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: http://www.smstudy.com/SMBOKGuide.

2. BusinessDictionary.com Retrieved on 3/31/16 from http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/marketing-mix.html  

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.

Increase Your Online Success With An Effective Website

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.

Should You ask Permission to Market?

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.

For more interesting articles visit SMstudy


Krista Neher, “Permission Vs. Interruption Marketing,” content writer at Boot Camp digital. http://bootcampdigital.com/permission-vs-interruption-marketing/