Learn How to Make a Product Training Program Effective

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.

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Optimizing Underused Assets- The Shared Economy

Let’s assume that it is the year 2000. Try and think of what are the biggest companies you know about in this era. Chances are, you would be thinking of a giant in IT, Manufacturing or Finance set-up. These companies come with a few common factors:

  1. They have multiple offices around the world
  2. They employ tens of thousands of employees
  3. They have large capital investments in equipment, assets etc.

Now whether you think of an IT leader like Accenture, an Oil and Gas leader like Shell, a Manufacturing giant like Boeing, these factors are common to them. Any airline operator will need to invest a huge amount on leasing their fleet or paying their ground staff around the world.

However, the last five years have led to some companies creating multi-billion dollar investments despite having zero assets of their own, very small employ strength that operate out of a single office. We will look at two such companies who have leveraged on technological advancement and under-utilized inventory globally to develop huge businesses where none existed- Uber and Airbnb.

Now everyone would have heard of atleast one of these companies but if you have been living on a lonely island for the past few years, Uber is a taxi-aggregator that helps consumers hire taxis on the go through their app and Airbnb is an aggregator for people to find and rent lodging around the world. What’s amazing about these businesses is that Uber does not own a single one of it’s taxis and similarly Airbnb does not own any of the properties listed on their site.

What they have done is develop a two-sided marketplace where on one side, they identified an underutilized asset and found a way of addressing the same by providing them a platform to better utlize the asset and on the other hand, they have provided consumers cheaper and/or better options to use these services. The idea seems really simple when you think of it. There are people who stay in a house and have an empty room. Now they can just list this room and get some revenue out of it. At the same time, for customers, these rooms are cheaper than what a hotel room would cost. What Airbnb has been able to do is recognize this gap in the market and provide customers an easy way to view these listings.

Now the basic question that comes to mind is: If the idea is so simple, why did no one thought of it before?

Well like every major company in the world, the reason Uber and Airbnb were so hugely successful was not because someone thought of this unique idea all of a sudden, it was only at this point in time that technology had evolved to make such a model viable. Ten years back, there were low internet penetration, very few smartphones which meant it was almost impossible for such businesses to take off. There was no real benefit in me calling the uber office when I am stranded somewhere asking for a cab. And even if I did that, I would have to give them exact directions while someone from their office tried to call their cab drivers and find which cab driver was in the nearby locality to pick me up.

What has helped Uber is the new ecosystem:

  • Everyone now carries around a smartphone and is able to use their app
  • Uber is able to track their cab drivers to assign the nearest one to you
  • Uber was able to integrate these under-utilized cabs and get them more revenue
  • At the same time, Uber was able to increase their fleet by allowing anyone with a car to make money
  • Financial transactions are done with the click of a button making the user experience extremely smooth

Now with the new concept of sharing economy that Uber and Airbnb have evangelised, we see a number of businesses that come up for optimizing under-utilized inventory. Whether it is a marketplace for Adventure activities connecting adventure groups to consumers, Food delivery connecting restaurants and home chefs to customers, Utilities connecting electricians/plumbers etc to you. The ecosystem has helped these two-sided marketplaces really explode onto the scene.

Can you think of an underutilized asset that hasn’t been optimized yet? You could be onto the next billion dollar idea.

For more interesting articles about Sales and Marketing, visit – www.SMstudy.com/articles

How to Ensure your Campaign is Noticed with SMstudy

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.

Corporate Strategy: The Ladder for Strategic Ascendancy

With the ever increasing B2B sales and rapidly expanding global network, organizations today face a tough challenge  dominating the competition and gaining substantial market share. Moreover to answer questions like “Where are we now?, Where do we want to be?, and How do we get there?”, companies require a concrete strategy to help comprehend and answer these questions at hand. These multifaceted problems requires the senior management of the companies to work in tandem to create and define “Corporate Strategy”, that helps address the ever increasing challenges of the corporate competition.

Corporate Strategy defined by the company’s senior management team are guiding principles for the organization as a whole which takes into consideration an assessment of the existing capabilities of the company and external opportunities and threats to the business. Thus formulation of a company’s Corporate Strategy requires inputs from multiple stakeholders, particularly senior management who are well aware of the strengths and weakness of the organization.

To device a proper Corporate Strategy most companies use existing documentation regarding their Corporate Product Strategy, Corporate Marketing Strategy, Corporate Operations Strategy, Corporate Finance Strategy, and Corporate Human Resource Strategy. These documents are integrated to help define a coherent Corporate Strategy. The level and complexity of documentation for these strategies vary depending on the size of the company and the breadth of its product portfolio and geographic reach.

Many companies execute strategic planning exercises at appropriate and specific time intervals like once or twice a year to arrive at a corporate strategy. This process helps ensure that leadership team has coherently defined goals and strategies that align with the overall strategic goals of the organization.

Corporate Strategy is often defined at a company level; but strategy can also be formulated at lower levels depending on the size and complexity of the organization. For example, the Corporate Strategy for an entire company can be divided into strategies for each business unit or geographic region and then divided further into specific product or brand strategies for each product or brand in a defined geographic region. The Product or Brand Strategy is the lowest level of this hierarchy.

Corporate Strategy thus acts as a benchmark for the company to execute future plans by carefully assessing it internal and external capabilities and helps inundate actions that aid in achieving overall targets and goals.

Reach New Heights with Your SEO: 2016 Trends and SMstudy Guidance

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.

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.

The importance of product positioning to the marketing strategic planning

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.

What Do You Do When Your Boss Says Prove It

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.
Sources: 
The State of Social Marketing- 2015, Simply Measured, http://simplymeasured.com/#sm.0001gymsunkgqdcepli19xtqnlo4p