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

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 (http://blogs NULL.barrons NULL.com/techtraderdaily/2015/02/05/twitter-q4-drops-8-q4-beats-maus-288m/): “[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 (http://www NULL.ft NULL.com/intl/cms/s/0/ffe39094-ad7c-11e4-a5c1-00144feab7de NULL.html?siteedition=intl#axzz3QuTkmehy) 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: (http://www NULL.wsj NULL.com/articles/linkedin-reports-strong-revenue-gains-1423172761?mod=WSJ_TechWSJD_NeedToKnow)“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) (http://www NULL.androidpit NULL.com/billion-android-devices-shipped-in-2014).

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

16
Jan

Is the response to Intel’s Q4 2014 Results overdone?

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthOn Thursday, January 15, 2015 Intel reported the results of its Q4 2014 business activity (http://www NULL.intc NULL.com/eventdetail NULL.cfm?EventID=152949). In the aftermath of the report, which included conservative guidance for the coming business quarter below analyst estimates, analysts expressed skepticism.

I should also note the conference included details about the extent of the costs Intel continues to incur to enter the market for CPUs for mobile devices. Finally, rumors circulated about the possibility of Apple changing CPU architecture for its Mac PCs and laptops.

But is the analyst negativity overdone? In my opinion it is. Market entry is never an easy process, especially when the business attempting to enter a market is the largest manufacturer of PC computer CPUs, and the target market is already mature and dominated by other vendors with well received products (the ARM chip architecture and its licensees, including Qualcomm). So there is a cost associated with this entry, which, admittedly, Intel has been paying out for several quarters.

However, the Q4 2014 results included a beat on the profit number and an increase in gross margin. These numbers, of course, include the losses just mentioned. If Intel is not only able to carry the cost of mobile market entry, but to, at the same time, increase its overall profitability and still hit estimated sales targets, then why all the gloom? Perhaps the answer is Q4 2014 is behind us and we are already nearly a third of the way through the next coming quarter.

I am not interested in debating this argument. Nor am I interested in analyzing the Apple rumors. What I am interested in doing is merely pointing to a very positive reception for one of the new Android tablets on the market powered by Intel’s Atom processor and the new Broadwell chip set. The tablet is manufactured by Dell, the Venue 8 7000. No less a fierce Intel naysayer than Joanna Stern of the Wall Street Journal wrote a very positive review of the device, in sharp contrast to reviews she published earlier about Microsoft’s Surface tablets.

The value of positive consumer press about these devices should not be underestimated. Stern’s review may mark a change in sentiment for precisely the right group of critics to influence affluent consumers to think hard about just which tablet they ought to buy next.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

29
Dec

Does Google face a difficult internal challenge as it addresses the enterprise computing market with products?

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthPerhaps the biggest obstacle to Google for work improving its success in the enterprise computing market is Google’s approach to marketing communications. Where are the blogs? Is there an easy-to-find repository full of the kind of promotional information enterprise tech consumers have demonstrated an interest in digesting? How do Google’s communications efforts compare to its peers?

The answer to each of the three questions posed above is, unfortunately, not promising:

Where are the blogs?

Unless/until one lands on the Google for work “home page”, Google for Work (https://www NULL.google NULL.com/work/), it is not likely readers will be able to locate the “for work” blog. The blog is mentioned in a vertical column located on the right of the very bottom of the home page under a curious title, “Keep in Touch”.

A search of blogger (which is now a component of Google, itself) did not produce any “Google” blogs with the content enterprise IT management traditionally has been shown to consume.

Is there a familiar spot on the web where business management can visit to read the latest news on Google’s products for enterprise computing?

If one assumes the Google Work (or is it “for work”?) page to be the online repository for any/all information about enterprise computing products offered by Google, disappointment will likely follow. “Google for Work” maintains a Twitter page, @googleforwork. A quick review of the tweets on the page revealed a lot of content located on Google + pages. All of these entries should be linked to the “Google for Work” home page. But, unfortunately, this is not the case. The Twitter page is a better bet. Though even a search of the Twitter page will not reveal all of the content published on topics related to the Google for work offers.

How does Google’s MARCOM for “Google for Work” compare?

I spend quite a bit of time working with marketing communications material published by Microsoft, arguably, Google’s most formidable challenger in the enterprise computing market. Blogs are a prominent feature of Microsoft’s core web sites:

  • Office (http://www NULL.office NULL.com)
  • and MSDN (http://msdn NULL.microsoft NULL.com)

“Blogs” are accessible via a click on a link prominently displayed on the Office home page. The link, admittedly, is located towards the bottom of the page as is the case with the blog link on the Google for work site.

On the MSDN web site, blogs are accessible via a click on the “Community” tab on the horizontal navigation bar at the top of the page, and then a click on the “Blog” hot link exposed to the site visitor.

Oracle maintains an even more extensive set of blogs than Microsoft and, once again, collects the blog content within a “Community” link. IBM does, as well, though the IBM content is not centralized.

Google should re-architect its marketing communications effort for the “Google for work” product line if it is to succeed. Some thought should also go into choosing a better brand name for the product.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

19
Dec

Success Stories and Case Studies do serve a purpose for enterprise technology consumers

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthIf ISVs with offerings targeted to enterprise computing markets needed any more indication of the importance of case studies and success stories, they likely got what they needed in an article written by Elizabeth Dwoskin, which was published on December 16, 2014 on the Online Wall Street Journal web site.

The title of Dwoskin’s article is The Joys and Hype of Software Called Hadoop (http://www NULL.wsj NULL.com/articles/the-joys-and-hype-of-software-called-hadoop-1418777627?mod=LS1). The reason her article should alert any ISVs still in the dark as to why they absolutely require a marketing communications effort, which will produce success stories and case studies can be found in the following quote:

  • “Yet companies that have tried to use Hadoop have met with frustration. Bank of New York Mellon used it to locate glitches in a trading system. It worked well enough on a small scale, but it slowed to a crawl when many employees tried to access it at once, and few of the company’s 13,000 information-technology workers had the expertise to troubleshoot it. David Gleason, the bank’s chief data officer at the time, said that while he was a proponent of Hadoop, ‘it wasn’t ready for prime time.'” (quoted in entirety from Dwoskin’s article in the WSJ. I have provided a link to the entire article, above and encourage readers to spend some time on it)

This comment from a large enterprise consumer — BNY Mellon — which can be read as less than positive, can (and likely will) do a lot to encourage peers to look a lot closer at Hadoop prior to moving forward on an implementation.

Bottom line: enterprise businesses do not like to proceed where their peers have hit obstacles like the one Gleason recounts in his comment. Peer comparisons are, arguably, a very important activity for enterprise business consumers. So ISVs working with Hadoop on big data offers, or NoSQL databases and related analytics need to make the effort to queue up positive comments about consumer experiences with their products.

I recently wrote a set of posts to this blog on Big Data, NoSQL and JSON and must admit to experiencing some difficulty finding the case studies and success stories I needed to gain a perspective on just how enterprise consumers have been using products presented as solutions to the market for these computing trends. Hortonworks (http://www NULL.hortonworks NULL.com), on the other hand, is an exception. So I would encourage any readers after the same type of testimonial content about customer experience with products to visit Hortonworks on the web.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

29
Oct

Microsoft’s October 20, 2014 Cloud Briefing includes some fine tuning for its “Mobile First, Cloud First” message

In the first few moments of Satya Nadella’s opening remarks at Microsoft’s Cloud Briefing, October 20, 2014 attendees were treated to a finely tuned presentation of the now familiar “Mobile First, Cloud First” market message. Nadella prefaced his remarks by referring to this brand message as “our world view”. He then defined “mobile first” as “the mobility of the individual experience”. Anyone familiar with Microsoft’s products, and how they have presented their offerings to consumers since they launched as a business in the late 1970s will note how this terse and absolutely to-the-point phrase binds 2014’s market message to the unique themes this mature ISV has articulated throughout its tenure as a business in the public eye.

Windows was first presented to consumers as a uniquely promising method for people to deliver a highly personalized experienced from small computing devices (which, themselves, were called personal computers, (PCs)). Different versions of this same opportunity could be distributed across organizations via the purchase of numbers of PCs. In fact, this purchase cycle occurred, and, now, PCs are ubiquitous.

Now the personal computing experience has evolved into the “individual experience” of Nadella’s opening remarks. His definition of the “mobile” venue for this individual experience provides him an opportunity to demonstrate why Microsoft’s commitment to delivering as consistent a computing experience, as possible, across the set of computing hardware an individual may implement during a typical day of activity, is so important. In turn, the effort to deliver this consistent computing experience from smart phone, to tablet, to desktop computer, to lap top, leverages scale.

By the time the audience digests all of this information, which Nadella communicates in less than 2 minutes of his opening remarks, it is likely clear why the Windows 10 Operating System (which was introduced only a month prior to this event) must be the same OS for each of the form factors we just mentioned.

By the time he mentions “cloud”, the importance of SaaS, and the power it contributes to this effort to deliver a uniform computing experience across the entire range of computing form factors should be clear.

In this writer’s opinion, Nadella’s ease in articulating this message, with authority, will contribute, positively, to enterprise business computing consumers. This is the correct market for Microsoft to pursue. Therefore, it makes sense to monitor, over time, how thoroughly this market assimilates the themes Nadella is presenting.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

16
Sep

New Product Introductions, Hosted by Big Tech Businesses, as a Genre of Marketing Communications Event, Need a Makeover

Mature ISVs, including Microsoft, Apple, Google, Oracle, and Salesforce.com, to mention merely a few of the most prominent businesses in this industry segment, have made a habit of hosting new product exhibitions on a quarterly, or semi-annual basis. One of the usual objectives of this genre of corporate event is to magnetize someone prominent in the media to write about the new device before her, or him, as a great example of innovation. But, if some of the new products under scrutiny are representative of current trends in product marketing, perhaps the term innovation, itself, needs a makeover. Therefore, these events, in this writer’s opinion, may prove to be more of a waste of cash than anything much more.

Apple’s debut of the iPhone 6, and the iWatch on September 9, 2014 is a case in point. An enormous amount of editorial content has been created around the event, and, one can argue, Apple has benefited from a public relations success. A substantial segment of its target consumer market is sure to have more awareness about the products exhibited than would otherwise be the case.

But, we would argue, the public relations currency, upon which the presumption of benefit from the event is based, is grossly inflated. One buck in this new currency has the buying power, this writer would argue, of a penny of the older PR currency these events used to create.

The problem at the root of this spreading worthlessness, is a real disconnection between the items debuted and any semblance of a panacea for the burning needs of the targeted consumer market for the product category. In this writer’s opinion, the iPhone 6, the iWatch, and Apple’s announced tap and pay payment system are not what most consumers of smart phones, wrist gadgets and retail shoppers are after. It would not be a surprise if sales prove to be much lower than anticipated for these devices.

The difficulty of the notion of innovation is the abstraction inherent to the term. Innovation simply means different things to different people. But perhaps the common landscape beneath most credible notions of innovation includes the familiar accoutrements of either substantial lower acquisition and life cycle maintenance costs for consumers, or a substantially increased set of functionality. If either, or both of these types shrubbery are absent, there is little likelihood anything really innovative is at hand and we are all standing in a desert.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

9
Sep

Has Apple Mishandled the Question of the Security of Private Information Stored on iCloud?

Note: this post was written on September 3, 2014

In, perhaps, one of the strongest examples, in recent memory, of the wisdom of Murphy’s Law, Apple finds itself 6 calendar days away from a major announcement, but the promising opportunity it presents (for Apple to advance the positive features of its brand) is moving further away from its grasp, seemingly by the moment. In fact, the September 9, 2014 scheduled even may even be transformed into an unpleasant question and answer session on a difficult topic if public sentiment continues to trend further in its present direction.

Unfortunately for Apple, on Labor Day, September 1, 2014, a story broke detailing the theft of personal information — photographs — of at least one celebrity, Jennifer Lawrence. But the theft of Lawrence’s personal data, apparently a hack of her iCloud account, is not, in this writer’s opinion, the complete problem facing Apple just a few days from its otherwise promising fall public relations event.

The real problem is how Apple’s own Public Relations team has responded to questions about the security of iCloud as a cloud SaaS offer for secure online storage of personal data.

Without thrashing over the details of the response, it should suffice to sum it up as an editorial denial of legitimacy. In other words, Apple’s public voice states, forcibly, the claims iCloud is insecure are all wrong.

The problem with this type of rhetorical convention is the way it moves the focus of debate away from the points likely to matter to an ISV (in this case Apple), and over to points of vulnerability for the general public, where the odds of Apple’s PR team successfully convincing an audience of the truth of this editorial position aren’t nearly as promising.

So, for the more technical segment of Apple’s public audience, the focus has now shifted to a document in Apple’s knowledge base, Apple ID: Security and Your Apple ID (http://support NULL.apple NULL.com/kb/ht4232). Sure, most of the text of the article spells out steps Apple has taken to seamlessly protect its users (these are summed up in the mandatory requirement of complex passwords). But, tellingly, the section on the optional step of enabling two step verification over one’s Apple ID doesn’t work to Apple’s favor. Given the gravity of delivering a secure cloud, SaaS computing experience for the general public, the technical segment appears to argue a safeguard like two-step authentication, ought not to have been presented as an option. Rather, it should have been plainly presented as a mandatory control each and every user must take.

After all, from a risk management perspective, a control like two step verification should be a mandatory feature of a truly secure repository located anywhere. But presenting this control as a mandatory step is, today, is a tacit assumption of a “best of all possible worlds” view with regard to how the general public goes about completing their computing activities. In contrast, the computing realities of 2014 have been designed more to “dumb down” potentially complex computing procedures like two step verification, than to foster them. So Apple lines up with its peers, and adopts a more lenient stance as regards the applications of these controls.

Unfortunately, the reason for scrutiny of Apple’s policy doesn’t work to this ISV’s favor. Once again, Apple is certainly not alone in this, but the choice of the public relations team to deny the obvious, in this writer’s opinion, should have been subjected to more scrutiny before it was publicized.

The lesson here for early stage ISVs is to plan on reacting to a problem like Apple’s by admitting culpability, rather than denying it. After all, the point of weakness, in this case, is precisely the same for any number of Apple’s peers. Apple could have chosen to stand up as a leader and notify the public of a decision to make two step verification a mandatory control over all Apple IDs. Let’s all hope they needn’t come to regret the position they took.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

3
Sep

Even Apple Listens When Microsoft Debuts New Themes for Product Promotion

For several days in August, 2014, the online New York Times web site ran a front page advertisement for Apple’s iPad tablet computer. This ad presented readers with a short success story illustrating how tablet consumers have been using the iPad for some real work, and not the leisure activity more often used for a promotional opportunity like this one.

The same type of marketing communications content filled up the middle portion of Microsoft’s online, audio and video webcast debut of the Surface Pro 3, which was originally published on May 20, 2014 (http://www NULL.microsoft NULL.com/en-us/news/press/2014/may14/05-20webcast NULL.aspx).

But Apple’s attention to Microsoft’s style of product promotion for the Surface Pro 3 evidently didn’t just stop with providing its audience of potential consumers with its own examples of business applications for its tablet computers. If rumors about Apple’s product development plans can be taken as a reliable indicator of where the iPad is headed, this attention appears to have also permeated the actual design of the new iPad. On August 26, 2014, Daisuke Wakabayashi published an article for the online Wall Street Journal titled Larger iPad Heralds Blurring Among Apple Devices (http://blogs NULL.wsj NULL.com/digits/2014/08/26/larger-ipad-heralds-blurring-among-apple-devices/?mod=LS1).

With a rumored screen size of 12.9 inches, the new iPad will be larger, by nearly one inch, than the Surface Pro 3 (which has a 12 inch screen). But of even more importance, Wakabayashi’s contention about the new iPad and a “blurring among Apple Devices”, if it proves accurate, places Apple in lockstep with Microsoft along a path of positioning its tablet as a laptop competitor.

If readers remain skeptical about Apple following Microsoft’s lead, it may be helpful to reflect on what segment of the consumer market for tablets likely remains “untouched”, despite nearly 4 years of heavy marketing of this product. The remaining segment at the top end, one can argue, is largely made up of enterprise business consumers, and their siblings in the public and not for profit sectors. For these markets, the entertainment features of tablets are “nice to have”, but not “mission-critical” capabilities. Given Microsoft’s position in these consumer markets, it makes complete sense for Redmond to be leading Cupertino around the neighborhood.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

2
Sep

MobileIron Promotional Content Depicts a Mobile First World

Perhaps Microsoft’s CEO was not far off when he articulated a new vision of a Mobile First Cloud First world back on March 27, 2014. This writer paid a visit to MobileIron’s website and found very similar themes running through a short promotional video exposed on the site, which provides an overview of the imperatives driving MobileIron solutions (http://www NULL.mobileiron NULL.com/en/why-us/introduction).

MobileIron offers a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution. This MDM solution has been included in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for MDM. Most recently, Tiernan Ray of Barrons reported on analyst comments about MobileIron, which were attributed to Karl Kierstead of Deutsche Bank. According to Ray’s report, the availability of MobileIron, together with Apple’s next release of iOS (iOS 8, rumored to make its debut in September of this year), spells trouble for BlackBerry, and may hasten the pace at which large organizations migrate out of Blackberry’s BES.

A number of posts to this blog have been concerned with BlackBerry’s BES and the enterprise market for MDM solutions.

Readers interested in important technology themes running through the marketing communications efforts of ISVs should make special note of how Nadella first articulated a number of themes now carried forward by Microsoft competitors. Microsoft is a recent entry to the MDM market place via its Enterprise Mobility Suite. Perhaps it makes sense for MobileIron to address the same themes in its video. If nothing else, the reverberations point to the credibility of the points Nadella made back in March of this year.

During its recent IO event for 2014, Google added further credibility to Nadella’s presentation during a segment speaking to productivity. The same claims Nadella made for Microsoft software, and its objective to empower its customers with the most efficient methods of attaining optimum productivity, were made for the Android platform.

The reverberations are not, in and of themselves, particularly important. What is important is how they affirm the relevance of these themes for consumer and business computing in 2014. “Mobile First, Cloud First World” is not only a sophisticated juxtaposition, in rhetoric, of images and the “world”. It should now be considered an accurate portrayal of how consumers and business users accomplish their computing tasks.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved