which brought new traffic through head, mid and long tail terms.
 

Learn How to Structure Your Site for Optimal User Experiences

Posted by SMstudy® on June 01, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Website Design, Website architecture, SEO, Web design

When building a website, one of the first things to be considered is its structure. This is fundamental to the success of a site and, if planned properly, can avoid many issues further down the line. Website architecture design involves planning the layout and design of the website, identifying the pages to be included, determining how consumers will navigate the site, and planning how these pages will link together. Based on the learning from market research and competitor website performance, the marketing team—along with subject matter experts, such as website developers—is responsible for ensuring the optimal website architecture design. 
 
One of the factors that the marketing team must consider when planning the website architecture is click-depth. Click-depth or crawl-depth refers to the minimum number of links a website visitor must click in order to get from the “root” web page to a particular desired web page. The root web page is the page that displays when only the domain is in the URL (no path information). Businesses must ensure that the click-depth is kept as low as possible, so that users and search engines can reach any point on the site within a minimum number of clicks. 
 
The marketing team analyzes how each page will be linked internally and externally, creating categories and subcategories within the site. While creating the website, search-friendly URLs should be used to increase the relevance of the links and help the organic ranking for the website. As well, duplicate meta tags, meta descriptions, and titles should be avoided to prevent confusing web crawlers. 
 
In short, the website design architecture should assure visitors they are on the right page; ensure visitors can easily find what they are looking for by providing a clear navigation path and search feature; properly link together and by ensuring the various pages; and ensure that the website is easy to navigate not only for customers, but also for web crawlers, so that they can be detected by search engines.
 

What are the technical skills required for developing a mobile app?

Posted by SMstudy® on June 01, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Mobile App Development, Digital marketing, Internet marketing,

Generally, a company assigns a dedicated team to develop mobile applications for the organization. This team might be in-house, or the company may choose to assign the development work to an external firm. In either case, it is essential that the team has the necessary skills to develop mobile applications with the features that the company has determined are required.
 
A company may have fewer features in its first few apps, but it should ensure that the application development team has the requisite skills to create apps that have more advanced features as well, in case the company decides to add features at a later time. Given increasing mobile usage among customers across all industries, companies will, in all probability, need to constantly adapt to consumer needs and create more advanced mobile apps to keep up with mobile app trends and changing demands.
 
Also, several mobile application development platforms exist, and the team should ideally be able to develop applications across those platforms. However, if the team is able to identify and create apps for the most popular platform used by its target audience, then the company can test customer acceptance of its apps on the most frequently used platform before developing similar apps for other platforms.
 
The performance of mobile apps even on the same platform may differ based on the device type (tablet or phone) or the device model. Thus, the application development team must create apps that can perform equally well across device types and device models.
 
Some of the specific skill sets that a mobile app development team must have are as follows:
  • User Interface (UI) design—This skill refers to the ability to design an app that has an attractive, easy-to-navigate, and responsive design. It requires both creative skill and knowledge of best practices in UI design for mobile apps.
  • Database and hardware computing—This knowledge refers to the ability to create databases with an optimal data structure, specify interaction of the app with the device hardware, minimize power requirements, ensure security of the app against external threats like viruses and hacking, and allocate memory efficiently.
  • Programming—Programming languages translate business logic into a machine-readable language. It is important to write programming code efficiently and in modules so changes to the code can be implemented easily. The team should have knowledge of using Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for various mobile application platforms. These APIs allow programmers to create apps without requiring access to the proprietary underlying code developed by the mobile application platform companies. Preferably, the team should also know how to use interfaces that allow one to create mobile apps that can be deployed across different mobile application platforms.
  • Business understanding—The app development team should have a basic understanding of the business’s overall Marketing Strategy and how the app fits into this strategy. This understanding will give the team a sense of the target customers, which may further enable them to create an optimal UI and ensure the final product supports the intended positioning of the app in the mobile app store.

Learn How an Effective Website Can Boost Your Business

Posted by SMstudy® on May 25, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Website Development, internet marketing articles, Search Engine Marketing,

An effective website is a critical component of a company’s overall online success. Company’s website serves as the central hub and foundation for its online activity. With a plethora of available website designs, the digital marketing team must determine the appropriate and optimal design and message.

Besides having a basic understanding of the technology on the website, the digital marketing team must also consider the following facets of creating a website.

Consumer Perspective

  • Relevancy—Age, cultural nuances, geography, and other demographic factors of the target audience will influence the type of content on the website.
  • Usability Design—The digital marketing team must take into consideration how technically savvy its target customer is. If the target customer does not generally have the appropriate comfort level with technology, the team should design a simple, text-based layout with easy navigation and basic features. If the target customer is comfortable and familiar with the Internet and computer use, a more intricate, interactive, and information-rich website can be implemented. The design of the site should depend on the expectations of both the users and the company. In some cases, the development might focus on consumer engagement, while in other cases, the design might be oriented toward supporting task-oriented behavior such as the ability to make changes to one’s account, purchase a product or service, and so on.

Site Development Perspective

  • Purpose—Companies maintain a web presence for a variety of reasons. While some companies use websites as their main method of selling their products, other companies have an online presence just to support their business, message, and brand position. There are companies that use websites as a public relations (PR) tool, to enhance brand value in the minds of their customers, or to evaluate product feedback from customers that may help in understanding customer needs, general communications, product updates, and sales. The digital marketing team is responsible for ensuring that the website is designed to meet the overall strategic objectives outlined in the Marketing Strategy.
  • Planning—The digital marketing team must work with the website development team to plan the execution of the website, beginning with creating a storyboard for the website; listing functional requirements; building the database structure; developing wireframes; and determining hypermedia linkages, search engine key words, graphical design components, user interface designs, audio/video sources, animation, and text requirements and formats.
  • Performance— The digital marketing team also must consider the logical design of a good website, compare the performance of competitor websites to identify best practices, check for effective performance across browsers and operating systems, and perform usability testing of the website to ensure that it is easy to use.
  • Maintenance—Websites create an online presence for a brand, so the marketing team must ensure that the website is maintained and tested regularly. Downtime on a website may adversely impact the direct online sales of products and may also taint brand reputation in the minds of consumers.

The brand messaging on the website has to be in-line with the overall brand message and must stay relevant to the target audience.

Mobile Devices Playing a Key Role in Planning Marketing Strategy for a Business

Posted by SMstudy® on May 25, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Mobile Marketing, Internet Marketing articles, Digital Marketing articles, SEO

Since the demise of newspaper’s great hegemonic grip on advertising, news media minds have been banging their big brains together, trying to come up with ways that not only monetize their content, but also generate some of the sweet ad revenue they used to have the luxury of enjoying. This is, of course, much harder in the infinite space and freedom of the internet. (limited space and information gatekeeping was a true friend to print news)

It’s been a bit of a slog and news outlets have been in “trial and error” mode for a while and still haven’t quite gotten it fully figured out. That being said, over the last year or so, user trends have been offering great nuggets of insight that are changing the way marketers and news sites are adapting to trends in mobile news consumption.

The landscape for mobile news outlets was important enough to make it to the front page of The Pew Research State of the Media 2015. What was the big deal? That 39 out of 50 legacy news outlets get more traffic from mobile devices than from desktop computers!  

Full list (stats provided by comScore)…http://www.journalism.org/media-indicators/digital-top-50-online-news-entities-2015/

In the digital-only “newsscape,” a similar trend was noted.

The report states, “similar to the larger list of top 50 digital news entities, just a minority of these digital-only sites, 11 in all, had audiences that spent more time with them via a mobile device than a desktop.”

Here’s the complete list of digital native sites... http://www.journalism.org/media-indicators/digital-top-50-digital-native-news-sites-2015/

This preference for mobile news consumption is only mildly tempered by the fact that longer times were spent on news sites when being read on desktop computers.

Nevertheless, it matters.

Believe it or not, tracking consumer behavior has been one of the main problems with news outlets and marketers alike when considering ad dollars for mobile. Now we know that people are preferring their mobile devices for their news both while in on-the-go situations as well as in the down time of “Netflix and chill” moments.

In addition, we appear to be in a “mobile ad desert” where despite a rapid increase year over year in mobile advertising spending, there’s still a gap between advertising dollars spent on TV and other marketing channels and those spent on mobile. It seems that marketers haven’t quite picked up on the huge leap mobile viewership has taken. As an example, Adobe Digital Index reported in July 2015 that media has risen by two hours a day over the last five years, but advertisers have been slow to respond.

The article states, “Just as internet advertising once experienced a lag between the number of unique users and advertising spend, a gulf now exists between the growing amount of time consumers spend viewing content on mobile devices and the relatively small investment brands are making in the channel. But it’s just a matter of time until the numbers match.”

When confronted with new information, a new approach is often required. And this positive mobile news usage data begs for new solutions.

One of the more interesting examples of calculating an accurate measure was put forward by the Financial Times. The FT has switched to a time-based metric, one that places attention front and center in their value assessment. Other news outlets are also recognizing the truer value of an attention-based metric, as well. I’ve begun calling this the “after the fold” ad as it appears when I’ve stayed on a story long enough to show I’m committed. This strategy bets squarely on the contents ability to hold attention. And so far, so good.

Although various solutions abound, no silver bullet has yet been discovered (and perhaps never will). Serious impediments to accurate metrics (and hence, the flow of ad dollars) include bots that inflate the numbers and the easy accessibility to, and preference for, ad-blocking. This trend is particularly noted among millennials. 

But even so, a new approach based on time as opposed to volume (number of clicks) could be the way forward for news outlets. Getting a handle on what they have to offer marketers may be the thing to lead news outlets out of the red and back into the black.

For more on sales and marketing, visit smstudy.com.

 

Sources:

The Pew Research State of the Medial 2015

http://www.journalism.org/2015/04/29/state-of-the-news-media-2015/

“How mobile metrics fall short for news outlets and advertisers,” James Breiner, July 13, 2015 https://ijnet.org/en/blog/how-mobile-metrics-fall-short-news-outlets-and-advertisers

“Is Digital Advertising Ready to Ditch the Click?”  Michael Sebastian. September 29, 2014. http://adage.com/article/media/digital-advertising-ready-ditch-click/295143/

"ADI: Advertisers Must Prepare To Follow Increasing Eyeballs On Mobile Video,” June 21, 2015. http://www.cmo.com/articles/2015/6/21/adi-advertisers-must-prepare-to-follow-increasing-eyeballs-on-mobile-video.html

“When Will Mobile Marketers Move Beyond Basic Measurement?”  June 15, 2015 http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Will-Mobile-Marketers-Move-Beyond-Basic-Measurement/1012600?ecid=NL1001#sthash.B8b4GxdM.dpuf

Learn How You Can Increase Online Reach of Your Business

Posted by SMstudy® on May 25, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Online Marketing, Digital Marketing Articles, SEO, Internet Marketing

As a seller, your website or ecommerce webstore can bring you a good amount of traffic and sales. It offers a great way to attract new customers and increase the reach of your products and brand. However a small company typically may not have the resources to create a comprehensive website, set up a payment gateway, or invest on online marketing efforts. Even an existing seller could face a roadblock when it comes to increasing reach, as online marketing spends become progressively higher. This is where alliances or relationships with online marketplaces can help.

Strategic alliances or relationships with online marketplaces are very effective for increasing reach. An online marketplace is a type of e-commerce website where product and inventory information is provided by multiple third parties, and the transactions are processed by the marketplace operator. The product offered could be a physical product, such as clothing, furniture, books, or electronics. Or it could even be an intangible product, such as an online training course, downloadable game, or streaming video.

The marketplace processes consumer transactions and the participating retailers or wholesalers fulfill and deliver the products and services; thus, the online marketplace or site is really the middle-man. Some marketplaces may also handle order fulfilment and delivery management services, for which they typically charge a premium. Because marketplaces offer products from many providers, they offer a wider selection and more competitive prices than those offered by the e-commerce sites of individual businesses.

For a small manufacturer that does not have a large enough brand to attract brick-and-mortar retailers and does not have sufficient money to gain and manage a critical mass of visits on its own website, partnering with an online marketplace makes perfect sense. It helps the manufacturer save the costs involved in online marketing and enhancing customer experience. For the online marketplace, it means an additional product or brand available for its customers to choose from, thus becoming a win-win relationship for the marketplace operator and the small manufacturer.

These companies benefit by paying a small percentage of their revenue to the marketplace operator who can provide those services. Since the marketplace operator typically has multiple—sometimes thousands of associated parties promoting their products on the website, it is cost effective and scalable. These online marketplaces are often the primary destination people choose to purchase a particular product. If you’re looking to increase reach, marketplaces offer you a quick and easy access to new markets.

Small publications and authors often use the online marketplace (companies such as Amazon) to sell their books. These small publications do not have the resources to reach a global audience on their own. Thus, strategic partnerships with online booksellers or websites that have a huge reach will help them promote their books effectively.

Visit www.smstudy.com to learn more ways to increase your online reach.

What Architecture is right for your Mobile App?

Posted by SMstudy® on May 19, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing, Mobile App. App design, Mobile App Architechture

To determine the right mobile app architecture, a company needs to understand the following:

  1. Categorization of Key Features—The company can employ use cases in this process to determine the key features that customers require from the app. Then, the key features should be classified as informational, transactional, or device-oriented.
  • Informational features are those where information is being consumed by a user, such as reading news on a subject.
  • Transactional features are those where a user carries out a transaction with the application, such as sharing, buying, or downloading.
  • Device-oriented features are those that enable a user to utilize device-specific features, such as using the camera or the gyroscope.

 

If a mobile app primarily has informational features, such as consuming news, then a web app might be sufficient. If, however, a mobile app primarily uses device-specific features, such as scanning codes using the camera, then a native app or a cross-platform app may be necessary.

 

  1. Type of User Experience Desired—If the type of customers a company is targeting for its app demands a high-quality user experience from the app, the best approach is native app development, followed by cross-platform development. The best user experience generally comes with utilizing the best that the operating system and the mobile device have to offer, which is what a native app can deliver. For customers who are fine with basic functionality, even a web app may suffice.

 

  1. Need for Multiplatform Compatibility—If the target market uses a wide variety of mobile devices and operating systems, it is important for a company to develop apps for each of the mobile platforms. Unless complex features are required for the apps that will require native app development, a company may be better off developing apps using a cross-platform framework or developing web apps. Where the target audience uses a limited range of devices and/or operating systems and requires complex features, native apps are the best option.

 

  1. Need for Offline Usage—If the target market has intermittent Internet connectivity, or does not use mobile Internet very often, it may make sense for a company to make an app, or important parts of the app, available for offline usage. If the app primarily acts as a means for a user to stay updated on news, offers, or other real-time information, then the need for offline usage will be much lower.

Once the mobile app development method is decided, the company then selects a specific mobile app development tool that should ideally fulfill all of the following criteria:

  • The mobile app development team should know how to use the tool. In the absence of in-house knowledge, external resources should be easily available to use the tool for the company.
  • Developers should be able to use the tool to create all the features desired by customers.
  • The cost associated with the tool should be within the budget specified by the digital marketing team.
  • The time taken to create an app using the tool should be within the timeframe specified by the digital marketing team.
  • The tool should not be based on technologies or languages that are likely to decrease in popularity or become obsolete in the near future.

Paint an Image for your Marketing Activity

Posted by SMstudy® on May 19, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing, Customer Engagement, Content, Social Media, Image Marketing

An image is worth a thousand words. Image-centric social networks are generally very popular and have an impressive retention rate. These sites focus on the posting and sharing of images and short videos. For a successful social media marketing campaign, it is important to stay up-to-date on trends, and image marketing is one of the biggest trends.

The consumer attention span is ever shrinking. In today’s information age, audiences are flooded with content available at a single touch. This abundance of content makes it harder for good content to cut through the clutter and get noticed, but images capture the attention of consumers. They must be presented with engaging content quickly, or viewers will quickly move on to the next item.

If a social media post has multiple paragraphs of text, there is a chance it will be ignored by people who feel they do not have time to read it. However, images stand a better chance of capturing people’s attention, and therefore, a post with an image has a much better chance of engaging readers just long enough to pique their interest. Once viewers have noticed the image ad, they may then want to learn more and consume the content in more detail.

Here are two examples of Image Marketing:

  • Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, and Snapchat are some of the popular image centric social networks which focus on the posting and sharing of images and short videos. These image-centric networks have millions of users and a loyal user base.
  • Facebook ads are a great example of image marketing and native marketing at the same time. The ads, or “Suggested Posts,” are seen by Facebook users within their news feed and are presented in a way that is woven in with their friends’ posts and shares. They provide a large image and brief line of text that is visually appealing and engaging, and hopefully well targeted to be of interest to viewers. The result is an ad that really does not look or feel like advertising, which is arguably the best kind of all.

Mobile App Development Methods: Part 2

Posted by SMstudy® on May 12, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing, Customer Engagement, Content, Social Media, Blogs

A number of factors make developing a mobile app difficult, such as the existence of multiple mobile app platforms, various operating system versions for each platform, and multiple device types, each with its own set of unique features. Given this variety, there are also many ways to design a mobile app, but the three most common methods are native app development, cross-platform development, and web app development. The company must decide which of these types of development methods is most suited for its needs. This decision should be guided primarily by what makes the most sense for the customer.

Let’s now discuss Cross-Platform Development along with key characteristics and situations in which this type of method should be chosen.

Cross-Platform Development—This method involves developing the app once on a cross-platform app development framework and then running it on multiple platforms after making suitable adjustments for each platform. The apps are listed in the mobile app store of each platform and can be accessed and downloaded.

Key characteristics of this method are as follows:

  • Ability to Use Operating System and Device Functionality—Apps that are developed using the cross-platform development method do not have as much ability to use the operating systems and device functionality as apps developed using the native app development method since some features are made available only to native app developers by a mobile platform in order to promote the platform. In addition, any new upgrades to the operating system of a platform or additional device features are not immediately available to cross-platform frameworks—and sometimes are not made available at all.
  • Ability to Be Used Offline—Because cross-platform apps are installed directly on mobile devices, just like native apps, some or all features may be used even when there is no Internet connection because the app can use data stored locally on the device. Once an Internet connection is restored, the mobile app can synchronize new data with a central server.
  • Cost of Development—The cost of developing apps for multiple platforms using a cross-platform framework is much lower than the cost for developing native apps for each platform. The cost savings are a result of the fact that the basic code of an app built using a cross-platform framework is the same across platforms with only small adjustments being required for each platform. Most of the development effort for one platform can be reused for all other platforms.
  • Level of Skills Required—If a company wants to create apps for multiple platforms using a cross-platform framework, the app development team only needs to know how to create apps on one framework. Thus, even moderately skilled resources might provide enough expertise in app development if the company chooses this method of development.

Here is an example of Cross-Platform Development:

  • Most gaming apps use cross-platform development, which helps them function on one or more operating systems. Creating an app using cross-platform development has enabled these gaming companies to target the entire mobile, tablet, or other device market, which uses different operating systems. Such cross-platform apps have a larger customer base than native apps.

Mobile App Development Methods: Part 3

Posted by SMstudy® on May 12, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing, Customer Engagement, Content, Social Media, Blogs

A number of factors make developing a mobile app difficult, such as the existence of multiple mobile app platforms, various operating system versions for each platform, and multiple device types, each with its own set of unique features. Given this variety, there are also many ways to design a mobile app, but the three most common methods are native app development, cross-platform development, and web app development. The company must decide which of these types of development methods is most suited for its needs. This decision should be guided primarily by what the makes most sense for the customer.

Finally let’s discuss Web App Development along with key characteristics, and situations in which this type of method should be chosen.

Web App Development—Web apps may be accessed through an Internet browser by any device and on any platform. The app runs on a central server and generally does not need to be customized for different platforms. For a long time, web apps could not use any features of the device or operating system, or run offline, but recent developments have made this functionality possible. However, the performance and user experience is generally not as good using this method in comparison with apps developed using the native app development or cross-platform framework methods.

Key characteristics of this method are as follows:

  • Ability to Use Operating System and Device Functionality—The ability for web apps to use the device operating system and functionality is quite limited and has only recently been made possible. Use of upgraded features of either the operating system or devices is even more limited than that of apps built using the cross-platform framework.
  • Ability to Be Used Offline—Recent developments have made it possible for web apps to be used offline in a limited manner. While users are online, data is stored in local memory and can then be accessed while offline, to be later synced once a network connection is restored.
  • Cost of Development—The cost of developing web apps is low because the app generally needs to be created only once, regardless of how many different platforms or devices access the app.
  • Level of Skills Required—If a company wants to create web apps, the mobile app development team must know the markup language being used by most web app development frameworks.

Here are a few examples of Web App Development:

  • Document viewers and builders, spreadsheets, chat applications, and webmail are some examples of common web apps. They are primarily accessed through an Internet browser and are functional irrespective of the operating system or device on which they are used. These apps require an Internet connection to work and can also be used offline with certain limitations.
  • The advent of HTML5 has made it possible for web apps to use any features of the device or operating system, or run offline, Hence, HTML5 is the language used by most web app development frameworks.
  • Another common web development framework that is also used for web app development is Ruby on Rails. If a company is using Ruby on Rails to create its web app, it will require resources skilled in the use of this framework.

Mobile App Development Methods: Part 1

Posted by SMstudy® on May 03, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: digital marketing,mobile app, app development, native app,

A number of factors make developing a mobile app difficult, such as the existence of multiple mobile app platforms, various operating system versions for each platform, and multiple device types, each with its own set of unique features. Given this variety, there are also many ways to design a mobile app, but the three most common methods are native app development, cross-platform development, and web app development. The company must decide which of these types of development methods is most suited for its needs. This decision should be guided primarily by what makes most sense for the customer.

Let us discuss Native App Development along with key characteristics, and situations in which this type of method should be chosen.

  1. Native App Development—This method involves developing apps directly on a specific mobile app platform using the platform’s programming language and native code. The apps are listed in the mobile app store of a platform and can be accessed and downloaded.

Key characteristics of this method are as follows:

  • Ability to Use Operating System and Device Functionality—This ability is high for native apps as they are built directly on a specific mobile app platform that provides access to all features of the operating system of the platform and devices that run on the platform. Whenever there are changes to the operating system or when additional features are supported on newer devices, native app developers are able to upgrade their apps quickly.
  • Ability to Be Used Offline—As native apps are installed directly on mobile devices, some or all features may be used even when there is no Internet connection because the app can use data stored on the device. Once an Internet connection is restored, then the mobile app can synchronize new data with a central server.
  • Cost of Development—The cost of developing native apps for multiple platforms is relatively high primarily because developing the same app for different platforms requires almost the same effort for each platform. There are only a few components (e.g., user interface design) that can be leveraged across platforms. Most of the programming must be done from the beginning for each new platform. For this reason, some companies choose to create an app for only one platform.
  • Level of Skills Required—If a company wants to create native apps for multiple platforms, the app development team must be skilled in developing apps for each of the platforms. Thus, highly skilled resources are needed for multi-platform app development. If a company does not have technical resources skilled in multiple platforms, it may need to invest time and resources in training existing resources or hire external resources for the app development effort.

Here is an example of the Native App Development:

  • Many native apps are included with the factory version or manufacturer’s version of a mobile, tablet, or other device. The camera, e-mail, and settings on a smartphone are a few native apps that can be used offline and then synced with other devices. These apps are created using native code and the platform’s programming language. At times, an update of the operating system is needed to upgrade the functionality or the version of these native apps.  

What is Search Engine Optimization and how it can Benefit Your Business

Posted by SMstudy® on May 03, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: SEO, Digital Marketing articles, Online marketing articles, Internet marketing articles

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) involves a number of activities and initiatives that businesses can implement to achieve high search engine rankings. Such activities address factors that can impact a website’s or web page’s search engine rankings for specific search terms, resulting in a high placement in a search engine’s organic (unpaid) search results. It is important to note that the position at which the company appears in search results is a result of both SEO activities and paid advertising.

Consumer perception is impacted by the position at which a company appears in the result of a search. A high rank in search results helps build trust in the minds of consumers as they generally associate a higher ranked website with being a strong, more established brand with greater reliability. This perception in turn leads to greater conversions on the company’s website and supports the fulfillment of the objectives for the product or brand. Most consumers will not click beyond the search results on the first or second page and the potential diminishes the further into the list that the company appears. A website that is search engine optimized will appear higher in search results resulting in a greater number of visits to the site.

Search Engine Optimization is an Internet marketing tactic that takes into consideration how search engines function and “rank” websites, how people search for keywords, the keywords that are most frequently searched, and the type of searches (text search, image search, video search) that consumers are likely to use to learn more about a product, service, or business as a whole. Keywords are typically defined as either short tail (also known as head keywords) (e.g., women’s clothing) or long tail (e.g., best store to buy women’s clothing). Short tail, or head, keywords usually consist of two words, while long tail keywords usually consist of three to five words. While short tail keywords are generally more popular, long tail keywords are more targeted to specific searches and come with less competition. Less competition is particularly important when developing a pay-per-click campaign as less competition generally means the company does not have to bid as much money for a particular keyword or phrase.

Typically when a business adds a page to its site, the various search engines send a spider, or web crawler, that stores the page on the search engine’s server and then indexes the page (i.e., gathers relevant information on the contents of the web page and the links that it contains) for fast and accurate information retrieval when an online consumer registers a search query on the engine.

Optimizing a website for online searches involves editing the site content and tagging or coding pages to increase the relevance of the website content relative to specific keywords that are key to the business. The objective is to ensure that the site appears in search engine results for the keywords that are most relevant to the business. SEO also involves removing any barriers that would prevent search engines from indexing the site, as well as promoting the site to increase the number of back-links, or inbound links.  

 

Getting the Website Architecture Design Right

Posted by SMstudy® on May 03, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: SEO, Digital marketing articles, internet marketing articles, Online marketing articles

One of the first considerations when building a website is the site’s structure. A well-planned structure is fundamental to the success of the website and can prevent issues in later stages of the site development. Website architecture design involves planning the layout and design of the website, identifying the pages to be included, determining how consumers will navigate the site, and planning how these pages will link together. Based on the learning from marketing research and competitor website analysis, the digital marketing team—along with subject matter experts, such as website developers—is responsible for ensuring an optimal website architecture design.

A key factor that the must be considered when planning the website architecture is click-depth. Click-depth or crawl-depth refers to the minimum number of clicks required of a website visitor in order to get from the “root” web page to a desired web page. The root web page is the page that displays when only the domain is in the URL (i.e., no path information is included). The objective is to enable visitors to find what they are looking for with ease. Companies must ensure that the click-depth is kept as low as possible, so that users and search engines can reach any point on the site within a minimum number of clicks.  

The digital marketing team analyses how each page will be linked internally and externally, creating categories and subcategories within the site. While creating the website, search-friendly URLs should be used to increase the relevance of the links and help the organic ranking for the website. Additionally, duplicate meta tags, meta descriptions, and titles should be avoided to prevent confusing web crawlers.

In short, the website architecture design should assure visitors they are on the right page; ensure visitors can easily find what they are looking for by providing a clear navigation path and search feature; properly link together the various pages; and ensure that the website is easy to navigate not only for users, but also for web crawlers so that the site content can be detected by search engines.

A critical component of website architecture is scalability. Website designers must ensure that websites are designed in a way that navigation is not compromised when new functionality, product lines, or business units are added. Consumers have a low tolerance for long wait-times or high click depth pages and will quickly leave a site that does not provide optimal usability. For example, a business may start with a simple website to build awareness of the brand, and provide details of the product offerings; however, if the company chooses to add an e-commerce component at a later date, the e-commerce capability should be aligned with the existing product catalog so that customers can continue to navigate the site with ease and purchase products quickly and securely. A well-thought-out architecture at the planning stage will enable this new functionality without overhauling the existing site.

Advantages of Blogs and Discussion Forums

Posted by SMstudy® on April 25, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Mobile App Development, Digital marketing, Internet marketing,

There may be a number of blogs and discussion forums related to a company’s product category. Participating in such blogs and forums meaningfully, with the objective of helping others and sharing information, can help in improving a company’s online presence and SEO. A company should aim to engage blog authors and people commenting on blogs by clarifying areas of doubt, by providing valuable resources, and by positioning themselves as subject matter experts. For this, the person or team involved in these activities should be subject matter experts themselves. If the target audience that visits these blogs recognizes the company as being experts, then they will want to interact with the company on their own. This interaction may be in the form of a website visit, a personal message on a discussion forum, an email, or a phone call. They may also provide links to a company’s website pages in other forums if they find the information useful after visiting them. This will help in gaining natural backlinks to a company’s website—the kind most favored by search engines.

The company must ensure that its contact details and website link are visible or accessible to other readers. This is generally achieved by adding these details to the signature of a post or mentioning them in the user profile. Such links in the signature also contribute to a website’s SEO. However, many of the reputed and popular discussion forums allow such backlinks only to those forum users who have gained a specific level of respect and trust in the forum. Those users who have been on a forum for a long period of time, who have posted several times, and who have gained noted support and appreciation from others in the forum, are often permitted to post links in their forum entries or signatures. Therefore, it is important that the company post to the forum regularly.

A company may also write high-quality guest blog posts and submit them to reputed blogs for publishing. Such guest blog posts, once accepted, can be valuable for attracting readers of the reputed blogs to the company’s website, and can also improve the search rank of the website if links to the website are present in the guest blog posts. However, it is generally not easy to get reputed blogs to accept a company’s guest blog because they have high standards for accepting guest posts, or may only accept very few guest posts in a particular time period. Thus, the company should be persistent in its efforts and ensure that all guest blog posts that are submitted are well written and targeted to the audience of the reputed blogs.

Care should be taken not to hard-sell one’s product, and the company should avoid inserting links to its website for the sake of earning backlinks—most of the good blogs and discussion forums are moderated, and such links would most likely be deleted. In addition, irrelevant link sharing or hard-selling may damage a company’s reputation without earning any benefits. Sharing links on blogs and discussion forums that are not related to one’s product category or website may result in penalties from search engines in terms of a company’s search rank. Search engines are becoming increasingly more sophisticated at identifying links that do not add value as well as those that are present for the sole purpose of earning backlinks.

How a business can benefit from Search Engine Marketing?

Posted by SMstudy® on April 25, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Social Media, Digital Marketing, Internet marketing, Online Marketing

Search engine marketing (SEM) is a form of online marketing that involves the use of search engine result pages to promote business websites. Search engine marketing increases the visibility of websites through search engine optimization (SEO) or through paid advertising with the intent of increasing traffic to the website.

SEM is a broader term than SEO. SEM refers to all marketing activities that use search engine technology for marketing purposes. These include SEO, paid listings and ads, and other search engine related services and functions that will increase reach and exposure of the website, resulting in greater traffic.

Search engine traffic consists of consumers who are interested in and searching for a particular term that is associated with the website. To leverage this tool and draw traffic to a company’s website, marketers must understand how to effectively use both paid and organic SEM and determine the potential exposure they can gain through both approaches.

Advantages of Search Engine Marketing

Search engine marketing is advantageous in the following ways:

  • Unlike other major sources of online marketing, SEM helps businesses connect with consumers at a time when the consumer is interested in purchasing the product or service. Email marketing, for example, involves sending emails to a database of consumers with the hope of inciting some of these consumers to purchase. However, the consumer receiving the email may not be interested in the product or service being sold, or the consumer may be interested in the product or service, but he or she may not be interested at that precise moment. Furthermore, email marketing can be seen as invasive to some customers and may lead to a loss in reputation. SEM catches the consumer at a time when he or she is actively looking for the product or service, resulting in a more engaged consumer and typically a more receptive response.

 

  • Search engine traffic originates from a voluntary, audience-driven search. This means the visitors from a search-results link have not only selected your listing from among your peers, but have chosen the search query that resulted in your listing being shown. As a result, the audience is more engaged, relevant, and often ready to make a purchasing decision.

What is Online Press Release?

Posted by SMstudy® on April 25, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Social Media, Digital Marketing, Internet marketing, Online Marketing

Online Press Release is broadly defined as using new technology to effectively communicate with stakeholders over the Internet. When a business is attempting to increase online reach through PR, a number of tools can be used. One of these is the company’s own website. It is the ideal place to host value-added content that supports broader off-site PR campaigns where people are encouraged to click back to a company’s site, and where user engagement can be tracked and measured.

Online Press Release typically encompasses the following:

  • Raising the profile of a company or brand using online channels
  • Developing online word-of-mouth buzz
  • Fostering online advocates and minimizing the impact of critics
  • Identifying online trends and issues

The objective of Online Press Release is to raise awareness of a company or its brand among the broader online community and to generate interest that takes advantage of the viral potential of online social media. It is a way of exhibiting prominent, newsworthy stories about a product, brand, or company to as many viewers as possible. It is similar to standard press releases submitted to offline print media channels, but has the added flexibility of enabling content creators to include multi-media content, such as videos, as well as links and supporting digital files.

To maximize the penetration and exposure from PR, it is essential to submit releases to one or more Online PR or news distribution services such as PR Web, Business Wire, PR.com, or Click Press. Many other similar services can be easily found online. Some of these services offer free basic distribution with paid upgrades, while others require an upfront payment or contract on either a yearly subscription or per-item basis. These services also tend to distribute releases via news feeds to online and offline journalists, media websites, and news aggregation services, such as Google News and Yahoo News, which can result in a great deal of exposure for a newsworthy story.

Some Common Guidelines for Writing an Online Press Release

Posted by SMstudy® on April 25, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Press Release writing, Social Media, Digital Marketing, Internet marketing, Online Marketing

When a business is attempting to increase online reach through PR, a number of tools can be used. The objective of online PR is to raise awareness of a company or its brand among the broader online community and to generate interest that takes advantage of the viral potential of online social media.

Guidelines for writing an online press release

  • Newsworthy content—Common news angles include timely information about a new product or service, a business expansion or recent event, an organizational milestone like an anniversary or award, or the issuance of a tip sheet or expert opinion on a topic currently in the news. The news announcement must be clearly stated in the headline. Not everything is news. It is not advisable to use a press release for advertising or for posting a general interest article.
  • Objective tone—Press releases should be free of direct address (i.e., “you,” “I,” “we,” etc.) unless used within a quotation from a company spokesperson. Direct address is a flag that the content is an advertisement rather than a news release.
  • Standard length—The standard length of a press release is ideally between 300 and 800 words. The length of a press release directly affects its distribution, and press releases that are overly short or long may have not be indexed in the search engines.
  • Story first, detail later—An “inverted pyramid,” journalistic style of writing should be used, in which the main elements are shared in the first few sentences before elaborating on specific and relevant details. Some online PR distribution services allow for an executive summary of one or two sentences before the actual body of the release.
  • Use active, compelling language— The use of active voice, clear and compelling language, and varied sentence length will maintain reader interest and keep the release moving at a healthy pace.
  • Backlinks—The body can contain hyperlinks on relevant keywords. Some online PR distribution services may restrict the use of links, or limit their number. Where possible, authors should aim to have at least one link, but more if possible. It is important, however, to refrain from stuffing the content with links as search engine crawlers may interpret the release as spam. Ideal link density is one link for 100 words in the body.
  • Contact details—A press release should always provide details of how to contact a real person in the organization who is ready to provide any additional information or direct input required. This should include a web address, contact telephone number, and an email address. It may also include the company’s pages on various social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.
  • Adherence to the specified guidelines—It is important to make sure a press release adheres to the published guidelines of the distribution service. Doing so will ensure the release passes the editorial requirements and will maximize the chances of it being picked up by content publishers.

After writing a press release, another important step is to distribute it effectively over the Internet. In-house media, such as the company website, company blog, and emailers, are effective ways to disseminate PR. 

What are the programming languages used in web designing?

Posted by SMstudy® on April 20, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Social Media, Digital Marketing, Internet marketing, Online Marketing

Although businesses will have a defined team that is responsible for the technical aspects of designing the website, it is important for the marketing team to possess a basic understanding of the various website formats and their advantages or limitations. This knowledge helps the marketing team make an informed choice on the kind of information that they would like to include on the website and whether the existing web design is capable of displaying the required information in the manner intended by the marketing team.

A brief overview of the more frequently used web languages follows. As previously mentioned, expertise in this area is not a necessary requirement for marketing teams, but a general understanding is recommended.

XHTML / HTML

XHTML is the basic language of the web. Using this technology alone will enable website developers to build simple, text-based websites.

A more advanced version is known as Dynamic HTML. DHTML is the concept of using a combination of a static markup language (such as HTML), a scripting language (such as JavaScript), a presentation definition language (such as CSS), and the Document Object Model (see below).

DHTML allows scripting languages to change variables in a web page's definition language, which in turn affects the look and function of otherwise "static" HTML page content, after the page has been fully loaded and during the viewing process. Thus, the “dynamic” characteristic of DHTML is the way it functions while a page is viewed, providing greater interactivity and accessibility to users.

The Document Object Model

The Document Object Model, or DOM, is a language-independent convention for representing and interacting with objects in HTML, XHTML, and XML documents. It allows a web designer to manipulate the contents of a web page.

When an HTML page is rendered in browsers, the browser downloads the HTML into local memory and automatically parses it to display the page on screen. The DOM is also the way JavaScript transmits the state of the browser in HTML pages.

CSS

CSS stands for cascading style sheets and is a style sheet language used for describing the appearance and formatting of a document written in a markup language. CSS is designed primarily to enable the separation of document content from document presentation, including elements such as the layout, colors, and fonts. This separation can improve content accessibility, provide more flexibility and control in the specification of presentation characteristics, enable multiple pages to share formatting, and reduce complexity and repetition in the structural content.

JavaScript

JavaScript is used in conjunction with HTML to access the Document Object Model (DOM) of the web page. JavaScript runs locally on the user's computer and can respond quickly to the user (as opposed to scripts that run on the web server that may take longer to react).

There are several advantages to using JavaScript, including:

  • Dynamically changing images when the user hovers over them;
  • User input on a form is validated;
  • A new window opens when a link or image is clicked.

Mobile Customized Website Development

Posted by SMstudy® on April 20, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Mobile App Development, Digital marketing, Internet marketing,

Mobile devices have a number of characteristics that make them very different from laptops and desktops. Their screens are smaller; their screen orientation changes from portrait to landscape depending on how the user holds the device; their inputs are mostly touch-based, making them different from keyboard and mouse-based inputs; and they have additional capabilities such as geo-location. Given these differences, and the fact that mobile traffic now forms a significant proportion of overall traffic to websites across industries, it has become important for companies to make sure their websites display and perform well on mobile devices.

There are primarily two approaches from which companies can choose when seeking to customize their websites for mobile devices. The options are as follows:

Create a separate mobile site - This approach involves creating a separate site specifically designed for use on mobile devices. These sites generally have only the most important sections of the site displayed in such a manner that they are easy to read on the smaller screens of smartphones and tablets. If a user wants to access additional information that is not present on the mobile site, then links are provided to relevant pages on a full version of the website. Typically, a link is also provided for users to access the full version of the website.

Implement responsive design - This approach involves reprogramming and sometimes redesigning the existing website so that it adjusts its display and content automatically, depending on the screen size and orientation of the device on which the website is being viewed.

Analyze Your Social Media Competitors

Posted by SMstudy® on April 20, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Social Media, Digital Marketing, Internet marketing, Online Marketing

One of the simplest and most effective ways to begin developing a social media plan for a product, brand or company is to assess the social media activities that competitors are engaging in. By analyzing competitors’ social media activities, realistic benchmarks for the company’s social media plan can be set, based on what others in the industry are experiencing in terms of reach and engagement growth. This strategy enables the team to lay the framework for a successful social media strategy that is based on the successes of other similar companies in the same space.

A company identifies its competitors as a result of the Identify Competition process in the SMstudy book on Marketing Strategy. After identifying its competitors, the first step in analyzing competitors’ social media activity is to identify their voice in social media websites—whether the competitor is portraying itself directly as the brand or whether individuals from the brand are promoting the product.

The next step is to identify the level and scale of engagement of competitors with their audience. Questions like “How many followers does a company have on LinkedIn?”, “What is the ratio of followers to following on Twitter?”, and “How many Likes does the company have on its Facebook page?” are all questions that can be easily researched and answered.

It is also important to know how often competitors engage in specific activities that indicate their focus on various social media elements. Questions like “How many Facebook posts do they write each month?” and “How many tweets to they write each day?” need to be answered to gauge their focus. Some brands may have an extremely high frequency of activities but their level of engagement in an activity may be very small. Others might focus more on quality content, and participate in less frequent activities but may see an equal or higher level of engagement. For example, if a competitor makes thirty Facebook posts but each post is seen by just twenty people, out of whom three “like” it and two share it, this is not a good strategy and doing something similar is not likely to yield better results with the same target audience.

Insights into preferences for different types of content can also be discovered by analyzing competitors’ social media activity. Companies can observe whether competitors are posting texts, links, videos, photos, polls, questions, trivia, or something completely different, and can see the types of posts that engage the most number of customers.

Social Media Analytics: Data Obtained

Posted by SMstudy® on April 14, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Analytics, Digital Marketing, SMstudy, Social Media, Social Media Metrics

Social media analytics assists in measuring the performance of social media activities by gathering information from social networking websites, blogs, and discussion forums. Key information that is tracked using these tools include the following:

  • Customer Information—This provides rich personal data and insights about customers including gender, age, relationship status, interests, educational background, and socio-economics.
  • Reach—This refers to the potential target size a given activity (e.g. post, tweet, etc.) can reach within the company’s social media network. For example, a company may only have 1,000 followers on a particular social media site; however, its potential reach would be measured as the number of followers multiplied by the number of shares by those followers.
  • Reputation—This can be measured by tracking the number of mentions about the company or its products on social networking sites. This metric needs to be qualified with information regarding the type of mentions being received. Social media monitoring tools also track sentiment—either positive, negative, or neutral. A negative event may trigger as many or more mentions than a positive one.
  • Consumer Behavior—This refers to tracking users’ online behavior and analyzing the content they like, share, and comment on. This also provides insights into customer purchase behavior and other factors that drive conversions. Based on this information, businesses can modify campaigns and content to encourage sharing and commenting by users. This also helps companies to develop strategies that can provide referrals and engage more users.

Here are two examples of Social Media Analytics:

  • A mutual fund company with 5,000 followers on its Twitter account monitored activity regularly and did not find a substantial number of tweets being retweeted. To increase reach beyond its 5,000 followers, the company posted a link to a tax preparation checklist a month ahead of the income tax deadline. Due to the valuable information provided, the link was retweeted with greater frequency, increasing the company’s reach.
  • A golf course in a tourist area understands that people who make golfing reservations are often from out of town. Thus, many potential customers do not have the opportunity to see the course or hear feedback from friends who have been there prior to making reservations. A review of browsing patterns shows a high percentage of users link from the golf course description to the associated user reviews. Therefore, positive reviews from other customers are highly desired by potential customers. The golf course may offer discounts in its pro shop to guests who complete online reviews or like it on Facebook.

Heading a SEM campaign? These are a few key metrics

Posted by SMstudy® on April 14, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing, Customer Engagement, Content, Social Media, Blogs

Some of the key metrics used to track SEM campaigns are as follows:

  1. Cost—The total amount spent on search advertising, which should fall within set budgets. Cost cannot be evaluated in a vacuum, and one must also consider reach, ROI, and other factors to determine if the cost is justified.
  1. Maximum Cost-Per-Click (CPC)—This defines the maximum amount a business is willing to pay when a potential customer clicks on an ad. A maximum bid is set for each keyword individually and also for a particular Adgroup (default Max. bid). An ad’s average position or rank is most heavily determined by two factors—quality score and maximum bid. While efforts should be constantly directed toward increasing the quality score, Max. bid is a key tool to change the average ad position. This should be used in such a manner that the top performing keywords in any campaign always fall into the desired range of average ad position.
  1. Click-Through Rate (CTR)—Click-through rate is one of most important metrics to measure the performance of digital marketing campaigns. CTR is defined as the number of clicks an ad receives, divided by the number of times an ad is shown. CTR reflects the effectiveness of a keyword and the advertisement that goes with it. CTR can be improved by doing any of the following:
  • Writing effective ads that are highly relevant to the keywords
  • Improving quality scores
  • Creating appropriate landing pages, site links, and extensions
  • Using testimonials and ratings/certification badges from partners and authorized entities
  1. Quality Score—A quality score is the search engine’s measure of the relevance of keywords and ads. It is an important metric because it ensures that users see relevant ads for their searches. Improving the quality score maximizes the effectiveness of a campaign, as CPC drops and average ad position increases. Also, a good quality score is a reflection of effective landing pages, therefore, the conversions are also likely to increase. There are a variety of factors that affect the quality score. Some of those factors are listed below:
    • the click-through rate (CTR) of the keyword and corresponding ad
    • the relevance of the keyword and ad to the search query
    • the relevance of the keyword to its ad group
    • the CTR of the display URLs in the ad group
    • the quality of the landing page
  1. Conversion Rate—Conversion rate is perhaps the most important digital marketing metric to track. This metric shows the ratio of number of people who clicked on an ad and went on to complete the desired action (goal completion) on the website or mobile app to the total number of people who clicked on the ad (total clicks). The desired action can be a purchase, a trial, a sign up, or a form completion. Conversion rate is calculated using the following formula:

          

Creating Quality Social Media Content

Posted by SMstudy® on April 07, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Social Media, Digital Marketing, Internet marketing, Online Marketing

In social media channels, high-quality content is the first priority, followed by content distribution. Companies worldwide invest large sums to create quality content, but in many cases, the content is not distributed properly. Audiences neither find nor share it. A good content creation and distribution plan for social media marketing will ensure that a company’s content is relevant, timely, and well written and that it reaches the target audience using the optimal means as determined by the social media marketing team.

One of the major debates regarding content creation is between content quality and quantity—how much content is enough and how good does it need to be?

Content creation should ideally start by defining a quantity goal and a publishing schedule with proper deadlines. Once the publishing schedule is finalized, focus should be on quality for each piece of content being distributed.

The different types of content that can be created for the various social media elements are as follows:

  • Status updates—for professional and personal sharing websites
  • Photos—for professional and personal sharing websites
  • Videos—for audio-visual sharing, professional, and personal sharing websites
  • Infographics—for blogs, discussion forums, and professional sharing websites
  • Polls—for blogs, professional, and personal sharing websites
  • Quizzes—for blogs, professional, and personal sharing websites
  • Contests—for blogs, discussion forums, and professional sharing websites

It is also important to note that both the relevance of content and the relevance of type of content depend on the nature of the business. For example, quizzes are more relevant for companies in the education sector than those in manufacturing or the airline industry.

In addition to good quality content, an effective social media effort must have a good distribution plan. The content should be shared through the company’s own blog as well as other company pages on various social media sharing sites. Businesses must also ensure that there are ways for their target audience to like, comment, and share the original content created by the company. Figure 3-6 shows a sample Content Distribution Plan.`

What is Third-Party Advertising?

Posted by SMstudy® on April 06, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Social Media, Digital Marketing, Internet marketing, Online Marketing

Search engine advertising is a method of placing online advertisements on web pages that show results from search engine queries. However, companies can expand their reach beyond search engines to advertise to niche audiences available on third-party websites such as popular blogs and news channels that can help drive relevant traffic to the company’s website.

Although advertising on search engines helps the companies advertise to audiences that are curious about a specific term and also help the business reach a wide audience range, advertising on third-party websites helps the business reach out to a more focused audience that is likely to be interested in purchasing their product. For example, a website selling fitness products can make use of third-party fitness blogs where it will be exposed to the relevant audience. In order to effectively utilize third-party websites, businesses should ensure that the websites where they advertise are relevant to their business and that the audiences coming through these sites are decision-makers. 

Since multiple vendors bid for keywords to advertise their products in the online space, it is important for businesses to ensure that their ads are appealing and effective, and that they drive traffic to the website. Besides increasing traffic to the website, an effective ad will be deemed of higher relevance by the search engine and will enable businesses to place the ad at a higher position than other ads at a relatively lower bid amount.

The practices used to improve effectiveness of search engine ads discussed previously are also valid for advertising on third-party websites. Besides using the best practices for advertising, businesses should also select appropriate ad types and remarketing techniques when advertising on third-party websites.

Track your Mobile Analytics with these Metrics

Posted by SMstudy® on April 04, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Analytics, Digital Marketing, SMstudy, Social Media, Social Media Metrics

Many companies design mobile specific sites for visitors accessing the website through smartphones and other mobile devices. Analytics of data from mobile and other devices differs from analytics of website data mainly in terms of metrics and tools used to measure the performance. Some data collection methods are similar to those used for websites: For example, tagging methods are very useful for both channels. Companies that develop mobile apps use software development kits (SDKs) that include web analytics tools. Mobile app developers add code with analytic functionality to mobile apps to capture app-related metrics data.

Metrics used to track performance usually include page views, number of visits, geographic data, and information related to mobile devices such as screen size, operating system, data service provider, and device model. Data collected is measured against the mobile channel objectives, targets for performance, and ROI. Some of the metrics specific to mobile apps include the following:

  • Screen Views—Mobile apps do not have pages that are the same as mobile websites. Rather, content is displayed in multiple screens. The number of screen views for an app is equivalent to the number of page views for a mobile website.
  • User IDs—Instead of using cookies, mobile apps tend to identify users via user IDs. This helps to understand the behavior of visitors individually, and data can be analyzed for these individuals for different versions of the mobile apps. The user IDs also help to analyze the customer experience across multiple applications.
  • Offline Data—For some mobile apps, users do not always require an Internet connection to access the information. Mobile app developers can store the analytics data on the mobile device and only transfer the data to the server periodically.

Web Analytics Tools for your Website

Posted by SMstudy® on March 30, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Analytics, Digital Marketing, SMstudy, Social Media, Social Media Metrics

Web analytics professionals use various tools to collect data and monitor customer visits. For websites, the following methods are primarily used to capture data:

Web Logs           

A web log file is created on the server that hosts the website. This file stores all the website request information including the IP address, the date and time of the request, the time taken to process the request, the number of bytes of data transferred, and the referral URL. Each entry is typically one line of text for every request made. Some of the primary reasons to use web logs for analytics include the following:

 

  • Traffic history of website visitors is available for analysis. This includes information about time spent by users on the site, navigation history per user of the website, bounce rates, and other valuable information.
  • Traffic information from both humans and bots is collected in the web logs. Understanding the behavior of bots and search engine spiders helps in dealing with difficult issues related to optimizing websites for search results.
  • Information on all possible site errors is also tracked, which helps in identifying any broken links, missing pages, or other errors.

 

Tagging

This method of data collection involves adding a small code snippet in all pages of the website. Most of the analytics tools use this method. For every page visit, the code snippet is activated and data is sent to the tool’s server. These tools usually tag every visitor with a cookie. Advantages of using this method include the following:

  • Data is collected from every website visit, unlike web log data that can be affected by cached pages by the browser. If a page is cached on a user’s machine, visits to that page will not be registered in the server log file. Recording of repeated visits to cached pages increases the accuracy of information gathered from log files.
  • Events on the web page that do not require a request to the server, such as mouse clicks, mouse overs and other multimedia elements, are tracked.
  • Additional information of the browser or user's system such as screen size, resolution, and operating system is captured.
  • Information of bots or search engine spiders, which generate high traffic but are not representative of genuine visitor behavior, is not captured.
  • Operating costs are low because the traffic data is captured and maintained by external service providers. This also reduces the time spent on maintaining and handling any issues related to data storage.

 

Here is an example of Web Analytics:

  • Google Analytics uses a JavaScript tagging method to collect data from every web page. Along with tracking the important metrics, this provides information on visit frequency; conversion rates of different pages; behavior of different types of visitors, including new versus returning visitors and visitors from different traffic sources; and much more. There is a function to analyze customer data based on a selected date range, which can provide useful information in determining the effectiveness of specific digital marketing campaigns.

Mobile App Development Skills

Posted by SMstudy® on March 21, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Mobile App Development, Digital marketing, Internet marketing,

Generally, a company assigns a dedicated team to develop mobile applications for the organization. This team might be in-house, or the company may choose to assign the development work to an external firm. In either case, it is essential that the team has the necessary skills to develop mobile applications with the features that the company has determined are required. A company may have fewer features in its first few apps, but it should ensure that the application development team has the requisite skills to create apps that have more advanced features as well, in case the company decides to add features at a later time.

Given increasing mobile usage among customers across all industries, companies will, in all probability, need to constantly adapt to consumer needs and create more advanced mobile apps to keep up with mobile app trends and changing demands.

The performance of mobile apps even on the same platform may differ based on the device type (tablet or phone) or the device model. Thus, the application development team must create apps that can perform equally well across device types and device models.

Some of the specific skill sets that a mobile app development team must have are as follows:

  1. User Interface (UI) design—This skill refers to the ability to design an app that has an attractive, easy-to-navigate, and responsive design. It requires both creative skill and knowledge of best practices in UI design for mobile apps.
     
  2. Database and hardware computing—This knowledge refers to the ability to create databases with an optimal data structure, specify interaction of the app with the device hardware, minimize power requirements, ensure security of the app against external threats like viruses and hacking, and allocate memory efficiently.
     
  3. Programming—Programming languages translate business logic into a machine-readable language. It is important to write programming code efficiently and in modules so changes to the code can be implemented easily. The team should have knowledge of using Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for various mobile application platforms. These APIs allow programmers to create apps without requiring access to the proprietary underlying code developed by the mobile application platform companies. Preferably, the team should also know how to use interfaces that allow one to create mobile apps that can be deployed across different mobile application platforms.
     
  4. Business understanding—The app development team should have a basic understanding of the business’s overall Marketing Strategy and how the app fits into this strategy. This understanding will give the team a sense of the target customers, which may further enable them to create an optimal UI and ensure the final product supports the intended positioning of the app in the mobile app store.

Several mobile application development platforms exist, and the team should ideally be able to develop applications across those platforms. However, if the team is able to identify and create apps for the most popular platform used by its target audience, then the company can test customer acceptance of its apps on the most frequently used platform before developing similar apps for other platforms.

Content Creation and Distribution Plan

Posted by SMstudy® on March 21, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Social Media, Digital Marketing, Internet marketing, Online Marketing

In social media channels, high-quality content is the first priority, followed by content distribution. Companies worldwide invest large sums to create quality content, but in many cases, the content is not distributed properly. Audiences neither find nor share it. A good content creation and distribution plan for social media marketing will ensure that a company’s content is relevant, timely, and well written and that it reaches the target audience using the optimal means as determined by the social media marketing team.

One of the major debates regarding content creation is between content quality and quantity—how much content is enough and how good does it need to be?

Content creation should ideally start by defining a quantity goal and a publishing schedule with proper deadlines. Once the publishing schedule is finalized, focus should be on quality for each piece of content being distributed.

The different types of content that can be created for the various social media elements are as follows:

  • Status updates—for professional and personal sharing websites
  • Photos—for professional and personal sharing websites
  • Videos—for audio-visual sharing, professional, and personal sharing websites
  • Infographics—for blogs, discussion forums, and professional sharing websites
  • Polls—for blogs, professional, and personal sharing websites
  • Quizzes—for blogs, professional, and personal sharing websites
  • Contests—for blogs, discussion forums, and professional sharing websites

It is also important to note that both the relevance of content and the relevance of type of content depend on the nature of the business. For example, quizzes are more relevant for companies in the education sector than those in manufacturing or the airline industry.

In addition to good quality content, an effective social media effort must have a good distribution plan. The content should be shared through the company’s own blog as well as other company pages on various social media sharing sites. Businesses must also ensure that there are ways for their target audience to like, comment, and share the original content created by the company. 

SEO activities you should be caring about

Posted by SMstudy® on March 15, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing, Customer Engagement, Content, Social Media, Blogs

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) involves a number of activities and initiatives that businesses can implement to achieve high search engine rankings. Such activities address factors that can impact a website’s or web page’s search engine rankings for specific search terms, resulting in a high placement in a search engine’s organic (unpaid) search results. It is important to note that the position at which the company appears in search results is a result of both SEO activities and paid advertising.

Consumer perception is impacted by the position at which a company appears in the result of a search. A high rank in search results helps build trust in the minds of consumers as they generally associate a higher ranked website with being a strong, more established brand with greater reliability. This perception in turn leads to greater conversions on the company’s website and supports the fulfillment of the objectives for the product or brand. Most consumers will not click beyond the search results on the first or second page and the potential diminishes the further into the list that the company appears. A website that is search engine optimized will appear higher in search results resulting in a greater number of visits to the site.

Search Engine Optimization is an Internet marketing tactic that takes into consideration how search engines function and “rank” websites, how people search for keywords, the keywords that are most frequently searched, and the type of searches (text search, image search, video search) that consumers are likely to use to learn more about a product, service, or business as a whole. Keywords are typically defined as either short tail (also known as head keywords) (e.g., women’s clothing) or long tail (e.g., best store to buy women’s clothing). Short tail, or head, keywords usually consist of two words, while long tail keywords usually consist of three to five words. While short tail keywords are generally more popular, long tail keywords are more targeted to specific searches and come with less competition. Less competition is particularly important when developing a pay-per-click campaign as less competition generally means the company does not have to bid as much money for a particular keyword or phrase.

Typically when a business adds a page to its site, the various search engines send a spider, or web crawler, that stores the page on the search engine’s server and then indexes the page (i.e., gathers relevant information on the contents of the web page and the links that it contains) for fast and accurate information retrieval when an online consumer registers a search query on the engine.

Optimizing a website for online searches involves editing the site content and tagging or coding pages to increase the relevance of the website content relative to specific keywords that are key to the business. The objective is to ensure that the site appears in search engine results for the keywords that are most relevant to the business. SEO also involves removing any barriers that would prevent search engines from indexing the site, as well as promoting the site to increase the number of backlinks, or inbound links.  

SEO uses the following practices:                                                                                                       

  1. On-Page Search Engine Optimization

Web developers should construct each page of the website to be appealing to both search engines and consumers. Website content should accurately reflect the core components of the business, using relevant keywords in the URL, titles, heading and image tags, and other content of the website. Using relevant keywords across all elements of the site will contribute to search engine rankings thus resulting in an optimal position in search results.

At the same time, companies must ensure that they do not include too many marginally relevant keywords (a practice known as keyword stuffing) as this practice may in fact harm the website’s rank, and such pages may be excluded from search results by search engine crawlers.

  1. Mobile SEO

As previously mentioned, mobile devices and tablets are being used increasingly by consumers to access the Internet. Therefore, it is important for organizations to ensure that their websites are also optimized for mobile devices. Also, since many consumers use voice search features, websites and keywords must also be optimized to account for this changing trend among mobile users.

When companies optimize their websites for mobile devices, they should ensure that the website is responsive to mobile devices and tablets; maintain a separate mobile site since mobile users prefer websites in which content can be consumed on a smaller screen and on-the-go; provide only relevant content; and maintain a light mobile site to ensure faster loading of the mobile site.

  1. Building Site Links

Building relevant links to the website is a key contributor to optimizing the site for organic searches. Links are an important factor for major search engine algorithms as they ensure that the current site contains relevant content that may be useful for a consumer conducting a keyword search.

Some best practices to keep in mind when working on an inbound link-building strategy include the following:

  • Focus on the quality of the links rather than the quantity of links. High-quality links, which are links that are considered highly relevant, often used, and often referred by other sites, are given a greater weightage by search engines and help improve the organic rank of the site.
  • Focus on creating content that provides value to the target audience and inspires the audience to share the content on other blogs or websites. High-quality content builds brand loyalty, and is, in the long run, much more important than SEO and referred links.


Examples of SEO Skills:

A garden center decides to publish advice on multiple gardening special interest sites in order to increase the number of inbound links driving traffic to its site. The quality and popularity of the sites on which the garden center publishes its gardening advice should improve its search engine ranking.

The B&A of the Digital World

Posted by SMstudy® on March 15, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Search Marketing, SMstudy, Marketing, Digital Marketing, Branding, Advertising

All branding and advertising in offline channels should be integrated with a company’s mobile marketing strategy. The mobile site and app should be prominently branded with the logo and colors of the company integrated into the design in order to ensure consistency of branding across all marketing channels. Offline branding and advertising activities can be significant contributors to expanding reach by encouraging the use of the mobile site and app in all media. Companies often offer exclusive promotions and coupons to consumers in order to encourage the use of the company’s mobile site and app. Traditional advertising, such as television, radio, and print ads can provide an effective means of driving consumers to the company’s mobile site and app.

In addition to traditional advertising, many marketing activities are designed to create a direct link between offline and digital channels. Such tools include the following:

  • Quick Response (QR) Code—A Quick Response code is a standardized code consisting of black and white squares, which can be read by mobile devices that have a QR code scanning app installed. The code typically stores a URL, and when one scans the code with the QR scanning app, the mobile device opens the website linked to the URL. A QR code can be printed on many kinds of offline materials, and individuals can scan the code and visit the associated URL. A benefit is that users are not required to type the web address to reach the website when using the code. Thus, QR codes offer convenience, bridging the online and offline marketing worlds, and can substantially increase the reach of companies as they can generate traffic to their websites from offline channels.

Given that users are expected to take their mobile devices out, open the QR code scanning app, and then scan the code to reach the website, companies often offer incentives to customers to perform these steps. Thus, the benefit of scanning the QR code should be clearly mentioned in the offline channel, and the website that is linked to the QR code should be optimized for mobile devices. QR codes should also be tested appropriately before they are implemented in offline channels. The digital marketing team should ensure that popular QR code scanning apps are able to effectively scan the company’s code and bring up the relevant page. Also, individuals should be able to access the Internet in places where QR codes are displayed. For example, displaying QR codes in in-flight magazines may not receive a high response rate as few people use the Internet while flying.

  • Near Field Communication (NFC)—Near Field Communication is a set of standards for mobile devices, such as smartphones, that allows two endpoints, which are NFC enabled, to communicate directly over short distances (typically less than ten centimeters) using radio waves. NFC-enabled devices can be powered or unpowered in order for communication to take place. Unpowered devices are NFC chips, called tags, which can contain a variety of data, including website URLs. Powered devices include smartphones that have NFC technology enabled on them.

Companies can use NFC for increasing reach by inserting NFC tags in a variety of offline marketing materials, such as posters, brochures, and mailers. Users who have NFC-enabled smartphones can tap a poster containing an NFC tag and be directed to a website which may have special offers. NFC can also be used for making contactless payments, so customers can both see an offer and pay for a product using NFC through an app. Thus, NFC, like QR codes, helps individuals who are offline link to a company’s website to get more information or to purchase products.

Understanding Various Digital Marketing Channels That Can Help Your Business Grow

Posted by SMstudy® on March 07, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing Articles, SEO Articles, Blogs, Website Designing, SEO

When creating an online presence, one of the initial steps is to explore various digital marketing channels available in order to maximize the reach of the products or services being offered. Given the nature of the online world, which is constantly evolving and expanding, several new channels are developing with greater frequency, and audiences are continuously exploring new sources of online content. The digital marketers must regularly assess and reassess digital marketing channels for their effectiveness.

To identify the most effective marketing channels for an organization’s products or services, marketers spend a considerable amount of time and effort identifying and understanding the dynamics of all available digital marketing channels and evaluating these channels relative to their company’s overall organizational goals and objectives.

As part of this process, the team identifies target customers in the digital space, their likes and dislikes, their perceptions of the company’s brand and its major competitors, their digital needs related to the brand, and how the brand may fulfill these needs. All of this information, along with an understanding of current trends in the digital marketing space, should be recorded for future reference.

Web analytics are used to evaluate and better understand the available digital channels. Web analytics involve the collection, measurement, analysis, and reporting of web data for the purposes of understanding and optimizing web usage.

Analyzing such data helps a company to assess and improve the effectiveness of its website. This information also helps the digital marketing team better understand consumer behavior and identify the strengths and weakness of the company’s current online offerings.

This may include understanding how many people are visiting a website, which pages are most popular, which paths are most popular, where people are coming from, where they drop off, how long they stay, and other similar factors.

All such factors provide the digital marketing team with a comprehensive understanding of the effectiveness of current digital marketing initiatives and enable the team to identify possible new channels and digital marketing opportunities. Examining the social media investments of competitors can also help companies evaluate where they should be allocating resources.

Any business with a strong Internet presence that recognizes a decline in its website traffic should explore possible sources of the decline. Based on the web analytics data, the company may explore several options, including revising the current website in order to keep it fresh and relevant to its target market or making adjustments to site navigation to improve usability. Other Digital Marketing channels, such as mobile devices or social media might also be explored as potential aids in improving reach and strengthening relationships with existing customers.

Importance of Facebook in Reaching the Target Audience

Posted by SMstudy® on March 07, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Facebook, internet marketing articles, Digital marketing articles, SEO, Facebook Marketing

Sales and Marketing has evolved significantly over time going from the Barter System of 1000 years ago to Traditional Marketplaces, Seller’s Marketplaces, Conventional Mass-media Marketing, Fragmented New-age Marketing to today where Internet enabled business models have helped marketing evolved further.

In the past through our blogs, we’ve touched upon this evolution. In this blog, we will focus on the internet enabled modes of marketing specifically Facebook Marketing. With most customers now continuously spending their time online, businesses globally have understood the value of targeting them through the online mode. While the traditional methods of targeting i.e. TV, Radio, Newspapers etc. help is reaching to a larger audience fast, they are ineffective in terms of targeting a specific segment of the audience.

If a business wants to target a specific audience segment, you need to create a customer persona and then set-up filters to target and find the relevant audience. To target relevant audiences, Facebook helps you segment your audiences using these filters:

  • Location: Reach customers by City, Country, even Postcode
  • Demographics: Target people based on demographics like age, gender, relationship status, education, workplace and more
  • Interests: Define your ideal audience by their interests, hobbies and Pages they like on Facebook. This may be based on their listed interests, activities, education, job titles, Pages they like or groups to which they belong.
  • Behaviours: Reach people based on their purchasing behaviour, device usage and other activities

Besides these regular segments, Facebook has two advanced filters known as Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences.

Custom Audiences: Custom Audiences let you reach customers you already know with ads on Facebook. If you have developed a list of customer emails or acquired such customer data from your site, you can upload this list of email addresses or phone numbers to develop a custom audiences profile. Once you upload this list onto Facebook, you would be able to reach out to these customers on the facebook network and target them using your product advertisements. You can also build audiences from the people that visit your website or from people who use your mobile app. You can create a maximum of 10,000 Custom Audiences for those from your website or mobile app. Now while custom audiences might help you advertise to this list of audiences who have already purchased your product in the past, this is not really a good use of your investment as you can also target this audience by doing a simple (and almost free) email campaign. The real advantage of Custom Audiences is that it helps you expand your business over the Facebook network through Lookalike Audiences.

Lookalike Audiences: Lookalike Audiences helps you create new audiences based on traits from one of the following sources:

  • Custom Audiences: As we've seen before, you can upload a list of your existing customers using Custom Audiences. The benefit of this is that we can then use Lookalike Audiences to find people who resemble that audience. Since the custom audiences have already bought from you, Facebook would be able to match their interests, and other characteristics to get you a bigger audience with the same profile. This would help you reach out to a wider audience who are more likely to buy your product.
  • Website visitors: Like Google Adwords, Facebook also allows users to track visits to your website. You can install a Facebook Pixel on your site which would help facebook track the profile and behavior of this particular user. Then based on the profile of people visiting your website, we can create Lookalike Audiences to help you reach to a wider audience.
  • Page fans: People who like your brand's page on Facebook are typical evangelists for your brand. Facebook allows you to use Lookalike Audiences to create an audience based on people who like your Page with the belief that the Lookalike Audiences will also exhibit similar behavior to this audience.

How Much Content Is Enough

Posted by SMstudy® on March 02, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing, Customer Engagement, Content, Social Media, Blogs

In social media channels, high quality content is the first priority, followed by content distribution. Companies worldwide invest large sums to create quality content, but in many cases, the content is not distributed properly. Audiences neither find nor share it. A good Content Creation and Distribution Plan for social media marketing will ensure that a company’s content is relevant, timely, and well written and that it reaches the target audience using the optimal means as determined by the digital marketing team.

One of the major debates regarding content creation is between content quality and quantity—how much content is enough and how good does it need to be?

Content creation should ideally start by defining a quantity goal and a publishing schedule with appropriate deadlines. Once the publishing schedule is finalized, focus should be on the quality for each piece of content being distributed.

Some of the different types of content that can be created for the various social media elements are as follows:

  • Status updates—for professional and personal sharing websites
  • Photos—for professional and personal sharing websites
  • Videos—for audio-visual sharing, professional, and personal sharing websites
  • Infographics—for blogs, discussion forums, and professional sharing websites
  • Polls—for blogs, professional, and personal sharing websites
  • Quizzes—for blogs, professional, and personal sharing websites
  • Contests—for blogs, discussion forums, and professional sharing websites

 

It is also important to note that both the relevance of content and the relevance of type of content depend on the nature of the business. For example, quizzes are more relevant for companies in the education sector than for other industries such as manufacturing or airline.

In addition to good quality content, an effective social media plan must have a good distribution strategy. The content should be shared through the company’s own blog as well as other company pages on various social media sharing sites. Businesses must also ensure that there are ways for their target audiences to like, comment, and share the original content created by the company.

The following figure shows a sample of the structure of a Content Creation and Distribution Plan.

How to Allocate Budget for Digital Marketing

Posted by SMstudy® on March 02, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Budget, Digital Marketing, Allocation, Analysis, Marketing

In all businesses, the marketing team is given a budget that must be allocated among specific Aspects and in turn their related marketing activities, such as television advertising, newspaper advertising, sponsorships, online advertising, and events. The marketing team determines the effectiveness of these advertising channels in enabling the team to reach its target audience and the available budget is divided among these channels accordingly.

The following items should be considered with regards to the budget allocated to Digital Marketing:

Amount of Budget Allocated—This represents the financial resources that Digital Marketing has been allocated by the Marketing Strategy team to use in order to achieve specific Digital Marketing targets. It is usually a specific figure, but sometimes tolerances may be defined to account for anticipated needs and changes. With the allocated budget, the marketing team has considered such things as who the customers are, how they do business and interact with the company, the creativity and costs associated with executing campaigns, and the current consumer perception of the company or brand.

Rationale for Budget Allocation—This involves specifying and documenting the reasons for the budget allocated, which reduces the possibility of irrelevant factors such as personal preferences or politics playing a role in the allocation process. Articulating and documenting the rationale for a particular resource can also save time when new employees join the team or existing team members question certain initiatives.

Availability of Allocated Budget—The manner in which the allocated budget will be made available to the Digital Marketing activities is also defined. Information such as the process for accessing funds, the approvals needed, and the increments in which the budget will be made available during a time period are specified.

The overall budget allocated to Digital Marketing sets an upper limit on how much can be spent for promoting a product, brand, or service through digital media. Therefore, it is an important input for determining which Digital Marketing channels should be used and how much should be spent on each of the selected channels to achieve their respective targets.

Here is an example of Allocated Budget:

When a company has a minimal budget for Digital Marketing, it may decide to focus more on encouraging customers to visit its website through Search Engine Optimization (SEO) rather than spending money on paid advertising. Likewise, it may focus on engaging with customers through different social media platforms, blogs, and forums and growing its contact list for e-mail marketing rather than allocating funds to purchase lists.

Various Models of Social Media-Enabled Sharing

Posted by SMstudy® on February 21, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Social Media, Digital Marketing, Internet marketing, Online Marketing

“Social media” is an umbrella term that includes web-based software and services that bring users together online and allow them to exchange ideas, discuss issues, communicate with one another, and participate in many other forms of social interaction. With the proliferation of different forms of social media, such as blogs, forums, audio-visual sharing sites, personal networking sites, and professional networking sites, consumers are constantly bombarded with many marketing messages

Social media is important to every business that has a web presence as it can help drive traffic to the company’s website and ultimately increase sales leads and conversions. As well, different social media platforms are more likely to reach certain target audience segments, and messaging can be customized for each platform.

The various models of social media-enabled sharing are of the following content types:

  1. Blogs—Blogs are content created by individuals, groups, or companies to express their opinions, or provide information or insights on specific topics of their choice. The most popular blogs choose topics that are of interest to a large community. However, niche blogs catering to a certain targeted audience can be successful if they dominate the share of voice in that particular subject area. Successful blogs have something interesting, useful, or creative to share, and do that sharing with an engaging style. Blogs may contain images, infographics, or videos in addition to text. In most cases, they are also open to comments from readers. From a company’s perspective, a blog or Rich Site Summary (RSS) feed is an effective means for updating actual or prospective customers of happenings related to the company or the company’s products. RSS feeds use standard web feed formats to publish blog posts and syndicate data automatically. RSS feeds benefit users who want to receive timely updates from favorite websites or to aggregate data from many sites.
  1. Discussion Forums—These are websites used for discussing issues related to a specific topic. Participants in such forums may be asked to register. They are encouraged to ask each other questions, answer questions, and share information. Many forums allow participants to rate each other’s contributions, enabling contributors to build their reputations over time. Some discussion forums may be hosted and moderated by the company, in which case, the company would have some influence on the content of the discussion. In other cases, discussion forums are independent of a company; however, companies should be aware of popular discussion forums in which their products may be discussed and make an effort to respond to customers within those forums.
  1. Professional Networking Sites—These sites relate to people, groups, or companies sharing professional updates, content, and discussions generally related to an organization, a company, a product, or a profession. These sites are used to build an individual’s personal brand as well as to raise awareness of businesses’ brands and their products or services within the online community. Companies share such professional updates for various purposes, such as sharing product launch information, communicating offers and discounts, announcing changes in policies, and sharing media coverage. Relevant and engaging updates can help companies build and retain a loyal base of customers.
  1. Social Networking Sites—These are posts that pertain to people or groups sharing personal updates about themselves or about a topic. These updates are generally shared with friends, relatives, or acquaintances, but they may also be shared with the general public. A company needs to create content or share updates that are relevant, interesting, or entertaining enough for people to share with their personal network, and the content shared should also align with the marketing objectives for a product or brand. Therefore, businesses should focus their social networking site updates on useful and interesting information on subjects related to the company’s product or brand. This channel provides the opportunity for companies to share their brand personality and advertise company events, sales, and discount coupons. The focus of these updates should be on fun and engaging shareable content. Also, companies that have a high level of brand loyalty and where customers relate to the brand strongly may find customers voluntarily creating content or experiences related to the brand, or sharing the brand’s updates. 
  1. Video Sharing Sites—This activity relates to sharing videos, audio, infographics, or images with other people. Such content can be shared with any person or group. In most social media channels that are focused on sharing such content, people can vote on or rank audio-visual content or add their comments. Thus, these channels integrate the discussion forum element into audio-visual sharing. For example, on YouTube—a social media channel for sharing videos—users can “like” or “dislike” a video, comment on the video, and reply to each other’s comments. Companies can use such channels very effectively as videos, images, and audio can have a much larger impact on the target market than text updates. Many companies invest in creating engaging and interesting videos about their products, which sometimes become extremely popular and drastically increase brand visibility. Some also create melodies around their product, which can become as popular as songs in their own right or as ringtones for mobile phones.

The features and functionality of social media platforms are constantly evolving as lesser-used functionality is removed and replaced by new functionality. It is critical for the digital marketing team to be up-to-date on the latest trends in social media and to understand how other organizations use social media to their advantage. Marketers also need to be aware of paid opportunities within social media marketing such as sponsored updates and ads, as well as earned opportunities to disseminate marketing messages by organically building followers. Often, a combination of paid and earned campaigns yields the best results. 

 

Role of Social Media in Planning Digital Marketing Strategy

Posted by SMstudy® on February 16, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Social Media, Digital Marketing, Internet marketing, Online Marketing

Social media refers to all channels where people and customers are able to interact with each other via digital media that are public or accessible to multiple users. There are a number of social media websites, each of which has created its own model for enabling people to communicate with each other. Social media sites use content in various forms to build digital communities in which ideas and content are shared and discussion and comments are encouraged.

It is important to keep in mind, when planning a Social Media Marketing Strategy, that consumers will not always react positively to a company’s updates and content on social platforms. Negative comments about a brand and its products are inevitable even on the company’s own social media platforms.

Some companies will choose to exert control over comments on their own platforms and delete those that they feel reflect poorly on the brand. Other companies may choose to allow the negative comments to remain and respond in an empathetic way by offering an apology and/or a solution to issues. Leaving negative comments online, along with the company’s responses shows that the company is open, honest, and transparent. This also provides an opportunity to turn disgruntled customers into a brand evangelist.

It is also important to understand the distinction between “earned” and “paid” opportunities for “sharing.” For example, building “followers” or “shares” through the development and posting of valuable content is “earned.” Alternatively, several social platforms provide “paid” opportunities for advertising and promoted posts in order to share information. Earned and paid strategies on social media are not mutually exclusive and often the most effective social media strategies employ a combination of both. 

Relationship Metrics and Targets for Mobile Website

Posted by SMstudy® on February 13, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Mobile,Mobile Metrics, Digital Marketing,

Since customers are increasingly interacting with businesses via mobile devices, companies invest significant time and effort in ensuring that they create sites that are optimized to offer a positive customer experience by displaying useful and relevant content and by providing functionality that is suited to mobile devices. The marketing team must continuously evaluate metrics data against previously set targets in order to ensure optimal relationship targets are being met and to implement corrective measures to address any shortfalls. Some of these metrics include the following:

Active Users—This metric determines the number of daily or monthly active users or visitors of the site.

Session Length—This is the time period between when the site is opened and closed (or when the session is ended) and helps identify the time spent by users on the mobile site.

Session Interval—This is the time interval between consecutive sessions and indicates the frequency with which users launch the site.

Bounce Rate—This metric measures the percentage of visitors who exited the mobile site after visiting just one page. A high bounce rate indicates a low level of engagement with customers, suggesting the consumer did not find value in the mobile site.

Here is an example of Relationship Metrics and Targets for Mobile Website:

The marketing manager of a pet supply company had to update her manager about the performance of the company’s new mobile site. New users had been steadily growing over the prior weeks, and engagement was increasing. However, she was shocked to discover that, in the last week, the average session time had decreased by twenty-five percent. She further analyzed the available metrics and discovered that the number of page views was down and the most visited page for dog food had dropped significantly. This led her to investigate further and talk to the tech team. She discovered that there had been technical issues with the site. There was one outage and a broken link to the most visited page in the past week. As a result, new procedures were established for the technical team to notify sales and marketing immediately in the event of any site issues.

What is Search Marketing All About?

Posted by SMstudy® on February 07, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Search Marketing, SMstudy, Marketing, Analytics, Digital Marketing

Search Marketing is the overall method of driving traffic to a company’s website through the use of search engines, and includes both organic search engine optimization and paid search strategies. Organic search is the free listing on search engine result pages (SERPs) and is governed by the algorithm of the particular search engine. A company’s effectiveness at being ranked high in an organic search can be optimized with various Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. Search Engine Marketing (SEM), or paid search, is the way in which advertisers obtain a prominent listing for their company through the paid auction model, whereby the company bids for specific terms or phrases, called keywords.

Both paid and organic listings on SERPs show up when users search for a particular keyword. The users will then click to go to the websites or product pages of the company from the listing. There is no fee charged to the company if a user links to a company through the organic results. Organic search is therefore less expensive, but it can be difficult for a company to optimize its site adequately enough to be discovered by customers. SEM allows companies to create targeted advertisements, which are shown to users when they search for the keywords based on a predetermined bidding algorithm. Companies pay the publishers for clicks; this model is also known as pay-per-click (PPC).

     

There are two methods to determine the advertising cost for the PPC—Bid-based and Flat-rate.

  • Bid-Based—This practice is the way in which most search engines price paid search. The ads that appear on the right side and on top of the SERP are purchased on a bid-based PPC model. In a bid-based PPC model, advertisers bid on the highest price they are willing to pay for a click on specific keywords. The actual PPC paid and the ad’s rank is then determined by the search algorithm, based on several factors, including the bid and ad quality, landing page quality, other advertisers bids, and other undisclosed factors.
  • Flat Rate—In this model, companies and publishers decide on a set rate for each click. Publishers establish fixed rates for different keywords based on the level of competition or demand for the particular keyword. Thus, the higher the demand for the keyword, the higher the rate. Different publishers have different rates for the keywords, and companies can choose to pay more for increased visibility. This model is commonly used by comparison shopping websites. 

Why you should be analyzing your metrics related to reputation?

Posted by SMstudy® on February 07, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Analytics, Digital Marketing, SMstudy, Social Media, Social Media Metrics

Analyzing key metrics related to reputation in social media is important to determine the effectiveness of social media campaigns as well as to discover gaps that need to be addressed. In addition, as companies generally use more than one social media platform, it is also important to compare how effective each of the platforms is in building a company’s online reputation. For this, metrics that apply to all social media platforms should be used. For example, almost every social media platform also has a feature that allows users or viewers to express their approval of content. The most common way to express this is through action buttons such as Like, Share, Follow, Upvote, Downvote etc.

Another example that applies to almost every social media platform is a feature that allows users to share content provided by the company. Tracking the number of shares can help compare engagement across platforms. The share feature allows companies to reach out to a much larger audience than the one they initially targeted. For example, if a company promotes a particular piece of content through e-mail marketing to one hundred users, the reach is usually limited only to the recipients of the e-mail. However, if the company shares the same piece of content to the one hundred users following its company page on a social media platform, the exposure can be much wider. In this case, if ten of these users share the promoted content to their contacts within the social media channel, and assuming that they each have an average of one hundred contacts, then the company’s content would reach an additional 1,000 users (100 × 10). The fact that these 1,000 users did not receive promoted content directly from the company but received the content after it had been shared by a contact of theirs serves as a recommendation and significantly improves the company’s reputation across a wider audience. Therefore, companies should track not only the customers they initially target but also the much wider audience that actually receives their content. Most of the popular social media platforms have analytics tools that allow companies to track both sets of audiences, and knowing the wider audience can help a company better plan its reputation management activities.

It is also important to understand which segments of users are more active in promoting and sharing a company’s social media activity and updates. If those segments are the ones that a company considers as its best targets, then it can conclude that its updates are striking a chord with the right audience. If, however, its updates are shared by users who are unlikely to become customers, then the company needs to investigate whether the content it is sharing is relevant to its target audience or whether its targeting parameters are correct. Failing to conduct this analysis may result in a company meeting its short-term social media targets, such as achieving a certain number of likes or shares, but failing to meet its overall revenue targets for social media.

Here are two examples of Social Media Reputation Metrics Analysis:

  • Content mobility and engagement is one of the primary metrics of social media reputation management. For example, a company that has a presence on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and a company blog might measure its social media reputation using all or some of the following:
  • Facebook likes and shares
  • YouTube video likes and shares
  • Instagram likes and comments
  • Twitter retweets
  • Pinterest repins
  • Blog article shares and comments
  • A furniture company, which is operating in multiple cities and promoting its latest designs through social media, may observe that the overall likes and shares of its campaigns are as expected, but a significant percentage of shares is coming from cities, or even countries, where the company does not have a presence at all. This may happen if the company has not defined its target audience correctly while promoting its content. Thus, the company may waste money on these campaigns without earning the expected revenue.

How Off-Page Optimization Influences the Success of a SEO Campaign

Posted by SMstudy® on February 01, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing Articles, SEO Articles, Internet Marketing Articles, Off-Page Optimisation

Search Engine Optimization involves a number of activities and initiatives that businesses can implement to achieve high search engine rankings. Such activities address both on-page and off-page ranking factors that can affect a website’s or web page’s search engine rankings for specific search terms, resulting in a high placement in a search engine’s “organic,” or “natural,” or “unpaid” search results.

The goal of off-page optimization is to promote a website in the right ways to improve its reputation, so the ranking of the website rises. Off-page optimization refers to off-site factors that have an effect on a website that are not controlled by coding on the website.

Some of the factors that deal with off-page SEO are:

  • Search Engine Submission—The website needs to be submitted manually to the most popular search engines to get listed for free and quickly.
  • Directory Submission—The website needs to be submitted to high quality directories.
  • Social Networking—A presence in social networking sites, and creation or involvement in online communities, increases the reputation of a website considerably. Search engines place a higher ranking on sites that are active in social networking.
  • Blog and Forum Posting—This is one of the most powerful ways to promote your company’s website. Writing quality blogs and participating in public user forums is a great way to increase the online reputation of a website. It is also a good idea to create a blog and forum as part of the website itself.
  • Link Building—Link building is a standard off-page optimization technique. There are several ways to increase backlinks to a website. However, it is important to note that search engines are very strict with respect to unethical Link Farming. A site that has thousands of links, often to unrelated sites, will be considered spam by the search engines. Reciprocal linking is common and generally accepted if it is not excessive and provides value to the site visitor. Public blogs, forums, and directories are great sources for backlink building.
  • Article Submission—Writing industry-related articles and submitting them to popular article sites such as ehow, Ezine, Go Articles, Hubpages, and Buzzle help to establish an online reputation and can also be used to increase links to the website.
  • Press Release Promotion—PR submissions in popular online PR websites, such as PRLog, PRWeb, Market Wire, PR Newswire, 1888pressrelease, 24-7 Press Release, Open PR, and PR Leap, increase a company’s online reputation considerably.
  • Document Sharing—Sharing business documents, information brochures, and presentation slides in document sharing websites, such as Google Docs and Slide Share, helps to increase online brand visibility.
  • Questions and Answers Sites—Participating in popular question and answer sites, such as Quora, Google Questions and Answers, Yahoo Answers, Wiki Answers, and Stack Exchange, is another great way to increase website link popularity.
  • Business Reviews—Participating in business review sites, such as Google Reviews, Yahoo Local Listings, Consumer Search, Trustpilot, and RateitAll, increases online reputation.

In addition to the activities mentioned above, other off-page optimization activities such as Social Bookmarking, Photo and Video Sharing and Promotion, Search Engine Local Listings, Yellow Pages, Maps, Social Shopping Networks, and other activities help to increase the online reputation of a website leading to improved search engine listing.

It is also important to note that different search engines assign different weights to the various SEO activities. These change over time as new standards and formats are developed.

All About Affiliate Marketing

Posted by SMstudy® on January 31, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Affiliate Marketing, Digital Marketing Articles, Marketing Articles, Internet Marketing

Companies may wish to partner with entities—such as publishers that are individuals or other companies—that can be beneficial to the brand. This can be a productive way for a company to expand its reach and marketing efforts. 

There are two ways affiliate marketing is approached: companies offer affiliate programs directly to other companies/individuals, or they can sign up to be an affiliate through another organization. The company that is offering or controlling the affiliate program will pay a commission for every lead or sale the affiliate delivers to the company’s website.

Affiliate marketing is performance-based marketing where customers or partners are rewarded for designated actions that help market the brand. For example, a customer might mention in a Facebook post that he or she purchased a product and gain a certain number of reward points for their post.

The affiliate marketing program may be structured so that when more than ten friends like or comment on that post, the individual earns more points. The affiliate can then redeem these points against the company’s products or some partner brands.

Affiliate marketing helps widen a company’s reach exponentially using the most credible medium—existing customers. Websites offering price comparison services, coupons, shopping directories, and virtual currency platforms are the most popular affiliate marketing websites.

To look at affiliate marketing in a simple way, it is a cycle consisting of three key entities. These entities are the “merchant,” which is the brand whose product is being marketed, the “publisher” who is the affiliate, and finally the “customer.” In simple words, the advertiser pays a certain commission to the publisher for bringing new customers to the business.

Through affiliate marketing, merchants or companies gain a wider reach to sell their products or services, which is usually a key element to any marketing strategy. This approach can also allow the company to build a strong image or brand name.

One of the main advantages of affiliate marketing is that companies can gain more customers with limited dollars, since the approach is commission based or points based. However, there is the possibility that some merchants may incur high commission, maintenance, and initial setup costs, depending on the nature of the business.

Affiliate marketing is different from referral marketing in the way that it uses online marketing platforms—social media, search engine marketing, and more—to market the product while referral marketing is primarily based on word-of-mouth and relies heavily on trust and personal relationships between existing customers and prospects.

Affiliate marketing can be a powerful tool for a product brand because, in addition to helping grow the customer base, it can also aid brand presence in the market and create a buzz around the brand and its respective brand identities.

Attracting the right affiliates is very important for the affiliate program to be a success and in determining the volume that can be expected from the program. Updating content regularly and staying up-to-date with recent trends is equally important to help ensure that customers respond to the company’s offers.

A product or service does not have to cater to a niche market. Common-place brands, even fast moving consumer goods brands, can benefit greatly from affiliate marketing with the help of the right offers and efficient partners.

Getting products onto as many sites as possible is not necessarily the most important goal. Marketers must also consider the relevance, value, and traffic of the sites and platforms that one is able to reach.  

There are some common mistakes affiliates tend to make, and businesses need to be aware of them. The job of the affiliate is to “market” the product, not “sell” the product. Selling is the job of the advertiser itself. Trying too hard to push customers to buy the product may only push prospective customers away.

Partnering with too many affiliates can be another mistake that brands need to carefully consider. Being everywhere can serve to dilute the customer perception about the brand and undermine its credibility. A crucial component to help ensure success with affiliate programs is to have robust analytics capabilities in place and to use them regularly. This will enable the company to understand which affiliates bring in more business, the value of that business, and where they should increase or decrease their efforts and investments in affiliate marketing. 

Types of Search Engines

Posted by SMstudy® on January 30, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Types of Search Engines, Digital Marketing Articles, SEO Articles, Internet Marketing Articles, on-Page Optimisation

The Internet has become the primary source of information for the majority of consumers. Keywords and phrases are typed into a search engine on a computer or mobile device, and a vast volume of related content is presented to the consumer.

Studies suggest that when using search engines, most people do not go beyond the listings mentioned on the first couple of pages of the search engine results list. It has been noted that 90 percent of all users do not look past the first thirty results. This means a high-ranking website has a much higher probability of getting traffic from search engines than a lower ranking website.

Search Engine Optimization involves a number of activities and initiatives that businesses can implement to achieve high search engine rankings. Such activities address both on-page and off-page ranking factors that can affect a website’s or web page’s search engine rankings for specific search terms, resulting in a high placement in a search engine’s “organic,” or “natural,” or “unpaid” search results.

Most search engines can be divided into two common groups:

1. Spider- or Crawler-Based Search Engines

This refers to an Internet-based tool that searches the index of documents or web pages for a particular term, phrase, or text specified by the user, and produces results that are collected, sorted, and automatically indexed based on a defined algorithm.

A software program known as a “robot,” “spider,” or “crawler” scans web pages, follows links between pages and sites, collects information about websites, and indexes this information. This index is a large database of all the websites the crawler has scanned. When a search is performed using a spider-based search engine, the results are provided based on the information in the search engine’s index.

To rank high in search engine results, businesses need to optimize their websites and web pages to ensure that they are being properly indexed by the search engines. Several activities can be initiated in order to influence the information gathered and indexed by robots, spiders, or crawlers. There are many crawler- or spider-based search engines available on the Internet. Some of the popular search engines are Google, Baidu, Bing, and Yahoo.

When a search is performed in a spider-based search engine, the results show both unpaid “organic” listings and paid listings, if any, for the keyword searched. Search engine optimization affects only organic search results. Paid or “sponsored” search results are not affected by SEO. Sponsored results are ads purchased through search engine services such as Google AdWords or Bing Ads. These figures show the anatomy of Google and Bing search engine results.

 

 

2.  Human-Edited Web Directories

These directories are Internet search tools that search for information by subject categories. Rather than “robots” or “spiders,” which create directories automatically, human editors create these web directories. A short description along with the URL of the website is submitted to the directory for approval. The search directory then assigns the website to a category enabling the URL to display in search results for that category.

With web directories, the HTML page coding and content of the website seldom directly affect the listing. Directories often provide more targeted results than spider-based search engines. Some examples of popular human-edited web directories for businesses include Dmoz, Business.com, Best of the Web Directory, and Starting Point Directory.

For SEO purposes, a website should be optimized to gain high ranking in spider-based search engines. However, listings of the website in human-edited web directories also help in the overall SEO ranking.

 

Which key element of social media should you focus on?

Posted by SMstudy® on January 23, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing, Customer Engagement, Internet Marketing, Social Media, Blogs

Social media refers to all channels where people and customers are able to interact with each other via digital media, on forums which are public or accessible to multiple people. There are a number of social media companies each of which has created its own model on how to get people to communicate with each other. However, all these models can be broken up into certain key elements of social media which are described below:

  1. Blogs: These are websites created by individuals, groups, or companies to express their opinion, information, or creativity on any topic of their choice. The most popular blogs are on topics which are of interest to a large community, have something interesting, useful, or creative to share, and are written in an engaging style. Blogs may contain images or videos, in addition to text. In most cases, they are also open to comments from readers. These comments are generally directed to the author. However, sometimes readers start discussing a blog post amongst them which turns this feature into a discussion forum. From a company’s perspective, a blog is an excellent means of updating their customers and prospective customers of happenings related to the company or the company’s products. Frequent updates also keep a website’s content fresh which helps it rank higher in search engines.
     
  2. Discussion forums: These are websites used for discussing issues related to a specific topic. Participants in such forums may be asked to register themselves. They are free to ask each other questions, answer questions and share information. Many forums allow participants to rate each other’s contributions which enables contributors to build their reputation over time. Contributions from reputed contributors are generally considered more trustworthy as compared to new members. If reputed contributors mention a company’s product or provide a link to its website, then the product website may witness a significant improvement in search ranks on search engines and increased visitors to the website. Companies can also participate in such forums actively to engage with participants and build a positive identity for themselves and their products.
     
  3. Professional updates sharing: This relates to people, groups, or companies sharing professional updates generally related to an organization, a company, a product, or a profession. The objective is generally to promote the above entities or to start a discussion around these entities. Companies share such professional updates for various purposes, like sharing product launch information, communicating offers and discounts, announce changes in policies, and sharing media coverage, amongst others. Relevant and engaging updates can help companies build and retain a loyal base of customers and Updates by companies which are in the business of distributing news on various topics also come under the purview of this element.
     
  4. Personal updates sharing: This relates to people or groups sharing personal updates about themselves or about a topic. These updates are generally shared with their friends, relatives or acquaintances but the option to share with the general public is also there. A company needs to create content or share updates which are relevant or interesting enough for people to share it in their personal network, and which should also align with the marketing objectives for a product. People generally share content which they feel is useful or interesting for others in their social circles. Hence, the focus for a company should ideally not be on marketing or promotion but on being a source of useful and interesting information on subjects related to their product. Also, companies which have a high level of brand loyalty and where customers relate to the brand strongly may find customers voluntarily creating content or experiences related to the brand or sharing the brand’s professional updates. For example, there are a number of clubs of customers who are biking enthusiasts who ride a particular brand of motorcycles and who organize events and create content related to the motorcycle brand.
     
  5. Audio-visual sharing: This relates to sharing videos, audio, or images with other people. Such content can be shared with any person or groups. In most social media channels which are focused on sharing such content, people can vote on or rank such content or add their comments. Thus these channels integrate the discussion forum element into audio-visual sharing. For example, in Youtube, which is a social media channel used for sharing videos, users can like or dislike a video, comment on the video, and reply to each other’s’ comments.

    Companies can use such channels very effectively as videos, images, and sounds can have a much larger impact on the target market compared to text updates. Many companies invest in creating engaging and interesting videos about their products which sometimes become extremely popular and drastically increases brand visibility. Some also create melodious songs around their product which also might become popular as songs in their own right or as ringtones for mobiles.
     
  6. Others: There are other social media elements as well which are quite popular. However, their usage across different social media channels is limited and they are mostly used as stand-alone elements. We will cover two such elements here:  collaborative websites and content discovery sites.

Collaborative websites are created by a group of people working together to create a website on a particular topic. Some might provide the raw content, some might review it, and some might format the content. Examples of collaborative websites are wikis where people collaborate on specific topics of interest to them, and once a page on a particular topic is created, they keep reviewing it to make it better over time. The most popular example of a wiki is Wikipedia. As the most popular wikis are continuously peer reviewed and trusted by a large audience, a company’s mention on such pages can bring a large amount of online traffic to its website.

Content discovery sites are those where people share content which they found interesting or useful, so that others can also access the same content. As the focus is on content discovery, the homepages of such websites generally contain content shared by others. Users who subscribe to or register on such sites can customize the type of content which appears on their homepage. Companies which create interesting, engaging, and useful content, stand a good chance of their content being shared on such sites, which in turn drives additional traffic to their website.

Importance of On-Page Optimization in SEO

Posted by SMstudy® on January 23, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing Articles, SEO Articles, Internet Marketing Articles, on-Page Optimisation

The Internet has become the primary source of information for the majority of consumers. Keywords and phrases are typed into a search engine on a computer or mobile device, and a vast volume of related content is presented to the consumer.

Once the results are displayed (in order), the user can click on any of the displayed links to visit any particular website or web page for the information needed.

Search Engine Optimization involves a number of activities and initiatives that businesses can implement to achieve high search engine rankings. Such activities address both on-page and off-page ranking factors that can affect a website’s or web page’s search engine rankings for specific search terms, resulting in a high placement in a search engine’s “organic,” or “natural,” or “unpaid” search results.

On-Page Optimization refers to the optimization activities performed on the website itself. Some of the common on-page optimization tasks include the following:

  • Creation of Unique, Accurate Page Titles—Having proper title tags for each web page in a website is very important. A title tag describes the topic of a particular page to web page visitors and search engine crawlers. For example, Google typically displays the first fifty to sixty characters of a title tag. At least 95 percent of titles less than fifty-five characters will be displayed properly to the users.
  • Creation of Proper Meta Tag Descriptions—Meta descriptions are HTML attributes that provide concise explanations of the contents of web pages. Meta tags give search engines a summary of what the page is about. Search engines usually use the meta description as the displayed description for the pages.
  • Optimization of URLs—A URL, or uniform resource locator, is a web address. Both search engines and users prefer websites with consistent, easy-to-read URLs. The URL of a webpage should be relevant, compelling, and accurate from an SEO perspective. It should be descriptive and brief. A visitor who only sees the URL should have a reasonable understanding of what he or she can expect to see on the page.
  • Ease of Navigation—A logically structured website is important for search engines. Easy navigation not only helps visitors find the relevant content, but also helps search engines understand what content is important.
  • Optimization of Content—Good quality content is the most important factor in website optimization. This influences the overall SEO of a website more than any other factor. The content should contain important keywords but avoid artificially stuffing the content with keywords. This practice negatively affects the reputation of the website. The content should be created primarily for the users—not the search engines.
  • Anchor text—The clickable text that appears when a hyperlink is displayed as a result of a search or is visible on a referring website is the anchor text. Anchor text containing relevant keywords improves the ranking of a web page and informs the user of the link’s relevance.
  • Optimization of Images and Videos—Search engines cannot read the content of an image or video. Therefore, the filename of this content is very important. Rather than having a generic filename—such as image001 or video_123—the filename should be a description of the image or video content. Keywords should be used; however, the filename should be relevant and as short as possible.
  • Use of Heading Tags—A site containing proper H1, H2, and H3 tags is likely to rank better than a similar site without heading tags. The H1 tag is the most important tag and should contain a relevant keyword. Excessive use of heading tags should be avoided. They need to be relevant to the content and make sense to the user.
  • Use of robots.txt—A robot file instructs a search engine spider whether or not it can access a page. Most websites contain pages that the owner does not want the search engine spider to index in its database; therefore, those pages are not displayed to users. Using robots.txt file can prevent a search engine spider from crawling through a website.
  • Creation of Mobile Site—Having a mobile site and informing search engines about the site are very important. The number of people visiting a website through mobile devices and other web-enabled devices is increasing. When a separate website for mobile devices is created, search engines should be notified. A mobile site should be submitted to search engines manually, so it can be indexed accurately. There should be correct redirection of users when a site is accessed using a mobile device.

Studies suggest that when using search engines, most people do not go beyond the listings mentioned on the first couple of pages of the search engine results list. It has been noted that 90 percent of all users do not look past the first thirty results. This means a high-ranking website has a much higher probability of getting traffic from search engines than a lower ranking website.

 

Basic SEO Guidelines

Posted by SMstudy® on January 19, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing Articles, SEO Articles, Blogs, Website Designing, SEO

Optimizing a website first involves editing the content, HTML, and associated coding. Constructing a website with appropriate keywords used in the content and the coding structure increases its relevance for those specific keywords. This enables the indexing activities of search engines. The website is then promoted in other websites by publishing or mentioning the website links in those sites. This increases the number of backlinks, or inbound links, which is another factor search engines use when indexing.

SEO activities can be grouped into two broad categories: On-page Optimization and Off-Page Optimization.

On-Page Optimization

This refers to the optimization activities performed on the website itself. Some of the common on-page optimization tasks include the following:

  • Creation of Unique, Accurate Page Titles
  • Creation of Proper Meta Tag Descriptions
  • Optimization of URLs
  • Ease of Navigation
  • Optimization of Content
  • Anchor text
  • Optimization of Images and Videos
  • Use of Heading Tags
  • Creation of Mobile Site

Off-Page Optimization

The goal of off-page optimization is to promote a website in the right ways to improve its reputation, so the ranking of the website rises. Off-page optimization refers to off-site factors that have an effect on a website that are not controlled by coding on the website. Some of the factors that deal with off-page SEO are:

  • Search Engine Submission
  • Directory Submission
  • Social Networking
  • Blog and Forum Posting
  • Link Building
  • Article Submission
  • Press Release Promotion
  • Document Sharing
  • Questions and Answers Sites
  • Business Reviews

In addition to the activities mentioned above, other off-page optimization activities such as Social Bookmarking, Photo and Video Sharing and Promotion, Search Engine Local Listings, Yellow Pages, Maps, Social Shopping Networks, and other activities help to increase the online reputation of a website leading to improved search engine listing.

Importance of Mobile Devices into Digital Marketing Strategy of a Business

Posted by SMstudy® on January 16, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing, E-Mail Marketing, Mobile Marketing

Mobile technology has been advancing at a very fast pace. Smartphones have become mainstream and many consumers use mobile phones to view product reviews, make price comparisons, and find information about products while they are shopping in-store. With consumers increasingly using technology on the go, a company’s Digital Marketing Strategy must be designed to take full advantage of this consumer trend.

With an increasing percentage of consumers using the Internet on-the-go, having a mobile version of a website helps a business reach out to consumers across all devices connected to the Internet. To ensure that customers and potential customers instantly land on the mobile version of the site when they are using their mobile devices, businesses must ensure their sites are mobile friendly. Having a mobile website also helps in the search engine optimization (SEO) of sites; as multiple pages index to the main website, the main website’s organic ranking increases. In order to obtain this level of optimization on mobile sites, the team must understand the features and constraints of smartphones, tablets, and other similar devices, and design and develop their sites accordingly.

Mobile, tablet, and other Internet-enabled devices (such as smartwatches) are personal devices that often form a large part of a company’s Digital Marketing Strategy. A company can use these platforms for one-to-one communication with its audience. For some businesses, it also makes sense to have a localized application for specific devices such as Internet-enabled health monitoring devices and smartwatches. This technology helps businesses communicate with their users based on individual preferences, which helps to build brand loyalty.

With an increase in the number of individuals using smartphones (also referred to as “mobiles”), tablets, and other Internet-enabled devices, organizations must spend significant time understanding the capability and usability of these devices. This is important since mobiles, tablets, and other Internet-enabled devices allow companies to stay connected to consumers through the relevant channels. The digital marketing team should identify appropriate marketing channels where the target customers are present and develop strategies to engage consumers.

Usability and Design - Organizations with established large scale websites have recognized the growing need for compatible tablet and mobile-accessible content and have implemented updates to their websites to reduce and streamline content and website size in order to be more suitable for mobile-accessible devices. Nevertheless, this approach is sufficient only for sites that provide static, one-way dissemination of information. As more customers demand interaction via mobile devices and tablets, the usability of these updated sites could diminish.

Performance - The advent of these devices has also provided companies with an opportunity to gather more personal data from their users and push relevant, context-driven content. Such mobile-optimized content must load quickly on mobile devices to ensure that performance expectations of consumers are met.

The rapid rise in smartphones, tablets, and Internet-enabled wearable and devices has led to a shift in web design approaches, with web development focused on these devices becoming a much higher priority than it has been in the past.

Metrics for Mobile Customized Website Performance

Posted by SMstudy® on January 10, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Marketing Articles, Marketing Blogs,Mobile Metrics, Mobile Website, Website Optimization,Website Performance

The created mobile customized website needs to be optimized by ensuring that its reach is maximized by appearing in the top search results when customers use relevant keywords. Also, the site needs to be optimized to attract new visitors and retain those visitors. Some of the key metrics using which mobile customized site reach can be measured and then optimized are:

  • Number of visits - indicate how well the company’s overall reach is via  the mobile customized site
  • Percentage of new visitors – indicates the ability of the company to get new customers. This percentage should increase during or after marketing campaigns aimed at getting new customers
  • Visits by geography – can help to identify traffic spikes from unexpected locations and help in focusing on locations with the most traffic
  • Visits by traffic source – can help to identify changes in sources of site traffic and also evaluate effectiveness of different types of marketing campaigns in driving traffic to the site

The digital marketing team needs to analyze the referral traffic and organic traffic from mobile devices as there are a few key differences in website behavior between mobile devices and PCs. Users browse websites on their mobile devices in a much larger variety of situations as compared to when they browse them on PCs. Thus, users may browse a company’s mobile optimized site while travelling, eating out, in the middle of a social gathering, or pretty much anywhere where there is mobile internet connectivity. Also, because screen sizes of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are smaller than that of desktop PCs or laptops, the same site may display differently in different types of devices and may require additional effort for users to view websites properly on their mobile phones. In addition, the most common way for users to navigate websites in mobile devices is to use their fingers directly on the device screen for clicking, scrolling, and zooming, whereas in desktop PCs and laptops, users use their keyboard and mouse. These are just a few of the most important differences. They may result in significant differences in site usage and behavior and appropriate measures taken if these differences are resulting in the mobile experience of a website being worse than that of the PC experience.

For websites where a separate mobile site has been created, the experience of a user visiting the site from a mobile device may be significantly different than that of the desktop version of the site. If the mobile site experience is worse than the desktop experience, then it might adversely impact the reputation of the website as users might start doubting the focus which the company places on customer experience.

By further analyzing metrics like downloads, traffic, session duration and successful monetization, a company can infer what users are thinking and feeling. But without supplemental information, this data can only lead to implicit assumptions. Adding explicit insights to the post-launch data collection –quantifiable information on what users are thinking – will allow a company to make highly informed and refined decisions for customizing their mobile website channels. 

A Planned E-Mail Marketing Strategy Can Do Wonders!

Posted by SMstudy® on January 09, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: email marketing, internet marketing, digital marketing

E-mail marketing is a form of direct marketing that uses e-mail as the delivery medium for communicating a marketing message to a group of people. E-mail marketing can have many different styles or levels of personalization, but any e-mail sent to existing or prospective customers can be regarded as e-mail marketing.

Specifically e-mail marketing is used to support customer loyalty and encourage repeat business with existing customers, as well as to deliver information and offer promotions to both customers and prospects via newsletters and other forms of communication

Good e-mail marketing software is a key component of a successful e-mail marketing system. The software should enable the company to manage its e-mail subscription lists, allowing recipients to easily subscribe and unsubscribe; send e-mails to subscribers or to recipients on a purchased list successfully with minimal delivery issues; provide predefined templates to enable streamlined e-mail creation; and, provide an auto-responder to manage recipient replies.

The software should also track the effectiveness of e-mail marketing campaigns and provide regular reporting to measure various performance criteria including messages delivered, click rates, and bounce rates.

Companies that have the in-house technical expertise and resources may prefer to develop their own system rather than rely on a third-party provider for this service.

If a company chooses a hosted service provider, it should perform due diligence to ensure the provider has the right expertise and a good track record with its customers.

When choosing a service provider, it is important to consider many factors: a successful deliverability rate, features and tracking capabilities, available support, and the overall cost of service.

Reputable e-mail marketing service providers try to ensure that customers’ e-mails are not blocked by major ISPs. However, it is sometimes difficult to control whether or not the e-mails arrive in the recipient’s inbox or the spam box.

Although most e-mail marketing service providers designate a quality score to help indicate the likelihood of the e-mail being delivered, getting whitelisted is the most effective way to ensure that e-mails get delivered properly.

Whitelisting specifically allows e-mails from a certain source or sender to be delivered into an e-mail inbox. Adding trusted e-mail addresses to a personal whitelist lets the e-mails from that source pass spam and junk mail filters. Different e-mail client and Internet security platforms have a variety of methods that allow users to create whitelists.

A company needs to collect the e-mail addresses of its customers to enable the company to run e-mail campaigns. A list developed in this way is commonly referred to as a “house list” and is derived from the company’s own database of current customers, previous customers, inquirers, responders, contest entrants, and so on.

One of the most effective ways of collecting prospective customers’ e-mail addresses is by having an opt-in subscription form on a landing page on the company website. Visitors to the site provide their e-mail addresses and agree to accept offers or information. Most e-mail marketing services provide functionality to integrate subscription forms on a website.

Growing the size of an e-mail list is important, but it is only valuable if there are engaged customers on the list. Companies need to build strong, trusted relationships with their subscribers. Repeated e-mail messaging that does not engage customers will be ignored and customers will eventually unsubscribe from the list. Sending high quality, relevant content is extremely important.

If a company always sends advertisements or promotional e-mails, subscribers may feel like they are being too “marketed to” and tune out the messages or unsubscribe.

When designing e-mail content, it is important to identify the key messages that the e-mail should communicate and the specific information that will move the recipient from his or her current perception to the desired perception, overcoming any barriers to conversion.

E-mail marketing has proven to be one of the most effective digital marketing channels. When well executed, e-mail marketing can benefit many types of businesses for many different purposes. Through e-mail marketing, a company is able to keep in touch with customers and prospective customers easily and efficiently. It is a cost-effective way to transmit valuable information relevant to a customer’s interests.

Optimizing your Social Media to increase Customer Relationship

Posted by SMstudy® on January 06, 2017 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Social Media, Marketing Articles, Marketing Blogs, Marketing, Customer Reach

Social Media campaigns are the most relevant method in contriving an effective relationship with customers. Understanding what a company’s competition is doing to enhance their relationship with customers through various social media channels and measuring the effectiveness of these channels in reaching out to desired target audience is a priority requirement and helps the company create a well-defined and effective social media communication strategy. It therefore becomes important to create good quality content that provides value to the target audience and its impact in improving customer relationships.

Here are some of the inputs you can use to optimize your Social Media Reach:

Social Media Relationship Data

The digital marketing team identifies the metrics and targets to monitor social media relationship with consumers. The overall targets for social media have already been distributed amongst the selected social media elements and based on the metrics identified for gauging the awareness across social media channels, the Social Media relationship data is collected.

The collected Social Media relationship data centers around the number of users engaged across the various social platforms, time spent by the users on the chosen social platforms, frequency of interaction of users with the company across these platforms. This collected data serves as a starting point and the improvements in Social Media relationship with customers are measured by base lining against this. For companies new to a social platform, data around the social activity of competitors can be collected to serve as the benchmark.

Social Media Relationship Metrics and Targets

The digital marketing team identifies the metrics and targets to monitor the social media performance of the organization. The overall targets for social media will be distributed amongst the selected social media elements and the metrics identified for gauging the awareness across social media channels are identified to help the marketing team monitor the effectiveness of their content distribution strategy. Metrics relevant to relationship management like time spent by customers engaging with brand on a daily basis are identified and targets are defined for the same. Consumer perception of the company products are regularly monitored to identify poor experiences of customers engaging with the brand and rectifying the issue.

All the optimization efforts to build a relationship with customers need to be measured against these metrics and targets. Any shortfalls from the targets need to be evaluated and further optimization efforts undertaken. In case a company exceeds targets for building relationships through the website, then it needs to understand the reasons for its success so it can replicate such success for the long term and even in other channels.

Customer Feedback

Customer feedback helps companies identify the issues related to building a relationship with customers and eventually improving sales of products. Feedback from customers also helps organizations improvise on their channel strategy with positive feedback serving as a proof of concept that the channel strategy adopted by the company is yielding desired results. Customer feedback is collected at various stages of the brand’s engagement with the customer and this historically collected feedback serves as a benchmark for the company to gauge their future relationship with customers. In order to maintain a healthy relationship with customers, companies make use of e-mail marketing and other social channels to gain feedback from customers after a product/service is utilized by the customer.

With social channels becoming highly viral, negative feedback from customers spreads rapidly and it is important for brands to contain such feedback and respond appropriately. For example, if a customer purchases some furniture from a store and notices that the furniture is broken during delivery, the customer may go online and share this experience with the world using social channels which would deteriorate the relationship of the furniture company with their customers. In this case, it is important for the company to monitor such feedback and take appropriate measures to ensure that the customer’s issues are resolved.

Based on the analysis of the social media performance of competitors, a company can understand which social media channels generate a better response and revenue. Companies can also segment the audience engaging with competitors across channels and based on this data; decide on the appropriate content delivery strategy for various channels.

Why You Need To Optimize Your Website To Improve Engagement

Posted by SMstudy® on December 28, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing, Customer Engagement, Internet Marketing

A company needs to understand its competitors’ relationship with their customers so that it can identify gaps and address them in its own relationship management processes, and incorporate best practices being followed by competitors to gain an upper hand. One of the ways a company can achieve this goal is by optimizing its website to improve the relationship and engagement with customers and visitors to the company’s website.

Company needs to ensure that visitors who come to the company’s website as a result of its reach efforts, should find the website useful, interesting, and compelling enough to decide to purchase from the company. Thus, it needs to not only analyze the behavior of its own customers and visitors, but also analyze measures taken by its competition to engage with their customers.

Here are some of the ways a company can optimize its website:

Created Website

The existing website needs to be optimized to engage customers better to build a relationship with them. A strong relationship results in customer loyalty. A company’s website is generally regarded as the main conversion engine for online leads – leads from different sources eventually come to the website and the conversion of those leads depends on whether the website engages customers and fulfills their need. Hence, a company needs to ensure that its website provides the kind of information that customers want and contains sufficient means by which customers can carry out desired actions – whether it is contacting the company or paying online.

Relationship Metrics and Targets for Website

All the optimization efforts to build relationship with customers are required to be measured against these metrics and targets. Any shortfalls in attaining targets need to be evaluated and further optimization efforts undertaken. In case a company exceeds targets for building relationships through the website, then it needs to understand the reasons for its success so it can replicate such success for a long term and even in other channels.

Reached Customers through Website

The objective of optimization efforts in this process is to enable a company to focus on building a relationship with all those whom it had reached out to. In many cases, a company will not know the identity of these customers, i.e. when customers search online and they see the company’s ad, or when they browse their social media pages and see a mention about the company. However, the moment these customers initiate contact with any of the company’s marketing channels, the company needs to be prepared and offer a great experience to its customers. The initial contact can take a number forms - it might just be customers clicking a link and coming to a company’s website or it might replying to an email from the company. In any case, once a reached customer responds, the onus is on the company to build the relationship and ensure that it is in line with relationship targets for the website.

Customer Feedback

Customer feedback can come from multiple channels but in each case, they should be analyzed carefully and under no circumstances should they be ignored. This is because the true measure of any marketing effort is judged by how customers perceive it. Customers may provide feedback at any stage, from pre-purchase to post-purchase. During pre-purchase, they may provide feedback through online or offline channels on issues like the availability of products and quality of product information on the website, or whether their queries were answered promptly and efficiently through online channels like online chat on a website.  During purchase, they may provide feedback on issues like difficulty in making payment online on the website. During post-purchase they may provide feedback on issues like the ease of being able to find customer support contact information on the website. Analyzing customer feedback about a company’s product and related services enables a company to identify areas where it is performing well and also areas where it needs to improve its relationship building capabilities.

The combined effect of all these efforts will help to increase relationship with the target customers. Any shortfall in meeting the targets may be rectified by increasing efforts related to the metric where the shortfall occurs. An increased engagement with customers will help the company manage a strong foothold in the competition.

Benefits of E-mail Marketing

Posted by SMstudy® on December 27, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing, E-Mail Marketing, Advantages of E-Mail marketing

E-mail marketing has proven to be one of the most effective digital marketing channels. When well executed, e-mail marketing can benefit many types of businesses for many different purposes. Through e-mail marketing, a company is able to keep in touch with customers and prospective customers easily and efficiently. It is a cost-effective way to transmit valuable information relevant to a customer’s interests.

The major benefits of e-mail marketing are as follows:

Low Cost

E-mail is a relatively inexpensive direct marketing channel compared to direct mail or telemarketing, which typically involves a great deal of resources in terms of both money and time. With direct mail or telemarketing, there is a cost for every contact. While e-mail marketing generally has set-up costs, the cost of sending each e-mail is very low, making it a desirable way to communicate to a large audience.

Speed of Execution and Fast, Robust Tracking

Organizations may need to distribute critical information to customers in response to an event or a company crisis. There may not be time to produce and send something through regular postal services, nor would direct mail necessarily be appropriate for the situation.

Ease of Creation

E-mail marketing campaigns can be relatively easy to create. Effective e-mail campaigns have engaging content presented in a short and digestible manner with visually appealing, strategically chosen graphics or photos.

Call to Action Responsiveness 

One of the greatest advantages of e-mail marketing is that it allows customers to respond to a call to action immediately. Offline marketing channels do not enable customers to transition from seeing an offer to purchasing the item with little more than a couple clicks of a button. By linking a persuasive call to action to the right landing page for the product, e-mail marketing can drive engagement and sales like no other channel.

Ease of Tracking

E-mail marketing can provide critical insights and enables easy tracking of performance metrics. E-mail marketing software enables a business to track open and click-through rates on both e-mails and links within them. As a result, companies can quickly and easily analyze the effectiveness of the messages and campaigns, and immediately identify opportunities for improvements, including adjustments to mailing lists, changes in the timing or frequency of messages, and revisions to copy or graphics.

Segmentation, Personalization, and Testing of Offers 

E-mail marketing allows a company to send personalized messages to its customers. If a company can gather information about its customers or subscribers, it can easily segment the e-mail list based on any number of factors, including demographics, interests, past history, and more. It can then send targeted personalized messages and offers based on this information.

Ease of Sharing         

When subscribers like deals and offers, they can easily forward them to their friends; oftentimes, this takes little more than a click of a button. Few other types of marketing can be shared this easily. Attractive offers can encourage subscribers to become brand ambassadors, helping a business expand its reach into potentially new markets.   

Return on Investment

E-mail marketing can provide a very good return on investment—in many cases better than that of other channels. While the ROI can be high for e-mail marketing, marketers must still consider their targets and ensure e-mail marketing campaigns are delivering the right results and revenue to justify the costs.

E-mail’s speed gives a company the ability to respond to issues in a matter of hours or even minutees. In other direct marketing channels, there can be a response lag time of several weeks, or even months. Businesses often wait weeks before seeing changes in sales revenue as a result of print or broadcast campaigns. Because e-mail is so rapid, a business can see results within minutes of e-mails being sent, and it is an effective way to inform customers about limited-time offers. These campaigns can create a sense of urgency, prompting subscribers to act immediately. Due to the short average response time, the effectiveness of these campaigns can be accurately measured. 

AI in Digital Marketing

Posted by SMstudy® on November 25, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Artificial Intelligence, Digital Marketing, AI in Digital Marketing

Artificial Intelligence or AI is a buzzword we’ve been hearing for a while now. Its common use in literature, media, and movies has given it a sort of celebrity status and a reputation that ranges from apocalyptic to prophetic. The presence of AI is now almost ubiquitous, with its application in multiple fields ranging from road traffic control to studies in particle physics. Digital marketing is just one of the areas where AI is expected to make a difference.

Digital marketing or for that matter any form of marketing has always posed marketers with a question—how effective was our marketing? And it is this conundrum that AI looks to solve or at least improve upon. We all know that traditional marketing including print, TV, and radio are great at broadcasting. But you never get to know how much of it has really been effective. Although usual Digital Marketing tools allow you to make targeted ads, it is difficult to actually target it to the right audience. And the current costs of the pay-per-click model, while increasing your marketing spend, may not actually improve returns on marketing spend. For example consider a search engine ad for a soccer shoe that is targeted at teenagers. Your obvious filters would be set using age and interests. While this may be better than a print ad, it may also not be seen by your real target audience—teenagers who actually play soccer. With AI based systems it is possible to sieve through user data on a more real-time basis and eventually target a user who is more likely to be playing soccer.

From a user’s perspective AI would be able to significantly improve the content you receive while being connected, whether it be ads, suggestions on articles to read, or suggested social media content. This would not only improve customer experience while browsing online but also help businesses reach a more receptive audience who are willing to engage rather than overlook or ignore content. For any ecommerce vendor’s mobile app, AI can be used to enhance customer experience by offering personalized suggestions and customized offers, thus turning a mobile app in to a personal salesperson or assistant waiting to serve you better.  

Companies such as Google and Facebook have already started implementing AI on a larger scale. Google has started using an AI system called Rankbrain which uses natural language processing to offer better search results. It helps Google to process search results and provide more relevant search results for users[1]. Facebook Messenger supports chatbots, and launched a messenger platform service which allows businesses to create bot accounts that can interact with Facebook users based on their usage and interests[2].

With the use of AI in digital marketing set to increase we are looking at a marketing world where targeting and conversion using ads is significantly better and where viewers also get a better experience on the internet.

 

[1] Clark, Jack. "Google Turning Its Lucrative Web Search Over to AI Machines". Bloomberg Business. Bloomberg. Retrieved 28 October 2015.

[2] https://developers.facebook.com/docs/messenger-platform/product-overview

http://digitalmarketingmagazine.co.uk/digital-marketing-features/artificial-intelligence-the-future-of-digital/3170

Website Architecture

Posted by SMstudy® on November 23, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing, Website Design, Website Architecture

One of the first considerations when building a website is the site’s structure. A well-planned structure is fundamental to the success of the website and can prevent issues in later stages of the site development. Website architecture design involves planning the layout and design of the website, identifying the pages to be included, determining how consumers will navigate the site, and planning how these pages will link together. Based on the learning from marketing research and competitor website performance, the marketing team—along with subject matter experts, such as website developers—is responsible for ensuring an optimal website architecture design.

A key factor that the marketing team must consider when planning the website architecture is click-depth. Click-depth or crawl-depth refers to the minimum number of clicks required of a website visitor in order to get from the “root” web page to a desired web page. The root web page is the page that displays when only the domain is in the URL (i.e., no path information is included). The objective is to enable visitors to find what they are looking for with ease. Companies must ensure that the click-depth is kept as low as possible, so that users and search engines can reach any point on the site within a minimum number of clicks.  

The marketing team analyzes how each page will be linked internally and externally, creating categories and subcategories within the site. While creating the website, search-friendly URLs should be used to increase the relevance of the links and help the organic ranking for the website. Additionally, duplicate meta tags, meta descriptions, and titles should be avoided to prevent confusing web crawlers.

In short, the website design architecture should assure visitors they are on the right page; ensure visitors can easily find what they are looking for by providing a clear navigation path and search feature; properly link together the various pages; and ensure that the website is easy to navigate not only for customers, but also for web crawlers so that the site content can be detected by search engines.

A critical component of website architecture is scalability. Website designers must ensure that websites are designed in a way that navigation is not compromised when new functionality, product lines, or business units are added. Consumers have a low tolerance for long wait-times or high click depth pages and will quickly leave a site that does not provide optimal usability. For example, a business may start with a simple website to build awareness of the brand, and provide details of the product offering; however, if the company chooses to add an e-commerce component at a later date, the e-commerce capability should be aligned with the existing product catalog so that customers can continue to navigate the site with ease and purchase products quickly and securely. A well-thought-out architecture at the planning stage will enable this new functionality without overhauling the existing site.

Please visit www.smstudy.com for more information.

Key to success.....Keywords!!!

Posted by SMstudy® on November 18, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital marketing, Search engine marketing, Paid listings

Search Engine Advertising (SEA), or paid search, is the way in which advertisers obtain a prominent listing for their company through the paid auction model, whereby the company bids for specific terms or phrases, called keywords. SEA allows companies to create targeted advertisements, which are shown to users when they search for the keywords based on a predetermined bidding algorithm. Generally, the main objective of an SEA campaign is to increase reach and awareness and keywords are critical for achieving these objectives.

Keywords are terms and phrases associated with a company’s product. For businesses seeking to maximize their reach and awareness using search engine advertising, the focus must be on bidding on keywords that are highly relevant to the search queries that are common in their business. For example, the searcher may be looking for a garden hose, but the business must think broadly and choose keywords that can be associated with garden hoses, such as garden supplies or water hoses. Businesses can make use of their past data and competitor data to determine the popularity and relevance of various keywords. The more relevant the keywords are to a business and website, the more cost effective the online search advertising campaign will be.

The price of keywords can vary greatly, from pennies to several dollars depending on popularity, demand, and the value to the advertiser. For example, the term “gloves” or “warm gloves” may be expensive, while a very specific product term or more obscure term, such as “polka dot linen gloves,” may be much cheaper. The amount a given advertiser will pay will vary based on a number of factors including the ad’s “quality score” and the rank of the ad as well as the popularity of the keyword among the competitors. The quality score is the search engine’s way of determining the relevance of an ad to the searcher by evaluating the keyword’s relevance to the business and its landing page, as well as other factors. Typically, once an advertiser has identified the keywords that they want to ‘bid’ on, they must determine the maximum price per click that they will pay and then group similar words with relevant ads to display for those keywords. The rank of an ad is determined based on the cost-per-click (CPC) and the quality score.

Keywords can also be localized to make the search more relevant and reduce the bid amount. For example, a musical group performing in Washington D.C. could use a keyword “music show in Washington D.C.” to ensure that their ad is seen by users who are interested in attending a music show in the same city. Localized keyword advertising provides a more focused reach for businesses, ensuring that the business is advertising to a targeted audience and not advertising in markets where the business will not see a significant return on its investment.

Please visit www.smstudy.com for more information.

User Personas and Use Cases for Mobile Channel Development

Posted by SMstudy® on November 11, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing, Mobile Channel Development, Mobile Marketing, Use case

User Personas are highly detailed fictional characters, representative of particular types of users in a market segment. They can be extremely useful for designing and developing mobile site/app as they provide insights about the selected target segment. To provide information relevant to mobile channel each persona should be based on market research that focuses on identifying specific types of customers who are most likely to use a company’s mobile site/app. Each persona should include age, gender, occupation, location, relationship status, type of mobile device owned, personality type, and any other features that are relevant for defining customers of company’s mobile channel. An example of user persona is given below:

  • Name: John
  • Age: 18
  • Gender: Male
  • Mobile Device Owned: Tablet
  • Personality Type: Early adopter

After user personas are defined, user stories should be created for each of the personas. These stories contain an indication of how the personas would use the mobile site/app, what the personas might seek to do with the site/app, and the specific features that will enable the personas to effectively perform the tasks that they seek to perform. The objective is to eventually define user requirements by collating all of the user stories. A user story for John can be “John seeks out the latest versions of car racing games, pays for top-rated games, plays daily for an hour against other users, and likes to share his match results with his friends and other app users.”

Mobile content developers use user stories to derive a use case, which is a list of steps that define the interactions between the user and the mobile device. Based on the user story, a use case for John is created as follows:

Use_case

As depicted in this use case, John would require features, such as the ability to pay for the app, to set up an account, to play the game in multiplayer mode with other players, and to share match results with his friends and other users.

After use cases for all personas are drawn, all use cases are combined in a single diagram to determine the key features that are required in the mobile site/app. This method does not determine all features that should be included but only those key features that have been identified as part of the persona and use case development process. There will be a number of features that support the key features and that can be defined during a more detailed planning step undertaken later in the planning process. For example, sharing match results may need the app to be integrated with apps that enable sharing, such as e-mail apps or social media apps. This integration is a supporting feature that can be identified at a later stage.

Utilizing personas and use cases ensures that no key features that are required by the target markets are missed and that such features form the core of the design.

Please visit www.smstudy.com for more information on user personas and use cases.

Facebook Triumphs

Posted by SMstudy® on November 04, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Facebook Marketing

Social Media has redefined how brands and customers communicate. A well-crafted social media campaign can go a long way in creating and enhancing brand reputation. And Facebook, being the biggest social media platform with 1.71 billion users, has to be a critical part of any social media campaign to make it successful. Companies have to go beyond creating Facebook pages. They have to connect with their target audience. Let us look at some very successful Facebook campaigns. These campaigns have used other social media platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, Instagram also, but it would not have been possible for them to go viral without acing Facebook. These campaigns are winners of Facebook Awards in various categories.

Ice bucket challenge (ALS Association)

A campaign to raise awareness about ALS and encourage donations for research. The campaign, where participants had to post videos of dumping buckets of ice and water over their heads and challenging others to do the same, went viral.  Between June 1, 2014 and September 1, 2014 more than 17 million videos related to ice bucket challenge were shared and were viewed by more than 440 million people. $220 million was raised for ALS research. Its success can be attributed to factors such as opportunity to take on a challenge for a good cause, celebrity involvement, public nomination, opportunity to show off etc.

Like a girl (Always-P&G)

A campaign to shatter gender norms and increase emotional connect with Always, a P&G brand.  It tried to change the idea of “Like a Girl” being an insult by showing a video of three groups of people—Male and female adults, a boy, and pre-adolescent girls, who are asked to run, fight or throw like a girl. Only the young girls acted like themselves and not in the stereotypical way. A highly successful campaign, it was viewed 76 million times and it became a trending topic on Facebook within a week of its launch. It also resulted in an 18% increase in brand awareness for Always. Its success can be attributed to the inherent message of the campaign which resonated with the target market. Involvement of influencers such as Gloria Steinem also helped spread the word.

Straight Outta Compton (Beats by Dre)

A campaign to promote the movie Straight Outta Compton— a biographical movie on rap group N.W.A which included Dr Dre— Beats’ founder. It encouraged people to be proud of their roots by uploading a customized picture with Straight Outta lockup stamp. Beats launched the campaign with influencers such as actors, models, athlete etc. associated with Compton, Dre, or the music industry. #straightoutta became the number one trending topic on Facebook within 24 hours of its launch. Their app received 11.7 million visits and more than 10 million shares. The movie Straight outta Compton went on to earn USD 206 million globally. The virality of the campaign can be attributed to the emotional connect, celebrity engagement, and dedicated fan base. Many funny memes were also created using the Straight Outta < > stamp which helped it to go mainstream.

Please visit www.smstudy.com for more information.

Sources:

http://newsroom.fb.com/news/2014/08/the-ice-bucket-challenge-on-facebook/

http://shortyawards.com/8th/straight-outta-3

https://www.facebook-studio.com/awards/winners

Establishing the Sales Process

Posted by SMstudy® on November 04, 2016 | Corporate Sales (CS)

Keywords: Corporate Sales, Sales Process, B2B Sales

Experienced sales teams usually have an already set sales process. Based on the changing needs of the business this process may have to undergo some fine tuning or improvement. It is important to constantly monitor and evaluate your sales process for alignment with overall objectives of your business. A new company however would need to establish a sales process from scratch. They may use an established process already being used by a similar business or create a sales process of their own. This article briefly describes the five basic steps of a B2B sales process that can be used by any company or business involved in B2B sales.

Understanding these five steps and adapting them to suit the business requirements will help establish a framework for a comprehensive and effective sales process. The five steps are as follows:

Pre-sales—This first step in the sales process involves reviewing the current activities and selling processes. These activities include those carried out from the initial contact with a customer to the final delivery of a product or service. This step allows a developing company to assess its organizational capabilities to carry out the sales process. It includes understanding and strengthening the value proposition for customers. The different channels required to sell products in the future are also determined. Planning sales governance, setting sales targets, setting up the incentive structure for the sales team, and creating the marketing assets is also done at this stage. The sales team is also trained on products as well as the sales process and negotiation to prepare for selling activities.

Profiling of Target Customers—The first step in the prospecting stage, profiling target customers and decision makers, involves identifying and benchmarking profiling criteria for prospects and for decision makers. Characteristics of ideal customers, such as annual budget, are used to benchmark the profiling criteria.

Lead Generation and Qualification—The second step in the prospecting stage, lead generation, is the act of identifying prospective customers and generating ways to gain new customers. Profiled criteria and benchmarks are used to generate better leads. Lead generation uses various offline and online techniques and can be inbound or outbound.

Needs Assessment—Conversion starts with understanding customer needs for products or services. This understanding of needs is vital in the conversion process and enables the sales team to demonstrate to the customer how their product can fulfill the customer’s requirements.

Presentation, Negotiation, and Closure—This is the final stage in the conversion cycle. The corporate sales team presents the features, benefits, and advantages of the proposed products or services that can fulfill the needs of the prospects. At this stage, prospects present their objections to the sales proposal. It is the job of the corporate sales team to overcome these objections to close the deal. 

Affiliate Marketing

Posted by SMstudy® on October 21, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing, Affiliate Marketing, Online Sales

Affiliate marketing is performance-based marketing where customers or partners (affiliates) are rewarded for designated actions that help market the brand. Affiliate marketing is a productive way to expand reach and marketing efforts. 

Affiliate marketing generally consists of three key entities (though some may argue there are four key entities including the “network” that contains the offers). These entities are the “merchant,” which is the brand whose product is being marketed, the “publisher” who is the affiliate, and finally the “customer.” In simple words, the advertiser pays a certain commission to the publisher for bringing new customers to the business.

Through affiliate marketing, merchants or companies gain a wider reach to sell their products or services, which is usually a key element to any marketing strategy. This approach can also allow the company to build a strong image or brand name. One of the main advantages of affiliate marketing is that companies can gain more customers with limited budget, since the approach is commission based or points based. However, there is the possibility that some merchants may incur high commission, maintenance, and initial setup costs, depending on the nature of the business.

Attracting the right affiliates (partners) is very important for the affiliate program to be a success and in determining the volume that can be expected from the program. Updating content regularly and staying up-to-date with recent trends is equally important to help ensure that customers respond to the company’s offers. A product or service does not have to cater to a niche market. Common-place brands, even fast moving consumer goods brands, can benefit greatly from affiliate marketing with the help of the right offers and efficient partners. Getting products onto as many sites as possible is not necessarily the most important goal. Marketers must also consider the relevance, value, and traffic of the sites and platforms that one is able to reach.  

There are some common mistakes affiliates tend to make, and businesses need to be aware of them. The job of the affiliate is to “market” the product, not “sell” the product. Selling is the job of the advertiser (brand) itself. Trying too hard to push customers to buy the product may only push prospective customers away. Partnering with too many affiliates can be another mistake that brands need to carefully consider. Being everywhere can serve to dilute the customer perception about the brand and undermine its credibility. A crucial component to help ensure success with affiliate programs is to have robust analytics capabilities in place and to use them regularly. This will enable the company to understand which affiliates bring in more business, the value of that business, and where they should increase or decrease their efforts and investments in affiliate marketing. 

 

Please visit www.smstudy.com for more information.

Guest Blogging

Posted by SMstudy® on October 21, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Blogging

Guest blogging is a method used by companies to increase website traffic and support the brand and reputation of the business. Guest blogging involves the creation and posting of content to be published on related blogs.

Guest blogging can work in one of two ways:

  • An industry expert can be invited to write a post to appear on the company’s blog— In this scenario, an expert in the industry is invited to post a blog on the company’s existing website. Guest bloggers with a strong reputation in the industry can add credibility and quality to the website content, supporting the brand and improving the reputation of the business. Such arrangements can in fact provide mutual support if the company brand is strong and the invited blogger is well known. Both parties in this instance enhance their reputation through their affiliation with other strong brands and leadership in the industry. For example, a pharmaceutical company may request a medical expert to post an entry to its blog providing an endorsement of a particular product or to describe his or her experience using the product with successful results.
  • The company can write a post to appear on an external blog— Most companies use external blogs to achieve the following main goals:
  • To position the company as a credible source of expertise
  • To build name recognition within its industry
  • To drive traffic to the company’s website
  • To increase the number of backlinks to the company’s website

It is important to find credible and relevant websites that match a company’s objectives. If positioning the company as an industry leader or driving traffic to the company’s website is the primary goal, then blogs that have a good-sized and engaged audience need to be identified. If building backlinks is the main goal, then blogs with strong root domain authority must be identified. For example, a global cloud computing company can encourage its employees to write guest posts at TechCrunch, Google Code blog, and other sites.

In both cases it is important that the blog topic and content should be relevant, authentic, and interesting for the target audience. A guest blog simply promoting a product or brand is unlikely to be as successful as a blog that provides valuable information to customers. The content should also match a company’s niche or industry. For example, an interesting blog on current fashion trends from an established fashion designer will not be useful for an IT company. Guest blogging is an effective way of enhancing brand reputation if a company can find relevant websites/experts and content.

Please visit www.smstudy.com for more information.

Integrating Branding between Offline and Online Channels

Posted by SMstudy® on October 06, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: QR Code, NFC, Contactless Communication, Mobile marketing

All branding and advertising in offline channels should be integrated with a company’s digital marketing strategy. Offline branding and advertising activities can be significant contributors to expanding reach for digital marketing channels. Companies often offer exclusive promotions and coupons to consumers in order to encourage use of the company’s website, social media channels, and mobile site and app. Traditional advertising, such as television, radio, and print ads can provide an effective means of driving consumers to the company’s online channels.

In addition to traditional advertising, many marketing activities are designed to create a direct link between offline and digital channels. A couple of such tools used for integrating offline branding with your mobile devices are discussed in this article.

  • Quick Response (QR) Code—A Quick Response code is a standardized code consisting of black and white squares, which can be read by mobile devices that have a QR code scanning app installed. The code typically stores a URL, and when one scans the code with the QR scanning app, the mobile device opens the website linked to the URL. A QR code can be printed on many kinds of offline materials, and individuals can scan the code and visit the associated URL. A benefit is that users are not required to type the web address to reach the website when using the code. Thus, QR codes offer convenience, bridging the online and offline marketing worlds, and can substantially increase the reach of companies as they can generate traffic to their websites from offline channels. Given that users are expected to take their mobile devices out, open the QR code scanning app, and then scan the code to reach the website, companies often offer incentives to customers to perform these steps. Thus, the benefit of scanning the QR code should be clearly mentioned in the offline channel, and the website that is linked to the QR code should be optimized for mobile devices. QR codes should also be tested appropriately before they are implemented in offline channels. The digital marketing team should ensure that popular QR code scanning apps are able to effectively scan the company’s code and bring up the relevant page. Also, individuals should be able to access the Internet in places where QR codes are displayed. For example, displaying QR codes in in-flight magazines may not receive a high response rate as few people use the Internet while flying.
  • Near Field Communication (NFC)—Near Field Communication is a set of standards for mobile devices, such as smartphones, that allows two endpoints, which are NFC enabled, to communicate directly over short distances (typically less than ten centimeters) using radio waves. NFC-enabled devices can be powered or unpowered in order for communication to take place. Unpowered devices are NFC chips, called tags, which can contain a variety of data, including website URLs. Powered devices include smartphones that have NFC technology enabled on them. Companies can use NFC for increasing reach by inserting NFC tags in a variety of offline marketing materials, such as posters, brochures, and mailers. Users who have NFC-enabled smartphones can tap a poster containing an NFC tag and be directed to a website which may have special offers. NFC can also be used for making contactless payments, so customers can both see an offer and pay for a product using NFC through an app. Thus, NFC, like QR codes, helps individuals who are offline link to a company’s website to get more information or to purchase products.

Competitor Social Media Activity Analysis

Posted by SMstudy® on October 04, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing, Social Media, Competitor Analysis

Analyzing the competition in terms of social media provides valuable insights for a company’s social media plan. Whether one is developing a new social media plan or trying to improve an existing social media plan, it is important to understand how the competition is reaching out to its target audience through social media. By analyzing competitors’ social media activities, realistic benchmarks for the company’s social media plan can be set, based on what others in the industry are experiencing in terms of reach and relationship growth. This analysis enables the team to lay the framework for a successful social media plan that is based on the successes of other similar companies in the same space.

A company identifies its competitors as a result of the Identify Competition process discussed in the SMstudy® book on Marketing Strategy. After identifying its competitors, the first step in analyzing competitors’ social media activity is to identify their voice in social media websites—whether the competitor is portraying itself directly as the brand or whether individuals from the brand are promoting the product. The next step is to identify the level of engagement of competitors with their audiences. Relevant questions, which can be easily researched and answered, need to be framed to gauge the level of engagement.

It is also important to know how often competitors engage in specific activities that indicate their focus on various social media elements. Relevant questions need to be answered to gauge their focus. Some companies may have an extremely high frequency of activities but their level of engagement in each activity may be very small. Others might focus more on quality content, and participate in less frequent activities but may see an equal or higher level of engagement.

Insights into preferences for different types of content can also be discovered by analyzing competitors’ social media activity. A company can observe whether competitors are posting texts, links, videos, photos, polls, questions, trivia, or something completely different, and can see the types of posts that are of interest to the greatest number of customers.

Competitor analysis requires a lot of effort, mainly because there are many social media outlets and a company must keep track of competitor activity in as many of these outlets as possible. But tracking is made easier by a number of tracking tools in which a company can search for and analyze data about the competition.

After collecting data on its top competitors in all social media platforms, a company can gain an understanding of which social media outlets competitors are using the most, the type of content and updates they are sharing, and the responses of customers to such updates. Based on this analysis and the company’s objectives, the company can formulate its own social media plan.

Please visit www.smstudy.com for more information.

Overcoming Objections in Corporate Sales

Posted by SMstudy® on September 23, 2016 | Corporate Sales (CS)

Keywords: Overcoming Objections, Corporate Sales, Sales Conversion

Whenever a sales person tries to propose a product or service, the prospect raises objections. An objection is a psychological or logical resistance. Learning to handle objections is one of the key skills to be acquired by the corporate sales team. Objections should never be ignored but rather addressed or resolved positively and with confidence. The team should anticipate and prepare for objections in advance in order to address them effectively. Impromptu responses to objections are rarely successful and drastically reduce the chance of closing a sale. Most objections are common and can be anticipated in advance. Some of the most common objections are related to cost, timelines, specific client requirements, and lack of authority. These and other types of objections are to be expected. Presenters need to listen to objections positively and answer in a manner that helps reduce a prospect’s anxiety and builds trust. Some specific techniques appear below.

Common Objections

  • Satisfaction with the existing vendor—When faced with this obstacle, it is best to ask questions about the current vendor and try to understand situations where the prospect would consider switching to a new vendor. To do this, the team needs to do its homework before setting up the meeting with the prospect. It needs to research the current vendor and its weaknesses, current business challenges faced by the prospect, and any other relevant information that can gain the attention of the prospect. A prepared sales team can then start a presentation by suggesting solutions for problems or limitations. This can help prevent the prospect from speaking positively about the current vendor.
  • High price—Most buyers note price as their primary concern with a product or proposed solution. Sellers who talk about their products or services at the beginning of a conversation will likely end up facing a price objection. Therefore, sellers should focus on the benefits of a product at the beginning of the presentation to avoid this type of objection. In addition, it is a good practice to inform the prospects about the cost savings achieved by using the company’s products or services.
  • Budget constraints—With experience, the corporate sales team knows the time of year when prospects set their budgets. The team should meet prospects ahead of the budget cycle to get money allocated in the next budget for their product or service. If that does not happen, the team should try to explain the importance and advantages of the proposed product or service to the prospect. It is possible to get money allocated from the existing budget by diverting funds from lower priority projects.
  • Too busy—With so many sellers approaching buyers regarding different types of products and services, it becomes impossible for buyers to listen to each and every proposal. When faced with this obstacle, the seller needs to generate interest by telling prospects about products or services that can make a significantly positive difference to their business. This requires a thorough knowledge of the value proposition.
  • Undisclosed objections—Objections that are not stated by prospects need to be understood. These are objections that are noticeable by hesitations or implied reluctance as shown by the prospect’s tone or expressions. It is the responsibility of the seller to ask the prospect questions to encourage the prospect to talk about such objections. The seller can only address these objections when they are revealed.

Please visit www.smstudy.com to learn more about sales conversion.

Coding

Posted by SMstudy® on September 19, 2016 | Marketing Research (MR)

Keywords: Marketing Research, Coding, Data Processing

Data coding is the process of organizing, labeling, and sorting the data into appropriate headings to make it convenient for data analysis in both quantitative and qualitative research. In data coding, responses are usually assigned numbers and symbols to make them measurable and recordable. Categories and character symbols for responses must be established before tabulation. The numbers and symbols for categorizing the data are called codes. Codes allow the researcher to reduce large quantities of information into a form that can be easily processed and analyzed, particularly by computer based statistical tools.

Coding starts with specifying the different categories or classes into which the responses are to be classified and ends with allocating codes to individual answers. The process of creating codes can be both preset and open. Some codes are predefined by the researcher. It is beneficial to start with a list of preset codes derived from the conceptual framework, the list of research questions, the problem areas, and other significant identifiers. Prior knowledge of the subject matter helps the researcher create these codes. While it is good to begin data collection and coding with preset codes, another set of codes will emerge or can be developed from reading and analyzing the data. These “emergent codes” are those ideas, concepts, actions, relationships, and meanings that appear in the data and that are different than the preset codes. The researcher tries to integrate predefined categories in the data collection forms using closed questions so that it becomes easy to transfer the data into a tabulated format later. The use of precoded closed questions reduces the cost of coding and also improves accuracy. Sometimes this is not feasible, and the researcher needs to ask open-ended questions in the survey. Including open-ended questions in a survey garners qualitative data, as opposed to the quantitative data that results from multiple-choice questions. The coding for the open-ended questions is performed after collection. Once coded, these answers can be analyzed in the same way that multiple-choice, closed questions are analyzed.

Coding is an evolving process when it comes to qualitative studies. As data is coded, the coding categories can be refined further. Researchers may add, collapse, expand, and revise the coding categories.  In some cases the codes may be too broad, and subcategories may need to be added. In other cases the codes designed may be too specific and capture all possible responses. In these cases, the researcher must consider how to combine categories into a broader idea. When coding, the researcher should always make the codes fit the data, rather than trying to make the data fit the codes.

Please visit www.smstudy.com for more information.

Mobile Channel Customer Feedback

Posted by SMstudy® on September 16, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Customer Feedback, Mobile Channels, Digital Marketing

Customer feedback on mobile sites and mobile apps can be evaluated through multiple ways. In every case, feedback should be analyzed carefully and not ignored. For a company to ensure that its brand stays relevant to its target group, feedback from customers should be taken during separate instances of their interaction with the brand. Customers may provide feedback regarding the quality of product information on the app or mobile site, responsiveness of the mobile site, ease of making payments online, and ease of accessing customer support.

Analyzing customer feedback about a company’s product and related services can help a company identify areas where it is performing well and areas where it needs to improve its relationship-building capabilities.

Developers use different techniques to collect user feedback in order to increase engagement. Some examples are as follows:

  • App Store Reviews—App store reviews is the most obvious and basic method of collecting user reviews. The app store reviews are collected in the form of star ratings and written text reviews. Star ratings reflect how much the users like the app in general while text reviews are important to understanding the specific pain points and strengths of the app.
  • In-app Feedback—One of the most effective methods of collecting reviews, in-app feedback, allows developers to collect feedback in the app itself. There are a number of turn-key plug-ins available that make it simple to prompt the user to review an app. However, it is important to time the prompt properly within the user experience. Some apps (mostly games) also incentivize users to provide feedback.
  • Social Media and Forums—Social media and website forums can be used to start discussions about an app, invite suggestions, run polls, and get feedback on specific app features.

Visit www.smstudy.com to learn more ways on optimizing mobile channel reach and relationship.

E-mail Marketing-Part II

Posted by SMstudy® on September 10, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing, E-mail Marketing, Online channels

E-mail marketing, a form of direct marketing that uses e-mail as the delivery medium for communicating a marketing message to a group of people, is an important component of any marketing campaign. In the previous blog we briefly discussed the definition and types of e-mail marketing. Now we will discuss two critical aspects of e-mail marketing— content and frequency.

When designing e-mail content, it is important to identify the key messages that the e-mail should communicate and the specific information that will move the recipient from his or her current perception to the desired perception, overcoming any barriers to conversion. In particular, marketers should highlight the benefits of the product or service as they relate to key messages; focus on specific proof points; and provide details, facts, and features that support the selling premise.

E-mails must have a clear call to action (CTA). Marketers must be clear on what they want the recipient to do and why the offer is of value to the recipient, providing incentives for the recipient to respond immediately. Incentives can include a deadline for ordering; a pending price increase; an introductory period, during which recipients are entitled to a special deal, extra service, or lower price; a free gift or premium; a “no risk” trial; or something that is not available in stores.

Once the recipient completes the requested action (e.g., click to visit a landing page or download a coupon), it is important to decide what will happen next (e.g., what the recipient will see on the landing page) and what will follow to accelerate the marketing process. Additionally, marketers must consider whether a confirmation or transactional e-mail should follow.

Marketers should also ensure that offers in e-mails allow adequate response time. Offers that provide too little time to respond may not allow the recipient enough time to make a purchase decision. Conversely, offers that provide too much time to respond will likely create inertia. Marketers should also ensure that offers are specific. For example, an offer advertising a savings of $100 on installation will not be meaningful to recipients if it is not clear how much the company charges for installation. Additionally, offers that imitate the competition and do not differentiate the company, offers that are too good to be true, and over-complicated offers are less likely to elicit responses from recipients.

Even when sending valuable content, the frequency of the delivery must be carefully monitored. While there is no rule that works for all companies and audiences, weekly sends tend to be an observed industry standard. If a company has a high number of messages it needs to deliver to its customers (e.g., servicing, informational, and marketing messages) it should have a coordinated release schedule to avoid over sending e-mails. This can be aided by establishing frequency guidelines for each department.

Please visit www.smstudy.com for more details.

A Thousand Words

Posted by SMstudy® on September 02, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing, Image Marketing, Social Media

When Guerlain, a French beauty brand, wanted to target a younger audience for its thirty year old iconic Terracotta bronzers it chose Instagram.  

When Lexus, a luxury automobile brand, wanted to target a younger audience for its brand IS, it went ahead with Tumblr.

These are examples of changing trends in consumer marketing. Gone are the days when any product launch or repositioning meant TV or radio or print ads. The advent of digital age has provided businesses with numerous platforms to reach consumers. Brands, both new and established, have started using channels which are suitable to their product, campaign, and target audience. Hence, when established brands like Guerlain and Lexus wanted to reach out to younger audience they chose a medium which gave them the best opportunity to do so.

The consumer attention span is ever shrinking. In today’s information age, audiences are flooded with content available at a single touch. This abundance of content makes it harder for good content to cut through the clutter and get noticed, but images capture the attention of consumers. They have the ability to convey messages easily and can have a much larger impact on the target market than text updates. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. Look at one of the images published by Guerlain which beautifully establishes the connection between Terracotta and Paris. This is the reason businesses are using image centric social media platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, and Snapchat.

Guerlain Terracotta

These sites allow users to share content with other people or group. If brands are successful in creating engaging and interesting content, it increases their reach as well as brand visibility. The Guerlain Terracotta campaign reached 965,000 while the Lexus Signal campaign had more than 85,000 notes. In most social media channels that are focused on sharing such content, people can vote on or rank or add their comments. Thus, these channels also integrate the discussion forum element. At times, such posts from users may be misused by competitors or by people with ulterior motives, resulting in hate speech, insults, swearing, and general unpleasantness. Given the fact that these sites are vulnerable to such consumer misbehavior, forums may require moderators or restricted access protocols to ensure that discussions and feedback stay relevant, socially appropriate, and unbiased. Hence, as with most marketing channels, image centric channels also require suitable content and proper monitoring to ensure a successful campaign.

Please visit www.smstudy.com for more details.

Sources:

http://instagram-static.s3.amazonaws.com/case_studies/IG_Guerlain.pdf

http://blog.business.instagram.com/post/124675270476/glowing-results-for-terracota-did-you-know-that

http://shortyawards.com/6th/the-signal-lexus-tumblr

Demand Chain Planning for Better Distribution

Posted by SMstudy® on September 02, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: Marketing Strategy, Distribution Strategy, Demand Chain Planning

Demand chain planning one of the tools that helps formulate an effective distribution strategy for your company. The primary objectives of the distribution strategy are to ensure that distribution channels are well organized, that the margins and payments to all partners in the supply chain are reasonable and proportionate to the value delivered, and that there are no issues that threaten to disrupt the distribution of the company’s offerings. Demand chain planning is a tool that helps forecast demand and plan your supply chain based on marketing research, customer requirements analysis and feedback.

Demand chain planning involves reviewing details of the supply chain with customers and then working backwards to ensure that customers’ demands are adequately met. A key necessity for this review is a thorough understanding of the demand for the product; thus, information contained in the market attractiveness report is very helpful when using this tool. Demand chain planning plays a vital role in the company because it impacts all production and sales activities. If adequate planning is not conducted, then situations can arise whereby a company is either producing more product than what is in demand—resulting in surplus inventory—or producing less than the demand—resulting in potential loss of sales. In service industries, similar circumstances may result in the hiring of excess staff relative to demand, or a short staff situation when demand surges.

Because the demand chain involves external parties, such as raw material suppliers, it highlights where the greatest value is created and enables a company to decide if it wants to integrate backwards and assume the functions of some of its suppliers. In situations where the customer of a company is not the end customer, then the company may also consider integrating forward and assuming the functions of its current customer, thus distributing directly to the end customer.

Through proper demand chain planning, it is usually easy to identify gaps in fulfilling demand because checks and balances are placed at multiple stages throughout the chain. Many leading companies in different industries use online tracking of all their relationships with different entities in the demand chain to ensure that instant communication takes place and issues are addressed as soon as they are discovered.

Visit www.smstudy.com to learn more tools that help create an effective distribution strategy.

The Metrics

Posted by SMstudy® on August 26, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Metrics, digital marketing, website metrics

As consumers have found multiple ways of searching, learning about, and purchasing various products and services, so have businesses found multiple ways to reach their target audience. With the evolution of channels, the metrics for performance measurement have also evolved from simple circulation numbers to page views, click-through rate, bounce rate etc. With so many metrics to choose from it is critical to identify the right metrics to track a channel or campaign performance.

While selecting metrics it is advisable to select and prioritize a few important metrics that can appropriately determine the success or failure of the objectives outlined for a channel. If unnecessarily large number of metrics are defined, then a substantial amount of time may be wasted on collecting and analyzing data produced by too many metrics, which may not add value to the final analysis. Essentially, it is preferable to have a few key metrics which are clearly defined and aligned to channel objectives.  For example, if one wants to track the performance of a website one can look at the following metrics:

  • Visits—This metric provides information on a website’s effectiveness in reaching out to the target audience. This shows how many times in total a particular website has been viewed.

 

  • Page Views—The number of page views helps to monitor the website content and provides information on popular pages and engagement of the visitors.

 

  • Traffic Sources—This metric provides an overview of various sources that generate traffic to the website. Most of the analytics tools categorize the traffic sources into— Direct Traffic, Search Traffic Including Paid and Organic, Referral Sites, and Others.

 

  • Bounce Rate—Bounce rate refers to the percentage of visitors who visit the website and then exit the website without going to any other page. This information helps to understand if the right audience is visiting the website, and if the information provided on the website meets their expectations.

 

  • Exit Pages—These pages refer to the last page a customer visits before leaving the website. Knowing this helps to identify the pages where visitors decide to leave or drop off the site.

 

Another important aspect of identifying appropriate metrics is that one should be able to measure and analyze the underlying data. There are some metrics that a business may want to measure but obtaining underlying data for the metric may prove to be difficult or expensive. In such cases, it may be preferable to replace the metrics with ones that are available and measureable.

Selected metrics should also be relevant to the channel. One should not select a common set of metrics for all channels just for the sake of simplified data collection and analysis. Even if the overall objective is the same, each channel is unique and should be assessed using appropriate metrics. Hence, metrics will change if the channel changes. For example, for tracking a social media campaign one can use the following metrics instead of the ones defined above for tracking website performance:

 

  • Potential Reach— This refers to the potential target size a given activity (e.g. post, tweet, etc.) can reach within the company’s social media network.
  • Number of mentions—This refers to the number of times a company or its products have been mentioned on social networking sites. This metric needs to be qualified with information regarding the type of mentions being received.
  • Number of Shares/Retweets—This metric represents the number of times content provided by the company is shared by its subscribers or followers.
  • Number of Replies and Comments—This metric represents the number of replies and comments that the company’s content has generated.

 

Please visit www.smstudy.com for more details.

Essentials of Cold Calling

Posted by SMstudy® on August 26, 2016 | Corporate Sales (CS)

Keywords: Cold Calling, Lead Generation, Corporate Sales

Cold Calling is a process in which the corporate sales team contacts prospects who have not previously expressed an interest in a product. Cold calling is carried out using a customer profile list to target the respective decision maker (if available). Cold calling is generally done over the phone and is usually the first communication made to a prospect. In corporate sales, cold calling is used more as a tool for lead generation and less for lead qualification. 

Contact lists for cold calling are also available for purchase. Such lists contain names of companies and the decision makers with contact details. However, the details on the list may not be fully accurate. In addition, the prospects listed in the contact list must be profiled prior to the business contacting them.

It is highly recommended that the corporate sales team use a script for cold calling. This script can be jointly created by the marketing team and the corporate sales team. During the cold call, the corporate sales team has limited time to communicate the sales value proposition to the prospect. By using a standard script for cold calling, the corporate sales team can ensure that the script is consistent with the sales value proposition and the desired business outcomes. It also ensures that all members of the corporate sales team consistently communicate the same messages to all prospects.

It is essential that cold callers practice and rehearse the script so that they sound fluent, accurate, and natural. The caller has limited time to gain a prospect’s attention and communicate the value proposition. A well-rehearsed sales representative will be more effective in generating interest and engagement.

A cold calling script should include the following:

  • Self-introduction
  • Brief description of the company and the purpose for calling
  • Product relevance for the prospect
  • Sales value proposition, including the business outcome
  • Next course of action

It is important to generate the next course of action from a prospect during the cold call. This can be in the form of an appointment for a detailed discussion, e-mail exchanges, or an agreement for a product demo or trial. The prospect details are subsequently entered into the customer management system and assigned to a member of the corporate sales team for the next course of action.

Visit www.smstudy.com to learn more ways to generate leads for your company.

Channel Economic Analysis

Posted by SMstudy® on August 12, 2016 | Corporate Sales (CS)

Keywords: Channel Economic Analysis, Channel Selection, Corporate Sales, Channel Network

After identifying a range of potential sales channels, it is necessary to evaluate those on the basis of economic factors. Both cost and revenue are important factors for economic evaluation of channels.

Cost—Channel profitability can be used to assess the cost associated with a channel. A channel’s profitability ratio is usually expressed in terms of expense to revenue ratio (E/R). A channel’s E/R is equal to its cost per transaction divided by the average order size. The lower the E/R, the lower the selling costs for each unit of revenue, which means a higher profit to the company for each sales transaction.

In order to calculate the E/R, the average order size and the channel’s cost per transaction should be known. The average order size—the total revenue divided by the total number of transactions—is easier to determine. It is generally difficult to determine the average cost per transaction. It may already be available from industry records, or it may be extracted by analyzing competitors’ channel usage or by reviewing other industries that use similar channels. If it is not readily available, it can be calculated by dividing the total selling expenses by the total number of transactions. The total selling expenses for a particular channel can be defined by using a channel cost model in the absence of existing data. A channel cost model defines the different categories of selling expenses that may be incurred by the channel. Each channel being assessed for profitability should be allocated the same or similar set of cost factors. This model can be developed either internally or externally with the help of subject matter experts or consultants.

Revenue—Channel capacity, which is the channel’s capability to generate the desired level of revenue, is another factor that should be considered for economic analysis. It can be defined as the product of channel selling unit productivity (revenue generated per unit) and number of units (number of channel members such as sales partners/representatives, etc.). It is very important to have a realistic estimation of both channel productivity and channel size for accurate assessment of channel capacity.

Choosing the right channels that fit the business is a critical component of corporate sales success. It is preferable to take a flexible and balanced approach that considers channels based on various factors such as service, cost, and revenue. If only cost is considered, for instance, then a company may end up with the lowest cost channel, but the channel may not have the potential to generate the required revenue, or the channel may need additional investment to provide the required level of service or to generate the required revenue. Hence, consideration of various factors enables a company to select those channels that best serve their market and provide the greatest potential for meeting sales objectives.

Visit www.smstudy.com to learn more ways to determine effective sales channels.

E-mail Marketing

Posted by SMstudy® on August 12, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing, E-mail Marketing, Online channels

E-mail marketing is a form of direct marketing that uses e-mail as the delivery medium for communicating a marketing message to a group of people. Any e-mail sent to existing or prospective customers can be regarded as e-mail marketing. E-mail marketing is used for both internal customer contacts or customer prospect lists purchased from external sources. E-mail marketing can be used to help enhance the relationship of a business with its customers as well as to reach out to acquire new customers. Specifically e-mail marketing is used to support customer loyalty and encourage repeat business with existing customers, as well as to deliver information and offer promotions to both customers and prospects via newsletters and other forms of communication. Different types of e-mails, used by businesses to achieve these objectives, are as follows:

Promotional E-mails—The main focus of promotional e-mails is to deliver offers or invitations that are relevant to a subscriber’s preference settings, resulting in either a sale or another predetermined action. It is important to make sure the e-mail is relevant to the recipient and well written to ensure the customer will want to continue receiving and paying attention to such e-mails.

Confirmation E-mails—Confirmation e-mails are sent to customers to confirm receipt of a customer request. Some common types of confirmation e-mails include subscription confirmations, e-mail address verifications, login details, auto-responses to customer e-mails, updates to subscription preferences, unsubscribe requests, and more.

Informational E-mails—Informational e-mails are sent to educate subscribers on topics relevant to their preference settings with the provider. This type of e-mail is often in the form of a newsletter. For example, an agency specializing in corporate travel may send an e-mail about special rates on business class flights and discounted hotel rates for business travelers.

Lifecycle E-mails—Lifecycle e-mails are sent to customers to support acquisition, conversion, growth, retention, and reactivation of subscribers. When a marketing automation software company sends an e-mail about an upcoming webinar on strategies for lead generation to prospects who previously downloaded an e-book on the same topic, it supports the earliest stage of the customer lifecycle—raising awareness of the company.  

Transactional E-mails—Transactional e-mails are usually trigger-based e-mails based on a customer’s action with a company, often to acknowledge that a business transaction has been completed. Purchase receipts are the most common type of transactional message. As these e-mails are usually opened and read by the customer, transactional e-mails provide an opportunity to cross-sell or up-sell by including promotional messages within the body of the transactional e-mail.

Please visit www.smstudy.com for more details.

Tracking Social Media Relationships

Posted by SMstudy® on August 05, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Social Media, Digital Marketing, Social Media Metrics, Social Media Relationships

A company must analyze the kind of relationships it is building with consumers across all of its social media platforms to ensure that they are aligned with the overall metrics and targets for social media performance as mentioned in the inputs section of this process. Each social media platform generally has its own analytics dashboard, which provides a variety of information to a company about its social media activities. As each of these dashboards displays different types of metrics depending on the platform, a company must have a thorough understanding of these metrics so that it can compare the effectiveness of the various platforms. Such a comparison can be done by using metrics that are easily understood and that can be derived from data provided by the dashboards, if the metrics are not already presented. Some important metrics are as follows:

  1. Number of Shares—This metric represents the number of times content provided by the company is shared by its customers or subscribers. Consumers share content they like or find useful; thus, a high number of shares indicates that a large number of customers or potential customers perceive the company as helpful and knowledgeable and, by extension, may be more likely to purchase the company’s products or services.

 

  1. Number of Replies and Comments—This metric represents the number of replies and comments that the company’s content has generated. These replies and comments may be directed to the company asking for more information or providing feedback; they may also be discussions among the target audience members who are inspired by the content that the company has shared. A high number of replies and comments generally indicate a strong engagement with the target audience. However, care must be taken to ensure that negative and irrelevant comments and replies are addressed promptly and appropriately.

 

  1. Number of Clicks—This metric represents the number of clicks on the links within content shared by the company. These links may take users to the company’s website, to a company page within a social media platform, or to a resource or asset shared by the company. Such clicks indicate that users considered the company’s updates interesting enough to click on links within those updates.

In addition to monitoring the above metrics on a quantitative basis, it is also important to watch for shared content or consumer responses that spread to an abnormally high number of users. This process is referred to as “going viral.” If such content or responses reflect a positive consumer perception, a sudden increase in leads and purchases for the company can be the result, and only if a company is tracking its social media activity closely would it know the reason for the sudden increase and respond accordingly. On the other hand, if such content and responses reflect a negative consumer perception, the company’s relationship with its customers and potential customers may suffer significant damage.

Visit www.smstudy.com to learn more about social media analysis and its metrics.

Introduction to Search Engine Marketing

Posted by SMstudy® on August 05, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital marketing, Search engine marketing, SEO, paid listings

Search engine marketing refers to all marketing activities that use search engine technology for marketing purposes. SEM promotes a business and its products by ensuring the company appears in search engine result pages. SEM includes search engine optimization (SEO), paid listings, and other search engine related services and functions that are designed to increase reach and exposure of a website, resulting in greater traffic. Specifically, SEM increases the visibility of websites through paid search advertising and/or SEO with the intent of increasing traffic to a company’s website. SMstudy® and many experts discuss SEO in two parts—Off-page SEO and On-page SEO, which refers to the activities and content that website developers use to ensure a company’s site is recognized by search engines

Search engine traffic consists of consumers who are interested in and searching for a particular term that is associated with a website. To leverage this tool and draw traffic to a company’s website, marketers must understand how to effectively use both organic and paid SEM and determine the potential exposure they can gain through both approaches.

Advantages of Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

SEM is advantageous in the following ways:

  • SEM helps businesses connect with consumers at a time when the consumer may be more likely to purchase a product or service. SEM is an inbound strategy—the consumer has explicitly expressed interest in a relevant topic by means of a search query (keywords) used, and, if optimized, the website is displayed in search results. SEM, therefore, catches the consumer at a time when he or she is actively looking for a particular product or service, resulting in a more engaged consumer and typically a more receptive response. Ultimately the goal of any form of digital marketing is to increase customer involvement. Consumer behavior theory indicates that when the customer is “involved”—engaged and interested in a consumer good that is being marketed at that precise moment—he or she is more likely to purchase. Outbound marketing, by contrast, involves sending e-mails to a database or list of consumers with the hope of enticing some of these consumers to purchase. However, it is unknown if and when the customer is interested or ready to purchase.
  • Search engine traffic originates from a voluntary, audience-driven search. To reach a company’s site, customers and potential customers have entered one or more of the company’s keywords to bring up the appropriate search results page and then have selected the company’s site from all those displayed. As a result, the audience is more engaged, relevant, and often ready to make a purchase decision.
  • While organic and paid searches each has unique advantages with respect to cost, necessary resources, technical requirements, and more, they both offer robust tracking and the ability to effectively control and deliver performance at a desired ROI.

SEM is a constantly evolving form of marketing in which new strategies have emerged and continue to grow. Retargeting ads, optimization of websites for mobiles, and alignment of SEO and social activities are becoming mainstream and forming an integral part of a company’s overall SEM strategies.

Please visit www.smstudy.com for more details.

You shall not pass!!!

Posted by SMstudy® on July 29, 2016 | Corporate Sales (CS)

Keywords: Corporate Sales, Lead Qualification, Prospects

You shall not pass— This famous quote by Gandalf is critical for any successful sales process. A sales process is as successful as the leads it generates. Any prospect that has some interest in buying a company’s product or services is a lead. But when establishing or analyzing a sales process one needs to look at not just the number of leads but also the quality of leads. This is where Gandalf and lead qualification comes in. Lead qualification is the process through which leads are assessed for quality. Prospects who do not meet the selected criteria “should not be passed” to the corporate sales team for follow up. Companies that focus on generating a large volume of unqualified leads can waste the corporate sales team’s valuable time. Therefore, it is important to provide only leads that can potentially result in a sales opportunity.

One of the most widely used criteria for lead qualification is BANT, which stands for Budget, Authority, Need, and Time Frame.

Budget—Budget is one of the most important criteria to use when determining the quality of a lead. For example, a $1,000 watch cannot be sold to someone who only has $200 to spend. Therefore, the first question that the corporate sales team should ask leads is, “What is the available budget for the product or service?” Companies should focus on those prospects whose budgets fall within an acceptable range for the products or services offered.

Authority—The contacted prospect should have the formal authority to sign a deal or should be an influencer in the decision-making process. If not, an attempt should be made to reach an appropriate person in the company who has the authority to make a buying decision.

Needs—One of the critical conditions required to sell a product is a specific need. A lead might be interested in a product, but unless the product can solve a particular customer problem or meet a specific need, a sale is unlikely.

Time Frame—Even if a lead has the required budget, authority, and need for a product, it is important to know the time frame needed to make a purchasing decision. If the time frame is too long, the sales effort can be wasted. If the time frame is too short, the company may be unable to deliver goods or services on time.

Lead qualification is performed at different stages of the sales process, but primarily after leads have been generated by the sales and marketing teams. It  is important as working on all prospects is neither feasible nor optimal.  

Please visit www.smstudy.com for more details.

Digital Marketing for Lead Generation

Posted by SMstudy® on July 22, 2016 | Corporate Sales (CS)

Keywords: Corporate Sales, Lead Generation, Digital Marketing

Lead generation is the act of identifying prospective customers with the objective of gaining new customers. Traditionally, lead generation was accomplished through direct mail, event sponsorships, or cold calling. With the advent of the Internet, other tools such as search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media, blogs, and content marketing have changed the way leads are generated today. Hence, Digital Marketing plays a crucial role in lead generation today.

Digital Marketing includes all marketing activities that use electronic devices connected to the Internet to engage with customers (e.g., computers, tablets, and smartphones). These include activities related to creating and managing effective websites and mobile apps as well as promoting a company’s products and brand through various online channels in order to help meet marketing objectives. Online lead generation can be conducted through multiple Digital Marketing channels. Some of these channels include websites, search engine marketing, social media marketing, and e-mail marketing.

Website

A company’s website serves as the central hub and foundation for its online activity. An effective website is also a critical component of lead generation. Generally, companies have dedicated lead generation pages, which require potential customers to provide some data regarding themselves and their requirements. Gathering this information helps in both generating and categorizing leads. Leads can also be generated through the ‘contact us’ page where contact details, such as phone numbers and e-mail IDs, are collected.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Search engine marketing refers to all marketing activities that use search engine technology for marketing purposes. SEM promotes a business and its products by ensuring the company appears in search engine results pages. SEM includes search engine optimization (SEO), paid listings, and other search engine related services and functions that are designed to increase reach and exposure of a website, resulting in greater traffic. SEM is one of the most efficient tools for lead generation. Companies of all sizes and different marketing budgets can use this tool to provide the corporate sales team with active leads collected from users who search for keywords related to the company’s specific products or services.

Social Media Marketing

The majority of businesses today invest in social media, and this trend is increasing steadily.  Social media platforms and sites offer a focused target audience and facilitate campaigns for companies­­. Therefore, if used effectively, social media marketing can be used to generate quality leads for the company. It is important for a business to have a good grasp of current social media trends, research the applications of each social media platform, and understand their use. This will help the company to utilize the best available platforms for maximum reach, relationship building, and reputation for its business.

E-mail Marketing

E-mail marketing is a form of direct marketing that uses e-mail as the delivery medium for communicating a marketing message to a group of people. It is one of the most effective tools for lead generation. E-mail marketing can be used to enhance relationships with current or previous customers and can encourage customer loyalty and repeat business, help to acquire new customers, increase sales to current customers, deliver information via newsletters, communicate promotional offers, and more.

Please visit www.smstudy.com for more details.

Conduct Win-Loss Analysis: Fine Tune Your Sales Value Proposition

Posted by SMstudy® on July 22, 2016 | Corporate Sales (CS)

Keywords: Sales Value Proposition, Win-Loss Analysis, Corporate Sales

A sales value proposition clearly communicates how a company’s offering can help a customer achieve better results. It presents measurable business outcomes and helps decision makers understand how the use of a particular product or service will help them. A sales value proposition should convey the following:

  • Product features
  • Product benefits relevant to the selected target segment
  • Business outcomes for a selected target segment

Customer win-loss analysis is a process of understanding why sales opportunities are either won or lost. A careful win-loss analysis is a cost-effective and efficient tool to understand how customers perceive value.

The process for win-loss analysis starts after a sales opportunity has been won or lost. Meetings are held with important stakeholders, including the sales, product, account management, and customer service team members. After this meeting, the win-loss analysis interviewer must know the details of how the lead was generated, the events that took place during the sales process, and the product or products discussed. Customer interviews also need to be scheduled immediately after the opportunity has been won or lost to ensure maximum recall from customers about their experience in the sales process.

Customer feedback may be collected regarding customer perception in the following areas:

  • Performance of the corporate sales team
  • Quality of marketing materials
  • Sales process 
  • Product features 
  • Comparison with competition
  • Pricing

While a win-loss analysis may not possibly solve issues, it will help you understand how your customers or prospects evaluated your product, sales process or marketing practices. A win-loss analysis conducted for an opportunity that was not successful is especially useful. It not only helps you identify issues, but also conveys to the prospect about the importance you ascribe to each sales opportunity. It also offers you a chance to be considered as the next best option for the prospect and increases your chances of the converting the deal given a second opportunity.

Visit www.smstudy.com to learn more ways to understand and create your sales value proposition.

In God we trust, all others bring data

Posted by SMstudy® on July 14, 2016 | Marketing Research (MR)

Keywords: Marketing research, data mining

In God we trust, all others bring data—an apt description of today’s data driven business organizations. Need to conduct a promotional campaign? Have to change the product packaging? Should we introduce a new brand? Every decision needs to be backed up by data. Yet, data is necessary but not sufficient. Data collection has become easier with recent innovations but it is not very useful until it is converted to information.  Data mining is a processing tool which makes it useful by discovering information from the collected data.

Data mining is the most used secondary data processing tool. Through data mining, researchers can discover unknown valid information from huge databases; these discoveries help organizations make key business decisions. In other words, data mining is an exploratory data analysis without any prior hypothesis. Data mining helps organizations understand consumer buying behavior and trends for the near future; this process can also predict changes. Data mining is an important tool that allows researchers and analysts to manage businesses effectively and make key strategic decisions. Data mining is relatively easy when organizations have their own data warehouse. However, it is not necessary to have a data warehouse to perform data mining.

Data mining operations are classified into four major categories: predictive modeling, database segmentation, link analysis, and deviation detection.

  • Predictive Modeling—This is a form of inductive reasoning that takes specific data or information and makes a broader generalization. This technique uses neural networks and inductive reasoning algorithms to predict future trends. The conclusion from this method is always predictive and may not be accurate.
  • Database Segmentation—This is used to classify the data into clusters. The segmentation is done using statistical cluster analysis techniques.
  • Link AnalysisThis approach involves determining the associations between data and sequential patterns. This method helps discover the association between two or more data records, which in turn helps determine a possible solution to the research problem.
  • Deviation Detection—This method helps researchers determine the data or records that cannot be considered or included in the analysis. In this method data are identified and removed if they are not within the scope of the research problem.

Please visit www.smstudy.com for more details on Data Mining.

Know Your Target Segment Better Using Customer Personas

Posted by SMstudy® on July 14, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: Customer Persona, Buyer Persona, Marketing Strategy, Target Segment

After a company has identified all market segments, explored the competition, and compiled the details of competitive products, it should then analyze the various segments in order to identify the target segments in which the business would be most competitive. This process involves identifying the type of customers a company plans to target and the product categories under which it intends to create products.

Customer or buyer personas are highly detailed fictional characters, representative of particular types of users in a market segment. They are created to help the marketing team identify who the potential buyers are, what they are trying to achieve, what they think, what drives their behaviors, how they buy, and why they take certain decisions. In a corporate environment, a persona could include job title, tasks, responsibilities, job requirements, conferences attended, and types of media consumed. With detailed personas, users become more personal and real to the team, so they are better able to understand the particular requirements and goals of a market segment. A market segment can be effectively selected once detailed personas are understood.

Creating a persona involves assigning a fictional name and preferably a picture to a character. The persona should be research based and include highly specific demographic and lifestyle attributes such as age, gender, education, environment, interests, and goals. A quote illustrating the persona’s requirements can also be included.

For example, a customer persona created for a travel website can be as follows. Vanessa is a 39-year-old resident of San Francisco. She is pursuing her passion for traveling after having a highly successful career as an attorney. She likes to have options when choosing air travel and accommodation services so that she can select those that are the best and most affordable. Vanessa gets frustrated with slow and cluttered websites.

Be a cleanliness freak....for data

Posted by SMstudy® on July 07, 2016 | Marketing Research (MR)

Keywords: marketing research, data cleaning, questionnaire

Imagine a situation where you have invested your hard earned money on the basis of thorough research. You must be feeling good about yourself, your hard work and your investment. Now you suddenly find out that the data you used for research is inaccurate. What now? You may still hope that your investment strategy works out but you will not be sure. You could have simply let your pet monkey pick stocks for you and ended up in the same situation—with hope and no confidence. Similarly when you embark on a marketing plan or marketing activity without checking your data you may end up with just hope and no confidence. It is necessary to clean your research data to prevent the occurrence of such a situation.

According to SMStudy® Guide-Book 2, Marketing Research, data cleaning is the process of checking the data for omissions, consistency, and legibility. It involves checking for errors and omissions on questionnaires or other data collection forms. When researchers discover a problem or inconsistency, they need to make necessary modifications in order to ensure the data is readable. If a particular data point is beyond comprehension or cannot be corrected (by re-administration), it needs to be excluded from the analysis.

When raw data is collected for the first time, the researcher needs to examine the data points for inconsistencies and determine if an inconsistency is an outlier and should be discarded, or whether the entire questionnaire should be discarded and/or re-administered. The researcher needs to follow established guidelines of data and quality checks to determine which answers are inconsistent and choose an appropriate course of action. Sometimes, the data set or responses may contain only a partial or a vague response. If possible, the researcher should contact the respondent to gain clarity. In some situations, the predefined protocol is to not pursue the missing data and simply leave the question blank. In the case of multiple or duplicate markings on a single question, researchers must carefully examine the answers and keep the most accurate one based on their judgment. If no clear interpretation can be made, the response should be discarded. If a respondent provides a long statement, the researcher may need to decipher the underlying meaning to see if the answer is appropriate for that category. In some instances, researchers may decide to change the category code based on their judgment. This also applies to any out-of-place responses.

Data cleaning is a critical process for any marketing research project. Faulty or suboptimal decisions can be taken if data is not processed and cleaned properly. In such a scenario you may either go ahead with the decision or decide to conduct research again. The only way to avoid this scenario is to become a cleanliness freak….for data.

Please visit www.smstudy.com for more details on Data Cleaning.

Importance of Channel Partner Training

Posted by SMstudy® on July 07, 2016 | Corporate Sales (CS)

Keywords: corporate sales, channel partners, B2B, channel sales, channel training

Channel partner training is a key activity in many organizations, but is particularly important in those that employ different types of channel partners. Various channels have different purposes in the value chain, and each channel member must perform the specific task assigned to them to complement the overall corporate goals. Therefore, it becomes very important that each channel partner is provided relevant sales and product training. Such training not only equips the channel partners with the skills required to perform the selling function but also provides them with the necessary confidence to participate in selling processes. 

To design an effective training program, the first step is to identify the training objectives. The objectives can vary dramatically depending on the life-cycle stage of the company, its products, and various situations. The primary training objective for the new channel partners is to familiarize them with the product and sales methods. For existing channel members, ongoing sales and product training is required to regularly update the channel partner’s sales force on the features and benefits of products and required changes in the sales process. Specific training should also be conducted for new product launches to educate the channel partners about the new product and its features and benefits. New product training also ensures that channel partners treat the new product as a priority. Training can also be provided to support market penetration. In this instance, educating the channel partner about the new market and encouraging the partner to sell in that market become training priorities. Some training also develops specific skills. For example, training can be conducted to develop sales skills, knowledge of competitors’ products, and specific business skills.

The next step is to identify the individuals in the channel partner organization who require training. The sales force, customer support team, technical support team, and other sales and marketing professionals in contact with customers are the most obvious candidates. The level of training depends on the knowledge of the channel partner. The training sessions should always be well prepared and rehearsed before presenting to the channel partners. Apart from the field sales people and sales heads, it is also good practice to involve people from other functions to widen the scope of the training. The training can be conducted at a quiet place away from the distractions, preferably outside the channel partner site.

It is important to design the content of the training to suit the needs of the individual training partner. The training solution can be customized depending on the company’s goals and the knowledge level of the channel partner. The training can include product knowledge, case studies of other channel partners, testimonials, competitor information, market knowledge, sales, and negotiation skills.

Visit www.smstudy.com to learn more about channel management

Sentiment and the Art of Social Maintenance

Posted by SMstudy® on June 29, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Sentiment Analysis, Social Media Monitoring, Social Media, Brand Analysis

Sentiment analysis is the science of inferring insights from data generated in social media and goes beyond social media metrics such as the number of likes, shares, mentions, and followers. Sentiment analysis is a significant component of social media analytics; it involves processing consumers’ opinions, conversations, and sentences to detect and understand consumer emotions and mindsets toward brands or topics. The data gathered might be from blogs, forums, social media posts, reviews, wikis, and more. Sentiment analysis uses parameters such as context, tone, and emotions among others.

Sentiment analysis categorizes the divergence (positive or negative) of a post, comment, or statement that establishes the positivity, negativity, or neutrality of the sentiments around a topic.

Social media monitoring software is one of the ways companies use sentiment analysis. These software packages and tools use natural language processing techniques and statistics to analyze sentiments on huge amounts of social data.

Analyzing audience sentiment in online conversations is a leading indicator in foreseeing the outcomes of coordinated activities as varied as political events, marketing campaigns, and product launches. For example, sentiment reports pulled in advance of a presidential election can help identify trends that can predict the winner.

Business questions that can help gauge sentiment include the following:

  • How do people feel about the product or brand?
  • How are people responding to campaigns or product launches?
  • Is there a way to predict the outcome of a campaign or event so that the company knows how to invest in marketing?
  • Why aren’t consumers buying the product?

Sentiment analysis of social data empowers business decision-makers to understand consumer attitudes and behaviors. Since social data is voluntary and user generated, mining this data and effectively classifying or coding it allows companies to forecast with some certainty customers’ feelings towards campaigns, brands, content, and products.

Small publications and authors often use the online marketplace (companies such as Amazon) to sell their books. These small publications do not have the resources to reach a global audience on their own. Thus, strategic partnerships with online booksellers or websites that have a huge reach will help them promote their books effectively.

Visit www.smstudy.com to learn more ways to monitor and optimize social media use.

Account Management-The Key to Customer Satisfaction and Retention

Posted by SMstudy® on June 23, 2016 | Corporate Sales (CS)

Keywords: Corporate Sales, Account Management, Client Retention, Customer Satisfaction

Account management deals with the processes that follow customer acquisition. It includes onboarding, account classification, alignment, and client management.  Customers may have diverse needs and may be classified as a key account or a strategic account, based on current sales revenue and potential for future growth. The account manager who is part of the corporate sales team is an integral part of account management. Account management involves determining how to best meet client needs and support the ongoing growth of the account. The existing sales organization structure should provide a means for accounts to be assigned and supported effectively. In some instances, with key accounts, adjustments to the sales structure may be required in order to effectively manage and support the account.

It is mostly true that the higher the customer satisfaction, the higher the level of customer retention. Customer satisfaction is one of the key performance indicators for a business and is often the focus of many companies. A customer is more than satisfied if the outcome of a product or service surpasses expectations, satisfied if the outcome matches expectations, and dissatisfied if the outcome does not match expectations. Customer satisfaction varies from customer to customer and depends on several factors. More often than not, a positive perception of a brand results in higher customer satisfaction. Performance expectations stem from various factors including past purchases, word of mouth testimonials, and marketing pitches. It is important to balance the promises made by the marketing team with actual outcomes.

The customer relationship management (CRM) system and ongoing communication play an important role in supporting account management. The CRM system is a repository of customer-related information that assists in documenting and managing the company’s interaction with customers. It helps in synchronizing and organizing customer service and support. CRM systems also help a company develop a customer-centric approach, even while handling multiple customers. Account management focuses on building firm-wide relationships and maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction and customer retention. The company needs to continue delivering the product or service as well as communicate and promote the features and benefits of additional products and services. Such promotional programs are aimed at increasing the client’s exposure to the company’s product and service portfolio, thereby increasing the potential for cross-selling activities. In order to ensure continual improvement through customer feedback, the company also needs to regularly review and assess customer accounts.

Visit www.smstudy.com to learn more about Account Management.

Look into the future - Sales Forecasting

Posted by SMstudy® on June 17, 2016 | Corporate Sales (CS)

Keywords: sales, forecast, strategy, promotion, pricing

A successful organization needs to be future oriented. Establishing and managing a sales process for a product requires a forward looking goal. Sales forecasting provides that goal. Sales forecasting can be defined as estimating the sales and revenues of a particular product or a range of products for a given period of time. Sales forecasting is crucial not only for providing goals for the sales teams but also for planning and allocating resources. Forecasts are also used for evaluating the performance of sales units or channels.

Various methods of sales forecasting can be used to determine sales targets. The forecasting method used by an organization depends upon the organization’s specific requirements and the nature of the business.  These methods can be divided into two primary types:

  • Qualitative Methods: Qualitative methods are subjective in nature. Forecasts are established using consumer expectations, sales force expectations, executive opinions, and the Delphi method.
    • Consumer Expectation: This method of forecasting depends on the response of customers with regards to the expected consumption in the forecasting period. It gives a forecast that is closer to market potential than it is to the expected revenue.
    • Sales Force Expectations: This method of sales forecast uses estimates of the sales force to arrive at the forecast number. Since sales people are closest to customers, they have a good understanding of the market and can often estimate future sales more accurately. These estimates are then adjusted by management, based on the past accuracy of the estimates and other factors, in order to arrive at a final forecast figure.
    • Executive Opinions: This method of sales forecast uses estimates given by the key executives within the company to arrive at the forecast number. These key executives represent various departments in the company, such as sales, finance, operations, marketing, etc. The estimates provided by executives can vary greatly and are often either averaged out to arrive at a forecast, or are determined when general consensus is reached following a group discussion.
    • Delphi Method: In this method, executives are interviewed separately and are asked to give their estimates about the forecast. It is an iterative method in which all the estimates are combined and a summary report is created post iteration. This report is then shared with all the executives who are required to give a revised estimate based on the feedback or arguments from other executives.
  • Quantitative methods: Quantitative methods use empirical analysis to make forecasts. Two popular quantitative forecasting methods are time-series analysis and explanatory methods.
    • Time Series Analysis: Time-series analysis is the simplest method for quantitative forecasting. It takes into account historical data and trends to make predictions for the future. Past sales figures, when adjusted for market factors and growth rate, give a good estimate of future sales. Some popular methods used in time-series analysis are moving averages, exponential smoothing, and decomposition of time series.
    • Explanatory Methods: Explanatory methods are different from time-series analysis. They do not use historical sales data to predict future sales, but rather take into account different factors that can affect sales. Tools such as regression and econometric modeling are used to establish causality between other factors affecting sales.

After finalizing the sales forecast, the forecasted revenues are assigned to the sales units as sales targets. The forecasted revenues are further divided and sub-divided into different product units, geographical units, and eventually territories, resulting in targets for individual sales representatives. Since sales targets are directly linked to all sales and marketing and financial objectives, having a good sales forecasting process in place is essential for achieving the company’s overall objectives.

Please visit www.smstudy.com for more details on Qualitative and Quantitative Methods of Sales Forecasting.

Not Getting Enough Reach? Tie-up with Online Marketplaces

Posted by SMstudy® on June 17, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Online Marketing, Online Marketplace, Ecommerce

As a seller, your website or ecommerce webstore can bring you a good amount of traffic and sales. It offers a great way to attract new customers and increase the reach of your products and brand. However a small company typically may not have the resources to create a comprehensive website, set up a payment gateway, or invest on online marketing efforts. Even an existing seller could face a roadblock when it comes to increasing reach, as online marketing spends become progressively higher. This is where alliances or relationships with online marketplaces can help.

Strategic alliances or relationships with online marketplaces are very effective for increasing reach. An online marketplace is a type of e-commerce website where product and inventory information is provided by multiple third parties, and the transactions are processed by the marketplace operator. The product offered could be a physical product, such as clothing, furniture, books, or electronics. Or it could even be an intangible product, such as an online training course, downloadable game, or streaming video.

The marketplace processes consumer transactions and the participating retailers or wholesalers fulfill and deliver the products and services; thus, the online marketplace or site is really the middle-man. Some marketplaces may also handle order fulfilment and delivery management services, for which they typically charge a premium. Because marketplaces offer products from many providers, they offer a wider selection and more competitive prices than those offered by the e-commerce sites of individual businesses.

For a small manufacturer that does not have a large enough brand to attract brick-and-mortar retailers and does not have sufficient money to gain and manage a critical mass of visits on its own website, partnering with an online marketplace makes perfect sense. It helps the manufacturer save the costs involved in online marketing and enhancing customer experience. For the online marketplace, it means an additional product or brand available for its customers to choose from, thus becoming a win-win relationship for the marketplace operator and the small manufacturer.

These companies benefit by paying a small percentage of their revenue to the marketplace operator who can provide those services. Since the marketplace operator typically has multiple—sometimes thousands of associated parties promoting their products on the website, it is cost effective and scalable. These online marketplaces are often the primary destination people choose to purchase a particular product. If you’re looking to increase reach, marketplaces offer you a quick and easy access to new markets.

Small publications and authors often use the online marketplace (companies such as Amazon) to sell their books. These small publications do not have the resources to reach a global audience on their own. Thus, strategic partnerships with online booksellers or websites that have a huge reach will help them promote their books effectively.

Visit www.smstudy.com to learn more ways to increase your online reach.

How Can a Marketing Team Handle the New MVP?

Posted by SMstudy® on June 10, 2016 | Marketing Research (MR)

Keywords: research, marketing, SMstudy, MVP, product, entrepreneur

Lean Startup and its founder Eric Ries have been around long enough for professionals to begin coming up with their own takes on Ries’ central Minimum Viable Product (MVP) concept. Some of those new takes propose alternatives: a startup should begin with a minimum viable product or a minimum lovable product or a minimum viable brand.

And once the executive suite has decided which it will start with, how does the marketing team deal with that choice?

Starting lean Ries’ way is definitely connected to marketing, describing entrepreneurship as “operating under conditions of extreme uncertainty.” Ries shares three questions he asks himself that can help professionals be more entrepreneurial within their daily business activities: “ ‘who’s the customer for this?’ ‘What is the benefit to the customer, what is it that they hope to get from your work?’ and ‘how do you know that you have positively impacted them?’”[1] 

Once an entrepreneur asks those questions, the sometimes difficult task of answering them begins. Many of their answers can be found through established market research processes, “Marketing Research is the systematic process of collecting, processing, and analyzing data to provide required information to decision makers,” says Marketing Research, book two in the SMstudy Guide to the Sales and Marketing Body of Knowledge (SMstudy® Guide) adding, “it can provide information for pricing a new product or for designing a new mobile app or for finalizing the new TV advertisement for a product.”[2]

The way “minimum viable product” is defined by developer sources and forums such as Techopedia puts it directly into the arena of marketing research. Techopedia says, “A minimum viable product (MVP) is a development technique in which a new product or website is developed with sufficient features to satisfy early adopters. The final, complete set of features is only designed and developed after considering feedback from the product's initial users.”[3]

This is a way—an inexpensive way according to its proponents—for gathering primary data. The SMstudy® Guide says, “When the needed data is non-existent, outdated, incorrect, or inadequate, the researcher needs to collect primary data.” Because startups often are presenting new products, innovative approaches or totally new services, it is likely that the needed data is non-existent.

“Primary data may be obtained from consumers, subject matter experts, random samplings of a target segment, organizations, and other sources,” according to the SMstudy® Guide. The release of a MVP is designed to gather information from consumers: Techopedia says each MVP “has enough value that people are willing to use it or buy it initially, demonstrates enough future benefit to retain early adopters and provides a feedback loop to guide future development.” That feedback loop is the key component for the MVP as a marketing research tool.

The phrase “enough value that people are willing to use it or buy it initially” becomes important in the dialogue surrounding Ries’ concept. “Sure, there are the same highlighted examples, but in today's highly competitive markets aiming for a product that customers will tolerate rather than love seems foolhardy,” says Brian DeHoff, co-founder, CEO of Aha! in a comment on a Quora thread.[4] Instead, DeHoff suggests striving for the Minimum Loveable Product (MLP), one that the consuming public will not just accept, but take to their hearts.

“Every startup should be brand-led and market-informed,” says Gerard Danforth in that same Quora conversation, suggesting that startups should, instead, aim for “the Minimum Viable Brand (MVB).” A practice he says, “helps ensure that the initial hypothesis is grounded in strategic intent and market insights.”

Greg Ettinger found that the apparent first use of “minimum loveable product” came from Spotify’s Henrik Kniberg’s description of the term—“So the squad needs to figure out the smallest possible thing they can build to fulfill the basic narrative and delight the users.” He concluded that when compared with Ries’ MVP, “Both describe the simplest version of the product that is narrative-complete (i.e. solves an existing problem) and capable of delighting users without being feature-complete.” The choice between the two becomes a matter of emphasis more than substance.

Whatever choice a business makes, SMstudy can help with books in the SMstudy® Guide on marketing research, marketing strategy, digital marketing and corporate sales.

For more interesting articles on sales and marketing, visit http://www.SMstudy.com.

[1] “Video: Eric Ries Talks to Beth Comstock about Entrepreneurship in the Age of Uncertainty” GE Reports. Retrieved on 5/23/16 from http://www.gereports.com/a-lean-mean-startup-machine-business-strategist-wants-companies-to-embrace-uncertainty

[2] Available at http://www.smstudy.com/Individuals/Buy-SMstudy-Guide

[3] “Minimum Viable Product (MVP)” (2016) Techopedia. Retrieved on 6/8/16 from https://www.techopedia.com/definition/27809/minimum-viable-product-mvp

[4] From Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-is-a-minimum-viable-product

Robots, Communications and SMstudy

Posted by SMstudy® on June 01, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: marketing strategy, personas, market segment, communication, SMstudy

“I cannot fully understand or predict what the system will do, so I don’t trust it,” says Riccardo Bevilacqua of the University of Florida about his autonomous vacuum cleaner.[1]

As Bevilacqua indicates, trust is based on understanding. And understanding is built through successful communications. As the world changes, the ability to communicate, and to do it well, is becoming ever more important, even when it applies to talking to our robots.

“Today we see robots as agents able to operate independently – like my vacuum cleaner – but still be part of a team – the family’s efforts to keep the house clean. If they are truly working with us, rather than instead of us, then communication is key, as well as the ability to infer intent,” Bevilacqua says. In today’s marketplace where concepts such as co-creating value are popular, the same can be said of customers. When customers and suppliers become a team to solve a problem, meet a need or create a new experience, effective communication becomes crucial.

“Unlike older media options where sales and marketing communications were primarily uni-directional (i.e., from producers to end-consumers), communications have increasingly become multi-directional (i.e., from producers to consumers, consumers to producers, and consumers to consumers),” according to Digital Marketing, book three in the SMstudy® Guide series. As behaviors become more important more people become involved.[2]

As a result of not understanding and trusting his autonomous vacuum, Bevilacqua says, “I play it safe, and spend time doing things to accommodate the needs I imagine the robot might have.” Trying to meet imagined needs is impossible, and in sales and marketing it can be dangerous. To avoid this, a company’s marketing team “should create ‘personas’ of ideal customers in each segment” as part of the market segment selection process, “Then, depending on the market size of each segment and the ability of the company to build products for each persona, the target segments are selected,” according to Marketing Strategy, book one in the SMstudy® Guide series.[3]

“Personas are highly detailed fictional characters, representative of particular types of users in a market segment. They are created to help the marketing team identify who the potential buyers are, what they are trying to achieve, what they think, what drives their behaviors, how they buy, and why they make certain decisions,” Marketing Strategy says. These characteristics of potential buyers are essential for beginning and building communication systems and messages that matter.  

“The persona should be research based and include highly specific demographic and lifestyle attributes such as age, gender, education, environment, interests, and goals. A quote illustrating the persona’s requirements can also be included,” according to Marketing Strategy. The inclusion of a quote by the persona can help marketing team members envision a welcoming approach and make an easier connection, “With detailed personas, users become more personal and real to the team.”

With the expanding channels and methods for communicating with consumers and users, companies can keep sales and marketing from being a robotic experience for everyone involved. At least, until we learn to communicate better with our robots.

[1] Riccardo Bevilacqua (Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace engineering, University of Florida) (5/30/16) “Can I Trust My Robot and Should My Robot Trust Me?” GE Reports Retrieved on 5/31/16 from http://www.gereports.com/can-i-trust-my-robot-and-should-my-robot-trust-me/

Originally published (4/4/2016) in The Conversation at http://theconversation.com/can-i-trust-my-robot-and-should-my-robot-trust-me-55553

[2] Digital Marketing, book three in the SMstudy Guide to the Sales and Marketing Body of Knowledge (SMstudy® Guide).

[3] Marketing Strategy, book one in the SMstudy Guide to the Sales and Marketing Body of Knowledge (SMstudy® Guide).

Twitter and Teachable Marketing Moments

Posted by SMstudy® on June 01, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: twitter, social media insights, conflict diamonds, Brilliant Earth

The Twittersphere can be a harsh place—especially for those unaccustomed to the brevity and direct discourse that the 140-character limit demands. And it can smart for those who simply haven’t grown the thick skin required for survival when tweets are as sharp as a Masamune sword and often equally well crafted. And if individual users are susceptible, so too are businesses promoting their wares via tweets; no one is beyond reach. Promoted tweets (ads) are not a new thing and twitter users are familiar enough with them to gloss over their annoying presence, unless something jumps out and simply can’t be ignored. This was the case over the weekend for the company Brilliant Earth, which sells “beyond conflict free” diamonds both online and at three locations in the U.S.

Here’s the offending tweet…

The reaction was swift. Here’s a sampling of the responses…

Probably not the response Brilliant Earth was hoping for, nor the one most likely intended, which would have been a click and a fall right into their sales funnel. Nevertheless, there it is. This message didn’t work …at least not on Twitter. From the replies, it appears to have been offensive to those who dislike millennials, those who disapprove of diamonds in general (more on that in a moment)  and those who dislike the marketing effort specifically.

And of course, there are other factors besides the questionable marketing that could be at work. First, consider the medium, a place where breaking news and snarky commentary mingle in a live stew of people’s ideas and opinions; and the demographic—a young, college-educated, urban crowd, according to a 2014 Pew Research Social Media Update.

Here’s their findings..

These demographic details may be at play in the Brilliant Earth tweet that did not pass muster, since the right audience is essential for any marketing effort. As Digital Marketing, book three of the SMstudy® Guide points out “businesses that are successful in social media have a large group of followers that become loyal to the company’s products or services, actively engage with the brand, and also share the brand’s content with their own social network, thus creating a much larger reach for the business.”

But in this case, the main issue appears to be that the company, a diamond merchant, is facing a specific backlash from those educated and worldly enough to know that “conflict diamonds” or “blood diamonds” notoriously sourced using inhumane, exploitative practices are still relatively ubiquitous, regardless of what the vendor claims, and that the provenance of any given diamond will always be murky and easily falsifiable. As the New York Times noted “there’s no independent oversight of the industry’s monitoring and that conflict diamonds still make their way to the marketplace.”

So, it is possible that the controversy around the subject of ethically sourced diamonds in particular is a hot button issue for some twitter users and Brilliant Earth pushed it, resulting in an unfortunate teachable moment. But with all that being said, Twitter is one of the best places to test the waters with marketing messages.

 As we stated in a previous post:

 Focus groups may be passé, but testing is still very much a part of the marketing strategy. From a product standpoint, social media insights can reflect the strengths and weaknesses of a product’s lifecycle as well as the effectiveness of current marketing efforts. Filling the role of the modern-day focus group, social media insights are also valuable for taking the temperature of the public on an idea such as a logo or slogan, a product or service. Testing the social media world’s tastes and perceptions allows for adjustment before launching, saving money and perhaps even preventing a catastrophic mistake. 

Would it be fair to assume the Brilliant Earth marketing team is debriefing the social response to this message? Heck, yes! For marketers, insights such as the ones provided above are the true capital social media provides—the most comprehensive picture of consumer behavior, sentiment and decision-making process they’ve ever been blessed to lay hands on. As John Donnelly III, SVP of global sales and marketing at Crimson Hexagon points out, “One of the most effective ways to glean consumer insights is by analyzing social media conversation… sales teams are realizing that social media is rife with information about what their prospects care about, how they consume media and what motivates their decision-making.”

So, before large amounts of marketing dollars are invested in costlier forms of advertising, Twitter, Facebook, and so on can be the best testing ground for a company’s marketing experiments. This becomes even more important when a company is in the line of fire for controversial practices or products and must tread lightly through the minefield of social sentiment.

For more articles on sales and marketing, visit smstudy.com.

Sources:

Social Media Update 2014, Pew Research Center, http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/01/09/social-media-update-2014/

Diamonds are for Never?, The New York Times, Mireya Navarro, Dec. 14, 2006 http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/14/fashion/14diamonds.html?_r=1

There is Always Room for Improvement

Posted by SMstudy® on May 27, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: Corporate Sales, Negotiation, Product Training

When faced with a difficult task, do you instinctively fight or flight? If you lean toward fighting, you are considered to be a member of the population with a “Growth Mind-set,” a term coined by Carol Dwerk in her 2014 TED Talk, The Power of Believing You Can Improve.

Dwerk defines the “Growth Mind-set” as people who see an error and attempt to fix it. People that believe “abilities can be developed, they engage deeply and process the error, learn from it and correct it.”

Sales professionals are constantly facing new challenges  In order to address them, they must tackle them head on, and at the same time, learn from the process, whether the outcome is a success or failure.

Training is a key element of Corporate Sales. It is essential for the corporate sales team to be thoroughly trained in their job function and be very knowledgeable about the products or services they are selling. This is required in order to capitalize on sales opportunities, capture the maximum value for sales, and maintain positive relationships with customers. Corporate selling relies heavily on person-to-person relationships, and well-trained sales personnel are better equipped to initiate opportunities, communicate the value of a product or service and close sales.

In order to be considered a sales professional, there are two styles of training that must be mastered: Sales and Negotiation Training and Product Training.

The focus of sales training is to generate gains in individual sales. Sales training covers the entire range of processes, tools, and skills required—from prospecting to closure. Negotiation training helps the sales teams understand the dynamics of the negotiation process, minimize conflicts, and arrive at mutually beneficial outcomes. Effective negotiation can promote lasting relationships between a company and its customers.

Product training is equally important for the corporate sales team. Product training equips the team with the skills to effectively address customers’ technical concerns, communicate the value proposition, assess needs and answer questions. Product training transforms the corporate sales team from simply sales representatives to solution providers or consultants for the customer.

The two styles of training are defined as:

Sales and Negotiation Training- In this form of training process, the sales team is trained in the sales process, from prospecting to closure of the sale. The team is also equipped with the necessary skills to negotiate the sale to arrive at mutually beneficial outcomes.

Product Training- In this form of training process, the sales team is trained on the various products and services of the company in order to effectively communicate the value proposition, answer customer inquiries, and provide ongoing support to customers.

Training is important for existing corporate sales team members as well as new recruits. However, it is particularly important for every new member of the corporate sales team to undergo thorough training before being fully inducted into the sales team. 

Just because you have yet to learn the skills needed to excel in the professional world of corporate sales does not mean it’s time to engage your flight response. Keep your focus on the word “Yet.” You are not there yet. But with the help of SMstudy, you can learn how to process an issue, learn from it, and correct it. It’s all about the fight.

To read more articles about sales and marketing, visit http://www.smstudy.com/articles

[Stephanie Vezilj, SMstudy staff writer, contributed to this article.]

Sources:

Carol Dwerk, “The Power of Believing you can Improve,” 2014. https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve?language=en#t-338450

Pixel Stuffing, Ad Stacking and Billion Dollar Losses

Posted by SMstudy® on May 27, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: fraud, online marketing, pixel, stuffing, ad, SMstudy

In an article earlier in the week by SMstudy, we began with this quote from Fortune, “A massive chunk of the advertising market is based on smoke and mirrors, or even outright fraud.”[1]

The article written by Matthew Ingram focused on bots, software creepy crawlers that mimic human activities making online ads appear to be creating more impressions that they actually are, and thereby stealing fees based on CPI (Cost-Per-Impression). In this article, we take a quick look at two other online advertising fraud techniques: pixel stuffing and ad stacking.

A Bit of Background

While some watching the advertising world continue to point to declining ad revenues—“not just for print, but for digital and video and pretty much everything,” others see growth in online ad revenues. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) reports online ad revenues achieving a 17 percent overall Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) from 2005 through 2015.[2]

But all can agree that what is definitely growing are revenue losses due to criminal activities, “The IAB said that a myriad of issues—from fraud to ad blocking to content piracy—is now costing online marketers around $8 billion annually.”[3]

As early as 2013, industry insiders had been saying that “Half or more of the paid online display advertisements that ad networks, media buyers, and ad agencies have knowingly been selling to clients over the years have never appeared in front of live human beings,” says Samuel Scott, writing in MOZ [4], citing a source from The Wall Street Journal.[5]

Ad Fraud Techniques

Bots account for almost half of fraudulent impressions. The rest come from a variety of techniques that include pixel stuffing and ad stacking.

Pixel stuffing is “where an ad designed to appear at 1,024 by 480 pixels is crammed into a one-by-one pixel square,” according to Ingram. Naomi Schwartz, writing for TechCrunch, describes this as “iFrame stuffing,” saying, “iFrame stuffing compresses an ad into a tiny one-by-one pixel size. The ad is served up on a site as a real ad and reported as a view, even though a real user would never be able to view such a tiny ad.” This might be similar to the use of “small print” to hide legalese in contracts: legally it’s there, but it’s not meant to be seen.

Ad stacking is “where multiple ads are programmed for a single slot,” according to Ingram. Schwartz explains it this way, “In this type of scam, multiple ads are placed on top of each other in a single ad placement. Only the top ad is in view, but all of the ads are reported as viewed.” The affect is much like the old cemetery swindle of selling a single burial plot to numerous customers.

Among six strategies to combat the effects of bots, pixel stuffing, ad stuffing and other fraudulent activities recommended by Samuel Scott, former journalist turned digital marcom professional, global marketing speaker and contributor to TechCrunch and Moz,  is that online marketers should “stop doing cost-per-impression (CPI or CPM) campaigns” and “revise advertising KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and metrics in human terms.”

What you, as an online advertiser, decide to do is the billion-dollar question.

For additional interesting and informative articles on sales and marketing, visit http://www.SMstudy.com.

[Jim Pruitt, SMstudy staff writer, contributed to this article.]

[1] Matthew Ingram. (July 1, 2015) “There’s a Ticking Time Bomb Inside the Online Advertising Market.” Fortune. Retrieved 5/25/16 from http://fortune.com/2015/07/01/online-advertising-fraud/

[2] From the IAB annual report “IAB internet advertising revenue report 2015 full year results April 2016” at http://www.iab.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/IAB-Internet-Advertising-Revenue-Report-FY-2015.pdf

[3] Christopher Heine. (January 19, 2016) “Bots Will Cost Digital Advertisers $7.2 Billion in @016, Says ANA Study.” AdWeek. Retrieved on 5/25/16 from http://www.adweek.com/news/technology/bots-will-cost-digital-advertisers-72-billion-2016-says-ana-study-169072

[4] Samuel Scott. (6/22/15) “The Alleged $7.5 Billion Fraud in Online Advertising.” MOZ. Retrieved on 5/26/16 from https://moz.com/blog/online-advertising-fraud

[5] Suzanne Vranica. (6/11/2013) “Web Display Ads Often Not Visible” The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved on 5/27/16 from http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324904004578537131312357490

These Are Not the Bots You Are Looking for

Posted by SMstudy® on May 26, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing, Online Marketing, Bots, SEO

“A massive chunk of the advertising market is based on smoke and mirrors, or even outright fraud,” says Matthew Ingram writing in Fortune magazine.[1]

After describing fraudulent activities such as “pixel stuffing” and “ad stacking”—to be discussed in a later post—and their dilatory effects on the online ad industry, Ingram says, “But the biggest fraud of all is the use of “bots,” software programs designed to mimic the activities of human browsers.”

Bot is short for robot as in the “software program known as a “robot,” “spider,” or “crawler” [that] scans web pages, follows links between pages and sites, collects information about websites, and indexes this information” used by browsers for compiling their databases.[2] This was the early use of bots, and they became familiar through Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts. A bot used to defraud online advertisers is more of a creepy “crawler.”

These evil bots are part of the problem of slowing growth for online advertisers. “Ad blocking is costing the industry $781 million a year—yet makes up only a sliver of the total $8.2 billion lost to major problem areas including bot traffic and content piracy,” observed a 2015 report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) reported by Tim Baysinger in AdWeek. Baysinger adds that “The IAB argues ‘non-human traffic,’ or bots, create more than half the losses, around $4.6 billion.”[3]

The view doesn’t get better for 2016, “Online ad fraud driven by bots will cost brands $7.2 billion globally this year, according to a forecast in a new joint study by the Association of National Advertisers and White Ops,” according to another AdWeek article by Christopher Heine.[4]

Not all bots are bad, though.

Bots automate tasks that are repetitive and too costly to be done by humans, such as helping to monitor and improve SEO, “Increased mentions and links on other websites and online news sites may provide a significant boost in search engine rankings. This improvement may be measured by tracking the rankings in search engines that are popular in the geographies where the company operates. There are a number of tools (both free and paid) available online, that can automate the tracking process of search engine rankings for companies,” says Digital Marketing, the third book in the SMstudy Sales and Marketing Body of Knowledge (SMstudy® Guide) series.

Other online campaigns can benefit from bots as well, “Marketers managing e-mail distribution in-house will need to subscribe to a service that automates, tracks, and evaluates their e-mail campaigns,” according to the SMstudy® Guide.

So, how does a company protect itself against the bad bots?

"‘Some basics include knowing your supply chain partners and investigating new potential relationships using address information, tax IDs, and background checks,’" Nick Terlizzi, Partner, Ernst & Young LLP and a member of its EY Media & Entertainment Advisory Services told Baysinger. This suggestion also applies to ameliorating the damage done by content piracy.

"It also underscores the need for the entire marketing ecosystem to manage their media investments with far greater discipline and control against a backdrop of increasingly sophisticated fraudsters," says Bob Liodice, Association of National Advertisers president and CEO, in a statement reported by AdWeek.[5]

Until that marketing ecosystem is built, online advertisers will need to recognize that these bots are not the ones they are looking for and keep on moving.

For additional interesting and informative articles on sales and marketing, please visit SMstudy.com.

(Jim Pruitt, SMstudy staff writer contributed to this article.)

[1] Matthew Ingram. (July 1, 2015) “There’s a Ticking Time Bomb Inside the Online Advertising Market.” Fortune. Retrieved 5/25/16 from http://fortune.com/2015/07/01/online-advertising-fraud/

[2] Digital Marketing, book three of the SMstudy Sales and Marketing Body of Knowledge (SMstudy® Guide).

[3] Tim Baysinger. (12/1/2015) “The Online Industry is Losing $8 Billion a Year, and Ad Blocking Is the Least of Its Worries.” AdWeek. Retrieved on 5/25/16 from http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/how-online-industry-losing-8-billion-every-year-168389

[4] Christopher Heine. (January 19, 2016) “Bots Will Cost Digital Advertisers $7.2 Billion in @016, Says ANA Study.” AdWeek. Retrieved on 5/25/16 from http://www.adweek.com/news/technology/bots-will-cost-digital-advertisers-72-billion-2016-says-ana-study-169072

[5] Christopher Heine: previously cited

Say Hello to My Little Friend

Posted by SMstudy® on May 26, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing, Smartphones, mobile channels

More and more our smartphones are becoming our most handy go-to resource, or as I like to call it, “my little friend.” Not quite as large, powerful and destructive as the machine gun Al Pacino whips out in the 1983 film Scarface, but ultimately way more helpful and much more deserving of the label “little friend.”

And smartphones ARE so very helpful. Besides allowing us to talk to anyone anywhere (assuming we’re not out of range), they help get us where we need to go, keep us connected to friends, family and all global. Anything we need, chances are there’s something that’s either on your smartphone or can be added to it to make our lives a little easier. In other words, there’s an app for that!

According to Digital Marketing, book three of the SMstudy™ Guide, “optimizing the mobile channel, which includes both the mobile websites and mobile apps, should never be neglected and specific focus should be paid to optimizing this channel to achieve maximum reach, enhance relationships with customers and to support a company’s reputation.”

Considering recent statistics from Google, the SMstudy™ Guide is correct to suggest that mobile should not be ignore or even placed on the back burner... especially if your business is retail. Google global search data from November 2014- October 2015 revealed that shopping-related searches have increased by 120% in the last year. Additionally, from a 2015 study based on 5,398 internet users we learn that 82% of shoppers consult their smartphones on purchases they’re about to make in a store…sometimes while in the checkout line.

Wow. That really can’t be ignored.

With this data in mind, mobile marketers are on an innovative kick and keen to connect with consumers during what is now being called micro-moments, or moments according to Google when “consumers’ expectations are higher than ever. The powerful computers we carry in our pockets have trained us to expect brands to immediately deliver exactly what we are looking for when we are looking. We want things right, and we want things right away.”

One such identified micro-moment occurs while customers are actually in a physical store. In response to the mind-blowing fact noted above (82% of shoppers say they consult their smartphones purchases they’re about to make in a store), our “little friends” can now tell us a bit more information about a product we’re considering buying.  Sephora, the beauty product retailer actively encourages customers to scan products into the Sephora app, where they will receive additional product information and ratings. 

Other retailers are beefing up their geographic “searchabilty” based on recent data showing that “Near Me” searches have grown substantially year-over-year and that 18 percent of local searches end in a purchase.

Responding to our ever-growing desire for mobile-centric “helpers” marketers are recognizing that the shopping experience begins way before a customer walks in the front door. Providing information during the micro-moments when consumers are seeking relevant, helpful and oftentimes local information, is key to keeping customers around.

Optimism regarding this new data is wonderful if it leads to new and creative ways to help consumers navigate the retail experience. But beware, at some point too many “pushes” from retailers ceases to be helpful and can potentially become a nuisance. But for now it’s all well and good as long as our “little friends” know how to stay helpful and not turn into little frenemies that end up blowing up in our faces. Remember poor Antonio Montana and his little friend?

To read more interesting articles, visit http://www.SMstudy.com/articles/ 

Sources:

SMstudy™ Guide, Book 3, Digital Marketing. Available at http://www.scrumstudy.com/overview-of-sbok.asp

“Five Ways Consumers Connect to Stores With Mobile Shopping,” Matt Lawson. February 2016. https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/articles/5-ways-consumers-connect-stores-mobile-shopping.html?utm_medium=email-d&utm_source=2016-03-think-letter&utm_campaign=20160328-think-letter-weekly-insight-OT-CP-EL&utm_content=Local-Retail-img&mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRous6rJZKXonjHpfsX67e4pW6%2BylMI%2F0ER3fOvrPUfGjI4JSspkI%2BSLDwEYGJlv6SgFTrDBMaN2wrgLXhY%3D

"Consumers in the Micro-Moment" study, March 2015.

Happy Customer, Happy Life

Posted by SMstudy® on May 25, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: CRM system, customer relations, customer loyalty

Just as every married man can attest to the fact that “a happy wife makes a happy life,” anyone interacting with customers will agree that a happy customer makes a happy life as well.

So, why would a sales team not use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system when it’s been shown to improve customer happiness? The truth is that very few opt out of a CRM system, since there are just too many good, sound reasons to incorporate the tool and in essence create a win-win situation for the sales team AND customer alike.

According to SMstudy, a CRM system is used to track the various stages in the sales process. It also assists in managing a company’s interactions with a customer, thus allowing a company to manage information about customers and customer touch-points in order to maximize customer loyalty.

Based on the information available in most CRM systems, a company is able to provide a high degree of personalized service to the customer in the form of customized products, services and promotions. Personalized services are also key to maintaining and building customer loyalty.

A typical CRM System has four processes:

  1. Knowledge Discovery– This is the process of analyzing customer information through contact with a company’s products or services. CRM systems enable the company to analyze the data and draw meaningful insights.
  2. Planning– In this process, the output from the knowledge discovery phase is used to develop strategies for personalized marketing and promotional activities.
  3. Customer Interaction– This is the process where the actual implementation of the various programs and strategies occurs. These programs and strategies target various customer touch-points and/or company channels.
  4. Analysis and Refinement– In this process, customer feedback and responses from the various programs implemented are analyzed as part of the ongoing communication and review process.

In his article, “The five biggest benefits of CRM systems,” Patricio Robles notes, “In today's ultra-competitive markets, the companies that manage customer relationships the best are more likely to win than those that don't.”

Robles goes on to list the top five reasons why a company should incorporate a CRM system. They include:

  1. Efficiency – not only does a CRM system clear up any inefficiencies related to manual customer management, but also “the ability of popular CRM platforms to integrate with other systems, such as marketing automation tools can enable companies to interact with customers in ways that they wouldn't have the resources to do otherwise.”
  2. Collaboration – Complex customer lifecycles require the ability for many to work together. “The use of cloud-based CRM platforms allows employees in multiple departments to more effectively manage their customer relationships and to see the big picture at any time.”
  3. Data – Access to data, the ability to analyze data and present it clearly are all integral to understanding what’s happening with customers. “Popular CRM platforms typically offer a variety of homegrown and third party tools that enable companies to understand their CRM data and learn things about their customers that wouldn't be possible otherwise.”
  4. Increased accountability – Consider a CRM system as the safety net catching all who may have “fallen through the cracks.” “A well-implemented CRM system helps employees across departments understand their responsibilities to customers throughout the customer lifecycle and when those responsibilities aren't met, it's easy to identify what went wrong, where, who fell short and how to make sure it doesn't happen again.”
  5. Improved customer experience – As we said earlier, this is the ultimate benefit of all. “Customers are more easily and accurately segmented, their needs identified, and because the status of a company's relationship with them is accurately tracked, companies can interact with them meaningfully at the right times, leading to more sales, faster sales and higher customer retention and satisfaction.”

Happy customers make a happy sales and marketing life.

To read more articles about sales and marketing, visit www.smstudy.com/articles

Sources:

“The five biggest benefits of CRM systems,” Patricio Robles, April 10, 2015

https://econsultancy.com/blog/66287-the-five-biggest-benefits-of-crm-systems/

Should You ask Permission to Market?

Posted by SMstudy® on May 25, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: Marketing Strategy, Mass Media Marketing, Fragmented New Age Marketing

Everyone despises commercials. It’s true, don’t even try to deny it! There is not one single person who would rather listen to a commercial than jam out to a new song. But we put up with them. Sort of.

Some people turn the volume down while a commercial is on the radio or take out the trash while they wait for their favorite television show. Yet, this form of conventional mass media marketing actually works. People hear a commercial about Tide laundry detergent, they may tune it out, but when they go to the grocery store, they select Tide because they have heard the name.

As defined by Marketing Strategy, book one in the SMstudy® Guide, conventional mass media marketing is “print advertising (newspaper, magazine, insert, or run of paper), mass mailers, television (network, cable, or syndicated), radio (national, local, satellite, or podcast), and out of home advertising (billboards, street furniture e.g. bus shelters, transit, alternative, e.g. stadiums).”

Conventional mass media marketing is also referred to as interruption marketing, or put more simply, marketing that interrupts.

But we have stepped into a new age, the age of the internet, which has given rise to fragmented new age marketing. “Since the late 1990s, with the increasing popularity of the internet and, more recently, smartphones, many options now exist for advertisers to reach a global audience using digital media marketing methods such as mobile phone apps, Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, QR codes, gamification, and proximity marketing (e.g. Foursquare),” states SMstudy.

Fragmented new age marketing is also referred to as permission marketing, or put more simply, where people have to give you permission to market to them.

According to Krista Neher, content marketer for Boot Camp Digital, “Most online marketing is permission marketing, where people have to give you permission to market to them. People choose to follow you on Twitter, subscribe to your email or visit your website. They make the choice to connect with you (and allow you to market to them) because you provide great content. You must be interesting or useful for people to agree to your interruption marketing, or they will just ignore you. Permission marketing is about providing value so that people choose to view your marketing.”

So, should you stop putting marketing dollars towards interruption marketing? No, because as previously stated, it does work. But by putting an emphasis on permission marketing a company can ensure that their time and money is not being wasted. Conventional mass media marketing is not a sure deal, while fragmented new age marketing is.

Neher provides some guidelines to follow so you can successfully incorporate permission marketing into your marketing strategy.

  • Change your mindset: Stop thinking about selling, and start thinking about how you can create value for the people that you want to reach (in a way that links to your business and marketing strategy).
  • Change your message: Your message can’t be so advertising-ish. Your message must be something that people actually want to read (again, while at the same time growing your business).
  • Evaluate all of your channels: What is interesting is that even traditional marketing works better when it meets the difficult bar of both selling your product and being interesting to your customers.

This is an exciting time to be a marketer. The possibilities are endless as long as you follow one simple rule, show them, don’t tell them. But don’t forget conventional mass media marketing in the process. There is still a use for it. Interruptive and permission marketing can run parallel, it’s all about how you position your brand.

As noted by SMstudy, “With all of these options, many marketers find it beneficial to use an integrated approach to marketing by leveraging the strengths of various types of media.” Good luck fellow marketers, it’s a brave new world.

[Stephanie Vezilj, SMstudy staff writer, contributed to this article]

For more interesting articles visit http:://www.SMstudy.com

Sources:

Krista Neher, “Permission Vs. Interruption Marketing,” content writer at Boot Camp digital. http://bootcampdigital.com/permission-vs-interruption-marketing/

Going all the way with Content

Posted by SMstudy® on May 24, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: Digital Marketing, Content Marketing, Social Media Marketing

Sales and marketing go hand in hand. The marketing team creates the content, and the sales team follows up with the consumers of the content to create potential leads. Right?

But there might be an easier way.

Marketers are continually improving their skills, so, for the most part, they read and study a lot of content. A company’s sales team will notice when a person has delved into their company’s content and naturally, the sales team cold calls them. However, what if the marketer is simply doing some research or looking to better their own marketing capabilities and are NOT a potential consumer of the product, JUST the content?

This can be relatively annoying for both sales and marketing professionals. How does a sales team recognize who is an actual lead and who is just another professional?

Generate a profile for a targeted lead. “Know that not everyone who downloads your content will be your ideal customer. For those who leave their details you need some way of carefully segmenting this list based on a profile of your dream customer. Get your sales team to approach these people respectfully. Don’t bombard them with product or service offers – you have to earn the right to sell. Prove you have their best interests at heart. Build relationships. Court them with more valuable content until they are ready to buy,” says Sharon Tanton, marketing and business developer at Valuable Content.

Another option is to focus on creating valuable content. Tanton notes, “a company would be far better off producing a well-rounded product and then creating some fantastic content that tells the story of how their product works and what value the product brings to its users. If the product is great, I believe I would hear about it on my social networks. We all love to share good stuff. Great content spreads and takes root on the web, and I’ve found it at the right time – e.g. the time when I was looking for information about a specific product.”

In Tanton’s suggested process, sales teams could target leads that come to them due to their company’s successful content that has already stirred up the consumer’s interest rather than cold calling and hoping for a lead. It is a waste of time and it generally irritates consumers and can even cause a drop in sales.

By creating a Content and Distribution Plan for social media marketing a company can ensure that their content is relevant, timely and well written and that it reaches the target audience using the optimal means as determined by the social media marketing team.

Content creation should ideally start by defining a quantity goal and a publishing schedule with proper deadlines. Once the publishing schedule is finalized, attention should be paid to the quality of each piece of content being distributed.

As stated in a previous article by SMstudy, “In addition to good quality content, an effective social media effort must have a good distribution strategy. In other words, it needs to be shared. And that shouldn’t be a problem if the content is engaging. People naturally share information for many reasons; they could simply like the content or perhaps find it interesting. But whatever the reason, a company must ensure that their content provides their consumers with something that encourages shares or else it will be lost in the sea of content.”

Focusing efforts on creating valuable content will then bridge the gap for the sales team, eventually eliminating the need for cold calls. Sales and marketing goes hand but marketing by necessity goes first, so create content to produce the sales, rather than attempt sales from the produced content.

[Stephanie Vezilj, SMstudy staff writer, contributed to this article]

For more interesting articles visit http://www.SMstudy.com

The Stuff Nightmares Are Made Of... and SMstudy

Posted by SMstudy® on May 24, 2016 | Marketing Research (MR)

Keywords: marketing research, SMstudy, problem, sales

Were you ever required to write a research paper in one of your classes in school?

One of our editors here at SMstudy used to be a public school English teacher. He remembers the anxiety that the traditional research paper assignment caused some of his students. They complained of stomachaches, headaches and sleep deprivation due to nightmares.

He recalls telling them that they still had to do the paper and do it on time, and they didn’t have to like it. He could have been nicer, but that was “back in the day,” and we all know how bad it was “back in the day.”

That experience is not very different from what some marketing professionals undergo when facing a marketing research project. Like the rare students that loved (cough cough) doing research papers, there are professionals who relish marketing research. Yet, a significant number of professionals prefer jumping directly to the creative aspects of getting a product or service to market without all the number crunching and bean counting that often accompanies market research.

The first obstacle our colleague’s students had to hurdle was understanding what a research paper is. That is also true for marketers. Simply put, “Marketing Research is the systematic process of collecting, processing, and analyzing data to provide required information to decision makers,” according to Digital Marketing, a book in the SMstudy Guide to the Sales and Marketing Body of Knowledge series (SMstudy® Guide). When this is understood, the marketer can begin the project.

The first step for the students was to answer the question, “Is my topic researchable?” To answer this, they had to determine if others had written about their topic and if those writings were in a form that the students could understand. Even though they are on similar topics, a doctoral level paper on the precipitation characteristics of hydrocarbon molecules in aerosols doesn’t help a high school student researching air pollution.

“In marketing research, the first step is to define the research problem and objectives of the research,” says Digital Marketing. Like the students checking to see if others had written about their subjects, the marketing professional will use background information to evaluate the research problem and move forward, “Background information puts the research objectives into context, helping the researcher understand why certain research objectives are being pursued… The background information provides hints to the researcher regarding what information he or she should be looking for and where to look for it.”

“Once the research problem is properly defined, the next step is to choose a research design that can address the problem and objectives,” says the SMstudy® Guide. Choosing a research design—“a set of guidelines or a blueprint that specifies the methods and procedures for obtaining and analyzing the required information”—involves many of the same concerns the students had determining if their topics were researchable. The marketing researcher checks to see if his or her own company, industry associations, educational research institutions, competitors or others have already compiled and published the needed research.  Using these resources, called secondary data sources, is also the least expensive method to provide appropriate and accurate information and data.

At times a marketing researcher may be faced with no previously published research. In this situation, primary research must be done and the researching team develops and utilizes tools for gaining data directly from the marketplace. These can be surveys, questionnaires, pilot programs, test marketing campaigns and many more. Primary research is more time extensive and dollar expensive than secondary research.

Not every marketing professional enjoys marketing research, and that’s why research companies exist. After all, research projects aren’t really scary enough to give professionals nightmares and they are easier with a bit of understanding and help.

For information on how to get a copy of Digital Marketing by SMstudy, please visit SMstudy® Guide.

For additional interesting and informational articles on sales and marketing, please visit SMstudy.com.

The Lean Startup Movement and SMstudy

Posted by SMstudy® on May 23, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: startup, marketing, SMstudy, Lean, process

Startup “is shorthand for an ethos that the organization holds dear: speed, flexibility, a willingness to be daring and experiment,” writes Beth Comstock in the introduction to “Video: Eric Ries Talks to Beth Comstock about Entrepreneurship in the Age of Uncertainty” in GE Reports.[1]

Comstock, Vice Chair of GE (General Electric), puts this ethos at the heart of the Lean Startup managerial movement that she credits to Eric Ries and his Times bestseller, The Lean Startup

When Ries describes what he means by “lean startup,” he says, “We take ideas from lean manufacturing and apply them to the process of innovation itself… we build a minimum viable product … rapidly iterate, discover what is it that the customers want,” and then learn how to build a sustainable business around that. This approach is one of the most effective ways people successfully navigate innovation and change: taking ideas that work in one field and applying them where they can do a lot of good in another field.

The field of sales and marketing has seen its paradigms shift on an almost daily basis—the sellers’ market morphs into conventional mass marketing, which transforms into mass media marketing, then into internet sales and fragmented new-age marketing, and so on.  Technological innovation continually creates both new markets and new ways to reach established markets.

How do professionals successfully navigate this ocean of innovation? SMstudy—the global training and accreditation organization whose experts share their content through the SMstudy platform—takes ideas from the fields of project management and process engineering “to provide a practical and process-oriented approach to Sales and Marketing that emphasizes how its various elements can be integrated to develop a comprehensive and effective organizational Sales and Marketing Plan,” according to their website. [2]

Ries sees that “entrepreneurship is the missing function in corporations… imagine your business but with one of its major silos gone: there’s no marketing, there’s no operations, there’s no finance, you’d say, ‘Wait a minute, we’re in trouble.’”

Startups and established companies often find themselves in this position, but the missing component is an integrated marketing strategy and the capacity to deliver such a strategy. SMstudy’s Guide to the SMstudy Sales and Marketing Body of Knowledge (SMBOK® Guide), also referred to as the SMstudy® Guide, “is a series of books that provide guidelines for the Sales and Marketing of products and services. It offers a comprehensive framework that can be used to effectively manage Sales and Marketing efforts in any organization,” according to their website. The process-oriented approach enables companies to design and build marketing activities and departments that match their needs, size and resident expertise.

Describing entrepreneurship as “about operating under conditions of extreme uncertainty,” Ries gives three questions that can help professionals be entrepreneurial within their daily business activities: “You can always be asking yourself ‘who’s the customer for this?’ ‘What is the benefit to the customer, what is it that they hope to get from your work?’ and ‘how do you know that you have positively impacted them?’”  These are topics covered in the SMstudy® Guide.

Being entrepreneurial, using lean startup processes and applying insight across business domains is helping companies like GE and SMstudy move successfully into a future of continuing uncertainty.

For more insights and articles on sales and marketing, visit SMstudy.com.

(Jim Pruitt, VMEdu staff writer contributed to this article.)

[1] Retrieved on 5/23/16 from http://www.gereports.com/a-lean-mean-startup-machine-business-strategist-wants-companies-to-embrace-uncertainty.

[2] http://www.smstudy.com/Individuals/Buy-SMstudy-Guide

It is All About the Influence

Posted by SMstudy® on May 16, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: Digital Marketing, Social Media, Content Marketing

A common misconception is that if you have many followers on a social media platform then you are followed by many. But that isn’t necessarily true.

You could have 20,000 followers, and yes, that looks impressive, but does that mean that 20,000 people are actually engaged in your content? This can be false advertising for a company’s consumers, but it is also misleading in regards to a company’s analytics. How can you really gauge your company’s engagement when likes are able to be purchased?

It isn’t about the amount of people that follow your brand’s page or view a piece of content marketing, so why do some many companies feel they must rake in the followers and likes? How do you fix this issue?

According to Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia, “Instead of talking about how many people see your content, we need to be focusing on how much value that piece of content actually brings your audience.” In social media channels, high-quality content is of the utmost importance. Companies worldwide invest large quantities of money to create quality content, but in many cases, that content is not distributed properly.

Audiences neither find it nor share it. A good Content Creation and Distribution Plan for social media marketing will ensure that a company’s content is relevant, timely and well written and that it reaches the target audience using the optimal means as determined by the social media marketing team.

One of the major debates regarding content creation is between content quality and quantity—how much content is enough and how good does it need to be?

Content creation should ideally start by defining a quantity goal and a publishing schedule with proper deadlines. Once the publishing schedule is finalized, focus should be on quality for each piece of content being distributed.

In addition to good quality content, an effective social media effort must have a good distribution strategy. In other words, it needs to be shared. And that shouldn’t be a problem if the content is engaging. People naturally share information for many reasons; they could simply like the content or perhaps find it interesting. But whatever the reason, a company must ensure that their content provides their consumers with something that encourages shares or else it will be lost in the sea of content.

Vaynerchuk states, “Bottom line: I don’t care how many people see something, “I care about how many people see something.” Quality over quantity. Depth over width. Reach does not equal value and follower count doesn’t mean people are listening.”

So, it’s time to stop fretting over followers and put that time and energy into creating content that will engage; one must remember that it all begins with Content Creation and Distribution Strategy.

To read more articles about sales and marketing, visit http://www.smstudy.com/articles

Sources:

Gary Vaynerchuk, “Numbers Don’t Matter, Influence Does,” May 16, 2016. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/numbers-dont-matter-influence-does-gary-vaynerchuk?trk=hp-feed-article-title-channel-add

Begin at the Beginning: A Well-founded Marketing Strategy

Posted by SMstudy® on May 16, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: marketing strategy, market opportunity, pricing strategy, distribution strategy

A well-planned, comprehensive marketing strategy for a product or brand is essential to its success. The marketing strategy determines the specific resource allocation and activities involved with all other aspects of marketing. The effects of a well-positioned marketing strategy reverberate throughout the entire spectrum of marketing options and therefore should not be treated lightly or given short shrift.

The SMstudy® Guide notes, “marketing strategy defines a product or brand’s unique value proposition, target markets, and the specific strategies to be used to connect with defined audiences. It also specifies the pricing and distribution strategies for a product or brand and outlines the specific metrics, objectives and budgets for all its marketing activities.”

So, what are the basics of creating a comprehensive marketing strategy?

In essence, there are four main areas of research and analysis that should be addressed during the creation of any marketing strategy. They include:

  1. An analysis of market opportunity– this includes a look at both the internal capabilities of a company as well as external factors that may impact a business.
  2. Defining the competition, targeting and position– exploring the current competition, understanding industry trends and creating future competitive scenarios helps in selecting target market segments.
  3. Determining pricing and distribution strategies– assessing the value of the product based on its features, analyzing the features and price of competitive products and understanding the mindset of the consumer lays the groundwork for a successful distribution strategy, one that ensures that products and services are delivered and sold in the most efficient manner.
  4. Determining metrics, objectives, marketing aspects and budget allocation– this includes the selection of metrics such as customer reach, brand perception, product availability and sales and profitability as well as details setting targets and allocating budgets.

The chosen marketing strategy has far-reaching impact on all other aspects of marketing. In addition, other aspects of marketing work synergistically with the marketing strategy. Consider the following:

Digital Marketing

Marketing strategy elements such as product features, target segments, and distribution strategy are key determining factors for a robust digital marketing campaign. Product category and product features determine how suitable a product is to be marketed online. Some products or services are more conducive to online marketing than others. Given that digital marketing activities can be integral to a number of other elements of the marketing strategy, the impact of the marketing strategy may be far greater on digital marketing activities depending on the specific product-market combination.

Marketing Research

Marketing research provides valuable insights on the performance of a marketing strategy and is helpful when companies need to take steps to resolve issues. Many of the research activities carried out for one process in marketing strategy may also be used by other marketing aspects. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind all the processes of marketing strategy while designing a research project to ensure that additional relevant information is also collected if the incremental cost of collecting that information is acceptable.

Corporate Sales

Product features and target markets determine how suitable a product is to be sold through business-to-business channels, and how budget and resources are allocated accordingly for corporate sales efforts. Marketing strategy also provides the corporate sales team with market intelligence related to competitors and industry trends, which helps the company to position itself strategically for each business opportunity.

Branding and Advertising

Branding and advertising build awareness of a product with customers and then ideally transitions them to loyal customers. This evolution of trust is made possible by understanding customers’ needs and ensuring that the company’s marketing activities are oriented towards meeting those needs in the best way possible. Customer profiling is a part of the marketing strategy.

Retail Marketing

Target market segments and product features determine how suitable a product is to be sold through retail channels, thereby determining the budget and resources to be allocated to retail sales. Within retail sales, a company needs to further decide whether to sell directly to the end customer or to use intermediaries such as wholesalers, distributors, and retailers. With the global rise in e-commerce, this decision is generally a complex one and needs to be made in alignment with the marketing strategy where target segments and a distribution strategy have been clearly defined. 

For more details on the processes of marketing strategy, visit http://www.smstudy.com.

One Step Ahead of the Game

Posted by SMstudy® on May 13, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: Marketing Strategy, Uber, Amazon, Airbnb

The goal is to never go out of business, right? But how do you ensure your company stays in the black? Sure, it may take blood, sweat, and tears, but the to ensure you don’t go under to notice market trends and be willing and able to flow with them.

“I wake up every morning and think about how I can put myself out of business,” says Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia. What Vaynerchuk means is that every day he puts himself in his competitor’s shoes and thinks, “How could VaynerMedia be put out of business?” And the answer is simple really, be one step ahead of the game which is possible by performing a market trend analysis.

According to Marketing Strategy, book one in the SMstudy® Guide series, “A market trend analysis is an analysis of past and current market behavior and dominant patterns of the market and consumers. An important aspect of conducting a trend analysis for an organization is to obtain insight into the market scenario, consumer preferences, and the macroeconomic environment.”

Vaynerchuk stated that companies such as Uber and Airbnb should never have even been created. Not because there was no market for them, there was and we all know it, but because taxi and hotel companies should have capitalized on the market shift first before Uber and Airbnb has the chance to swoop in and snatch up a healthy chunk of their respective markets. By performing a market trend analysis, companies such as Hilton and Yellow Cab would have seen where the market was headed and could have predicted and evolved with the market.

Taxi companies blame Uber for putting their companies out of business, but they failed to do what Vaynerchuk does every day —look for trends in the market and adapt to them.  

Jon Nordmark, co-founder of iterate, singled out the online retailer Amazon as a good example of an innovative company that has evolved with the continuing development of technology. Not only have they surpassed other American online retailers by sixfold as of 2015, but they have also nudging into Fedex’s turf thanks to their Amazon Prime delivery options.

Since its Inception, Amazon has become complete lifestyle. It is a one-stop-shop for not only retail items, but they have also moved up to number eight on Forbes “The World’s Most Innovative Companies” list due to Echo, a wireless speaker and voice command service first launched in 2015.

Echo has it all: it plays music, answer questions, orders pizza from Domino’s, manages home security devices and air conditioning through voice control and will even request an Uber. Summing up Echo, CNET stated, “The Echo may be the closest thing we’ll have to a Star Trek computer at home.”

It may be nice for a company to feel comfortable, but it can lead to complacency. Instead companies should be looking forward to what is coming next. You never know if and when some college student in San Francisco might create the next best thing that fits just right in this evolving market and an existing company might miss its chance!

For more interesting articles visit SMstudy.com

[Stephanie Vezilj, SMstudy staff writer, contributed to this article]

Sources:

Forbes, “The World’s Most Innovative Companies,” 2015. http://www.forbes.com/innovative-companies/list/3/#tab:rank

Gary Vaynerchuk, “Uber and Airbnb Never Should Have Happened the Way They Did,” May 13, 2016. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/uber-airbnb-never-should-have-happened-way-did-gary-vaynerchuk?trk=hp-feed-article-title-channel-add

Jon Nordmark, “Amazon Ecosytem Lock-In = Prime + Echo+ 2lemetry,” May 12, 2016. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/amazon-ecosystem-lock-in-prime-echo-jon-nordmark?trk=prof-post

Like, Love, Heart, Share, Retweet: The Power is Real

Posted by SMstudy® on May 13, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: twitter, social media insights, chilling effect, retweet

It’s my morning routine: I sit, smartphone in hand, twitter app open and dig into the chatter. Quickly scrolling through breaking news, taking in headlines and laughing at Michael Moore’s latest quip, I pause on a presidential candidate’s tweet; a candidate I support. As I read the tweet and agree with its message, nodding my head in a “you said it, brother!” manner, I’m also debating whether to heart or even possibly retweet. I can see that it’s been hearted and retweeted thousands of times already and a part of me truly wonders what is lost to my 45 followers (most of whom are trying to sell me something) if I don’t share?

Will they miss out on some vital information?

Will they be annoyed?

Will they disagree?

And then, I have the aha moment.

The truthiest truth is this: I should “heart,” “like,” “share” and “retweet” content I believe in. Not for my followers, since they’ll most likely receive the same information from various other sources, but because we now have the power and the platform to really say what we think, feel, believe. And that is real power. And who am I to turn away such a gift?

All this power is made even more potent because everyone is listening!

For example, marketers and companies want to test the waters with a brand or product, continually finding new ways to slice and dice the data to arrive at the best metrics for planning and executing marketing and sales adventures. 

Or political parties taking the temperature of the society on the importance of an issue or testing the potential of a particular smear campaign (I’ve seen it, it’s ugly).

Or news media outlets continually gathering sentiment, feedback and sometimes actionable intel (in the case of citizen journalism) on stories, topics, issues and events.

These golden nuggets of information or social insights reveal so much about who we are and what we care about that no marketer, politician or gatekeeper can resist.

After my early morning aha moment, my eyes are opened to the dangers inherent in such a powerful tool and what could happen if the tables were turned on us lovers of online democracy. Citing various examples of self-censorship, an article on The Intercept addresses a recent study on the chilling effect created by widespread surveillance. And that, of course, includes social media channels where users know they are being read, monitored.

According to author Glenn Greenwald, “The fear that causes self-censorship is well beyond the realm of theory. Ample evidence demonstrates that it’s real— and rational. A study from PEN America writers found that 1 in 6 writers had curbed their content out of fear of surveillance and showed that writers are “not only overwhelmingly worried about government surveillance, but are engaging in self-censorship as a result.”

And this is no stand-alone, one-off study. Data abounds (and compounds) indicating that we, the watched, are watching what we say.

This makes me fret— a sweaty-palmed, hand-wringing sort of fret.

If we begin to see ourselves as oppressed by the experience of sharing on social media, we’ve collectively gone through the looking glass. We’ve embraced an alternate reality where we are not free to contribute to the construction of a society or the promotion of an idea (or even product). We’ve turned away from the greatest contribution and benefit Twitter and other social media platforms provide…the opportunity to engage in the global marketplace of ideas, to hear and be heard, to make a difference.

So, setting fear aside, I embrace the power of my opinions and retweet that tweet. To do my part, to provoke, to question, and in this instance, to add my one voice to the many.

Even if it means being the 3,478th person to retweet a tweet, it matters.

For more on sales and marketing, visit smstudy.com.

Sources:

New Study Shows Mass Surveillance Breeds Meekness, Fear and Self-Censorship, Glenn Greenwald, April 26, 2016 https://theintercept.com/2016/04/28/new-study-shows-mass-surveillance-breeds-meekness-fear-and-self-censorship/

Out with the old, in with the new

Posted by SMstudy® on May 10, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: Digital, Marketing

20 years ago people had to be convinced to use the Internet. How often did we hear the question, “What would I use it for anyway?” It’s comical to think that people needed to be convinced to use the Internet considering nowadays people can’t survive without it.

The first smartphone was released in 1992 by IBM. It was considered a smartphone because of its virtual assistant capabilities, but the smartphone of today is light years more advanced. The timeline is a little blurry, but many would say that the first actual smartphone was the Sidekick, released in the early 2000s. Smartphones in existence prior to the Sidekick were for corporate professionals, but the Sidekick advertised to a younger market. Teenagers no longer had to wait until they got home from school to sign on to AIM to speak to their friends, the capability was right in their pockets!

In the last 15 years the smartphone technology has increased rapidly. According to Monica Anderson at the Pew Research Center 68 percent of adults in the United States use a smartphone. 88 percent of 18-29 year olds own a smartphone while only 78 percent of the same age group own laptops or desktop computers. As the use of smartphones increases there is less of a need for a laptop or desktop computer. And why would you need one, when a smartphone is just a smaller computer?

Mobile technology has been advancing at a very fast pace. The average American uses a smartphone to view product reviews, make price comparisons, and find information about products while they are shopping in-store. With consumers increasingly using technology on the go, a company’s Digital Marketing Strategy must be designed to take full advantage of this consumer trend, especially in consideration of a recent study released by the Daily Mail stateing that smartphone users check their phone 85 times per day on average.

Google coined the term Micromoments for all the times smartphone owners use their device. This could be to a simple check of a notification that popped up from a news organization or using the phone to check reviews before purchasing a product. Companies must capitalize on these moments if they are looking for consumers. The trick is to ensure customers and potential customers have access and are able to land on a company’s mobile version of their website when they are using their mobile devices. So, businesses must ensure that they have a mobile-friendly website.

The following factors will ensure a company’s website has the right design for their consumers:

Usability and Design - Organizations with established large scale websites have recognized the growing need for compatible tablet and mobile-accessible content and have implemented updates to their websites to reduce and streamline content and website size in order to be more suitable for mobile-accessible devices. Nevertheless, this approach is sufficient only for sites that provide static, one-way dissemination of information. As more customers demand interaction via mobile devices and tablets, the usability of these updated sites could diminish.

Performance - The advent of these devices has also provided companies with an opportunity to gather more personal data from their users, and in turn, push relevant, context-driven content. Such mobile-optimized content must load quickly on mobile devices to ensure that the performance expectations of consumers are met.

The rapid rise in smartphones, tablets, and Internet-enabled wearable devices has led to a shift in web design approaches, with web development for these devices becoming a much higher priority than it has been in the past. The advancement of technology only brings more opportunities for businesses and consumers, so join in!

Sources:

Victoria Woolleston, “How Often do You Check your Phone?” October 26, 2015. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3294994/How-check-phone-Average-user-picks-device-85-times-DAY-twice-realise.html

Brad McCarty, “The History of Smartphones,” http://thenextweb.com/mobile/2011/12/06/the-history-of-the-smartphone/#gref

Jason Duaine Hahn, “The History of the Sidekick: The Coolest Smartphone of All Time,” September 11, 2015. http://www.complex.com/pop-culture/2015/09/history-of-the-sidekick

Monica Anderson, “Technology Device Ownership,” October 29, 2016. http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/10/29/technology-device-ownership-2015/

 

In a League of Their Own: The Snapchat Story

Posted by SMstudy® on May 06, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital, Marketing

When creating an online presence, one of a marketing team’s initial steps is to explore the various digital marketing channels available that will maximize the reach of their products or services. Given the nature of the online world, which is constantly evolving, new channels are developing with greater frequency, and audiences are continuously exploring new sources of online content. Knowing this, marketers must continually assess digital marketing channels for their effectiveness.

To identify the most effective marketing channels for an organization’s products or services, marketers spend a considerable amount of time identifying and understanding the dynamics of all available digital marketing channels and evaluating these channels relative to their company’s overall organizational goals and objectives.

When first moving into the digital marketing realm, it is common for a company to veer towards Facebook and Twitter, considering their global reach. And if so many companies before them have done the same, why not follow the crowd, right? Wrong!

Snapchat is the place to be. Seriously. And here’s why…

According to Adage, “Snapchat entered into a niche that's so forward because it's catered towards a generation even its creators didn't understand. It's not that the user interface is complicated, it's that the user interface doesn't even exist. It makes assumptions about its users preemptively and doesn't care if it's shutting out an entire generation.”

The niche generation Adage refers to is the Millennials. If Millennials are your target market, which by the way, they should be considering a recent piece by Entrepreneur stating that 89 percent of Millennials use social media, then exploring Snapchat should definitely be considered.

In the initial stages of researching digital marketing channels, a company’s marketing team identifies target customers in the digital space to understand their likes, dislikes, perceptions of the company’s brand, its major competitors, their digital needs related to the brand, and how the brand may fulfill these needs. All of this information, along with Documented updates of current trends in digital marketing, should be recorded for future reference. But, how does this data lead to a successful ad campaign directed at a target audience? Exploring the many social media platforms that can engage a target audience is a good start.

Snapchat offers brands the opportunity to create their own account allowing them to be followed by their customers, but the app has also paved the way for Snapchat influencers to have great sway over their followers. Influencers, in general, are people that have extremely large social media followings and are paid by companies to advertise their brand. The use of influencers has proven to be a smart move, since, as noted by Jay Baer, president of Convince & Covert “only 33 percent of people in America actually follow brands”

In the end it’s all about reach. The more people you can reach in your target audience the better, so it is important for a company’s digital marketing team to explore all options. Maybe even if that means stepping out of their comfort zone and focus on a new avenue for social media marketing. Based on the low level of online brand loyalty, companies like Snapchat have thought outside the box to offer innovative ways to reach target audiences without a company having to push to gain followers.

For more interesting articles visit SMstudy.com

Sources:

“To Big Brands, From a Millennial: Snapchat Filters Are Where It’s At,” Jillian Hausmann, March, 28 2016. http://adage.com/article/digitalnext/steps-brands-sponsor-snapchat-filters/303288/

“The Real Generation Gap: How Adults and Teens Use Social Media Differently,” Kathleen Davis, August 26, 2013. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/228029

“11 Shocking New Social Media Statistics in America,” Jay Baer. http://www.convinceandconvert.com/social-media-research/11-shocking-new-social-media-statistics-in-america/

How to Perform Market Trend Analysis?

Posted by SMstudy® on May 04, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: marketing, research, analysis, sales, trending

A market trend analysis is an analysis of past and current market behavior and dominant patterns of the market and consumers. An important aspect of conducting a trend analysis for an organization is to obtain insights on the market scenario, consumer preferences, and the macroeconomic environment.

Marketing research methods, such as surveys, interviews, and observations of consumer behavior, help in understanding the trends and behavior in the market.

Trend analysis is a subset of the PESTEL Analysis—an examination of the Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental, and Legal implications of the market as they relate to consumer trends. This analysis provides an all-round perspective of the external factors that impact the business.

While determining future objectives for a product or service, trend analysis is used as a basis on which future market projections are made. Market trend analysis involves analyzing the following areas:

  • Trends in Consumer Needs and Behavior—A business that is able to identify a specific trend in changing consumer needs and behavior may be able to cater to these needs and project higher growth rates.
  • Shifts in Consumer Perception of Value—Trend analysis involves timely analysis of consumer needs and positioning of the product or service in the consumer’s mind. An aspect of a product or service, which would at one point in time have contributed to the consumer’s perception, may later lose value if the competition replicates it. For example, if Shop A in a particular town was the only department store providing free home delivery for customer orders, it may hold a better perception in the consumer’s mind due to this additional service. However, if competitors start providing the same service, the value perception for Shop A would likely decrease.
  • Trends in Industry Cost Drivers—Businesses need to be aware of changes in composition of the cost drivers and also innovations that lead to lower cost alternatives. Companies that are able to find better alternatives, which are more economical or offer additional features, can gain a competitive advantage and achieve higher objectives.
  • Change and Evolution of the Industry—Companies continuously analyze trends in terms of product innovations, competitor product features, and new operation and delivery methods. Such analysis helps the business stay ahead of the curve to understand changing market trends and project objectives accordingly.

Trend analysis is a very common strategic tool for understanding the market maturity (i.e., whether the market is in a growth or decline stage) to gauge future market potential and the overall position of a business in the market.

Since market trend analysis involves understanding past market behavior and expected future market innovations, a major effort in conducting trend analysis is dedicated toward collecting relevant data. The authenticity of this data determines the accuracy of the projections, which subsequently impacts the objectives set for a particular product or service.

To read more articles about sales and marketing, visit www.smstudy.com/articles

When is enough too much? Interpreting Marketing Research and SMstudy

Posted by SMstudy® on April 25, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: research, marketing, big data, metadata, SMstudy,

Ever look out at the ocean on a cloudy day? The huge gray mass above stretches out to meet the darker gray mass below at a black line on the horizon?

Standing on that beach, some people feel the ocean’s irresistible allure and comforting power. Others feel like they’re being sucked between two insatiable plates that will crush them at that line in the darkness.

An ocean on a cloudy day is an apt comparison for Big Data and metadata. Big Data stretches its expanding, roiling clouds of content over an equally roiling sea of metadata. Both are massive and powerful. They can both be threatening.

The desire to mine Big Data is making billionaires out of “mining equipment companies,” and references to their algorithms, claims of superior computing speed and boasts of expansive storage capacity are everywhere. Big Data is big content, and that content is getting bigger exponentially. How do we find what we need and want? The answer to that question is to be found in marketing research. A company’s marketing research team will develop expertise in web analytics in addition to what they already know about market analytics. They will need to incorporate more and more disciplines to turn data into information, information into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom.

Once one begins to get a handle on Big Data—or at least has a plan on how to handle it—he or she faces that almost surreal world of metadata. From the murky world of spying, the world learned there is useful information that is with the content but is not the content. “Metadata is the ‘data about data’, or the data that can be taken from an individual piece of content,” says Emma Battle in a blog for Success 360.[1]

In 2010, Raffi Kirkovian, a Twitter employee, published a “Map of a Twitter Status Object” that identifies 37 discrete pieces of information contained in a Tweet other than the actual content of the tweet.[2]

Four years later that seems to have grown, “At 140 characters a tweet seems tiny, but it can yield a wealth of information. According to Elasticsearch, a startup that builds software to help companies mine data from social media, there are 150 separate points of so-called metadata in an individual tweet,” says Elizabeth Dwoskin in a Wall Street Journal blog.

For marketing researchers this can be a bonanza, “A marketer can look at tweets sent by their target audience and see that the majority of the tweets have times stamped after 5:00 p.m. The marketer can then conclude that the best time to reach their target audience on Twitter may be after 5:00 p.m.,” says Battle.

How do marketing professionals go from data to decisions? Through interpretation. The data that is collected and analyzed “is used to enable the team to identify patterns, draw conclusions, solve the research problem, and achieve the research objectives,” according to SMstudy® GuideMarketing Research, a book in the SMstudy® Guide series on sales and marketing.[3]

The Guide recommends that data interpretation start with three important inputs: the analyzed data, the research problem and objectives. During the interpretation process, “findings from the research analysis are compiled and reported to the marketing team and senior management and are ultimately used to inform marketing and business decisions.” In deciding what to compile and what to report, the researcher will rely on the research problem and objectives because they “provide a focused and definite direction to the data interpretation process,” according to the SMstudy® Guide.

With focus and direction, the marketing researcher uses three categories of tools to identify patterns and draw conclusions that will meet their company’s or client’s needs: tables, charts and expert judgment. Tables such as spreadsheets by Microsoft and Google help researchers organize large amounts of data. Some, like Microsoft’s Excel, provide a variety of filters and grouping tools for this purpose.

There are thousands of charts available to the market researcher. When one uses the term “chart” to be a category name that includes diagrams and graphs, the number of methods for visually displaying often complex relationships explodes. The SMstudy® Guide highlights bar charts, stratum charts, pictograms and cartograms for their usefulness and broad-based familiarity.

Once one has an excellent collection of tables and charts, something is still needed to make complete sense of them all: expert judgment. “The ability to appropriately interpret the data develops with experience. Inexperienced researchers can sometimes interpret data in a preferred way because of their comfort level with a given method. A researcher should try to seek the opinions of industry experts and research experts, who can provide valuable inputs in choosing the best way to interpret data within the given constraints,” says SMstudy® Guide’s Marketing Research book.

When relevant inputs are processed with appropriate tools, the researcher draws conclusions that are used to solve the research problem and inform marketing decisions. In short, accurately interpreted research means you know the problem AND the best solution options. And knowing is a great feeling between the clouds and the ocean.

 

[1] Battle, Emma. (7/23/14) “Metadata, Mega Data or Big Data What’s in It for Marketers” Success 360. Retrieved on 4/21/16 from www.success360i.com/metadata-mega-data-or-big-data-whats-in-it-for-marketers/   

[2] April 18, 2010 Raffi Kirkorian published a “Map of a Twitter Status Object” http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/TweetMetadata.pdf

[3] For more information about the SMstudy® Guide please, visit http://www.smstudy.com/SMBOKGuide/overview-of-SMstudy-guide

Inventions from 1900-1910: Deja vu All Over Again

Posted by SMstudy® on April 13, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: marketing, invention, SMstudy, Einstein, twentieth,

There are some things I never do on social media. When I get a post with a picture of an old-fashioned pencil sharpener, apple corer or slide rule and it says “If you’ve ever used one of these, Like and Share,” I never do. And it’s not just because I don’t want to admit how old I am.

Looking back in history can be much more helpful than trying to get one up on “those young people today” by showing how difficult you had it and they should be glad they have it as easy as they do! Looking back in history can actually help people deal with the present.

With this in mind we thought we would take a quick look at the first decade of the Twentieth Century and draw some inferences relating to the first two decades of the Twenty-first.

We researched several websites and found that a lot of things happened from 1900 to 1910, inclusive. From the frivolous to the profound, some of the inventions and advances still affect America and the world today. In 1905, the American form of football allowed the forward pass to stop injuries and deaths caused by brute-force tactics such as the “flying wedge.” Today, the National Football League is trying to make reforms that will minimize, or do away with concussions. Also in 1905, Albert Einstein published a paper introducing the idea that the formula for determining energy is a direct ratio with the combined characteristics of mass and the speed of light squared, e=mc2. In that same year, he published a fuller elucidation, his theory of relativity. (We felt like we could use phrases like “fuller elucidation” when we’re talking about such heady stuff.) From those papers have risen arsenals, energy generation, medical uses of radiation, and advances in the physics that run our televisions and computers, among other things.

Speaking of televisions and computers, both of these have their roots in Lee De Forest’s invention of the vacuum tube triode in 1907. “The three terminal setup could serve as an electrical switch. When you changed the voltage traveling to one terminal, you could reduce the current following between the other two terminals. In this way, you could turn it ‘on’ and ‘off.’ That's your 1 and your 0,” says Wired.com in reference to the binary code used in programming.[1]

The more immediate use of the vacuum tube was in building the sets needed to receive that new-fangled thing called radio. De Forest used his vacuum tube to transform “those taps and clicks [of Marconi’s wireless telegraph transmissions] into the broadcast communication system we know today,” according to Wired, adding, “Forest, who also coined the name ‘radio,’ used his invention to send the first over-the-air public broadcast on January 12, 1910.” 

From all this, it becomes apparent that first decade of the twentieth century saw the new arrivals of more than twenty inventions that reshaped life and business. Mercedes (1901) and Ford (1908) took the automobile from the showcase and exhibition track to the roads of America and Europe in mass numbers. Along the way, they also invented the car salesman. 

These inventions made their creators wealthy through marketing. In 1908, Dr. Julius Neubronner combined invention and marketing into one operation. He fitted “tiny timer-driven cameras to pigeons and developed and printed the photos immediately upon the birds’ return, selling them as postcards on the spot,” says Wired. They also say, “Take that, UAV cams!”

Apple Computers is the modern poster child for this symbiotic relationship between innovation and marketing. And that brings us to Digital Marketing, book three in the SMstudy® Guide series, “Today, consumers have multiple ways of searching, learning about, and purchasing various products and services, and e-commerce technology has offered the convenience of secure and instant transactions.”

In 1901, the vacuum cleaner was invented and was soon followed by the door-to-door vacuum salesman. The invention of the radio brought radio advertising, which was one of the methods inventor and businessman George Louis Washington used to turn his 1909 invention of instant coffee into a mansion in Brooklyn and a lodge by the beach in Belford.[2]

Automobiles brought roadside signs and billboards. Walls in every major urban setting became festooned with advertising aimed at the motoring masses. The marketing messages were everywhere. Conventional mass marketing made sure they even arrived in peoples’ mailboxes.

Today’s market seems filled with innovation and invention on steroids. “Consumers can receive messages from any of the several hundred television and radio channels, a variety of print media, including newspapers, magazines, and trade publications; and, online, it’s difficult to check e-mail without various banner ads popping up. The messages are constant,” says Digital Marketing.

“For businesses, in this age where consumers are continuously provided with choice, the challenge is finding ways to stand out.” SMstudy and the SMstudy® Guide are designed to help sales and marketing professionals and entrepreneurs handle the change in ways that make them stars.[3]

 

For more informative and interesting articles on sales and marketing, visit SMstudy.com.

 

(Jim Pruitt, VMEdu staff writer contributed to this article.)

 

 

[1] “The Decades that Invented the Future, Part 1: 1900-1910.” (10/12/12) WIRED. Retrieve on 4/13/16 from http://www.wired.com/2012/10/12-decades-of-geek-part-1/

[2] Janie (4/13/2015) “20 Influential Inventions from 1900-1910” JellyShare Retrieved on 4/13/16 from http://www.jellyshare.com/article-194/20-influential-inventions-from-1900-1910.htm

[3] For more information about the SMstudy® Guide, visit http://smstudy.com/SMBOKGuide 

VMEdu and the Way of E-learning

Posted by SMstudy® on April 13, 2016 | Others

Keywords: learning management system, VMEdu, smartphones, e-learning

Companies have long known the financial benefits of online training over physical classroom learning. In fact, companies can save anywhere between 50–70 % on training costs by switching to e-learning alternatives. So naturally it was love at first sight for company bean counters and executives; however, humans, or e-learners, clearly were not so impressed.

Early assessments of e-learning iterations were pretty unanimous: they were dry, boring, technically complicated and didn’t satisfy any quality benchmarks. In other words, the courses weren’t top notch, according to Francisco J. Garcia Penalvo, professor at the University of Salamanca who documented the origins and subsequent growth of e-learning in his book, “Advances in E-learning: Experiences and Methodologies.”

“In spite of everything, the growth of e-learning is unstoppable, and every important institution (academic, enterprise, or otherwise) knows about the necessity of creating and developing a department or service specially devoted to this subject. E-learning deserves to be considered as a real revolution, ‘The Globalization of Training,’” Penalvo said.

Many of those early complaints are now in the past as e-learning has matured over the last ten years and evolved into a human-centric learning experience with technology (ironically) aiding the e-learning “revolution” Penalvo speaks of enthusiastically.

Although a reported 20% of surveyed individuals still note technical issues as the main frustration with e-learning, it now appears that technology has caught up with our learning preferences and e-teachers as well as learning management systems (LMS) are tempting more students than ever on a global scale. In 2015, the global market for e-learning was $170 Billion, a staggering increase of $75 billion in five years.

One technology that has allowed tremendous growth in the field of e-learning is the global penetration of mobile phones. At some point in 2016, 2.1 billion smartphones are estimated to be in use around the world. In particular, China, Indonesia and Russia are anticipated to see substantial growth in smartphone usage over the next two years. And in the case of India, smartphone usage is predicted to surpass the U.S. as the second largest user of smartphones in the world by the end of 2016. This boom has opened up a huge population to the opportunity of lifelong learning. This period of intense growth in smartphone use has tracked with the rise in e-learning to such an extent that it has been noted by Ambient Insight Research, an online resource for statistics and information related to the e-learning industry.

The report states “The astonishing growth rates and adoption rates in countries like Laos, Thailand, Uganda, Cambodia, and Ghana are good examples of once-nascent markets that became vibrant revenue opportunities for suppliers in just the last two years (literally "overnight" in the context of a learning technology product lifecycle.)”

One such company offering human-centric learning options at the vanguard of e-learning is VMEdu, Inc. Refined over seven years, the VMEdu Cloud Learning Management System (LMS) offers one of the finest platforms for e-learning currently available globally. The VMEdu LMS is open to anyone, anywhere (in any language) and offers ultimate flexibility for both students and teachers, including mobile as well as hybrid options.

VMEdu is a global leader in adult education through its multiple brands and partner ecosystem. The company has taught more than 500,000 students from 150 countries and 3,500+ companies and has an extensive V.A.T.P. (VMEdu Authorized Training Partner) network of 800+ partners in 50+ countries.

For more information on VMEdu’s e-learning courses, platform and training opportunities, visit vmedu.com.

 

Sources:

“Advances in E-Learning: Experiences and Methodologies,” Francisco J. Garcia Penalvo, University of Salamanca. 2008. Information Science Reference, Hershey, NY.

“Mobile Worldwide Active Smartphone Users Forecast 2014 – 2018: More Than 2 Billion by 2016” Ambika Choudhary Mahajan, Dec. 18, 2014. http://dazeinfo.com/2014/12/18/worldwide-smartphone-users-2014-2018-forecast-india-china-usa-report/

“International E-Learning Market Research Report 2015,” Ambient Insight Research http://www.ambientinsight.com/Reports/eLearning.aspx#section2

“The Top eLearning Statistics and Facts For 2015 You Need To Know” eLearning Industry

http://elearningindustry.com/elearning-statistics-and-facts-for-2015

 

OOH, Electronic Billboards

Posted by SMstudy® on April 12, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: sales, marketing, strategy, billboards, SMstudy, Guide, advertising

More than six thousand digital billboards light up America’s roadways, yet, we’re still in the dark![1]

We thought that—with the explosion of social media, the long (waning?) reign of broadcast advertising, Internet advertising, and more—billboards, like sandwich boards, were becoming a thing of the past. Yet, according to the association, there are more than 158,000 standard billboards (also known as “bulletins” in the trade) and 165,500 posters (the slightly smaller sized billboard common in urban settings). Then there’s “billboards” on the sides of trucks, 2,700, and wrapped around buses, 205,000. That’s a lot of OOH (Out of Home) advertising!

This exemplifies something that Marketing Strategy, book one in the SMstudy® Guide series, says: “Rather than viewing the changes as completely replacing the earlier practices, Sales and Marketing approaches should be viewed as a continuum where recent innovations can co-exist with earlier practices.”  

If you have been following our posts at SMstudy, you may remember that we have addressed the idea that old ways stay and can continue to be profitable even in the midst of great innovation.[2] OOH advertising offers two examples of not only how older approaches can remain relevant but also co-exist in symbiotic relationships.

As the numbers quoted above show, billboard advertising is alive and kicking in today’s innovative age. One cause of this is that “the brevity of OOH’s copy is ideal for driving traffic to a website,” according to OAAA. In cities with the fifty worst commutes, Americans spend from 32 minutes (with 8 percent of this city’s commuters spending more than an hour) to 42.6 minutes (and 25 percent spending more than one hour) one way.[3] That’s a lot of time spent slowly moving with the traffic flow. The vast majority of Americans spend from 30 minutes to an hour driving to and from work. Include the time they spend traveling for other purposes and that’s like having an arena’s worth of people idling past every billboard. 

Co-existing can be more than just parallel existence at a distance. For example, “OOH reinforces television messages when viewers are away from their homes during the course of daily activities,” says to OAAA adding, “Television is expensive. OOH improves the efficiency of a television campaign buy by driving down CPM costs. OOH reaches light TV viewers who are younger, mobile, and more affluent than heavy TV viewers.”

OAAA points out that “younger, mobile, and more affluent than heavy TV viewers” also describes Internet users. This becomes an important insight when the marketing team considers its product’s marketing mix. “In a differentiated targeting strategy, a company directs its marketing efforts towards two or more segments by creating a different marketing mix for each segment. Each marketing mix for this strategy typically varies depending on product features, distribution methods, promotion methods, and pricing,” according to Marketing Strategy. As each market segment is targeted, the team develops a mix of “promotion methods.” These methods can include conventional mass media marketing and fragmented new-age marketing (aimed at channels such as Internet, social media, and mobile devices).

The old and the new not only can exist side-by-side but they can flourish. And that’s something to OOH and ah about!

 

For more interesting and informative articles on sales and marketing, visit SMstudy.com.

 

 

[1] This datum is according to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) in their OOH (Out of Home) Formats on the OAAA site at https://www.oaaa.org/OutofHomeAdvertising/OOHMediaFormats/OOHMediaFormats.aspx

[2] As in our recent blog, “Pushing the Envelope: The Case for Paper,” www.smstudy.com/Article/pushing-the-envelope-the-case-for-paper

[3] “The 50 Worst Commutes in America.” (1/28/16) MSN; News. Retrieved on 4/12/16 from http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/the-50-worst-commutes-in-america/ss-AAakiJv#image=51

Eye-to-Eye on IT Value, Marketing and SMstudy

Posted by SMstudy® on April 11, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: marketing, IT, information, technology, value, SMstudy

When designing a marketing strategy should you start where you want to be, or where you are?

If you’re a motivational speaker, you’re probably saying, “Start where you want to be.” If you’re a process engineer, you’re likely to say, “Start where you are.” If you’re a marketing strategist, you’re probably saying, “Yes.”

“But it’s an ‘either/or’ question!” they might remind you.

“True, but the answer is still ‘Yes,’” you would answer.

In sales and marketing, there must be a strong focus on goals and objectives, the “where you want to be”bit. “The Corporate Marketing Strategy is defined at a corporate level. It defines the overall marketing goals for the company. These general marketing goals drive more specific marketing strategies for each of the company’s business units or geographies,” says Marketing Strategy, book one of the SMstudy™ Guide.

Can the company meet these goals? The answer to this lies in the “where you are.” “The strengths and weaknesses of a company determine its internal capabilities to compete in a market and to fulfill customer expectations,” says the SMstudyGuide. “Strengths provide the company with a competitive advantage and weaknesses place the company at a disadvantage.”

“Start where you are” is one of the “Practitioner 9 Guiding Principles” identified by Axelos, the people responsible for publications coming from the Information Technology and Infrastructure Library (ITIL) of the British Home Office. These principles are designed to help IT practitioners succeed in an increasingly customer- and market-oriented service environment.  

One of the key “Practitioner Guiding Principles” is “focus on value.” This is something marketing professionals know very well: their product’s or service’s value proposition. “All successful products or brands need well-planned marketing strategies in place to ensure that they satisfy the goals set by the corresponding Business Unit or Geographic level, and in turn the overall Corporate Marketing Strategy. Marketing Strategy is therefore one of the most crucial Aspects of Sales and Marketing. It defines a product or brand’s unique value proposition, target markets, and the specific strategies to be used to connect with defined audiences,” according to the SMstudyGuide.

Arriving at a value proposition involves identifying the target market segment: what are the people that make up this group like? What do they do for a living? For recreation? How do they spend their money? These are very similar to questions that IT developers ask and answer when creating personas for their end users and customers. How will they use this service? When will they most likely access it? What will it do for them? How much is this worth to them? The confluence of service development and marketing is becoming greater and greater.

With the decreasing time between product development and its “hitting the shelves,” it seems inevitable that marketing interests and elements would enter product lifecycles earlier. Which ties in well with “Practitioner Guiding Principle” number 8: collaborate. The real value that developers put into a product after conferring with marketing and management becomes the real value that the sales and marketing people communicate to the customers, who buy that value, take it home and cherish it. Everyone is working together and the world’s a happier place.

 

For more informative articles on Sales and Marketing, visit SMstudy.com.

Branding America and SMstudy - Part Two

Posted by SMstudy® on April 07, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: marketing, branding, America, SMstudy, value, message, freedom

What is right about America? What is its value proposition to its citizens and to the world? What is America’s brand?

In this second part of Brand America, we return to the Declaration of Independence[1]—arguably the quintessential statement of America the brand—to find what it tells us.

In Part One, we looked at the Brand’s strong positioning statement that claimed an equal place among the nations of the world. We saw that the Declaration gives the brand a great sense of an ennobling purpose.

In the world of corporate core value statements, brands that have “truly held values”[2] find loyal audiences and market segments. The Declaration’s preamble includes, “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to separation.” Here then is one of the Brand’s values from the very beginning: respect for the opinion of others. This respect manifests its most power and influence in the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America: freedom of speech and religion. The fact that these are still protected and the nature of that protection is still hotly discussed today is a testament to how truly held the value of respect is.

Also, in this phrase is the value of transparency. With respect comes the obligation to be transparent with one’s actions and motivations. Not only is modern America’s commitment to transparency seen in its laws such as open meeting laws, but its citizens have taken it to heart. For example, one of the foremost principles of Scrum project management is empirical process control which “relies on the three main ideas of transparency, inspection and adaptation,” according to A Guide to the Scrum Body of Knowledge (SBOKGuide).[3] The Declaration’s values find expression in the threads of everyday life.

Brand America’s greatest value statement has been, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This value statement broadens the Brand’s appeal to humans all over the world.

What is the Brand’s value proposition? “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.” The Brand stands for the right, the duty, of people to seek and establish governments that secure their rights. Over the years, the Brand has done this many times—from forming its own government to helping Europe throw off the shackles of Nazi Germany.

And what is the Brand’s compelling message? “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, … evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” The need that this Brand meets is the need that all humans have to be free of oppression, to possess life and liberty and to be free to pursue happiness.

A country that stays true to a Brand like this cannot help but attract an expansive market share.

(Jim Pruitt, educator and staff writer for VMEdu, Inc. contributed to this article.)

For more informative and thought-provoking articles on sales and marketing, visit SMstudy.com.

[1] All quotes from the Declaration of Independence come from “the Charters of Freedom” collection of the U.S National Archives at http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html.

[2] Powers, Merry Carole. (4/1/16) “Donald Trump vs America: Side-by-Side Brand Analysis.” The World Post. Retrieved on 4/4/16 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/merry-carole-powers/donald-trump-vs-america-a_b_9592180.html

[3] The SBOKGuide is available for free at http://www.scrumstudy.com/overview-of-sbok.asp

Back Talk Can Be Good for You; Customer-Centric Differentiation and SMstudy

Posted by SMstudy® on April 07, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: marketing, positioning, differentiated, customer, feedback, SMstudy

“I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following you…”

– Allen Ginsberg, “A Supermarket in California”

When potential customers “wander in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans,” what sets your product apart from all of the others on the shelf? What makes buyers begin following you?

Is it the need that you meet? Or the value proposition you offer? Is it your product’s packaging? Or placement on the shelf? Is it the reputation of your company that shines a special spotlight on your offering?  If your answer is, “Yes,” then you’re ready for a trip into the sometimes puzzling world of creating a product’s differentiated positioning. Grab your cape, Alice; you never know what you’ll run into down the rabbit hole.

A well-planned and executed differentiated positioning of a product sets it apart and attracts buyers. The process of creating a differentiated positioning “involves creating a positioning statement that clearly articulates, in a succinct sentence, how the company wants the customers in its selected target markets to perceive its products,” says Marketing Strategy, book one in the SMstudyGuide series.[1]

In our previous article, “What Turns a Ford into a Lincoln,” we looked at the use of features to set one product apart from another, to make it attractive to targeted market segments. This same list of features is used when writing the positioning statement. In this blog we consider the influence of the target segment itself and customer feedback on preparing that “succinct sentence.”   

Once your company has completed the process of selecting a target segment, it will have “detailed information…, such as specific wants and needs, customer personas, segment size, and so forth,” according to Marketing Strategy. The company then can “analyze the target segment information to determine areas where it has, or can, create a competitive advantage when positioning its products.” 

Where does a company get a clear statement of the “specific wants and needs” of their potential customers? From customer feedback, of course. “But, they’re potential customers!” someone is saying, “How can we get feedback from customers that aren’t customers, yet?” There are ways down this rabbit hole.

One way is to use industry benchmarks and Key Performance Indicators (KPI). “Comparing the company’s performance against industry benchmarks and KPIs helps prevent a company from focusing its positioning efforts on creating differentiators that are of little importance to customers in the industry,” the SMstudyGuide says. Your potential customers will have significant similarities with others in the targeted segment for similar products.

Closely related to benchmarks and KPIs, are existing marketing research reports. Your company or an industry group may have already conducted research that is relevant. “This research can help identify the best possible product features and associated product positioning based on how purchase intentions vary with changes to particular product characteristics. Furthermore, analyzing customers’ attitudes toward competitors’ products provides additional insights into how well the positioning strategies of competitors are working, and whether there are some gaps in their positioning that the company can exploit,” says the SMstudyGuide.

Another way is to talk to your company’s present customers. “No one can articulate your strengths better than your clients,” writes Cidnee Stephen in her article “How to Differentiate Your Business from the Competition.”[2]

As the SMstudyGuide puts it, “Understanding the customer experience and obtaining customer feedback about a company’s existing products (a concept referred to as the “Voice of the Customer”) helps a company to determine the positioning of its products. Such customer feedback includes improvement suggestions, compliments, and complaints.” Your company has probably been collecting feedback of this nature through post-purchase surveys, product registration processes, and the “Contact Us” tab on its website. This data is usually reviewed through a product or service improvement filter. Now is the time to look at that data with a filter emphasizing positioning.

Product piloting and conducting focus groups are two additional ways to collect feedback on a product or service that is not yet in wide distribution.

Our trip seems to use product and company differentiation interchangeably. Does that make sense? Down this rabbit hole, it does. The two are membrane on membrane close. The differentiated positioning of the company as a whole should guide all positioning of the company’s products and services. 

Does this article say it all about creating differentiated positioning? Absolutely not! In fact, the part of our treatment of this topic will discuss using SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats).

As good as back talk can be, so can a good SWOT across the backside … or at least, across the corporate office!

(Jim Pruitt, VMEdu staff writer contributed to this article—especially the rabbit hole allusion.)

For more interesting and informative articles on sales and marketing, visit SMstudy.

[1] The SMstudyGuide is available at http://www.smstudy.com/SMBOKGuide. 

[2] Cidnee Stephen. “How to differentiate Your Business from the Competition.” Bplans; Starting a Business Made Easy. Retrieved on 4/5/16 from http://articles.bplans.com/how-to-differentiate-your-business-from-the-competition/#.VwLfWKs56mM.linkedin

Selecting Points of Parity and Differentiation

Posted by SMstudy® on April 06, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: differentiation, parity, marketing, sales

Points of parity for a product are those characteristics of a company’s product that are not unique but are rather on par with competing products. Points of differentiation are those areas on which a company’s product outperforms competing products. The company needs to decide which product features and benefits it wants to match with competing products, and those it wants to differentiate from competing products. It is simply not feasible or advisable for a company to differentiate its product on all aspects.

Though points of differentiation provide a company with its competitive edge over the competition, choosing points of parity carefully is also important. Customers should be able to relate the company’s product with a certain product category, so they can understand at a broad level the type of need that the product satisfies. Therefore, some basic characteristics of the product must be similar to other products in its category. If the product fails to meet the basic characteristics that customers expect from all products in the product category, then customers may not consider it for purchase, irrespective of how well the product is differentiated on other characteristics.

In product categories where there are many differentiation options (such as in the software industry), it makes sense to focus on creating sustainable differentiators rather than on blunting the competition’s points of differentiation. Thus, efforts could be better utilized in creating profound points of differentiation. Additionally, differentiation is not always accomplished through product characteristics. It can be created by offering better services or unique packaging, or by implementing more efficient processes that provide a cost advantage.

Let’s try to understand this better with a few examples..

In the past, the ability of major retailers to provide options for customers to purchase products online would have been a point of differentiation. However, as online shopping grows in popularity and more companies develop their e-commerce capabilities to match consumer demand, the ability to facilitate online shopping has become a point of parity among major retailers.

Similarly, Until recent years, free internet connectivity through Wi-Fi was a point of differentiation for some coffee shops; however, as increasingly more consumers have come to expect this service, the ability to be freely connected is quickly becoming a point of parity in the industry.

A company may choose to match a competing product on a point of differentiation, effectively softening that product’s edge. Thus, if the company achieves parity on all the basic characteristics and blunts the competition’s competitive advantage by targeting its point of differentiation, then even a relatively minor point of differentiation can provide the company with a competitive advantage.

To read more articles about sales and marketing, visit http://www.smstudy.com/articles

Branding America and SMstudy - Part One

Posted by SMstudy® on April 06, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: branding, value, proposition, SMstudy, America, brand

Presidential candidates want to unite America, make it strong again, give it a future to believe in, balance its budget and pass its dream onto the next generation. Each, in his or her own way, paints a picture of what’s wrong with America, but which of them grasps what is right about America, what its value proposition is to its citizens and to the world? Which one has a real grasp of its brand?

A recent commentary by Merrie Carole Powers in The World Post [1] compared candidate Donald Trump as a brand to America as represented in the Declaration of Independence—arguably the quintessential statement of America the brand.  This got us at SMstudy thinking about America the brand. What does the Declaration tell its citizens and the world about its brand?

A concise definition of branding states that it “is the process of creating a distinct image of a product or range of products in the customer's mind. This image communicates the promise of value the customer will receive from the product or products,” according to the SMstudy® Guide: Marketing Strategy.[2]

So, what distinct image of America comes readily to mind? For many the dominant image is the American Dream. Every presidential candidate mentions the American Dream, and their versions range from the ability to achieve anything through hard work and determination to having a job coupled with raised wages and health for people and their surroundings.[3]

What image springs from the pages of the country’s cry to be itself, to be independent?

In her brand analysis of Trump-the-Brand, Powers used the “unique positioning, clearly defined purpose, truly held values, an authentic personality and a compelling message” elements of a strong brand. Marketing Strategy says that a product’s or service’s value proposition is crucial to its branding. We’ll use several of these to consider Brand America in the Declaration of Independence.[4]

The Declaration’s preamble is well known to many—having had to memorize it at some time during their school days—and it is the place to find the introduction of America’s brand image. In its first sentence the brand begins to take shape unassumingly—almost off-handedly as mere conditions for actions that follow—“it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them…”  The Brand claims for itself “the separate and equal station” “among the powers of the earth” “that the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” says it has the right to. That’s a strong positioning statement, even if it is not unique for countries.

The Brand has a great purpose: to “assume … the separate and equal station,” that is, to step up and take possession of equality among the nations of the entire world.  It is an ennobling purpose. Kouze and Posner said in their work The Leadership Challenge that one of the best practices among successful leaders was the ability to inspire “an ennobling vision of the future.” People want to follow a leader that can do this. And they want to be identified with a brand that does this, too. Perhaps, this is one brand element that explains why so many people emigrate to America.

In Part Two of “Branding America and SMstudy,” we’ll look at Brand America’s compelling message and alluring value proposition.

(Jim Pruitt, educator and staff writer for VMEdu, Inc. contributed to this article.)

For more informative and thought-provoking articles on sales and marketing, visit http://www.SMstudy.com.

[1] Powers, Merry Carole. (4/1/16) “Donald Trump vs America: Side-by-Side Brand Analysis.” The World Post. Retrieved on 4/4/16 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/merry-carole-powers/donald-trump-vs-america-a_b_9592180.html

[2] A Guide to the Sales and Marketing Body of Knowledge, also referred to as the "SMstudy® Guide," is a series of books that provide guidelines for the Sales and Marketing of products and services. It is available at SMstudy.

[3] Ted Cruz says that he and “his entire family have been blessed to live the American Dream — the idea that anyone, through hard work and determination, can achieve anything. And he is committed to ensuring every family has that same opportunity.” For Bernie Sanders, the American Dream includes an “economic agenda that creates jobs, raises wages, protects the environment and provides health care for all.” These quotes come from the respective candidate’s website.

[4] All quotes from the Declaration of Independence come from “the Charters of Freedom” collection of the U.S National Archives at http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html.

SMstudy Breaking News: Facebook and You, Live in 3, 2, 1

Posted by SMstudy® on April 06, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: SMstudy, Facebook, live streaming, mobile, video

Phoenix, April 6, 2016- Today, Facebook announced the release of new features for Facebook Live– a live-streaming video feature that saw a soft release last summer and was opened up to all Facebook users a couple of months ago. The addition of new interactive features reveals the social network’s belief in the big future of video.

From its vantage point, Facebook has noted that video consumption, in particular on mobile devices, has increased greatly over the last two years. The release of Facebook Live and its new features backs up their confidence in the trend towards video and live streaming. David Pierson, of the LA Times, reports that since 2014, Facebook has seen daily video views rise to 8 billion, an eightfold increase.

“The new features underscore the company's deepening commitment to video, which is gaining a growing share of digital audiences, especially on mobile devices...” Pierson said.

The increase in mobile video consumption has also been on the radar of the Adobe Digital Index. In a July 21, 2015 article, “Advertisers Must Be Prepared to Follow Increasing Eyeballs on Mobile Video,” they acknowledged a two-hour-a-day increase over the past five years.

They state, “It is clear that there is a consumer shift towards watching video across multiple media, with mobile viewing accounting for the largest gains.”

Here’s their chart on mobile video usage…

Acting on the observance that people are 10 times more likely to comment on live-streaming video compared with pre-recorded video, Facebook’s newly released features are all about interaction, connection and reaction. Brand new features include Live Groups that allows the user to broadcast to specific friends and groups, Live Events that allows the same for those attending a specific Facebook event and an extra-special new feature called Live Reactions that allows viewers to comment in real time and offer the Facebook-style reactions such as love, wow, angry and sad. (No word on Like yet?)

Facebook Live (now with added features) is replete with possibilities and opportunities, in particular, for marketers. The ability to take the temperature of an audience by monitoring viewer reactions seems to open the door for a variety of testing as marketers begin to use the tool for forecasting public reaction to products and campaigns. And as we reported back in February, social media insights such as these “are filling the role of the modern-day focus group and allow for adjustment before launching, saving money and perhaps even preventing a catastrophic mistake.” 

Of course, marketers and advertisers would also love to get in on this action. Pierson points out that advertisers are extremely interested in this new feature given Facebook’s advertising growth of close to 50% in 2015 to roughly $17 billion. But that bit will have to wait. Facebook has no intentions of opening this nascent channel to advertising… at least not yet.

“For now, the company is mainly interested in learning how users interact with its new tool and whether a vibrant ecosystem of user-generated videos can drive its growth,” Pierson says.

That being said, once it’s been proven viable, advertising will surely follow.

(Spring Eselgroth, educator and staff writer for VMEdu, Inc. contributed to this article.)

For more interesting information on sales and marketing, visit http://www.SMstudy.com.

Sources:

The Search for Social Media Insights,” SMstudy.com, Feb. 18, 2016. http://smstudy.com/Article/the-search-for-social-media-insights

"ADI: Advertisers Must Prepare To Follow Increasing Eyeballs On Mobile Video,” June 21, 2015. http://www.cmo.com/articles/2015/6/21/adi-advertisers-must-prepare-to-follow-increasing-eyeballs-on-mobile-video.html

Facebook bolsters its video streaming tool with new features,”David Pierson, April 6, 2016 http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-facebook-live-20160406-story.html

Facebook Press Release, April 6, 2016 http://newsroom.fb.com/news/2016/04/introducing-new-ways-to-create-share-and-discover-live-video-on-facebook/

Paying Attention: A New Metric for Advertising on Mobile

Posted by SMstudy® on April 05, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: attention-based metric, time-based metric, mobile marketing

Since the demise of newspaper’s great hegemonic grip on advertising, news media minds have been banging their big brains together, trying to come up with ways that not only monetize their content, but also generate some of the sweet ad revenue they used to have the luxury of enjoying. This is, of course, much harder in the infinite space and freedom of the internet. (limited space and information gatekeeping was a true friend to print news)

It’s been a bit of a slog and news outlets have been in “trial and error” mode for a while and still haven’t quite gotten it fully figured out. That being said, over the last year or so, user trends have been offering great nuggets of insight that are changing the way marketers and news sites are adapting to trends in mobile news consumption.

The landscape for mobile news outlets was important enough to make it to the front page of The Pew Research State of the Media 2015. What was the big deal? That 39 out of 50 legacy news outlets get more traffic from mobile devices than from desktop computers!  

Full list (stats provided by comScore)…http://www.journalism.org/media-indicators/digital-top-50-online-news-entities-2015/

In the digital-only “newsscape,” a similar trend was noted.

The report states, “similar to the larger list of top 50 digital news entities, just a minority of these digital-only sites, 11 in all, had audiences that spent more time with them via a mobile device than a desktop.”

Here’s the complete list of digital native sites... http://www.journalism.org/media-indicators/digital-top-50-digital-native-news-sites-2015/

This preference for mobile news consumption is only mildly tempered by the fact that longer times were spent on news sites when being read on desktop computers.

Nevertheless, it matters.

Believe it or not, tracking consumer behavior has been one of the main problems with news outlets and marketers alike when considering ad dollars for mobile. Now we know that people are preferring their mobile devices for their news both while in on-the-go situations as well as in the down time of “Netflix and chill” moments.

In addition, we appear to be in a “mobile ad desert” where despite a rapid increase year over year in mobile advertising spending, there’s still a gap between advertising dollars spent on TV and other marketing channels and those spent on mobile. It seems that marketers haven’t quite picked up on the huge leap mobile viewership has taken. As an example, Adobe Digital Index reported in July 2015 that media has risen by two hours a day over the last five years, but advertisers have been slow to respond.

The article states, “Just as internet advertising once experienced a lag between the number of unique users and advertising spend, a gulf now exists between the growing amount of time consumers spend viewing content on mobile devices and the relatively small investment brands are making in the channel. But it’s just a matter of time until the numbers match.”

When confronted with new information, a new approach is often required. And this positive mobile news usage data begs for new solutions.

One of the more interesting examples of calculating an accurate measure was put forward by the Financial Times. The FT has switched to a time-based metric, one that places attention front and center in their value assessment. Other news outlets are also recognizing the truer value of an attention-based metric, as well. I’ve begun calling this the “after the fold” ad as it appears when I’ve stayed on a story long enough to show I’m committed. This strategy bets squarely on the contents ability to hold attention. And so far, so good.

Although various solutions abound, no silver bullet has yet been discovered (and perhaps never will). Serious impediments to accurate metrics (and hence, the flow of ad dollars) include bots that inflate the numbers and the easy accessibility to, and preference for, ad-blocking. This trend is particularly noted among millennials. 

But even so, a new approach based on time as opposed to volume (number of clicks) could be the way forward for news outlets. Getting a handle on what they have to offer marketers may be the thing to lead news outlets out of the red and back into the black.

For more on sales and marketing, visit smstudy.com.

 

Sources:

The Pew Research State of the Medial 2015

http://www.journalism.org/2015/04/29/state-of-the-news-media-2015/

“How mobile metrics fall short for news outlets and advertisers,” James Breiner, July 13, 2015 https://ijnet.org/en/blog/how-mobile-metrics-fall-short-news-outlets-and-advertisers

“Is Digital Advertising Ready to Ditch the Click?”  Michael Sebastian. September 29, 2014. http://adage.com/article/media/digital-advertising-ready-ditch-click/295143/

"ADI: Advertisers Must Prepare To Follow Increasing Eyeballs On Mobile Video,” June 21, 2015. http://www.cmo.com/articles/2015/6/21/adi-advertisers-must-prepare-to-follow-increasing-eyeballs-on-mobile-video.html

“When Will Mobile Marketers Move Beyond Basic Measurement?”  June 15, 2015 http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Will-Mobile-Marketers-Move-Beyond-Basic-Measurement/1012600?ecid=NL1001#sthash.B8b4GxdM.dpuf

 

 

 

America, Trump, Branding and SMstudy

Posted by SMstudy® on April 04, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: sales, marketing, branding, SMstudy, Trump, America

Today has been all about brands and branding.

The day hadn’t even started when I saw that a friend had posted a LinkedIn Pulse article that included what he learned about branding from Warren Buffet. The next article that caught my eye was a brand comparison between Donald Trump and America, as in America, the Beautiful—the ideal, the brand.

Together, the articles made a strong argument that brands matter; they seriously matter. Gerald Sanchez wrote in his Pulse piece, “Brand Matters: Think about some of the companies that are in his [Warren Buffet’s] portfolio that are well known: Coca-Cola, Geico, Heinz, Proctor and Gamble and Johnson and Johnson.  Their brands provide a ‘hard-to-replicate advantage over their competitors.’”[1]

A concise definition of branding says that it “is the process of creating a distinct image of a product or range of products in the customer's mind. This image communicates the promise of value the customer will receive from the product or products,” according to the SMstudy® Guide: Marketing Strategy.[2] Together, a powerful image and an accurately defined value deliver that “hard-to-replicate advantage.”

Interestingly, as Merry Carole Powers alludes to in her Huffington Post article[3] analyzing Donald Trump’s presidential-candidate brand, powerful images and appealing to the wrong—though accurately defined—value can give an advantage that lacks health and perhaps staying power.

The idea of looking at a political campaign from a marketing point of view and dismissing a candidate’s statements as just saying whatever sells at the moment is fairly common. But Powers’ analysis is not, “I have been so horrified by this man from my personal point of view as a woman and a human being, it hadn’t dawned on me to assess him from a professional place.” This seems to be how most of us look at politicians. Perhaps we, too, should be more professional, “And when I did, I was surprised at what I found.” (Spoiler alert: she still isn’t a Trump supporter.)

Powers’ analysis of Trump as Trump the Brand used “a few core branding blocks that must be a part of any strong brand.” Such a brand includes “unique positioning, clearly defined purpose, truly held values, an authentic personality and a compelling message.”

Using these blocks, Powers does an item by item analysis of Trump as a brand and then compares the Trump brand with that of America as represented in the Declaration of Independence—arguably the best single statement of America the brand ever written.

Does Trump have a strong brand? How does it compare to America’s brand? Does it belong in America’s highest office? We’ll let you read Powers’ excellent article to learn that.

For this blog, let’s take away the realization that communicating our promise of value is crucial when we take an important stand and we want others to join us in it. Brand matters.

Look for SMstudy’s soon-to-be-released book Branding and Advertising, part of the SMstudy® Guide series.

For more interesting and informational articles on sales and marketing, visit SMstudy.com.

 

[1] Gerald Sanchez. (4/3/16) “Gleaning from the Gurus: What I Learned from Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger about Small Business.” Pulse. Retrieved on 4/4/16 from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/gleaning-from-gurus-what-i-learned-warren-buffet-charlie-sanchez?deepLinkCommentId=6122773332300492800&anchorTime=1459782918057&trk=hb_ntf_MEGAPHONE_REPLY_TOP_LEVEL_COMMENT

[2] A Guide to the Sales and Marketing Body of Knowledge, also referred to as the "SMstudy® Guide," is a series of books that provide guidelines for the Sales and Marketing of products and services. It is available at SMstudy.

[3] Powers, Merry Carole. (4/1/16) “Donald Trump vs America: Side-by-Side Brand Analysis.” The World Post. Retrieved on 4/4/16 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/merry-carole-powers/donald-trump-vs-america-a_b_9592180.html 

Pushing the Envelope: The Case for Paper

Posted by SMstudy® on April 01, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: direct mail, marketing strategy, fragmented new age marketing

“It is important for us to note that the fact that we are in the twenty-first century does not make all the earlier avenues of sales and marketing obsolete.”Marketing Strategy, Book one of the SMstudy®Guide.

Online marketing is where it’s at, right? The benefits are numerous and have been noted extensively in reports and articles galore by marketing professionals and others who’ve taken the time to track the data and offer the proof. Online marketing is definitely where it’s at. Or, is it?

Today, many companies and brands opt for a fragmented new-age marketing strategy, one based primarily on a digital, multi-channel approach that includeds all available avenues via the Internet, such as websites and social media, and tools and devices, such as smartphones, tablets, computers, and so on. But in all the excitement of new technologies and the myriad of new ways to reach people with our marketing messages, SMstudy reminds us that “rather than viewing these changes as completely replacing earlier practices, sales and marketing approaches should be viewed as a continuum where recent innovations can co-exist with earlier practices.”

In other words, online marketing might not be the only game in town. Some old-school methods might, in fact, be cooler (and more appropriate) than you think. Take snail mail, for example.

Direct mail, which seemed to have gone the way of paper news and landline phones, is now seeing a revival. The most commonly cited reason is the personal factor. In an age where we receive a slew of emails every day, to receive a piece of paper mail with our name on it (as opposed to “current resident”) seems positively Downton Abbey. We’re loving the nostalgia of it and it’s standing out in our consciousness, because unlike email, paper mail is rare nowadays. Craig Simpson, direct mail marketing professional, emphasizes the personal touch of direct mail.

“It makes it seem like someone put some extra effort into what they sent as opposed to just quickly shooting off another email,” Simpson said.

Simpson goes on to point out the additional benefit of being able to “spruce up physical mail in ways that you just can’t achieve with email.”

Other noted plusses for direct mail include the ability to precisely target market segments and the fact that compared to email, physical mail has a greater likelihood of being opened.

Direct mail is also a flexible channel with a variety of options. Postcards, flyers, publications and free samples are all on the table when considering direct mail.  

SMstudy states, “It is a fact that people now spend more time on the Internet using devices than they spend through conventional mass media, such as television, radio, or newspaper.” So, it is logical to focus many marketing efforts online.

However, if physical paper mail is best in reaching a company’s audience and in turn reaching the company’s goals, marketers should not be afraid to pull out an “oldie but a goodie” from the continuum of sales and marketing.  

 

 For more on sales and marketing, visit smstudy.com.

Sources:

“4 Reasons to Use Direct Mail Marketing Instead of Email Marketing,” Craig Simpson, Feb. 17, 2015. http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/242731

“What Are the Benefits of Direct Mail Advertising?” Rick Suttle, Houston Chronicle

http://smallbusiness.chron.com/benefits-direct-mail-advertising-3476.html

SMstudy®Guide, Marketing Research http://www.smstudy.com/SMBOKGuide/Overview-of-SMstudy-Guide

That Which Gets Measured; Determining Metrics with SMstudy

Posted by SMstudy® on April 01, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: metrics, marketing, sales, strategy, measure

Engineers have a maxim: “That which gets measured gets done.”

This is a significantly more sophisticated way of saying that when the cat’s present the mice work.  From a management point of view, the application of metrics and testing can be an effective tool for keeping senior management in the workroom, even when they’re actually on the beach in Puerto Vallarta.

When metrics and testing are used this way, they lose their effectiveness as tools for quality, learning and improving. When they are used appropriately and are in the hands of the people who will learn the most from them, metrics and testing can enable a marketing team to zig when the market zags and, thereby, outpace the competition. “The Sales and Marketing teams determine the appropriate metrics that will be used to quantify the objectives or outcomes after executing the Marketing Strategy,” says Marketing Strategy, book one in the SMstudy® Guide series.

The goals and objectives of a product’s marketing strategy have already been decided by senior management, stakeholders and the marketing team before metrics are chosen. While senior management controls the big picture, whoever controls the metrics used in testing and measuring a process controls the process. When one sees the activities involved in getting a product launched, established and profitable in its market segment as a process, it becomes apparent that the best people to choose the appropriate metrics would be the marketing team.

The marketing team will not choose metrics in isolation, however, because the inputs for the determining metrics process include the positioning statement—which describes the value a product or brand offers to its target customers—the pricing strategy, the distribution strategy; industry benchmarks and key performance indicators (KPIs) and the goals that are defined at the corporate and/or business unit or geographic levels.

Metrics for measuring the effectiveness of sales and marketing activities can be broadly classified into four categories: customer reach, brand perception, product availability, and sales and profitability. In addition to these category metrics, a Product Life Cycle Analysis is an important tool in this process because it identifies the metrics that are important at each phase of the sales and marketing timeline. The metrics that the marketing team selects may depend on the size and complexity of the company, type of industry, their own preferences and other factors.

Although there are many possible metrics that can be used to measure the effectiveness of a Marketing Strategy, the SMstudy® Guide suggests that the marketing team should “select and prioritize only a few important metrics that can appropriately determine the success or failure of the objectives outlined in the Marketing Strategy.”

The tools the marketing team can use for determining metrics includes meetings and discussions, during which “various business units or departments within the company work together to ensure that their selected metrics are aligned.” Additional tools the team can use are Product Life Cycle Analysis, the SMART Framework, customer reach metrics, brand perception metrics, product availability metrics, and sales and profitability metrics. More detailed information on each of these tools can be found in Marketing Strategy.

Well-chosen metrics will keep you in control.

For more interesting article on sales and marketing, visit SMstudy.com.

What Turns a Ford into a Lincoln?

Posted by SMstudy® on March 31, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: marketing, positioning, differentiated, value proposition, value

When I was a kid the men in my neighborhood used to say, “The only difference between a Ford and a Lincoln is the packaging... and ten thousand dollars!” The pause between “packaging” and the “and ten thousand dollars” got the intended laughs. Men who couldn’t afford most of the regular Ford line—though still dreaming about the Lincolns—needed those laughs... and the consolation.

Marketers know that those neighborhood men were partially right: the right packaging can enhance a product’s differentiated positioning. More often though, a product’s position in its market is earned by its quality and the quality of the services that accompany it. The process of creating a well-defined differentiated positioning statement “helps a company maintain focus on each product and its value proposition while developing the key elements of its marketing mix, pricing, and distribution strategy,” says Marketing Strategy, book one of the SMstudy® Guide series.[1]

The common four elements of a marketing mix are “product, price, place, and promotion.”[2] These elements become refined and powerful when developed in connection with clearly defined pricing and distribution strategies. The creation of differentiated positioning for a product uses these elements and strategies to define “a list of the product features that are most important in helping customers make their purchasing decision,” according to Marketing Strategy

The features that set one’s product apart from others is often the decisive information for consumers. Though made by the same manufacturer, a Lincoln has distinct features that cannot be found on models from Ford’s standard line. There are features such as seat warmers and electronic monitoring systems that make Lincolns luxury cars that are positioned, priced and promoted to the luxury market. The same can be said about Cadillacs and other model lines built by General Motors—Lexus and Toyota, Affinity and Nissan, and so on.

In the process of creating a differentiated position, a company’s marketing team will use inputs such as the selected target segment, the company’s strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats, a list of competitors, details of competitive products, industry benchmarks, existing industry research reports and customer feedback about similar products or from research projects such as market tests and focus groups. And these inputs are raw resources for future blogs (previews of coming attractions).

Though much of this seems common knowledge, it takes a well-thought-out differentiated positioning statement to get products to the right street.

1. This series of six books covers six aspects of sales and marketing aligned to the most common career groups in this domain. The SMstudy® Guide offers a comprehensive framework that can be used to effectively manage sales and marketing efforts in any organization. For more details, visit: http://www.smstudy.com/SMBOKGuide.   

2. BusinessDictionary.com Retrieved on 3/31/16 from http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/marketing-mix.html  

Can You Really go Viral?

Posted by SMstudy® on March 30, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: Marketing, Strategy

Lately, I have been asking myself, “Why do companies really push their marketers to go viral?” Only 15 percent of marketing material actually goes viral, so why not push for something more realistic? I get that companies want to “Go big, or go home,” but this mindset just wastes marketing dollars.

Going viral literally just means the number of views your campaign reached. So, the obvious choice to get your marketing to the masses is social media. According to Jason Akeny, a contributor at Entrepreneur, “Getting your brand noticed via social media grows more difficult with each passing day. Users upload 100 hours of video to YouTube every 60 seconds and share more than 4.75 billion pieces of content on Facebook every 24 hours. Add to that 500 million new tweets per day, and the chances of breaking through to a wider audience can seem virtually nonexistent.”

The companies that have mastered the art of going viral, such as T-Mobile, Similac and Chipotle also have the marketing budget, for lack of better words, to waste when it comes to focusing on going viral. So, what can small businesses do to reach this same level of success? The truth is going viral isn’t an effective marketing strategy. This may be a hard pill for many to swallow, but it is still possible for those smaller companies to go viral, it just can’t be the end goal.

There is also the misperception that if you produce more content then it has a higher chance of reaching more people. But it will most likely just get lost in the social media ocean of information. Companies need to focus their attention on what their marketers are producing; quality not quantity. 

“An assumption can be defined as anything that is considered to be true without proof,” states Marketing Strategy, book one in the SMstudy® Guide. So, going viral is really just that, an assumption. How do we prove how to go viral? As stated in the book, “Competition analysis involves examining the competitive landscape for competing products with a view to understanding the company’s current product portfolio relative to other products and determining opportunities for product differentiation.”

This does not necessarily mean that an analysis should be done for a company’s specific industry, but rather for many industries in order to find that proof. When it comes to creating viral content there is no formula, but evaluating how other companies achieved their success is a good place to start.

Companies that are looking to successfully market their brand (this is what the main focus should be) need to think outside of the box. Madison Avenue has always struggled to market feminine product companies. Women just don’t associate their “special” time of month with dancing on the beach in white pants. In 2013, HelloFlo, a subscription-based company that delivers feminine products right to one’s door launched.

The new brand was barely keeping their head above water when they decided to try something a little different. They decided to be honest. “The Camp Gyno” hit YouTube in the summer of 2013 and within 24 hours it became the ad of the day and reached 6 million views in its first month. Not too shabby for a product that was produced on a small budget.

It is possible for small businesses to go viral, but that doesn’t mean it should be the goal. The goal should be to create quality content that breaks away from the norm and makes people think, laugh, or even cry. Producing a content mill will not reach your prospective consumers, but creating the right content will. Stop wasting your time producing a lot of content when you could be producing the right content. Go ahead, I dare you.  

For more information and interesting articles go to SMstudy.com.

[Stephanie Vezilj, SMstudy staff writer, contributed to this article]

Going Native

Posted by SMstudy® on March 30, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: native advertising, content marketing, BrandVoice, Onion Labs

Native advertising has been around for a patch now. “Pay-to-play” content began appearing in newspapers (and later over the airwave) as early as the 1910s. Native ads, as noted by the SMstudy® Guide, “blend in with their surroundings” and “are promotional pieces attempting to look like the material to which they are adjacent.”

So, native ads, compared to “regular” ads, feel a lot like editorials, but are in fact ads dressed up to look like legitimate editorial content and all that that denotes, in particular, “free of influence.”

For much of their existence, at least from the news/editorial camp, native ads have been the harbinger of the breach in the ever-threatened levy between editorial and advertising. In addition, they were met with a fair degree of criticism for their deceptive nature. Deceptive because, by its core definition, native advertising is “a form of advertising that matches and blends in with the medium it appears on. Ads use the same form as the content contained in the medium,” according to author Vishveshwar Jatain, and when done well, it should cause no “disruption” in the reader or viewers experience and blend in such a way as to “dupe” them.

Criticism of native advertising has lessened over the years and native ads are, in fact, seeing a rebirth in our current digital landscape. This isn’t the first time native advertising has morphed to fit in with new technologies. At every step, it has adapted, whether it be radio, television and now…the Internet. Darwin would be impressed.

But simply adapting to a new environment doesn’t necessarily account for its renaissance. For this, we need to delve into the huge financial hit the news media took when the public caught on to the idea of “free” online news. While for many of us a great boon, free online news has led to a drastic decline in subscribership. Pile on the abundance of virtual advertising space currently available (compared to the finite space of a newspaper) and we begin to understand the severely limping revenue streams news outlets are wading in. This financial pinch (stranglehold) experienced in the news media landscape led to a shocking reduction in funds for 1. paying journalists and 2. paying for resources so journalists could do their jobs. For a peek into the harsh takedown of news media in the mid-2000s, visit paper cuts, a site that tracked layoffs and buyouts at U.S. newspapers between 2007-2012.

At the same time, we saw the rise of content marketing (related to the decline of news outlet’s ability to provide quality content? Perhaps a topic for another blog). Based on current research and data, we, the people, are overwhelmingly fond of content marketing, but only if it provides relevant, valuable information. We’re fond even when we know it’s an ad!

And even though the concept of deception and the potential breach of the great wall dividing adverts and editorial is still a thorn in the side of ethically-fierce news folk,  native advertising is back in action and is a natural ally of content marketing.

Whatever the reservations of some legacy news outlets to native adverts, some sites don’t suffer the same ethical hemming and hawing. In fact, some have found very innovative ways to pro-actively manage the content marketing that appears on their sites.

Forbes, under the leadership of Lewis Dvorkin, has created a department called BrandVoice (originally AdVoice) to focus on the content needs of its advertisers. Headed by Forbes Media chief revenue officer, Meredith Levien, BrandVoice is a division of Forbes completely separate from the editorial staff. BrandVoice has hired editors, reporters, designers, and so on in order to offer high-quality content to its advertisers. And business is booming. In fact, Levien sites BrandVoice as the main factor for the company’s high revenue in 2012, a five-year best.

Other outlets who have embraced native advertising are Buzzfeed and The Onion, the 34-year-old satirical news outlet. Onion Labs, a division of Onion Inc., offers its top-notch writers to advertisers for content development with the added bonus of extreme hilarity.

From the Onion Labs web page:

“Onion, Inc. has perfected influencing some of the hardest to reach audiences in the world, through intelligent, insightful and often hilarious content.

Through our content services division, Onion Labs, we offer that influence to brands. We've combined the greatest comedy and pop culture writers in the world with some of the most decorated advertising minds in the business.

Onion Labs works with each client to understand the brand's strategic goals, then builds custom content solutions that are distributed through both Onion, Inc. and client channels.”

And as the good word spreads (a recent Pew Research report notes a major uptick in investment, in 2012, ads rose 38.9%, to $1.56 billion following a 56.1% increase in 2011), other outlets are testing the waters as well, including Hearst, Time and Conde Nast.

So, all signs point to content marketing channeled through native advertising as a direction worthy of investigation, at least from a marketing standpoint…however, maybe not the sort of investigation diehard journos would like to see.

For more on sales and marketing, visit smstudy.com.

 

Sources:

“Native Advertising Shows Great Potential, But Blurs Editorial Lines,” Mediashift, Terry Thornton. April 2, 2013. http://mediashift.org/2013/04/native-advertising-shows-great-potential-but-blurs-editorial-lines092/

Onion Labs, http://labs.theonion.com/advertising/

Native Advertising Summit: Beyond Church and State https://vimeo.com/61302537

The Ultimate Guide to Native Advertising, Joe Pulizzi, Jan. 7, 2014. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140107180859-5853751-the-ultimate-guide-to-native-advertising?trk=mp-reader-card

“Native Advertising is Not Content Marketing,” Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Institute, Aug. 25, 2015. http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2015/08/native-advertising-content-marketing/

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, The State of the News Media 2013: An Annual Report on American Journalism. http://www.stateofthemedia.org/2013/overview-5/

“Native Advertising: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know,” Vishveshwar Jatain, Go Native or Go Home, Aug. 7, 2015.  http://www.adpushup.com/blog/native-advertising-everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know/

 

 

A Disappearing Brand

Posted by SMstudy® on March 28, 2016 | Marketing Research (MR)

Keywords: Marketing, Research

The iPad was Apple’s last big innovation launched in 2010. Since then the company has yet to give the people a product that has really caused us to say, “wow.”

Why is this?

In the last five years the company has released upgrades to the iPhone, but I think we can all agree that Apple has mastered the art of the iPhone, so maybe it is time to move onto something else. The company seems to have adopted the, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, but the problem with this approach is technology is not static. It is changing, adapting and growing every second; so instead of mastering its product, the company should think of advancing with technology by creating a new product. 

Apple followed the iPad release with the iPad Pro, which should have provided us all with that “wow” factor that we have been looking for, but unfortunately the device seems more like a copy of Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3. So, instead of creating new, innovative products the company has stooped to mimicking.

This rut that Apple finds itself in can all be attributed to their previous innovations. According to Timothy Wang at Cubic Lane, “the company is at the top of the industry in the terms of revenues. There is really no pressing need to create or change when business is doing so well.”

The company has to get out of the comfort zone they’ve created if they plan on staying on top of the industry. Remember Nokia? The company used to be the leader in the mobile phone industry. If Apple doesn’t change their mentality soon they could become just another disappearing brand.

As discussed in the recent article, “Out with Innovation, in with Maturation,” brand loyalty is the reason for the company’s continued success, but if we, as consumers, aren’t provided with a big “wow” anytime soon we might find loyalty for another brand. I used to love my Nokia, but now I love my iPhone. Maybe I’ll love my Samsung Galaxy next, you never know.

Apple can look to the SMstudy® Guide, the Sales and Marketing Body of Knowledge, to find their answer. As noted in Marketing Research, book two in the six book series, “A 5C Analysis is one of the most popular and useful frameworks in understanding internal and external environments. It is an extension of the 3C Analysis that originally included, Company, Customers, and Competitors. Collaborators and Climate were later added to the analysis to make it comprehensive. This integrated analysis covers the most important areas of marketing, and the insights generated can help identify the key problems and challenges facing the organization.”

An analysis of the company and where it wishes to advance in order to beat competitors and appease their customers can be done with the help of collaborators and climate. Apple needs to stand up to its reputation as the most innovative company in order to stay on top of the technological food chain, and fortunately for the company the SMstudy® Guide is the light at the end of their innovative tunnel.

For more interesting articles and resources visit SMstudy.com

Contemplating Ones Corporate Navel; Analyzing Market Opportunity and SMstudy

Posted by SMstudy® on March 28, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: marketing, strategy, SWOT, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities

With the world breathlessly awaiting the next new super child of business, the hot topics in the dreams of entrepreneurs everywhere are innovation and disruption. Yet, the topic that will make the difference between a super child and an abandoned orphan will be market opportunity.

“An analysis of market opportunities is important because businesses operate in dynamic and constantly evolving environments, so understanding the changing landscape and trends that are impacting the business helps in developing an effective marketing strategy,” says Marketing Strategy, book one of the SMstudy® Guide series. This is true of established businesses developing innovations as well as startups pushing the envelope.

 There’s an adage that says “we make our own opportunities.” The first place to look then is inside one’s self. To a significant extant that is true of business opportunities as well. That is why it is important for a company exploring new innovations to look closely at “the concepts related to analyzing the internal capabilities of [the] company as well as the factors of the external environment that impact the business,” according to Marketing Strategy. In other words, starting a new venture is a good time to contemplates one’s corporate navel.

The Guide recommends using the first two parts of a SWOT analysis—determine strengths and weaknesses—for this introspection. This step is especially necessary for entrepreneurs, who are often in the process of creating the company that will develop and deliver the innovation or disruption. These first parts of a SWOT analysis can be tailored to tell the innovator which strengths should be incorporated into the new organization and which ones should be avoided. Instead of asking, “what are our company’s strengths based on past successes?” the entrepreneur can ask, “what strengths do companies that have succeeded with similar products and services possess? And how can our new company get them?”

Marketing Strategy identifies four inputs that can aid in this process: senior management direction and insights, organizational capabilities, assumptions and constraints and existing market research reports. Obtaining senior management insights may seem impossible for a new company with no senior executives; however, innovation does not happen in a vacuum. That’s why both Thomas Edison and Alexander Bell had to defend themselves against more than one hundred patent suits. There are sources for expert opinion and insights.

Organizational capabilities will have to be tweaked again for entrepreneurs starting companies. Instead of taking an inventory of existing capabilities—in all areas such as finance, operations, human resources, location, intellectual property and organizational culture—startups must determine what capabilities they will need in each of these areas.

“An assumption can be defined as anything that is considered to be true without proof,” says Marketing Strategy. While assumptions are necessary when making plans that deal with the uncertainty of the future, “assumptions related to Sales and Marketing should be clearly thought through and explicitly stated, validated and agreed upon before deciding on any specific strategy or marketing plan.” Assumptions are the home of unrealistic expectations for many innovators and visionaries. They should be agreed upon with extreme caution, clarity and common sense.

Most industries have numerous associations that produce researched reports on current developments and market trends. For example, project management has the Project Management Institute’s Pulse of the Profession report. Governments and institutions of higher learning issue reports almost constantly.

Whatever information the next super child needs, it is out there. And if it has to do with sales and marketing, it is available from SMstudy.

 

For more interesting articles on sales and marketing visit SMstudy.com 

 

You, the Job Marketplace and SMstudy

Posted by SMstudy® on March 25, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: marketing, employment, jobs, SMstudy,

“Sell yourself” has been the mantra of experts in both resume writing and job interviewing since the mid-1990s. As employment rates fluctuate like celebrity popularity, that mantra is more true now than it has ever been and opportunities to use it come more often.

“What is disappearing today is not just a certain number of jobs, or jobs in certain industries, or jobs in some part of the country—even jobs in America as a whole. What is disappearing is the very thing itself: the job,” wrote William Bridges in his 1994 book JobShift: How to Prosper in a Workplace Without Jobs.  Bridges identified “the job” as the twentieth century’s concept of the career: a job one would do at the same company for the entire time from being hired to being retired. It is that job, the career, that he saw disappearing.

Using emerging employment patterns from Silicon Valley and technology, he described a workplace in which people with marketable skills move from one project to another, from one company to another with some of the companies even being competitors. One’s career was no longer a relationship between worker and employer, but the continual utilization of skills to provide a service companies will pay for.

Bridges suggested that workers begin to view their relationship with their organization as a marketplace. This means selecting and developing skills based on what businesses need and want, “Your customer’s worlds are changing just as fast as yours is, and yesterday’s services are either no longer as useful as they once were, or are so widely available that neither you nor they can profit by concentrating on them.”  

As time has passed, it has become apparent that each employee needs to have more than one service to offer employers; so much so, that workers not only need to see their employers as markets, but themselves as entrepreneurs. “We are all entrepreneurs now,” says Liz Ryan, CEO and founder of Human Workplace.  

In describing people who have let their “selling yourself” skills lag as “asleep,” Ryan says, “They don’t know what kind of Business Pain they solve for employers. They’re not thinking of themselves like entrepreneurs, the way all of us need to do — even kids who are just finishing college.”

The question becomes, “How does one think like an entrepreneur?” Ryan suggest asking ten questions. SMstudy offers resources to help answer those questions. 

For example, Ryan says a worker should ask him or herself, “Can you list eight to twelve organizations you’d approach right now if your job disappeared — organizations that employ people like you?” Where does one begin to answer a question like this? Usually, the first resort is to think about companies that other have talked about, but one could approach this like a marketing team. When given a new product, a marketing team begins a process of analyzing market opportunity. They determine the strengths and weaknesses of both the product and the company, the opportunities and threats in the marketplace, and define and identify market segments, according to Marketing Strategy, book on of the SMstudy® Guide.

Before getting into identifying those eight to twelve organization, a personal inventory of one’s strengths and weaknesses is in order. Once that is known, the employee as entrepreneur can begin to describe the characteristics that companies must have to be considered a true opportunity. This is analogous to selecting target segments for marketing, “After the market segments have been identified, the company conducts a market attractiveness analysis to identify the relative attractiveness of each segment. The marketing team should also create ‘personas’ of ideal customers in each segment,” according to the SMstudy® Guide.

Ryan’s second question for workers to ask themselves is “Do you know what your talents are worth in the talent marketplace (not just what you’re getting paid now)?” Marketing teams determine pricing strategies for themselves, “When a product’s price, value proposition, and positioning are optimally aligned, a company is in a position to maximize revenues and profits.” The value proposition is the answer to “why should we hire you rather than someone else?” Pricing can be determined by using several of the sites and organizations that track average salaries per industry.

Ryan has eight more questions that are worth considering, even studying, and we (editorial we) do not want to take the wind out her sails by repeating all of them here. The point here is that for those who see the validity of her assertion that we are all entrepreneurs as workers, SMstudy has some resources to help function that way. And that way can lead to maximized revenues and profits!

Ryan. Liz. (3/23/16) “The Fatal Career Mistake You Won't Realize You're Making.” Forbes. Retrieved on 3/25/16 from http://www.forbes.com/sites/lizryan/2016/03/23/the-fatal-career-mistake-you-wont-realize-youre-making/2/#22546fee5a52

The SMstudy® Guide is a series of six books that provide guidelines for the Sales and Marketing of products and services. It is available at http://www.smstudy.com/SMBOKGuide/Overview-of-SMstudy-Guide.

You are So Annoying! Not You, SMstudy, I am on the Phone

Posted by SMstudy® on March 24, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: marketing, native, advertising, smartphone, SMstudy, annoying

It seems that there are some dangers with “going native.”

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has increased its oversight of native advertising online and on smartphones. The most recent company running afoul of this intensified supervision is Lord & Taylor, who just settled with the governmental body over charges that “it deceived consumers through paid article in an online fashion magazine and paid Instagram posts,” according to the FTC.

Part of Lord & Taylor’s problem were efforts to produce and publish native advertising. “Native advertising is a form of online advertising that blends in with its surroundings,” according to Digital Marketing, book two of the SMstudy® Guide. The FTC’s charges identified activities among which were “a seemingly objective article in the online publication Nylon and a Nylon Instagram post, without disclosing that the posts actually were paid promotions for the company’s 2015 Design Lab clothing collection.” Here was an attempt to blend in with the surrounding content that seems to have blended in all too well.

“While native advertising can be perceived as annoying, it can also be an effective tool if properly used,” asserts the SMstudy® Guide, and the FTC is addressing both points: annoying and proper. What is the proper use of native advertising? The FTC’s actions against Lord & Taylor has resulted in an agreement between the two entities that is open to comment until April 14, 2016. This means the public can become part of defining what is proper.

While that discussion is going on, another facet of technology-driven changes in advertising will definitely become part of the dialogue: using the smartphone. “Unlike traditional marketing in public spaces--such as billboards, magazines, and television--the smartphone is a highly personal space for the consumer and requires an entirely different engagement model,” says Christina Desmarais in an opinion piece for Inc. magazine online.

With personal engagement comes personal offense. The reaction of the consumer becomes less “Do you really think that little of your customers?” and more “What type of girl do you think I am!” 

Those who wish to use native advertising will need to develop a keen sensibility as marketing becomes more personal and the natives become more restless.

 

For more interesting information and articles about Sales and Marketing visit SMstudy.com.

“Lord & Taylor Settles FTC Charges It Deceived Consumers Through Paid Article in an Online Fashion Magazine and Paid Instagram Posts by 50 ‘Fashion Influencers’” (3/15/16) Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved on 3/24/16 from https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2016/03/lord-taylor-settles-ftc-charges-it-deceived-consumers-through

An overview of the SMstudy® Guide is available at http://www.smstudy.com/SMBOKGuide and a free course on Digital Marketing is available at http://www.smstudy.com/Certification/Digital-Marketing-Associate.

The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through April 14, 2016, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Interested parties can submit comments electronically by following the instructions in the “Invitation To Comment” part of the “Supplementary Information” section.

Desmarais, Christina. (2/29/2016) “Why Everything You Know about Marketing is Obsolete” Inc. Retrieved on 3/24/16 from http://www.inc.com/christina-desmarais/why-everything-you-know-about-marketing-is-obsolete.html

How Low Can You Go? How High Can You Get?

Posted by SMstudy® on March 23, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: smstudy, sales, marketing, pricing, strategy

Continually rising prices at the gas pump since the mid-1970s has had us all asking, “How high can these get?!” As 2015 slipped into 2016, with oil by the barrel in free fall, we found ourselves asking, “How low can this go?”

The roller coaster of oil pricing per barrel and sticker surprise at the gas pump has a lot of people wondering, “How in the world do they set those prices?”

Companies set their prices according to their own pricing strategy, which “properly prices products or services so that the company can sustain profitability while maintaining or growing its market share,” according to SMstudy’s Marketing Strategy, book one in the SMstudy® Guide series. Even though it sometimes seems as though companies are grabbing for quick profits and letting the future take care of itself, sustained profitability and growth in market share are part of every sane strategy.

Coming up with that sane strategy isn’t as easy as a few fat cats sitting around in a smoky room saying, “Well, what do we want to charge for this?” That question is likely to be followed with another, “What CAN we get for this?” And now our fat cats are talking strategy. The SMstudy® Guide says, “In order to develop a comprehensive Pricing Strategy, a company must specifically evaluate and understand the trends and dynamics in many areas such as the following:

  • the features and pricing of competitive products in the market
  • the company’s desired positioning, mapped against that of the competition to identify pricing of similarly positioned products
  • the consumer mindset to understand the demand and spending capability for each product
  • the cost, projected unit sales, and targeted profitability levels of each product
  • the innovativeness of each product
  • the capability of the production and operations teams to create high-quality products at reasonable costs
  • the knowledge of the current and desired market shares for each product.”

 The SMstudy® Guide details nine inputs and fourteen tools companies can use to understand these trends and dynamics to design a successful pricing strategy. One input is the company’s own positioning statement. This statement is important because “how a company markets a product impacts who buys it and how much consumers are willing to pay to purchase it.” The positioning statement identifies who the company wants to sell to and how much it would like those customers to pay. “A company that caters to a wealthier market segment with relatively high disposable incomes, aims to create a premier positioning for the product focusing on the quality of the goods or services, brand messaging, and packaging.” This market position allows for premium pricing, too.  It is no wonder that there are at least three grades of gasoline at every pump.

Another input is “opportunities and threats.” As the SMstudy® Guide points out, “Identifying and analyzing opportunities and threats help the company consider the external factors that may influence the costs involved in manufacturing a product or service and subsequently impact its pricing.” This is why refinery fires, hostile take overs of oil fields, and sudden growth from emerging markets all over the world affect the price of gasoline at the station on the corner.

So, how in the world do they set those prices? By following a rather elaborate pricing strategy.

For more help understanding pricing and marketing strategies, visit SMstudy.com

The information in this article comes from chapter four of SMstudy’s Marketing Strategy, book one in the SMstudy® Guide series of six books that also include Marketing Research, Digital Marketing, Corporate Sales, Retail Sales and Branding and Advertising.

What Did You Do When You Were Supposed to be Sleeping?

Posted by SMstudy® on March 23, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: Marketing, Strategy

Sleep Cycle is an app that tracks your sleep cycle. Seems pretty simple, but looks can be deceiving. In November of 2015, just a few short months ago, the app was released to the public and the vote is in. Everyone loves it.

So, here’s what you do. First, download the app. Before you go to sleep set the alarm programmed in the app and the sleep cycle device will activate. Place your phone screen side down on your nightstand, plug in your charger, and, hopefully, have a great night of sleep.

When you wake up in the morning, the app provides you with a line graph that depicts how many hours you were in bed and how your sleep varied throughout the night from awake, sleep, and deep sleep.

I tried out the app for the first time last night and it appears as if I am a champion sleeper, but I moved 1,267 times. I am a champion sleeper that thrashes.

But that’s not all! The trends tab on the app is available to premium members, and it provides you with several different charts that display sleep quality, what time you went to bed, the amount of time in bed, and what time you woke up at for the week. It also gives you a percentage in regards to sleep quality. Did you sleep poorly because you ate dinner too late? Or did you wake up refreshed because you hit the gym the day before? The app will tell you. It also lets you know if your sleep quality was affected by air pressure, weather, or if you are a thrasher like me.

You get all of this information for a large fee of 83 cents a month (This is not a typo).

Sales and marketing professionals can learn a thing or two from Sleep Cycle. We, as people, are fascinated about sleep. We can’t study our own sleep patterns, considering we are sleeping, so it was all too fascinating to find out that I sleep the majority of my night in a deep sleep. I would have never known that. That’s how they get us in. It’s all a marketing ploy. And then for just 83 cents a month I can not only learn how I sleep, but I will learn how I can sleep better. Who doesn’t want to know that?

83 cents a month is nothing for us fortunate enough to be living in a first world country. We see the advantages for the app, sign up, and never unsubscribe because it is only 83 cents, even though we never use the app anymore and it has been long forgotten. And the money is just rolling in for Sleep Cycle.

(Applause for Sleep Cycle)

So what did they do right? First of all, it is a very big gamble to charge such a low monthly fee. But according to Marketing Strategy, book one in the SMstudy® Guide, it was a very calculated move with the help of secondary marketing research. “Secondary marketing research involves the use of content and information that is currently available within the company or in the market through primary research that has already been conducted and is readily obtainable through company reports, trade journals, industry publications, and/or the Internet.”

The very popular Fitbit will track your sleep, but it can cost upwards of 200 dollars. Fitbit sold nearly 11 million devices last year, so the market was there. From looking at information that was right at their fingertips, Sleep Cycle was able to build a sales and marketing plan that was destined to succeed.

I was pulled in by a marketing ploy and I didn’t even see it. That’s how you know a company is doing its job well. I look forward to going to sleep tonight, I have a competitive streak, so I want to beat last night’s amazing performance.

Give it a try, you know you want to.

For more information and resources about sales and marketing visit SMstudy.com.

[Stephane Vezilj, SMstudy staff writer, contributed to this article]

A Ninety-two-year-old, a Value Proposition and SMstudy

Posted by SMstudy® on March 22, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: product designer, blog pages, value proposition, Marketing strategy, Sales and Marketing, target markets, marketing mix, pricing, distribution strategy

“Leaders are teachers and good team members,” according to product designer Barbara Beskind.

“If you can help those who are under you maximize their greatest potential, you’re a successful leader,” Beskind told interviewer Sarah Bielecki for a story on the Stanford Engineering website.[i]

And this could lead someone to ask, “how does Beskind rate an article in Stanford Engineering’s blog pages, and why should I care?” In sales and marketing terms this question is asking about Beskind’s unique value proposition.  In a way, everyone determines the value proposition of everything they offer to others.

A value proposition is “a business or marketing statement that summarizes why a consumer should buy a product or use a service. This statement should convince a potential consumer that one particular product or service will add more value or better solve a problem than other similar offerings.”[ii] For Bielecki, journalists and blog writers, this question comes into play when we find a source to quote—Why should the reader (our consumers) accept what I am telling them? What value does this expert or authority add to the information I want to share?

Bielecki answered this question by providing Beskind’s “bona fides” or credentials, telling her readers that at the age of 89 Beskind wrote to David Kelly, CEO of IDEO, “offering to help IDEO design for aging and low-vision populations.” Kelly soon hired her, and Bielecki spoke with her three years later, when she was 92 years-old, adding that “Prior to her career at IDEO, Beskind served in the U.S. Army for 20 years as an occupational therapist. She retired as a major in 1966 and went on to found the Princeton Center for Learning Disorders, the first independent private practice in occupational therapy in the United States”—all in all, a unique and beneficial value proposition when discussing the difference between a leader and a manager.  

For businesses, the value proposition isn’t about sourcing, it’s about strategy. “Marketing strategy is one of the most crucial Aspects of Sales and Marketing,” according to Marketing Strategy, book three of the SMstudy® Guide,[iii] “It defines a product or brand’s unique value proposition, target markets, and the specific strategies to be used to connect with defined audiences.”

There are many ways for businesses to determine a value proposition—what is the value of the problem being solved, the need being met or the revenue to be earned? An additional approach to complete the value picture is to look at one’s competition. “Competitive positioning tools help a company explore how it can differentiate its product or service offerings in order to create a value proposition for those products or services in the market,” says the SMstudy® Guide. And creating a differentiated competitive position “helps the company maintain focus on each product and its value proposition while developing the key elements of its marketing mix, pricing, and distribution strategy.”

Like the journalist selling the idea that a 92-year-old product designer has something to say about developing leadership, a company has a lot to gain by defining and clearly articulating its value, “when a product’s price, value proposition, and positioning are optimally aligned, a company is in a position to maximize revenues and profits.” And that’s a valuable proposition for any business.

For more information on sales and marketing, visit smstudy.com

Out with Innovation, in with Maturation

Posted by SMstudy® on March 22, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: Marketing, Strategy

Apple will be 40-years-old on April 1st. It is no longer the young hip company that many of us still see it as. Technically, it is a middle-aged company, so maybe it is time for some mature decisions when it comes to its products.

Yesterday, Apple released a list of new items that are to be available in the upcoming months. The first is the iPhone SE. “It looks like the iPhone 5S, Apple's last 4-inch phone released in 2014, but has the same processor and graphics performance as the iPhone 6S. Inside is Apple's A9 chip, which doubles the speed of the iPhone 5S. It can use Hey Siri, the hands-free voice assistant, has a 12MP camera, and shoots 4K video. There is an NFC chip inside so the phone can work with Apple Pay,” said Apple CEO, Tim Cook.

For a company that was deemed the most innovative company by the Boston Consulting Group in 2015, it seems to be slowing its pace with this new release. But why?

Apple sold over 30 million iPhone 5s last year. There is a demand for a smaller, less expensive phone, so it only makes sense that Apple would market to this audience. But for a company that focuses on innovation, this new release is out of the norm.

The company is well aware of the fact that they aren’t going to lose customers due to this mature, thought-out decision thanks to their brand loyalty. According to Marketing Strategy, book one of the SMstudy® Guide, “This metric (brand loyalty) is reflected by how many customers purchase a brand repeatedly. It indicates the commitment that customers have towards a brand and is the basis of a strong relationship between the brand ad its customers. The underlying metrics for brand loyalty may be the percentage of repeat customers out of total customers, the frequency of repeat purchases, and the degree to which other brands are also purchased along with the brand under consideration.” With a bit more than a billion Apple devices in live use around the world today, the brand loyalty is definitely there.

Since Apple is a 40-year-old company that has made a name for itself in the world of innovation, it is a smart move to put on the innovative breaks when it comes to the iPhone and focus on what the people want. And what they want is a phone that fits well in their hand, has a great camera, and runs quickly. Really, who does use all of those extra features anyway?

This doesn’t mean that Apple won’t be launching the iPhone 7 at their regular release time in September (and it better be amazing … and if it’s not, I will probably still purchase it), it just means that the company thought good and hard about why 30 million people chose the smaller, cheaper iPhone 5 over the more advanced iPhone 6S.

We all have to grow up someday, even Apple. It is enlightening to see the company break free from the Peter Pan Syndrome and make responsible decisions to further their brand and their company. But we all look forward to what it will come up with next. My vote is for holograms, anyone else with me?

For more interesting articles, information and resources visit SMstudy.com

[Stephanie Vezilj, SMstudy staff writer, contributed to this article]

Innovation, Marketing and Avoiding Failure

Posted by SMstudy® on March 22, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: SMstudy, segmentation, marketing, metrics

When famous, powerful people say, “I failed,” it gets people’s attention.

When famous, powerful people say, “I failed,” there’s usually a “but it wasn’t really my fault” lurking about.

When David Fradin, former division head at Apple, wrote a guest blog for Aha! titled “Why I Failed with the Apple III and Steve Jobs Succeeded with the Macintosh,”[i] it got the attention of SMstudy. And even though he never said it directly, there was an “it really wasn’t my fault” argument sidling through the piece. That argument really got their attention.

Fradin says that when he took over the Apple III product line he discovered ambiguity and confusion over the line’s targeted market segment. The product’s architect had a definite idea of who the Apple III was designed for and the marketing people did not agree, “To make matters worse, Marketing did not agree that there was any demand for the Apple III in the SOHO (Small Office, Home Office) or SMB (Small to Medium Business) market.”

How could the marketing department not see the logic of the architect? “That’s because Market Analysts had not identified such market segments yet. So, Apple’s own Marketing team could not identify those as market segments by themselves,” says Fradin. Claims like this—all too common with innovative and disruptive products—make the professionals at SMstudy sit up and take notice. They even smiled. That’s because they have addressed this situation in Marketing Strategy and Marketing Research, books one and three in their A Guide to the SMstudy® Sales and Marketing Body of Knowledge (SMBOK® Guide) series.[ii]

“Once the market has been defined, the company can then divide the market into various segments based on carefully chosen segmentation criteria. Customer segmentation should be used to help a company tailor specific offerings to segments that provide a distinct competitive advantage,” says the SMBOK® Guide, also known as the SMstudy® Guide. Though this seems fairly obvious on the surface, for innovative companies, this can be a problem. What segmentation criteria is the company going to carefully choose? The product may be so new that no one is sure how customers and user will actually use it. It is not surprising that the majority of the first Apple IIIs went to developers who were eager for more computing power, more drives, and did not care about the user friendliness that was so important to Apple’s other users. 

Even within the company, the Apple III had a distinct competitive advantage over the Apple II. The “product line was contributing over $100M per year in gross profits … because the Apple III focused on the Enterprise market and had a much higher Average Selling Price (ASP) than the Apple II.” But the company did not know it.

They did not know it because the company’s “metric — or key performance indicator (KPI) — was ‘units sold,’” according to Fradin, who says, “Instead, we should have focused on profitability.” The “units sold” metric came from the manufacturing division instead of marketing which added to a lack of focus. The process of determining metrics should “include the positioning statement, which describes the value a product or brand offers to its target customers; the Pricing Strategy; the Distribution Strategy; Industry Benchmarks and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs); and the goals that are defined at the corporate and/or business unit or geographic levels,” according to the SMstudy® Guide. Things might have gone better for Fradin and the Apple III if someone had remembered this.

The Marketing Strategy book has a chapter that “deals with the selection of the metrics to be used for sales and marketing efforts, such as customer reach, brand perception, product availability, and sales and profitability.”

But what about the market being so new that Apple’s marketing people did not know what segmentation criteria to use? Marketing Strategy suggests beginning with existing reports, “There are two types of marketing research reports that can serve as inputs for market segmentation—industry reports and company commissioned reports.” From Fradin’s comments, it is clear that industry reports were not available, so the emphasis moves to ones “that have been created or commissioned in the past by the company to understand specific information about the markets under consideration that the company is not able to understand adequately through other sources.”

By the time Fradin took over the Apple III division it had already been through three project managers, including the man who later developed PowerPoint. Previous Apple computers had been revolutionizing the market, the Apple II had been around a while, and they were selling 40,000 of them per month. Apple was in a position to have some proprietary research that could give hints about where to go with the Apple III.

SMstudy’s Marketing Research book makes the point that “marketing research is linked to all other Aspects of Marketing as it provides critical insights that inform key decisions in all other marketing planning and strategies.” Some type of research was needed to help Apple focus on the Apple III. In researching market segments there are two broad categories of the data one can collect: primary and secondary. Secondary data is the type you can get from reports that have already been written such as industry reports. Primary data comes from activities that a company or its research organization carries out directly with the customers and market members. “As a rule, a researcher should always try to collect and analyze secondary data before moving to the collection and analysis of comparatively costly and time-consuming primary data,” suggests Marketing Research. And this makes sense.

What also makes sense is that to avoid making decisions like those that led to the failure of the Apple III, one should use some insightful marketing strategies and do a good bit of quality research. SMstudy and the SMstudy® Guide can help!

 

[i] Fradin, David. (3/21/16) “Why I Failed with the Apple III and Steve Jobs Succeeded with the Macintosh.” Aha! [Guest blog] Retrieved on 3/22/16 from http://blog.aha.io/index.php/why-i-failed-with-the-apple-iii-and-steve-jobs-succeeded-with-the-macintosh/

[ii] The SMstudy® Guide can be found at http://smstudy.com/SMBOKGuide.

 

The New Battleground for Brands

Posted by SMstudy® on March 21, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital, Marketing

Consumers rely on their mobile devices to keep them in-the-know in order to make decisions regarding their personal and professional lives. Think about it, on average you check your smartphone 85 times per day. That’s 85 chances for companies to get their brand seen. And most companies have attempted to optimize this opportunity by expanding their reach through mobile apps, but have fallen flat.

Here’s why: micro-moments, or “intent-driven moments of decision-making and preference-shaping that occur throughout the entire consumer journey.”  

Let me break it down for you a little further. People use their smartphones to purchase products, look up information, and watch videos. Sometimes they just reflexively turn to their device. According to Google, “In these moments, consumers' expectations are higher than ever. The powerful computers we carry in our pockets have trained us to expect brands to immediately deliver exactly what we are looking for when we are looking. We want things right, and we want things right away.”

So what can we do? According to Digital Marketing, book 3 in the SMstudy® Guide, “Rich media ads are image ads incorporating animations or other elements that provide users with ways to interact with the ad. Such elements are often customized to match user behavior. The targeted and personalized nature of the ads is intended to generate greater engagement, resulting in more views and clicks.” These types of ads woo users into making the clicks that get them to the right thing right away.

Here are a couple easy tips for creating the perfect micro-moments for your company to fully get use of those dollars it spends on marketing:

Create a blueprint: we all need to start somewhere, and the best place is the drawing board. Figure out what your target consumers are looking for and when. It is helpful to use Google Analytics to assist this process. With this data you can efficiently decipher what draws consumers to your brand and at what time. Time is an important factor that many companies overlook. Consumers are more likely to search for information on their phone while they are performing a task, so releasing a micro-moment during regular business hours can promote viewers to keep on viewing. Provide your audience with what they want, when they want it.

Understand your consumers: People process visuals 60,000 times faster than text, so give the people what they want, videos! Quick thirty-second to one-minute videos that engage consumers will increase click-rates from the micro-moment to your website. It is important to create the right moments that make consumers want to learn more about your brand.

Create a moment that seamlessly leads to your product. This may seem like a no-brainer, but the content you create, whether it be visuals or text, better give the consumer relevant information about something they are interested in as well as information about your product. There needs to be a connection between the two. A good example of this is Dunkin’ Donuts. The company released an app that not only navigates you to the closest Dunkin’ Donuts coffee shop, but also depicts the wait time at each location, so customers can plan their route to the coffee shop with the least amount of wait time. The app and the micro-moment that was launched with the start of the app seamlessly takes the consumer to the product.

Become one of the successful brands that use micro-moments to market products, and for any questions refer to SMstudy.com to help you with all of your sales and marketing needs.

[Stephanie Vezilj, SMstudy staff writer, contributed to this article]

Refer a friend!

Posted by SMstudy® on March 18, 2016 | Corporate Sales (CS)

Keywords: referral program, word of mouth, Dropbox

Word-of-mouth referrals are the ultimate endorsement for a company, its products, services and staff. Referrals are therefore considered the gold standard of customer acquisition in many fields. But what can be done when the excellence of your salesmanship isn’t equating into a steady stream of referrals? When you’re giving it 110% and still not feeling the referral love?

When referrals aren’t being generously doled out by past or current customers, a smart referral program can be just the right form of encouragement they need to extol you and your company’s virtues. According to the SMstudy® Guide, Corporate Sales, referrals may happen on their own, but companies can also influence referrals through appropriate online marketing strategies.

The book states, “The key to a good referral program is not only to drive customer acquisition in the short term, but also to engage new and loyal customers, encouraging them to act on their brand advocacy.”

Incorporating a smart creative program can definitely be a win-win-win situation, benefiting the existing customer, potential customer and sales team.

The pluses of incorporating a referral program are noteworthy:

 A reduction in marketing costs. Satisfied customers are now incentivized to sing your praises and steer potential customers in your direction.

An improvement in customer satisfaction. Existing customers can engage and benefit from a referral program.

An all-around better Return on Investment (ROI).

After deciding to embark on a referral program, it’s time to put on the proverbial “thinking cap” and figure out what can be offered as a worthy token of a customer’s loyalty and how it can best be presented to customers. Every company is different but many find that offering what is within their wheelhouse enhances brand recognition and builds an ongoing conversation with customers.  

For example, the cloud-based file hosting service, Dropbox, ran a very successful referral campaign that offered 500MB of free storage to both the referrer and the referee. Sited by ReferralCandy as their #1 Best Practice Referral example, Dropbox experienced a 60% increase in sign-ups, beginning in September 2008 with 100,000 users to 4,000,000 in January of 2010. In addition, Dropbox noted that 35% of its daily enrollment was via their referral program.

In their article, “How Referrals Built a $10 Billion Dropbox Empire,” ReferralCandy places Dropbox’s program at the pinnacle of all referral programs for a few distinct reasons. Besides the general benefits noted above, smaller details helped set Dropbox apart, including:

A built-in referral process. Step 6 in the Dropbox sign up process… “Invite some friends to join Dropbox.”

Offer a gift, don’t ask a favor. Dropbox offers more free storage space to new members instead of asking them to refer a friend.

Make the referral process painless. Offer convenience with a choice in referral methods. Simple social media and email options are optimal.

Let the customer behind the curtain. Dropbox allows users to check on referrals via their dashboard.

Keep the train running. A confirmation email indicating when a referral has responded includes the option to refer another person. So, instead of being a one-time only affair, Dropbox has created a referral loop and as long as it maintains its appeal, it will continue to draw in referrals.

We’re always hoping well-earned referrals will be forever flowing in, but when they’re not, referral programs such as the one used by Dropbox have the potential to fire up our customers.

And as a final thought, consider this…ReferralCandy suggests that if advertising had been their only means of acquiring customers, Dropbox would have failed.

Not only did referrals allow Dropbox to escape death, it allowed them to avoid all traditional ad spend. That in turn would have allowed them to focus their resources on making a better product- further cementing their competitive advantage,” they said.

For more articles on sales and marketing, visit smstudy.com.

Image courtesy of JD Hancock, Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/jdhancock/6023780563/

Sources:

SMstudy® Guide, Corporate Sales, pg. 172-173.

“8 Proven Steps to Double Your Referrals from Other Attorneys,” Stephen Fairley

http://www.attorneyatlawmagazine.com/phoenix/8-proven-steps-double-referrals-attorneys/

“Referral Program Examples – An Epic List Of 47 Referral Programs,” ReferralCandy, http://www.referralcandy.com/blog/47-referral-programs/#best-practices

“How Referrals Built The $10 Billion Dropbox Empire,” ReferralCandy, http://www.referralcandy.com/blog/referrals-built-dropbox-empire/

 

 

Effective Methods of Determining Sales Force Size

Posted by SMstudy® on March 17, 2016 | Corporate Sales (CS)

Keywords: Sales, Marketing, Strategy

In most companies, the sales force is the most critical part of the business; thus determining the sales force size is critical in planning for sales governance. Although the corporate sales team is one of the most valued assets of the company, it can also be expensive to maintain. Increasing the size of the sales force may increase sales volume but at a higher cost to the company. It is therefore necessary to determine the optimal sales force size. The size of the sales force will also affect territory design.

The three most commonly used methods to determine sales force size are as follows:

Breakdown Method

This is the simplest method among the three. In this method, each member of the corporate sales team is assumed to possess the same level of productivity. In order to determine the size of the sales force needed, the total sales figure forecasted for the company is divided by the sales likely to be generated by each individual.

However, this method fails to account for differences in the ability of salespeople and the difference in potential of each market or territory. It treats the sales force as a function of the sales volume, and does not take profitability into account.

Workload Method

The workload method is also known as the buildup method. In this method, the total workload (i.e., the number of hours required to serve the entire market) is estimated. This is divided by the selling time available per salesperson to forecast the size of the sales force. This method is commonly used since it is easy to understand and to recognize the effort required to serve different categories of customers.

However, this method also has some shortcomings. It assumes that all accounts in the same category require the same effort. Other differentiating factors such as cost of servicing, gross margins, etc. are not considered after the accounts are categorized. It also assumes that sales persons are equally efficient, which is generally not true.  One way to overcome this shortcoming is to adjust the sales force size, determined in the last step, for efficiency. The sales force can be classified into different categories based on their efficiency and the actual number of sales persons required can then be calculated with this adjusted number.

Incremental Method

The incremental method is the most precise method to calculate the sales force size. The underlying concept is to compare the marginal profit contribution with the incremental cost for each sales person. The optimal sales force size as per the incremental method is when the marginal profit becomes equal to the marginal cost and the total profit is maximized. Beyond the optimal sales force size, the profit reduces on addition of an extra sales person. Therefore, sales people need to be added as long as the incremental profit exceeds the incremental cost of adding sales people. The main shortcoming associated with this approach is that it is difficult to estimate the additional profit generated by the addition of one salesperson and is therefore difficult to develop.

Thus sales force needs to be properly organized, motivated and compensated in order to have the right size to do the workload, alignment to cover all needs, and keeping them happy and selling. At the end of the day, they are the ones who get the customer to give up their money for the company’s product or service. 

To read more articles about sales and marketing, visit www.smstudy.com/articles

Plan B: Assessing Social Marketing Future Scenarios

Posted by SMstudy® on March 16, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: social media marketing,future scenarios

No one likes to contemplate a worst-case scenario, but it is wise to have a plan B. Any digital marketing strategy should think optimistically, but preparation for future scenarios that may look very different from today’s digital marketing landscape is vital to a brand’s survival.

“Anticipated future scenarios” is an output of the Evaluate Digital Marketing Channels process and is described by SMstudy® Guide, Digital Marketing as the analysis of the most likely future changes to take place in each digital marketing channel; analysis of the potential impact of defined changes; and proposed actions. 

Assessing possible changes in future digital channels that could affect revenue, production, access to resources and so on is primary. But a thorough analysis should also take into consideration the way technologies come together to create a brand new scenario, even though most changes occur incrementally, according to Andrew Frank, analysts with Gartner for Marketing Leaders.

“When this happens, brands that anticipate these transformational scenarios will thrive; incrementalists will lose out,” Frank said.

As Frank points out, it may be tempting to want to keep a set digital marketing channel strategy, but agility and open-mindedness will benefit today’s marketing strategists. Staying on top of trends and recognizing where they converge with a company’s product or brand is also a component of future scenario assessments.

With that in mind, here are the top 2016 digital marketing trends noted by Adam Fridman, founder of MeetAdvisors, published on Inc. Dec. 1, 2015:

Data, data, data. Learn to love it.

"In short, data is behavior. Learning from this behavior drives creative messaging and strategic campaigns. Tracking behavior and tapping into the emotional connection through messaging, ads, social, and design makes all the difference in the digital space.” 

Forget the funnel. The funnel is flawed.

“There's little opportunity to share the research and buying experience which is crucial for interacting with fans and getting more people into your funnel, or ecosystem. too much work on consumers and consumers hate doing too much work.”

Test with laser-like focus. Technology now allows for deep research on target audiences. Even detailed aspects of an ad can now be picked apart and analyzed for demographic appeal.

“Targeting is a crucial aspect of any marketing strategy and by marketing directly to your ideal audience, you're effectively and efficiently spending only what's ”

Social engagement. This isn’t new, but it’s definitely continuing.

Two things to know: 1. Encourage audience participation through creative engaging campaigns and 2. Spare them the mediocre content.

"Each social channel, blog post, e-mail, web link must have a purpose and drive towards something. Never post simply to post. Without engagement or traffic, those posts are a waste of time and money.”

Expand the team. Start to think about a marketing team as more than just the marketers for a company or brand. Every “share” received through social media channels is an endorsement, each person “reposting” is an ambassador. 

“Single marketing voices only reach the people already in their networks. To break through, companies and causes will increasingly need to partner with suppliers, brand and others to reach more people, more often.”

 

For more interesting articles on sales and marketing, visit smstudy.com.

Photo provided courtesy of  Anoop Kumar, Flickr. Image has been cropped. https://www.flickr.com/photos/anoopkumar/

Sources:

SMstudy® Guide, Digital Marketing, pg. 63-64.

“Agenda Overview for Emerging Marketing Technology and Trends, 2015,” Andrew Frank, Dec. 18, 2014. https://www.gartner.com/imagesrv/digital marketing/pdfs/Emerging_Marketing_Technology_and_Trends.pdf

“The Future of Digital Marketing- How It’s Changing in 2016,“ Andrew Fridman, Dec. 1, 2015. http://www.inc.com/adam-fridman/the-future-of-digital-marketing-how-it-s-changing-in-2016.html

 

All About Customer Advisory Boards

Posted by SMstudy® on March 16, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: Customer Advisory Boards, Marketing, Sales

A Customer Advisory Board (CAB) or Customer Advisory Council is a representative customer group comprising senior stakeholders who convene periodically to validate product features, the marketing plan, and the strategic direction of the company to ensure these align with customers and the market. The company uses the information gathered at these meetings to realign business priorities and formulate strategy.

CABs meet on a periodic basis, typically two or three times per year. Some companies choose to meet more or less frequently, depending on need. However, it is challenging to have frequent customer councils as participation at these events is often voluntary, and participants are usually constrained by time. Also, the time and resources taken to accomplish and follow through with changes discussed in the customer councils often do not allow for more frequent meetings.

A physical meeting is the most popular format for customer councils. Other formats used by companies include tele-conferences, video conferences, and online CABs. Using these formats can help reduce time and money spent on travel and can result in increased participation levels. However, while they are more convenient, these formats are not always as effective as face-to-face meetings.

Key Functions of CABs

Some of the important uses of CABs are as follows:

  • Validating ideas for new features or new products
  • Providing valuable insights into how customers are using the products
  • Prioritizing features and identifying the most important ones on which to focus
  • Assisting in understanding how the products fare against alternatives in the market
  • Helping in designing the next generation of products which customers may adopt in future
  • Assisting in retaining key customers
  • Increasing revenue opportunities within the existing customer base

A key distinction between a CAB and a focus group is that the members of a CAB are carefully chosen senior members of management from client organizations, unlike product users in the case of focus groups.

To read more articles about sales and marketing, visit www.smstudy.com/articles

Learn How to Make a Product Training Program Effective

Posted by SMstudy® on March 15, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: product training, sales, markeitng

In this fast pace business world companies are spending billions of dollars in training their sales forces about their product. But why only a few of the companies are successful when it comes to product training initiatives and rest are not able to yield the desired results? How can a company build an efficient and effective product training program? Let us have a look at it.

Well, product training program should impart an in-depth knowledge of the product or service being offered to the sales team. As a general rule, product training ensures that the sales team understands:

The features and functionality of the product

The features of the product are captured in detail in the input Product Features. When product features are presented to sales personnel, it is important to focus on how the features will benefit the customer. The sales team will need to be instructed on the intent and use of each feature. They may require practice using the product or demonstrations of its functionality. The corporate sales staff should have a level of familiarity with the product that enables them to explain the value of each feature, display the product’s ease of use, and answer any questions the customer might have about the features.

The customer’s use of the product

The way in which the customer uses the product, or integrates it into their existing system, is a key area that the corporate sales staff must understand. The ability to view the product’s purchase and implementation from the customer’s point of view greatly helps the sales staff to communicate with the customer, as it demonstrates knowledge of the customer’s needs. Descriptions of customer use and integration may be captured as part of the product strategy, the product features, and the sales value proposition.

Competitor’s products and their similarities and differences

The corporate sales staff needs to be trained on the specifics of any competitor’s products. Knowledge of similar products will help the sales staff focus on areas in which their product is superior, and anticipate customer questions.

How the product actually achieves the promised sales value proposition.

Being able to effectively communicate how the sales value proposition is applicable to a specific customer or target audience is a key component of corporate sales. The sales team will need training on the sales value proposition, which areas are of interest to which companies, and the quantifiable results of using the product.

Industry trends (related to product use)

Industry trends related to product use help the corporate sales team understand the usage patterns of customers over time. This can also help determine future buying trends. Knowledge of industry trends needs to be updated regularly. The corporate sales team must have access to market research reports to stay current on trends.

Additional offerings

Additional offerings refer to any incentive programs, sales commissions, and gifts for customers. The corporate sales team must know the company policy related to additional offerings when meeting with and presenting information to customers. Many buyers in large organizations are prohibited from accepting gifts or commissions from sellers. The seller can offer “value-adds” as part of the contract. This avoids the appearance of impropriety because it provides the incentives to the buying organization rather than to any one individual.

An effective product training program focuses more towards the benefits of the product and less towards its features. It utilizes the technology and provides the information for the product team. The product training programs are one of the vital parts of the organizational culture, especially of those organizations which are performing really great in the industry.

To read more interesting articles about sales and marketing, visit www.SMstudy.com/articles

Content Marketing Pt.1: Marketings New Weapon of Choice

Posted by SMstudy® on March 15, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: content marketing interruptive advertising social media channels

It’s official! Traditional “interruptive” advertising (both online and television) isn’t so hot nowadays. On the other hand, content marketing is emerging as the weapon of choice for brands who are in it to win it. Over a series of posts, we will explore the ins-and-outs of smart story-driven marketing, what it looks like when it’s done right and its importance in the social media landscape.

First, let’s mull some basic statistics that will illustrate how bad it really is for interruptive advertising. For television, the prospects are grim: one third of millennials already report not watching broadcast TV (originally reported by the New York Times in October 2013) with the numbers of people willing to break up with television at an astonishing high rate of 16 percent year over year (YOY).

And then there’s digital. Recent data show that online (and mobile) advertising isn’t on fire, either. According to the Contently Playbook, banner ad click- through rates (CTR) come in between .10 and .04 percent, some of which most likely represents some bot activity. They also state that ad recall (banner ads specifically) is abysmal with 86 percent of consumers unable to recall the last ad they saw. 

To drive the sorry state of digital ads home, Contently states, “You're more likely to survive a plane crash or join the Navy SEALs than click on a banner ad.”

Ouch. So much for the bad news.

Ready for the good news? Content marketing is a very attractive alternative to interruptive advertising and recent findings offers the numbers to back up its current lofty status in the marketing community. Business2Community reported content marketing driving traffic with 68% of consumers. In addition, they noted that “up to 55% of consumers are not only attracted to custom content but most would buy the products or services of the content provider.”

If these numbers persist, the future of content marketing looks quite rosy, indeed. There are, however, a few things to be aware of when venturing into a content marketing strategy.

One important issue with content marketing is the emergence of Peak Content, a phenomenon we reported on in February. At the time, we quoted author Kevin Anderson’s 2014 definition: “Peak Content is ‘the point at which this glut of things to read, watch and listen to becomes completely unsustainable.’” As of March 2016, we are still noting the trend.

The unprecedented rate at which people are posting content online is one quick example of Peak Content. Taken from the infographic, 24 Hours on the Internet, it’s reported (and this was in 2012) that 2 million blog posts are published every day. That’s 720,000,000 blog posts a year. With numbers like these we quickly see why quality is paramount to rise to the top of the content pile.

Additional evidence comes from the marketing data company TrackMaven that reported social media channels are suffering from lower engagement. They acknowledge low quality content is contributing to the decline.

The report states, “Most content fails at the content creation stage. Smart content can overcome bad distribution, but smart distribution cannot save bad content.”

Marketers either already know, or are catching on quickly, that high-quality content is the way to achieving greater engagement, including increased CTR, sales and all the other good stuff a company or brand likes to see.

In a nutshell, all signs point to the need to bring your A game when embarking on content marketing. 

Now that we know it’s working, how is it being done? More to the point, how is it being done well? In regards to content creation, options vary. A company may decide to use experts in a given field, hire freelancers, create an in-house team or create a unique cocktail of creation options that work with the brand’s needs and resources.

In our next post we’ll explore the growing “virtual newsroom” where content marketing is “beat” based and provides the space and structure for the highest-quality journalism-style content marketing…and the growing relationship between journalists and content marketing.

Stay tuned…

 

For more articles on sales and marketing, visit smstudy.com.

[Spring Eselgroth, VMEdu staff writer, contributed to this article.]

Photo courtesy of Florian Klauer, Unsplash.

Sources:

“Third of Millennials Watch Mostly Online Video or no Broadcast TV” Andrew Beaujon, Oct. 10, 2013, Poynter. http://www.poynter.org/2013/third-of-millennials-watch-no-broadcast-tv/225528/

“24 Hours on the Internet,” digtalbuzz blog, March 13, 2012 http://www.digitalbuzzblog.com/infographic-24-hours-on-the-internet/

“Marketers Are Creating More Content, but They’re Not Sure Why,” Natalie Burg, March 8, 2016, Contently https://contently.com/strategist/2016/03/08/marketers-creating-more-content-not-sure-why/

“The Ultimate Content Strategist Playbook No. 1: Evangelizing Content and Setting Yourself Up for Success,” Contently, https://contently.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/150303_Playbook.pdf

“Your Social Content is Failing. So now what?” Kara Burney, Feb. 5, 2015. http://trackmaven.com/blog/2015/02/data-backed-proof-that-social-media-content-is-failing-and-what-you-can-do-about-it/

“8 Hard-to-Ignore Content Marketing Benefits (Infographic),” Jomer Gregorio, Oct. 20, 2014, Business 2 Community. http://www.business2community.com/infographics/8-hard-ignore-content-marketing-benefits-infographic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Importance of Data collection in Marketing Research

Posted by SMstudy® on March 14, 2016 | Marketing Research (MR)

Keywords: marketing research, sales, data collection

Data collection is an important part of marketing research. Many significant marketing decisions are made based on the analysis of the data collected from a research project. One critical component of data collection is ensuring the quality of the data collected. Specifically, the data should be both high-quality and relevant. Data quality is the degree to which data represents the true situation. High-quality data is accurate, valid, and reliable, and it represents reality faithfully.

In some instances, researchers try to obtain the same data from multiple data sources to ensure the reliability and validity of the data collected. The following characteristics are assessed to determine the quality of data:

Reliability - The data should be reliable such that repeating the same methods produces the same results.

Validity - The data should measure or represent what it is supposed to measure.

Along with the quality of data, other important factors to consider in a research project are the availability of data and the affordability of the process required to collect it. Often the marketing organization already possesses enough information to make sound decisions without additional marketing research.

When adequate information is not available to make a decision, additional data needs to be collected from an appropriate source. If a potential source of data exists, the researcher or the decision-maker must consider the cost of obtaining it. The data should be obtained as quickly as is required to keep the research project on schedule and at an affordable cost. If the data cannot be obtained, or if it cannot be obtained in a timely fashion, the marketing research project should not be conducted.

Researchers have the option of collecting secondary data, primary data, or both. Secondary data is that which has already been collected for purposes other than the problem at hand. Primary data is newly obtained data for a specific purpose or a specific research project.

The marketing researcher needs to decide whether to collect primary data or spend the research budget exclusively on secondary data. Researchers usually prefer to examine the utility of low-cost and readily available secondary data first to see whether they can partly or fully solve the research problem under investigation without collecting costly primary data.

The source of the secondary data can be internal or external. The sources may include books or periodicals, published reports, data services, and computer data banks. When the needed data is non-existent, out-dated, incorrect or inadequate, the researcher needs to collect primary data. Most marketing research projects do include some aspects of primary data collection. Primary data may be obtained from individual consumers, subject matter experts, random samplings of a target segment, organizations, and other sources.

To learn more about data collection, visit http://smstudy.com/Certification/Marketing-Research-Associate and try our free associate course on marekting research.

Is the Dancing Bear Threatening User Interface?

Posted by SMstudy® on March 10, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital, Marketing

A “Dancing Bear” is very interesting and entertaining to watch, but the more you watch the more you think, what is the point?

Nicholas Griffin, regional director at Allen International equates a dancing bear to the digital experience. Everyone is looking for the digital experience: a computer-automated world that will get you what you want when you want it. But the more you think about it, what is the point?

Everything is right at your fingertips in the digital world, but that is until you open your mobile app and you can’t seem to navigate the app to save your life. Gone are the days where you could pick up a newspaper and skim through the pages until your eyes land on an article that tickles your fancy, welcome to the new age where that darn search button on your favorite news app appears to be hiding from you.

The information that you thought was right at your fingertips is actually not. And you’re not alone. Your customers are having the same experiences. So, what do you, as a company, to fix this problem for your customers?

The answer is quite simple really, look to SMstudy. According to Digital Marketing, book 3 in the SMstudy® Guide, “User interface refers to the quality of design, ease of navigation and responsiveness of an app or mobile site. An app or mobile site might perform all the functions and have all the features that customers want. However, if the graphic quality is low, or navigation is not intuitive, or the app or mobile site is slow to respond, then the perception of the app or mobile site from a user’s perspective is negatively impacted.”

In order to avoid the “Dancing Bear,” companies need to ensure their customers that they can do anything with the touch of a button and that button should be very easy to find. But don’t stop there. The app or mobile site also needs to be engaging. Which sounds difficult, but it’s really not. If you create content with your customers in mind rather than your business, the content will feel tailor made and will attract more customers. Visuals are processed 60,000 thousand times faster than text, so they are also a must.

But how do you know if your company has produced a product that will truly satisfy your customers? As noted in Digital Marketing, A/B testing can be very useful when a company is unsure whether their app or mobile website is, in fact, engaging, easy to navigate and performs all of the features their customers are looking for. The company can divide its’ budget between two or more design layouts and track the response rate.

Lucky for you the “Dancing Bear” is easy to evade if you keep a close eye on it, and for any future questions in regards to your sales and marketing needs visit www.SMstudy.com.

[Stephanie Vezilj, SMstudy staff writer. contributed to this article]

Understanding Customer-Perceived Features and Price Analysis

Posted by SMstudy® on March 10, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: Marketing, Sales, Customer

Customer-perceived features and price analysis are important indicators of how well the company’s product is perceived in the target market. These analyses help the company understand the product features that the customer perceives as good, as well as the features that need improvement.

They also provide an understanding of how customers perceive the product pricing in comparison with competition. They can also indicate whether the efforts to increase value for a particular feature are headed in the right direction. The scores can be calculated using a comparison of all, a select few, or individual competitors. The customer-perceived features and price analysis should preferably be done separately for the product features and the price.

The customer-perceived features analysis can be done using these following steps:

  1. The customers of both the company and competing companies are asked to list product features, other than price, that are important in their purchasing decisions. The senior management or corporate sales team can also add to the list of features, based on their knowledge of the products and customers.
     
  2. The various features are weighted. This can be done through a survey or from senior management inputs, based on their understanding of the importance of the features.
     
  3. The customers are then asked to rate the features of the products or services offered by the company, as well as the features of their competitors’ products and services.
     
  4. Finally, the score on each feature is divided by the competitors’ score. This is called the product feature ratio for that feature. For each product feature, a ratio of less than one indicates that the particular product feature is perceived lower in quality than the competition’s; a ratio greater than one indicates that the product feature is perceived better than the competition’s.
     
  5. After getting the ratios for each of the product features, ratios are then multiplied by the weights for each attribute and added together to get the overall customer-perceived score for all the product features of the company’s product. An overall customer-perceived features score of 100 indicates a position of relative parity with the completion for the overall product. A score greater than 100 indicates that the product is perceived to be better than the competition’s with respect to overall product features.

The customer-perceived price analysis is similar to the process used for customer-perceived features analysis, and helps the company understand how the product price is perceived with respect to competitors’ prices. However, instead of product features, the calculation uses attributes that affect perceptions of a product’s overall cost.

The customer-perceived price analysis is intended to illustrate customer perception of where a company’s pricing sits relative to the prices of their competitors in areas where the product or service has several pricing factors.

To read more articles about sales and marketing, visit www.smstudy.com/articles

Understanding the Sales Process

Posted by SMstudy® on March 08, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: Sales Process, Marketing,

In this competitive age an effective sales organization is supported by marketing assets and includes a proper sales structure. The sales organization and governance must be designed to optimally support sales targets and create visibility into the sales team’s performance to allow for adjustments and course corrections as necessary to ensure that the business meets its sales revenue objectives. Since sales targets are directly linked to all sales and marketing and financial objectives, they are essential components in the achievement of company’s overall objectives.

Most experienced sales teams have an existing sales process. If this is the case, it is important to constantly evaluate, improve, and fine tune different components of the process. A new company, however, must define a sales process by adapting established frameworks to suit the specific needs of the business, leveraging identified strengths, and identifying and filling gaps.

Five Basic Steps in Sales Process

  1. Pre-sales—This first step in the sales process involves reviewing the current activities and selling processes. These activities include those carried out from the initial contact with a customer to the final delivery of a product or service. This step allows a developing company to assess its organizational capabilities to carry out the sales process. It includes understanding and strengthening the value proposition for customers. The different channels required to sell products in the future are also determined. Planning sales governance, setting sales targets, setting up the incentive structure for the sales team, and creating the marketing assets is also done at this stage. The sales team is also trained on products as well as the sales process and negotiation to prepare for selling activities.
     
  2. Profiling of Target Customers—The first step in the prospecting stage, profiling target customers and decision makers, involves identifying and benchmarking profiling criteria for prospects, as well as decision makers. Characteristics of ideal customers, such as annual budget, are used to benchmark the profiling criteria.
     
  3. Lead Generation and Qualification—The second step in the prospecting stage, lead generation, is the act of identifying prospective customers and generating ways to gain new customers. Profiled criteria and benchmarks are used to generate better leads. Lead generation uses various offline and online techniques and can be inbound or outbound.
     
  4. Needs Assessment—Conversion starts with understanding customer needs for products or services. This understanding of needs is vital in the conversion process and enables the sales team to demonstrate to the customer how their product can fulfill the customer’s requirements.
     
  5. Presentation, Negotiation, and Closure—This is the final stage in the conversion cycle. The corporate sales team presents the features, benefits, and advantages of the proposed products or services that can fulfill the needs of the prospects. At this stage, prospects present their objections to the sales proposal. It is the job of the corporate sales team to overcome these objections to close the deal. 

Understanding these five steps and adapting them to suit the business requirements will help establish a framework for a comprehensive and effective sales process. 

To learn more about the sales process, visit www.smstudy.com

The Rise of Organic Advertising on Snapchat

Posted by SMstudy® on March 08, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital, Marketing

There are 83 million Millennials. That is 83 million young adults that were born in the early 80s to late 90s, and 71 percent of those young adults check their social media websites every day. It only makes sense that companies have moved to social media when it comes to advertising their brands.

Snapchat, a company born in 2011, is now worth 18 billion dollars. So, ask the question. Go ahead. How did they do it? They learned how to monetize their product. Snapchat Discover is part of the latest app update. It provides companies with the ability to market their brand on the Stories menu. This not only eliminates the restriction of only being able to reach the people that personally follow a company but also costs 100 dollars CPM or cost per mille. For those who have no idea what that means, that is 100 dollars per 1,000 views. You can imagine how fast the money is being raked in when you consider there are 100 million daily active Snapchat users and the number is rapidly growing.

As fantastic as the new Snapchat Discover is, it doesn’t really assist companies that are not able to fork out large sums of money to reach the masses. Companies such as The Coca-Cola Company have figured out how to overcome this issue by handing the metaphorical reins over to Snapchat Influencer, Harris Markowitz. Snapchat Influencers are just your average Joes that have accumulated millions of followers by utilizing the app to it’s potential. The Coca-Cola Company partnered with Harris Markowitz to organically advertise their brand.

Markowitz has been providing weekly exclusive content for their Snapchat Story by, “reflecting the company's set mission: to refresh the world, to inspire moments of optimism and happiness, and to create value and make a difference. The Snapchat stories Coca-Cola creates refresh the organic advertisement world within the app by meeting all of their company missions in a creative way,” said Julian Gamboa, Lead Course Assistant at the University of California, Berkeley.

So not only do these snaps reach the followers of The Coca-Cola Company, but every single one of Markowitz’s 5 million followers has the opportunity to enjoy the engaging and entertaining Snap Story. By hiring Markowitz, The Coca-Cola Company went from promoting their brand to the few that have chosen to follow the company to having the brand viewed by millions of users virtually overnight. Other companies such as Taco Bell and Mashable have also jumped on the organic advertising bandwagon by partnering with Snapchat Influencers.

Partnering with an influencer on social media almost tricks viewers into thinking they watching their favorite Snapchat star’s Story and in the digital marketing world we like to call this native advertisement. According to Digital Marketing, book 3 in the SMstudy® Guide, “native advertising is a form of online advertising that blends in with its surroundings. The objective is to promote a company’s product or service in a way that is ‘native’ to the platform in which the message appears. Native ads are promotional pieces that are attempting to look like the material to which they are adjacent.”

The going rate for partnering with Snapchat influences varies as much as their online personalities, but there are best practices when it comes to negotiating a mutually beneficial agreement. Most influencers accept a flat fee. It simplifies the process for everyone and it is helpful for the allocation of funds months in advance (if need be). As Snapchat charges cost per mille, so do influences. For the most part. Influencers have also been known to ask for a percentage of the sale rather than flat compensation, as well as free products or services.

According to Ad Week, “Snapchat splits revenue with the media companies for ads on Discover channels, and those sponsorships can cost as much as $75,000 a day, say marketing execs. In other cases, brands like McDonald's cough up as much as $750,000 for daily official sponsorships.”

Companies like Boost Insider aids brands in finding the right influencer for them at the right budget. You can partner with an influencer for as little as 200 dollars, but, again, this number does depend on the amount of followers the influencer has. For small business, hiring an influencer is not out of the cards, it will drastically improve the way you organically use Snapchat and give you the fun of going native.

For more interesting articles about sales and marketing, visit www.smstudy.com/articles

[Stephanie Vezilj, SMstudy staff writer, contributed to this article]

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Leaky Funnel

Posted by SMstudy® on March 08, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: leaky funnel, SMstudy, leads

Accepting that the sales and marketing funnel will always be leaky is akin to accepting that, despite all efforts, we will not grow taller… or younger. It’s never going to happen, we know this. The marketing funnel will always be leaky, no matter how talented and thorough sales and marketing teams become at plugging the holes. But accept it we must! Since as of today, there is no leak-free funnel and none on the horizon, we all just have to deal.

We learn from SMstudy that the leaky funnel is an analogy. Water being poured from the top represents prospective customers and the water existing from the bottom represents converted customers. 

SMstudy states: “Digital media reaches out broadly and acquires potential customers using a variety of online tactics. Marketers then capture information about those customers and begin to target them more effectively with marketing messages and other digital marketing initiatives, and many become qualified prospects or leads. Eventually some of the qualified leads buy the product, thus becoming customers.”

In a perfect place known as “Sales-and-Market Landia,” every dear soul who ever views our ad, not to mention visits our website, would be swirled into our seamless steel-trap funnel with no chance of escape except out the bottom as the proud owner of our product or service, free to roam and spread the good word.

Well, the real world is not “Sales-and-Market Landia,” and most of those who venture into the funnel will ultimately slip through the cracks on their way to the final stage (aka the sale). Leakage numbers vary, but according to Lisa Cramer nearly 80 percent of those who fall into the funnel are never brought to sales. On the bright side or perhaps a cautionary warning, 60 percent of leads who enter the funnel will end up purchasing within the next 24 months… just maybe not via that same funnel.  

With figures like these it’s no surprise we find all sorts of advice on how marketers can plug the holes of their own unique funnels. Just google, “plug leaky funnel” and you’ll see what comes back, a bucket load of funnel advice. 

Basics such as data analytics and understanding the Point of Loss (POL) and Point of Influence (POF) can help to identify and shore up the holes, and realistic genuine attempts should be made to do so. But at some point, acceptance of a leaky funnel is key to not obsessing over the holes and maintaining your sanity.   

David Lund of Marketing Executives Networking Group recognizes the inevitable nature of the leaky funnel and the necessity of accepting said leakage, but still offers these simple steps to increase sales even for a hole-riddled funnel:

  • Put more total people in the funnel.  Your funnel still leaks, but more people in should mean more people out.  If only 1-5% of the people at the top of your funnel actually buy from you or sign up for your services, you need to first focus on improving your funnel rather than putting more people into it.
  • Put more of the right people in the funnel.  You hope to attract and sell more of your target audience.  But, if you don’t clearly understand why they are choosing you, this approach will not be fully effective.
  • Retain more of the right people in the funnel.  By slowing or stopping the leaks in your funnel, you will optimize your efforts to attract and retain more target customers.  This is usually a much more productive near-term effort versus just spending more on ads or offering promotions.

So, ideally, yes, all holes would be plugged and anyone who ever knowingly or unknowingly fell into our funnel would come out the proud owner of whatever product or service was for sale. But that is a myth, a dream straight out of “Sales-and-Marketing landia.” The truth is, despite all our efforts, there will always be holes. Always. But still we plug on!  

For more articles on sales and marketing, visit smstudy.com/articles

[Spring Eselgroth, VMEdu staff writer, contributed to this article.]

Photo credit: Catherine, https://www.flickr.com/photos/rumpleteaser/2812559753

Sources:

SMstudy Guide, Digital Marketing, pg.62-63.

Sales Success as an Optimistic Cynic, Tibor Shanto, Pipeliner CRM, July 7, 2015, http://blog.pipelinersales.com/sales-professionals/sales-success-as-a-optimistic-cynic/

The Beginner’s Guide to Identifying Leaks in Your Sales Funnel,” Dale Cudmore, The Daily Egg, June 8, 2015, http://blog.crazyegg.com/2015/06/08/leaks-in-your-sales-funnel/

“How to Reduce Lead Leakage Now,” Lisa Cramer, Marketing Profs, Oct. 27, 2011, http://www.marketingprofs.com/articles/2011/6227/how-to-reduce-lead-leakage-now

“Do you know where your marketing funnel is leaking and how to stop it,” David Lund, Marketing Executives Networking Group, July 30, 2013, http://mengonline.com/blog/2013/07/30/do-you-know-where-your-marketing-funnel-is-leaking-and-how-to-stop-it/

Its All in Your Head: A Brief Introduction to Psychological Pricing

Posted by SMstudy® on March 07, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: pricing strategy, psychological pricing, sales strategy

Have you ever tried to sell something quickly (desperately) by lowering the price well below market value only to discover no one will bite? If so, your frustration is not unique. You’ve just experienced the quirky, seemingly-counterintuitive nature of the human consumer.

It’s long been known that pricing can make or break your sales, even when the value and quality of the product or service hasn’t changed. To the consumer, it matters not that you’re offering them the deal of a lifetime. They’ve already decided that the price is too low and, therefore, something is amiss. Of course, it’s all in their head, but the effects of pricing have real-world outcomes, such as a loss of sales because the set price doesn’t seem to match the perceived value. This is just one of the reasons why it’s wise to know a few basics of psychological pricing and how it contributes to a product’s perception and, in turn, sales.  

Psychological pricing is one component of a much broader and more complex pricing strategy for a product or service. The SMstudy® Guide defines a product’s or service’s pricing strategy as “focused on creating a sustainable brand perception and sustainable profitability for the product or brand, while growing and maintaining a healthy market share.”

All aspects of a pricing strategy are important to the success of a product, but psychological pricing can have a very significant influence on how consumers perceive a product’s value. In a recent post titled “Focus on the Why,” we noted the critical function emotional responses play in consumer buying decisions. Why a product was created or why a company does what it does speaks directly to consumers’ emotions and creates a strong call to action as well as brand loyalty.  According to Shelley Frost of Demand Media, psychological pricing works on the same level, by tapping into a customer's emotional responses to promote sales.

“Instead of appealing to the rational side of the consumer, this strategy appeals to their emotional side. The pricing may aim to strike a thrifty note with a bargain or stir up feelings of prestige with a high-end item,” Frost said.

There are many forms of psychological pricing that may be employed by marketing departments (and individuals), including the value perception pricing example noted above. Others you may have encountered include these five provided by Psychology Pricing:

  1. Odd Pricing – Quite simply, it’s the illusion of the difference between .99 and $1. We humans perceive a real value difference between the two even though we understand logically the difference in price is a mere .01.
  2. Prestige Pricing – The opposite of odd pricing, prestige pricing creates the perception of higher quality by pricing a product or service to a rounded number. For example, $1 instead of .99.
  3. Buy One, Get One Free – Same as 50% off, right? But somehow it looks so much more alluring when a product is marked “Buy One, Get One Free.”
  4. Comparative Pricing – Similar to the straw man definition, comparative pricing sets up a false comparison so the consumer finds one offer decidedly more attractive.
  5. Product Bundle Pricing – The gift basket of marketing ploys, product bundle pricing offers a discount on a group of items packaged together. A win-win situation for marketer and customer.

Psychological pricing may have a touch of the “dark arts” about it (it is, after all, a system of psychological manipulation), but it’s been proven effective and is at this point nearly ubiquitous. So the next time you are selling an item and feel the temptation to set the price low in order to turn a quick buck, consider that you might be selling yourself short. A higher price tag, whether fair or not, creates the illusion of greater quality and value and may actually stir up the deep psychological urge to buy compared to the friendly bargain price you thought would create a fast sale. 

For more articles on sales and marketing, visit http://www.smstudy.com

[Spring Eselgroth, VMEdu staff writer, contributed to this article.]

Sources:

“5 Psychological Studies on Pricing That You Absolutely MUST Read” https://blog.kissmetrics.com/5-psychological-studies/

SMstudy Guide, Digital Marketing, Pg. 53.

“The Ultimate List Of Psychological Pricing Strategies” http://www.psychologicalpricing.net/ultimate-list/

“What Is Psychological Pricing?” Shelley Frost, Demand Media http://smallbusiness.chron.com/psychological-pricing-11862.html

“Lessons From the Biggest Pricing Strategy Failure of 2012,” Patrick Campbell, Jan. 2, 2013. http://www.priceintelligently.com/blog/bid/168572/Lessons-From-the-Biggest-Pricing-Strategy-Failure-of-2012

VMEdu Looks at e-Learning Trends for 2016

Posted by SMstudy® on March 07, 2016 | Project Management

Keywords: e-learning, trends, LMS, education, training, VMEdu, platform, 2016

Almost sixty percent of online educational providers are ready to kick their LMS to the curb.

A recent report referenced by DDI Development on current e-learning trends asserts “that nearly 2/3 of online courses’ students, as well as their managers, are not satisfied with their current LMS and are not going to renew their subscription.”[1]

As a software development firm, DDI is interested in how these trends affect coding and coders. When their blog says, “New e-learning companies create new learning trends, as their online community is very flexible and quick to abandon LMS solutions that do not meet learners’ needs,” they are seeing opportunities for programmers to write the code that provides the new solutions e-learning companies are shopping for. When VMEdu sees this trend, they know they have that solution already.  

“Unlike other traditional LMS platforms, you do not have to pay any licensing fees, buy expensive hardware or hire expensive software professionals to launch your online courses and mobile apps,” says VMEdu, adding, “traditional LMS platforms usually have negligible support for mobile apps; VMEdu creates best-in-the-industry mobile apps for you at zero-cost for Android phones (if more than 1 hour of video is uploaded for a single course) and $250 for iPhones.”

Based on these differences and their LMS’s connection to the VMEdu Authorized Training Partners (V.A.T.P.) network, the company claims, “You will save more than 90% of your current LMS expenses by using VMEdu– and have signifi­cantly more capabilities than those offered by traditional LMS platforms.”

They explain the value of this connection saying, “Courses created by our V.A.T.P.s can be made available and sold through our fast-growing partner network of 800+ Authorized Training Partners in 50+ countries. This makes your course available to an extensive network of companies, colleges, universities, training companies, and individual trainers and experts. No other traditional LMS platform helps you with customer acquisition.”

The e-learning trend is projected to continue explosively, “It is estimated to reach $200 billion worldwide by 2018 - more than 200 million people actively using various learning management systems,” according to DDI. They conclude that “One of the most important features any MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) should provide is scalability.” This trend makes VMEdu happy because “V.A.T.P.s have the ability to scale their training very quickly with negligible upfront investment. They get to create and launch their courses on their own websites and mobile apps using the VMEdu Cloud LMS.” DDI notes that for scalability, “As of now, only cloud hosting is capable of providing sufficient resources for this task.”

“It appears that 2016 will become a year when Big Data will stop being a distant future and become our everyday reality, so it’s best to keep this in mind when planning statistical algorithms for your LMS technology,” says DDI. The VMEdu Cloud LMS enables “your courses to include videos, tests, study guides, flashcards, and more: students can track the progress of their coursework, and determine improvement opportunities.” The ability to track student progress, manage courses and more is part of the VMEdu LMS’s ability to handle big data. As they are fond of saying, “VMEdu’s state-of-the-art Cloud Learning Management System (LMS) takes care of this!”

A continuing trend is the growth of mobiles: “Mobile LMS technology is supposed to surpass computer counterparts soon (as well as in many other fields of application). Developing mobile LMS apps is vital for any provider aiming for success,” according to DDI. VMEdu says, “We can create the best-in-the-industry mobile apps for your company with your company name and logo. This app can be downloaded from the Google Play Store (for Android Apps) or the Apple App Store (for IOS Apps) and can be used by your students to experience all of your courses. This provides your students the flexibility to study online and on-the-go.”

“Backend as a Service – That’s the one of the trends underlined by Martin Puryear on TechCrunch. Third party services that support chunks of backend tasks are faster to apply than repetitively building generic things. That helps to focus on innovative and competitive aspects of a product,” is a trend Marina Blinova cites in her article on LinkedIn’s Pulse.[2] VMEdu believes that by providing professional trainers and educational organizations with one of the industry’s most robust LMS, those educators can focus on developing the best educational experiences and value for their students.

VMEdu began creating its LMS more than seven years ago. They tested it thoroughly by launching multiple courses and websites, which have now become global leaders in their fields, teaching more than 500,000 students from 150 countries and 3,500+ companies. The VMEdu LMS is hosted on a scalable cloud infrastructure and already hosts hundreds of courses, with more than 50,000 learning resources including videos, questions, case studies, simulated exams, flashcards, study guides and more.

With its professional training and accreditation bodies, innovative LMS and extensive network of training partners, VMEdu has grown to be an industry leader. That growth is one of the most reassuring trends in e-learning today.

 

[1] “Main E-learning Trends for 2016” (2/25/16). IT News. DDI Development (ddi-dev.com)
Retrieved on 3/3/16 from http://ddi-dev.com/blog/it-news/main-elearning-trends-2016/ 

[2] Blinova, marina (3/3/16), “What do you consider the most promising trend for 2016?” Pulse LinkedIn.com. Retrieved on 3/3/16 from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-do-you-consider-most-promising-trend-2016-marina-blinova?trk=hp-feed-article-title-publish

 

Dear Educational Entrepreneurs, VMEdu is Here for You!

Posted by SMstudy® on March 02, 2016 | Project Management

Keywords: entrepreneurs, educator, VACP program, VMEdu

Today’s entrepreneur must be an excellent builder. Build a brand, build a website, build a customer base, build a team, etc. etc. That’s a lot of building.

Luckily, we humans (entrepreneurs included) are natural problem solvers. We promptly come up with solutions to our predicaments and the right tools quickly follow.

For educators who’ve considered the life of an educational entrepreneur but haven’t found the right tools to build their courses (or dreams), the VMEdu Authorized Content Partner (V.A.C.P.) program is here to help.

The V.A.C.P program works with educators to build courses that are professional and offer students a valuable learning experience. Becoming a VMEdu Authorized Content Partner allows you to create and upload your courses through an easy-to-use cloud interface for free.

The VMEdu Cloud Learning Management System (LMS), built and tested over a period of seven years, is one of the best tools in the adult learning field. With the VACP program, educational entrepreneurs have access to course creation tools and assistance for a fraction of the cost of in-house production. In addition, VMEdu provides assistance for those with the desire to create educational materials but find themselves a bit “rusty” in the technical skills.

Along with helping to build courses, VMEdu will design a best-in-industry mobile app for each content partner at zero-cost for Android Phones if you have over 60 minutes of videos and $250 for iPhones.

The program also offers the opportunity to sell to VMEdu’s network of more than 800 Authorized Training Partners in more than 50 [J2] countries. Specifically, courses related to sales and marketing can be sold for additional revenue through SMstudy.com, VMEdu’s comprehensive guide to sales and marketing.  

As a VMEdu Authorized Content Partner educators can manage all student operations, financials and reporting through the user-friendly V.A.C.P. portal.

With the V.A.C.P. program, the opportunity to teach and share is closer than ever. The ease of the VMEdu platform and program guarantee that you can build the educational career you want. All the tools needed are waiting at VMEdu.com.  

For more on the benefits of joining the V.A.C.P. program, visit vmedu.com.

Photo by: Roman Mager

 

Increase Your Online Success With An Effective Website

Posted by SMstudy® on March 02, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Website development, marketing, sales

An effective website is a critical component of a company’s overall online success. Company’s website serves as the central hub and foundation for its online activity. With a plethora of available website designs, the digital marketing team must determine the appropriate and optimal design and message.

Besides having a basic understanding of the technology on the website, the digital marketing team must also consider the following facets of creating a website.

Consumer Perspective

  • Relevancy—Age, cultural nuances, geography, and other demographic factors of the target audience will influence the type of content on the website.
  • Usability Design—The digital marketing team must take into consideration how technically savvy its target customer is. If the target customer does not generally have the appropriate comfort level with technology, the team should design a simple, text-based layout with easy navigation and basic features. If the target customer is comfortable and familiar with the Internet and computer use, a more intricate, interactive, and information-rich website can be implemented. The design of the site should depend on the expectations of both the users and the company. In some cases, the development might focus on consumer engagement, while in other cases, the design might be oriented toward supporting task-oriented behavior such as the ability to make changes to one’s account, purchase a product or service, and so on.

Site Development Perspective

  • Purpose—Companies maintain a web presence for a variety of reasons. While some companies use websites as their main method of selling their products, other companies have an online presence just to support their business, message, and brand position. There are companies that use websites as a public relations (PR) tool, to enhance brand value in the minds of their customers, or to evaluate product feedback from customers that may help in understanding customer needs, general communications, product updates, and sales. The digital marketing team is responsible for ensuring that the website is designed to meet the overall strategic objectives outlined in the Marketing Strategy.
  • Planning—The digital marketing team must work with the website development team to plan the execution of the website, beginning with creating a storyboard for the website; listing functional requirements; building the database structure; developing wireframes; and determining hypermedia linkages, search engine key words, graphical design components, user interface designs, audio/video sources, animation, and text requirements and formats.
  • Performance— The digital marketing team also must consider the logical design of a good website, compare the performance of competitor websites to identify best practices, check for effective performance across browsers and operating systems, and perform usability testing of the website to ensure that it is easy to use.
  • Maintenance—Websites create an online presence for a brand, so the marketing team must ensure that the website is maintained and tested regularly. Downtime on a website may adversely impact the direct online sales of products and may also taint brand reputation in the minds of consumers.

The brand messaging on the website has to be in-line with the overall brand message and must stay relevant to the target audience.

Play Poker, Not Chess with VMEdu

Posted by SMstudy® on March 01, 2016 | Project Management

Keywords: cloud, LMS, content, platform, VMEdu, training

How many articles on leadership include advisories to “Play Poker, Not Chess” and “Blow up the Enterprise”? Not many, and certainly not as many as this author would like. However, in a series of articles on leadership for Forbes Magazine in 2012, Alex Knapp gave these two bits of advice using episodes from the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises as source material.

Knapp used Starfleet captains James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard as positive leadership examples in articles titled “Five Leadership Lessons from James T. Kirk” and “Five Leadership Lessons from Jean-Luc Picard,” respectively.  For negative examples, he visited Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi’s nemesis in an article called “Five Leadership Mistakes of the Galactic Empire.” Besides an affinity for the number five, Knapp gives an interesting twist to traits of leadership that are far from unfamiliar territory. His unique insights, dead-on applications and intriguing examples give this well-discussed topic new spirit and made reviewing some old saws interesting and enjoyable.

Giving well-discussed topics new spirit and making them both interesting and enjoyable is the challenge for all writers and educators.  While writers are more or less on their own, there is help for professional trainers and educators.

The Internet provides opportunities for new ideas and new discussions of old topics. It also simultaneously presents multitudes of people talking about these same things. Ideas, terms, and examples are bound to be repeated and repeated and repeated. The challenge for professional trainers is to keep their material fresh, relevant, and attractive. This requires knowing one’s students and this is where playing poker instead of chess comes in. Knapp writes, “For all of its intricacies, chess is a game of defined rules that can be mathematically determined. A far better analogy to strategy is poker, not chess. Life is a game of probabilities, not defined rules. And often understanding your opponents [students] is a much greater advantage than the cards you have in your hand.”

This isn’t to say that the “the cards you have in your hand” are not important; trainers and educators put most of their attention on them, and rightly so. However, in addition to knowing one’s subject matter, professional educators must share it in evocative and effective ways. And those are not the only things professional training providers must do. Each must also prepare knowledge assessments and track student progress. Aligning tests to the requirements of appropriate, associated certifications is often more than a trainer can handle. For this, the educator needs to follow the advice one learns from Jean-Luc Picard, “When you’re overwhelmed, ask for help.” 

                Knapp observes that seeking help “is a hard thing to do.” Because of this, there are organizations making it easier for professional training providers to get help, especially with tasks such as preparing and giving exams and tracking student progress. One such company is VMEdu, Inc., a leader in the professional training and certification industry that has developed a versatile course delivery platform and back office support. During the seven years it spent creating its Learning Management System (LMS), the company used it with its PMstudy and MyITstudy brands, whose students have achieved 98.7 and 99.2 percent pass rates, respectively, on professional certification exams. The LMS system helped PMstudy grow to be the largest PMP trainer worldwide and the SCRUMstudy brand to become the global accreditation body for Scrum with a network of more than 800 training partners. VMEdu now offers its platform and back office services and products to professional trainers across the globe.

For professional trainers in its VMEdu Authorized Training Partners (V.A.T.P.) and VMEdu Authorized Content Providers (V.A.C.P.) programs, it also develops apps designed to generate additional leads, provide immediate feedback on courses and lessons and generate up-sell and cross-sell opportunities, according to VMEdu. The training apps VMEdu has already created include interactive case studies, specialized glossaries, games, flash cards and practice exams.

                Using an episode in which Captain Kirk, a 23rd century space explorer, mixes and uses gunpowder to save himself and his crew, Knapp points out that there was no need for Kirk to know this information because “Starfleet officers fight with phasers and photon torpedoes.” However, Kirk is a voracious learner and develops expertise outside of his primary field of focus. Knapp applies this to leaders saying, “In the same way, no matter what your organization does, it helps to never stop learning. The more knowledge you have, the more creative you can be. The more you’re able to do, the more solutions you have for problems at your disposal.” During World War II, General Eisenhower of the Allied command used a group of officers to increase his own knowledge base and put more solutions at his disposal.

Creating mobile apps and databases for following student progress may not be your primary area of focus, but they are two solutions for problems facing the trainer in the technological age. Knapp tells his readers that “Kirk’s reputation at the Academy was that of a ‘walking stack of books.’” Where Kirk had Starfleet Academy and General Eisenhower had his officers, today’s professional trainers have companies such as VMEdu.

Keeping one’s training fresh and interesting with unique insights, engaging mobile apps, and intriguing examples is a huge challenge, but NOT a challenge the modern professional educator must meet alone.

 

Works Cited

Knapp, Alex. (5 March 2012) “Five Leadership Lessons from James T. Kirk.” Forbes. (3 January 2014) http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2012/03/05/five-leadership-lessons-from-james-t-kirk/

− ­− − (13 March 2012) “Five Leadership Lessons from Jean-Luc Picard.” Forbes. (3 January 2014) http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2012/03/13/five-leadership-lessons-from-jean-luc-picard/

− ­− − (13 February 2012) “Five Leadership Mistakes of the Galactic Empire.” Forbes. (3 January 2014) http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2012/02/13/five-leadership-mistakes-of-the-galactic-empire/

Importance of Questions During Lead Generation Process

Posted by SMstudy® on February 29, 2016 | Corporate Sales (CS)

Keywords: Question, Lead Generation, Marketing, Sales

Questions are an effective tool for the Needs Assessment for Each Qualified Lead process. Asking questions is especially useful when the qualified lead does not have clearly stated needs.

Even in cases where requirements are documented, questions are an effective approach to gain a better understanding of the need or needs driving those requirements. Questions are also helpful in conveying a better understanding of the lead’s industry. Answers to the questions during this phase serve as inputs for designing, creating, or customizing a solution.

The questions asked during the Needs Assessment for Each Qualified Lead process are generally classified into two types:

Closed Questions - Closed questions can be answered with either a simple “yes” or “no,” or the answer may lie in a single word or phrase. Typical examples of closed questions include the following:

  • Is your annual revenue above $5 million?
  • Does your company use an ERP system?

Open Questions - Open questions require longer answers and cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no.” Typical examples of open questions include the following:

  • What can you tell me about your current business environment?
  • What can you tell me about your manufacturing process?

Needs assessment uses a combination of closed and open questions.

Porters Five Forces Model for Evaluating Industry Attractiveness

Posted by SMstudy® on February 26, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: Porters Five Forces Model, Marketing, Sales

Porter’s Five Forces model is used to analyze the long-term attractiveness of an industry. Understanding the interaction of these forces with the existing competing organizations helps explain the differences in profitability amongst industries. It also helps a company decide whether or not to enter an industry. If a company already has a presence in a particular industry, then using this model enables strategies that achieve and maintain profitability. A company should be capable of applying its core competencies, business model, or channel network to achieve a competitive advantage in its industry.

Let’s study these five forces one by one:

Threat of New Entrants

New entrants in an industry increase the level of competition as existing players try to defend their market share against them. The higher the threat of new entrants, the lower the attractiveness of an industry. Highly profitable markets tend to attract many new players. However, for new entrants to an industry where established players are taking advantage of economies of scale and high product differentiation, several additional obstacles make entering the industry unattractive, including high upfront investment requirements and the time and cost of establishing distribution channels.

Threat of Substitutes

Substitutes are those products or service that meet the same need as another product but which belong to different industries or product categories. Substitutes provide consumers with choice in industries where demand exceeds supply and, as a result, limit profitability within the industry. If substitutes offer equal or greater benefits at a lower cost, they can make an entire industry obsolete. Conversely, factors such as high conversion costs and low value perception result in a low buyer willingness to convert, and consequently a low threat of substitutes.

Bargaining Power of Customers

Customers generally demand high product quality, low costs, quick delivery, and personalized customer support, among other things. As a result, competition is created in the industry as players in the market try to satisfy these demands. Customers use this competition to obtain the best value. Conversely, a number of factors can reduce the bargaining power of customers, for example, high cost of switching to another supplier, low number of suppliers, fragmented customer segments, lack of substitute products, and low threat of backward integration.

Bargaining Power of Suppliers

Suppliers can impact the cost of production by changing the prices of raw materials or intermediate goods. A significant increase in raw material prices can force smaller businesses or less profitable firms to exit the market, as they are not as well positioned as larger more established and more profitable firms to absorb such drastic price changes. In addition, a number of factors can result in low bargaining power of suppliers, for example, availability of low-cost substitutes, low cost of switching to another supplier, low threat of forward integration that is a situation in which a supplier directly reaches out to the end customer, and a low necessity for the supplier’s product in the organization’s final product.

Competitive Rivalry

This concept refers to the intensity of competition among existing organizations in an industry. A high degree of competition reduces industry profitability, thereby making the industry less attractive for potential new entrants. There are some factors that can result in a low level of competition, for example, high fixed costs, high level of product differentiation, high customer conversion costs, and the existence of a monopoly, duopoly, or oligopoly. 

Fragmented New-Age Marketing

Posted by SMstudy® on February 26, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: marketing, sales, business

In recent times, the media has become increasingly fragmented with several hundred television and radio channels, as well as a large variety of print media, including newspapers, magazines, and trade publications.

Moreover, since the late 1990s, with the increased popularity of the internet and, more recently, smartphones, many options now exist for advertisers to reach a global audience using digital media marketing methods such as mobile phone apps, Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, QR codes, gamification, and proximity marketing.

With all of these options, many marketers find it beneficial to use an integrated approach to marketing by leveraging the strengths of various types of media. Companies must evaluate all media in terms of who the target audience is and what media resonates with them best. In many cases, assumptions will need to be made and incorporated into the media-testing framework.

It is a fact that people now spend more time on the internet using smartphones, tablets, or computers than they spend through conventional mass media, such as television, radio, or newspapers. This is especially true for the thirty-year-old and younger market segment. Since Sales and Marketing is most successful when it meets the demands of consumers, this change in consumer preferences is significantly altering the Sales and Marketing landscape for established companies.

Businesses are discovering that conventional mass media marketing has limited effectiveness and some customer segments are not even reachable using these traditional media forms. Fragmented new-age marketing generally supports new, small brands with much smaller budgets targeted directly to customers in a global marketplace. This represents a significant distinction from conventional mass media marketing, where achieving a global reach for a small company may have been prohibitively expensive.

While mass media marketing is less targeted and primarily focused on affecting emotional attitudes about the brand, new-age marketing is data-driven and more focused on driving specific calls to action.

Also, while mass media marketing typically involves interruption, new-age marketing is about engagement. Unlike older media options where Sales and Marketing communications were primarily uni-directional, communications have increasingly become multi-directional.

Although generally a benefit to both producers and consumers, this trend can make brand management challenging for companies if actual or potential customers perceive that a product does not reflect the brand message intended by marketing efforts.

Due to the nature of new-age marketing, consisting of multiple media forms and the ability to generate significant information, huge amounts of data commonly referred to as big data are now available to companies. The ability to process this data through proper marketing analytic, and assimilate such data to generate valuable insights, can become a significant differentiator for ensuring that companies engage in smart marketing.

VMEdu Welcomes You to the Post-Capitalism Era

Posted by SMstudy® on February 25, 2016 | Project Management

Keywords: VMEdu

It has been said that we are exiting the post-capitalism era, and we weren’t even aware of it. We can thank this monumental shift to advancements in technology. Many terms have been thrown around in regards to what sort of economy we have ventured into—such as the sharing economy or frictionless economy—but what path are we really following?

In a recent article we discussed what exactly the frictionless economy is. The frictionless economy centers around companies that provide platforms on which suppliers and buyers can do business directly. Uber, Etsy, and Fiver are just a few of the hundreds of companies that have sprung up in the last decade offering people the ability to be a “self-entrepreneur.” 

According to Alex Chriss, vice president and general manager at Intuit, “What we find so exciting about this trend is it’s solving what has traditionally been the number one challenge any entrepreneur or small business owner faces: finding customers. We’ve seen millions of small businesses struggle to find their next customer – and this struggle has set a bar, a hurdle for entrepreneurs to jump over. Technology is lowering this bar.”

But what about the sharing economy? Companies such as Airbnb and City CarShare allows owners to rent out something that they are not using. This has generally been sharing a house, car, or bike, but the only constant in technology is change, so this sharing could expand to new avenues. Each sharing-economy styled company provides users with ratings or reviews, so that trust is built on both sides of the transaction.

So, which economy are we really entering? One thing that we have learned from technology is that there are no limits. So, why would we limit ourselves by believing that we are entering just one sort of new economy? It seems to be that we are entering various economies that will create branches rather than one straight path. VMEdu gives professional trainers and educators the ability to be a part of both the frictionless AND sharing economy, with its Learning Management System (LMS). The VMEdu Authorized Content Partner (V.A.C.P.) program is one of the finest adult learning platforms available. The V.A.C.P. program is for anyone looking to create online adult learning courses for any subject and in any language. 

As a partner, you can create and upload your courses with the user-friendly VMEdu Course Builder. You can also run the courses on your website for free. Course materials can include videos, test questions, flashcards, glossaries, case studies and more. 

Once your courses are uploaded via the VMEdu Course Builder you have the option to sell them to the VMEdu network of more than 750 Authorized Training Partners (V.A.T.P.s) in 50+ countries. Having the support of such a strong network will help you reach a larger number of potential consumers in a shorter amount of time. 

The V.A.C.P platform gives you the ability to sell your own courses, do business directly with customers that have been provided for you, and be your own boss in addition to hosting your courses on your own website to share with your contacts. This program equips you for whichever future economy becomes our reality.

You can find more information on the VMEdu V.A.C.P. program at www.vmedu.com/Benefits-of-VACP.asp 

[Stephanie Vezilj, VMEdu staff writer, contributed to this article]

An Academy on a Shoe String? Start with VMEdu

Posted by SMstudy® on February 23, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: course, VMEdu, learning management system, educator, professional

To professional educators and trainers, Salman Kahn, founder and CEO of Khan Academy, is a legend, a modern-day Shakespeare of the learning world and “such stuff dreams are made on.” 

Khan began his journey by helping his cousins with their math homework using the Internet and Yahoo’s Doodle Pad. Having three degrees from MIT in math, electrical engineering and computer science helped a lot. Later, he posted the lessons on YouTube; they went viral and now he runs an online educational organization that stretches education into new shapes and new possibilities.

Kahn’s path was pretty unique back in 2009, but now crowds of people have YouTube channels for their lessons. In 2012 60 hours of video were uploaded to YouTube every minute. In 2014 more than 300 hours of video were uploaded every minute. The educator wanting to repeat Khan’s experience has a lot more competition than they used to.

To help educators have a place to be seen and heard, VMEdu, Inc. has launched its own cloud-based course sharing platform. The platform took more than seven years to develop and has been used by the company’s training brands—such as PMstudy, SCRUMstudy, and 6Sigmastudy—to establish themselves in their fields and become some of the largest training companies worldwide. Through these brands and the platform, VMEdu has more than 800 authorized training partners (V.A.T.P.s) globally.

The company has now opened its Learning Management System (LMS) to non-A.T.P.s in a program called “VMEdu Authorized Content Providers” (V.A.C.P.). This program enables any organization that has created courses related to any field of adult learning in any language to launch courses on their own website for free—this is where the “shoe string” in the title comes in. In addition to launching and managing the course, content providers get their own mobile app, have the opportunity to sell to the VMEdu Partner Network (800+ Partners), offer their courses on SMstudy and track student progress. 

The company helps content providers “easily create [their] online courses through an easy-to-use cloud interface ‘VMEdu Course Builder’.” The interface allows educators and trainers to upload “videos; test questions; flashcards and glossary; case studies; study guides and more.”

More on the shoe-string thing: the VMEdu website says, “Unlike other traditional LMS platforms, you do not have to pay any licensing fees, buy expensive hardware, or hire expensive software professionals to launch your online courses and mobile apps. There is no cost associated with creating or uploading your courses.”

Some VMEdu Authorized Content Providers will be “the-next-big-thing” in educational innovation and quality. Others are “the-now-best-thing” in quality education built on the most up-to-date technologies and methodologies. Whatever role a trainer wants to play in adult education and professional training, the VMEdu’s Learning Management System is ready to help.

Catching an Academic Wave with VMEdu

Posted by SMstudy® on February 23, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: online, education, training, platform, cloud, VMEdu, partner

It’s not like riding a Tsunami.

But it is exciting, exhilarating and breath-taking to get in early on one of the disruptions that are rapidly reshaping the world we swim in.

Disruptions that wipe the landscape clear are dramatic and threatening. And they are rare. Disruptive inventions and practices in business and industry happen gradually; so gradually, in fact, that they often seem inevitable. This is a point bestselling author Hugh Howey made in a recent article about the state of publishing: “All manner of publishing has been greatly disrupted, but it’s often hard to see because what has changed is what’s now missing from our lives. And these missing things have not disappeared all at once. Rather, it’s been a gradual vanishing.”[1]

The world of publishing—which Howey says includes such products as encyclopedias, maps, those liner notes in albums and CDs, how-to books, instructions enclosed in products, newspapers, magazines and novels—provides an excellent example of the disruption that is now going on in education and training.

Michael Horn, in a piece on Forbes.com, described the disruption this way: “Much of the growth of online learning isn’t just in accredited higher education institutions, but in unaccredited institutions that are hired to do a similar ‘job’ as that of many accredited higher education institutions—advance adult learners in their career pathways. These organizations don’t need accreditation per se though, as they will ultimately develop their reputations from the success of their students with employers.” He cites research done in this regard by Michelle R. Weise and Clayton M. Christensen of the Christensen Institute.

Horn’s suggestion is that schools of higher learning should enhance their online presences and offerings. He gives examples of partnerships that colleges, universities, corporate entities and training organizations can make as a way of turning his suggestion into a reality. One of the companies facilitating this disruption in education and professional training is VMEdu, Inc. This company has a global reach with more than 750 partners in its VMEdu Authorized Training Partner network. It is expanding this with the launch of its VMEdu Authorized Content Partners (V.A.C.P.) program.

In discussing the digital disruption of the publishing industry, Howey says, “In just about every measurable way, these have been great developments.” The V.A.C.P. program brings an enhanced Learning Management System (LMS) and other great developments arising from disruptive innovations in adult education and training to any organization that has created courses related to any field of adult learning in any language; or is already using another LMS to host their courses.

The V.A.C.P. program enables content providers—educational institutions, training companies and those with an expertise worth sharing—the ability to launch courses on their own websites for free, get their own mobile app, sell their courses to the VMEdu Partner Network, offer Sales and Marketing courses on SMstudy, and efficiently track student progress.

Looking at the changes in publishing, Howey says, “It’s difficult to find anything to complain about with this transition, unless you are a middleman who no longer provides a service commensurable with your cost. This is an important point, the act of offering a service that matches your cost.” Educational providers and trainers are very familiar with the costs of some of their products. Student loan debt in America is almost infamous. VMEdu says, “There is no cost associated with creating or uploading your courses, and zero licensing fees.”

The same goes for certain mobile apps for partner courses: “VMEdu will take care of all expenses related to creating, maintaining and upgrading your mobile apps—you pay only $1 per student per month for every student accessing your courses through the mobile app.” This is an example of where the company earns its income.

Last year, Amazon paid out over $140,000,000 to authors in its Kindle Unlimited program. That doesn’t count the dollars paid for book sales,” says Howey. The disruption of traditional publishing is enabling those who create the works to share a much larger portion of the revenues they generate. Through VMEdu’s cloud-based LMS, the same is happening for adult and professional education providers.

For those considering an educational venture into the new cloud-based ocean of opportunity, come on in; the water is fine.

Surf the VMEdu website and learn more about its V.A.C.P. program: Benefits of Becoming a V.A.C.P.

[1] Howey, Hugh. (2/2/16) “The State of the Industry.” The Wayfinder. Retrieved on 2/3/16 from http://www.hughhowey.com/the-state-of-the-industry/

Social Insights on Video Marketing in the Age of YouTube

Posted by SMstudy® on February 23, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: video marketing, social insights, millennials, social media data

Down ‘n’ dirty or überposh, there’s a place for all quality of video marketing in the world today.

Recently we noted marketers’ growing acumen at not only parsing available social data, but also using the social media environment to probe the social community and glean consumer preferences and other social insights.  

We said, “Filling the role of the modern-day focus group, social media insights are also valuable for taking the temperature of the public on an idea such as a logo or slogan, a product or service. Testing the social media world’s tastes and perceptions allows for adjustment before launching, saving money and perhaps even preventing a catastrophic mistake.”

A recent experiment co-sponsored by Google and L’Oreal was one such probe that asked “whether storytelling changes for different age groups?” Results provided interesting insights into the minds of the under-45 crowd and how they respond to various styles of video marketing.

The study presented three L’Oreal ad spots (via YouTube) promoting a new eyeshadow. Researchers then documented which of the three had the greatest impact across three age groups: 18 to 24, 25 to 34 and 35 to 44.

The first ad is a traditional cosmetics commercial- gorgeous photography, high glamour. The kind of ad we’d expect to see on television. This one was named “The Glam.”

The second was more of a how-to video but still retained some glamorous elements. This one was called, “The Show.”

The third, named “The Tell,” was a user-generated DIY video. A regular “girl next door” talking about the makeup and how to apply it. Straight forward and practical.  

The results were both expected and surprising. Let’s explain…

“The Glam” scored very well, indeed. Topping the charts for both the 18-24 and 35-44 age groups, with no major difference in their rate of viewing.

The report states that “Regardless of age, "The Glam," the most traditionally structured and produced video, was the most "unskippable" ad with the strongest view-through rate (VTR).”

No real surprise here, right? We all love gorgeous images, compelling copy and a little eye candy never hurts. 

But here is where the experiment gets interesting.

Although “The Glam” view rates were 82% higher, it was “The Tell,” the DIY, user-generated styled video that did exceedingly well with the 18-24 age group (aka millennials) in the category of Ad Recall, coming in 100% higher than “The Glam.”

What the marketing study showed clearly was the changing generational tastes in regards to how marketed products are received. “The Glam” was accepted by all age groups as the highest visual quality with superior storytelling, but failed to provide the same viewer retention as “The Tell.” “The Tell” provided obvious how-to value and millennials had no problem accepting the unpolished amateur style of video. In addition, because “The Tell” felt more like “taking advice from a friend” it produced a click-through rate two times higher than the “The Glam” and “The Show,” meaning even in its bling-less status, the how-to video created a stronger call to action.

The report suggests millennials are miles more accepting of low-fi video production than the Gen Xer's… even when they know it’s an ad. For marketers that’s a pretty big deal. If the study proves accurate upon additional testing, anyone with a smartphone and some chutzpah can shoot marketing videos (bringing the cost to nearly zero) and still have the same chance at online virility, the holy grail of digital marketing.

All this to say, there appears to be a place for both “The Glam” and “The Tell” in today’s online marketplace, given the tastes of millennials to accept less traditional, high-gloss marketing as long as it offers legitimate value. This opens the door for greater marketing opportunities no matter what the budget.

 

For more articles on Sales and Marketing, visit smstudy.com.

[Spring Eselgroth, VMEdu staff writer, contributed to this article.]

Sources:

“2015 Will Be the Year of Video Marketing,” Tyler Lessard, Dec. 17, 2014 http://www.marketingprofs.com/articles/2014/26719/2015-will-be-the-year-of-video-marketing

“How Demographics and Storytelling Style Affect Video Ad Effectiveness,” Ben Jones, January 6. https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/articles/how-demographics-storytelling-style-affect-video-ad-effectiveness.html?utm_source=LinkedIn&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=Think

“In Search of Social Media Insights,” SMstudy.com. http://smstudy.com/Article/the-search-for-social-media-insights

Photo credit: Laura Lee Moreau

How to go viral with the SMstudy Guide

Posted by SMstudy® on February 22, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital, Marketing

Moms and dads have to make difficult parenting decisions on a daily basis. Similac, a formula brand, released a parody about the squabbles parents often encounter when it comes to the best way to raise a child. Should you breast-feed your child, pump, or use formula? Should you stay at home with your child or use daycare services? Should the father stay at home with their child, while the mother works? 

The parody begins with mothers and fathers gathered in a park quite forcibly stating why they are the better parents. In the midst of all the judging, fighting, and name calling a stroller rolls down a hill. The parents instantly stop their bickering and run after the stroller. They become an army of people all fighting for a single cause—to save the child, because parents, whether they are mothers or fathers, are all parents first. Similac used this argument to launch the “Sisterhood of Motherhood” ad campaign that aims to “encourage parents to come together to focus on shared goals, not differences because when it comes down to it, we are all on the same side,” the company’s press release states. 

The parody and the following campaign reached 6 million views just two weeks after they were released. The parody spread like wildfire through all platforms of social media due to its funny, but honest message. Ad Week deemed it the “Most honest ad ever about parenting.”

According to Digital Marketing, book 2 in the SMstudy® Guide, Similac hit the nail on the head with this advertisement. As noted in the book, “Consumers share content they like or find useful; thus, a high number of shares indicates that a large number of customers or potential customers perceive the company as helpful and knowledgeable and, by extension, may be more likely to purchase the company’s products or services.”

But how do you encourage social media goers to share information through the various social platforms? I remember sitting in my small office in San Francisco’s financial district when the CEO of our company shared a video with our team stating that it was going to go viral. I watched it and agreed that it was good, but no, it was not going to go viral and this is a common misconception in the corporate world. If you create it, then it will go viral.

In a recent article, we discussed that it is not about creating content, but creating the right content. The article states, “a company must ensure the content is engaging, easy to grasp, and attention-grabbing. You can increase engagement by following one simple rule: create content for your audience, not for your business. Identifying trending topics also makes content feel tailor-made and makes your company look up to date with the current market.”

Similac’s audience is mothers. Whether it be the stay-at-home mom or the mom climbing the corporate ladder, they both make trips to the grocery store to purchase formula. So, in this case, a company must appeal to women, and Similac did just that by pulling on our heart strings. Now that’s how you make a video go viral. 

To learn more about sales and marketing, visit www.smstudy.com

[Stephanie Vezilj, SMstudy staff writer, contributed to this article]

The Search for Social Media Insights

Posted by SMstudy® on February 18, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: social media marketing,social media data, brand perception

It may be time to recognize that data collected from social media will not so easily reveal its immediate impact on a company’s sales (as we’ve said before, it’s proven to be a bit slippery). But this doesn’t mean the baby should be thrown out with the bathwater. In finding ways to prove its value, social media marketers are changing the conversation away from a cause/effect relationship between a company’s marketing and its ROI to a deeper understanding of social data’s value. And as it turns out what it offers is way more valuable- the unprecedented parse-able social insights of a population.

In a recent post, we explained that the number one problem facing social media marketers today is tying social data to an increase in the bottom line (or the sales of a product or service). The challenge of “proof,” in turn, was making it harder to make a case for additional investment in social media marketing.

We said, “Demonstrating the value of the social programs within the company was, in fact, the top challenge noted (60%) by survey participants consisting of 600 media marketing professionals.”

 The State of Social Marketing 2015 report by Simply Measured states, “Companies of all sizes and maturity levels are struggling to prove the value of their social programs. Social media activities can be difficult to quantify, and marketers are trapped between readily available “vanity metrics,” such as Likes and followers, and difficult-to-measure objectives such as brand awareness.”

We went on to suggest that unless there’s a collapse of the capitalist system, better tools will surely arise to address the challenge. But we also noted, of equal, if not greater importance, would be the ongoing discovery of more creative and accurate ways to query the data.

As marketers hone in on methods to extract the gold nuggets of consumer intel out of the mountain of information, they’re hitting upon the true capital of social media- the most comprehensive picture of consumer behavior, sentiment and decision-making process they’ve ever been blessed to lay hands on. This might not be the smoking gun that ties directly to a sale, but, in fact, presents many more gifts in the long run as John Donnelly III, SVP of global sales and marketing at Crimson Hexagon, points out.    

 “One of the most effective ways to glean consumer insights is by analyzing social media conversation… sales teams are realizing that social media is rife with information about what their prospects care about, how they consume media and what motivates their decision-making,” said Donnelly.

Based on Donnelly’s presentation and other insights, here are some ideas to consider when taking the dive into social data.  

Get granular. Almost any question a marketer has regarding brand perception, market competition and the general sentiment of people discussing a product or brand can be found through social media analytics, so ask away.

Getting granular also let's marketers zero in on microsegments of the population that either are or can be Word-of-Mouth advocates for a brand or product.

Word of Mouth is the golden standard for all marketers. The ability to target Word-of-Mouth advocates on social media can be the difference between success and failure. Writing for convice&convert, Devon Wijesinghe discusses the importance of Word of Mouth and how it can be used.

“This rich source of information comes in handy when you’re looking to generate Word of Mouth about your brand. Tapping into the “right” market segments—segments whose interests and values are aligned with your brand—can be the catalyst your campaign needs,” Wijesinghe said.

Layer trending topics on top of a hyper-targeted market segment (both bits of information available through social media data analysis) and a marketer has made a happy marketing marriage.  

Focus groups may be passe according to some, but testing is still very much a part of the marketing strategy. From a product standpoint, social media insights can reflect the strengths and weaknesses of a product’s lifecycle as well as the effectiveness of current marketing efforts. Filling the role of the modern-day focus group, social media insights are also valuable for taking the temperature of the public on an idea such as a logo or slogan, a product or service. Testing the social media world’s tastes and perceptions allows for adjustment before launching, saving money and perhaps even preventing a catastrophic mistake.  

Social media data is virtually limitless (pun optional) and social media marketers are stepping up and learning how to use it best. We expect to be reading many more social media data “hacks” in the future. Stay tuned.

Visit smstudy.com for additional articles on sales and marketing. 

[Spring Eselgroth, VMEdu staff writer contributed to this article.]

 

Sources:

"How to Sell Smarter Using Social Insights," Devon Wijesinghem http://www.convinceandconvert.com/social-media-measurement/social-insights/

"Supercharge Your Selling Strategy: The Power of Social Data," John Donnelly, https://inbound.org/discuss/john-donnelly-forget-the-focus-group-how-social-insights-can-help-you-sell-smarter-at-inbound15

The State of Social Marketing- 2015, Simply Measured, http://simplymeasured.com/#sm.0001gymsunkgqdcepli19xtqnlo4p

Dont be One of the Three, Start Your Startup with SMstudy

Posted by SMstudy® on February 17, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: SMstudy, sales, entrepreneur, startup, marketing

How can you keep from being one of the three?

A stat being tossed around a lot these days is that three out of four startups fail. Such odds even seem favorable when compared to direr (and possibly more realistic) observations that “nine out of ten startups fail.” Neil Patel made that claim on Forbes.com, suggesting that “entrepreneurs may even want to write their failure post-mortem before they launch their business.”[1]

What causes these failures?

A look at more than one hundred essays by the CEOs of failed startups two years ago revealed to Fortune.com “that the number-one reason for failure, cited by 42% of polled startups, is the lack of a market need for their product.”[2] Most inventors and innovators imagine that they are providing something people need—the next best mousetrap. Yet, according to these CEOs, there was a clear misalignment between imagination and market reality.

How can someone avoid that threat?

A look at other items in the poll—pricing/cost issues, poor marketing, ignoring the customer and mistimed product launches—provides a clue. The one thing that all of these threats have in common is that they are sales and marketing issues. They are all things that are discussed in SMstudy’s Marketing Strategy, volume one of A Guide to the SMstudy® Sales and Marketing Body of Knowledge (SMBOK® Guide).[3]

Marketing Strategy has an entire section titled “Analyze Market Opportunity,” which would definitely help avoid the problem of having a product without a market.  Pricing and cost issues can be addressed with knowledge gained from the section on “Determine Pricing and Distribution Strategies.”

The book discusses PESTEL Analysis, which entrepreneurs can use to evaluate macro-environmental factors such as political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal factors that affect the successful and timely launch of a product or service.

Writing about “Ten Essential Startup Lessons” for Entrepreneur, John Rampton includes as his number 7, “Become a salesperson. If you want your startup to succeed, then you must sell. You’re going to have to market the company's product to employees, investors and clients.” Then he asks, “But did you ever take a ‘Salesperson 101’ course in college?”[4]

The complete SMBOK® Guide is more than just “Salesperson 101.” It includes books on branding and advertising, digital marketing, corporate sales and market research. For the inventor, innovator and entrepreneur, the six books that make up the Guide give insight and direction for turning their product or service into a business—a business that has customers.

Offering some “Startup Advice” on BothSidesoftheTable.com, Mark Suster says, “When you start your company the very first question you need to ask yourself is which kind of customers do you want to serve.” He discusses going after elephants—what others call “whales”—when one really needs to hunt deer. It’s a great analogy and explains one of the reasons startups often have “suboptimal results.”[5] Defining the market and identifying market segments is covered at length in Marketing Strategy.

A Guide to the SMstudy® Sales and Marketing Body of Knowledge by SMstudy is not a collection of inspiring or amusing anecdotes about sales that hit the stratosphere; they are practical, process-oriented collections of processes and best practices that help companies create and develop sales and marketing plans and departments that succeed.

SMstudy also offers courses online and in mobile apps that put the information entrepreneurs need where they are when they need it.

How can you keep from being one of the three . . . or one of the nine? Start your startup with SMstudy.

 

[1] Patel, Neil. (1/16/15) “90% of Startups Fail: Here’s What You Need to Know about the 10%.” Forbes.com Retrieved on 2/12/16 from http://www.forbes.com/sites/neilpatel/2015/01/16/90-of-startups-will-fail-heres-what-you-need-to-know-about-the-10/#185237c255e1

[2] Griffith, Erin. (9/25/14) “Why startups fail, according to their founders.” Fortune. Retrieved on 2/12/16 from http://fortune.com/2014/09/25/why-startups-fail-according-to-their-founders/

[3] http://www.smstudy.com/SMBOKGuide/overview-of-SMstudy-guide

[4] Rampton, John. (7/25/14) “Ten essential Startup Lessons That You may not have Learned in College.” Entrepreneur. Retrieved on 2/11/16 from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/235905.

[5] Suster, Mark. “Startup Advice.” BothSidesoftheTable.com. Retrieved on 2/11/16 from http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/on-entrepeneurship/

 

All About Decision Tree Analysis

Posted by SMstudy® on February 17, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: Decision Tree, Marketing, Sales, Business

Decision Tree Analysis is used to evaluate the best option from a number of mutually exclusive options when an organization is faced with an investment decision. The finance team can use this tool while evaluating a number of potential options, such as which product or plant to invest in, or whether or not to invest in a new initiative.

The Decision Tree schematic is tree-shaped diagram which is used to understand a statistical probability or a course of action. Each branch of the decision tree signifies a possibility or occurrence. The structure of the tree depicts how one choice leads to another.

Advantages of Decision Tree Analysis

  • This tool allows the team to clearly lay out and consider all available options, including a “Do Nothing” option, which is often ignored although it may sometimes be the best option.
  • It is relatively easy to visualize the costs, benefits, and probabilities linked to all options to help facilitate focused decision making.
  • Additional options can be added without impacting the evaluation of the other branches throughout the tree.

Disadvantages of Decision Tree Analysis

  • In situations where there are many options to consider and each option has multiple possible outcomes, creating decision trees becomes a complex process and may require the use of software, rendering it a less-than-useful tool for strategic discussions.
  • In some trees, even a small variation in an expected outcome or probability can completely change the results of the analysis. Therefore, obtaining accurate information is critical to the usefulness of this tool.
  • This tool sometimes requires complex preparation, as well as extra time and effort to determine the various possible outcomes for each option, and to explicitly delineate each decision node and possible outcomes and options from those nodes.

All about GE-McKinsey Matrix

Posted by SMstudy® on February 16, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: GE-McKinsey Matrix, Marketing, Sales

The GE-McKinsey Matrix was developed in response to the shortcomings of the BCG Matrix, which does not account for a number of factors. It was originally used for a visual representation of GE’s 150 business units to determine which business units were doing well, which needed support, and which should be discontinued. However, the matrix can also be applied to a product portfolio. It evaluates each product on two parameters, market attractiveness and product position, which are the labels of the axes on the matrix.

Market attractiveness and product position are determined by a weighted score for all the relevant factors that contribute to each. There are three levels for each parameter—high, medium, and low—giving the matrix nine boxes in total. The placement of each product on the matrix determines the strategy to be used for the product. A-6 shows the GE-McKinsey Matrix.

Products that fall above the diagonal line are high performers, or are those with potential for either growth or cash flow. These are the products on which a company should focus. Products that fall below the diagonal line are those that typically drain a company’s resources, with small returns and little potential for growth. These products should be analyzed thoroughly to determine which can benefit from selective investment in order to move them above the diagonal, and which need to be discontinued.

The factors used to determine market attractiveness are market growth, market size, opportunity to differentiate product and/or services from others in the market, profitability, intensity of competition, risk to returns, pricing trends, entry barriers, demand variability, distribution structure, and technological developments. The factors involved in determining product position are strength of assets and competencies, customer loyalty, cost position relative to competitors, distribution strength, record of technological or other innovation, relative brand strength, market share, and access to financial and other investment resources.

Advantages and disadvantages of GE-McKinsey Matrix:

Advantages:

  • This matrix takes into account a number of factors that the BCG Matrix does not.
  • It is visually easy to understand and provides more options to place a product as compared to the BCG Matrix, due to the inclusion of the “low” level on both axes.
  • It is conceptually similar to the BCG Matrix, so anyone who is familiar with the BCG Matrix can easily use the GE-McKinsey Matrix.

Disadvantages:

  • This matrix does not take into account the synergies between various products. Discontinuing one might adversely impact another.
  • The scoring of the various factors using the weights is subjective and leaves the tool open to bias.
  • It does not help in allocating the relative investments for each product. 

What Do You Do When Your Boss Says Prove It

Posted by SMstudy® on February 16, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: data analytics, social media marketing, social media data tools

If you’ve ever found yourself having to defend the merits of social media marketing, you’re officially not alone. A recent report on social media marketing in 2015 reveals the struggle that still exists in pinpointing the almighty ROI of social marketing to that skeptic saying “yes, I see what it does…but how does it help?” Usually that skeptic is the boss (in some way or another) and the answer is not so easy to nail down. Social media is proving to be a little slippery.


The newly released The State of Social Marketing 2015 report by Simply Measured cites three major challenges that were impacting social media marketing in 2015. 


They are:
1.    demonstrating the value of social programs within the company; 
2.    overall business integration; and
3.    not having the right tools to measure social media activities. 


Demonstrating the value of the social programs within the company (#1) was, in fact, the top challenge noted (60%) by survey participants consisting of 600 media marketing professionals.
The reports states, “Companies of all sizes and maturity levels are struggling to prove the value of their social programs. Social media activities can be difficult to quantify, and marketers are trapped between readily available “vanity metrics,” such as Likes and followers, and difficult-to-measure objectives such as brand awareness.”


It goes on, “When it comes to understanding, proving, and quantifying value, social marketers are still trying to find the sweet spot.”


It’s logical to consider (as the report does) that the “sweet spot” could be found by addressing the challenge of #3. or “Not having the right tools to measure social media activities,” which according to the same 600 marketers, is a major frustration for those attempting to work with current analytics options. In addition, they noted the dissatisfaction with their current set of tools and the difficulty of interpreting the data they do have. And here’s the really frustrating bit, it’s hard to drum up enthusiasm and encourage further investment when the current tools or methods don’t allow marketers to provide highly accurate data which would, in turn, drum up enthusiasm and encourage further investment. And the wheel goes round and round. 


Finding the right tool for the right job seems to be an essential part of the plan. In the area of data analytics tools, the report suggests either an inability to hone in on what is truly needed or simply an area that hasn’t been fully addressed in regards to tool development. According to the report, most surveyed are using multiple tools for tracking the various social media channels and as many as 65% said they were using the platform’s native analytics tool.

 
All that being said, the future looks very sunny for social marketing. Tools will emerge that address the needs of social media marketers. Social media marketers will become more adept at interpretation. Chances are both will occur (are occurring). 


And whether the frustrations continue on or are assuaged in the coming year, it might not matter. As squishy as the analytics may appear to the bosses, they’ve seen enough “proof” to increase social marketing budgets, on average, by 12.5% over the next five years from 2015’s 9.9% to 22.4 in 2021. 


For more on sales and marketing, visit www.smstudy.com. 


[Spring Eselgroth, VMEdu staff writer, contributed to this article.]


Sources: 
The State of Social Marketing- 2015, Simply Measured, http://simplymeasured.com/#sm.0001gymsunkgqdcepli19xtqnlo4p

 

What you did not know about web analytics

Posted by SMstudy® on February 10, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital, Marketing

Online businesses, or businesses that have websites, generally use some sort of tool to track analytics, but most of the time these businesses haven’t maximized the potential of web analytics. Analytics aren’t just to see how many people have visited your site. Companies must delve into the world of analytics and utilize all of the benefits that come from properly deciphering an analytics report in order to decrease bounce rates and increase sales.

According to Digital Marketing, book 2 of the SMstudy Guide®, a basic definition for analytics, is “to evaluate and better understand the value and impact of available digital channels and digital marketing activities. Web analytics involves the collection, measurement, analysis, and reporting of web data for the purposes of understanding and optimizing web usage. Analyzing such data helps a company to assess and improve the effectiveness of its website.”

You can use analytics reports to track web traffic in order to determine where and how to invest marketing time and dollars. Ask yourself, "Is your traffic coming from other websites (referrals), social media or search engines (paid/organic)?" says Mike Wolfe, CEO of WAM Enterprises, a digital marketing agency. "Knowing where traffic comes from can help you understand where to invest more time and money to increase traffic."

You can also view a visitor’s location; information that can help to build a campaign to target a specific audience. This information is helpful to determine specific geographical regions that are not showing interest in your website. A marketing team can then generate a plan to create interest in those regions. Discounts, special deals, and incentives are great ways to increase engagement and reach disengaged target areas.

It is important to know where people enter your site and where they leave it. The analytics report will show what keywords people used and the search engine that led them to your website. The report also shows how long the person was on your website and what page they exited from. This can be helpful to determine which pages are causing people to lose interest. Once this information is found, a company can update the pages to be more engaging and interesting. The report also includes where the customers go when they leave a website, so you can see what competitors are taking your business and why.

As stated in Digital Marketing, “Web analytics also enables a company to assess the effectiveness of specific mobile marketing campaigns and channels, including mobile advertising, mobile search marketing, and traditional desktop channels, and identify those that appeal to the target audience and work best for the business.”

With the help of web analytics companies can create a website that fits the consumer’s needs in order to maximize reach, reputation, and relationship with their potential or current customers.

For more resources and information visit www.SMstudy.com.

[Stephanie Vezilj, SMstudy staff writer, contributed to this article]

The New Wave in Digital Marketing

Posted by SMstudy® on February 10, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: digital marketing, hyper-relevant content, data analytics

For roughly a decade technology has been facilitating the brushstrokes to paint an ever clearer picture of consumer behavior. Over time, analytics has helped solve the mysteries of the where, the when and the how often as it pertains to clicks, views or anything else online for that matter. In the process, the human behind the consumer data has been neglected.  The time has come to treat them like real people again.

The next new wave in marketing (there’ve been two so far according to reliable sources) will be marked by a return to the personal touch. There exists an emerging opinion that a continuation down the path of the science of analytics will not yield the desired results. And if anything, at some point it becomes a liability and deterrent to constructing strong enduring relationships with customers. The kind built on trust, respect and understanding. Or so believes Jahia, a leading User Experience Platform for Digital Transformation.

They state: “Building 1:1 customer relationships means relating in the most appropriate way for each customer. It is vital to find the right balance in communicating just enough - too much and they are annoyed, too little and they feel forgotten (or forget you).”

As I mentioned recently in the article “How Information Finds You: Hyper-relevant Content Marketing,” there is a refinement process occurring in digital marketing that emphasizes the use of high-quality content and a marketing strategy that employs the smartest possible implementation based on what is known about the viewer/consumer. This is the future of digital marketing due to several factors, including the phenomena of “peak content”. A more nuanced marketing approach that acknowledges the human being on the other side of the conversation is where everyone should be headed.

Again from Jahia: “The right relationship is not the same for every brand or every customer. It depends on both the product or service you offer and each customer’s individual preferences. The core of that relationship is giving the customer the feeling that they have as much control over the relationship as you do. That includes giving them transparency into what data you keep about them and how you use it — this is the beginning of trust.”

In addition, for the sake of a company’s longevity, to manage and use consumer data responsibly will set any marketer ahead of the curve; soon enough federal regulation will catch up and kinder practices will be required by law. By setting up a marketing system that respects privacy AND manages to market in an informed, logical manner is a vanguard move.

Jahia notes: “Very soon, this privacy and usage standard will not be simply the voluntary action of ethical companies. Emerging legal regulations will make it mandatory as it catches up with the digital revolution. This has already begun to be legislated in European courts. The courts determined that there is a ‘right to be forgotten’. This is just the beginning of the what is to come in the next few years. The courts are recognizing that individual’s privacy rights need to be respected, even on the internet. No enterprise can afford to be behind in this area.”

Creative ways to cultivate real relationships with customers will be the mandate for marketers and sales professionals in the coming months and years. Systematizing that cultivation with a hyper-relevant content strategy is only a portion of what the future will require; the rest will rely on the sales and marketing teams’ skill, intuition and ability to empathize with consumers.

In 2016, the big data boom will settle into the tasteful, refined use of the data to provide value and relevance to the public. Now that we have a clear picture, what marketers do with it matters.

For more intersting articles on sales and marketing, visit www.smstudy.com/articles

[Spring Eselgroth, VMEdu staff writer, contributed to this article.]

Sources:

Discovering Third Wave, Jahia, Feb. 10, 2016. https://www.jahia.com/files/live/sites/jahiacom/files/Discovering%20Third%20Wave%20of%20DX.pdf

 

 

Build Relationships with Negotiation Training

Posted by SMstudy® on February 10, 2016 | Corporate Sales (CS)

Keywords: negotiation, sales, marketing

In sales, all that matters is the bond between the seller and buyer. The buyer always finds arguments to have a better deal than the quoted one, and that is when the negotiation skills of the seller comes in! Negotiation skills are much like a language. People who are unacquainted with the concepts and terminology of negotiation may find it intimidating.  With proper training, constant use and practice, it can be learned and mastered.

Negotiation Strategies

  • Distributive Negotiation - This type of negotiation often results in a win-lose scenario. The parties involved in this type of negotiation work towards getting the most out of a fixed value or sum. Hence the gain of one party results in the loss of the other. Say for example, you are bargaining to buy a gift from a foreign trip where you are not going to purchase from the seller again. Given the nature of this strategy, very few negotiations are truly distributive.
  • Integrative Negotiation - This type of negotiation is carried out with the objective of achieving a win-win scenario. The deals negotiated with this strategy are meant to create and deliver value for both the parties by integrating their interests.  Examples for this type of negotiations can be mergers and acquisitions or the relationship between a manufacturing company and its suppliers.

Negotiation Styles

Kenneth W. Thomas identified five styles of negotiation based on dual-concern model.

  • Accommodating - Individuals who emphasize on preserving personal relationships and consider other party’s problems during negotiation.
  • Avoiding – Individuals who do not enjoy negotiation and try to avoid the confrontational aspects of it.
  • Collaborating – Individuals who enjoy the problem solving aspect of negotiation and tend to use creativity to come to mutual agreement.
  • Competing – Individuals who enjoy and dominate the negotiation process.
  • Compromising – Individuals who are eager to close the deal by being fair to all the parties involved.

Preparing for Negotiation

There are four steps to prepare for a negotiation:

  • Consider what would be a good outcome for both parties. The negotiator should determine the interests and objectives of his party as well as those of the other party. This is to done by thorough research or by having a dialogue with the other party. Areas of common ground, compromise and opportunities for favorable trade need to be understood.
  • Learn about the people on the other side before negotiation. Negotiating is an interpersonal activity. Experienced negotiators know this and try to learn as much as they can about the people on the other side. Experience of the negotiators, their negotiation style, their levels of authority, the culture of their organization and the importance of the deal for their organization are some of the things that can help you during negotiation.
  • Gather external information about the deal points and negotiate from your positions of strength. Each side wants to get a fair and reasonable deal at the end of the negotiation. It is a good practice to benchmark with industry standards for the negotiation. There are many criteria for fairness and reasonableness. During preparation, it is essential that the team research the criteria that is more favorable to them and should be ready to show that those criteria are more relevant than other factors.
  • Determine the authority position of the person with whom you are negotiating. Ideally, the negotiator on the other side should have similar authority as the negotiator on your side. To determine the authority of the negotiator on the other side, one must try to figure out the decision making process of the other side. 

For more intersting and informative articles on sales and marketing, visit www.smstudy,com/articles

How to get Social Media Goers to Share your Message

Posted by SMstudy® on February 05, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital, Marketing

Out with the old, in with the new. This motto has taken a whole new meaning with the advent of the Internet. Technology is changing at such a fast pace that people and companies need to be willing to keep up. Today, social media is redefining the way people share information. Before, if we read an interesting article you could call up a friend and share the information verbally. Now, you can literally share information and visuals almost instantly with your entire network by simply clicking a button.

It makes sense that companies would want to advertise their brands on social media to maximize their reach, but how do you utilize social media in a positive and productive manner? Because in the digital age, sharing is the key to social success.

According to Digital Marketing, book 2 in the SMstudy Guide®, “Consumers share content they like or find useful; thus, a high number of shares indicates that a large number of customers or potential customers perceive the company as helpful and knowledgeable and, by extension, may be more likely to purchase the company’s products or services.”

You can easily spread your brand successfully with the help of social media with three easy steps:

  1. Get on board- everyone and everything is on social media right now. Social media is a source for free advertising, so companies cannot afford to miss the opportunity.  If you are not advertising your brand on social media, you are making a serious mistake. 46 percent of people said that companies that are proficient at social media marketing are viewed as more credible. So, if you aren’t utilizing social media then you can potentially be viewed as untrustworthy.
  2. Create the right content- 73 percent of people process information more thoroughly when they share something. So, a company must ensure the content is engaging, easy to grasp, and attention-grabbing. You can increase engagement by following one simple rule: create content for your audience, not for your business. Identifying trending topics also makes content feel tailor-made and makes your company look up to date with the current market.
  3. Use Visuals- Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text. Thanks to the rise of social media, customer’s attention spans are shorter and they expect more from an advertisement. So, visuals are a great way to boost engagement. Studies prove that images and videos drive more customer engagement which means more sharing. The image must capture the essential message of the brand. If the image does not align with the product consumers will skip it rather than share it. Your image needs to be visually appealing enough to drive audiences to your website for more.

Social media marketing is like oxygen for small business and start-ups, so in order to keep on keeping on, you must simply inhale. Happy Marketing!!

For more information and resources visit SMstudy.com

[Stephanie Vezilj, SMstudy staff writer, contributed to this article]

How Information Finds You: Hyper-relevant Content Marketing

Posted by SMstudy® on February 05, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: hyper-relevant content marketing, social media marketing

“If the news is that important, it will find me.”

This (in)famous declaration was made by an anonymous college student in 2008 during a focus group conducted by Jane Buckingham, founder of the market research company Intelligence Group.

Since 2008, this remark has made the rounds. It’s been quoted and discussed in both media and marketing worlds. It’s even been cited by the New York Times. And if you have to ask why, you haven’t been paying attention. This statement, which seems like a throw away (let’s be honest) has proven to be the number one guiding principle in both media dissemination and marketing in the new digital age.

As Joshua Benton remarked in a recent piece for NiemanLab, “If the news is that important, it will find me. I can’t tell you how many conferences, how many symposia, how many gatherings of worthies I’ve been at where some version of that line has been tossed around.”

It’s true! I’d heard it mentioned during a class on 21st-century journalism in 2009. At the time, old time journos scoffed at the student’s “laziness” or “lack of interest” in the wider world. But today, no one scoffs at the idea of providing valuable, relevant content, served up directly to viewers through the various social media channels. This is now the expectation. If it’s important, it will find you.

Marketers, like the media, have adapted. And one of the methods hyped over the last few years is content marketing. But with massive quantities of information bombarding us daily, we are reaching what is referred to as “Peak Content” or “the point at which this glut of things to read, watch and listen to becomes completely unsustainable,” according to author Kevin Anderson in 2014.

With Peak Content looming and with the understanding that a story (or content) MUST be important enough to reach the reader/viewer, successful marketers are turning to extra relevant, extra valuable content that will cut through the fracas. As this happens, the question then becomes “what’s relevant?”

Relevance often depends on individual circumstances and numerous other factors that may be at play at any moment in a person’s life. But there are some general assumptions that can be made. For example, most people will be thinking about breakfast in the morning. Or, if someone is awake late at night, information on insomnia might be something they’d like to see.

Enter the hyper-relevant content marketing plan, predicted by some to be a major social media marketing trend in 2016. Hyper-relevant content marketing takes into consideration the season, time of day or other societal factors that may be affecting a person’s need for a specific type of information.  

One such marketer, Amanda Todorovich, manager of Digital Engagement for Cleveland Clinic, is achieving major success producing hyper-relevant content by fine-tuning her organization’s marketing to maintain “evergreen” value for everyone and then offering it wisely within marketing channels.

“We are trying to put content in front of people at the right time,” Todorovich said. “We try to marry the best times of day on each channel with the best content and what people are using those channels for. Not everything gets posted on every channel we're on.”

By assessing the relevance and value of the content being used within a marketing strategy and utilizing the channels as well as season or time of day effectively, a marketer can be sure to hit the target more directly and at the same time find they’ve contributed something of genuine value to the online community.

For more resources and information on sales and marketing visit www.SMstudy.com

[Spring Eselgroth, VMEdu staff writer, contributed to this article.]

Sources:

Peak Content: The collapse of the attention economy, Kevin Anderson. Jan. 4, 2016. ehttp://www.themediabriefing.com/article/peak-content-the-collapse-of-the-attention-economy

“If the news is that important, it’ll find me.” But what determines if it’s important?, Joshua Benton, Feb. 20, 2014. http://www.niemanlab.org/2014/02/if-the-news-is-that-important-itll-find-me-but-what-determines-if-its-important/

Behind the Scenes of the Cleveland Clinic’s Content Marketing Strategy, Brianne Carlon Rush, Dec. 2, 2014. http://www.kunocreative.com/blog/cleveland-clinics-content-marketing-strategy

Words are great, but color is better when it comes to social media marketing

Posted by SMstudy® on February 04, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: social media marketing, color psychology, brand perception

Social Media is a multimedia experience. Content is shared in a myriad of forms: video, text, photo, audio clip, gif, etc. All can benefit a company’s brand in the effort to reach viewers. But we now know that color plays a very important part in brand perception. According to recent research, the color palette creates the mood and feeling of a brand that ultimately drives consumer behavior. Color, when used effectively, has the ability to connect with the subconscious (gut feeling) which can be a direct line to a positive customer action.

However, there are some who still argue that the perception of color is too dependent on personal experience to have universal applications such as the psychology researchers at the University of California, Berkeley who learned that, "personal preference is determined by all the entities you've encountered of that color and how much you liked them."

Although this may be true in some cases, the true benefits of color in marketing are apparent when the “perceived appropriateness” of the color being used fits the brand image and feel. 

As author Gregory Ciotti states, “certain colors do broadly align with specific traits (e.g., brown with ruggedness, purple with sophistication, and red with excitement). But … it’s far more important for your brand’s colors to support the personality you want to portray instead of trying to align with stereotypical color associations.”

A company creating or revamping their brand image should consider long and hard the colors they select. Color choices that enhance the feel of the brand will be perceived as successful and more impactful than color choices that are at odds with the desired feeling of the company.

Ciotti continues, “Focusing on the way colors affect the feeling, mood, and image that your brand creates that play a role in persuasion. Be sure to recognize that colors only come into play when they can be used to match a brand’s desired personality (i.e., the use of white to communicate Apple’s love of clean, simple design).”

The study of color theory is vast and much information can be found online, but for a basic introduction, check out this video on branding and color…

When done wisely, color choice will lead to successful brand recognition and even instill a sense of trust. Ideally correct color application will positively affect the company’s brand perception metrics, including brand loyalty, brand recall, “top-of-the-mind recall” or “share of mind” and the ultimate, “share of heart” metric.

According to the SMstudy Guide, the “share of heart” metric indicates the highest level of brand loyalty and recognition. The book states, “A high ‘share of heart’ indicates a very strong connection between the brand and its customers…and that the marketing strategy is effective at communicating and delivering the value needed by its customers.”

Harnessing the power of color (and applying it appropriately) will enhance a company’s social media marketing and has the potential to increase viewer and customer engagement no matter what form of media is being shared.

For more interesting articles on social media marketing, visit - www.smstudy.com/articles

Sources:

“The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding,” Gregory Ciotti, Aug. 6, 2013. http://www.helpscout.net/blog/psychology-of-color/

“Color Preferences Determined by Experience,” Emily Sohn, Oct. 1, 2010 http://news.discovery.com/human/evolution/colors-preferences-evolution-style.htm

Affiliate Marketing

Posted by SMstudy® on February 03, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: Affiliate Marketing, referral marketing, affiliates, customers, partners, affiliate programs, reward points, commission

Affiliate marketing is performance-based marketing where customers or partners, known as “affiliates”, are rewarded for designated actions that help market the brand. This can be a productive way for a company to expand its reach and marketing efforts. There are two ways affiliate marketing is approached: companies offer affiliate programs directly to other companies/individuals, or they can sign up to be an affiliate through another organization. The company that is offering or controlling the affiliate program will pay a commission for every lead or sale the affiliate delivers to the company’s website.

Let’s take an example to illustrate the idea. An individual might mention in a social media post that he or she purchased a product and gain a certain number of reward points for the post. The affiliate marketing program may be structured in such a way that the individual earns certain reward points  for every ten likes or comments on that post. The affiliate can then redeem these points against the company’s products.

Affiliate marketing helps widen a company’s reach exponentially using the most credible medium—existing customers. Websites offering price comparison services, coupons, shopping directories, and virtual currency platforms are the most popular affiliate marketing websites. One of the main advantages of affiliate marketing is that companies can gain more customers with limited budget, since the approach is commission or reward points based. However, there is the possibility that some merchants may incur high commission, maintenance, and initial setup costs, depending on the nature of the business.

Affiliate marketing is different from referral marketing in the way that it uses online marketing platforms—social media, blogs, search engine marketing, and more—to market the product while referral marketing is primarily based on word-of-mouth and relies heavily on trust and personal relationships between existing customers and prospects.

Attracting the right partners is very crucial for the affiliate program to be successfull and in determining the volume that can be expected from the program. Common-place brands, even consumer packaged goods brands, can benefit greatly from affiliate marketing with the help of the right offers and efficient partners. Getting products onto as many sites as possible is not necessarily the most important goal. Marketers must also consider the relevance, value, and traffic of the sites and platforms that one is able to reach.

To learn more about affiliate marketing, visit www.SMstudy.com

The V.A.C.P. Program Anticipates the Adult Learning Boom

Posted by SMstudy® on February 02, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: adult learning, VMEdu Authorized Content Partner

Until recently, scientists believed that at a certain age, the human brain simply stopped growing. We now know that the human brain keeps developing, making new neural pathways into adulthood and can stay sharp throughout a lifetime if given the proper nourishment. Delving into understanding a brand new concept or learning a new activity are now touted as paths to a sprier, more agile mind that can keep us happier and healthier as we get wiser.

If we consider that the extremely large demographic cohort, the baby boomers, are turning 65 at a rate of 10,000 per day and are keenly aware of the latest research in brain health, it’s no surprise that we are seeing a growth spurt in adult learning. And as many also have the ability to access courses online, it’s safe to say we are entering an online adult learning boom. Authors Matthias Finger and Jose Manuel Asun agree.

In their book “Adult Education at a Crossroads: Learning Our Way Out”, they state, “adult education is indeed burgeoning. Never before has there been so much talk about “learning” and not only about children, but learning by all members of society.”

With adult learning bigger than ever, now is the time to let your inner teacher shine and share what you know. If you’ve dreamed of leading a class or feel you have a valuable subject to teach, it’s never been easier to put together a course with the VMEdu Authorized Content Partner (V.A.C.P.) program.

The VMEdu Cloud Learning Management System (LMS), built and tested over a period of seven years, is one of the best in the adult learning field. Content partners can join and launch courses for free and VMEdu provides the tools and assistance for those with the desire to create educational materials, but find themselves a bit “rusty” in their technical skills. 

Along with helping create your courses, VMEdu designs a best-in-industry mobile app for each content partner at zero-cost for Android Phones and $250 for iPhones . Courses can be made available and sold through VMEdu’s partner network of more than 750 Authorized Training Partners (A.T.P.s) around the world.

With the V.A.C.P. program, the opportunity to teach and share is closer than ever. The ease of the VMEdu platform and program guarantee a positive experience for all, including the large number of adult learners seeking stimulating, informational, inspiring classes. The adult learning boom might just be one of the best things that ever happened to you, whether you’re seeking to teach, to learn or both.

To learn more about the V.A.C.P. program, visit - www.vmedu.com/Benefits-of-VACP.asp

Sources:

“Adult Education at a Crossroads: Learning Our Way Out,” Matthias Finger, Jose Manuel Asun. 2001.

“Baby Boomers Retire,” Pew Research. Dec. 29, 2010.  http://www.pewresearch.org/daily-number/baby-boomers-retire/

PPC Advertising

Posted by SMstudy® on February 01, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: PPC Advertising, Pay-per-click, paid search advertising, keywords, quality score, rank, search engine, user personas, digital marketing

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising or paid search advertising involves a company paying to have its ad appear on search results pages of search engines. PPC advertising providers such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing show sponsored ads, or paid search results, for most search queries. A consumer intending to purchase a microwave oven for her new modular kitchen may enter a query “microwave oven with convection and grill for home use,” seeking cost and feature information. A chain of electric kitchen appliances would likely then appear as a sponsored result. It is often observed that users with a high intention of making a purchase click on sponsored ads. This is especially true of highly transactional goods such as clothing, electronics, and consumer foods. 

PPC advertising has a significant impact on consumer metrics such as brand awareness and brand image, even among users who do not click on the sponsored advertisements. Image ads tend to be more effective in exerting positive impact and increasing visibility in search results. A consumer seeking a new microwave oven may choose to review multiple electric kitchen appliances advice pages before making a decision.

A business can increase the reach of its website using PPC advertising in the following ways:

Choosing relevant Keywords–keywords are the search terms used by consumers to tell search engines about the specific product or service they are interested in purchasing. For businesses looking for maximizing their reach using PPC or search engine advertising, the focus must be on bidding on keywords that are highly relevant to the search queries that are common in their business. Businesses can make use of their historical data and competitor data to determine the popularity and relevance of various keywords.

The price of keywords can vary greatly, from pennies to several dollars depending on popularity, demand, and the value to the advertiser. The ad’s “quality score”, rank and popularity of the keywords among the competitors determine the price an advertiser has to pay. The quality score is the search engine’s way of determining the relevance of an ad to the searcher by evaluating each keyword’s relevance to the business and its landing page, as well as other factors. The rank of an ad is determined based on its cost-per-click (CPC) and its quality score.

Choosing relevant Geography and Time–search engines have enabled business to analyze their past data to determine where their online customers are located and the best time to reach them. Based on this data and other internal research, businesses can choose the desired geography and time of day in which they should advertise their products and services for optimal results. For small businesses that cater to a local audience, geography-based targeting is especially important and helps ensure that their ads remain relevant.

Profiling the audience–Businesses must understand the profile of their target audience and create “user personas” that will help them identify the relevant ads for their customer base. A young age group may be attracted to video ads, while a more mature audience may prefer an image ad. Audience profiling may also help businesses identify the time of day when their target audience is most likely to make a purchase.

Selecting appropriate Ad sizes–Advertisements displayed on search engines and other third-party sites are available in different sizes, and the digital marketing team must customize their marketing content to the size of the ad being displayed.

Testing various Ads– Search engines allow businesses to experiment with two or more ad options in order to identify the more attractive one, commonly referred to as A/B or multivariate testing. A business can divide its marketing budget between two or more ads to be displayed to a similar audience throughout the day if it is unsure about the most effective advertising message for its products or services.

Customizing Language–businesses can also customize their ads based on the language preference of their target audience to make sure the intended marketing message is relevant and reaches audiences around the world. 

To learn more about PPC advertising, visit SMstudy.com

Marketing for a Flat World

Posted by SMstudy® on February 01, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: fragmented new-age marketing, Thomas Friedman, media channels

Thomas Friedman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author made a strong case for the democratization of the global marketplace in his 2005 book, The World is Flat. Friedman named ten factors that had contributed to the leveling of the world’s economic playing field. One of the most important noted by Friedman was the advent of the Internet and its unprecedented opportunities for connection. In many ways, modern-day marketing is a microcosm of Friedman’s “flat world” where a similar “leveling” of has occurred.  

At one time (not so long ago), traditional media outlets, such as print publications and radio/TV stations received the lion’s share of all marketing dollars. They were the only game in town able to reach large swaths of potential consumers and, therefore, enjoyed a special place in the marketing hierarchy. Ad space was limited in each of these traditional marketing channels and in turn, the cost of ad space (or time) was pricey. So pricey, in fact, that it often discouraged or prevented smaller companies from participating. But, as we know, this is no longer the case.

Compare our current media “ecosystem” to 20, or even 10 years ago, and it becomes clear that as the Internet has grown, so have less expensive, more diverse channels for marketing distribution, opening up the opportunities for smaller outfits to compete with larger companies. All these new Internet-enabled marketing options that have led to the democratization of marketing can be called fragmented new age marketing.

According to SMstudy’s Digital Marketing, fragmented new age marketing supports new, small brands with much smaller budgets and it also allows for more direct targeted marketing.

The book explains that “while mass media marketing is less targeted and primarily focused on affecting emotional attitudes about the brand, new-age marketing is data-driven and focused on driving specific calls to action.”

Fragmented new age marketing allows for traditional avenues, but also includes newer channels such as websites, mobile and social media and within those categories there are numerous economical marketing options. Regardless of company size or limited budgets, there’s some form of new-age marketing that is within reach. And most likely, there’s numerous avenues available even if the budget is nearly $0. For example, online ad networks such as Google, Yahoo! Search and Microsoft AdCenter often offer promo codes that reducing their costs to as low as $25.

In addition, there are a variety of ways to approach marketing in the digital age that are not only free, but break through the limitations of traditional media and allows for greater public engagement. Many relying on creativity and a more open, responsive and organic approach such as connecting with topic bloggers or forging relationships with experts.

As author David Albert notes, “There are many ways to position yourself as an expert: guest blogging, participating on Q&A sites like Focus.com, Quora.com, LinkedIn Group Discussions, etc.”

Fragmented new age marketing recognizes that today’s marketing is, in a sense, open source, offering the ability to grow and build on marketing ideas and opportunities made possible through technology. And now with the demise of the high cost of doing business, the only limitations are the limits of the creative collective. A more democratic global “marketing-place” is here!

 

Sources:

"Top 10 Tactics To Marketing Your Startup Launch With $0", David Albert, Junw 2, 2014 http://www.builtinchicago.org/blog/top-10-tactics-marketing-your-product-launch-0

The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First History, Thomas Friedman. 2005

SMstudy Guide ®, Digital Marketing, Pg. 8 

 

Psychology, Sales and the SMstudy Guide

Posted by SMstudy® on January 29, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: SMstudy, sales, marketing, strategy, segmentation

Could a beer seller’s story about their purple wisteria saving the day help you?

When the story is an example of using psychology and emotion-driven sales, it can and probably should. London Pride accomplished this with their advertisement featuring a uniquely ancient wisteria plant: “The purple genus has been steadily scaling our brewery walls since 1816. It’s the oldest in England.”  It seems the Brits value their past, their national pride and their wisteria.

“London Pride beer uses emotion-driven marketing … that hooks the reader with a memorable story about something Londoners are familiar with and proud of,” says Kath Pay in Leveraging Psychology in Digital Marketing.

A Guide to the SMstudy® Sales and Marketing Body of Knowledge (SMstudy® Guide), makes a similar point: “The most popular blogs choose topics that are of interest to a large community. Successful blogs have something interesting, useful, or creative to share, and do that sharing with an engaging style.”

How does one leverage psychology in his or her marketing efforts? SMstudy® Guide’s book Marketing Strategy explains one of the ways: “Psychographic segmentation is primarily used for consumer markets and involves segmenting buyers along one or more psychological variables including, but not limited to, the following—Attitude, Personality, Values, Fears, Lifestyle, and Life stage (e.g., early childhood, youth, young adult, newly married, married with young children, married with teens, empty nester, elderly and retired).” This type of segmentation begins the process of researching and analyzing a target market’s psychological profile.

“To make the path to conversion clear, you must understand the psychological cues that prompt action, and then consider the entire customer journey, using both implicit and explicit directional cues,” says Pay.

How can you find the cues that prompt consumer actions? The SMstudy® Guide helps here, too, suggesting the use of behavioral segmentation and explaining, “There are five variables that can be used for behavioral segmentation.”

Needs: Users are segmented on the basis of their needs related to a product. Here it is important to understand the users’ category and brand purchasing motives, their value systems and their perceptions in order to draw a composite image of each user and his or her needs.

Consumption Behavior: Purchasers may not be the direct consumers or may not be the only consumers for a variety of products. Therefore, consumption patterns for these products should be considered separately.

Purchase Behavior: Users are segmented on the basis of their purchasing patterns. Some of the patterns are non-user, potential user, first-time user, one-time user (also referred to as “one and done purchasing”), repeat user, former user, product/brand loyalty-based user and early adopter.

Communication Behavior: Users are segmented on the basis of how much they communicate about the product with others before, during and after purchasing. In this respect, opinion leaders are particularly influential as they are knowledgeable about, or are regular users of, particular products; are very vocal about their views regarding such products; and command the attention of other potential customers. In addition to examining how these users communicate, it is also important to understand how they prefer to receive communication. For example, what types of media do they consume?

Consumer Purchasing Roles: Consumers can be categorized based on their roles in the purchasing process. Individuals take on one, several or all of the following roles in the purchasing process: initiator, influencer, decider, buyer and user. When segmenting based on consumer purchasing roles, businesses will often target influencers rather than buyers in an effort to connect with those with the most influence on the purchasing behavior of the group.

Looking at the traits that put consumers in each of these categories provides cues to their motivations and the directions those motivations will lead them.

Using some practical suggestions from www.SMstudy.com can help leverage psychology and make people think that buying from you is a good idea. Cheers.

 

Building Real Castles in the Sky with VMEdu

Posted by SMstudy® on January 29, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: cloud, LMS, content, platform, VMEdu, training

With explosive advances in online communication and cloud formations, intellectual property has become prime real estate. If you have been dreaming of a castle in the sky, now is the time to build it, and VMEdu, Inc. is ready to help.

With its launch of the VMEdu Authorized Content Partners (V.A.C.P.) program, the company opens its full-featured, cloud-based Learning Management System (LMS) to any organization that has created or wants to create courses related to any field of adult learning in any language; or is using another Learning Management System (LMS) to host their courses. The platform and program enables anyone to create and host their courses with zero upfront investment and no technical expertise.

The versatility of the LMS provides content experts with the option of hosting their courses on their own website. The VMEdu technical team provides them with their own high-quality mobile app. If your course content has more than 60 minutes of video, VMEdu will cover all expenses related to creating, maintaining and upgrading your mobile app in an Android version. Additional mobile apps can be created for $250.

This state-of-the-art platform from VMEdu is expected to disrupt the Learning Management System market. With zero upfront costs, best-in-industry mobile apps at zero-cost for Android Phones and experience from teaching more than 500,000 students from 150 countries and 3,500+ companies, VMEdu is definitely positioned to make that happen. To help them, the company has a huge VMEdu Authorized Training Partners (V.A.T.P.) network of more than 750 partners in more than 50 countries.

How valuable is cloud real estate for training professionals? The V.A.C.P. Program offers the opportunity to dramatically increase revenues. In addition to the earnings from students taking their courses on the VMEdu platform, V.A.C.P.s can make their courses available for sale through VMEdu’s fast-growing V.A.T.P. partner network. Promotional courses can be offered for free in order to extend market reach and build increased revenues more gradually. 

What keeps this from being pie in the sky is that the VMEdu Cloud LMS is, by far, one of the best adult learning platforms globally. It has been built over a period of 7  years–with millions of dollars of investment–and tested thoroughly by launching multiple courses and websites that have become international leaders in their fields. Moreover, VMEdu’s strong back-end capabilities allow its partners to easily manage their relationships and training requirements with VMEdu, Inc. VMEdu’s LMS is hosted in a scalable cloud infrastructure and already hosts hundreds of courses with more than 50,000 learning resources including videos, questions, case studies, simulated exams, flashcards, study guides and more.

Cloud opportunities are growing, but many feel anchored to the ground because of a lack of technical expertise or liquid capital. The V.A.C.P. program will put you in your sky castle with zero setup and maintenance costs and no technical knowledge or infrastructure required. Unlike other traditional LMS platforms, one does not have to pay any licensing fees, buy expensive hardware, or hire expensive software professionals to launch online courses and mobile apps. There is no cost associated with creating or uploading courses. Unlike traditional LMS platforms that usually have negligible support for mobile apps, VMEdu creates the best-in-industry mobile apps at zero-cost for Android phones (if more than 1 hour of video courses is uploaded) and $250 for iPhones. One can save more than 90% of current LMS expenses by using the VMEdu LMS–and also have significantly more capabilities than those offered by traditional LMS platforms.

Your place in the Cloud is waiting for you. Pick up your keys at VMEdu.

To learn more about the VMEdu Authorized Content Partner Program, visit www.vmedu.com/Overview-VACP.asp.

Great Teachers Deserve the VMEdu Authorized Content Partner Program

Posted by SMstudy® on January 29, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: VMEdu, Authorized Content Partner Program, Teacher, Sales and Marketing

Great teachers are rare. Great teachers should be prized for what they give to the world. A great teacher should not have to slog it out alone, wasting precious time taking care of the tedious work that must be completed in order get thier courses recognized and propeled to success. This is where the VMEdu Authorized Content Partner (V.A.C.P.) program can come in handy. The V.A.C.P. program offers to take on the heavy lifting of course preparation, presentation and management, leaving great teachers with time to do what they do best...teach!   

The VMEdu Authorized Content Partner program provides real advantages for teachers who are ready to get the word out about their courses!

The V.A.C.P. program lets teachers create and upload courses through an easy-to-use cloud interface called the VMEdu Course Builder. Everything related to your course, including videos, test questions, case studies, flashcards study guides and more can be included. And have no fear, the VMEdu technical team is always available to assist with course creation or any other technical assistance. There is no cost for creating or uploading your courses, and zero licensing fees.

The creation of a mobile app is another perk of the V.A.C.P. program. VMEdu can create a mobile app to support your courses with both your company name and logo. This app can be used by students to experience all available  courses as well as provide students with flexibility they need in their learning experience. Apps can be downloaded from the Google Play Store (for Android App) or Apple App Store (for IOS App).

In addition, VMEdu has a global partner network of more than 750 Authorized Training Partners (V.A.T.P.s), and if so inclined, teachers can sell courses to the VMEdu A.T.P. partner network. Prices are set by the teacher and VMEdu assists in reaching out to its large network of corporates, colleges/universities, training companies and individual trainers. This helps increase reach and at the same time garners additional customers and revenues. More specifically, if a course relates to sales and marketing, teachers may consider selling their courses through SMstudy.com, the global accreditation body for sales and marketing certifications.

VMEdu understands that managing classes can take up a ton of valuable time, so they’ve created an easy-to-use portal where teachers can manage course-related activities such as student access, course financials and course reporting.

With all the benefits of partnering with VMEdu, teachers now have an option that makes sense. The V.A.C.P. program is the accommodating, helpful, time-saving platform that teachers need, so they can focus on the important work of teaching.

For more detailed information of the VMEdu Authorized Content Partner program, visit http://vmedu.com/Benefits-of-VACP.asp

Importance of understanding and evaluating Digital Marketing Channels

Posted by SMstudy® on January 28, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital Marketing Channels, Digital Marketing, Marketing Strategy, demographics, target audience, Internet, social media, e-mail marketing, website

When creating an online presence, one of the initial steps for an organization is to determine the targets as defined by the Marketing Strategy and then explore the various digital marketing channels available to achieve those targets. Organizations typically market their products or services to targeted audiences that differ in demographics such as age, sex, education, marital status, geography, and income. Implementing digital marketing tactics allows a company to target very specific audiences and measure each tactic effectively.

Given the volatile nature of the online world, new channels are emerging with greater frequency, and audiences are continuously exploring new sources of online content—digital marketers must regularly assess and reassess digital marketing channels for their effectiveness. To identify the most effective marketing channels for an organization’s products or services, marketers spend a considerable amount of time and effort identifying and understanding the dynamics of all available digital marketing channels and evaluating these channels relative to their company’s overall organizational goals and objectives.

The digital marketing team analyzes the Internet behavior patterns of its target audience and identifies all possible online media that are used by those consumers being targeted. It observes macro trends that might impact the way in which the organization markets and sells a product or service to consumers. As a result of this process, the organization gains a better understanding of the digital landscape and learns how it can develop and implement its marketing strategies to be effective.

A company must understand the pros and cons of each digital marketing channel as well as the situations in which a channel is most effective or ineffective. For example, when a company wants to promote an important achievement or milestone, the use of social media forums is a good option because of the possibility of a viral effect and mass exposure, which may raise awareness of the company. When promoting a discount offer, the use of e-mail marketing is beneficial because of the fast results it can bring. On the other hand, if the company wants to inform customers about an expected delay in service (e.g., due to a scheduled routine maintenance, delay due some unavoidable circumstances), it is usually enough for the company to use e-mail or their website to notify customers, rather than initiating a social media update. Negative comments often spread faster in social media leading to loss of brand value and image. Therefore, understanding different channels is important in order to evaluate their usefulness.

To learn more about digital marketing channels, visit SMstudy.com

Lower Your Bounce Rates with SMstudy

Posted by SMstudy® on January 28, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: Digital, Marketing

The bounce rate (BR) or the percentage of people who entered a website and immediately left, is a popular metric companies use to determine the quality of a webpage.

According to Digital Marketing, Book 2 in the SMstudy Guide®, bounce rate is defined as “the percentage of visitors who leave the first page of a website they encounter without clicking to other pages on the website. A lower bounce rate from a modified advertisement would indicate that customers were leaving the page less often, possibly because they were finding the page relevant to the advertisement. The target bounce rate should be the bounce rate of pages linked to similar advertisements that the company has used successfully.”

So, a BR is not exactly a percentage of people who visited a website and immediately left, but actually a percentage of people who visited a website but then performed no other trackable actions. Technically, according to these guidelines, a person could read a 10-thousand-word article on a company’s website and share it with five hundred of their closest friends without actually performing a trackable action. A common misconception in regards to BR is often the way it is calculated. If a company does not take into consideration the example above, then the bounce rate will appear to be too high.

Once a bounce rate is properly calculated, it’s time to get down to business. User experience should be the first factor a company looks at in the hopes of reducing their BR. People that browse websites are looking for a seamless passage through the site. If a company’s website is confusing, difficult to navigate or causes confusion, people will tend to look for another site they can get around more easily. As the old saying goes, “keep it simple, stupid.” Another easy way to enhance user experience is to ensure the content is relevant and engaging. This can be done by creating videos, images, blog articles, and more.

One additional action that can easily improve a person’s user experience is customizing language to region. As stated in Digital Marketing, “In order to ensure that the marketing message is relevant and reaches audiences around the world, businesses can also customize their ads based on the language preference for their audience. For example, a company providing services in Canada may wish to develop both French and English versions of their ads to target search queries in either official language.”

For more information about bounce rate and how to lower your company’s percentage visit www. SMstudy.com where you can be sure you will be able to take a seamless journey through our website. 

[Stephanie Vezilj, SMstudy staff writer, contributed to this article] 

Channel Performance Measurement: A Close Overview

Posted by SMstudy® on January 28, 2016 | Corporate Sales (CS)

Keywords: Channel Performance Measurement, Channel Partner, Customer

Channel performance measurement is a key activity when a sales organization employs different types of channel partners. In more complex multi-channel structures, it becomes even more important due to the number of people, processes, and roles involved. The performance of a channel can be measured across multiple dimensions. The parameters that are measured usually are effectiveness, efficiency, productivity, equity and profitability of the channel. 

The various channels have different purposes in the value chain; however, each task needs to support the overall corporate goals. As the number of channel partners increases, it is difficult to ensure that the channel partners are performing their specific roles as effectively as required. For example, the goal of a business might be to increase the number of strategic accounts. However, in order to gather maximum possible commission, channel partners might be engaged in getting the maximum number of accounts possible with total disregard towards prioritizing the acquisition of strategic accounts. It is therefore important to audit the channel partners and incentivize them for activities that are aligned with the corporate goals. The channel performance should also be judged on the ability to fulfill given tasks. A few carefully chosen metrics can give a good indication of the performance of each channel.

The channel performance measurement is primarily a four-step process.

  1. Define the Sales Objectives
  2. Determine Channel Performance Metrics
  3. Set Channel Partner Targets
  4. Manage Channel Performance

 

1. Define Sales Objectives

The first step in channel performance measurement is to define the sales objectives for the company. These objectives are outlined and discussed in sales meetings to ensure a shared understanding between members of the marketing and sales teams.

2. Determine Channel Performance Metrics

Evaluating the performance of a distribution channel depends largely on the agreed upon performance metrics. Choosing the right number and type of performance metrics can help to monitor and improve the performance of channel partners. These metrics provide an understanding of how well the channel partner is doing in reaching its performance targets.

Though it is possible to evaluate a channel on hundreds of performance metrics, this would make reporting and analysis of the performance a cumbersome job. When determining channel performance metrics, a key performance driver, such as sales or units sold, should be chosen to identify and measure the most important tasks. A series of performance metrics are then decided based on the key performance driver.

3. Set Channel Partner Targets

After overall sales objectives are defined, it is important to assign specific targets to each of the channel partners to ensure they are in alignment with the overall objectives. Properly set targets provide a benchmark to measure channel success, monitor performance, and take corrective action to meet expectations. Each channel partner has a specific role towards fulfilling the overall sales objectives. Performance targets should be set to reflect the channel partner’s contribution to the overall objectives

4. Manage Channel Performance

This is the final step in channel performance measurement. It uses the agreed upon goals, assigned performance targets, and identified performance metrics to manage channel performance on an on-going basis and to identify the performance shortfalls of the channel partners. During this step, management gains an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each channel. Management can then take corrective action to ensure efficient performance of the channel.

The success of a channel and its efficiency are determined by the efficiency of channel intermediaries in delivering goods and services to customers and the quality of services offered in the process. Developing a comprehensive marketing plan that provides clear and concise direction about marketing activities and strategy is critical to the organization's success.

To learn more about Channel Performance Measurement, visit www.SMstudy.com

VMEdu Cloud LMS Lets You Create and Host Your Online Courses for Free

Posted by SMstudy® on January 27, 2016 | Project Management

Keywords: Learning Management System, Courses, Adult Education

The state-of-the-art platform from VMEdu is disrupting the Learning Management System (LMS) market. As part of the VMEdu Authorized Content Partner (V.A.C.P.) program, VMEdu is allowing anyone to create and host their courses with zero upfront investment and no requirement for technical expertise. Not just that—it provides content experts with the option of hosting their courses on their own website and provides them with their own high quality mobile app too.

Following are some of the key benefits of the VMEdu Authorized Content Partner (V.A.C.P.) Program:

1. Best Student Experience – Online, Mobile and Classes: VMEdu Cloud Learning Management System (LMS) is, by far, one of the best adult learning platforms globally. It has been built over a period of 7 years, with several millions of dollars of investment – and tested thoroughly by launching multiple courses and websites, which have now become global leaders in their fields. Using the VMEdu LMS allows V.A.C.P.s to offer their courses on their own websites - either online or through their mobile apps. VMEdu also supports physical classroom training options for some high-demand courses. Moreover, VMEdu’s strong back–end capabilities helps its partners easily manage their relationships and training requirements with VMEdu Inc. VMEdu LMS is hosted in a very scalable cloud infrastructure; and already hosts hundreds of courses, with more than 50,000 learning resources including videos, questions, case studies, simulated exams, flashcards, study guides etc. Anyone can join for free and launch their free course in few minutes/hours on their own website.

2. Zero Setup and Maintenance costs - No technical knowledge or infrastructure required: Unlike on other traditional LMS platforms, one does not have to pay any licensing fees, buy expensive hardware, or hire expensive software professionals to launch their online courses and mobile apps. There is no cost associated with creating or uploading the courses. Unlike traditional LMS platforms which usually have negligible support for mobile apps, VMEdu creates the best-in-the-industry mobile apps at zero-cost for Android Phones (if more than 1 hour of video courses uploaded) and $ 250 for IPhone. One can save more than 90% of your current LMS expenses by using VMEdu LMS – and also have significantly more capabilities than those offered by traditional LMS platforms.

3. Additional Revenues – Courses can be sold to VMEdu partner network of 750+ V.A.T.P.s: Courses created by V.A.C.P.s can be made available and sold through VMEdu’s fast-growing partner network of 750+ Authorized Training Partners (A.T.P.s) in 50+ countries. This makes their course available to a huge network of companies, colleges, universities, training companies, and individual trainers/experts. No other traditional LMS platform helps content providers with customer acquisition.

4. Leader in Global Education: VMEdu is a global leader in adult education through its multiple brands and partner eco-system. VMEdu has taught more than 500,000 students from 150 countries and 3,500+ companies; and have a huge A.T.P. partner network of 750+partners in 50+ countries. It is funded by Sequoia Capital which is the leading Private Equity/Venture Capital firm in the Silicon Valley – and has funded innovative global companies such as Apple, Google, Cisco, LinkedIn, Oracle, WhatsApp, etc.

To learn more about the VMEdu Authorized Content Partner Program, visit www.vmedu.com/Overview-VACP.asp

Reach New Heights with Your SEO: 2016 Trends and SMstudy Guidance

Posted by SMstudy® on January 27, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: SEO, Google, Yahoo, Bing, Social Media, SERP

 

There are, on average, 12 billion web searches conducted in the United States EACH month. This ginormous figure highlights (and underscores) the importance of where your online content appears in search engine results and what can be done to improve a site’s ranking on search engines such as Google, Yahoo, etc.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of modifying online content to improve its “searchability”. The SMstudy Guide®, Digital Marketing book describes SEO as an optimization of a website through editing, tagging or coding pages in order to improve online traffic.

The book states, “The objective is to ensure that the site appears in search engine results for the keywords that are most relevant to the business. SEO also involves removing any barriers that would prevent search engines from indexing the site, as well as promoting the site to increase the number of backlinks or inbound links.”

Since its rise to prominence in 2010, Search Engine Optimization has been evolving at a brisk clip and 2016 will be no exception. As we close out the first month of the new  year, two important SEO trends are beginning to come into focus.

Trend #1

In 2016, the lines will blur (even more) between social media content and traditional web content. As social media content is now being indexed by the search engines Google, Yahoo and Bing, the chances of social media content coming up in search engine results has greatly increased. This is good news for marketers, but it will require greater focus on incorporating SEO best practices into social media marketing. 

Brian Honigman, CEO of Honigman Media explains “Today, links are mainly achieved through developing original content that is in turn, shared across social media. Links to your content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube and other social networks help the search engines understand what websites are credible and should be ranked for what keyword phrases.”
 

Trend #2

Consider these two statistics regarding mobile use:

1. Four out of five consumers use smartphones to shop.

2. 70% of mobile searches result in an online action (such as a purchase).

With the continued increase of smartphone use, it’s no surprise that the latest Google algorithm update nudges mobile-friendly sites to the top of its search results. This is a clear indication that focusing on optimizing mobile content is now just as important as optimizing web content.

In more general terms, SMstudy’s Digital Marketing suggests optimizing website responsiveness to ensure easy viewing on mobile devices. The book goes on to suggest, “Maintain a separate mobile site since mobile users prefer websites in which content can be consumed on a smaller screen and on the go; provide only relevant content: and maintain a light mobile site to ensure faster loading the mobile site.”

For more articles on sales and marketing, visit smstudy.com.

[Spring Eselgroth, SMstudy staff, contributed to the article.]

 

Sources

SMstudy Guide, Digital Marketing, pgs. 77-78.

“Eight Ways Social Media Affects SEO”, Brian Honigman, Sept. 11, 2013. http://blog.sumall.com/journal/8-ways-social-media-affects-seo.html#ixzz3yTSPgOWt.

“From Brick-and-Mortar to Mobile Click-and-Order: Which Retailers are Carving Out Space in the M-Commerce Market?”, Sarah Radwanick
Lead Corporate Marketing Manager, Sept. 19, 2012. http://www.comscore.com/Insights/Press-Releases/2012/9/Retailers-Carving-Out-Space-in-the-M-Commerce-Market.

“70% of mobile searches result in an online action…within one hour”, Ahmed Ahmed, Dec. 20, 2012. http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/70-mobile-searches-lead-action-within-1-hour-infographic.

“Search Engine Optimization Stats,” Hubspot.com, http://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics.

Do You Have the Guts to Do That Again? Sales, Strategy and SMstudy

Posted by SMstudy® on January 26, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: sales, marketing, analytics, strategy

Guts are squishy, often irritable, and can be irregular, yet, many sales and marketing professionals base their practices on “gut feelings” and hunches. 

“Marketing departments will continue to become less dependent on quantifying the value they are delivering to the organization based upon squishy, feel-good branding efforts and they will be even more driven to leverage data and analytics across all marketing channels,” says Russ Hearl, VP at DoubleDutch[1] in a collection of seven sales and marketing predictions for 2016.

To do this, marketing departments will need to borrow some tools and techniques used by other managers in their company. One such tool suggested by SMstudy in its book Marketing Strategy is Value Chain Analysis: “Value Chain Analysis is used to analyze the value created by a company’s current activities. It explores where more value can be added, as well as where value is not being added throughout the chain of activities.”

In addition to “quantifying the value [the marketing department] is delivering to the organization,” the data collected in the Value Chain Analysis can be used as benchmarks for evaluating the company’s existing accounts with a BCG Growth-Share matrix[2]. “Among the many things you should do is start by going backwards, not in how you sell, but how you plan and set yourself up for success,” suggests Tibor Shanto in “It’s A New Year – Let’s Go Backwards.”[3] Identifying which accounts are Cash Cows, Stars and Dogs can give great insights in how the company has set itself up for success in the past.

Shanto says that sales professionals need to make plans for the new year based on data. Among the data required, he includes “some core conversion rates: number of proposals that close, number of real prospects required to generate a REAL proposal, and number of people/companies you’ll need to engage to land one REAL prospect.” Based on a well-developed example, Shanto concludes, “The key is to execute a well-planned strategy, rooted in the real numbers to drive real results.”

“One of the most widely used criteria for lead qualification is BANT, which stands for Budget, Authority, Need, and Time frame,” says the SMstudy® Guide for corporate sales. An analysis in each of these areas produces real numbers that can be used to build successful strategies. SMstudy’s soon-to-be-released Corporate Sales book presents and analyzes the processes of lead generation, lead qualification, needs assessment, negotiation and closure—all within the arena of creating sales strategies that work.

Thinking about sales and marketing from a strategic point of view that leverages data and analytics demands a new approach. That approach is being championed by SMstudy and presented in our six-volume SMstudy® Guide because we want today’s sales and marketing professionals to be tomorrow’s success stories.

Find additional posts on sales and marketing at www.smstudy.com/articles. 

 

[1] Quoted by Erin Sherbert in “Seven Sales and Marketing Predictions for 2016” (12/7/2015) Salesforce Blog Retrieved on 1/26/2106 from https://www.salesforce.com/blog/2015/12/sales-marketing-predictions-2016.html?d=701300000021KSN&soc=LinkedIn

[2] The BCG Growth-Share matrix by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is discussed more fully in SMstudy® Guide; Marketing Strategy, book one of A Guide to the SMstudy Sales and marketing Body of Knowledge (SMBOK® Guide), pages 42+ [available at http://www.smstudy.com/SMBOKGuide/Overview-of-SMstudy-Guide]  

[3] Tibor Shanto. (1/7/2016) “It’s a New Year – Let’s Go backwards.” SellBetter. Retrieved on 1/25/2016 from http://www.sellbetter.ca/its-a-new-year-lets-go-backwards/

How to Ensure your Campaign is Noticed with SMstudy

Posted by SMstudy® on January 26, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: Automation, Marketing, Sales, Surveys

Last year 540 million dollars was spent on marketing globally. 90 percent of that marketing went unnoticed. This number does not represent the percentage of marketing that was liked or disliked, instead it includes the billboards that fade into the background of a city skyline or a print ad that was flipped past while searching for a story about some sort of celebrity gossip.

Marketing managers often ask their teams, “How should we brand our product?” Or “What will make a consumer want to buy a product?” But maybe they should be asking, “How do we get noticed?” Because if you can’t get noticed, then why even bother?

In order to get your marketing noticed, we need to reinvent the wheel a bit. Marketing automation is just as necessary to marketers as QuickBooks is to accountants. According to Tim Asimos vice president & director of Digital Innovation, “Marketing automation provides marketers a powerful and easy way to integrate all the components of their online marketing program into one system, helping to more intelligently manage the customer experience across online channels. And over the last several years, the software has seen enormous growth, fueled by the likes of Act-On, Pardot, Marketo and Hubspot among others.”

Not only does marketing automation save time and improve efficiency, but it also gives marketers the ability to focus their attention on creativity and innovation rather than worrying about the nitty gritty aspects of a campaign. Asimos notes, “As today’s buyers (B2B and B2C) have become increasingly sophisticated and research oriented, marketing and sales simply have to change their approach. Customers are in control and want to make informed decisions. And they seek out information that is educational, insightful and helpful, not the in-your-face sales messages that dominated marketing of the past.”

So how you produce this sort of material? It’s quite simple, really. Companies can perform surveys to gather the necessary data to target their decided consumer base.

As stated in Marketing Strategy, book 1 of the SMsutdy Guide®, “Surveys typically gather quantitative and qualitative data. They are conducted to help companies understand how their brands are viewed in the market and to identify the brand attributes that are preferred by customers. Surveys also help to determine how customers view the company’s products or services relative to competing products. Customers may associate positive attributes with a company such as reliable, innovative, fast, secure, and friendly, or they may perceive a company or a product in a negative fashion and provide attributes such as inconsistent, frustrating, slow, or mediocre when describing their perceptions.”

Leveraging marketing automation software can provide your online marketing program a much-needed boost. It saves you time and increases reach and engagement by sending relevant and timely content to prospects. It also allows for marketers to focus their energy on creating the magical content that’ll get a campaign noticed.

To learn more about improving your marketing efforts, visit www.SMstudy.com today.

[Stephanie Vezilj, SMstudy staff writer, contributed to this article] 

Sampling in Market Research

Posted by SMstudy® on January 25, 2016 | Marketing Research (MR)

Keywords: Sampling, Market Research, population, sample, sampling strategy, Probability sampling, Non-probability sampling

In statistical language, sampling is choosing the portion or subset of a population. A population is the entire group of objects having characteristics of interest under study. The subset of a population that is chosen for the study is known as a sample. In the context of market research, sampling means collecting opinions from a chosen segment of a large mass, to know the characteristics about the whole group.

The chosen sample must represent all or most of the features of the population from which it is chosen. To ensure that the chosen sample appropriately represents the population, a strategy is required. This strategy is known as a “sampling strategy.” The sampling strategy is a plan or strategy created to make sure that the sample of the population on which data will be collected is accurately representative of the group identified for study.

The task of sampling is undertaken when information regarding a process or product is not readily available, and analysis of the entire population on which the critical information is required is not feasible or possible (i.e., such an undertaking would be too time-consuming and too costly). Because sampling reduces costs and employs fewer human resources (among other benefits), it is commonly employed in most industries that require critical information regarding a process or product.

Sampling is also used when the data collection is a destructive process. For example, CDF Inc. is a mineral water manufacturer that produces bottled mineral water. The quality assurance team tests the quality standard of the mineral water by randomly selecting a sample of bottles taken from each production batch. In the testing process, they open the bottles and introduce chemicals into the contents, thus destroying the sample. These bottles will no longer be hygienic enough for sale and the water will be contaminated; testing the entire population of bottles would result in no revenue for the company, and therefore a sample is tested.

Researchers can choose from a number of different types of sampling strategies. The type of strategy chosen should appropriately suit the research objectives.

Sampling strategies are classified as either probability sampling or non-probability sampling.

Probability Sampling Strategies—Probability sampling strategies are the most reliable sampling strategies because the margin of error is minimal due to the statistical procedures used. In these strategies, every component in the population has an equal and independent opportunity to be chosen.

The four main methods of probability sampling are simple random sampling, systematic sampling, stratified sampling, and cluster sampling.

Non-probability Sampling Strategies—Non-probability sampling strategies are not as reliable as probability sampling strategies. The selection procedures in these strategies involve non-random methods. As a result, the subjects in the population do not have an equal chance of being selected as part of a sample. These types of sampling strategies are less likely to produce representative samples than probability sampling strategies. Regardless of this factor, many researchers have successfully used and continue to use these strategies. The three main strategies of non-probability sampling are Convenience, Quota, and Purposive.

To know more about sampling strategies, visit SMstudy.com

Big Data and Analytics : Fundamentally changing the marketing landscape

Posted by SMstudy® on January 22, 2016 | Digital Marketing (DM)

Keywords: big data, analytics, marketing landscape, smart phones, decision making, predictive analytics, forecasting

Big data and analytics become an integral part of marketing since the inception of internet in the late 1990’s and the introduction of smart phone and other internet enabled smart devices in recent times. Big data usually refers to the data sets with sizes beyond the scope of commonly used software tools to collect, clean, manage and process data within an acceptable time frame. With the rapid advancement in technology and increasing use of smart phones and other internet enabled devices, organizations today face overwhelming volume of data through multiple channels and devices. The main roadblocks while using big data are:

  • Capture high volume of data from multiple sources and consolidate the data
  • Data cleaning (i.e. removing redundant or unnecessary data – internal data, data generated due to testing, deletion/ blocking of cookies)
  • Data storage
  • Data sharing/ transfer
  • Data visualization
  • Data analysis

Now the important question is why should organizations use big data and analytics. The answer lies in decision making. Organizations cannot afford to make any decision just by guess or gut feeling. The use of predictive analytics and certain other advanced statistical methods to extract value from data leads to more confident decision making which in turn results is greater operational efficiency, cost reduction and reduced risk.     

Big data enables marketers to increase the size and range of information sources while speeding up reporting, enabling real-time forecasting and more informed and accurate decision-making.

marketers benefit from a large volume targeting options when it comes to online advertising. The growth of cookies and information-rich social media, means that the data is there to go beyond simple demographic, geographic, psychographic and time-based targeting options. 

Big data analytics helps optimizing campaigns and improve results in a scalable, real-time manner.

Big data transformed the last-click conversion attribution model to the multifaceted attribution model which takes into account all touch points across consumer purchase life-cycle. It was complicated earlier to capture these different, interrelated factors and their relative weights. But big data makes it easy to track, analyze and evaluate activities to see what is actually driving customers to engage.   

Find additional posts on sales and marketing at www.smstudy.com/articles. 

[Suman Ghosh, VMEdu staff writer, contributed to the article.]

Sources:

https://econsultancy.com/blog/65260-the-top-four-applications-of-big-data-in-marketing/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/mckinsey/2013/07/22/big-data-analytics-and-the-future-of-marketing-sales/#6f0ec1ee344d

How to Beef up your Resume with SMstudy

Posted by SMstudy® on January 22, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: Marketing, Sales

The national unemployment rate is 5 percent, but this number does not include employed people still looking for THE job. With that being said, what can you do to get a leg up on the competition? And let’s be honest, competition is what it’s all about, right? Each person that applies for THE job (the one you want) should be considered your rival. So, how do you stand out with a potential employer and knock your competition back on their heels?

The answer is simple. Certifications. If you are applying for a position in sales or marketing, a certification from SMstudy will put you one step in front of your peers. A certification shows prospective employers that you are passionate about sales and marketing and an added perk- the training will give you the confidence you need to ace that interview.

Adding certifications to your resume also demonstrates that you are able to work hard towards a goal and finish it successfully, something employers consider carefully. If you are able to set your sights on a goal, work towards it, and achieve it. You will ultimately master a new body of knowledge. Or in the case of SMstudy, a Sales and Marketing Body of Knowledge.

As stated at SMstudy.com, “It is important for us to note that the fact that we are in the twenty-first century does not make all the earlier avenues of Sales and Marketing obsolete.”

Technology has changed the way people reach, interpret, and react to information. Therefore, companies are searching for new ways to broaden the scope of sales and marketing thanks to the ability to reach their consumers through the Internet. Given these new forms of buyer-seller options many professionals believe that the information age, brought upon by technological advances, has redefined the roles of sales and marketing.

According to Mike Templeman at Forbes, “Marketing technology is growing at a rapid rate. And that growth is causing it to bridge the gap between sales and marketing by understanding the areas of the funnel that used to be the domain of the sales team. For instance, a remarketing campaign can continue to market to a potential customer even after the sales person has initiated contact. Similarly, marketing automation is also a technology that continues to touch the client, through email campaigns, even after the sales team has made its claim.”

With this information in mind, why wouldn’t you want to earn a certification in sales and marketing with SMstudy? I can’t think of one.

For more information and resources visit www.SMstudy.com

[Stephanie Vezilj, SMstudy staff writer, contributed to this article]

Sales training, not just for sales teams anymore. SMstudy is for everyone.

Posted by SMstudy® on January 22, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: sales training, SMstudy, message continuity, company-wide training

As companies continue the eternal pursuit of streamlining, a little bit of universal sales training can yield major benefits. Basic understanding of the aspects of the sales process is a benefit for all members of a company regardless of position or department.

Some very real advances in efficiency can be achieved when everyone speaks the same language.

Ever feel important communications get lost in translation from one branch of a company to the other? Since sales is usually a crucial element of any company, it benefits everyone to have an understanding of sales processes and its terminology.  When everyone speaks the same language, everything goes more smoothly.

According to Will Brooks, executive vice president and director of marketing at The Brooks Group, “Communication is enhanced once everyone is fluent in the selling process, when the dialogue around specific accounts and stages in the buyer’s journey becomes more efficient—both within the sales team and across departments. Congruent terminology and standard definitions of each stage in the buying process reduces miscommunication and unifies the sales and marketing departments.”

Continuity of Message = Efficiency

Another important benefit of universal sales training; the continuity of company communication, both internally and externally. A consistent informed message that permeates a company will make a stronger clearer message to potential customers. As customers are brought in to the sales cycle, they will continue to receive a consistent message that in turn leads to a seamless customer experience. 

Brooks notes, “Customer service can better understand the customer’s needs once they have received sales training, and when marketing understands the sales process, they can provide tools and resources that are aligned with how sales is selling. The promises sales makes to customers should mirror the messages that marketing sends out, and alignment between these departments ensures that’s always happening.”

SMstudy works very well for any company considering a company-wide sales training program. It’s convenient and offers flexible training opportunities that work within the timeframe of a staff members’ busy schedule. The SMstudy Guide® and all its resources, including training videos, study guides, test questions and more, is ideally positioned to provide a positive sales training experience for everyone. 

Find more interesting information on sales and marketing at smstudy.com.

[Spring Eselgroth, VMEdu staff writer contributed to this article.]

Sources:

How Sales Training Can Benefit More Than the Sales Team, Will Brooks. Sept. 21, 2015. https://www.trainingindustry.com/blog/blog-entries/how-sales-training-can-benefit-more-than-the-sales-team.aspx

 

 

 

SMstudy and the Post-Advertising World

Posted by SMstudy® on January 22, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: SMstudy, marketing, advertising, digital, communication, strategy

We recently read that “We are living in a post-advertising world.” The claim was made by John Horsley, director of Digital Doughnut, a global digital marketing community. Horsley should know, so we took notice.

Horsley explained his claim in a LinkedIn group forum: “Conversations have replaced campaigns, engagement trumps reach, and brands are no longer built by above-the-line agencies, but at every touchpoint the business has with its customers. And the thread that links all these elements is social media.” This resonates with us at SMstudy. We have included a lot about touchpoints, engagement and social media marketing in A Guide to the Sales and Marketing Body of Knowledge, also referred to as the SMstudy® Guide.

Horsley was using his claim to incite and invite members of the group to take part in a survey being conducted to explore the current status of companies and social media and contribute to his work “New Report: Social Media’s Impact on Customer Experience.” He says “businesses have been slow to respond, often hampered by outdated structures, siloed thinking and a lack of strategic understanding.” Now, that really resonates with us because we wrote an entire book on Marketing Strategy as one of the six aspects covered in the SMstudy® Guide and we offer certifications in marketing strategy.

His claim did not resonate so well with others, however. One group member commented, “Social media channels are simply another way to touch someone, as is and remains advertising. Effective communications usually consist of multichannel or cross channel strategies.” We had to agree with several points here. Our Digital Marketing book says, “Given the nature of the online world, which is constantly evolving and expanding—new channels are developing with greater frequency, and audiences are continuously exploring new sources of online content—digital marketers must regularly assess and reassess digital marketing channels for their effectiveness and applicability in helping achieve the company’s overall organizational goals and objectives.”

Social media provide many opportunities for delivering messages that advertise. Within Marketing Strategy whole sections have been dedicated to planning and developing social media as well as other digital channels.

The term “posting” (as it is used in advertising) comes not from posting mail but from a time when fences, street lamp poles, telephone posts and any available urban wall space were festooned with advertisements for products, shows, soon-to-arrive circuses and political candidates. When the rampant postings got out-of-hand, a new posting appeared saying, “Post No Bills.” Now, many marketing and advertising messages are being posted online and in social media. Perhaps we should say we’re living in a post-post-advertising world? Well … maybe not.

Another commenter added, “effective marketing communication is always a delicious idea (whatever it might be) served on many different (multichannel) dishes.” And that’s an idea we can relish.

To get more insights about sales and marketing, register for the free SMstudy subscription today - http://smstudy.com/Subscription/Free-Subscription

SMstudy : Your Way Up

Posted by SMstudy® on January 21, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: marketing, management, sales floor, alternative certifications, Marketing Strategy, Digital Marketing, Marketing Research Expert, Corporate Sales, Retail Sales, Branding and Advertising

When you leave the sales floor, where do you want to go?

Some people will just head to the lounge for a cup of coffee, but others will advance to new positions in marketing and management. What will make the difference?

Recently, the U.S. Department of Education began finding ways to encourage, facilitate and fund student participation in “alternative certifications.” As America and the global community moves to meet the needs of twenty-first century business, this is seen as a move to help training schools and companies that prepare students for professional certifications. The move is toward certified professionals that business and industry can trust.

There are many certifications available to programmers, project managers, automobile mechanics and more. Now there are certifications designed for professionals in sales and marketing. These certifications and complementary training come from VMEdu, Inc., the global training company that has trained more than 400,000 students worldwide. Through its association with SMstudy it offers a range of certifications in six Aspects based on the six most common and often distinct career fields related to Sales and Marketing.

For those who want to move into helping companies develop plans for making their products and services dominate the marketplace, SMstudy offers four certifications in Marketing Strategy. SMstudy says that marketing strategy makes the difference between startups that last beyond the start and those that falter a few steps down the track. These certifications lead to management-level careers and opportunities.

For those who have the desire to harness the power of the Internet and social media, SMstudy offers certifications in Digital Marketing.

And for those who like to know the inner workings of what makes people buy what they buy, there’s a path from a Marketing Research Associate certification to Marketing Research Expert.

Training and certifications are also available in Corporate Sales, Retail Marketing and Branding and Advertising.

More than 30 percent of the American workforce and similar percentages worldwide are involved in sales and marketing either directly or indirectly. It is an exciting field that drives every industry, business and profession. Training and certification organizations such as SMstudy can help retail clerks become sale professionals.

For interesting articles about Sales and Marketing, visit www.SMstudy.com/articles

Get the SMstudy, not Nuts

Posted by SMstudy® on January 21, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: Marketing, Strategy

When creating a brand for your company do not use an American celebrity to shoot chocolate bars at innocent bystanders. Apparently Mars, the company who produces Snickers chocolate bars, did not get the memo.

In July of 2008, Snickers UK launched a commercial starring Mr. T, an American actor and one determined (and brave) speed walker. In the commercial, Mr. T crashes through a building, in what appears to be a supped-up pickup truck, and pulls up alongside a young man wearing tight yellow shorts. Mr. T proceeds to open fire with what appears to be a Gatling gun, pelts his victim with Snickers bar “bullets” and yells, “Speed walking?! I pity you fool. You a disgrace to the man race. It’s time to run like a real man.”

The commercial was pulled after just one week.  The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group, criticized Mars for spreading, “the notion that violence against LGBT people is not only acceptable, but humorous.”

Mars could have avoided this marketing failure by taking a look at Marketing Strategy, book 1 of the SMstudy Guide®. According to the book, “Brand perception refers to how prospective and current customers react to seeing or hearing about a company’s product or brand and how the company is perceived within the market. Leading organizations across industries realize that a powerful brand is one of their most important business assets, so they work hard to maintain a positive brand perception as it helps to increase sales and improve profitability.”

This was the second commercial in a three-part campaign entitled, “Get Some Nuts.” Mars had envisioned Mr. T as the face of the Snickers brand, but instead they were branded the company with the face of homophobia. Snickers could have avoided this issue by performing surveys as explained in Marketing Strategy. “Brand perception can be measured using a variety of approaches, but it is mainly measured via research surveys that question participants about the perceptions of the company and/or its products. Surveys typically gather quantitative and qualitative data. They are conducted to help companies understand how their brands are viewed in the market and to identify the brand attributes that are preferred by customers.”

The intention of the “Get Some Nuts” campaign was to target men and their masculinity. In order to be a real man you need to be tough and aggressive like our good ole pal Mr. T. Mars could have avoided yet another blunder by sticking to Marketing Strategy. As stated in the book, “Once a company has identified all market segments, explored the competition, and then compiled the details of competitive products, it should then analyze the various segments and the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats faced by the company in order to identify the target segments in which the business would be most competitive. This process involves identifying the type of customers a company plans to target and the product categories under which it intends to create products.”

In this case, the campaign did not just humiliate homosexual men, which makes up 1.8 percent of the male population, but also men perceived to be “wimpy”. The campaign only targeted men that are rugged and tough, which does not help a company when it comes to forming target segments.

Companies can benefit from providing their employees with the knowledge that can be found in the SMstudy Guide®. If only Mars had been aware of what a Sales and Marketing certification can do for its company, they may have eluded a very big marketing fail.

For more information and resources about Sales and Marketing visit SMstudy.com.

[Stephanie Vezilj, SMstudy staff writer, contributed to this article]

Why it is Better to Wear More Than One Hat and How SMstudy Helps You

Posted by SMstudy® on January 21, 2016 | Project Management

Keywords: technological advancements, big data, social media, mobile technologies, cloud, sales and marketing

A “soup-to-nuts” attitude is the best way to approach any career. Demonstrating an intense interest in a subject and presenting a thorough understanding and a “can- do” work ethic are all feathers in your professional cap.

While in some fields extreme specialization is still required, there’s a growing trend toward job consolidation or the combination of what was once two separate careers into one. And in fact, as the trend doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon, broader skillsets may be a requirement in the future. Thus the need to wear more than one hat (at least professionally speaking) will continue to be increasingly important.

One of the main reasons for this shift is the impact from technology. Over the last decade advancements in technological solutions have transformed the way companies do business. The opportunities technology provides for streamlining workflow, such as automation or software application utilization, is a movement that’s been noted across industries.

Using sales as an example, Stuart Leung of salesforce.com said, “Technology is transforming the world of sales. Going forward, only organizations that use powerful tools and technologies such as big data, social media, mobile technologies, and the cloud to streamline the sales process will remain profitable and competitive. Those who choose to retain outdated sales techniques may ultimately cease to exist.”

The rise in technological advancements has also been noted in the trend toward streamlining staff as well. As technology provides tools that allow for greater efficiency, a staff member is freed up to handle more aspects of the process…not simply one small part. In many fields this has led to the combining of jobs when it’s seen as beneficial and appropriate.

There exists a natural symbiotic relationship between sales and marketing departments. Streamlining and job combining between the two allows for a more efficient workflow and optimizes the sharing of objectives and the continual free flow of communication.  Of course this is good news for a company, but it also opens growth opportunities for current or future staff members as well.

For a sales and marketing team member, there are clear benefits to possessing knowledge of both the sales and marketing processes. It sets you apart as someone who can offer comprehensive critical thinking. It also allows the “left hand to know what the right hand is doing”, or in other words there is smooth communication and understanding between the two sides of the sales and marketing spectrum. To be well versed and authoritative on the workflow of connecting potential customers with valuable content and to provide knowledgeable sales skills to assist customers in finding solutions can set you apart when out on the job hunt, working toward greater responsibility within a company or even considering striking out on your own (ala the entrepreneur).

Whether you’re seeking to align your skill set with the new professional landscape or planning to move into a sales and marketing field and want to show a comprehensive knowledge of the continuum of sales and marketing, SMstudy can get you there.

SMstudy offers training and certifications on its own platform available through the SMstudy website.

  • SMstudy has gathered expert instruction and guidance from all over the globe to offer a vast library of information on the various aspects of sales and marketing.
  • SMstudy is budget friendly. Many courses (and Associate certifications) are free to all.
  • SMstudy is a major opportunity for networking with others who share an interest in sales and marketing.
  • SMstudy offers the opportunity to share sales and marketing knowledge and insight through the SMstudy platform that allows the creation of training materials such as videos, study guides, mobile apps and more.

For interesting articles about Sales and Marketing, visit www.SMstudy.com/articles

From Niche to Mass-market: The Tesla Story

Posted by SMstudy® on January 19, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: Product design, Niche market

Over time, we’ve seen a number of companies that acquire leader status in their product/ service either by slightly improving their product over existing competitor products or by providing the same product at a lower cost either by operational efficiency or loss-leadership. While such strategies might help companies gain leadership status for a while, it will never help them attain truly sustainable leadership.

To attain a truly sustainable brand, companies need to change their competitive landscape and provide their customers with a product which is truly revolutionary and still difficult to replicate. And if you are able to combine that with addressing an environmental need, you’ve really hit a home run. This is why the success of Tesla to establish their name in the automotive industry through their electric vehicles is to be taken note of.

Tesla Motors to the uninitiated is a leading American automotive and energy company involved in design, manufacturing, and sale of luxury electric cars, electric vehicle powertrain components, and battery products. Tesla Motors was incorporated in July 2003 with an aim to commercialize electric vehicles. Let’s look at the factors that helped Tesla grow into their target market.

  1. Focused initial launch: Tesla’s initial strategy was to target the early adopters. They started out with the Roadster which was in the premium sports category and target influencers like George Clooney, Leonardo Di Caprio etc. who endorsed the product and the philosophy of it being environmental friendly.
  2. Develop Ecosystem: In order to make the electric vehicles viable, Tesla also needed to invest heavily in infrastructure around filling stations. Each electric vehicle like any normal vehicle has a certain mileage when full. For electric vehicles to become the new standard, Tesla needed to replicate the existing ecosystem which they’ve done using the Tesla Superchargers. Not only have they set up a comparative ecosystem, they also provide these stations for free. Superchargers have increased their coverage and already cover most states in the US and countries around Central Europe and crucially, are growing really fast.
  3. Focus on Design: Despite the obvious advantages that Tesla provide with their car being environmental friendly and zero cost charging, Tesla has also focused heavily on ensuring that the design of the car is futuristic and user focused. Features within the design like apps to show car’s charge level and other functionality, keychain remotes, large storage space for long journeys, customizability of car give it an edge over even the  regular cars in the market. So just from a design perspective, the cars are attractive to an audience that might not be too concerned over the environmental impact of their car.
  4. Amazing drive experience: We’ve already spoken about how the design of the vehicle is really impressive for Tesla, but when it comes to driving, the Tesla literally takes the breath away. These cars are designed with a low center of gravity making them more stable then regular cars. The engine of the car is completely silent thereby enhancing the driving experience of users whereas the acceleration is really quick to cater to a younger audience too.
  5. Tesla Energy: Besides their vision around cars, Tesla as a company has ambitions to really promote re-usable modes of electricity and as a part of their ambition, they have extended the use of Solar electricity to other products under their Tesla Energy brand. Tesla recently announced the launch of its Home energy device Powerwall which sold out almost immediately. With such products aimed at the right audience, Tesla should be able to maintain an edge over competitors.

Thus we’ve been able to see how Tesla as a company have not only created a new line of products but have also grown them into mass market usage by developing an ecosystem around them. Any this not only creates a barrier to entry for new players without capital backing but also the ones with deep pockets who will find it tough to compete with the technological superiority that Tesla has created.

For more interesting articles about Sales and Marketing, visit www.SMstudy.com/articles

The importance of product positioning to the marketing strategic planning

Posted by SMstudy® on January 19, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: product positioning, positioning statement, marketing strategy, niche market, market segment

Product positioning is a very important tool for an effective marketing strategic planning. Product positioning creates an image of the company’s products in the mind of consumers, highlighting the most important benefits that differentiate the product from similar products in the market. Product positioning involves identifying points of parity and points of differentiation that enable a company’s product to both meet market standards while offering consumers additional value on key dimensions such as quality, innovation, price, leadership, and functionality, among others.

Product positioning starts with identifying the specific, niche market segments to target e.g. not just working professionals but single working professionals of age group 25-30 years, having an annual income of $50,000-$60,000, and enjoy adventure activities. After segmenting the target market by demographic and psychographic attributes, marketers must understand customer needs. With well-defined target segments, product positioning enables a company to meet very specific needs of a particular market segment, offering value that may not be provided by competitors.

Marketers must keep an eye on the competitiion while considering positioning elements of their marketing strategy. An effective positioning must convey a message to customers why this company’s product should be preferred over the other competitor’s products of similar nature. In other words, the company should not go by the flow of the market i.e. copying what the competitors are doing rather they need to stand out from the crowd by offering distinguishing or differentiated product attributes and other value added services.

The next stage is how to communicate the differentiated offerings to the identified niche market segments. This is possible by selecting the appropriate communication channels that are tailored to connect with their identified target audience when they will be most receptive to these messages. Say for example, a sports car manufacturer position their products through communication via television advertisements during sports events like formula one. They also use print media by running full page high resolution color ads in sports magazines.

It is important that the business incorporate the product positioning across all facets of the business, including manufacturing and customer service in order to ensure consistency of the positioning from the consumer’s standpoint. Further, the positioning must not only align with other divisions and with the current corporate objectives, but also provide long-term sustainability and remain relevant for product variants and for future market scenarios. Using strong product positioning is a key component to the success of the Marketing Strategy and to meeting overall corporate objectives.

To learn more about the product positioning, visit SMstudy.com.

The Millennial Impact

Posted by SMstudy® on January 15, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: Marketing, Strategy

Snapchat, the quick and fleeting photo messaging application, has become increasingly alluring for companies wanting to dip their toes in the “Ephemeral Marketing” waters.  Truthfully, the app had a rocky start entering the digital marketing world, but companies such as McDonald and Chat Sports have now mastered the art.

Snapchat launched in 2012 and currently has 50 million users sending more than 400 million picture or video messages (“Snaps”) per day. That is 46 snaps a second. It’s no wonder companies and marketers want to utilize the app!

Snapchat has several features that are useful in marketing a brand or product. You can send pictures or videos to your followers, but the media will only be visible for up to 10 seconds and then it will disappear, as per Snapchat rules. So, the trick is to use the medium effectively considering the time constraints. Companies have also found the story feature to be very convenient, even if it may sometimes require a workaround. Since users can post snaps to their story, but only users that follow a company can actually see the company’s story, social media strategists put on their thinking caps.

One example of social media “assistance” was used by the American fast-food restaurant McDonalds. McDonalds wanted to employ Snapchat to promote a new product, but they had yet to expand their follower base. The company turned to Twitter, another social media platform, to release a photo from their Snapchat account with the words “stay tuned” written in French fries. This generated a curiosity that in turn built their user base. McDonalds then snapped several pictures on their Snapchat story to ensure their product was seen by all of their followers.

Another example comes from Chat Sports. Chat Sports took a different route in order to grow their following.  The company sent a snap to their followers announcing the opportunity to win free baseball tickets if they could get five of their friends to add “ChatSports” on the app. This expanded their base and also provided the company with the capability to reach their target audience.

There are several other ways for companies to market their brand or product on the app. The NBL snapped behind the scenes videos to promote  games. Taco Bell and GrubHub used the app to send snaps with discount offers. But you better be quick if you want to grap the offer; customer only has ten second to take a screenshot of the coupon before it disappears. Companies have even promoted their live events by urging users to send videos of their experience and send it to the company for free tickets.

As stated in Marketing Strategy, book 1 in the SMstudy Guide®, “It is a fact that people now spend more time on the Internet, via smartphones, tablets, or computers, than they spend on conventional mass media, such as television, radio, or newspapers. This is especially true for the thirty-year-old and younger market segment. Since sales and marketing is most successful when it meets the demands of consumers, this change in consumer preferences is significantly altering the sales and marketing landscape for established companies. Businesses are discovering that conventional mass media marketing has limited effectiveness and some customer segments are not even reachable using these traditional media forms. “

A study done by re/code gets to another reason why companies are so keen on Snapchat. Out of the 50 million Snapchat users, 84 percent are Millennials. If Millennials are your target,  then where else would you want to be! Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t mean that Millennials have a short attention span, it’s that the attention that is given needs to be quick and genuine which is exactly what Ephemeral Marking promotes. 

[Stephanie Vezilj, SMstudy staff writer, contributed to this article]

Focusing on the Why

Posted by SMstudy® on January 15, 2016 | Marketing Strategy (MS)

Keywords: Golden Circle, Simon Sinek, Apple, core values, core beliefs

How do we inspire people to take action such as buying a product or service? Everyone wants to know! Well, author Simon Sinek says the answer lies in the Why, the centermost part of his Golden Circle.

Imagine a bullseye target with three rings (such as the one in the above image); the outer ring is What, the middle How and the center is Why. Simply stated, the What is the product or service you provide. The How is everything that you or your company have done to improve upon or create the What. In other words, all the selling points of the product or service. And finally, the Why. The Why is the place where the purpose or belief behind the company is stated and hopefully inspires a person to action. Ideally, they relate to the company’s core beliefs. This is the Golden Circle, and according to Sinek it explains all human decision-making behavior.

Sinek states that all human decisions, such as “should I buy this product?” occur in the limbic system, the part of the human brain that is directly responsible for feelings of trust and loyalty. Interesting to note, the limbic brain’s reaction to a company’s core beliefs (their Why) is not logical and lacks the capacity for language. From this understanding we gain important insights into what drives a person to make a purchase. It’s not the description of what a company does or how they do it, although those can be beneficial in supporting the decision. The How and the What do not sway a consumer to buy; it is the Why that compels humans to purchase a product or service.

Sinek repeats his statement twice for emphasis, “people don’t buy What you do, they buy Why you do it.”

Will an understanding of The Golden Circle affect marketing success? Sinek gives a definitive Yes!

As an example Sinek uses is Apple computers.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we can see Apple’s What is great computers.

Their HOW is an offering of greater creative freedom, less viruses, user-friendly interface, etc. All the cool things MAC computers can do.

And finally the WHY. In the case of Apple, we see a very strong belief and ideology emanating from the company. They believe in challenging the status quo and thinking differently as Apple’s Think Different marketing campaign declared in the late 1990s. The Think Different campaign has been Apple’s boldest “Why statement” to date and is still credited with its success nearly 20 years later. Take a look at an example, “Here’s to the Crazy Ones”, and see if you feel anything bubbling up…

 

Once consumers made the “Why connection” with Apple, the bond has proven nearly unbreakable. So strong is the loyalty, in fact, that people are willing to purchase, not only their computers, but all the other products Apple has released, including iPhones, iPads, etc.

Sinek notes that every incredibly successful company (such as Apple) has done so through clearly showing and explaining why they are doing what they do. As he points out, every company in the world can say what they do…and many can tell you how they do it. But very few can clearly tell you why they do it. And that makes all the difference.

And one more time for good measure…

“People don’t buy What you do, they buy Why you do it.”  So, focus on the Why.

Watch Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk here…

 

Find more articles on sales and marketing at smstudy.com.

[Spring Eselgroth, VMEdu staff writer, contributed to this article.]

Various types of Primary Data in the context of Marketing Research

Posted by SMstudy® on January 14, 2016 | Marketing Research (MR)

Keywords: Primary Data, Secondary Data, esat survey, Demographic Data, Psychographics and Lifestyle Data, Intentions, Attitudes, Awareness, Motivations, Purchase behavior

When a researcher collects new data for a specific research project, the data is considered primary data. On the other hand if the data is already available in house i.e. historical data or data received from some other external sources (e.g. industry reports, internet searches, government published reports etc.), the data is considered as secondary data. 

The research requirements will vary from project to project, with many research projects requiring both primary and secondary data to solve the research problem. Some research projects can be solved with the sole use of existing secondary data, while in other cases no secondary data exists and the research project can only be solved with the use of primary data.

As a rule, a researcher should always try to collect and analyze secondary data before moving to the collection and analysis of comparatively costly and time-consuming primary data. In some cases secondary data may be inadequate or unusable. When the needed data do not exist or are outdated, inaccurate, incomplete, or unreliable, the researcher needs to collect primary data.

Let’s take an example to illustrate the need of collecting primary data. It is a common HR practice to keep the employees satisfied for most of the medium to big sized companies as studies show that engaged employees are more productive and are better contributors to their employer’s goals and objectives. Employee satisfaction surveys (popularly known as “ESAT survey”) are done to evaluate the satisfaction of employees on key parameters such as satisfaction with senior management, immediate managers, company policies, work environment, hygiene factors and other facilities, training and development, opportunities for personal growth etc. In this case collecting primary data is a must as it is meaningless to use past ESAT survey data for the current workforce.

There are various forms of primary data. Some common types are illustrated as follows:

Demographic Data—Demographic data are related to characteristics such as the gender, age, income, education, occupation, marital status, ethnicity, and social status of the target group. Demographic primary data categorize the target market into different customer segments each having some common attributes which help marketers to focus on a specific segment or create segment specific marketing strategies. For example a fast food (e.g. pizza, burgers etc.) brand may find that preferences of people in the 20–30 age group are different from the preferences of people in the 30–40 age group.

Psychographics and Lifestyle Data—This kind of data is related to personality traits, interests, lifestyle, values, and opinions of the target respondents. Marketers often combine psychographics and lifestyle information with demographic information to obtain an important perspective of the target market.

Intentions—Intentions refer to the anticipated future behaviors of an individual. This is a subject of interest to marketers who want to solve a research problem related to future consumption rate or demand.

Attitudes—Attitudes refer to a person’s feelings, convictions, or beliefs toward an object, idea, or an individual. Since attitude impacts behavior, it is of great importance to marketers.

Awareness/KnowledgeThis data refers to what subjects do or do not know about an object of investigation. Information influences behavior and marketers often want to know how the behavior of customers changes with their level of awareness regarding a particular product, brand, object, or industry.

MotivationsA person’s actions are the reflection of his or her inner state. Marketers often want to know the motives that direct specific consumer behavior. Motivations can include users’ category, brand-purchasing motives, value systems, and perceptions among others.

BehaviorsBehaviors are the actions taken by respondents. Questions regarding respondents’ behaviors toward a particular situation can be asked to them directly and can be included in a survey. However, the responses may not represent the actual behavior of the respondents. Observation techniques are more often used to understand the actual behavior of respondents. Purchase behavior is also an important factor; when considering purchase behavior, marketers might categorize consumers as non-users, potential users, first-time users, regular users, or former users.

To know more about primary data, visit “SMstudy”.

5C Analysis

Posted by SMstudy® on January 13, 2016 | Marketing Research (MR)

Keywords: situation analysis, 5C analysis, 3C analysis, research problem, PESTEL

5C Analysis is a technique used to conduct situation analysis. Conducting a situation analysis is one of the important steps in identifying the research problem. A situation analysis involves examining the external environmental factors and internal organizational capabilities that impact how a company operates.

5C Analysis is one of the most popular and useful frameworks in understanding internal and external environments. It is an extension of the 3C Analysis that originally included Company, Customers, and Competitors. Collaborators and Climate were later added to the analysis to make it comprehensive. This integrated analysis covers the most important areas of marketing, and the insights generated can help identify the key problems and challenges facing the organization. However, it should be noted that not all five elements need to be considered when identifying the problem in a particular area of marketing. Depending on the area of marketing under scrutiny, some areas need to be given more importance than others.

  • Company—The company analysis studies an organization’s vision, strategies, capabilities, product line, technology, culture, and objectives. It is useful in understanding the existing and potential problems with the company’s business.
  • Customers—Understanding customers is a key part of situation analysis. It involves knowing the target audience, their behavior, market size, market growth, buying patterns, average purchase size, frequency of purchase, and preferred retail channels.
  • Competitors—Competitor analysis is critical in understanding the external environment in which the firm operates. This analysis involves knowing the competitors’ strengths, weaknesses, positioning, market share, and upcoming initiatives.
  • Collaborators—Collaborators are the external stakeholders who team up with the organization in a mutually beneficial partnership. Agencies, suppliers, distributors, and business partners are typical collaborators. It is important to understand their capabilities, performances, and issues to better identify business problems.
  • Climate—Climate analysis is the evaluation of the macro-environmental factors affecting the business. PESTEL analysis can be used to analyze climate—political, economic, social/cultural, technological, environmental, and legal scenarios are included in PESTEL.

To learn more about 5C analysis and other situation analysis techniques, visit SMstudy.com.

Optimizing Underused Assets- The Shared Economy

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