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


When is enough too much? Interpreting Marketing Research and 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.

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.

Pushing the Envelope: The Case for Paper

“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 SM Study.

You are So Annoying! Not You, SMstudy, I am on the Phone

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 NylonInstagram 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 SM study.

Instagram: Picture Perfect and Ad Friendly

Three years after Facebook purchased the immensely popular photo-sharing social network Instagram, it was officially opened up to all advertisers in the summer of 2015. This was a highly-anticipated and long-awaited social media channel for marketers, because let’s face it, with more than 400 million users per month, Instagram is quite the catch. And although it’s still very young and not everyone has tested the image-centric waters, recent feedback suggests it’s going swimmingly.

As of October, two months following the API launch, Nanigans, a company at the vanguard of advertising technology for in-house marketing, reported that 31 percent of all advertisers using their company’s ad automation software were spending marketing dollars on Instagram.

With user engagement second only to Facebook, Instagram is considered by Nanigans and other digital marketers as a necessary component of any social media marketing strategy, but some changes may be required.  As marketers move in to the unique Instagram environment, adaptations may be necessary to the existing look and function of ads.

Instagram currently offers three options for advertisements; photo, video and carousel, and they’ve done a nice job explaining what they offer and how they can help businesses on their information page … https://business.instagram.com/advertising/

With Instagram advertising in mind, some things to consider are…

1. It’s a visual medium, so bring the goods, or go home. Gorgeous images, interesting videos, highly polished or insanely cool, Instagram is the marketing channel where creativity can and should run wild and where special attention should be given to the aesthetics of the advertisement.

2. Tiny URLs, not just for Twitter anymore. Unfortunately, Google analytics does not track traffic generated from Instagram. Create customized short links in order to track the flow of traffic being driven by the Instagram ad. Bit.ly is a great resource for customizing a short link that can then be tracked.

3. Hop on and share the ride. Improve exposure through sponsored posts on peer feeds. Posting sponsored content on an Instagram account that is relevant and shares a similar demographic can yield wide exposure. This can also be done by including trending hashtags with Instagram ads/posts. The Instagram explore feature allows users to easily search for trending hashtags, so you can serve up biggie-sized exposure by simply adding a trending hashtag to an ad/post. According to Richard Lazazzera, content strategist at Shopify and founder of A Better Lemonade Stand, Instagram is currently the cheapest CPM (cost per thousand impressions) of any ad platform, so it’s worth participating and sharing.

4. And finally (and as always), bring them into the funnel. Once an ad has managed to capture attention and perhaps even a “follow”, it’s time to consider the next step in bringing a customer deeper into the marketing funnel. One of the best (and easiest) ways to accomplish this is to ask for an email address. Whether it’s a newsletter or additional relevant content a company is offering, opportunities for snagging an email address can create marketing success. A direct contact, such as an email address, allows for direct communication, which can be more personal and meaningful for both the customer and company.

Find additional posts on sales and marketing at www.smstudy.com

VMEdu Cloud LMS Lets You Create and Host Your Online Courses for Free

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 know more, please click on: www.SMstudy.com