VMEdu and the Way of E-learning

elearningCompanies have long known the financial benefits of online training over physical classroom learning. In fact, companies can save anywhere between 50–70 % on training costs by switching to e-learning alternatives. So naturally it was love at first sight for company bean counters and executives; however, humans, or e-learners, clearly were not so impressed.

Early assessments of e-learning iterations were pretty unanimous: they were dry, boring, technically complicated and didn’t satisfy any quality benchmarks. In other words, the courses weren’t top notch, according to Francisco J. Garcia Penalvo, professor at the University of Salamanca who documented the origins and subsequent growth of e-learning in his book, “Advances in E-learning: Experiences and Methodologies.”

“In spite of everything, the growth of e-learning is unstoppable, and every important institution (academic, enterprise, or otherwise) knows about the necessity of creating and developing a department or service specially devoted to this subject. E-learning deserves to be considered as a real revolution, ‘The Globalization of Training,’” Penalvo said.

Many of those early complaints are now in the past as e-learning has matured over the last ten years and evolved into a human-centric learning experience with technology (ironically) aiding the e-learning “revolution” Penalvo speaks of enthusiastically.

Although a reported 20% of surveyed individuals still note technical issues as the main frustration with e-learning, it now appears that technology has caught up with our learning preferences and e-teachers as well as learning management systems (LMS) are tempting more students than ever on a global scale. In 2015, the global market for e-learning was $170 Billion, a staggering increase of $75 billion in five years.

One technology that has allowed tremendous growth in the field of e-learning is the global penetration of mobile phones. At some point in 2016, 2.1 billion smartphones are estimated to be in use around the world. In particular, China, Indonesia and Russia are anticipated to see substantial growth in smartphone usage over the next two years. And in the case of India, smartphone usage is predicted to surpass the U.S. as the second largest user of smartphones in the world by the end of 2016. This boom has opened up a huge population to the opportunity of lifelong learning. This period of intense growth in smartphone use has tracked with the rise in e-learning to such an extent that it has been noted by Ambient Insight Research, an online resource for statistics and information related to the e-learning industry.

The report states “The astonishing growth rates and adoption rates in countries like Laos, Thailand, Uganda, Cambodia, and Ghana are good examples of once-nascent markets that became vibrant revenue opportunities for suppliers in just the last two years (literally “overnight” in the context of a learning technology product lifecycle.)”

One such company offering human-centric learning options at the vanguard of e-learning is VMEdu, Inc. Refined over seven years, the VMEdu Cloud Learning Management System (LMS) offers one of the finest platforms for e-learning currently available globally. The VMEdu LMS is open to anyone, anywhere (in any language) and offers ultimate flexibility for both students and teachers, including mobile as well as hybrid options.

VMEdu is a global leader in adult education through its multiple brands and partner ecosystem. The company has taught more than 500,000 students from 150 countries and 3,500+ companies and has an extensive V.A.T.P. (VMEdu Authorized Training Partner) network of 800+ partners in 50+ countries.

For more information on VMEdu’s e-learning courses, platform and training opportunities, visit vmedu.com.

Sources:

“Advances in E-Learning: Experiences and Methodologies,” Francisco J. Garcia Penalvo, University of Salamanca. 2008. Information Science Reference, Hershey, NY.

“Mobile Worldwide Active Smartphone Users Forecast 2014 – 2018: More Than 2 Billion by 2016” Ambika Choudhary Mahajan, Dec. 18, 2014. http://dazeinfo.com/2014/12/18/worldwide-smartphone-users-2014-2018-forecast-india-china-usa-report/

“International E-Learning Market Research Report 2015,” Ambient Insight Research http://www.ambientinsight.com/Reports/eLearning.aspx#section2

“The Top eLearning Statistics and Facts For 2015 You Need To Know” eLearning Industry

The Top eLearning Statistics and Facts For 2015 You Need To Know

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

canned-food-prducts“I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following you…”

– Allen Ginsberg, “A Supermarket in California”

When potential customers “wander in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans,” what sets your product apart from all of the others on the shelf? What makes buyers begin following you?

Is it the need that you meet? Or the value proposition you offer? Is it your product’s packaging? Or placement on the shelf? Is it the reputation of your company that shines a special spotlight on your offering?  If your answer is, “Yes,” then you’re ready for a trip into the sometimes puzzling world of creating a product’s differentiated positioning. Grab your cape, Alice; you never know what you’ll run into down the rabbit hole.

A well-planned and executed differentiated positioning of a product sets it apart and attracts buyers. The process of creating a differentiated positioning “involves creating a positioning statement that clearly articulates, in a succinct sentence, how the company wants the customers in its selected target markets to perceive its products,” says Marketing Strategy, book one in theSMstudyGuide series.[1]

In our previous article, “What Turns a Ford into a Lincoln,” we looked at the use of features to set one product apart from another, to make it attractive to targeted market segments. This same list of features is used when writing the positioning statement. In this blog we consider the influence of the target segment itself and customer feedback on preparing that “succinct sentence.”

Once your company has completed the process of selecting a target segment, it will have “detailed information…, such as specific wants and needs, customer personas, segment size, and so forth,” according to Marketing Strategy. The company then can “analyze the target segment information to determine areas where it has, or can, create a competitive advantage when positioning its products.”

Where does a company get a clear statement of the “specific wants and needs” of their potential customers? From customer feedback, of course. “But, they’re potential customers!” someone is saying, “How can we get feedback from customers that aren’t customers, yet?” There are ways down this rabbit hole.

One way is to use industry benchmarks and Key Performance Indicators (KPI). “Comparing the company’s performance against industry benchmarks and KPIs helps prevent a company from focusing its positioning efforts on creating differentiators that are of little importance to customers in the industry,” the SMstudyGuide says. Your potential customers will have significant similarities with others in the targeted segment for similar products.

Closely related to benchmarks and KPIs, are existing marketing research reports. Your company or an industry group may have already conducted research that is relevant. “This research can help identify the best possible product features and associated product positioning based on how purchase intentions vary with changes to particular product characteristics. Furthermore, analyzing customers’ attitudes toward competitors’ products provides additional insights into how well the positioning strategies of competitors are working, and whether there are some gaps in their positioning that the company can exploit,” says the SMstudyGuide.

Another way is to talk to your company’s present customers. “No one can articulate your strengths better than your clients,” writes Cidnee Stephen in her article “How to Differentiate Your Business from the Competition.”[2]

As the SMstudyGuide puts it, “Understanding the customer experience and obtaining customer feedback about a company’s existing products (a concept referred to as the “Voice of the Customer”) helps a company to determine the positioning of its products. Such customer feedback includes improvement suggestions, compliments, and complaints.” Your company has probably been collecting feedback of this nature through post-purchase surveys, product registration processes, and the “Contact Us” tab on its website. This data is usually reviewed through a product or service improvement filter. Now is the time to look at that data with a filter emphasizing positioning.

Product piloting and conducting focus groups are two additional ways to collect feedback on a product or service that is not yet in wide distribution.

Our trip seems to use product and company differentiation interchangeably. Does that make sense? Down this rabbit hole, it does. The two are membrane on membrane close. The differentiated positioning of the company as a whole should guide all positioning of the company’s products and services.

Does this article say it all about creating differentiated positioning? Absolutely not! In fact, the part of our treatment of this topic will discuss using SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats).

As good as back talk can be, so can a good SWOT across the backside … or at least, across the corporate office!

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

[1] The SMstudyGuide is available at http://www.smstudy.com/SMBOKGuide.

[2] Cidnee Stephen. “How to differentiate Your Business from the Competition.” Bplans; Starting a Business Made Easy. Retrieved on 4/5/16 from http://articles.bplans.com/how-to-differentiate-your-business-from-the-competition/#.VwLfWKs56mM.linkedin

How to Perform Market Trend Analysis?

market-trend-analysisA market trend analysis is an analysis of past and current market behavior and dominant patterns of the market and consumers. An important aspect of conducting a trend analysis for an organization is to obtain insights on the market scenario, consumer preferences, and the macroeconomic environment.

Marketing research methods, such as surveys, interviews, and observations of consumer behavior, help in understanding the trends and behavior in the market.

Trend analysis is a subset of the PESTEL Analysis—an examination of the Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental, and Legal implications of the market as they relate to consumer trends. This analysis provides an all-round perspective of the external factors that impact the business.

While determining future objectives for a product or service, trend analysis is used as a basis on which future market projections are made. Market trend analysis involves analyzing the following areas:

  • Trends in Consumer Needs and Behavior—A business that is able to identify a specific trend in changing consumer needs and behavior may be able to cater to these needs and project higher growth rates.
  • Shifts in Consumer Perception of Value—Trend analysis involves timely analysis of consumer needs and positioning of the product or service in the consumer’s mind. An aspect of a product or service, which would at one point in time have contributed to the consumer’s perception, may later lose value if the competition replicates it. For example, if Shop A in a particular town was the only department store providing free home delivery for customer orders, it may hold a better perception in the consumer’s mind due to this additional service. However, if competitors start providing the same service, the value perception for Shop A would likely decrease.
  • Trends in Industry Cost Drivers—Businesses need to be aware of changes in composition of the cost drivers and also innovations that lead to lower cost alternatives. Companies that are able to find better alternatives, which are more economical or offer additional features, can gain a competitive advantage and achieve higher objectives.
  • Change and Evolution of the Industry—Companies continuously analyze trends in terms of product innovations, competitor product features, and new operation and delivery methods. Such analysis helps the business stay ahead of the curve to understand changing market trends and project objectives accordingly.

Trend analysis is a very common strategic tool for understanding the market maturity (i.e., whether the market is in a growth or decline stage) to gauge future market potential and the overall position of a business in the market.

Since market trend analysis involves understanding past market behavior and expected future market innovations, a major effort in conducting trend analysis is dedicated toward collecting relevant data. The authenticity of this data determines the accuracy of the projections, which subsequently impacts the objectives set for a particular product or service.

To read more articles about sales and marketing, visit www.smstudy.com/articles

Paying Attention: A New Metric for Advertising on Mobile

mobilenewsadsfrontierSince 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 gate-keeping 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)…http://www.journalism.org/media-indicators/digital-top-50-online-news-entities-2015/

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… http://www.journalism.org/media-indicators/digital-top-50-digital-native-news-sites-2015/

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 smstudy.com.

Sources:

The Pew Research State of the Medial 2015

State of the News Media 2015

“How mobile metrics fall short for news outlets and advertisers,” James Breiner, July 13, 2015 https://ijnet.org/en/blog/how-mobile-metrics-fall-short-news-outlets-and-advertisers

“Is Digital Advertising Ready to Ditch the Click?”  Michael Sebastian. September 29, 2014. http://adage.com/article/media/digital-advertising-ready-ditch-click/295143/

“ADI: Advertisers Must Prepare To Follow Increasing Eyeballs On Mobile Video,” June 21, 2015. http://www.cmo.com/articles/2015/6/21/adi-advertisers-must-prepare-to-follow-increasing-eyeballs-on-mobile-video.html

“When Will Mobile Marketers Move Beyond Basic Measurement?”  June 15, 2015 http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Will-Mobile-Marketers-Move-Beyond-Basic-Measurement/1012600?ecid=NL1001#sthash.B8b4GxdM.dpuf

Inventions from 1900-1910: Deja vu All Over Again

canine-code

There are some things I never do on social media. When I get a post with a picture of an old-fashioned pencil sharpener, apple corer or slide rule and it says “If you’ve ever used one of these, Like and Share,” I never do. And it’s not just because I don’t want to admit how old I am.

Looking back in history can be much more helpful than trying to get one up on “those young people today” by showing how difficult you had it and they should be glad they have it as easy as they do! Looking back in history can actually help people deal with the present.

With this in mind we thought we would take a quick look at the first decade of the Twentieth Century and draw some inferences relating to the first two decades of the Twenty-first.

We researched several websites and found that a lot of things happened from 1900 to 1910, inclusive. From the frivolous to the profound, some of the inventions and advances still affect America and the world today. In 1905, the American form of football allowed the forward pass to stop injuries and deaths caused by brute-force tactics such as the “flying wedge.” Today, the National Football League is trying to make reforms that will minimize, or do away with concussions. Also in 1905, Albert Einstein published a paper introducing the idea that the formula for determining energy is a direct ratio with the combined characteristics of mass and the speed of light squared, e=mc2. In that same year, he published a fuller elucidation, his theory of relativity. (We felt like we could use phrases like “fuller elucidation” when we’re talking about such heady stuff.) From those papers have risen arsenals, energy generation, medical uses of radiation, and advances in the physics that run our televisions and computers, among other things.

Speaking of televisions and computers, both of these have their roots in Lee De Forest’s invention of the vacuum tube triode in 1907. “The three terminal setup could serve as an electrical switch. When you changed the voltage traveling to one terminal, you could reduce the current following between the other two terminals. In this way, you could turn it ‘on’ and ‘off.’ That’s your 1 and your 0,” says Wired.com in reference to the binary code used in programming.[1]

The more immediate use of the vacuum tube was in building the sets needed to receive that new-fangled thing called radio. De Forest used his vacuum tube to transform “those taps and clicks [of Marconi’s wireless telegraph transmissions] into the broadcast communication system we know today,” according to Wired, adding, “Forest, who also coined the name ‘radio,’ used his invention to send the first over-the-air public broadcast on January 12, 1910.”

From all this, it becomes apparent that first decade of the twentieth century saw the new arrivals of more than twenty inventions that reshaped life and business. Mercedes (1901) and Ford (1908) took the automobile from the showcase and exhibition track to the roads of America and Europe in mass numbers. Along the way, they also invented the car salesman.

These inventions made their creators wealthy through marketing. In 1908, Dr. Julius Neubronner combined invention and marketing into one operation. He fitted “tiny timer-driven cameras to pigeons and developed and printed the photos immediately upon the birds’ return, selling them as postcards on the spot,” says Wired. They also say, “Take that, UAV cams!”

Apple Computers is the modern poster child for this symbiotic relationship between innovation and marketing. And that brings us to Digital Marketing, book three in the SMstudy® Guide series, “Today, consumers have multiple ways of searching, learning about, and purchasing various products and services, and e-commerce technology has offered the convenience of secure and instant transactions.”

In 1901, the vacuum cleaner was invented and was soon followed by the door-to-door vacuum salesman. The invention of the radio brought radio advertising, which was one of the methods inventor and businessman George Louis Washington used to turn his 1909 invention of instant coffee into a mansion in Brooklyn and a lodge by the beach in Belford.[2]

Automobiles brought roadside signs and billboards. Walls in every major urban setting became festooned with advertising aimed at the motoring masses. The marketing messages were everywhere. Conventional mass marketing made sure they even arrived in peoples’ mailboxes.

Today’s market seems filled with innovation and invention on steroids. “Consumers can receive messages from any of the several hundred television and radio channels, a variety of print media, including newspapers, magazines, and trade publications; and, online, it’s difficult to check e-mail without various banner ads popping up. The messages are constant,” saysDigital Marketing.

“For businesses, in this age where consumers are continuously provided with choice, the challenge is finding ways to stand out.” SMstudy and the SMstudy® Guide are designed to help sales and marketing professionals and entrepreneurs handle the change in ways that make them stars.[3]

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

[1] “The Decades that Invented the Future, Part 1: 1900-1910.” (10/12/12) WIRED. Retrieve on 4/13/16 from http://www.wired.com/2012/10/12-decades-of-geek-part-1/

[2] Janie (4/13/2015) “20 Influential Inventions from 1900-1910” JellyShare Retrieved on 4/13/16 from http://www.jellyshare.com/article-194/20-influential-inventions-from-1900-1910.htm

[3] For more information about the SMstudy® Guide, visit http://smstudy.com/SMBOKGuide

Eye-to-Eye on IT Value, Marketing and SMstudy

modern-cyber-girlWhen designing a marketing strategy should you start where you want to be, or where you are?

If you’re a motivational speaker, you’re probably saying, “Start where you want to be.” If you’re a process engineer, you’re likely to say, “Start where you are.” If you’re a marketing strategist, you’re probably saying, “Yes.”

“But it’s an ‘either/or’ question!” they might remind you.

“True, but the answer is still ‘Yes,’” you would answer.

In sales and marketing, there must be a strong focus on goals and objectives, the “where you want to be”bit. “The Corporate Marketing Strategy is defined at a corporate level. It defines 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,” saysMarketing Strategy, book one of the SMstudy™ Guide.

Can the company meet these goals? The answer to this lies in the “where you are.” “The strengths and weaknesses of a company determine its internal capabilities to compete in a market and to fulfill customer expectations,” says the SMstudyGuide. “Strengths provide the company with a competitive advantage and weaknesses place the company at a disadvantage.”

“Start where you are” is one of the “Practitioner 9 Guiding Principles” identified by Axelos, the people responsible for publications coming from the Information Technology and Infrastructure Library (ITIL) of the British Home Office. These principles are designed to help IT practitioners succeed in an increasingly customer- and market-oriented service environment.

One of the key “Practitioner Guiding Principles” is “focus on value.” This is something marketing professionals know very well: their product’s or service’s value proposition. “All successful products or brands need well-planned marketing strategies in place to ensure that they satisfy the goals set by the corresponding Business Unit or Geographic level, and in turn the overall Corporate Marketing Strategy. Marketing Strategy is therefore one of the most crucial Aspects of Sales and Marketing. It defines a product or brand’s unique value proposition, target markets, and the specific strategies to be used to connect with defined audiences,” according to the SMstudyGuide.

Arriving at a value proposition involves identifying the target market segment: what are the people that make up this group like? What do they do for a living? For recreation? How do they spend their money? These are very similar to questions that IT developers ask and answer when creating personas for their end users and customers. How will they use this service? When will they most likely access it? What will it do for them? How much is this worth to them? The confluence of service development and marketing is becoming greater and greater.

With the decreasing time between product development and its “hitting the shelves,” it seems inevitable that marketing interests and elements would enter product lifecycles earlier. Which ties in well with “Practitioner Guiding Principle” number 8: collaborate. The real value that developers put into a product after conferring with marketing and management becomes the real value that the sales and marketing people communicate to the customers, who buy that value, take it home and cherish it. Everyone is working together and the world’s a happier place.

 

For more informative articles on Sales and Marketing, visit SMstudy.com.

Selecting Points of Parity and Differentiation

points-graph

Points of parity for a product are those characteristics of a company’s product that are not unique but are rather on par with competing products. Points of differentiation are those areas on which a company’s product outperforms competing products. The company needs to decide which product features and benefits it wants to match with competing products, and those it wants to differentiate from competing products. It is simply not feasible or advisable for a company to differentiate its product on all aspects.

Though points of differentiation provide a company with its competitive edge over the competition, choosing points of parity carefully is also important. Customers should be able to relate the company’s product with a certain product category, so they can understand at a broad level the type of need that the product satisfies. Therefore, some basic characteristics of the product must be similar to other products in its category. If the product fails to meet the basic characteristics that customers expect from all products in the product category, then customers may not consider it for purchase, irrespective of how well the product is differentiated on other characteristics.

In product categories where there are many differentiation options (such as in the software industry), it makes sense to focus on creating sustainable differentiators rather than on blunting the competition’s points of differentiation. Thus, efforts could be better utilized in creating profound points of differentiation. Additionally, differentiation is not always accomplished through product characteristics. It can be created by offering better services or unique packaging, or by implementing more efficient processes that provide a cost advantage.

Let’s try to understand this better with a few examples..

In the past, the ability of major retailers to provide options for customers to purchase products online would have been a point of differentiation. However, as online shopping grows in popularity and more companies develop their e-commerce capabilities to match consumer demand, the ability to facilitate online shopping has become a point of parity among major retailers.

Similarly, Until recent years, free internet connectivity through Wi-Fi was a point of differentiation for some coffee shops; however, as increasingly more consumers have come to expect this service, the ability to be freely connected is quickly becoming a point of parity in the industry.

A company may choose to match a competing product on a point of differentiation, effectively softening that product’s edge. Thus, if the company achieves parity on all the basic characteristics and blunts the competition’s competitive advantage by targeting its point of differentiation, then even a relatively minor point of differentiation can provide the company with a competitive advantage.

To read more articles about sales and marketing, visit http://www.smstudy.com/articles

Branding America and SMstudy – Part Two

shutterstock_141158833_brand1What is right about America? What is its value proposition to its citizens and to the world? What is America’s brand?

In this second part of Brand America, we return to the Declaration of Independence[1]—arguably the quintessential statement of America the brand—to find what it tells us.

In Part One, we looked at the Brand’s strong positioning statement that claimed an equal place among the nations of the world. We saw that the Declaration gives the brand a great sense of an ennobling purpose.

In the world of corporate core value statements, brands that have “truly held values”[2] find loyal audiences and market segments. The Declaration’s preamble includes, “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to separation.” Here then is one of the Brand’s values from the very beginning: respect for the opinion of others. This respect manifests its most power and influence in the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America: freedom of speech and religion. The fact that these are still protected and the nature of that protection is still hotly discussed today is a testament to how truly held the value of respect is.

Also, in this phrase is the value of transparency. With respect comes the obligation to be transparent with one’s actions and motivations. Not only is modern America’s commitment to transparency seen in its laws such as open meeting laws, but its citizens have taken it to heart. For example, one of the foremost principles of Scrum project management is empirical process control which “relies on the three main ideas of transparency, inspection and adaptation,” according to A Guide to the Scrum Body of Knowledge (SBOKGuide).[3] The Declaration’s values find expression in the threads of everyday life.

Brand America’s greatest value statement has been, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This value statement broadens the Brand’s appeal to humans all over the world.

What is the Brand’s value proposition? “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.” The Brand stands for the right, the duty, of people to seek and establish governments that secure their rights. Over the years, the Brand has done this many times—from forming its own government to helping Europe throw off the shackles of Nazi Germany.

And what is the Brand’s compelling message? “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, … evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” The need that this Brand meets is the need that all humans have to be free of oppression, to possess life and liberty and to be free to pursue happiness.

A country that stays true to a Brand like this cannot help but attract an expansive market share.

For more informative and thought-provoking articles on sales and marketing, visit SMstudy.com.

[1] All quotes from the Declaration of Independence come from “the Charters of Freedom” collection of the U.S National Archives at http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html.

[2] 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

[3] The SBOKGuide is available for free at http://www.scrumstudy.com/overview-of-sbok.asp

Branding America and SMstudy – Part One

shutterstock_141158833_brandPresidential candidates want to unite America, make it strong again, give it a future to believe in, balance its budget and pass its dream onto the next generation. Each, in his or her own way, paints a picture of what’s wrong with America, but which of them grasps what is right about America, what its value proposition is to its citizens and to the world? Which one has a real grasp of its brand?

A recent commentary by Merrie Carole Powers in The World Post [1] compared candidate Donald Trump as a brand to America as represented in the Declaration of Independence—arguably the quintessential statement of America the brand.  This got us at SMstudy thinking about America the brand. What does the Declaration tell its citizens and the world about its brand?

A concise definition of branding states 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]

So, what distinct image of America comes readily to mind? For many the dominant image is the American Dream. Every presidential candidate mentions the American Dream, and their versions range from the ability to achieve anything through hard work and determination to having a job coupled with raised wages and health for people and their surroundings.[3]

What image springs from the pages of the country’s cry to be itself, to be independent?

In her brand analysis of Trump-the-Brand, Powers used the “unique positioning, clearly defined purpose, truly held values, an authentic personality and a compelling message” elements of a strong brand. Marketing Strategy says that a product’s or service’s value proposition is crucial to its branding. We’ll use several of these to consider Brand America in the Declaration of Independence.[4]

The Declaration’s preamble is well known to many—having had to memorize it at some time during their school days—and it is the place to find the introduction of America’s brand image. In its first sentence the brand begins to take shape unassumingly—almost off-handedly as mere conditions for actions that follow—“it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them…”  The Brand claims for itself “the separate and equal station” “among the powers of the earth” “that the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” says it has the right to. That’s a strong positioning statement, even if it is not unique for countries.

The Brand has a great purpose: to “assume … the separate and equal station,” that is, to step up and take possession of equality among the nations of the entire world.  It is an ennobling purpose. Kouze and Posner said in their work The Leadership Challenge that one of the best practices among successful leaders was the ability to inspire “an ennobling vision of the future.” People want to follow a leader that can do this. And they want to be identified with a brand that does this, too. Perhaps, this is one brand element that explains why so many people emigrate to America.

In Part Two of “Branding America and SMstudy,” we’ll look at Brand America’s compelling message and alluring value proposition.

(Jim Pruitt, educator and staff writer for VMEdu, Inc. contributed to this article.)

For more informative and thought-provoking articles on sales and marketing, visit http://www.SMstudy.com.

[1] 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

[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] Ted Cruz says that he and “his entire family have been blessed to live the American Dream — the idea that anyone, through hard work and determination, can achieve anything. And he is committed to ensuring every family has that same opportunity.” For Bernie Sanders, the American Dream includes an “economic agenda that creates jobs, raises wages, protects the environment and provides health care for all.” These quotes come from the respective candidate’s website.

[4] All quotes from the Declaration of Independence come from “the Charters of Freedom” collection of the U.S National Archives at http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html.

Learn How to Make a Product Training Program Effective

product-trainingIn this fast pace business world companies are spending billions of dollars in training their sales forces about their product. But why only a few of the companies are successful when it comes to product training initiatives and rest are not able to yield the desired results? How can a company build an efficient and effective product training program? Let us have a look at it.

Well, product training program should impart an in-depth knowledge of the product or service being offered to the sales team. As a general rule, product training ensures that the sales team understands:

The features and functionality of the product

The features of the product are captured in detail in the input Product Features. When product features are presented to sales personnel, it is important to focus on how the features will benefit the customer. The sales team will need to be instructed on the intent and use of each feature. They may require practice using the product or demonstrations of its functionality. The corporate sales staff should have a level of familiarity with the product that enables them to explain the value of each feature, display the product’s ease of use, and answer any questions the customer might have about the features.

The customer’s use of the product

The way in which the customer uses the product, or integrates it into their existing system, is a key area that the corporate sales staff must understand. The ability to view the product’s purchase and implementation from the customer’s point of view greatly helps the sales staff to communicate with the customer, as it demonstrates knowledge of the customer’s needs. Descriptions of customer use and integration may be captured as part of the product strategy, the product features, and the sales value proposition.

Competitor’s products and their similarities and differences

The corporate sales staff needs to be trained on the specifics of any competitor’s products. Knowledge of similar products will help the sales staff focus on areas in which their product is superior, and anticipate customer questions.

How the product actually achieves the promised sales value proposition.

Being able to effectively communicate how the sales value proposition is applicable to a specific customer or target audience is a key component of corporate sales. The sales team will need training on the sales value proposition, which areas are of interest to which companies, and the quantifiable results of using the product.

Industry trends (related to product use)

Industry trends related to product use help the corporate sales team understand the usage patterns of customers over time. This can also help determine future buying trends. Knowledge of industry trends needs to be updated regularly. The corporate sales team must have access to market research reports to stay current on trends.

Additional offerings

Additional offerings refer to any incentive programs, sales commissions, and gifts for customers. The corporate sales team must know the company policy related to additional offerings when meeting with and presenting information to customers. Many buyers in large organizations are prohibited from accepting gifts or commissions from sellers. The seller can offer “value-adds” as part of the contract. This avoids the appearance of impropriety because it provides the incentives to the buying organization rather than to any one individual.

An effective product training program focuses more towards the benefits of the product and less towards its features. It utilizes the technology and provides the information for the product team. The product training programs are one of the vital parts of the organizational culture, especially of those organizations which are performing really great in the industry.

To read more interesting articles about sales and marketing, visit www.SMstudy.com/articles