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. TheSMstudy® Guide highlights bar charts, stratum charts, pictograms and cartograms for their usefulness and broad-based familiarity.

Once one has an excellent collection of tables and charts, something is still needed to make complete sense of them all: expert judgment. “The ability to appropriately interpret the data develops with experience. Inexperienced researchers can sometimes interpret data in a preferred way because of their comfort level with a given method. A researcher should try to seek the opinions of industry experts and research experts, who can provide valuable inputs in choosing the best way to interpret data within the given constraints,” says SMstudy® Guide’s Marketing Research book.

When relevant inputs are processed with appropriate tools, the researcher draws conclusions that are used to solve the research problem and inform marketing decisions. In short, accurately interpreted research means you know the problem AND the best solution options. And knowing is a great feeling between the clouds and the ocean.


[1] Battle, Emma. (7/23/14) “Metadata, Mega Data or Big Data What’s in It for Marketers” Success 360. Retrieved on 4/21/16 from http://www.success360i.com/metadata-mega-data-or-big-data-whats-in-it-for-marketers/

[2] April 18, 2010 Raffi Kirkorian published a “Map of a Twitter Status Object” http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/TweetMetadata.pdf

[3] For more information about the SMstudy® Guide please, visit http://www.smstudy.com/SMBOKGuide/overview-of-SMstudy-guide


The Rise of Organic Advertising on Snapchat


There are 83 million Millennials. That is 83 million young adults that were born in the early 80s to late 90s, and 71 percent of those young adults check their social media websites every day. It only makes sense that companies have moved to social media when it comes to advertising their brands.

Snapchat, a company born in 2011, is now worth 18 billion dollars. So, ask the question. Go ahead. How did they do it? They learned how to monetize their product. Snapchat Discover is part of the latest app update. It provides companies with the ability to market their brand on the Stories menu. This not only eliminates the restriction of only being able to reach the people that personally follow a company but also costs 100 dollars CPM or cost per mille. For those who have no idea what that means, that is 100 dollars per 1,000 views. You can imagine how fast the money is being raked in when you consider there are 100 million daily active Snapchat users and the number is rapidly growing.

As fantastic as the new Snapchat Discover is, it doesn’t really assist companies that are not able to fork out large sums of money to reach the masses. Companies such as The Coca-Cola Company have figured out how to overcome this issue by handing the metaphorical reins over to Snapchat Influencer, Harris Markowitz. Snapchat Influencers are just your average Joes that have accumulated millions of followers by utilizing the app to it’s potential. The Coca-Cola Company partnered with Harris Markowitz to organically advertise their brand.

Markowitz has been providing weekly exclusive content for their Snapchat Story by, “reflecting the company’s set mission: to refresh the world, to inspire moments of optimism and happiness, and to create value and make a difference. The Snapchat stories Coca-Cola creates refresh the organic advertisement world within the app by meeting all of their company missions in a creative way,” said Julian Gamboa, Lead Course Assistant at the University of California, Berkeley.

So not only do these snaps reach the followers of The Coca-Cola Company, but every single one of Markowitz’s 5 million followers has the opportunity to enjoy the engaging and entertaining Snap Story. By hiring Markowitz, The Coca-Cola Company went from promoting their brand to the few that have chosen to follow the company to having the brand viewed by millions of users virtually overnight. Other companies such as Taco Bell and Mashable have also jumped on the organic advertising bandwagon by partnering with Snapchat Influencers.

Partnering with an influencer on social media almost tricks viewers into thinking they watching their favorite Snapchat star’s Story and in the digital marketing world we like to call this native advertisement. According to Digital Marketing, book 3 in theSMstudy® Guide, “native advertising is a form of online advertising that blends in with its surroundings. The objective is to promote a company’s product or service in a way that is ‘native’ to the platform in which the message appears. Native ads are promotional pieces that are attempting to look like the material to which they are adjacent.”

The going rate for partnering with Snapchat influences varies as much as their online personalities, but there are best practices when it comes to negotiating a mutually beneficial agreement. Most influencers accept a flat fee. It simplifies the process for everyone and it is helpful for the allocation of funds months in advance (if need be). As Snapchat charges cost per mille, so do influences. For the most part. Influencers have also been known to ask for a percentage of the sale rather than flat compensation, as well as free products or services.

According to Ad Week, “Snapchat splits revenue with the media companies for ads on Discover channels, and those sponsorships can cost as much as $75,000 a day, say marketing execs. In other cases, brands like McDonald’s cough up as much as $750,000 for daily official sponsorships.”

Companies like Boost Insider aids brands in finding the right influencer for them at the right budget. You can partner with an influencer for as little as 200 dollars, but, again, this number does depend on the amount of followers the influencer has. For small business, hiring an influencer is not out of the cards, it will drastically improve the way you organically use Snapchat and give you the fun of going native.

For more interesting articles about sales and marketing, visit www.smstudy.com/articles

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 Smstudy.com/articles.


Instagram Advertising Benchmark Report 2015, Nanagins.


13 Instagram Marketing Tips from the Experts, July 22, 2015. Cindy King, Social Media Examiner. http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/13-instagram-marketing-tips-from-the-experts/

Is the Dancing Bear Threatening User Interface?


A “Dancing Bear” is very interesting and entertaining to watch, but the more you watch the more you think, what is the point?

Nicholas Griffin, regional director at Allen International equates a dancing bear to the digital experience. Everyone is looking for the digital experience: a computer-automated world that will get you what you want when you want it. But the more you think about it, what is the point?

Everything is right at your fingertips in the digital world, but that is until you open your mobile app and you can’t seem to navigate the app to save your life. Gone are the days where you could pick up a newspaper and skim through the pages until your eyes land on an article that tickles your fancy, welcome to the new age where that darn search button on your favorite news app appears to be hiding from you.

The information that you thought was right at your fingertips is actually not. And you’re not alone. Your customers are having the same experiences. So, what do you, as a company, to fix this problem for your customers?

The answer is quite simple really, look to SMstudy. According to Digital Marketing, book 3 in the SMstudy® Guide, “User interface refers to the quality of design, ease of navigation and responsiveness of an app or mobile site. An app or mobile site might perform all the functions and have all the features that customers want. However, if the graphic quality is low, or navigation is not intuitive, or the app or mobile site is slow to respond, then the perception of the app or mobile site from a user’s perspective is negatively impacted.”

In order to avoid the “Dancing Bear,” companies need to ensure their customers that they can do anything with the touch of a button and that button should be very easy to find. But don’t stop there. The app or mobile site also needs to be engaging. Which sounds difficult, but it’s really not. If you create content with your customers in mind rather than your business, the content will feel tailor made and will attract more customers. Visuals are processed 60,000 thousand times faster than text, so they are also a must.

But how do you know if your company has produced a product that will truly satisfy your customers? As noted in Digital Marketing, A/B testing can be very useful when a company is unsure whether their app or mobile website is, in fact, engaging, easy to navigate and performs all of the features their customers are looking for. The company can divide its’ budget between two or more design layouts and track the response rate.

Lucky for you the “Dancing Bear” is easy to evade if you keep a close eye on it, and for any future questions in regards to your sales and marketing needs visit http://www.SMstudy.com.

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

Back Talk Can Be Good for You; Customer-Centric Differentiation and SMstudy

canned-food-prducts“I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following you…”

– Allen Ginsberg, “A Supermarket in California”

When potential customers “wander in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans,” what sets your product apart from all of the others on the shelf? What makes buyers begin following you?

Is it the need that you meet? Or the value proposition you offer? Is it your product’s packaging? Or placement on the shelf? Is it the reputation of your company that shines a special spotlight on your offering?  If your answer is, “Yes,” then you’re ready for a trip into the sometimes puzzling world of creating a product’s differentiated positioning. Grab your cape, Alice; you never know what you’ll run into down the rabbit hole.

A well-planned and executed differentiated positioning of a product sets it apart and attracts buyers. The process of creating a differentiated positioning “involves creating a positioning statement that clearly articulates, in a succinct sentence, how the company wants the customers in its selected target markets to perceive its products,” says Marketing Strategy, book one in theSMstudyGuide series.[1]

In our previous article, “What Turns a Ford into a Lincoln,” we looked at the use of features to set one product apart from another, to make it attractive to targeted market segments. This same list of features is used when writing the positioning statement. In this blog we consider the influence of the target segment itself and customer feedback on preparing that “succinct sentence.”

Once your company has completed the process of selecting a target segment, it will have “detailed information…, such as specific wants and needs, customer personas, segment size, and so forth,” according to Marketing Strategy. The company then can “analyze the target segment information to determine areas where it has, or can, create a competitive advantage when positioning its products.”

Where does a company get a clear statement of the “specific wants and needs” of their potential customers? From customer feedback, of course. “But, they’re potential customers!” someone is saying, “How can we get feedback from customers that aren’t customers, yet?” There are ways down this rabbit hole.

One way is to use industry benchmarks and Key Performance Indicators (KPI). “Comparing the company’s performance against industry benchmarks and KPIs helps prevent a company from focusing its positioning efforts on creating differentiators that are of little importance to customers in the industry,” the SMstudyGuide says. Your potential customers will have significant similarities with others in the targeted segment for similar products.

Closely related to benchmarks and KPIs, are existing marketing research reports. Your company or an industry group may have already conducted research that is relevant. “This research can help identify the best possible product features and associated product positioning based on how purchase intentions vary with changes to particular product characteristics. Furthermore, analyzing customers’ attitudes toward competitors’ products provides additional insights into how well the positioning strategies of competitors are working, and whether there are some gaps in their positioning that the company can exploit,” says theSMstudyGuide.

Another way is to talk to your company’s present customers. “No one can articulate your strengths better than your clients,” writes Cidnee Stephen in her article “How to Differentiate Your Business from the Competition.”[2]

As the SMstudyGuide puts it, “Understanding the customer experience and obtaining customer feedback about a company’s existing products (a concept referred to as the “Voice of the Customer”) helps a company to determine the positioning of its products. Such customer feedback includes improvement suggestions, compliments, and complaints.” Your company has probably been collecting feedback of this nature through post-purchase surveys, product registration processes, and the “Contact Us” tab on its website. This data is usually reviewed through a product or service improvement filter. Now is the time to look at that data with a filter emphasizing positioning.

Product piloting and conducting focus groups are two additional ways to collect feedback on a product or service that is not yet in wide distribution.

Our trip seems to use product and company differentiation interchangeably. Does that make sense? Down this rabbit hole, it does. The two are membrane on membrane close. The differentiated positioning of the company as a whole should guide all positioning of the company’s products and services.

Does this article say it all about creating differentiated positioning? Absolutely not! In fact, the part of our treatment of this topic will discuss using SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats).

As good as back talk can be, so can a good SWOT across the backside … or at least, across the corporate office!

(Jim Pruitt, VMEdu staff writer contributed to this article—especially the rabbit hole allusion.)

For more interesting and informative articles on sales and marketing, visit SMstudy.com

[1] The SMstudyGuide is available at http://www.smstudy.com/SMBOKGuide.

[2] Cidnee Stephen. “How to differentiate Your Business from the Competition.” Bplans; Starting a Business Made Easy. Retrieved on 4/5/16 from http://articles.bplans.com/how-to-differentiate-your-business-from-the-competition/#.VwLfWKs56mM.linkedin

Eye-to-Eye on IT Value, Marketing and SMstudy

When designing a marketing strategy should you start where you want to be, or where you are?

If you’re a motivational speaker, you’re probably saying, “Start where you want to be.” If you’re a process engineer, you’re likely to say, “Start where you are.” If you’re a marketing strategist, you’re probably saying, “Yes.”

“But it’s an ‘either/or’ question!” they might remind you.

“True, but the answer is still ‘Yes,’” you would answer.

In sales and marketing, there must be a strong focus on goals and objectives, the “where you want to be”bit. “The Corporate Marketing Strategy is defined at a corporate level. It defines the overall marketing goals for the company. These general marketing goals drive more specific marketing strategies for each of the company’s business units or geographies,” saysMarketing Strategy, book one of the SMstudy™ Guide.

Can the company meet these goals? The answer to this lies in the “where you are.” “The strengths and weaknesses of a company determine its internal capabilities to compete in a market and to fulfill customer expectations,” says the SMstudyGuide. “Strengths provide the company with a competitive advantage and weaknesses place the company at a disadvantage.”

“Start where you are” is one of the “Practitioner 9 Guiding Principles” identified by Axelos, the people responsible for publications coming from the Information Technology and Infrastructure Library (ITIL) of the British Home Office. These principles are designed to help IT practitioners succeed in an increasingly customer- and market-oriented service environment.

One of the key “Practitioner Guiding Principles” is “focus on value.” This is something marketing professionals know very well: their product’s or service’s value proposition. “All successful products or brands need well-planned marketing strategies in place to ensure that they satisfy the goals set by the corresponding Business Unit or Geographic level, and in turn the overall Corporate Marketing Strategy. Marketing Strategy is therefore one of the most crucial Aspects of Sales and Marketing. It defines a product or brand’s unique value proposition, target markets, and the specific strategies to be used to connect with defined audiences,” according to the SMstudyGuide.

Arriving at a value proposition involves identifying the target market segment: what are the people that make up this group like? What do they do for a living? For recreation? How do they spend their money? These are very similar to questions that IT developers ask and answer when creating personas for their end users and customers. How will they use this service? When will they most likely access it? What will it do for them? How much is this worth to them? The confluence of service development and marketing is becoming greater and greater.

With the decreasing time between product development and its “hitting the shelves,” it seems inevitable that marketing interests and elements would enter product lifecycles earlier. Which ties in well with “Practitioner Guiding Principle” number 8: collaborate. The real value that developers put into a product after conferring with marketing and management becomes the real value that the sales and marketing people communicate to the customers, who buy that value, take it home and cherish it. Everyone is working together and the world’s a happier place.


For more informative articles on Sales and Marketing, visit SMstudy.com.

Inventions from 1900-1910: Deja vu All Over Again

There are some things I never do on social media. When I get a post with a picture of an old-fashioned pencil sharpener, apple corer or slide rule and it says “If you’ve ever used one of these, Like and Share,” I never do. And it’s not just because I don’t want to admit how old I am.

Looking back in history can be much more helpful than trying to get one up on “those young people today” by showing how difficult you had it and they should be glad they have it as easy as they do! Looking back in history can actually help people deal with the present.

With this in mind we thought we would take a quick look at the first decade of the Twentieth Century and draw some inferences relating to the first two decades of the Twenty-first.

We researched several websites and found that a lot of things happened from 1900 to 1910, inclusive. From the frivolous to the profound, some of the inventions and advances still affect America and the world today. In 1905, the American form of football allowed the forward pass to stop injuries and deaths caused by brute-force tactics such as the “flying wedge.” Today, the National Football League is trying to make reforms that will minimize, or do away with concussions. Also in 1905, Albert Einstein published a paper introducing the idea that the formula for determining energy is a direct ratio with the combined characteristics of mass and the speed of light squared, e=mc2. In that same year, he published a fuller elucidation, his theory of relativity. (We felt like we could use phrases like “fuller elucidation” when we’re talking about such heady stuff.) From those papers have risen arsenals, energy generation, medical uses of radiation, and advances in the physics that run our televisions and computers, among other things.

Speaking of televisions and computers, both of these have their roots in Lee De Forest’s invention of the vacuum tube triode in 1907. “The three terminal setup could serve as an electrical switch. When you changed the voltage traveling to one terminal, you could reduce the current following between the other two terminals. In this way, you could turn it ‘on’ and ‘off.’ That’s your 1 and your 0,” says Wired.com in reference to the binary code used in programming.[1]

The more immediate use of the vacuum tube was in building the sets needed to receive that new-fangled thing called radio. De Forest used his vacuum tube to transform “those taps and clicks [of Marconi’s wireless telegraph transmissions] into the broadcast communication system we know today,” according to Wired, adding, “Forest, who also coined the name ‘radio,’ used his invention to send the first over-the-air public broadcast on January 12, 1910.”

From all this, it becomes apparent that first decade of the twentieth century saw the new arrivals of more than twenty inventions that reshaped life and business. Mercedes (1901) and Ford (1908) took the automobile from the showcase and exhibition track to the roads of America and Europe in mass numbers. Along the way, they also invented the car salesman.

These inventions made their creators wealthy through marketing. In 1908, Dr. Julius Neubronner combined invention and marketing into one operation. He fitted “tiny timer-driven cameras to pigeons and developed and printed the photos immediately upon the birds’ return, selling them as postcards on the spot,” says Wired. They also say, “Take that, UAV cams!”

Apple Computers is the modern poster child for this symbiotic relationship between innovation and marketing. And that brings us to Digital Marketing, book three in the SMstudy® Guide series, “Today, consumers have multiple ways of searching, learning about, and purchasing various products and services, and e-commerce technology has offered the convenience of secure and instant transactions.”

In 1901, the vacuum cleaner was invented and was soon followed by the door-to-door vacuum salesman. The invention of the radio brought radio advertising, which was one of the methods inventor and businessman George Louis Washington used to turn his 1909 invention of instant coffee into a mansion in Brooklyn and a lodge by the beach in Belford.[2]

Automobiles brought roadside signs and billboards. Walls in every major urban setting became festooned with advertising aimed at the motoring masses. The marketing messages were everywhere. Conventional mass marketing made sure they even arrived in peoples’ mailboxes.

Today’s market seems filled with innovation and invention on steroids. “Consumers can receive messages from any of the several hundred television and radio channels, a variety of print media, including newspapers, magazines, and trade publications; and, online, it’s difficult to check e-mail without various banner ads popping up. The messages are constant,” says Digital Marketing.

“For businesses, in this age where consumers are continuously provided with choice, the challenge is finding ways to stand out.” SMstudy and the SMstudy® Guide are designed to help sales and marketing professionals and entrepreneurs handle the change in ways that make them stars.[3]

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

[1] “The Decades that Invented the Future, Part 1: 1900-1910.” (10/12/12) WIRED. Retrieve on 4/13/16 from http://www.wired.com/2012/10/12-decades-of-geek-part-1/

[2] Janie (4/13/2015) “20 Influential Inventions from 1900-1910” JellyShare Retrieved on 4/13/16 from http://www.jellyshare.com/article-194/20-influential-inventions-from-1900-1910.htm

[3] For more information about the SMstudy® Guide, visit http://smstudy.com/SMBOKGuide