Microsoft Appears More Comfortable When Promoting Products to Developers

While one can argue Microsoft’s marketing communications targeting computer tech consumers often miss the mark, their promotional efforts targeting developers fare better. A good example can be found in a recent entry to the Office Blog, titled Connect and collaborate with the powerful tools in Office 365 for Enterprise.

Where the current video advertisement campaign for Surface Pro 3 fails to marry the showcased product with the human archetype a lot of the advertisement’s audience dreams of becoming, this short post does a better job of connecting these marketing dots.

The “dreamer” aka “Human as visionary” is certainly an attractive archetype for developers who build applications, and the business stakeholders sponsoring them. The editorial content of this ad explicitly presents the connection between this personality type and its various iterations across a presumed organization (or business), all the way from the CEO at the top, through the developers responsible for building the solution, and, finally, to the “workers” (perhaps end users?) who will consume the solution as they go about the task of successfully completing their work.

While the editorial content explicitly presents this connection, the method leaves something to be desired: “The CEO has a big dream. He is passionate about towers and wants to build the tallest one possible. He needs help to collect and share his ideas, and he needs a way to unite people under his cause. The CEO could benefit from Yammer.” The presentation is clearly a simplification. The reader can’t be expected to do much more than smile at such an attempt to present a rationale for collaboration.

But one of the videos embedded in this post, Office 365: Visionaries need great productivity and collaboration tools saves the day, for this writer, and provides the subtly the complete communication piece requires to make a lasting impression on readers.

It is a pity this same finesse could not have touched the video advertisement campaign for the Surface Pro 3. Regardless, it is highly likely Microsoft’s prime audience — enterprise business technology consumers — will find this post, which is good news. After all, this prime audience is more likely than average computer tech consumers to subscribe to Office 365.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Microsoft Struggles to Promote the Surface Pro 3 to a Mass Market

On August 10, 2014 Microsoft debuted a new set of video ads for the Surface Pro 3. A lot of the ad content is comprised of a feature comparison between the Surface Pro 3 and Apple’s MacBook Air. A lot of opinion has been expressed about this set of ads as simply the latest example of an ongoing comparison, dating back to the late 1990s, when Apple kicked it off with its infamous Mac vs PC ads.

Does Microsoft stand to benefit from this approach? In this writer’s opinion the answer is “no”. The original Apple campaign was likely effective as the result of a successful effort to bridge the gap between product and consumer. The “Mac” of the ad amounted to one type of person (consumer), while the “PC” was a radically different type of person. The ad then left the viewer to identify with one, or the other. Much has been written about the success of this campaign, so there is no need for us to spend time exploring it further here.

The current comparison is strictly product to product. One can argue the music background on the first of the new ads, with its female vocalist, is suggestive of a personality type, but the actual content is strictly feature to feature review. But, this writer would argue, PC consumers buying Macs are buying them more for what a Mac says about someone who owns one, than the actual features of the device. Sadly, the round of ads from Microsoft fail to speak to this human behavior pattern.

These ads may run against the grain of enterprise IT organizations, which would be very unfortunate. These organizations are most likely to motivate corporate users to scrap orders for MacBook Air laptops and replace them with orders for the Surface Pro 3. Enterprise customers are accustomed to evaluating products head to head (so-called “best of breed” comparisons are the norm), but strictly on a feature basis, without any attempt to add tone to the presentation by associating buyer type to products.

Bottom line: these ads attempt to plant one foot on either side of a gap between consumer and enterprise IT. This posture is not sustainable. The next round should position the product on one side of the gap, and preferably the enterprise IT side, where Microsoft has more friends.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Apple’s Public Relations Team Does a Top Notch Job Enhancing the Innovation Factor of the iPhone 5S and 5C

Last week, the first week in September, 2013, Apple debuted two new iPhones — the 5S with a 64 bit processor, and the 5C (marginally, all of $100.00, less expensive than the other iPhones in the 5 series). Despite a halted market reaction to these smart phones, Apple’s Public Relations team has, once again, done an exceptional job stimulating influential writers to render opinions on these products, which inflate the value of the features for public consumption.

The new phones have been cited as likely to succeed for as spurious a set of reasons as simply “it’s a new iPhone. I can afford one, you can’t, so turn green with envy”, all the way to the blinding speed of 64 bit processing for a smart phone. It’s actually of little consequence whether the claims of pundits make sense, or not. What’s really important is the impact of these claims on consumers, who will likely think more about these phones than would otherwise be the case if the original round of reviews had struck home.

ISVs will do well to study the effectiveness of this promotional campaign. A successful PR campaign like this one will contribute substantially to the popularity of these phones with the consumer market, not only for Apple, but for the carriers who opt to jump on the new products and pushing them out to their subscribers. What’s particularly impressive about this effort is the likely positive effect on consumer sentiment after a comparatively much less successful presentation of the features, themselves, to the technical community, investment analysts, and other commentators on Apple, the company.

Certainly a PR campaign should be a foundation plank of any launch of a new technical product. It is, nevertheless, curious for me to note the difficulty many ISVs experience when they grapple with how best to implement a PR campaign. The cost of the campaign should not be the key determiner of whether or not it makes sense to implement it, or not. The best basis to determine return on investment in this type of effort is to quantify how well the campaign performed against goals. Unfortunately, in my opinion, establishing useful goals is the really hard part.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Boundaries Between Editorial and Advertorial Online Content Continue to Blur

According to an article written by William Lauder, and published on the online Wall Street Journal website on Sunday, August 25, 2013, Marketers Seek Extra Edge to Go Viral, “More marketers are starting to buy space on websites for their so-called “sponsored content” – brand ads disguised as stories and blogs – using the same kind of automated trading platforms and other ad technology typically used for display ads.” (quoted from Mr. Lauder’s article). The information Mr. Lauder presents makes sense to us. Although the examples he cites are all about tangible products, we’ve noted quite a bit of content clearly assembled to promote intangible products and services, as well.

The concern, of course, is the extent to which this type of editorial content is accepted by readers as legitimate expository prose, rather than what it actually is — meaning skillfully assembled, high powered advertising copy. We think this concern is actually a big deal. If the public is fed this type of content, in other words duped, can we be confident correct decisions will be made about all sorts of topics, from the mundane activities depicted in Mr. Lauder’s article, all the way up to some very big decisions (for example, whether or not it makes sense to vote for a particular candidate, or spend a considerable amount of money on a primary residence).

Any/all examples of this kind of promotional content need to be clearly labeled as such, or else we will cross the line into a dangerous territory where, ultimately, editorial content, itself, will eventually lose any credibility whatsoever when the public, inevitably, wakes up to the ruse.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


On the Destructive Potential of Online Editorial Content

In August, 2013, a large majority of the U.S. population maintains a connection to the internet. Most of these internet connections are in an “always on” state. So online editorial content can now be be used by product marketers to influence human activity, at least here in the U.S., in a big way. Unfortunately, when online editorial content is applied to topics specific to financial investments, and, further, to stock trading, the results can be very destructive.

Stocks with a high volatility index are usually watched very closely by investors. Most of the time these investors are vigilantly monitoring news feeds to digest important developments as soon after they occur as possible. In theory, the first investors to get word of these changes will gain an advantage to buy, sell, or hedge positions.

But today everyone gets the same information nearly simultaneously over the internet. Twitter is particularly useful as an information distribution medium. Over Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of the week of August 12th, 2013 we watched the tweets for one equity, “MNKD”, Mannkind Corp. The stock moved up and down over 45% over merely these 3 trading days. The correlation between tweets and changes in MNKD trading price were very tight.

Who’s monitoring the accuracy of these tweets, many of which include links to blogs with longer posts devoted to topics specific to stocks like “MNKD”? Unfortunately the answer is “nobody.” When we read a number of them, and blog posts on related topics, we noted lots of inaccuracies and distortions. So the destructive power of this type of editorial content should not be underestimated.

We don’t see this condition changing anytime soon. We hope the writers producing the content are making a fair share of the profits some of the investors purport to be making for themselves. In the meantime, investors of all types will continue to maintain a rapt attention to these postings, which can only lead to more demand for this type of editorial content.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


RelatelQ Raises Venture Capital Investment and Benefits from Some Prominent Press in the Same Day

Never underestimate the power of free publicity. RelatelQ, a Palo Alto early stage ISV announced a successful effort to raise $29MM from several venture capitalists on June 13, 2013. This news was included in an article with even bigger impact for the business, Your New Secretary: An Algorithm .

It’s not easy to quantify the impact of Ms. Rusli’s article on the visibility of RelatelQ in its market. But it certainly didn’t hurt to have the article published coincidentally with the public announcement of the cash injection. In fact, from the description of the technology in Ms. Rusli’s article, it isn’t earth shaking, nor particularly new (anyone familiar with the late 1980s who was actively involved with personal computing will likely remember Lotus Agenda, which had a lot of the same capabilities back in 1988). So the lesson for early stage ISVs is what you say amounts to how you say it and who decides to publish it. As we’ve noted time and time again in this blog, Marshall McLuhan is still alive and well and just as brilliant, for his own venue, as Albert Einstein was for his. “The Medium is the Message”.

We visited the RelatelQ website hoping for an opportunity to take a look at their application, but found an “invitation only” note on the front page. We’re not sure this public posture benefits them, but, bottom-line, we can’t access their software.

The notion of what the software can do is exciting. We used Lotus Agenda for 3 or more years in a team setting with tremendous results. Our gross revenues went from $7MM to over $28MM in the same timeframe. So using an application to autosort travel notes, jourrnal entries, call reports, etc. can be a very valuable activity.

If your business can benefit from a successful effort to convince a reporter or two to write about what you’re up to, but you lack the internal staff to get the job done, contact us. We’ll be happy to make our best efforts on your behalf. You can send us a message, as well.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Mass Market Promotional Venues like Radio and even Television may be Accessible to Early Stage Enterprise IT ISVs

The number of low power radio and television stations operating across the United States has grown substantially over the last decade. Some of this growth is the direct result of a change in the method by which the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allocates bandwidth. The combination of this new approach on the part of the FCC, together with the availability of substantially lower cost software solutions that service all of the needs of lower power television and radio operators who are maintaining a channel or two in local markets has resulted in lots of growth in this segment of the media market.

This growth has produced advertising opportunities for early stage enterprise IT ISVs at reasonable cost. We think these advertising opportunities can be used, successfully, to build brand awareness within targeted geographies. For example, by sponsoring a local outlet of NPR, businesses can receive a 10 sec announcement during NPR programs. One of our clients opted for this offer. Our telemarketing campaign for this client included several calls where the contact noted “yes, I have heard of your company.” In contrast, our attempt to use Google Adwords to build brand awareness for this same client did not reveal any market place awareness of the company.

Similarly, selective advertising over low power television stations can also be an effective method of building brand awareness. Of course, the broadcast foot print of these stations will be significantly smaller, but with local cable television coverage policies almost certainly assuring that these stations will be included in basic cable offers, early stage enterprise IT ISVs can certainly explore the promotional potential of these media outlets.

For businesses that wish to build brand awareness in either Silicon Valley, New York City, or the metropolitan Boston area, this type of lower cost over the air advertising is worth an exploration. Of course, establishing brand awareness, as quickly as possible, is an important objective for any early stage business. Whether it makes sense, or not, to focus on building this awareness based upon a geographical location is certainly a variable that should be considered on a case by case basis.

If you are considering a promotional campaign to build brand awareness please consider IMB Enterprises, Inc. We will be happy to elaborate on our recent experience. Please either telephone us at +1 631-673-2929 or complete the contact us form on our web site. We will be happy to reach out to you to learn more about your needs.

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


Control Lead Generation Quality to Control Sales Results

The quality of leads generated through a business’ promotional efforts (including sales leads delivered from staff efforts) is very important to the actual results of sales efforts. Save a lot of time and a lot of money: make certain that the leads you receive are the leads that you can close and want to close for your business. This point may seem obvious, but it is surprising how often CEOs of emerging businesses (and especially for emerging businesses with complex products targeted at enterprise business customers) miss this point, or try to broadly hit the point with imprecise promotional marketing techniques. Finally, craft your marketing and sales compensation programs to fairly reward each piece of the respective functions to ensure that personnel are sufficiently motivated to deliver. Eschew the typical approach that rewards sales with great commissions, but lead generation marketing staff are left to approach their role as something transitional, a stepping stone to sales, rather than a career that can, itself, be quite rewarding. The planning time spent building promotional activities within marketing that will precisely attract the interest of the right prospects for sales will pay off handsomely.

Of course, in order to craft an effective lead generation program with a technique like teleprospecting, your marketing function must have completely understood and even digested the product the business is selling, like food, to the point that your product is running, like blood, through everyone’s veins. Nothing short of this completely correct understanding of the product will do. As I have written earlier in this blog, a big part of gaining this understanding is knowing how your customers are using your product; therefore, if your business is just starting, without customers, marketing’s job is that much harder, but nonetheless still absolutely essential.

If the promotional efforts include telemarketing (or teleprospecting), then marketing must subsequently publish a complete list of the qualifications of the targeted prospect business, all the way from revenue size, to geographical location, to type of business, and inclusive of all financial realities, external factors and more. Further, the staff role within the prospect business must be defined and contact lists must be developed. Underlining all of this qualification, like the foundation of a house, is marketing’s identification of the stage within the chronology of product implementation (otherwise known as product maturity) that is required for the right prospects to fit into your sales plan. As the CEO, you must have the option of selecting where, in the implementation process for the solution (or piece of the solution) that your product delivers, you establish contact with the right prospects for sales. This point of contact may be where the prospect “needs” something like your product, or earlier in the maturity cycle, where the prospect is contemplating the solution, or perhaps later, where the prospect has tried the solution and is now rethinking his or her decision and looking to renovate. There are advantages to choosing any one of these three points of entry.

With a thorough product plan and prospect qualification lead generation staff can then play their very valuable role delivering rich and promising prospects to sales who are then left to their best activities, selling to customers.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2011 All Rights Reserved