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.

Should You ask Permission to Market?

Everyone despises commercials. It’s true, don’t even try to deny it! There is not one single person who would rather listen to a commercial than jam out to a new song. But we put up with them. Sort of.

Some people turn the volume down while a commercial is on the radio or take out the trash while they wait for their favorite television show. Yet, this form of conventional mass media marketing actually works. People hear a commercial about Tide laundry detergent, they may tune it out, but when they go to the grocery store, they select Tide because they have heard the name.

As defined by Marketing Strategy, book one in the SMstudy® Guide, conventional mass media marketing is “print advertising (newspaper, magazine, insert, or run of paper), mass mailers, television (network, cable, or syndicated), radio (national, local, satellite, or podcast), and out of home advertising (billboards, street furniture e.g. bus shelters, transit, alternative, e.g. stadiums).”

Conventional mass media marketing is also referred to as interruption marketing, or put more simply, marketing that interrupts.

But we have stepped into a new age, the age of the internet, which has given rise to fragmented new age marketing. “Since the late 1990s, with the increasing popularity of the internet and, more recently, smartphones, many options now exist for advertisers to reach a global audience using digital media marketing methods such as mobile phone apps, Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, QR codes, gamification, and proximity marketing (e.g. Foursquare),” states SMstudy.

Fragmented new age marketing is also referred to as permission marketing, or put more simply, where people have to give you permission to market to them.

According to Krista Neher, content marketer for Boot Camp Digital, “Most online marketing is permission marketing, where people have to give you permission to market to them. People choose to follow you on Twitter, subscribe to your email or visit your website. They make the choice to connect with you (and allow you to market to them) because you provide great content. You must be interesting or useful for people to agree to your interruption marketing, or they will just ignore you. Permission marketing is about providing value so that people choose to view your marketing.”

So, should you stop putting marketing dollars towards interruption marketing? No, because as previously stated, it does work. But by putting an emphasis on permission marketing a company can ensure that their time and money is not being wasted. Conventional mass media marketing is not a sure deal, while fragmented new age marketing is.

Neher provides some guidelines to follow so you can successfully incorporate permission marketing into your marketing strategy.

  • Change your mindset: Stop thinking about selling, and start thinking about how you can create value for the people that you want to reach (in a way that links to your business and marketing strategy).
  • Change your message: Your message can’t be so advertising-ish. Your message must be something that people actually want to read (again, while at the same time growing your business).
  • Evaluate all of your channels: What is interesting is that even traditional marketing works better when it meets the difficult bar of both selling your product and being interesting to your customers.

This is an exciting time to be a marketer. The possibilities are endless as long as you follow one simple rule, show them, don’t tell them. But don’t forget conventional mass media marketing in the process. There is still a use for it. Interruptive and permission marketing can run parallel, it’s all about how you position your brand.

As noted by SMstudy, “With all of these options, many marketers find it beneficial to use an integrated approach to marketing by leveraging the strengths of various types of media.” Good luck fellow marketers, it’s a brave new world.

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

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Krista Neher, “Permission Vs. Interruption Marketing,” content writer at Boot Camp digital.

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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VMEdu Looks at e-Learning Trends for 2016

Almost sixty percent of online educational providers are ready to kick their LMS to the curb.

A recent report referenced by DDI Development on current e-learning trends asserts “that nearly 2/3 of online courses’ students, as well as their managers, are not satisfied with their current LMS and are not going to renew their subscription.”[1]

As a software development firm, DDI is interested in how these trends affect coding and coders. When their blog says, “New e-learning companies create new learning trends, as their online community is very flexible and quick to abandon LMS solutions that do not meet learners’ needs,” they are seeing opportunities for programmers to write the code that provides the new solutions e-learning companies are shopping for. When VMEdu sees this trend, they know they have that solution already.

“Unlike other traditional LMS platforms, you do not have to pay any licensing fees, buy expensive hardware or hire expensive software professionals to launch your online courses and mobile apps,” says VMEdu, adding, “traditional LMS platforms usually have negligible support for mobile apps; VMEdu creates best-in-the-industry mobile apps for you at zero-cost for Android phones (if more than 1 hour of video is uploaded for a single course) and $250 for iPhones.”

Based on these differences and their LMS’s connection to the VMEdu Authorized Training Partners (V.A.T.P.) network, the company claims, “You will save more than 90% of your current LMS expenses by using VMEdu– and have signifi­cantly more capabilities than those offered by traditional LMS platforms.”

They explain the value of this connection saying, “Courses created by our V.A.T.P.s can be made available and sold through our fast-growing partner network of 800+ Authorized Training Partners in 50+ countries. This makes your course available to an extensive network of companies, colleges, universities, training companies, and individual trainers and experts. No other traditional LMS platform helps you with customer acquisition.”

The e-learning trend is projected to continue explosively, “It is estimated to reach $200 billion worldwide by 2018 – more than 200 million people actively using various learning management systems,” according to DDI. They conclude that “One of the most important features any MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) should provide is scalability.” This trend makes VMEdu happy because “V.A.T.P.s have the ability to scale their training very quickly with negligible upfront investment. They get to create and launch their courses on their own websites and mobile apps using the VMEdu Cloud LMS.” DDI notes that for scalability, “As of now, only cloud hosting is capable of providing sufficient resources for this task.”

“It appears that 2016 will become a year when Big Data will stop being a distant future and become our everyday reality, so it’s best to keep this in mind when planning statistical algorithms for your LMS technology,” says DDI. The VMEdu Cloud LMS enables “your courses to include videos, tests, study guides, flashcards, and more: students can track the progress of their coursework, and determine improvement opportunities.” The ability to track student progress, manage courses and more is part of the VMEdu LMS’s ability to handle big data. As they are fond of saying, “VMEdu’s state-of-the-art Cloud Learning Management System (LMS) takes care of this!”

A continuing trend is the growth of mobiles: “Mobile LMS technology is supposed to surpass computer counterparts soon (as well as in many other fields of application). Developing mobile LMS apps is vital for any provider aiming for success,” according to DDI. VMEdu says, “We can create the best-in-the-industry mobile apps for your company with your company name and logo. This app can be downloaded from the Google Play Store (for Android Apps) or the Apple App Store (for IOS Apps) and can be used by your students to experience all of your courses. This provides your students the flexibility to study online and on-the-go.”

“Backend as a Service – That’s the one of the trends underlined by Martin Puryear on TechCrunch. Third party services that support chunks of backend tasks are faster to apply than repetitively building generic things. That helps to focus on innovative and competitive aspects of a product,” is a trend Marina Blinova cites in her article on LinkedIn’s Pulse.[2] VMEdu believes that by providing professional trainers and educational organizations with one of the industry’s most robust LMS, those educators can focus on developing the best educational experiences and value for their students.

VMEdu began creating its LMS more than seven years ago. They tested it thoroughly by launching multiple courses and websites, which have now become global leaders in their fields, teaching more than 500,000 students from 150 countries and 3,500+ companies. The VMEdu LMS is hosted on a scalable cloud infrastructure and already hosts hundreds of courses, with more than 50,000 learning resources including videos, questions, case studies, simulated exams, flashcards, study guides and more.

With its professional training and accreditation bodies, innovative LMS and extensive network of training partners, VMEdu has grown to be an industry leader. That growth is one of the most reassuring trends in e-learning today.


[1] “Main E-learning Trends for 2016” (2/25/16). IT News. DDI Development (
Retrieved on 3/3/16 from

[2] Blinova, marina (3/3/16), “What do you consider the most promising trend for 2016?” Pulse Retrieved on 3/3/16 from

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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