Plan B: Assessing Social Marketing Future Scenarios

No one likes to contemplate a worst-case scenario, but it is wise to have a plan B. Any digital marketing strategy should think optimistically, but preparation for future scenarios that may look very different from today’s digital marketing landscape is vital to a brand’s survival.

“Anticipated future scenarios” is an output of the Evaluate Digital Marketing Channels process and is described by SMstudy®Guide, Digital Marketing as the analysis of the most likely future changes to take place in each digital marketing channel; analysis of the potential impact of defined changes; and proposed actions.

Assessing possible changes in future digital channels that could affect revenue, production, access to resources and so on is primary. But a thorough analysis should also take into consideration the way technologies come together to create a brand new scenario, even though most changes occur incrementally, according to Andrew Frank, analysts with Gartner for Marketing Leaders.

“When this happens, brands that anticipate these transformational scenarios will thrive; incrementalists will lose out,” Frank said.

As Frank points out, it may be tempting to want to keep a set digital marketing channel strategy, but agility and open-mindedness will benefit today’s marketing strategists. Staying on top of trends and recognizing where they converge with a company’s product or brand is also a component of future scenario assessments.

With that in mind, here are the top 2016 digital marketing trends noted by Adam Fridman, founder of MeetAdvisors, published on Inc. Dec. 1, 2015:

Data, data, data. Learn to love it.

“In short, data is behavior. Learning from this behavior drives creative messaging and strategic campaigns. Tracking behavior and tapping into the emotional connection through messaging, ads, social, and design makes all the difference in the digital space.”

Forget the funnel. The funnel is flawed.

“There’s little opportunity to share the research and buying experience which is crucial for interacting with fans and getting more people into your funnel, or ecosystem. too much work on consumers and consumers hate doing too much work.”

Test with laser-like focus. Technology now allows for deep research on target audiences. Even detailed aspects of an ad can now be picked apart and analyzed for demographic appeal.

“Targeting is a crucial aspect of any marketing strategy and by marketing directly to your ideal audience, you’re effectively and efficiently spending only what’s ”

Social engagement. This isn’t new, but it’s definitely continuing.

Two things to know: 1. Encourage audience participation through creative engaging campaigns and 2. Spare them the mediocre content.

“Each social channel, blog post, e-mail, web link must have a purpose and drive towards something. Never post simply to post. Without engagement or traffic, those posts are a waste of time and money.”

Expand the team. Start to think about a marketing team as more than just the marketers for a company or brand. Every “share” received through social media channels is an endorsement, each person “reposting” is an ambassador.

“Single marketing voices only reach the people already in their networks. To break through, companies and causes will increasingly need to partner with suppliers, brand and others to reach more people, more often.”


For more interesting articles on sales and marketing, visit

Photo provided courtesy of  Anoop Kumar, Flickr. Image has been cropped.


SMstudy® Guide, Digital Marketing, pg. 63-64.

“Agenda Overview for Emerging Marketing Technology and Trends, 2015,” Andrew Frank, Dec. 18, 2014. marketing/pdfs/Emerging_Marketing_Technology_and_Trends.pdf

“The Future of Digital Marketing- How It’s Changing in 2016,“ Andrew Fridman, Dec. 1, 2015.


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

Innovation, Marketing and Avoiding Failure

When famous, powerful people say, “I failed,” it gets people’s attention.

When famous, powerful people say, “I failed,” there’s usually a “but it wasn’t really my fault” lurking about.

When David Fradin, former division head at Apple, wrote a guest blog for Aha! titled “Why I Failed with the Apple III and Steve Jobs Succeeded with the Macintosh,”[i] it got the attention of SMstudy. And even though he never said it directly, there was an “it really wasn’t my fault” argument sidling through the piece. That argument really got their attention.

Fradin says that when he took over the Apple III product line he discovered ambiguity and confusion over the line’s targeted market segment. The product’s architect had a definite idea of who the Apple III was designed for and the marketing people did not agree, “To make matters worse, Marketing did not agree that there was any demand for the Apple III in the SOHO (Small Office, Home Office) or SMB (Small to Medium Business) market.”

How could the marketing department not see the logic of the architect? “That’s because Market Analysts had not identified such market segments yet. So, Apple’s own Marketing team could not identify those as market segments by themselves,” says Fradin. Claims like this—all too common with innovative and disruptive products—make the professionals at SMstudy sit up and take notice. They even smiled. That’s because they have addressed this situation in Marketing Strategy and Marketing Research, books one and three in their A Guide to the SMstudy® Sales and Marketing Body of Knowledge (SMBOK® Guide) series.[ii]

“Once the market has been defined, the company can then divide the market into various segments based on carefully chosen segmentation criteria. Customer segmentation should be used to help a company tailor specific offerings to segments that provide a distinct competitive advantage,” says the SMBOK® Guide, also known as the SMstudy® Guide. Though this seems fairly obvious on the surface, for innovative companies, this can be a problem. What segmentation criteria is the company going to carefully choose? The product may be so new that no one is sure how customers and user will actually use it. It is not surprising that the majority of the first Apple IIIs went to developers who were eager for more computing power, more drives, and did not care about the user friendliness that was so important to Apple’s other users.

Even within the company, the Apple III had a distinct competitive advantage over the Apple II. The “product line was contributing over $100M per year in gross profits … because the Apple III focused on the Enterprise market and had a much higher Average Selling Price (ASP) than the Apple II.” But the company did not know it.

They did not know it because the company’s “metric — or key performance indicator (KPI) — was ‘units sold,’” according to Fradin, who says, “Instead, we should have focused on profitability.” The “units sold” metric came from the manufacturing division instead of marketing which added to a lack of focus. The process of determining metrics should “include the positioning statement, which describes the value a product or brand offers to its target customers; the Pricing Strategy; the Distribution Strategy; Industry Benchmarks and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs); and the goals that are defined at the corporate and/or business unit or geographic levels,” according to the SMstudy® Guide. Things might have gone better for Fradin and the Apple III if someone had remembered this.

The Marketing Strategy book has a chapter that “deals with the selection of the metrics to be used for sales and marketing efforts, such as customer reach, brand perception, product availability, and sales and profitability.”

But what about the market being so new that Apple’s marketing people did not know what segmentation criteria to use?Marketing Strategy suggests beginning with existing reports, “There are two types of marketing research reports that can serve as inputs for market segmentation—industry reports and company commissioned reports.” From Fradin’s comments, it is clear that industry reports were not available, so the emphasis moves to ones “that have been created or commissioned in the past by the company to understand specific information about the markets under consideration that the company is not able to understand adequately through other sources.”

By the time Fradin took over the Apple III division it had already been through three project managers, including the man who later developed PowerPoint. Previous Apple computers had been revolutionizing the market, the Apple II had been around a while, and they were selling 40,000 of them per month. Apple was in a position to have some proprietary research that could give hints about where to go with the Apple III.

SMstudy’s Marketing Research book makes the point that “marketing research is linked to all other Aspects of Marketing as it provides critical insights that inform key decisions in all other marketing planning and strategies.” Some type of research was needed to help Apple focus on the Apple III. In researching market segments there are two broad categories of the data one can collect: primary and secondary. Secondary data is the type you can get from reports that have already been written such as industry reports. Primary data comes from activities that a company or its research organization carries out directly with the customers and market members. “As a rule, a researcher should always try to collect and analyze secondary data before moving to the collection and analysis of comparatively costly and time-consuming primary data,” suggests Marketing Research. And this makes sense.

What also makes sense is that to avoid making decisions like those that led to the failure of the Apple III, one should use some insightful marketing strategies and do a good bit of quality research. SMstudy and the SMstudy® Guide can help!


[i] Fradin, David. (3/21/16) “Why I Failed with the Apple III and Steve Jobs Succeeded with the Macintosh.” Aha! [Guest blog] Retrieved on 3/22/16 from

[ii] The SMstudy® Guide can be found at


All about GE-McKinsey Matrix

The GE-McKinsey Matrix was developed in response to the shortcomings of the BCG Matrix, which does not account for a number of factors. It was originally used for a visual representation of GE’s 150 business units to determine which business units were doing well, which needed support, and which should be discontinued. However, the matrix can also be applied to a product portfolio. It evaluates each product on two parameters, market attractiveness and product position, which are the labels of the axes on the matrix.

Market attractiveness and product position are determined by a weighted score for all the relevant factors that contribute to each. There are three levels for each parameter—high, medium, and low—giving the matrix nine boxes in total. The placement of each product on the matrix determines the strategy to be used for the product. A-6 shows the GE-McKinsey Matrix.

Products that fall above the diagonal line are high performers, or are those with potential for either growth or cash flow. These are the products on which a company should focus. Products that fall below the diagonal line are those that typically drain a company’s resources, with small returns and little potential for growth. These products should be analyzed thoroughly to determine which can benefit from selective investment in order to move them above the diagonal, and which need to be discontinued.

The factors used to determine market attractiveness are market growth, market size, opportunity to differentiate product and/or services from others in the market, profitability, intensity of competition, risk to returns, pricing trends, entry barriers, demand variability, distribution structure, and technological developments. The factors involved in determining product position are strength of assets and competencies, customer loyalty, cost position relative to competitors, distribution strength, record of technological or other innovation, relative brand strength, market share, and access to financial and other investment resources.

Advantages and disadvantages of GE-McKinsey Matrix:


  • This matrix takes into account a number of factors that the BCG Matrix does not.
  • It is visually easy to understand and provides more options to place a product as compared to the BCG Matrix, due to the inclusion of the “low” level on both axes.
  • It is conceptually similar to the BCG Matrix, so anyone who is familiar with the BCG Matrix can easily use the GE-McKinsey Matrix.


  • This matrix does not take into account the synergies between various products. Discontinuing one might adversely impact another.
  • The scoring of the various factors using the weights is subjective and leaves the tool open to bias.
  • It does not help in allocating the relative investments for each product.

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


There are, on average, 12 billion web searches conducted in the United States EACH month. This ginormous figure highlights (and underscores) the importance of where your online content appears in search engine results and what can be done to improve a site’s ranking on search engines such as Google, Yahoo, etc.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of modifying online content to improve its “searchability”. The SMstudy Guide®, Digital Marketing book describes SEO as an optimization of a website through editing, tagging or coding pages in order to improve online traffic.

The book states, “The objective is to ensure that the site appears in search engine results for the keywords that are most relevant to the business. SEO also involves removing any barriers that would prevent search engines from indexing the site, as well as promoting the site to increase the number of backlinks or inbound links.”

Since its rise to prominence in 2010, Search Engine Optimization has been evolving at a brisk clip and 2016 will be no exception. As we close out the first month of the new  year, two important SEO trends are beginning to come into focus.

Trend #1

In 2016, the lines will blur (even more) between social media content and traditional web content. As social media content is now being indexed by the search engines Google, Yahoo and Bing, the chances of social media content coming up in search engine results has greatly increased. This is good news for marketers, but it will require greater focus on incorporating SEO best practices into social media marketing.

Brian Honigman, CEO of Honigman Media explains “Today, links are mainly achieved through developing original content that is in turn, shared across social media. Links to your content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube and other social networks help the search engines understand what websites are credible and should be ranked for what keyword phrases.”
Trend #2

Consider these two statistics regarding mobile use:

1. Four out of five consumers use smartphones to shop.

2. 70% of mobile searches result in an online action (such as a purchase).

With the continued increase of smartphone use, it’s no surprise that the latest Google algorithm update nudges mobile-friendly sites to the top of its search results. This is a clear indication that focusing on optimizing mobile content is now just as important as optimizing web content.

In more general terms, SMstudy’s Digital Marketing suggests optimizing website responsiveness to ensure easy viewing on mobile devices. The book goes on to suggest, “Maintain a separate mobile site since mobile users prefer websites in which content can be consumed on a smaller screen and on the go; provide only relevant content: and maintain a light mobile site to ensure faster loading the mobile site.”

For more articles on sales and marketing, visit



SMstudy Guide, Digital Marketing, pgs. 77-78.

“Eight Ways Social Media Affects SEO”, Brian Honigman, Sept. 11, 2013.

“From Brick-and-Mortar to Mobile Click-and-Order: Which Retailers are Carving Out Space in the M-Commerce Market?”, Sarah Radwanick
Lead Corporate Marketing Manager, Sept. 19, 2012.

“70% of mobile searches result in an online action…within one hour”, Ahmed Ahmed, Dec. 20, 2012.

“Search Engine Optimization Stats,”,

5C Analysis

5C Analysis is a technique used to conduct situation analysis. Conducting a situation analysis is one of the important steps in identifying the research problem. A situation analysis involves examining the external environmental factors and internal organizational capabilities that impact how a company operates.

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. However, it should be noted that not all five elements need to be considered when identifying the problem in a particular area of marketing. Depending on the area of marketing under scrutiny, some areas need to be given more importance than others.

  • Company—The company analysis studies an organization’s vision, strategies, capabilities, product line, technology, culture, and objectives. It is useful in understanding the existing and potential problems with the company’s business.
  • Customers—Understanding customers is a key part of situation analysis. It involves knowing the target audience, their behavior, market size, market growth, buying patterns, average purchase size, frequency of purchase, and preferred retail channels.
  • Competitors—Competitor analysis is critical in understanding the external environment in which the firm operates. This analysis involves knowing the competitors’ strengths, weaknesses, positioning, market share, and upcoming initiatives.
  • Collaborators—Collaborators are the external stakeholders who team up with the organization in a mutually beneficial partnership. Agencies, suppliers, distributors, and business partners are typical collaborators. It is important to understand their capabilities, performances, and issues to better identify business problems.
  • Climate—Climate analysis is the evaluation of the macro-environmental factors affecting the business. PESTEL analysis can be used to analyze climate—political, economic, social/cultural, technological, environmental, and legal scenarios are included in PESTEL.

To learn more about 5C analysis and other situation analysis techniques, visit

The Office Turntable Puts a New Spin on Music Promotion

It’s the age old question for rock bands everywhere: how do you get jaded, hardened music critics and advertisers to listen to your jams when many (in fact, most) CDs and MP3s submitted will immediately be allocated to the circular file (a.k.a the trash can)?

In a brilliant play to persuade the taste makers to take a listen, the German electronic music label Kontor Records utilized mobile technology and a whole lot of groove to promote one of their artist’s latest singles.

In 2015 Electronic music artist Boris Dlougosch’s single arrived in offices as a vinyl album, which in itself gets high marks on the cool scale. But it gets better. The album arrived with its own 2-D cardboard player and instructions for downloading an app that allows the listener to play the album with their smartphone. Yes, you read that correctly…the vinyl album is played with a smartphone! A virtual needle allows listeners to skip through the track just like on a real turntable.

Check out the video…

As the Office Turntable shows, mobile apps can be used in highly creative ways. But mobile apps of varying creativity levels and other personal devices are a large part of a company’s digital marketing strategy.

Digital Marketing, book 2 in the SMstudy Guide® states that since an increasing percentage of consumers use the Internet on-the-go, having a mobile version of a website helps a business reach out to consumers across all devices connected to the Internet.

Novelty in marketing is a tried and true way to grab attention and create interest in a company’s product or service. TheSMstudy Guide®, Digital Marketing book supports this idea when discussing innovative internet-enabled business models.  It says, “The growing popularity of the Internet, smartphones and digital media provides opportunities for a company to not only use fragmented new-age marketing effectively to promote existing products, but also to come up with innovative business models where product demo, customer acquisition, and order fulfilment can also take place online.”

In the case of Back to Vinyl: The Office Turntable marketing campaign, old school vinyl and new school technology come together to give a truly novel music experience that also allows for careful tracking on engagement. According to Kontor, of the 900 mailers sent out, they’ve had a 71 percent activation rate, which they claim is a 64 percent increase above their average. Sounds like they’re on a roll.

OOH, Electronic Billboards

More than six thousand digital billboards light up America’s roadways, yet, we’re still in the dark![1]

We thought that—with the explosion of social media, the long (waning?) reign of broadcast advertising, Internet advertising, and more—billboards, like sandwich boards, were becoming a thing of the past. Yet, according to the association, there are more than 158,000 standard billboards (also known as “bulletins” in the trade) and 165,500 posters (the slightly smaller sized billboard common in urban settings). Then there’s “billboards” on the sides of trucks, 2,700, and wrapped around buses, 205,000. That’s a lot of OOH (Out of Home) advertising!

This exemplifies something that Marketing Strategy, book one in the SMstudy® Guide series, says: “Rather than viewing the changes as completely replacing the earlier practices, Sales and Marketing approaches should be viewed as a continuum where recent innovations can co-exist with earlier practices.”

If you have been following our posts at SMstudy, you may remember that we have addressed the idea that old ways stay and can continue to be profitable even in the midst of great innovation.[2] OOH advertising offers two examples of not only how older approaches can remain relevant but also co-exist in symbiotic relationships.

As the numbers quoted above show, billboard advertising is alive and kicking in today’s innovative age. One cause of this is that “the brevity of OOH’s copy is ideal for driving traffic to a website,” according to OAAA. In cities with the fifty worst commutes, Americans spend from 32 minutes (with 8 percent of this city’s commuters spending more than an hour) to 42.6 minutes (and 25 percent spending more than one hour) one way.[3] That’s a lot of time spent slowly moving with the traffic flow. The vast majority of Americans spend from 30 minutes to an hour driving to and from work. Include the time they spend traveling for other purposes and that’s like having an arena’s worth of people idling past every billboard.

Co-existing can be more than just parallel existence at a distance. For example, “OOH reinforces television messages when viewers are away from their homes during the course of daily activities,” says to OAAA adding, “Television is expensive. OOH improves the efficiency of a television campaign buy by driving down CPM costs. OOH reaches light TV viewers who are younger, mobile, and more affluent than heavy TV viewers.”

OAAA points out that “younger, mobile, and more affluent than heavy TV viewers” also describes Internet users. This becomes an important insight when the marketing team considers its product’s marketing mix. “In a differentiated targeting strategy, a company directs its marketing efforts towards two or more segments by creating a different marketing mix for each segment. Each marketing mix for this strategy typically varies depending on product features, distribution methods, promotion methods, and pricing,” according to Marketing Strategy. As each market segment is targeted, the team develops a mix of “promotion methods.” These methods can include conventional mass media marketing and fragmented new-age marketing (aimed at channels such as Internet, social media, and mobile devices).

The old and the new not only can exist side-by-side but they can flourish. And that’s something to OOH and ah about!


For more interesting and informative articles on sales and marketing, visit



[1] This datum is according to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) in their OOH (Out of Home) Formats on the OAAA site at

[2] As in our recent blog, “Pushing the Envelope: The Case for Paper,”

[3] “The 50 Worst Commutes in America.” (1/28/16) MSN; News. Retrieved on 4/12/16 from

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 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,” saysDigital 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



[1] “The Decades that Invented the Future, Part 1: 1900-1910.” (10/12/12) WIRED. Retrieve on 4/13/16 from

[2] Janie (4/13/2015) “20 Influential Inventions from 1900-1910” JellyShare Retrieved on 4/13/16 from

[3] For more information about the SMstudy® Guide, visit

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

“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 the SMstudyGuide.

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!

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[1] The SMstudyGuide is available at

[2] Cidnee Stephen. “How to differentiate Your Business from the Competition.” Bplans; Starting a Business Made Easy. Retrieved on 4/5/16 from