29
Jun

Google’s Map API is Stuck in a Commodity Driven Market

We were surprised to read about some recent changes to features and pricing for Google’s Map API. In a post authored by Molly McHugh on the Digital Trends blog, Google Maps strikes against new competition with API price cuts (http://www NULL.digitaltrends NULL.com/web/google-maps-strikes-against-new-competition-with-api-price-cuts/) we learned that, despite a recent round of feature improvements, including “better 3D, more immersive Street View technology, and other incremental improvements” Google Map API product marketing opted to reduce the street price of its product by a whopping 87%, from $4.00 to $ .50 per 1,000 map loads.

For a company as large as Google to display this level of product marketing ineptitude is discouraging and, certainly, not the type of event that inspires our confidence in the company. Rather, this type of mistake leads us to more skepticism about the long term strength of the present market leader of the search engine advertising market. As we have written elsewhere in this blog, the most respected expert on competitive positioning for commodity markets is Michael Porter and has been for quite sometime. Michael Porter’s “5 Forces” (http://hbr NULL.org/2008/01/the-five-competitive-forces-that-shape-strategy/ar/1) are based on several important assumptions that Joan Magretta has summarized in her book “Understanding Michael Porter”, Harvard Business Review Press, 2012.

It is not difficult to see the problems inherent to Google’s product marketing strategy for its Map API when you note Magretta’s point that “The real point of competition is earning profits, not taking business away from your rivals. Business competition is about the struggle for profits, the tug-of-war over who gets to capture the value that an industry creates.” (Magretta, “Understanding Michael Porter, p61). We have to ask “How much profit remains when prices are slashed by 87% and developers are hired and tasked to create a rich new feature set?”

We hope that Google has taken the steps to lower production costs for this software product to an absolute minimum, else where is the justification for such a steep reduction in cost to the consumer? We also hope that Google has carefully carved out a specific niche for the features that they have added to their product. But with mass market promotion of the new feature set, we question the strength of Google’s position vs. other market competitors. All told, the marketing communications that we reviewed on this product raises more questions than it answers, many of which are less than flattering about Google.

If you are considering modifications for current products in highly competitive enterprise IT markets and would like to avail of more of an understanding of industry leading product marketing techniques, please let us know. Telephone Ira Michael “Mike” Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

28
Jun

LinkedIn Premium as a Lead Generation Resource for Complex Sales

We recently concluded our first month of LinkedIn Premium membership. What attracted us to proceed with an upgrade on our account was the InMail feature. While we find the number of InMails that are included with the basic premium plan to be very low (3 per month), we did like the guarantee extended by LinkedIn (which gets you back your InMail in the event that you do not receive a reply) as well as their plan, which allows us to roll forward our unused InMails for upwards to 90 days. We were looking for a way to reach out to prospects through an integrated direct marketing approach that would include a written outreach piece (InMail) and a follow up telephone call within 72 hours of receipt. Bottom line, InMails did not prove to be useful for our first month of membership (actually the first month cost us nothing. LinkedIn offered us a free trial for the first month). We sent out a couple, but they were not accepted by recipients.

The two features that proved more useful were the Open Connect Network (no premium membership is required) and the “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” feature. We had already joined the Open Connect Network, but did not try to make use of it until the first month of our premium membership. We received responses to two of the email messages we sent out through the Open Connect Network, while a third individual declined our invitation. We plan on making a lot more use out of this feature.

The nice thing about the “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” feature is just what it claims to be, which is a method of identifying other members of LinkedIn who are reviewing your profile. We have not yet attempted to contact any of these other members, but we plan to do so in the near future.

We think that the sheer mass of contacts included on LinkedIn for specific companies, together with a method of identifying prospects with pain in a timely manner (more about this method in the next post to this blog), can make for an effective method of generating leads for complex sales. LinkedIn’s sheer mass is important as our experience has been that quite a number of mapping calls are generally required as complex sales opportunities emerge for prospects. Most of the contacts that we think we will need at the outer periphery of these sales opportunities are certainly to be found on LinkedIn.

If you would like to learn more about our lead generation methods, please do reach out to us. Telephone Ira Michael “Mike” Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

28
Jun

Finding Leads for Complex Sales on a Limited Budget Part I

We’ve got lots of recent experience checking into resources capable of producing leads for complex sales. Some of the resources that we’ve looked into are free, others have recurring subscription costs. We decided to look into these resources for a couple of interconnected reasons: results from either exclusive telemarketing activities, and/or a coordinated, integrated direct marketing effort (which combined an email campaign with a follow up telemarketing effort within 24 to 72 hours of the release date for the campaign) were unsatisfactory.

We simply were not getting the right leads. The integrated direct marketing effort has consistently produced an open rate in excess of 15%, which we think is terrific, but this campaign has not been useful as a lead generator. We know at least some of reasons for the problem with the integrated direct marketing effort. We will discuss these reason in a separate blog post.

It’s worth prefacing this report with a brief overview of what constitutes the type of lead we are after. We need leads to companies that

  • really feel the pain of broken down IT systems, not just any type of broken down IT systems, but IT systems that our clients’ offers can fix. Further, “broken down” must mean “unreasonably expensive”, so expensive that a company is committed to fixing the problem as quickly as possible, regardless of what needs to be changed

All of the posts on this blog have been written on the topic of sales and marketing of enterprise IT software products; therefore, the leads that we’re after are either to larger for profit businesses (with at least 1,000 employees using IT systems related to our clients’ offerings), or organizations of equivalent size in the public and/or not for profit sectors. Over our years of experience we’ve learned that obtaining the leads that we’re after can accelerate the complex sales cycle for our clients’ products.

It’s certainly a given that we’ll have conversations with many different contacts as we develop these leads. Further, the actual sales cycles that may result from these leads (we say “may” as there is always the chance that leads will not be appropriate for our clients’ offers. Deciding on whether or not a lead is appropriate will take some time) is usually lengthy; in fact, some sales will take years to close. But (and this is a big “but”, no pun intended), the present day realities are such that the process, itself, of simply deciding on a solution to a need without a qualified lead is often broken down (a perhaps better term would be dysfunctional) with the end result that sales simply collapse with problems left unsolved. If handled correctly, a qualified lead can insulate an opportunity from the dead end that results from problems left unsolved. Therefore we need useful, qualified leads.

In the next post we will look at various sources for this type of prospect. If you would like to discuss your own specific needs for quality leads for enterprise IT sales, please contact us. Telephone Ira Michael “Mike” Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

27
Jun

SaaS could be the silver lining in the Cloud

Over the last calendar quarter we have focused several posts on this blog on the market concept of “cloud” computing. To summarize a common thread, we have repeatedly expressed a skepticism throughout most of these posts about the idea of “cloud” computing as something new. Further, we have expressed our opinion that the security issues that have naturally arisen as the result of building software as a service (SaaS) “cloud” offers on top of Internet Protocol (IP) networks (which are public and offer limited hand shaking, error checking, etc. beyond packet transmission latency) to be of the type of risk that enterprise CIOs will be slow to embrace. Nevertheless, the widely publicized enthusiasm of very large ISVs like HP, Oracle, IBM and Microsoft for this business model has continued to grow over the same time period. So where is the disconnect?

With the publication of a post by David Terrar (http://www NULL.enterpriseirregulars NULL.com/author/david-terrar/) on the Enterprise Irregulars web site, The Cloud’s 5 Challenges for the ISV CTO (http://www NULL.enterpriseirregulars NULL.com/49928/the-clouds-5-key-challenges-isv-cto/) we are able to bridge some of the disconnect that we experienced between our position on cloud computing versus the position of the above mentioned very large ISVs.

In fact, the disconnect arose for us as the result of a now familiar jumbled marketing communications cloud computing message. We know better than to confuse managed services originating from someone’s on premise servers that are dedicated to a corporate Intranet with a subscription account at Salesforce dot com. In our opinion the market has not respected that difference. Therefore, we agree with David Terrar when he aptly points out that there are several sub categories within the cloud computing market message that need to be discretely understood, including:

  • Infrastructure as a Service
  • Software as a Service
  • Business Process as a Service
  • Platform as a Service

Once the boundaries, limitations and characteristics of these 4 products/services/integrated solutions are properly understood, then we all can intelligently render our own opinions as to their respective vitality as a business notion.

With that said, the success that we noted recently for the Workday (http://www NULL.workday NULL.com/) SaaS offer within the very same complex Enterprise organizations to which we have devoted almost all of this blog, now makes sense. SaaS certainly has very strong marketing legs. Further, we fully agree with David Terrar that compensation models for sales teams will need to be changed to better align sales with the overall SaaS revenue strategy. Looking even further, the evolution of sales activity along the lines of a complex selling methodology cloaked in the type of lead generation “skin” offered by a company like Alinean® (http://www NULL.alinean NULL.com/) will likely be inevitable.

If you share our enthusiasm for truly understanding enterprise IT markets and their direction before you take a leap, then we should talk. Please telephone Ira Michael “Mike” Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

26
Jun

Microsoft Looks to Lock Down Enterprise Market with Surface

While we do not, generally, write on the topic of consumer IT products, services, and/or integrated solutions, we do strive to focus on the same for the enterprise computing market. But, in deference to our focus, we need to publish a post to this blog on the topic of Microsoft® Corporation’s Surface, which had its debut yesterday, June 18th 2012. We think that the Surface finally establishes Microsoft in a position among the front runners of the consumerized IT market place with an offer that will be worth lots of consideration on the part of enterprise IT CIOs as they grapple with how best to support employees who are opting for BYOD solutions.

We think that Microsoft can stem a good bit of the tide that has been turning towards the iPad as the preferred tabled device at least for enterprise IT. Of course our position is built on an important assumption that the Surface will be largely compatible with Microsoft’s Office Suite for Windows 8. Further, we are assuming that the Surface will work fine with Microsoft SharePoint. This latter assumption is particularly important. From September, 2011 to the present we have spent a considerable amount of time working with an IT content solution for SharePoint training. We have observed, first hand through hundreds of telephone conversations, the extensive penetration of larger enterprise IT businesses and comparably sized organizations in the public and not for profit sectors that Microsoft has achieved with SharePoint. In our opinion, it was essential that Microsoft come to the market with a product like the Surface that could magnetize these same businesses to look to Microsoft for their BYOD tablet solutions. Fortunately, we think they have succeeded.

If we move the focus a bit over to innovative tech businesses targeting enterprise IT, we think the Surface provides an excellent reason to maintain deep scrutiny on the Microsoft computing environment within these enterprise businesses. Innovators should be on the look out for niche opportunities to produce missing enhancements that will complement the environment, rather than opportunities to produce disruptive technologies. A bit of fear and trembling should be kept at the forefront. With the Surface Microsoft has demonstrated that it is not going to turn the enterprise IT markets over to Apple or Google anytime soon.

We welcome opportunities to collaborate to tech innovators looking to correctly plan for changes in the enterprise IT computing environment. Please telephone Ira Michael “Mike” Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

25
Jun

Point and Click Workflow Development Is an Area of Enterprise Computing that Tech Innovators May Want to Consider for Product Development

We read a post to a Computerworld blog, BI and Analytics, posted on June 15th by Jaikumar Vijayan: IT-centric enterprise BI models unsustainable, says Forrester (http://www NULL.computerworld NULL.com/s/article/9228132/IT_centric_enterprise_BI_models_unsustainable_says_Forrester), that set us to thinking that, should Forrester’s conclusion be true, that business units will do much better to develop their own BI tools independent of IT, then there is, today, a very good market for workflow development tools like Microsoft’s InfoPath 2010.

We think that Forrester is right. Elsewhere in this blog we have voiced our skepticism of the usefulness of BI tools. To sum up our opinion, we think the type of BI tool set as commonly used at enterprise business, usually a dashboard presentation of collected metrics on business units, balanced scorecards, KPIs, etc, is fine for a historical review of past business performance, but poor as a means of predicting business performance over a long term look at the future. Forrester’s point, that business units themselves, in self service fashion, can make the best use of BI analytics to produce a set of data that approaches something useful as a means of predicting future business performance (which, after all, is where the rubber hits the road for any BI activity as we see it).

Further, the author of the Computerworld post summarized the opinion of the researcher at Forrester who put together opinion, Boris Evelson: “[t]o be really useful a self-service BI tool should enable casual users, technology savvy users and executives to self-serve for new queries, reports and dashboards” With reference to InfoPath 2010, we think this tool goes very far in the right direction, which is to provide business users with no-code options for systems development. Certainly there have been other approaches to building such systems, for example, Apple’s “Automator,” but we don’t think they work nearly as well as InfoPath 2010.

The bottom line for tech innovators is that the market for these self service tools for BI applications is a healthy spot in the world of enterprise IT computing, and one worth a look and possibly a product offering. We do not agree with Forrester’s Evelson’s conclusion that ” IT needs to retain control of complex, mission-critical BI applications” (we do not think these complex systems have proven to be very useful, either and, therefore, not the type of system that we would label ‘mission critical’); rather, we think there is much opportunity for further product development in this broader class of BI analytical tools, as well.

If you are considering a direction to pursue with regard to software development for enterprise computing for your business, we would like to speak with you. Telephone Ira Michael “Mike” Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

22
Jun

Betting on the Operating System of Choice for Enterprise Computing Over the Next Five Years

As Eric Zeman has pointed out in an article published on June 15th on the Information Week website, Microsoft May Debut Home-Grown Tablet Monday (http://www NULL.informationweek NULL.com/news/software/windows8/240002138) “[w]hat likely concerns Microsoft most is that Apple’s iPad has made huge inroads with the enterprise, which is Microsoft’s turf. Companies far and wide have adopted the iPad by the millions, challenging Microsoft’s dominance in the enterprise.” We entirely agree with Zeman’s conclusion. However, despite Apple’s lead, we still feel that Microsoft has an opportunity to take back leadership in the enterprise mobile computing area.

We base our opinion on the actual ubiquity of the MS Windows Operating system across enterprise computing. Windows computing pervades each and every enterprise business that one can think of. For this reason alone, any sensible enterprise CIO would rather opt to approve tablets and even smart phones that operate over a version of the Windows operating system than Apple or Android replacements. Bottom line, Windows scales whereas the other devices do not.

Therefore, we think that innovative tech businesses planning on enterprise software offerings should continue to plan on building systems that communicate with Windows operating systems. Of course, this planning would be relevant for companies planning on either on premise solutions or hybrid on premise and cloud solutions. If all of system operation can be effected with a web browser (which is the case for Software as a Service, SaaS, and Cloud computing systems), then most of the requirement for paying attention to the operating system of choice for desktop computers, tablets and smart phones goes out the window.

From what we have read recently, we also advocate that emerging tech businesses assume at least a year from Microsoft’s release of its Windows 8 operating system to when enterprise CIOs will approve plans to migrate to the platform. As Clint Bolton noted in a recent article on the Wall Street Journal Website, CIOs Should Wait to Migrate to Windows 8 (http://blogs NULL.wsj NULL.com/cio/2012/06/05/cios-should-wait-to-migrate-to-windows-8/) “Gartner analyst Michael Silver said virtual private network applications, anti-malware software, and management software won’t work with Windows 8 at launch. This means CIOs who do plan to migrate to Windows 8 this year could find themselves struggling to protect and manage their employees’ computers.” We don’t know of many enterprise CIOs who would approve moving forward on a migration without security.

If you understand why careful product planning is absolutely mandatory for successful growth for your business and need outside services to stay ahead, please give us a call. Telephone Ira Michael “Mike” Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

21
Jun

Is Microsoft’s Surface its Version of New Coke?

In 1985 the Coca Cola company attempted to introduce a new formula for its soft drink, dubbed “New Coke.” This introduction proved to be a product marketing disaster that ultimately resulted in the complete withdrawal of this product from the market by the manufacturer. It has only been days since the introduction of the Microsoft® Surface, but we are already getting the sense that we are likely watching a “new coke” in the making for Microsoft.

The reviews that we have read in the industry press publications — the online ZDNet Blogs, Computerworld, Network World, etc — have, at best expressed luke warm praise for the features of the product. At worst these reviews have focused on several points of uncertainty about the product; specifically, “why was a release date not announced?” “Does the product actually work (no one was allowed to touch the device)?” “What will be the retail price for the product?” But the most pressing uncertainty for all of these publications has been a pressing question: “How will OEMs and Channel Partners react to the direct sales plan for the product?”

We smell a new coke in the making as we grapple with how Microsoft should best answer this last question. Having spent the better part of the last year working extensively within the enterprise market for Microsoft SharePoint, (we are working directly with Rehmani Consulting Inc on their terrific set of video tutorials on SharePoint, which can be found on SharePoint-Videos dot com (http://www NULL.sharepoint-videos NULL.com)) speaking with lots of large end users in the private, public and not for profit sectors, we have noted the very deep interconnection of a highly complex partner/channel distribution strategy, and Microsoft’s own direct efforts, which has resulted in the remarkable ubiquity for SharePoint across almost any large enterprise that one can imagine.

The launch of a product with a radically different distribution strategy that is, nonetheless, more an important component of enterprise computing, than it is a consumer device, could prove to be a product marketing armageddon for Microsoft.

It is worth taking a moment to clarify this last point, whether Surface is as much a consumer device as it is a component of an enterprise computing strategy. We think the latter. This product is Microsoft’s answer to BYOD, which is to enter the market with its own product, and, therefore, this product is critically important as a hedge against further penetration of the BYOD market by either Google or Apple. Enterprise computing is a cash rich kingdom that is presently very much a Microsoft property. Losing control through a BYOD “back door” would be a shame.

If you agree with our take and would like to explore the product marketing challenges facing an enterprise computing offer that you are contemplating, then please contact us. Telephone Ira Michael “Mike” Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

20
Jun

A Marketing Communications Success Story for an Enterprise Software as a Service Offering

Enterprise Software as a Service (SaaS) as a service offerings have been slow to take off. In fact, many enterprise CIOs have been reluctant to implement off premises cloud computing solutions as the result of a combination of concerns about security, privacy of data, and governance. With a near daily announcement of security breaches across several prominent Internet applications it is certainly understandable that enterprise CIOs would be slow to endorse SaaS and Cloud offerings.

A company by the name of Workday (http://www NULL.workday NULL.com) is bucking the trend. On June 16, 2012 we read an article written by Ashley Vance and posted on Bloomberg’s BusinessWeek web site, The Two Horsemen of the Enterprise Software Apocalypse (http://www NULL.businessweek NULL.com/articles/2012-06-14/the-two-horseman-of-the-enterprise-software-apocalypse). After reading several pages of this article we visited the Customer section of the Workday website to verify, for ourselves, that enterprise customers do, in fact, make up the majority of Workday’s customers and, further, that this SaaS offering is used for internal purposes. We successfully verified these points and settled in to review a customer case study for Kimberly Clark.

It is worth noting here that Workday’s marketing communications team has substantially altered the format of a case study from a presentation of pure editorial text content to a combination of mere bullet points and video. The real meat of the case study is to be found in the video. Of course, changing the design of an otherwise important piece of product marketing collateral in this manner diminishes the usefulness of search engines as a driver for site visitors. After all, without lots of text, search engines will have little information to index. But this MARCOM team appears to understand that search engine visibility is not an important driver for the type of visitor they are after, which makes sense to us given our own findings (recounted at length over several posts on this blog) that search engine visibility plays at best a very minor role as a driver of quality traffic to websites (like the Workday website) that promote complex products designed for enterprise business.

The video worked very well for us. The production quality was entirely professional. The spokesperson of the video was none other than the CIO of Kimberly Clark, himself, who recounted a detailed explanation of why moving to Workday for his need for a Human Capital (HC) solution for the Kimberly Clark community of 57K workers spread all over the world made the most sense. We are completely confident that the presumed audience for this case study, none other than CIOs from Workday prospects, will really take to this format and extract they information they require — the rationale that drove a peer to implement the product.

If you share our enthusiasm for a successful example of marketing communications like this one and need to incorporate a new approach in your business marketing communications collateral, then please give us a call. Telephone Ira Michael “Mike” Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved

19
Jun

Highly Effective Marketing Communications can do Wonders for Technology Product Promotion

On June 15, 2012 we read a review of the manufacturing details of Apple’s MacBook pro laptop series as published in Wired Magazine online (http://www NULL.wired NULL.com/gadgetlab/2012/06/opinion-apple-retina-displa/). Having owned a couple of Mac PowerBook G4 laptops in the past we were not surprised at the description of how Apple had cobbled together a device that, realistically, is neither reparable nor upgradeable. No doubt about it, Apple has done tremendously well at the personal computing business. Their success is that much more remarkable given the extent to which they snubbed enterprise business markets in the 1990s. But convincing people to spend $1,799.00 for a laptop manufactured entirely in such a shoddy manner is truly a work of marketing communications genius.

It is important for innovative tech firms to emulate a scaled version of Apple’s strategy. We are not advocating masking a shoddy piece of equipment in a pretty wrapper. Rather, we are noting the importance of quality marketing communications to a successful technology business. Far too often we engage with early stage technology firms that either lack the required capital to properly present themselves with quality marketing communications, or pass over this requirement as something superfluous to a successful business plan.

We think it makes much more sense to allocate more financial resources to marketing communications than to product development where a businesses products are already stable and a base of customers has been secured in a target market. In fact, we consider this point to be critically important to success for clients. Fortunately we have a number of clients who understand this point.

In our experience t is particularly hard for businesses accustomed to operating under the radar of the market to understand this point. Often a decision on the part of these businesses to relegate marketing communications to no more than a covert operation specifically targeted to discrete prospects with targeted white papers, presentations, etc, morphs into a justification for less than high quality pieces and preparation. Wherever possible we point out this oversight and admonish customers to raise their “game” to a higher level. Communication can be targeted, but needn’t ever be less than first rate.

If you understand the power of effective marketing communications for your business and would like to better exploit current resources or more effectively operate in your market, we would like to hear from you. Please telephone Ira Michael “Mike” Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved