The Lean Startup Movement and SMstudy

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.

[1] Retrieved on 5/23/16 from



A Disappearing Brand

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 inMarketing 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

What Turns a Ford into a Lincoln?

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:

2. Retrieved on 3/31/16 from  

What Did You Do When You Were Supposed to be Sleeping?

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.

Marketing Strategy Overview

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 and gets its own book in the SMstudy® Guide series. The book shows how 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 its marketing activities.

The well-planned marketing strategy includes a set of outputs from the eleven marketing strategy processes described in theMarketing Strategy book of the SMstudy® Guide. These outputs appear throughout strategic planning to help provide overall direction for marketing initiatives designed to support the promotion of the company’s products or brand.

Marketing Strategy’s second chapter, “Analyze Market Opportunity,” discusses the concepts related to analyzing the internal capabilities of a company and factors of the external environment that impact the business. An analysis of market opportunities is important because businesses operate in dynamic and constantly evolving environments. Understanding the changing landscape and trends impacting a business helps in developing an effective marketing strategy. Crucial factors to consider while analyzing a market opportunity include defining the market within which a company intends to operate and segmenting the market to identify potential customers for the company’s product portfolio.

The processes associated with Analyze Market Opportunity are Determine Strengths and Weaknesses, Determine Opportunities and Threats and Define Market and Identify Market Segments. Each process is explained in detail using its associated inputs, tools and outputs. Analyze Market Opportunity helps an organization understand what it can deliver so that it can fulfill customer needs.

The third chapter, “Define Competition, Targeting and Positioning,” first explores identifying the competition, understanding industry trends and creating future competitive scenarios that help in selecting target market segments. It then looks at creating a differentiated positioning statement for the company’s products or services for the target segments selected. Competitive positioning tools help define how a company can differentiate its product offerings to create value in the market by fully understanding its target segments and the competitive landscape.

The chapter outlines three processes that help an organization understand market competition, target appropriate market segments and define product features that help create a differentiated positioning statement for the products or brands of the company: Identify Competition, Select Target Segments and Create Differentiated Positioning.

Marketing Strategy’s fourth chapter is “Determine Pricing and Distribution Strategies.” A pricing strategy properly prices a company’s products or services so that the company can sustain profitability while maintaining or growing its market share. Developing a pricing strategy involves assessing the value of the company’s products based on their features; analyzing the pricing and features of competitive products in the market; analyzing the consumer mindset, which takes into account demand and price expectations for the products; and considering anticipated unit costs, sales and profitability. A distribution strategy defines how a company moves a product from creation to consumption in a cost-efficient manner while focusing on the end users’ needs. The distribution strategy is important because understanding and addressing the needs of the entire distribution channel external to the company ensures that products or services are delivered and sold to customers in the most efficient and effective manner possible.

The two processes developed in the fourth chapter are Determine Pricing Strategy and Determine Distribution Strategy. The pricing strategy is determined for the various products or services of a company. The end objective is sustainable profitability while growing or maintaining a healthy market share. The distribution strategy ensures the most efficient delivery of a company’s products or services to the customer and that the selected strategy is based on the company’s assessment of several alternative distribution channels. These processes are explained with the help of their associated inputs, tools and outputs.

“Determine Metrics, Objectives, Marketing Aspects and Budget Allocation” makes up the fifth chapter and discusses the various metrics and objectives used for sales and marketing such as reach, brand perception, product availability, sales and profitability. It also covers various sales and marketing Aspects including Marketing Research, Digital Marketing, Corporate Sales, Branding and Advertising and Retail Marketing, presenting a framework for allocating targets and budget for each of these Aspects.

The fifth chapter describes three processes using their corresponding inputs, tools and outputs. The processes are Determine Metrics, Determine Objectives and Decide Marketing Aspects and Allocate Budget. In the first process, Determine Metrics, various sales and marketing metrics such as reach, brand perception, product availability, sales and profitability are determined. These metrics help measure the success or failure of the Marketing Strategy. In Determine Objectives, attainable, quantifiable and time-based objectives are determined for all of the metrics selected in the previous process. In the final process, the sales and marketing teams select the Marketing Aspects that will help the company reach its overall sales and marketing objectives. Subsequently, specific objectives are determined for each marketing Aspect and a marketing budget is allocated for each.

With a well-developed and designed marketing strategy, a company can achieve and sustain sales success.

Sales Training Program: The Foundation of Corporate Sales

A salesperson is the one who doesn’t think in term of sales rather believes in building a business.  A set of unique personal attributes along with approach to work makes a complete salesperson. It is always difficult to recruit and retain productive salespeople.

So, Sales training is essential for new sales team members as well as experienced professionals to hone their skills to deliver results. As the various Aspects of Sales and Marketing change over time, it is necessary for the corporate sales team to receive training on a regular basis. Sales training keeps the corporate sales team up-to-date about changes in the market, new sales techniques, gaps in existing processes, and changes in the industry with respect to PESTEL factors.

The corporate sales team is the company’s first point of contact with its customers.  Therefore, sales training for corporate sales team should be comprehensive and cover the entire range of processes, tools, and skills required from prospecting to closure.  And in designing sales training programs, the requirements and experience levels of the sales team members are taken into consideration.  If sales training does not match the team’s level of proficiency, it will not be effective and, its value may be questioned by the team.

Sales training should impart the following to the corporate sales team:

  • Knowledge of sales processes: Sales training teaches the corporate sales team about the various processes involved in the sales cycle—prospecting, lead generation, qualification, needs assessment, presentation, and closure. For example, CRM training is essential for a sales team to learn how to plan sales activities by using a customer database to develop target lists and identify customer needs and customer potential for specific products and services.
  • Knowledge of the industry, market, and target segment: This includes knowledge about competitors, understanding of the target segments, knowledge of macro-environmental factors that affect the industry, and knowledge of industry practices. For example, a supplier of manufacturing equipment needs to understand the production processes of its customers which will allow them to provide definite product recommendations to its customers to improve productivity, eliminate waste, or reduce manufacturing costs.
  • Soft Skills: Soft Skills or People Skills are the personal traits that define an individual’s ability to communicate and interact with others. The six critical soft-skills for sales person are communication, flexibility, teamwork, positivity, time management and confidence. Soft skills help the corporate sales team develop and maintain good relationships with prospects and customers.
  • Knowledge of tools and marketing resources: In addition to understanding the CRM system, sales personnel need to be aware of existing marketing resources such as presentation templates, e-mail templates, videos and other internal and external marketing assets that can be used during the sales process. For example, In L’Oreal a gap was seen in product knowledge within its sales team, so they carry out an e-learning program for empowering their team.
  • Motivation: Motivating the corporate sales team is necessary to prevent lags and burnout. Motivational training is more important for existing corporate sales team members than new ones because of their longer exposure to achieving sales targets. For example, Best Buy Company used Path to Excellence initiative. Best Buy awarded sales force badges to ones who implemented concepts taught in training and badges led to four distinct levels of recognition, ranging from bronze to platinum.
  • Business values and ethics: A corporate sales team that demonstrates good business values and ethics will have a significant effect on the success of the organization. The corporate sales team must be trained on business values and ethics, irrespective of their experience prior to joining the company.

There are various modes of delivering sales training to the corporate sales team:

  • Classroom Training:  An instructor in a lecture hall or classroom typically conducts classroom training. This provides a setting for participants to learn new skills and concepts, and to practice and demonstrate the learned skills.
  • E-learning:  In e-learning situations, training is delivered through electronic media and allows sales team to brush up their product knowledge. E-learning can be provided through instructor-led virtual sessions, using on-demand content stored in a central repository, or through online forums for collaborative learning.
  • Libraries/Repositories:  Corporate sales team can use industry reports, sales books, research data, and other texts to increase knowledge about the industry and to improve existing sales processes.
  • On-the-Job Training: For effective real world training, new sales team members are paired with senior sales team members to learn actual sales processes. On-the-job training is traditionally the most commonly used mode of sales training. In Walgreens, “Well Experience” training was given in pharmacy environment to get a hands-on experience. They used games like merchandise scavenger hunts for sales team to familiarize with new store layouts.

Sales training can be carried out using a combination of the above modes of training based on company requirements. Continuous sales training is recommended for the corporate sales team.