What Did You Do When You Were Supposed to be Sleeping?

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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.

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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 SMstudy.com.

Catching an Academic Wave with VMEdu

shutterstock_103520741It’s not like riding a Tsunami.

But it is exciting, exhilarating and breath-taking to get in early on one of the disruptions that are rapidly reshaping the world we swim in.

Disruptions that wipe the landscape clear are dramatic and threatening. And they are rare. Disruptive inventions and practices in business and industry happen gradually; so gradually, in fact, that they often seem inevitable. This is a point bestselling author Hugh Howey made in a recent article about the state of publishing: “All manner of publishing has been greatly disrupted, but it’s often hard to see because what has changed is what’s now missing from our lives. And these missing things have not disappeared all at once. Rather, it’s been a gradual vanishing.”[1]

The world of publishing—which Howey says includes such products as encyclopedias, maps, those liner notes in albums and CDs, how-to books, instructions enclosed in products, newspapers, magazines and novels—provides an excellent example of the disruption that is now going on in education and training.

Michael Horn, in a piece on Forbes.com, described the disruption this way: “Much of the growth of online learning isn’t just in accredited higher education institutions, but in unaccredited institutions that are hired to do a similar ‘job’ as that of many accredited higher education institutions—advance adult learners in their career pathways. These organizations don’t need accreditation per se though, as they will ultimately develop their reputations from the success of their students with employers.” He cites research done in this regard by Michelle R. Weise and Clayton M. Christensen of the Christensen Institute.

Horn’s suggestion is that schools of higher learning should enhance their online presences and offerings. He gives examples of partnerships that colleges, universities, corporate entities and training organizations can make as a way of turning his suggestion into a reality. One of the companies facilitating this disruption in education and professional training is VMEdu, Inc. This company has a global reach with more than 750 partners in its VMEdu Authorized Training Partner network. It is expanding this with the launch of its VMEdu Authorized Content Partners (V.A.C.P.) program.

In discussing the digital disruption of the publishing industry, Howey says, “In just about every measurable way, these have been great developments.” The V.A.C.P. program brings an enhanced Learning Management System (LMS) and other great developments arising from disruptive innovations in adult education and training to any organization that has created courses related to any field of adult learning in any language; or is already using another LMS to host their courses.

The V.A.C.P. program enables content providers—educational institutions, training companies and those with an expertise worth sharing—the ability to launch courses on their own websites for free, get their own mobile app, sell their courses to the VMEdu Partner Network, offer Sales and Marketing courses on SMstudy, and efficiently track student progress.

Looking at the changes in publishing, Howey says, “It’s difficult to find anything to complain about with this transition, unless you are a middleman who no longer provides a service commensurable with your cost. This is an important point, the act of offering a service that matches your cost.” Educational providers and trainers are very familiar with the costs of some of their products. Student loan debt in America is almost infamous. VMEdu says, “There is no cost associated with creating or uploading your courses, and zero licensing fees.”

The same goes for certain mobile apps for partner courses: “VMEdu will take care of all expenses related to creating, maintaining and upgrading your mobile apps—you pay only $1 per student per month for every student accessing your courses through the mobile app.” This is an example of where the company earns its income.

Last year, Amazon paid out over $140,000,000 to authors in its Kindle Unlimited program. That doesn’t count the dollars paid for book sales,” says Howey. The disruption of traditional publishing is enabling those who create the works to share a much larger portion of the revenues they generate. Through VMEdu’s cloud-based LMS, the same is happening for adult and professional education providers.

For those considering an educational venture into the new cloud-based ocean of opportunity, come on in; the water is fine.

Surf the VMEdu website and learn more about its V.A.C.P. program: Benefits of Becoming a V.A.C.P.

[1] Howey, Hugh. (2/2/16) “The State of the Industry.” The Wayfinder. Retrieved on 2/3/16 from http://www.hughhowey.com/the-state-of-the-industry/

America, Trump, Branding and SMstudy

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Today has been all about brands and branding.

The day hadn’t even started when I saw that a friend had posted a LinkedIn Pulse article that included what he learned about branding from Warren Buffet. The next article that caught my eye was a brand comparison between Donald Trump and America, as in America, the Beautiful—the ideal, the brand.

Together, the articles made a strong argument that brands matter; they seriously matter. Gerald Sanchez wrote in his Pulse piece, “Brand Matters: Think about some of the companies that are in his [Warren Buffet’s] portfolio that are well known: Coca-Cola, Geico, Heinz, Proctor and Gamble and Johnson and Johnson.  Their brands provide a ‘hard-to-replicate advantage over their competitors.’”[1]

A concise definition of branding says that it “is the process of creating a distinct image of a product or range of products in the customer’s mind. This image communicates the promise of value the customer will receive from the product or products,” according to the SMstudy® Guide: Marketing Strategy.[2] Together, a powerful image and an accurately defined value deliver that “hard-to-replicate advantage.”

Interestingly, as Merry Carole Powers alludes to in her Huffington Post article[3] analyzing Donald Trump’s presidential-candidate brand, powerful images and appealing to the wrong—though accurately defined—value can give an advantage that lacks health and perhaps staying power.

The idea of looking at a political campaign from a marketing point of view and dismissing a candidate’s statements as just saying whatever sells at the moment is fairly common. But Powers’ analysis is not, “I have been so horrified by this man from my personal point of view as a woman and a human being, it hadn’t dawned on me to assess him from a professional place.” This seems to be how most of us look at politicians. Perhaps we, too, should be more professional, “And when I did, I was surprised at what I found.” (Spoiler alert: she still isn’t a Trump supporter.)

Powers’ analysis of Trump as Trump the Brand used “a few core branding blocks that must be a part of any strong brand.” Such a brand includes “unique positioning, clearly defined purpose, truly held values, an authentic personality and a compelling message.”

Using these blocks, Powers does an item by item analysis of Trump as a brand and then compares the Trump brand with that of America as represented in the Declaration of Independence—arguably the best single statement of America the brand ever written.

Does Trump have a strong brand? How does it compare to America’s brand? Does it belong in America’s highest office? We’ll let you read Powers’ excellent article to learn that.

For this blog, let’s take away the realization that communicating our promise of value is crucial when we take an important stand and we want others to join us in it. Brand matters.

Look for SMstudy’s soon-to-be-released book Branding and Advertising, part of the SMstudy® Guide series.

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

 

[1] Gerald Sanchez. (4/3/16) “Gleaning from the Gurus: What I Learned from Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger about Small Business.” Pulse. Retrieved on 4/4/16 from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/gleaning-from-gurus-what-i-learned-warren-buffet-charlie-sanchez?deepLinkCommentId=6122773332300492800&anchorTime=1459782918057&trk=hb_ntf_MEGAPHONE_REPLY_TOP_LEVEL_COMMENT

[2] A Guide to the Sales and Marketing Body of Knowledge, also referred to as the “SMstudy® Guide,” is a series of books that provide guidelines for the Sales and Marketing of products and services. It is available at SMstudy.

[3] Powers, Merry Carole. (4/1/16) “Donald Trump vs America: Side-by-Side Brand Analysis.” The World Post. Retrieved on 4/4/16 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/merry-carole-powers/donald-trump-vs-america-a_b_9592180.html

You, the Job Marketplace and SMstudy

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“Sell yourself” has been the mantra of experts in both resume writing and job interviewing since the mid-1990s. As employment rates fluctuate like celebrity popularity, that mantra is more true now than it has ever been and opportunities to use it come more often.

“What is disappearing today is not just a certain number of jobs, or jobs in certain industries, or jobs in some part of the country—even jobs in America as a whole. What is disappearing is the very thing itself: the job,” wrote William Bridges in his 1994 bookJobShift: How to Prosper in a Workplace Without Jobs.  Bridges identified “the job” as the twentieth century’s concept of the career: a job one would do at the same company for the entire time from being hired to being retired. It is that job, the career, that he saw disappearing.

Using emerging employment patterns from Silicon Valley and technology, he described a workplace in which people with marketable skills move from one project to another, from one company to another with some of the companies even being competitors. One’s career was no longer a relationship between worker and employer, but the continual utilization of skills to provide a service companies will pay for.

Bridges suggested that workers begin to view their relationship with their organization as a marketplace. This means selecting and developing skills based on what businesses need and want, “Your customer’s worlds are changing just as fast as yours is, and yesterday’s services are either no longer as useful as they once were, or are so widely available that neither you nor they can profit by concentrating on them.”

As time has passed, it has become apparent that each employee needs to have more than one service to offer employers; so much so, that workers not only need to see their employers as markets, but themselves as entrepreneurs. “We are all entrepreneurs now,” says Liz Ryan, CEO and founder of Human Workplace.

In describing people who have let their “selling yourself” skills lag as “asleep,” Ryan says, “They don’t know what kind of Business Pain they solve for employers. They’re not thinking of themselves like entrepreneurs, the way all of us need to do — even kids who are just finishing college.”

The question becomes, “How does one think like an entrepreneur?” Ryan suggest asking ten questions. SMstudy offers resources to help answer those questions.

For example, Ryan says a worker should ask him or herself, “Can you list eight to twelve organizations you’d approach right now if your job disappeared — organizations that employ people like you?” Where does one begin to answer a question like this? Usually, the first resort is to think about companies that other have talked about, but one could approach this like a marketing team. When given a new product, a marketing team begins a process of analyzing market opportunity. They determine the strengths and weaknesses of both the product and the company, the opportunities and threats in the marketplace, and define and identify market segments, according to Marketing Strategy, book on of the SMstudy® Guide.

Before getting into identifying those eight to twelve organization, a personal inventory of one’s strengths and weaknesses is in order. Once that is known, the employee as entrepreneur can begin to describe the characteristics that companies must have to be considered a true opportunity. This is analogous to selecting target segments for marketing, “After the market segments have been identified, the company conducts a market attractiveness analysis to identify the relative attractiveness of each segment. The marketing team should also create ‘personas’ of ideal customers in each segment,” according to the SMstudy® Guide.

Ryan’s second question for workers to ask themselves is “Do you know what your talents are worth in the talent marketplace (not just what you’re getting paid now)?” Marketing teams determine pricing strategies for themselves, “When a product’s price, value proposition, and positioning are optimally aligned, a company is in a position to maximize revenues and profits.” The value proposition is the answer to “why should we hire you rather than someone else?” Pricing can be determined by using several of the sites and organizations that track average salaries per industry.

Ryan has eight more questions that are worth considering, even studying, and we (editorial we) do not want to take the wind out her sails by repeating all of them here. The point here is that for those who see the validity of her assertion that we are all entrepreneurs as workers, SMstudy has some resources to help function that way. And that way can lead to maximized revenues and profits!

Ryan. Liz. (3/23/16) “The Fatal Career Mistake You Won’t Realize You’re Making.” Forbes. Retrieved on 3/25/16 from http://www.forbes.com/sites/lizryan/2016/03/23/the-fatal-career-mistake-you-wont-realize-youre-making/2/#22546fee5a52

The SMstudy® Guide is a series of six books that provide guidelines for the Sales and Marketing of products and services. It is available at http://www.smstudy.com/SMBOKGuide/Overview-of-SMstudy-Guide.

What Turns a Ford into a Lincoln?

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When I was a kid the men in my neighborhood used to say, “The only difference between a Ford and a Lincoln is the packaging… and ten thousand dollars!” The pause between “packaging” and the “and ten thousand dollars” got the intended laughs. Men who couldn’t afford most of the regular Ford line—though still dreaming about the Lincolns—needed those laughs… and the consolation.

Marketers know that those neighborhood men were partially right: the right packaging can enhance a product’s differentiated positioning. More often though, a product’s position in its market is earned by its quality and the quality of the services that accompany it. The process of creating a well-defined differentiated positioning statement “helps a company maintain focus on each product and its value proposition while developing the key elements of its marketing mix, pricing, and distribution strategy,” says Marketing Strategy, book one of the SMstudy® Guide series.[1]

The common four elements of a marketing mix are “product, price, place, and promotion.”[2] These elements become refined and powerful when developed in connection with clearly defined pricing and distribution strategies. The creation of differentiated positioning for a product uses these elements and strategies to define “a list of the product features that are most important in helping customers make their purchasing decision,” according to Marketing Strategy.

The features that set one’s product apart from others is often the decisive information for consumers. Though made by the same manufacturer, a Lincoln has distinct features that cannot be found on models from Ford’s standard line. There are features such as seat warmers and electronic monitoring systems that make Lincolns luxury cars that are positioned, priced and promoted to the luxury market. The same can be said about Cadillacs and other model lines built by General Motors—Lexus and Toyota, Affinity and Nissan, and so on.

In the process of creating a differentiated position, a company’s marketing team will use inputs such as the selected target segment, the company’s strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats, a list of competitors, details of competitive products, industry benchmarks, existing industry research reports and customer feedback about similar products or from research projects such as market tests and focus groups. And these inputs are raw resources for future blogs (previews of coming attractions).

Though much of this seems common knowledge, it takes a well-thought-out differentiated positioning statement to get products to the right street.

1. This series of six books covers six aspects of sales and marketing aligned to the most common career groups in this domain. The SMstudy® Guide offers a comprehensive framework that can be used to effectively manage sales and marketing efforts in any organization. For more details, visit: http://www.smstudy.com/SMBOKGuide.

2. BusinessDictionary.com Retrieved on 3/31/16 from http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/marketing-mix.html

Brand Loyalty

Brand loyalty is a metric associated with brand perception in marketing. Brand perception refers to how prospective and current customers react to seeing or hearing about a company’s products or brands and how the company is perceived within the market.

Brand loyalty is reflected by how many customers purchase a brand repeatedly. It indicates the commitment that customers have towards a brand irrespective of the price offered by competitors of similar products and is the basis of a strong relationship between the brand and its customers. The underlying metrics for brand loyalty may be the percentage of repeat customers out of total customers, the frequency of repeat purchases, and the degree to which other brands are also purchased along with the brand under consideration. A high degree of purchase of other brands reveals a low brand loyalty for the brand under consideration. Another way to measure brand loyalty is to examine customer response to situations where a product variant is unavailable. If customers are loyal to a brand, they will either wait until the product becomes available or buy another product variant of the same brand.

Let’s illustrate the idea with some example. Some retail chains use payback / loyalty card to measure brand loyalty by frequency of a customer’s repeat purchase of products from their stores. As part of the loyalty program, these retail companies incentivize the loyal customers by offering cashbacks, payback points and other personalized discounts over and above the listed discounts. Some luxury car manufacturers have strong brand loyal customers who are ready to pay a premium price for a luxury car due to its perceived uniqueness and status. These set of customers are so brand loyal that they book their vehicles well in advance and are willing to wait several months for their order to be fulfilled and they will not accept substitutes.

To learn more about other brand perception metrics, refer Marketing Strategy, the first book of the SMstudy® Guide.

For more Articles please visit: www.smstudy.com