23
Jul

Is Enterprise Business Likely to Have Much Interest in an Apple IBM Alliance?

The “Global Partnership” announced on July 15, 2014, between Apple® and IBM may appeal to more enterprise business technology consumers than would otherwise appear to be the case. In a press release titled Apple and IBM Forge Global Partnership to Transform Enterprise Mobility, the two companies point to an announced area of focus of this partnership on the enterprise business market for “enterprise mobility”. The plan will be to “[bring] IBM’s big data and analytics capabilities to iPhone®, and iPad®“.

Anyone following one of the partners in this global effort, Apple, and yet another major force in enterprise computing, Microsoft®, will likely remember another recent announcement, this one on the topic of the availability of the Office suite of desktop automation programs for iOS devices (including, once again, iPhone and iPad).

In light of these two recent events, Apple’s iOS platform takes on a unique position for the enterprise as the only mobile platform supporting not only the Business Intelligence (BI) power of Excel 2013, but also all of the power of IBM’s suite of BI tools. In addition, devices powered by iOS will likely fall under the umbrella of IBM’s Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution, MaaS360. In yet another press release from IBM, this time dated June 6, 2014, a public announcement was made of Gartner’s decision to include IBM’s solution in the “Leader” Quadrant of its 2014 Magic Quadrant for MDM – Report: IBM Named a Leader for Enterprise Mobility Management in Gartner Magic Quadrant.

Based on the above points, in the opinion of this writer, the Apple, IBM Global partnership looks to be of strong interest to enterprise business here in the U.S. If the initial release of software wins marketplace acceptance, it will be likely the effort will expand, potentially to include follow-on efforts built for OSX desktop Mac PCs.

It looks to be a reasonable assumption the products produced by this Global partnership may take yet more market share from BlackBerry. After all, neither the BI applications promised from IBM, nor the Office suite, will run on any of the current set of BlackBerry Mobile devices. Further, while BlackBerry does offer an MDM solution, unlike the one from IBM, it is to be found in the “Niche Quadrant” of Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for MDM for 2014.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

14
Feb

Monopolistic Brand Tactics — Google Style

In an article written by Rolfe Winkler, titled “Android’s ‘Open’ System Has Limits”, which was published by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, February 12, 2014, Mr. Winkler notes how Google has deftly won concessions from Android OEMs. These concessions deliver default status for Google’s search for any/all devices manufactured under the terms of the Android O/S license agreement:

“The documents show that Google has imposed strict restrictions on device makers that want access to its search engine, YouTube or the more than one million apps in its Play Store. In return, the device makers must feature other Google apps and set Google search as the default for users, according to the agreements.” (quoted from Mr. Winkler’s article, a link to the entire article can be found in the paragraph above).

Anyone familiar with the U.S. vs. Microsoft® anti-trust litigation of the late 1990s should experience something of a “deja vu” when reading this paragraph. The U.S. case against Microsoft focused on a very similar feature of the Microsoft Windows O/S, namely the “default web browser.” Ostensibly, Microsoft emerged from this litigation with the Windows business intact and still fully integrated. But since the litigation, whether as the result of efforts by other regulatory agencies (principally the European Commission), the process of establishing the “default” web browser has been clearly established as the right of the owner of the PC, rather than either the OEM of the O/S Licensor, to establish.

So is the phraseology Google has incorporated in its license agreements with Android OEMs largely an act of hubris? in other words, a method of reaping unreasonable benefits before the inevitable slap on the hand from regulatory authorities removes the hand from the cookie jar? Sad to say, I think it looks so, doesn’t it?

When activities like this one, on Google’s part, are revealed, one would hope the public will develop a higher level of skepticism the next time one vendor tries to play the “good guy/bad guy” marketing communications game.

Disclaimer: I’m long Microsoft with no position in Google.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

17
Jan

Federal Appeals Court Ruling on Net Neutrality, If Upheld, Looks Like a Game Changer for High Speed Data Providers

On January 14, 2014, the news broke of a Federal Appeals Court ruling, which blocks the Net Neutrality rules of the U. S. FCC. If this ruling is upheld, then high speed data providers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, etc) can begin to capture much more value from their current plant in terms of larger profits.

I’ve posted my opinion of what appears to me to be curiously limited profits for providers of high speed data services. I based it on a combination of indicators. One of these is my observation of recent efforts by Verizon, the largest wireless data provider here in the U.S., to sell bandwidth. The other is what I refer to as wireless data customer “recycling”, which goes like this: The major U.S. high speed data providers each make what I consider to be overly aggressive offers to consumers. The consumers who bite on these offers are expected to simply shuffle from one provider to another for essentially the same service.

Does it make sense for Verizon, AT&T, et al to pay for the early termination charges consumers will incur by switching plans? Before this ruling I answered this question in the negative. The only justification for the cash sign-on bonus for consumers would have to be an effort to reduce competition in a market where high speed data is a mere commodity.

Please note the timing of the first sighting of this phenomenon — AT&T kicked it off after Sprint announced its interest in acquiring T-Mobile. Funny, I thought a few months ago AT&T wanted to buy T-Mobile, right? So wireless customer recycling, as I see it, is a fancy version of a very primitive “scorched earth” policy. Welcome to the new dark ages.

But this ruling will likely change everything, which I take to be very good news. For some reason most analysts are more concerned about the negative impact the ruling will have for businesses like Netflix, than they are taken by the brand new blue sky it opens for Verizon and its peers.

My dictum is the following: If no one can afford to put down the pipes required for all this high speed data, and operate a viable business from them, then the high speed data services are going to eventually go away, anyways. Therefore it’s better, overall, to make sure the providers are fed properly, or else the rest of the food chain (including Cisco, etc) will be hard pressed to make it through to the next meal. Netflix, Skype, etc are simply icing on the cake.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

6
Jan

Why Consumers Should be Concerned About the SnapChat Hack

The publicly announced acquisition of Mandiant by FireEye appeared to me to be perfectly timed. The press release about this acquisition was published on January 2, 2014, merely one day after Doug Gross, of CNN, posted the details of the malicious attack on SnapChat on the CNN website.

In a recent post to this blog I called the SnapChat hack THE malicious exploit capable of bringing the whole discussion about whether cloud, Software as a Service (SaaS) offers are secure for consumers, or not, to a “critical mass”. Bottom line, I think this event, once the public is informed about its most important details, is scary enough to prod consumers to finally reduce their otherwise voracious appetite for SaaS offers.

I’m sorry to say the mainstream press has not done a very good job of presenting the “most important details” of this exploit. The Wall Street Journal published a video, Why Hackers Want Your CellPhone Number, which presents a few of the reasons why consumers should be concerned by the SnapChat exploit.

The Journal picked Quentin Fottrell of Marketwatch to convey the bad news to consumers. But he neglected to mention a very important danger resulting from the compromise: Many of the cellphone numbers captured by hackers may be connected to smart phones enabled with GPS devices. A quick read of an article titled Find Your Phone With These Helpful Tracking Tips, which was written by Drew Prindle, and published on August 8, 2013 on the Digital Trends site, should prompt consumers to be more concerned. Depending on how cellphones are used, malicious individuals may actually be able to determine home addresses, businesses addresses, and more simply from the POTS dialing numbers connected to them. It’s not likely consumers will welcome this exposure.

When the other dangers Mr. Fottrell mentions are also considered, the SnapChat hack should start to prod consumers to rethink their use of this service and others in the same category, like facebook. The unnamed lady who interviews Mr. Fottrell does mention how telephone numbers can be used in a facebook search to find people, which is absolutely true.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

31
Oct

Comments on Google’s Q3 2013 Earnings Report

I’m interested in the online advertising business. When I read about Google’s performance for the 3rd quarter, 2013, exceeding analyst estimates, and noted more than a 12% follow-on appreciation in the per share price of Google’s stock by Friday, October 18, 2013, I decided to take a look at the quarterly earnings report.

I found a couple of the sectors of revenue production, depicted in a bar graph on Google’s Q3 2013 Quarterly Earnings Summary to be interesting and worth a comment. While Google’s overall advertising business for the quarter grew substantially, year-over-year, the portion of revenue coming from the “network” (meaning the Display Network, Google’s AdSense Affiliates), actually contracted by a full percentage point.

I’m wondering if this revenue contraction for the Display Network business is the result of advertisers demanding better results from their campaigns, and, subsequently dropping network campaigns for Google Search campaigns, only. I’ve worked with my own clients on these campaigns (my clients are SMBs), and have to say the results have been poor, especially where we experimented with building “brand awareness”. Brand awareness campaigns are charged on a basis of 1000s of impressions, rather than per click. We’ve experienced very few successes with these campaigns.

If I’m correct, and today’s SMB online advertiser is much more demanding than was the case in the past, then the online advertising business is certainly trending even more towards a “volume-centric” business. Any drop in volume in subsequent quarters will likely hit Google’s results hard.

I was also taken by the growth in Google’s “other” revenue segment. In Q2 2013, this set of products (likely to include Google Apps) produced $1.046 Billion. But in Q3, production grew by 17.5% to $1.230 Billion. If this “other” set of products includes Google Apps, then it’s safe to say Google is taking some business away from Microsoft’s Office product line.

Finally, I liked the highlighted sentence on Page 2 of the summary: “Our infrastructure continues to be a key strategic area of investment”. A lot of what’s working in the cloud business as we proceed through Q4, 2013 is infrastructure. Enterprise businesses and large organizations in the public and not for profit sectors are, apparently, very keen on Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offers.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

23
Oct

Track Website Visits by eMail Campaign Recipients to Improve Efforts to Rank Leads by Quality

Small businesses often operate at a disadvantage when it comes to the range of options available to them for generating leads from online communications opportunities. Rarely will one of these lead generation systems include a ranking component. But a lead ranking component is an important tool sales teams can use to prioritize time to allocate the most attention to the most promising leads.

But with the latest version of VisualVisitor, a truly low cost system may finally be available to these businesses to add this missing piece to the tool set of their sales teams.

I use VisualVisitor and have one client using the system, as well. The most valuable feature of this product for small businesses is the information it provides about the otherwise anonymous visits of business prospects to their websites. My client and I have successfully used the product to close sales. These sales matured faster than would have been the case without the information about website visits by these prospects to our websites.

I’m pleased to note a substantial improvement in the performance of this product. A tagging system has been added to the feature set. These tags can be used to add information about email campaigns to specific leads already identified by the VisualVisitor system.

The tagging system can add a lot of power to efforts to rank leads. For example, it certainly makes sense for sales people to spend more time on website visitors also included in email campaigns. Further, the website visitors with the highest frequency of visiting websites should receive the most attention. VisualVisitor’s new tagging system can certainly be used, successfully, to identify this specific group of website visitors.

I also like the set up of the tagging system. All of the work is performed via the VisualVisitor control panel. Therefore, there is little chance of a system malfunction as the result of the email campaign method. No need to worry about setting up tags in Constant Contact, iContact, MailChimp, or any other email campaign management tool.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

20
Feb

Goals and Events can be Used with Google Analytics to Pinpoint Problems with Web Site Content

ISVs interested in online marketing can use goals and events with Google Analytics to identify problems with web site content. Google Analytics is a free tool with a lot of features and capability, including goals and events. It isn’t easy to successfully set up Google Analytics goals and events, but we think it is worth the effort. The information collected by these tools can shed light on where, and why web site visitors drop off.

Conceptually, Google Analytics goals and events are two versions of the same tool. By building goals or events, online marketers create a method of tracking visitor activity through a web site. Different visitors drop off of web sites at different times, and for different reasons. Therefore, it is useful to collect information about visitor activity within a web site.

Goals are usually mentioned in the context of conversions. A conversion in Google Analytics is a measurable action taken by a website visitor. What makes the action measurable, is that the online marketer has exposed the action as an option for site visitors. Examples of actions include an opportunity to fill out a registration form on a web site, or to place an order for an item with an online shopping cart, or even to download what we refer to as “level two” content, meaning a white paper, case study, success story, or even a product brochure.

Events are very similar to goals. The same measurable activities can be set up in Google Analytics as events. Online marketers should set up events for visitor actions that take place on complex web pages. To understand what constitutes a complex web page, think about a web page where a “thank you” message appears once a visitor fills out a registration form and sends it for processing. In comparison, on a simple web page, the visitor would be served a “thank you” web page after completing the registration form.

Online marketers should offer web site visitors activities, strategically, meaning at points in a web site where historical information indicates that visitors have dropped off. By collecting data about the rate at which site visitors either choose to perform an action, or not, it should become clear, over time, whether web site content is working as planned.

Simply making changes without data doesn’t make sense when a measurement tool like Google Analytics is available at no charge.

In the next post to this blog we will look closer at events and goals in Google Analytics.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

17
Dec

Without Contact with Decision Makers Annual Attempts to Land Renewals on Subscriptions are Less than Likely to Succeed

Most ISVs have an objective of establishing a recurring revenue model. When the end of a business year rolls around, these ISVs actively reach out to their customers to hasten subscription renewals. We think most of these ISVs would do better at this type of task if sales management approached the job as an ongoing activity. The best time to start this ongoing activity is in the first month of the subscription; rather than at the last minute prior to expiration of a subscription.

Where enterprise business and other large organizations in the public and not-for-profit sectors make up the customer profile, the challenge of successfully mounting this type of campaign is particularly difficult. The reason for this difficulty amounts to the fact that sales can be made to these customers without anything more than tacit participation from true decision-makers on the purchase. When these complex sales occur, ISVs can often make the mistake of confusing the contacts who simply place the order with these hidden decision-makers. We regret to say that the two are rarely, if ever, the same. When this kind of mistake occurs, the sales teams at an ISV often receive some type of response like “I’m using your product and love it, but I don’t make the purchase decision. My management made the decision to terminate service as of the end of this year, sorry to say.”

In fact, the sales teams have received this response from contacts who, in all likelihood, have been “nurtured” along, periodically, throughout the period of time represented by their subscriptions. Therefore, sales management becomes perplexed, and hard pressed to identify the problem. After all, “we did everything correctly”, but still lost the renewal that we thought would be as hard to get as the task of “taking candy from a baby”.

The only problem is that these sales teams nurtured the wrong contacts. In fact, the users who requested funding to purchase a subscription may, in fact, have been motivated by simply a technical challenge, and not a bleeding wound in the form of a cash drain springing from a very high set of costs as regards systems development and management. No one in sales made the effort to reach out to the contacts responsible for these bleeding wounds, and, therefore, the seats belonging to contacts with the authority to authorize renewals, and more were never filled.

This whole process would be more predictable, and, in fact, easier, had the extra effort been made at the start of the sales effort to ensure that actual decision-makers were included in the discussion.

In the next post to this blog, we will look at why it makes sense to interrupt the natural flow of a sale to ensure that decision-makers fully participate in a purchase decision.

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

29
Mar

Social Media should be Used to Engage with Market Participants, settling for Anything Else is a Mistake

Building a presence on Facebook, Twitter, or even through a corporate blog has no other purpose as we see it (and strictly from a business perspective) than to create opportunities to engage with market participants. We have lots of recent experience with Facebook and Twitter as public venues that, if ineffectively managed, will not produced the two way communication that ought to be the objective of any social media campaign. On the other hand, properly managed social media efforts, especially those that incorporate lots of market specific editorial content can produce excellent opportunities to engage and, potentially, revenue.

We say potentially as we have little if any experience with revenue conversion from social media for our type of product:

  • Complex software products and services targeted for large groups of users, whether from enterprise business or the public sector

But the lack of revenue conversion, at this point in time, is acceptable to us. Fact is that we are hard pressed to identify just how Social Media venues could directly produce opportunities to close sales. Rather we think social media can provide our clients with precious opportunities to engage with market participants to gain valuable information about marketplace realities, including common needs, and methodologies.

The methods that we have successfully utilized to stimulate engagement include a relentless commitment to adhere to a daily production requirement of market-relevant editorial content. Further there can be nothing less than authentic about the editorial content that is produced daily. It is not unacceptable to use marketplace keywords as the basis of blog posts, tweets, etc, but the writing itself must be entirely authentic and germaine to the topic at hand.

Further, we’ve been successfully where we can quickly establish a meaningful volume of daily visits to client websites, and Twitter/Facebook/Google Plus/LinkedIn pages. We say meaningful as the numbers vary substantially from client to client. We’ve seen sites that magnetize a thousand or more visits per day produce very little opportunity to engage. Then again, we’ve seen sites that magnetize as little as 10-15 visits per day produce worthwhile engagement. It all boils down to the quality of the editorial content with particular regard to marketplace relevance.

It is difficult to achieve the level of effective engagement possible from a blog attached to a business website from Twitter/Facebook/Google Plus/LinkedIn. The latter are all public venues where the real master of ceremonies is offsite and somewhere external. It is much more promising to build a venue for engagement entirely on one’s own turf, where lots of visitor analytics can be gathered to closely monitoring what works as well as what does not work.

We welcome opportunities to elaborate on this discussion. Please call Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com. We will be happy to show you why you should be thinking about the Internet and Social Media to engage with your marketplace.

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

12
Mar

Plan on an ongoing intelligence gathering effort on competitors within your business plan

In order to formulate a competitive market plan it is essential to collect accurate information about competitors. Perhaps for this reason alone, with regard to developing an entirely valid understanding of the business operations of competitors in a market, it makes sense for businesses of any size to include an ongoing intelligence gathering activity in the business plan. Without an accurate understanding of the costs that competitors incur bringing products to market, the history of their client engagements (successes and failures), and, finally, the features and benefits of their product offerings it is not possible to assemble key points in a competitive strategy, for example:

  • the unique value of your product and/or
  • a method of producing a product at a cost substantially below that of competitors

It is indicative of the few businesses that actually succeed vs the number that are started that, unfortunately, little substantive information is collected on the above two points beyond mere conjecture. Where the health of a business is the matter at hand, it is not adequate to act based upon conjecture. An accurate sense of specific market realities must be assembled if some level of success is to be achieved.

We offer this type of competitive intelligence gathering service. We welcome requirements to assemble an overview of a specific marketplace, to formulate a picture of methods at competitors and, finally, to put together a thorough analysis of the product offerings from specific competitors. Typically we summarize the results of this type of work in a management report suitable for presentation to executive management and/or a board of directors. We highly recommend that we have an opportunity (through an engagement) to take our work a step further, working closely with a CEO to identify opportunities to craft unique offerings for specific niches. Finally, we will happily analyze product development systems to identify areas were costs can be reduced to meet the challenge of achieving the position of lowest cost competitor in a given market.

If you believe that your market opportunity is substantial, then why not allocate financial resources to ensure that you have made a best effort at achieving the position in the market that you are after? Literally thousands of dollars in unnecessary business expenditures can be saved by focusing first, and foremost, on formulating an accurate picture of your competitive position in a market. The resources required to put together this picture constitute a bargain when compared with the cost of operating largely ignorant of competitive offerings.

Please call Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion about your need for a competitive market analysis. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com

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