The New Wave in Digital Marketing

For roughly a decade technology has been facilitating the brushstrokes to paint an ever clearer picture of consumer behavior. Over time, analytics has helped solve the mysteries of the where, the when and the how often as it pertains to clicks, views or anything else online for that matter. In the process, the human behind the consumer data has been neglected.  The time has come to treat them like real people again.

The next new wave in marketing (there’ve been two so far according to reliable sources) will be marked by a return to the personal touch. There exists an emerging opinion that a continuation down the path of the science of analytics will not yield the desired results. And if anything, at some point it becomes a liability and deterrent to constructing strong enduring relationships with customers. The kind built on trust, respect and understanding. Or so believes Jahia, a leading User Experience Platform for Digital Transformation.

They state: “Building 1:1 customer relationships means relating in the most appropriate way for each customer. It is vital to find the right balance in communicating just enough – too much and they are annoyed, too little and they feel forgotten (or forget you).”

As I mentioned recently in the article “How Information Finds You: Hyper-relevant Content Marketing,” there is a refinement process occurring in digital marketing that emphasizes the use of high-quality content and a marketing strategy that employs the smartest possible implementation based on what is known about the viewer/consumer. This is the future of digital marketing due to several factors, including the phenomena of “peak content”. A more nuanced marketing approach that acknowledges the human being on the other side of the conversation is where everyone should be headed.

Again from Jahia: “The right relationship is not the same for every brand or every customer. It depends on both the product or service you offer and each customer’s individual preferences. The core of that relationship is giving the customer the feeling that they have as much control over the relationship as you do. That includes giving them transparency into what data you keep about them and how you use it — this is the beginning of trust.”

In addition, for the sake of a company’s longevity, to manage and use consumer data responsibly will set any marketer ahead of the curve; soon enough federal regulation will catch up and kinder practices will be required by law. By setting up a marketing system that respects privacy AND manages to market in an informed, logical manner is a vanguard move.

Jahia notes: “Very soon, this privacy and usage standard will not be simply the voluntary action of ethical companies. Emerging legal regulations will make it mandatory as it catches up with the digital revolution. This has already begun to be legislated in European courts. The courts determined that there is a ‘right to be forgotten’. This is just the beginning of the what is to come in the next few years. The courts are recognizing that individual’s privacy rights need to be respected, even on the internet. No enterprise can afford to be behind in this area.”

Creative ways to cultivate real relationships with customers will be the mandate for marketers and sales professionals in the coming months and years. Systematizing that cultivation with a hyper-relevant content strategy is only a portion of what the future will require; the rest will rely on the sales and marketing teams’ skill, intuition and ability to empathize with consumers.

In 2016, the big data boom will settle into the tasteful, refined use of the data to provide value and relevance to the public. Now that we have a clear picture, what marketers do with it matters.

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[Spring Eselgroth, VMEdu staff writer, contributed to this article.]


Discovering Third Wave, Jahia, Feb. 10, 2016.

Happy Customer, Happy Life

Just as every married man can attest to the fact that “a happy wife makes a happy life,” anyone interacting with customers will agree that a happy customer makes a happy life as well.

So, why would a sales team not use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system when it’s been shown to improve customer happiness? The truth is that very few opt out of a CRM system, since there are just too many good, sound reasons to incorporate the tool and in essence create a win-win situation for the sales team AND customer alike.

According to SMstudy, a CRM system is used to track the various stages in the sales process. It also assists in managing a company’s interactions with a customer, thus allowing a company to manage information about customers and customer touch-points in order to maximize customer loyalty.

Based on the information available in most CRM systems, a company is able to provide a high degree of personalized service to the customer in the form of customized products, services and promotions. Personalized services are also key to maintaining and building customer loyalty.

A typical CRM System has four processes:

  1. Knowledge Discovery– This is the process of analyzing customer information through contact with a company’s products or services. CRM systems enable the company to analyze the data and draw meaningful insights.
  2. Planning– In this process, the output from the knowledge discovery phase is used to develop strategies for personalized marketing and promotional activities.
  3. Customer Interaction– This is the process where the actual implementation of the various programs and strategies occurs. These programs and strategies target various customer touch-points and/or company channels.
  4. Analysis and Refinement– In this process, customer feedback and responses from the various programs implemented are analyzed as part of the ongoing communication and review process.

In his article, “The five biggest benefits of CRM systems,” Patricio Robles notes, “In today’s ultra-competitive markets, the companies that manage customer relationships the best are more likely to win than those that don’t.”

Robles goes on to list the top five reasons why a company should incorporate a CRM system. They include:

  1. Efficiency – not only does a CRM system clear up any inefficiencies related to manual customer management, but also “the ability of popular CRM platforms to integrate with other systems, such as marketing automation tools can enable companies to interact with customers in ways that they wouldn’t have the resources to do otherwise.”
  2. Collaboration – Complex customer lifecycles require the ability for many to work together. “The use of cloud-based CRM platforms allows employees in multiple departments to more effectively manage their customer relationships and to see the big picture at any time.”
  3. Data – Access to data, the ability to analyze data and present it clearly are all integral to understanding what’s happening with customers. “Popular CRM platforms typically offer a variety of homegrown and third party tools that enable companies to understand their CRM data and learn things about their customers that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.”
  4. Increased accountability – Consider a CRM system as the safety net catching all who may have “fallen through the cracks.” “A well-implemented CRM system helps employees across departments understand their responsibilities to customers throughout the customer lifecycle and when those responsibilities aren’t met, it’s easy to identify what went wrong, where, who fell short and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
  5. Improved customer experience – As we said earlier, this is the ultimate benefit of all. “Customers are more easily and accurately segmented, their needs identified, and because the status of a company’s relationship with them is accurately tracked, companies can interact with them meaningfully at the right times, leading to more sales, faster sales and higher customer retention and satisfaction.”

Happy customers make a happy sales and marketing life.

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“The five biggest benefits of CRM systems,” Patricio Robles, April 10, 2015

Optimizing Underused Assets- The Shared Economy

Let’s assume that it is the year 2000. Try and think of what are the biggest companies you know about in this era. Chances are, you would be thinking of a giant in IT, Manufacturing or Finance set-up. These companies come with a few common factors:

  1. They have multiple offices around the world
  2. They employ tens of thousands of employees
  3. They have large capital investments in equipment, assets etc.

Now whether you think of an IT leader like Accenture, an Oil and Gas leader like Shell, a Manufacturing giant like Boeing, these factors are common to them. Any airline operator will need to invest a huge amount on leasing their fleet or paying their ground staff around the world.

However, the last five years have led to some companies creating multi-billion dollar investments despite having zero assets of their own, very small employ strength that operate out of a single office. We will look at two such companies who have leveraged on technological advancement and under-utilized inventory globally to develop huge businesses where none existed- Uber and Airbnb.

Now everyone would have heard of atleast one of these companies but if you have been living on a lonely island for the past few years, Uber is a taxi-aggregator that helps consumers hire taxis on the go through their app and Airbnb is an aggregator for people to find and rent lodging around the world. What’s amazing about these businesses is that Uber does not own a single one of it’s taxis and similarly Airbnb does not own any of the properties listed on their site.

What they have done is develop a two-sided marketplace where on one side, they identified an underutilized asset and found a way of addressing the same by providing them a platform to better utlize the asset and on the other hand, they have provided consumers cheaper and/or better options to use these services. The idea seems really simple when you think of it. There are people who stay in a house and have an empty room. Now they can just list this room and get some revenue out of it. At the same time, for customers, these rooms are cheaper than what a hotel room would cost. What Airbnb has been able to do is recognize this gap in the market and provide customers an easy way to view these listings.

Now the basic question that comes to mind is: If the idea is so simple, why did no one thought of it before?

Well like every major company in the world, the reason Uber and Airbnb were so hugely successful was not because someone thought of this unique idea all of a sudden, it was only at this point in time that technology had evolved to make such a model viable. Ten years back, there were low internet penetration, very few smartphones which meant it was almost impossible for such businesses to take off. There was no real benefit in me calling the uber office when I am stranded somewhere asking for a cab. And even if I did that, I would have to give them exact directions while someone from their office tried to call their cab drivers and find which cab driver was in the nearby locality to pick me up.

What has helped Uber is the new ecosystem:

  • Everyone now carries around a smartphone and is able to use their app
  • Uber is able to track their cab drivers to assign the nearest one to you
  • Uber was able to integrate these under-utilized cabs and get them more revenue
  • At the same time, Uber was able to increase their fleet by allowing anyone with a car to make money
  • Financial transactions are done with the click of a button making the user experience extremely smooth

Now with the new concept of sharing economy that Uber and Airbnb have evangelised, we see a number of businesses that come up for optimizing under-utilized inventory. Whether it is a marketplace for Adventure activities connecting adventure groups to consumers, Food delivery connecting restaurants and home chefs to customers, Utilities connecting electricians/plumbers etc to you. The ecosystem has helped these two-sided marketplaces really explode onto the scene.

Can you think of an underutilized asset that hasn’t been optimized yet? You could be onto the next billion dollar idea.

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A Ninety-two-year-old, a Value Proposition and SMstudy

“Leaders are teachers and good team members,” according to product designer Barbara Beskind.

“If you can help those who are under you maximize their greatest potential, you’re a successful leader,” Beskind told interviewer Sarah Bielecki for a story on the Stanford Engineering website.[i]

And this could lead someone to ask, “how does Beskind rate an article in Stanford Engineering’s blog pages, and why should I care?” In sales and marketing terms this question is asking about Beskind’s unique value proposition.  In a way, everyone determines the value proposition of everything they offer to others.

A value proposition is “a business or marketing statement that summarizes why a consumer should buy a product or use a service. This statement should convince a potential consumer that one particular product or service will add more value or better solve a problem than other similar offerings.”[ii] For Bielecki, journalists and blog writers, this question comes into play when we find a source to quote—Why should the reader (our consumers) accept what I am telling them? What value does this expert or authority add to the information I want to share?

Bielecki answered this question by providing Beskind’s “bona fides” or credentials, telling her readers that at the age of 89 Beskind wrote to David Kelly, CEO of IDEO, “offering to help IDEO design for aging and low-vision populations.” Kelly soon hired her, and Bielecki spoke with her three years later, when she was 92 years-old, adding that “Prior to her career at IDEO, Beskind served in the U.S. Army for 20 years as an occupational therapist. She retired as a major in 1966 and went on to found the Princeton Center for Learning Disorders, the first independent private practice in occupational therapy in the United States”—all in all, a unique and beneficial value proposition when discussing the difference between a leader and a manager.

For businesses, the value proposition isn’t about sourcing, it’s about strategy. “Marketing strategy is one of the most crucial Aspects of Sales and Marketing,” according to Marketing Strategy, book three of the SMstudy® Guide,[iii] “It defines a product or brand’s unique value proposition, target markets, and the specific strategies to be used to connect with defined audiences.”

There are many ways for businesses to determine a value proposition—what is the value of the problem being solved, the need being met or the revenue to be earned? An additional approach to complete the value picture is to look at one’s competition. “Competitive positioning tools help a company explore how it can differentiate its product or service offerings in order to create a value proposition for those products or services in the market,” says the SMstudy® Guide. And creating a differentiated competitive position “helps the company maintain focus on each product and its value proposition while developing the key elements of its marketing mix, pricing, and distribution strategy.”

Like the journalist selling the idea that a 92-year-old product designer has something to say about developing leadership, a company has a lot to gain by defining and clearly articulating its value, “when a product’s price, value proposition, and positioning are optimally aligned, a company is in a position to maximize revenues and profits.” And that’s a valuable proposition for any business.

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How Some Companies Achieved Virality

In one of the previous posts, we briefly touched upon the topic of what a Growth Hacker is and what the requirements are for a person working as a Growth Hacker. Let’s now look at a few examples of where Growth Hacking has helped companies scale exponentially.

Paypal’s friend referral: As a new payment mechanism primarily fighting with large banks, PayPal’s big challenge initially was to get new customers to adopt their product and get them started on using it. Traditional advertising was too expensive and also there was no assurance that people who they reach out to, would use them. Initially, the PayPal team thought of doing business development deals with big banks but that didn’t work out and they understood that they needed a direct to customer approach that would provide a organic, viral growth.

So they started a referral campaign wherein any customer of theirs would get $10 for each friend they refer that joins up and these new customers, upon joining get a $10 amount too. Although this cost PayPal a $20 customer acquisition cost, they were able to witness a 7 to 10% daily growth and acquired 100 million users in a very short span of time. Not only did they acquire these new users, but because the new users already had $10 in their PayPal account, they would end up using PayPal to use the amount.


AirBnB’s Craiglist Hack: This was around the time when AirBnB had just started up and needed to gain an initial traction. Now since AirBnB is essentially a double-sided marketplace, they needed to ensure that they have sufficient listings to make it attractive to customers while at the same time, they need customers staying at these houses to make it attractive for home owners to list them. In order to gain an initial traction, AirBnB latched onto Craiglist’s popularity and allowed it’s users to post their AirBnB listing to Craiglist. The Growth Hackers at AirBnB were able to figure out a hack through which their property owners were able to post their listings on a platform with 10s of millions of users and immediately they were able to provide the initial customers to these property owners. From here on, the word spread and AirBnB got more listings and more customers.


Dropbox Referral Program: Dropbox also had a similar growth hack to Paypal where they used a referral campaign to get more users to Dropbox. The scheme was extremely simple and yet extremely attractive for its users. When one person who has Dropbox refers another, they both get a 500MB space, provided the person getting refered signs up to Dropbox. Like PayPal, this scheme offered a real incentive to people referring others and since you would get referred by a friend, it instills more trust in the product than an advertisement ever could. Furthermore, the sender has incentive to get the referree to sign up to avail the extra space. The scheme is also brilliant since you would probably be using Dropbox to share content with these very friends. This total costs Dropbox 1GB of space – far less than a Google AdWords buy. The Dropbox referral scheme has been extremely successful with number of users going up from 100,000 in Sept 2008 to over 4,000,000 by Jan 2010.


Hotmail: One of the earliest companies to use growth hacks and get exponential growth through virality was Hotmail. Hotmail grew its subscriber base from zero to 12 million users in 18 months, more rapidly than any company in any media in the history of the world. And it did so with an almost zero advertising budget of $50,000. What’s more amazing was that Hotmail was able to do this while competitors like Juno spent $20 million on traditional marketing in the same time period with less effect.

The marketing “plan” was pretty simple. Whenever you send someone a message, the words in the signature of each email contained “Get your free email at Hotmail”. The word Hotmail was hyperlinked to re-direct anyone clicking to Hotmail’s home page where Hotmail explained what they were and got users to sign up. Hotmail also became the largest email provider in several countries, like Sweden and India, where it had done no marketing whatsoever.

So as we can observe from the above examples, you do not need to necessarily overspend in marketing to get more customers than your competition. The key is to understand customer needs and develop a good value proposition for them while also ensuring that the product you deliver solves their need best in the market. The companies listed above understood this pretty early and hence were able to become market leaders.

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Corporate Strategy: The Ladder for Strategic Ascendancy

With the ever increasing B2B sales and rapidly expanding global network, organizations today face a tough challenge  dominating the competition and gaining substantial market share. Moreover to answer questions like “Where are we now?, Where do we want to be?, and How do we get there?”, companies require a concrete strategy to help comprehend and answer these questions at hand. These multifaceted problems requires the senior management of the companies to work in tandem to create and define “Corporate Strategy”, that helps address the ever increasing challenges of the corporate competition.

Corporate Strategy defined by the company’s senior management team are guiding principles for the organization as a whole which takes into consideration an assessment of the existing capabilities of the company and external opportunities and threats to the business. Thus formulation of a company’s Corporate Strategy requires inputs from multiple stakeholders, particularly senior management who are well aware of the strengths and weakness of the organization.

To device a proper Corporate Strategy most companies use existing documentation regarding their Corporate Product Strategy, Corporate Marketing Strategy, Corporate Operations Strategy, Corporate Finance Strategy, and Corporate Human Resource Strategy. These documents are integrated to help define a coherent Corporate Strategy. The level and complexity of documentation for these strategies vary depending on the size of the company and the breadth of its product portfolio and geographic reach.

Many companies execute strategic planning exercises at appropriate and specific time intervals like once or twice a year to arrive at a corporate strategy. This process helps ensure that leadership team has coherently defined goals and strategies that align with the overall strategic goals of the organization.

Corporate Strategy is often defined at a company level; but strategy can also be formulated at lower levels depending on the size and complexity of the organization. For example, the Corporate Strategy for an entire company can be divided into strategies for each business unit or geographic region and then divided further into specific product or brand strategies for each product or brand in a defined geographic region. The Product or Brand Strategy is the lowest level of this hierarchy.

Corporate Strategy thus acts as a benchmark for the company to execute future plans by carefully assessing it internal and external capabilities and helps inundate actions that aid in achieving overall targets and goals.

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Levels of Sales and Marketing Strategy

A company enjoying a good reign must possess an assortment of umbrellas.

Beneath the wide umbrella of Corporate Strategy exists a smaller umbrella known as Corporate Marketing Strategy, which covers Business Unit and Geographic Strategies. Those, in turn, are further divided into particular Product or Brand Strategies for each product or brand.

This figure illustrates the relationship between the various strategies:

The Corporate Marketing Strategy is defined at a corporate level and outlines 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. Each business unit or geography defines its own goals, which become relevant inputs for each area’s particular product or brand marketing strategies. Each product or brand marketing strategy defines sales and marketing objectives for each product or brand, which drive specific tactics that align with and often rely on other Marketing Aspects identified in theSMstudy® Guide (Marketing Research, Digital Marketing, Corporate Sales, Branding and Advertising and Retail Marketing).

Here is an example of Levels of Sales and Marketing Strategy:

Land Development Company

  • Corporate LevelA land development company wants to grow to be among the top three land development companies in its state.
  • Business Unit/Geographic LevelThe land development company operates two business units: residential and retail. A goal of the residential business unit is to grow that unit by 12 percent within one year; a goal of the retail business unit is to grow that unit by 10 percent within the same time period.
  • Product/Brand LevelWithin the residential business unit, the company sells three products: condominiums, town homes and singles. The singles Product Marketing Strategy identifies an objective to grow the sale of single units by 15 percent. To achieve this objective, the teams responsible for building strategy within the various Aspects of Marketing establish specific objectives that are designed to support the overall product objectives and to align with one another.
  • Marketing Aspect Level­The company’s greatest strength is the fact that it is an award-winning leader in green sustainable development. Therefore, the branding and advertising team builds specific tactics that incorporate an increase in reach of its messaging around sustainable development. One specific tactic is to leverage billboard and newspaper advertising with the objective of increasing reach of green messaging by 30 percent. The digital marketing team incorporates tactics to support the objective of increasing the green sustainable development messaging, stressing the importance of this trend and positioning the company as a leader in the industry through the use of various social media channels. One specific tactic is to leverage blogs and online public relations with the objective of increasing the company’s rankings in online searches related to keywords such as “sustainable development.” The tactics of each Marketing Aspect are aimed at achieving their own specific objectives; however, both support the overall singles Product Strategy objective of achieving a 15 percent growth in sales for this product line.

When seeking sustained success, a company should equip and adhere to a comprehensive Corporate Marketing Strategy. That umbrella has you covered.

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