Friday, 4 November 2016

It is All About the Influence

A common misconception is that if you have many followers on a social media platform then you are followed by many. But that isn’t necessarily true.
You could have 20,000 followers, and yes, that looks impressive, but does that mean that 20,000 people are actually engaged in your content? This can be false advertising for a company’s consumers, but it is also misleading in regards to a company’s analytics. How can you really gauge your company’s engagement when likes are able to be purchased?
It isn’t about the amount of people that follow your brand’s page or view a piece of content marketing, so why do some many companies feel they must rake in the followers and likes? How do you fix this issue?
According to Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia, “Instead of talking about how many people see your content, we need to be focusing on how much value that piece of content actually brings your audience.” In social media channels, high-quality content is of the utmost importance. Companies worldwide invest large quantities of money to create quality content, but in many cases, that content is not distributed properly.
Audiences neither find it nor share it. A good Content Creation and Distribution Plan for social media marketing will ensure that a company’s content is relevant, timely and well written and that it reaches the target audience using the optimal means as determined by the social media marketing team.
One of the major debates regarding content creation is between content quality and quantity—how much content is enough and how good does it need to be?
Content creation should ideally start by defining a quantity goal and a publishing schedule with proper deadlines. Once the publishing schedule is finalized, focus should be on quality for each piece of content being distributed.
In addition to good quality content, an effective social media effort must have a good distribution strategy. In other words, it needs to be shared. And that shouldn’t be a problem if the content is engaging. People naturally share information for many reasons; they could simply like the content or perhaps find it interesting. But whatever the reason, a company must ensure that their content provides their consumers with something that encourages shares or else it will be lost in the sea of content.
Vaynerchuk states, “Bottom line: I don’t care how many people see something, “I care about how many people see something.” Quality over quantity. Depth over width. Reach does not equal value and follower count doesn’t mean people are listening.”
So, it’s time to stop fretting over followers and put that time and energy into creating content that will engage; one must remember that it all begins with Content Creation and Distribution Strategy.
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Thursday, 3 November 2016

How Low Can You Go? How High Can You Get?

Continually rising prices at the gas pump since the mid-1970s has had us all asking, “How high can these get?!” As 2015 slipped into 2016, with oil by the barrel in free fall, we found ourselves asking, “How low can this go?”
The roller coaster of oil pricing per barrel and sticker surprise at the gas pump has a lot of people wondering, “How in the world do they set those prices?”
Companies set their prices according to their own pricing strategy, which “properly prices products or services so that the company can sustain profitability while maintaining or growing its market share,” according to SMstudy’s Marketing Strategy, book one in the SMstudy® Guide series. Even though it sometimes seems as though companies are grabbing for quick profits and letting the future take care of itself, sustained profitability and growth in market share are part of every sane strategy.
Coming up with that sane strategy isn’t as easy as a few fat cats sitting around in a smoky room saying, “Well, what do we want to charge for this?” That question is likely to be followed with another, “What CAN we get for this?” And now our fat cats are talking strategy. The SMstudy® Guide says, “In order to develop a comprehensive Pricing Strategy, a company must specifically evaluate and understand the trends and dynamics in many areas such as the following:
  • the features and pricing of competitive products in the market
  • the company’s desired positioning, mapped against that of the competition to identify pricing of similarly positioned products
  • the consumer mindset to understand the demand and spending capability for each product
  • the cost, projected unit sales, and targeted profitability levels of each product
  • the innovativeness of each product
  • the capability of the production and operations teams to create high-quality products at reasonable costs
  • the knowledge of the current and desired market shares for each product.”
 The SMstudy® Guide details nine inputs and fourteen tools companies can use to understand these trends and dynamics to design a successful pricing strategy. One input is the company’s own positioning statement. This statement is important because “how a company markets a product impacts who buys it and how much consumers are willing to pay to purchase it.” The positioning statement identifies who the company wants to sell to and how much it would like those customers to pay. “A company that caters to a wealthier market segment with relatively high disposable incomes, aims to create a premier positioning for the product focusing on the quality of the goods or services, brand messaging, and packaging.” This market position allows for premium pricing, too.  It is no wonder that there are at least three grades of gasoline at every pump.
Another input is “opportunities and threats.” As the SMstudy® Guide points out, “Identifying and analyzing opportunities and threats help the company consider the external factors that may influence the costs involved in manufacturing a product or service and subsequently impact its pricing.” This is why refinery fires, hostile take overs of oil fields, and sudden growth from emerging markets all over the world affect the price of gasoline at the station on the corner.
So, how in the world do they set those prices? By following a rather elaborate pricing strategy.
For more help understanding pricing and marketing strategies, visit
The information in this article comes from chapter four of SMstudy’s Marketing Strategy, book one in the SMstudy® Guideseries of six books that also include Marketing ResearchDigital MarketingCorporate SalesRetail Sales and Branding and Advertising.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Paying Attention: A New Metric for Advertising on Mobile

Since the demise of newspaper’s great hegemonic grip on advertising, news media minds have been banging their big brains together, trying to come up with ways that not only monetize their content, but also generate some of the sweet ad revenue they used to have the luxury of enjoying. This is, of course, much harder in the infinite space and freedom of the internet. (limited space and information gatekeeping was a true friend to print news)
It’s been a bit of a slog and news outlets have been in “trial and error” mode for a while and still haven’t quite gotten it fully figured out. That being said, over the last year or so, user trends have been offering great nuggets of insight that are changing the way marketers and news sites are adapting to trends in mobile news consumption.
The landscape for mobile news outlets was important enough to make it to the front page of The Pew Research State of the Media 2015. What was the big deal? That 39 out of 50 legacy news outlets get more traffic from mobile devices than from desktop computers!  
Full list (stats provided by comScore)…
In the digital-only “newsscape,” a similar trend was noted.
The report states, “similar to the larger list of top 50 digital news entities, just a minority of these digital-only sites, 11 in all, had audiences that spent more time with them via a mobile device than a desktop.”
Here’s the complete list of digital native sites...
This preference for mobile news consumption is only mildly tempered by the fact that longer times were spent on news sites when being read on desktop computers.
Nevertheless, it matters.
Believe it or not, tracking consumer behavior has been one of the main problems with news outlets and marketers alike when considering ad dollars for mobile. Now we know that people are preferring their mobile devices for their news both while in on-the-go situations as well as in the down time of “Netflix and chill” moments.
In addition, we appear to be in a “mobile ad desert” where despite a rapid increase year over year in mobile advertising spending, there’s still a gap between advertising dollars spent on TV and other marketing channels and those spent on mobile. It seems that marketers haven’t quite picked up on the huge leap mobile viewership has taken. As an example, Adobe Digital Index reported in July 2015 that media has risen by two hours a day over the last five years, but advertisers have been slow to respond.
The article states, “Just as internet advertising once experienced a lag between the number of unique users and advertising spend, a gulf now exists between the growing amount of time consumers spend viewing content on mobile devices and the relatively small investment brands are making in the channel. But it’s just a matter of time until the numbers match.”
When confronted with new information, a new approach is often required. And this positive mobile news usage data begs for new solutions.
One of the more interesting examples of calculating an accurate measure was put forward by the Financial Times. The FT has switched to a time-based metric, one that places attention front and center in their value assessment. Other news outlets are also recognizing the truer value of an attention-based metric, as well. I’ve begun calling this the “after the fold” ad as it appears when I’ve stayed on a story long enough to show I’m committed. This strategy bets squarely on the contents ability to hold attention. And so far, so good.
Although various solutions abound, no silver bullet has yet been discovered (and perhaps never will). Serious impediments to accurate metrics (and hence, the flow of ad dollars) include bots that inflate the numbers and the easy accessibility to, and preference for, ad-blocking. This trend is particularly noted among millennials. 
But even so, a new approach based on time as opposed to volume (number of clicks) could be the way forward for news outlets. Getting a handle on what they have to offer marketers may be the thing to lead news outlets out of the red and back into the black.
For more on sales and marketing, visit
The Pew Research State of the Medial 2015 
“How mobile metrics fall short for news outlets and advertisers,” James Breiner, July 13, 2015
“Is Digital Advertising Ready to Ditch the Click?”  Michael Sebastian. September 29, 2014.
"ADI: Advertisers Must Prepare To Follow Increasing Eyeballs On Mobile Video,” June 21, 2015.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

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. 

Monday, 31 October 2016

All About Customer Advisory Boards

A Customer Advisory Board (CAB) or Customer Advisory Council is a representative customer group comprising senior stakeholders who convene periodically to validate product features, the marketing plan, and the strategic direction of the company to ensure these align with customers and the market. The company uses the information gathered at these meetings to realign business priorities and formulate strategy.
CABs meet on a periodic basis, typically two or three times per year. Some companies choose to meet more or less frequently, depending on need. However, it is challenging to have frequent customer councils as participation at these events is often voluntary, and participants are usually constrained by time. Also, the time and resources taken to accomplish and follow through with changes discussed in the customer councils often do not allow for more frequent meetings.
A physical meeting is the most popular format for customer councils. Other formats used by companies include tele-conferences, video conferences, and online CABs. Using these formats can help reduce time and money spent on travel and can result in increased participation levels. However, while they are more convenient, these formats are not always as effective as face-to-face meetings.
Key Functions of CABs
Some of the important uses of CABs are as follows:
  • Validating ideas for new features or new products
  • Providing valuable insights into how customers are using the products
  • Prioritizing features and identifying the most important ones on which to focus
  • Assisting in understanding how the products fare against alternatives in the market
  • Helping in designing the next generation of products which customers may adopt in future
  • Assisting in retaining key customers
  • Increasing revenue opportunities within the existing customer base
A key distinction between a CAB and a focus group is that the members of a CAB are carefully chosen senior members of management from client organizations, unlike product users in the case of focus groups.
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Friday, 28 October 2016

SMstudy and the Post-Advertising World

We recently read that “We are living in a post-advertising world.” The claim was made by John Horsley, director of Digital Doughnut, a global digital marketing community. Horsley should know, so we took notice.
Horsley explained his claim in a LinkedIn group forum: “Conversations have replaced campaigns, engagement trumps reach, and brands are no longer built by above-the-line agencies, but at every touchpoint the business has with its customers. And the thread that links all these elements is social media.” This resonates with us at SMstudy. We have included a lot about touchpoints, engagement and social media marketing in A Guide to the Sales and Marketing Body of Knowledge, also referred to as the SMstudy® Guide.
Horsley was using his claim to incite and invite members of the group to take part in a survey being conducted to explore the current status of companies and social media and contribute to his work “New Report: Social Media’s Impact on Customer Experience.” He says “businesses have been slow to respond, often hampered by outdated structures, siloed thinking and a lack of strategic understanding.” Now, that really resonates with us because we wrote an entire book on Marketing Strategy as one of the six aspects covered in the SMstudy® Guide and we offer certifications in marketing strategy.
His claim did not resonate so well with others, however. One group member commented, “Social media channels are simply another way to touch someone, as is and remains advertising. Effective communications usually consist of multichannel or cross channel strategies.” We had to agree with several points here. Our Digital Marketing book says, “Given the nature of the online world, which is constantly evolving and expanding—new channels are developing with greater frequency, and audiences are continuously exploring new sources of online content—digital marketers must regularly assess and reassess digital marketing channels for their effectiveness and applicability in helping achieve the company’s overall organizational goals and objectives.”
Social media provide many opportunities for delivering messages that advertise. Within Marketing Strategy whole sections have been dedicated to planning and developing social media as well as other digital channels.
The term “posting” (as it is used in advertising) comes not from posting mail but from a time when fences, street lamp poles, telephone posts and any available urban wall space were festooned with advertisements for products, shows, soon-to-arrive circuses and political candidates. When the rampant postings got out-of-hand, a new posting appeared saying, “Post No Bills.” Now, many marketing and advertising messages are being posted online and in social media. Perhaps we should say we’re living in a post-post-advertising world? Well … maybe not.
Another commenter added, “effective marketing communication is always a delicious idea (whatever it might be) served on many different (multichannel) dishes.” And that’s an idea we can relish.
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Thursday, 27 October 2016

How Information Finds You: Hyper-relevant Content Marketing

“If the news is that important, it will find me.”
This (in)famous declaration was made by an anonymous college student in 2008 during a focus group conducted by Jane Buckingham, founder of the market research company Intelligence Group.
Since 2008, this remark has made the rounds. It’s been quoted and discussed in both media and marketing worlds. It’s even been cited by the New York Times. And if you have to ask why, you haven’t been paying attention. This statement, which seems like a throw away (let’s be honest) has proven to be the number one guiding principle in both media dissemination and marketing in the new digital age.
As Joshua Benton remarked in a recent piece for NiemanLab, “If the news is that important, it will find me. I can’t tell you how many conferences, how many symposia, how many gatherings of worthies I’ve been at where some version of that line has been tossed around.”
It’s true! I’d heard it mentioned during a class on 21st-century journalism in 2009. At the time, old time journos scoffed at the student’s “laziness” or “lack of interest” in the wider world. But today, no one scoffs at the idea of providing valuable, relevant content, served up directly to viewers through the various social media channels. This is now the expectation. If it’s important, it will find you.
Marketers, like the media, have adapted. And one of the methods hyped over the last few years is content marketing. But with massive quantities of information bombarding us daily, we are reaching what is referred to as “Peak Content” or “the point at which this glut of things to read, watch and listen to becomes completely unsustainable,” according to author Kevin Anderson in 2014.
With Peak Content looming and with the understanding that a story (or content) MUST be important enough to reach the reader/viewer, successful marketers are turning to extra relevant, extra valuable content that will cut through the fracas. As this happens, the question then becomes “what’s relevant?”
Relevance often depends on individual circumstances and numerous other factors that may be at play at any moment in a person’s life. But there are some general assumptions that can be made. For example, most people will be thinking about breakfast in the morning. Or, if someone is awake late at night, information on insomnia might be something they’d like to see.
Enter the hyper-relevant content marketing plan, predicted by some to be a major social media marketing trend in 2016. Hyper-relevant content marketing takes into consideration the season, time of day or other societal factors that may be affecting a person’s need for a specific type of information.  
One such marketer, Amanda Todorovich, manager of Digital Engagement for Cleveland Clinic, is achieving major success producing hyper-relevant content by fine-tuning her organization’s marketing to maintain “evergreen” value for everyone and then offering it wisely within marketing channels.
“We are trying to put content in front of people at the right time,” Todorovich said. “We try to marry the best times of day on each channel with the best content and what people are using those channels for. Not everything gets posted on every channel we're on.”
By assessing the relevance and value of the content being used within a marketing strategy and utilizing the channels as well as season or time of day effectively, a marketer can be sure to hit the target more directly and at the same time find they’ve contributed something of genuine value to the online community.
For more resources and information on sales and marketing visit
Peak Content: The collapse of the attention economy, Kevin Anderson. Jan. 4, 2016. e
“If the news is that important, it’ll find me.” But what determines if it’s important?, Joshua Benton, Feb. 20, 2014.
Behind the Scenes of the Cleveland Clinic’s Content Marketing Strategy, Brianne Carlon Rush, Dec. 2, 2014.