4
Jun

Successfully Promoting Apps to Enterprise Business Requires More Than An Appeal to Mobile Users

2 Color Design Hi-Res From the recent financial results of leading software vendors — Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and more — it should be apparent enterprise computing remains the most lucrative software market in mid 2015. So early stage tech businesses (ISVs) need to conceptualize, architect, and build solutions on a foundation including a clear understanding of what enterprise computing is all about if a revenue plan includes marketing to enterprise business.

Unfortunately, ISVs with CRM apps written for iOS who expect business consumers to buy simply because they use iPhones are not likely to succeed. Sure these apps will work fine — to an extent — for SMBs, but not for enterprise computing. A scalable architecture is absolutely required for this market segment. After all, enterprise computing includes PCs, Mainframes, and mobile devices (including tablets as well as smartphones). So it makes sense to either include a PC version of your solution, which will work seamlessly along side your client for the iPhone and iPad. If you do not have the PC solution, then you must have the hooks in place to allow users to plug your solution into one built on a scalable architecture addressing this market requirement.

All of the above may seem rudimentary to readers, but I was recently approached by an early stage business with a CRM built for iPhones, only. When I asked about clients for PCs, etc, my questions went into the void and my email exchange abruptly terminated. So early stage ISVs often combine a promising solution for a solution businesses may really need, with a very limited and inadequate understanding of just how users will actually consume the solution.

Of course, building your solution for an enterprise computing market doesn’t stop when you have successfully equipped your solution with a scalable architecture. You will have to also use a method of authenticating users. So here, too, you should choose the method most familiar to the market — in all likelihood something built to communicate with Microsoft’s Active Directory.

The list of critical architectural requirements does not stop with the above couple of examples. There are more, in fact too many to discuss, completely, in this post even in no more than broad terms.

If you have a solution you think is promising for enterprise computing, but are not familiar with the requirements posed by this market, you need to add someone to your management team who can fill this gap. Our temporary VP of marketing plan can execute on this role until you identify a right candidate for the spot. Please contact us to learn more.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

2
Jun

Engineering-heavy tech startups need marketing communications

2 Color Design Hi-Res Engineering-heavy tech startups have a real need for marketing communications. Simply building the best solution to a pervasive need in a target market is no guarantee of success. People have to know about your business and your solution. If you do not make an effort to let them know about your business and your solution, who will?

The above may sound like an easy process. But more often than not, most early stage tech businesses fail to meet this requirement. The usual set of tactics implemented to meet this need amount to a classic online marketing campaign:

  • a web site is launched to present the business to the public
  • the web site is optimized for search engines
  • the business builds a social media component with efforts on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook
  • an investment is made in paid advertising: click ads, Facebook promoted posts, Twitter promotion, etc

But the campaign fails to pay off. Few real prospects pop up. Launching the revenue-producing component of the business takes a long time. Competitors come to market with legitimate solutions to the same problem. What looked to be a defensible market-niche seems to be evaporating.

The obstacle blocking this online marketing campaign from producing expected results is, to an important extent, a matter of poor timing. The marketing communications effort appeared after the fact, in other words only after the product (your solution) took its final shape. Because founder expertise was clearly on the engineering side of the effort little time was spent talking to market prospects, testing branding concepts, slogans, etc.

In fact the marketing communications effort should be in process from the moment a management team takes shape and efforts begin to conceptualize a solution to an important market need, meaning one for which participants will pay a fair, but attractive price to secure and implement.

If your business lacks the in-house technical, coding-literate marketing expertise required to fill this seat on your team, you need to hire someone to do it for you while you try to find the right stakeholder to join your effort. IMB Enterprises, Inc. has this expertise and offers temporary VP of Marketing services on a retainer basis. Please contact us to learn more.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

14
May

Amtrak Derailment in Philadelphia surfaces important points likely to be on any technical product development roadmap

2 Color Design Hi-Res The chronicle of a tragedy that befell an AMTRAK commuter train on May 13, 2015 includes points worth consideration by any product marketer working on solutions for process control, and even the Internet of Things (IoT). These points should also be of interest to anyone with a role in an operational risk management (ORM) effort for mechanized mass transport.

Comments on the most prominent of these points, namely AMTRAK’s inability to implement the Positive Train Control service:

Just because a customer has either purchased a solution, or committed resources to a solution, does not mean the customer has taken the steps required to move forward on it. As Jad Mouwad wrote on May 13, 2015 in the New York Times in an article titled Technology That Could Have Prevented Amtrak Derailment Was Absent, Positive Train Control (a complex solution leveraging real time data from sensors to manage the performance of locomotives on rails) ” . . . might have prevented the derailment of a Metro-North commuter train in the Bronx in December 2013 that killed four people and injured dozens . . . ” and the Philadelphia tragedy, as well.

But Mouwad writes ” . . . the absence of the technology has come up repeatedly.” Bottom line: Positive Train Control looked great on paper, but the task of applying it, Mouwad writes, ” . . . involves fitting 36,000 wayside units and equipping 26,000 locomotives according to industry figures.”

The takeaway for product marketers? Putting together a “complexity assessment”, complete with an estimate of likely impact on customer ROI, should be a mandatory feature of a product roadmap.

In turn, and from the customer side of a purchase decision, an internal operational risk management (ORM) effort should also discount the usefulness of a purchase like Positive Train Control based on likely internal obstacles to implementation. Of course the discount should be applied against the ROI expected from the investment. A governance plan should include the steps required to overcome these obstacles to ROI.

If your business is developing solutions like Positive Train Control, but you lack an internal product marketing management effort to craft a promising roadmap for your rollout, please do not hesitate to contact us. We bring to the table over 30 years experience promoting and selling technology solutions (hardware, software, services) to the kind of complex enterprise customer fitting the presentation of AMTRAK (unfortunately), in this example.

We can also help customer organizations looking to improve the performance of ORM functions in order to better prepare for tragedies like this one.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

31
Mar

On the brighter prospects of a world with more tasks handled by machines

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthSince the advent of the world wide web in the early 1990s it has been possible to craft viable business models from highly specific — and limited — market niches. Now, in 2015, with the promise of an expansion in the capabilities of computing machines to handle more tasks of, perhaps, a mundane nature, this opportunity horizon has widened even further. (If you would like more information about why I have specifically connected the enormous popularity of web pages exposed over Ethernet networks for the general public as an important milestone leading to an enormous expansion in the range of viable tech business notions, please contact me as I offer consulting services in this area).

I think it makes sense for readers to keep this factor in mind as they witness public debate about the notion of just whether or not the proliferation of robots, hardware computing machines powered by algorithms, and even what are colloquially referred to as “smart” applications (and apps) will, in sum, result in a net positive, or negative, result for the sheer number of people employed.

An OPED piece published on the CNN web site on March 18, 2015 communicates the seriousness of this debate and adds a raw edge to it: Silicon Valley to millennials: Drop dead. The piece is written by David R. Wheeler. I could not find any information about him, beyond his picture on the CNN web site. So I can provide no background on why CNN decided to post his article.

The raw and right-to-the-point flavor of Wheeler’s chosen title for his piece certainly captures one’s attention. When this factor is combined with CNN’s decision to go to press, and prominently, with this piece, I would hope my readers will agree the topic has a lot of interest behind it, as it should given what I take to be Wheeler’s core point: “The commonly held belief is that with hard work and a good education, a young person in America can get a good job”.

Given the statistics Wheeler provides in his piece, he is probably correct in his conclusion the employment horizon has darkened. But if I replace “can get a good job” in the above quote with “can achieve financial security and even wealth”, then the horizon opens up for another phenomenon we are all witnessing today: an explosion in the number of small businesses and, particular, technology startups.

As recently as Sunday, March 29, 2015, an article appeared on the Financial Times web site about an entrepreneur by the name of Bart Van der Roost. Mr. Van der Roost has started a business by the name of neoScores. I hope readers can share my appreciation for Van der Roost to craft what may become a very promising business from an especially narrow niche market — musicians requiring scores on digital devices. Perhaps we can extrapolate from his notion an opportunity for literally millions of these niches just waiting for entrepreneurs to expose.

Sure code is required. But isn’t code one of the skills people can go to college to learn? I hope we can all take a more sunny view of a new world of computing with hardware devices (powered by algorithms) capable of executing a widened vista of tasks.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

9
Mar

Android remains a difficult opportunity for Google to successfully manage

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthGoogle recently announced its intention to proceed with a wireless data service. The latest spin on this decision, exemplified by an article published on the Wall Street Journal web site on March 8, 2015, takes this step as an indicator of a new, more frugal Google. But seen from a different angle it looks like an aggressive shot at Google’s partners in the Android alliance.

The title of the Journal article is Google: The Value of Thrift. The piece was written by Dan Gallagher and points to some recent steps taken by Google, which Gallagher presents as evidence of real follow through on points made during their most recent Quarterly earning report. Gallagher writes about the report: “Google hinted that it might curb its spending after a year in which capital expenditure surged 49% to nearly $11 billion.”

Gallagher finds an important example of this new campaign, at work, in some public announcements from Google about their decision to go forward as a wireless data provider. Gallagher notes “The Wall Street Journal also reported that the [wireless service to be offered by Google] will be limited to customers using Google’s own Nexus phones, which make up only a small portion of the overall Android market.”

But if I were the President of Samsung, or LG, or any other of Google’s partners in the Android mobile O/S effort, I don’t think I would be too pleased to learn the team managing the overall Android stack has just now decided to debut a promising wireless data effort (to deliver high quality/very high speed wireless data services from pipes supplied by T-Mobile, Sprint and more) for only its own phones. Why not mine too? I venture this phrase bounced around a few conference rooms when the news of this plan broke during Mobile World Congress 2015.

In my opinion this move is simply the latest in a series of steps likely to cause more headache for Google than anything else. The real sore spot, of course, is the damage a self-serving deal like this one can wreak on a very important recent effort on Google’s part to improve its penetration of the enterprise computing market. Certainly Android partners like Samsung are critically important to the success of this effort. Research has demonstrated enterprise IT organizations look at the Samsung Android device platform as one of, if not the only, line of Android devices worth serious consideration for an enterprise rollout. So why leave them out in the cold on this one?

It’s hard for me to get behind Google’s “moon shots” when they stumble around as they appear to have done on this one.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

3
Mar

Has the Harvard Business Review embraced the notion of controlled free market competition for the tech sphere?

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-width On Monday, March 2, 2015, the online edition of the Harvard Business Review (HBR) published an article written by Kira Radinsky titled Data Monopolists Like Google Are Threatening the Economy.

Does it make sense for anyone reading this article to tightly associate (perhaps in a Pavlovian manner) the opinion expressed in it with the Harvard Business Review, itself? Did Radinsky intend to capitalize on the opportunity of publishing this article on as ostensibly a prestigious web site as HBR for some reason?

I hope readers will not find themselves somehow adrift as they ponder the above questions. The questions are not coming out of the void. Because the position Radinsky presents in this article is actually consistent, as I read it, with a Socialist view of how tech businesses should be regulated by the government to ensure “fair” competition.

In fact, a review of Radinsky’s public profile on LinkedIn reveals her management position in a company based in Israel. So why is the HBR publishing her article? Is it not fair to assume the average reader could misconstrue the article and its position on the HBR site as a tacit endorsement of some new test to genuine American free market capitalism (credit to Larry Kudlow for coining this phrase).

So with this preamble in place, let me now dive into what I think really matters. Radinsky presents the following “fact”: “Today, the most prominent factors are historical search query logs and their corresponding search result clicks. Studies show that the historical search improves search results up to 31%.” Sure, if the technology is predicated on personalization techniques and “cookies”, etc.

There is no reason why competitors to Google (for example) couldn’t approach the same objective from a completely different angle. In fact, given the growing public concern about personalization and its dependence on activities of the invasion of privacy kind, there is, perhaps, a palpable imperative to find just this kind of new way of approaching the task.

Free market capitalism always rewards the “better mousetrap”. So why argue for a controlled marketplace where stakeholders in one approach are penalized just because the “better mousetrap” has yet to be found?

Granted, we have yet to witness the introduction of this “better mousetrap”, but I would argue the recent successes Facebook has reported over the last several business quarters are indicative of a real shift away from the kind of traditional search engine marketing for which Google is renowned.

In my opinion the editors at HBR should have thought a bit more about Radinsky’s article before agreeing to publish it.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

25
Feb

Proponents of artificial intelligence solutions need to come forward with a serious public relations effort

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthMachine learning solutions, and those of the “deep learning” variety are playing an ever increasing role in daily computing activities for most people. This condition does not look to change anytime soon.

But regardless, ISVs with products targeted to the predictive analytics market, or the robotics market, or any one of many emerging new market segments, need to tune in on public perception about these technologies in the mature global markets (US, Western Europe, Japan). Public perception has the potential to prod government regulators towards counter-productive pronouncements. Therefore, it makes sense for ISVs to mount a public relations effort to ensure public perception about these technologies stays “on track”.

On Tuesday, February 24, 2015 the Wall Street Journal published an article germaine to this topic. The piece was written by Timothy Aeppel and is titled What Clever Robots Mean for Jobs. The employment theme is a very familiar one for anyone involved with efforts to use computer processes to automate repetitive tasks. So Aeppel’s skepticism about just whether or not an exploding market of robotics solutions will lead to more jobs, or not (which appears to be his position) is really nothing new.

But the timing of the article, in close proximity to several other articles from “prominent” individuals (Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking and more) about the dangers presented by algorithms should they be applied to computing lends power to Aeppel’s thoughts. Readers should also not lose sight of the 2016 Presidential election here in the States, where ostensible candidates like Hillary Clinton are starting to stake out turf about “hi tech” and its performance as a job creator.

I encourage readers to go back to my first points in this post. Methods of automating processes, including requirements for prediction, are increasing and becoming more accessible to “average” consumers of computing services. This is not a bad thing. On the contrary, in my opinion the accessibility of comparatively powerful methods of enhancing the accuracy of prediction is a net positive contribution to overall business and certainly a likely simulant for new business activity.

Do new businesses create jobs? I am not sure as to the answer to this question, but I can posit they certainly empower more entrepreneurs. Machine learning ISVs and their deep learning siblings need to step forward and do a better job of educating the public about the real benefit of these technologies.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

24
Feb

Lenovo, Public Relations and Superfish

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthIt has been a mere 5 – 6 weeks since public announcements appeared about the security threat represented by preloaded adware from Superfish on Lenovo personal computers first magnetized public attention. But in this short interval the Lenovo brand has taken a big hit, especially around the question of whether or not public announcements from them can be be trusted — not the kind of stuff a public relations team will likely want to handle. CMSWire, for example, published an article on this topic, which is titled Can Lenovo Regain Consumer Trust After Secretly Installing Adware?.

I see little point in raking through the stacks of opinions on this topic. But I would like to present three points I hope early stage ISVs will carefully consider should they find themselves in the kind of quagmire besetting Lenovo at the moment:

  1. Please do not choose the denial route
  2. As well, please take responsibility for any failures to carefully evaluate products before deciding to add them to a core offering
  3. Finally, please defend the important positions you have taken to make a best effort to establish a profitable manner of doing business

The public perception appears to be Lenovo failed to follow these three points, starting with a denial of responsibility. One may argue the denial statement was subtly presented to the public. After all, the earliest headlines were all about the security risk represented by the Superfish adware product. The public appeared to believe Lenovo’s hardware had been hacked. Perhaps this perception was nurtured by the surrounding publicity climate, which was rather full of news about reports from Kaspersky Lab about spyware baked into the hard disks and even CPUs powering desktop and laptop computers manufactured in the US.

In my opinion Lenovo’s PR team should not have allowed the public discussion about the presence of Superfish adware on Lenovo computers to take this “sidetrack”. The inclusion of Superfish was really not a surprise at all, but a method Lenovo chose to exploit in an attempt to squeeze more revenue from the sale of its computers. There is nothing wrong, on paper, about making this kind of effort. Most any business in the type of commodity market Lenovo finds itself as it competes as a PC manufacturer would look for some opportunity to lower its costs to produce product by selling marketing opportunities to third parties.

If readers are hard pressed to accept this point, I would point them to an example from another commodity market — airplane travel and one of the main contenders in the market — Delta Airlines. The Delta branded American Express card is out there for a big reason perhaps lost on the consumer, but certainly one rarely lost on product marketers — to lower production costs. Whenever a customer buys a ticket on a Delta flight with a Delta AMEX the cost of the sale has been lowered by upwards to 4% simply by removing a third party clearing fee.

In my opinion there was nothing, on paper, wrong with Lenovo stuffing its PCs with an adware product. They just did not do a successful job of selecting the right partner (because Superfish product comes with big security concerns), which may result in a very big problem for Lenovo, should someone experience a hack attributable to Superfish. They also appear not to have done a very good job of plainly educating the consumer about the presence of adware on their computers. Finally, they were unable to provide their customers with an easy to follow method of completely removing adware from their purchases, should they wish to go this route.

The whole method of handling this problem has been a failure of public relations, sorry to say.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

5
Feb

Investors buy up shares of prominent social media ISVs despite slowing user growth

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthPerhaps investors are changing their taste in prominent social media ISVs. Could the search for a telltale sign of promise have shifted from substantial growth in users to what may be a meaningful increase in revenue? From the after hours trading experience of LinkedIn and Twitter on February 5, 2015, it would appear to be the case.

Twitter and LinkedIn both reported solid revenue growth in the quarter ending December 31, 2014. But in the case of Twitter this plus was offset by anemic growth in the number of active users. Tiernan Ray wrote in Barrons: “[Twitter] said its monthly average users (MAUs) rose 20%, year over year, to 288 million from 284 million in the prior quarter. That was down from a rate of 23% growth in Q3. Of those MAUs, 80% were on mobile devices, about the same as the prior quarter.”

Hannah Kuchler of the Financial Times also remarked on management’s forward-looking guidance, “that was above the average analyst forecasts”.

Investors looked like they liked what they were hearing and reading. Twitter’s share price was up over 10% after hours.

LinkedIn shares were also up substantially, approximately 6% above the close. The quarterly earnings report included very similar highlights: substantial growth in revenue. But I found a different nugget: Maria Armental wrote in the Wall Street Journal:“The professional social network, which this month launched a localized version in simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese that has nearly doubled its Chinese member base to more than 8 million, said nearly 70% of total members come from outside the U.S.” Eight million users is certainly not a very big number for the country with the biggest population in the world. But LinkedIn is succeeding (as Apple is also succeeding, though in a much bigger way) in a market that continues to elude Microsoft and curiously enough Google (Android).

As a user I must attest to a much more promising experience from my efforts with Twitter than has been the case for how I have worked on my LinkedIn profile. I make a lot of use of Twitter’s Analytics. As my tweets have magnetized more impressions there has been, over time, a substantial increase in the page views of this blog. But perhaps the best result of all has been a growth in our following on Facebook. But I will write more on this point in a later post.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

3
Feb

People buy iOS devices for more than their impact as status symbols

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthMuch has been written about the journey Apple’s promotional efforts for iOS devices have taken from functional feature presentations to depictions of a luxurious life style. “Luxury tech” may be Apple’s market message of the moment, but let us not forget the rationale for consumers buying these devices in the first place — for many people they simply work better.

We recently purchased an iPad 2. Our reasons for purchasing this tablet amounted to a need to fill in some functionality not available with either of our other tablets:

  1. a Microsoft Surface 2 RT
  2. and a Samsung Galaxy Note 2.1 10.1 running Android JellyBean

We continue to be impressed with the performance of the iPad2. Three features of mobile computing on a tablet device:

  1. Battery life
  2. Display
  3. and, finally, a high quality tablet experience without recourse to an external keyboard

meet our requirements. We routinely experience two day operation between charges. The display, while bright, is not shiny (unfortunately this is the case with our Surface 2 tablet). The virtual keyboard works very well, in particular the text highlighting feature works great.

So why all the talk about “luxury tech”? Perhaps the driver for this new promotional theme is an effort to convince consumers already outfitted with an iPad to purchase a new one. Repeat-buy customers are rarely motivated to purchase new product based on the compelling features driving the initial purchase. There has to be something new. Better yet, there should be a feature consumers always consider “new”. There is no better example of this category of feature than device as status symbol.

But the bad news is the indication this strategy reveals of market saturation. There are simply no more new consumers to whom Apple can look to further increase device sales volume. The only recourse is to cannibalize its current customer base. By opting for the “luxury tech” moniker, Apple, I would argue, has achieved a graceful method of achieving its objective.

In contrast, manufacturers on the lower end of the product spectrum (I include Samsung in this group), out of necessity need to implement comparatively more risky methods of motivating consumers to step up and buy new product. For these unfortunate companies, the only option is to abandon any effort to support their customers when something like Google’s decision to walk away from supporting Android Jelly Bean and earlier versions of the Android O/S arise. Nobody likes to hear a vendor tell them to take a hike when a product with some financial heft to it is no longer usable. But for Samsung, et al, this is the only recourse. Ugh.

The result of all of these efforts is the present hierarchy of mobile device manufacturers, with Apple at the top. Because the iPad 2 is actually a market-leading product, it is unfortunate to see “luxury tech” as the primary product promotional theme. But one can understand why this is the case, given the extent to which the available market for these products has already reached saturation levels.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved