Category Archives: Marketing mix

Patriot 2014 Still Life

Year End Roundup – Top 10 Posts of 2014

2014 has been a great year! A successful racing season. A great new job (well not so new any more). And some inspiring endurance events, near and far. With the end of the year right around the corner, it’s a perfect time to review the Top 10 Posts of 2014. Here they are, in reverse order.

10. Structured Learning in Career Transition

Tri bike InTransitionSince my new job as Chief Product Evangelist at Aternity has driven so much of this year’s activities, this is the blog to begin my list. A career transition is not like a triathlon transition. I found the advice in Michael Watkins’ book The First 90 Days to be extremely useful. Definitely worth a read.

9. Career Check-in at the Two Thirds Point – Heartbreak Hill

tf90d-book-coverThe clear follow-on to the first blog on the list provides 16 tips for the new exec to cover as he or she accelerates the ramp-up period to catch up with other members of the executive team in the first 90 days.  Just like in the Boston Marathon, where leaders are often caught at Heartbreak Hill. This blog provides more guidance from Watkins’ book.

8. Benefits of a Positioning Statement

At Aternity, one of my first contributions was to lead the executive team through a positioning statement exercise for the various markets we serve. We returned to this work over and over in the subsequent months. This blog covers a template for a positioning statement and the benefits for working through the exercise.

7. Creativity & Analytics – the Biathlon CMO

biathlon ski-79564_640Next up is a discussion of the two characteristics of successful marketing executives – creativity and analytics. Two completely different skills, like the aerobic and sharp-shooting expertise needed by biathletes. Just like in the sport, individuals tend to have natural strength in 1 of the 2 areas. Developing the area requires work.


6. Sometimes Metrics Don’t Matter

Cycling Crash John Kershner ShutterstockI know it seems to fly in the face of the previous topic, but sometimes having all of the B2B sales and marketing metrics at your fingertips doesn’t lead to a successful outcome. This post was inspired by the carnage at this year’s Tour de France, in which so many of the favorites crashed out. Chris Froome. Alberto Contador. Mark Cavendish.

5. Marketing & Strategic Alliances – Like Doubles Luge

As a small company serving enterprise customers who are deploying mobile as a component of their strategy, my company works closely with the leading Enterprise Mobility Management vendors, like Citrix, Good, and MobileIron. A big part of my job has been to articulate the value proposition of our joint solutions to our mutual customers.double_luge021110

In that way, my marketing efforts become an extension of our strategic alliance initiatives. And our strategic partnerships become an important route to market for our products and messaging. Marketing & Strategic Alliances – like doubles luge, except for the speed and the uncomfortable body positions.

4. Beware the Thing of Beauty – Drive up Acceptance

Next on the list is an equation that will help you ensure effective sales enablement tools. This blog covers a key equation, E=QxA, that says that the effectiveness (E) of any tool or program depends on both its quality (Q) and its acceptance (A) by your intended audience. For example, It does no good to produce a ROI calculator that covers every customer scenario,  but is too complex for the sales team to actually use.

3. Marketing Tips from Rowing: Cadence & Power

Boys in the BoatInspired by reading “The Boys in the Boat,” I realized that cadence and power impact the effectiveness of marketing programs, just as they determine the speed of a boat. Since October is also when the Head of the Charles Regatta occurs, this blog, and its companion contain examples of how to use frequency and power to drive marketing results.

2. Make Content Generation a Team Sport

TrackRelayHandoffBuilding a cross-functional team of social media contributors has been one of the highlights of my first year. As this blog suggests, making it easy for others to contribute compelling blogs, videos, and other social media efforts, is the key to generating compelling content. We now have a team of pre-sales, product management, and customer service team members who are regular contributors to our efforts. And with all of the great content being generated, we’ve now launched a fancy new company blog.

1. Racing Season – Time to Deliver Results

Patriot 2014 Run

Well, there really is no contest for determining the top blog of 2014. This blog covers my successful 3rd place finish in my age group at the Patriot Half Triathlon, while relating the swim, bike, and run legs to B2B marketing. I registered for the 2015 Patriot Half race on the very day that registration opened. It will be tough to duplicate last year’s results, but I’m sure planning to give it a try!

I hope your year was successful too! And I look forward to another exciting year in 2015. Thanks much for reading and commenting!

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shutterstock barefoot running_136762700

Minimalist Running: Born from the Voice of the Customer, or Marketing Hype?

Minimalist running hit the mainstream in 2009, when Christopher McDougall published his New York Times best-seller, “Born to Run.”  The book profiles the eccentric Micah True, as he arranges a running competition between American ultrarunners and the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s Copper Canyons, who run for hours on their huaraches made of tire tread.  The book suggests that humans evolved to run long distances naturally, with little to nothing on our feet.   It claims that the cushioning in modern running shoes causes more injuries than it prevents.

Vibram FiveFingers, synonymous with barefoot running
Vibram FiveFingers, synonymous with barefoot running, photo courtesy of Vibram

Sales of minimalist running shoes took off, along with the book’s popularity.  In 2010, minimalist running shoes made up 30% of the market, according to Outside Magazine, with new market entrant Vibram FiveFingers capturing 2%.

Today, although the share of minimalist shoes is down to 15%, all of the major athletic shoe brands promote minimalist models, such as the Nike Free, Merrell Trail Glove, and Saucony Kinvara.   Is the voice of the customer driving this trend, or just hype?  Let’s analyze the question with a marketer’s tool set.

Minimalist Running:  the Value Proposition

The value proposition of minimalist running is that “less is more.”  Minimalist running advocates for the least amount of shoe that runners can safely wear.   With less padding, a runner’s foot feels the ground more effectively and sends feedback to the brain to modify the stride.   Over time, runners change from striking the ground first with their heel to a more natural strike, with the mid-sole or fore-foot, which should strengthen the foot and prevent injuries.

The Voice of the Customer – from WAY before 2009

Minimalist running was not invented in 2009.   Men and women were running barefoot, and running FAST, long before then.

In the 1960 Rome Olympics, Ethiopia’s Abebe Bikila ran barefoot to win the marathon in 2:15:17.   In Tokyo in 1964, he won again, becoming the first two-time marathon winner, finishing in 2:12:11.

Famous for her collision with Mary Decker in the 1984 Olympic 3000 meters, South African Zola Budd set the world record for the 5000 meters, running barefoot, in both 1984 and 1985.

A Competing Voice Calls for “Clown Shoes”

In 2010, the padding pendulum began to swing the other way.  That year, elite ultrarunner Karl Meltzer tried a pair of massively cushioned Hoka One Ones,  known affectionately as “clown shoes” because of their huge sole.

Photo courtesy of Hoka One One
Photo courtesy of Hoka One One

More forgiving and stable, the brand has quickly gained a devoted following of top competitive ultrarunners, claiming 30 trail running wins in races over the past 18 months.

A Closer Look at Buyer Pains

I’m not talking about leg pain, and whether minimalist shoes or maximalist shoes are better for injury prevention.  The science is inconclusive.  I’m talking about a deeper look into the voice of the customer and what drives the purchasing decision.

According to the Buyer Persona Institute, key aspects of a buyer persona include priority initiatives, success factors, and decision criteria.   In determining preference for more or less cushioning, wouldn’t these factors be the same for the majority of serious trail runners?  Of course!   Run fast over long distances.  Avoid injury.  Appearance doesn’t matter.  Clown shoe or weird looking foot-glove – if you get the results, then wear them with pride.

Then how to explain what seems like two different voices of the customer?

The answer seems obvious.   Serious trail runners are only a small portion of the market!   Some buyers (gasp!) are not even runners!  The Nike Free, the minimalist category leader with a 70% share, is most often purchased by non-runners.  SportsOneSource even separates it from other minimalist shoe sales when reporting on category market shares.   The voice of the customer making a fashion purchase is certainly different from that of the ultrarunner.

Minimalism:  More Than Marketing Hype, a Lasting Impact

It appears that the era of barefoot running is indeed over.  Minimalist shoes declined to 11% of market share, as reported by Runners World in spring of 2013.  And the share falls to 4% when the Nike Free is removed.   But the decline doesn’t mean that it was only marketing hype from “Born to Run” that drove the market.

The minimalist running trend has made lasting impact on larger running shoe categories, like traditional trainers.  Companies are incorporating new materials and processes to drive down weight and ramp angle throughout their product lines.   Like the impact of alternative fuel vehicles on the broader automobile market, these significant innovations will continue to drive the market in the future.  Although you may see more Hoka One Ones than Vibram FiveFingers in your next ultra, the minimalist running trend has left its mark.

How about you?  Have you used minimalist running shoes?  How about Hoka One Ones?  What was your purchasing criteria?

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Managed Services Marketing Mix – The 4Ps May Change, Goals Don’t

Unlike marketing mix terminology, swimming has undergone REAL change
Unlike marketing mix terminology, swimming has undergone REAL change since the 1960s

In a recent MSP Mentor blog, I discussed the relevance of the 4Ps as a construct for a cloud and managed services marketing mix.   First articulated by marketer E. Jerome McCarthy in 1960, the 4Ps (product, place, price, and promotion) are considered outdated by some when it comes to B2B marketing in today’s cloud era.  Harvard Business Review conducted a study of over 500 companies around the world, and has suggested that the SAVE model (solution, access, value, and education) better represents the current realities of B2B marketing.

Half a century after the 4Ps were first rolled out, so much has changed in how businesses buy products and services.  We don’t head down to the local department store to make our purchases any  more, we find what we need on-line.   Neighborhood retailers aren’t battling one another for local customers, they sell to a world-wide market.  We gather the information we need to make a purchase ourselves, through social media and web, rather than relying on the local shop owner to educate us on the benefits of her service.

But no matter what terms you use, the goal of the managed services marketing mix remains the same – to effectively position services relative to the customer’s problem, and against alternative solutions.   Does using the word “solution” automatically provide marketers with a better orientation toward solving customer problems than does “product?” Is it necessary to use the term “access” to represent the fact that we no longer go to a physical “place” to make our purchases?

The fundamental aspects of the marketing mix are the same, whether your preferred abbreviation is the classic 4Ps or the modern SAVE.

An Example of a REAL change since 1960:  The Pull Phase in Freestyle

When I started swimming competitively, Indiana University was the dominant force.  The Hoosiers won six consecutive NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships between 1968 and 1973, a streak unmatched before or after.   Although Mark Spitz was the star, James “Doc” Counsilman coached the team from 1957 to 1990 and wrote “The Science of Swimming,” the definitive guide.  Published in 1968, the book provides scientific explanations for the techniques used to swim the major strokes.

Just like the four components of marketing mix, the five phases of a swimmer’s arm movement are tightly coupled.  The reach, catch, pull, push, and recovery all work together to propel the swimmer through the water.  But unlike the debate about the relevance of McCarthy’s 1960s era marketing mix terminology, there has been real, significant change in how we swim freestyle since that time.

In freestyle, the pull phase starts once the swimmer’s hand enters the water and begins to move backward.  Analyzing the strokes of champions, Councilman advocated forming an “S” pull by bending the elbow between 90 and 100 degrees and moving the hand across the mid-line of the body, while pulling backward.  This sculling approach would provide some lift to the swimmer’s body in order to reduce drag.

Once considered a best practice, the “S” pull is no longer in favor.   Now swimmers are taught to move the hand along the side of the body in a deep-catch stroke during the pull phase, in order to focus the propulsion backward most effectively.   Research by scientists at Johns Hopkins University has shown the advantages of throwing out the old “S” pull guidance in favor of a deep-catch pull.

The Implications for Managed Services Marketing Mix

The four other components of the freestyle stroke are generally taught the same now as they were then.  The terminology for all phases of the stroke is the same now as it was then.   The lesson is that terminology matters less than actual practice.  When considering your managed services marketing mix, call it 4Ps or SAVE.  What counts is what you do.

What do you think?  4Ps or SAVE?  Do you still swim freestyle like we did last century, or have you entered the modern era?  Tell me what you think!


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Managed Services Pricing – Put Your Customer on the Winner’s Podium

Determining the ideal managed services pricing model can be complex.  MSP University summarizes the advantages and disadvantages of six popular pricing schemes, including per-device, per-user, à la carte, and “pick 5.”   MSP Mentor points out that service providers should consider break-even cost, staff expertise, competition, and regulatory issues, along with value to the customer, when determining managed services pricing.

Multiple models and a broad range of factors can be overwhelming, but establishing pricing and packaging is a lot easier when you crisply focus on your customer and the problem they are trying to solve.  For marketers at B2B companies, whose products are the basis of managed services offers, this means thinking along two dimensions.   First, you must help your immediate buyer – the executive or product manager at the MSP responsible for launching the managed service and driving a profitable revenue stream.  Second, you must help the customers of this buyer understand the benefits of the managed service based on your solution.

Marketing to the first buyer goes without saying, but some may question whether it is in their charter to help their service providers market to their customers.  Surely that is the job of the marketing team within the service provider itself, as they are the ones who best understand their own organization’s differentiators, competition, and customer base.  Besides, B2B marketers need to move on to the next campaign, product launch, or demand generation activity.

Put Your Customer on the Winner’s Podium

Age Group Winner, 2013 Ashland Olympic Triathlon
Age Group Winner, 2013 Ashland Olympic Triathlon

Rather than take this narrow view, marketers should put their customer on the winner’s podium.   To win, the service provider must ace the marketing mix as they target their customers.   The 4Ps – product, place, price, and promotion – are tightly coupled for a managed service, and as the vendor, you are in the best position to help the service provider articulate the value proposition and competitive advantages of the technology underlying their managed service.

The podium also reinforces the benefits of a tiered managed services pricing scheme like “Gold/Silver/Bronze.”  Large service providers, such as CSC and Sprint, and smaller providers like Technology’sEdge™ and Beringer Associates use a tiered approach.  Doing so helps in several aspects of the marketing mix:

  1. Resists commoditization:   Unlike per device or per user pricing schemes, which reduce the value proposition of a managed service to a simple cost comparison, a tiered managed service pricing model helps justify premium prices for the extra value of higher tiers.  This helps reduce customer churn and enables more effective up-selling and cross-selling.
  2. Differentiation vs. the Competition:  The product is a combination of the service provider’s staff expertise, SLAs, brand, and the technology on which the service is based.   But every MSP touts its highly trained staff, secure data centers, and redundant power supplies.   It is the software behind the back-up and recovery, monitoring, or security service that can differentiate among providers.   While the lowest tier may provide the base level of service that is common across service providers, the higher tiers can leverage more advanced software capabilities.  For example, in managed network services, “bronze” may provide customer notification of outages, whereas higher tiers can provide proactive notification of degradation, the impending approach of a network capacity constraint, or the ability for the customer to run their own reports.
  3. Differentiation vs. In-house IT:  A prospect’s IT staff is often an MSP’s key competitor.  Although a managed service may free up IT staff to work on more strategic projects, IT leaders often resist giving up control.   Service providers can align their lower tiers of service to the capabilities of their prospects’ in-house IT staff, and use the higher tiers to demonstrate the extra value of more advanced functionality not available with current staff.
  4. Enables freemium business models:   In today’s market, customers expect to be able to try a service before they commit to buying it.  A tiered structure can provide basic functionality for free, as part of the lower tier of service, and time-bound access to higher value, higher tiers of service to entice customers to upgrade.

Although there are many approaches to managed services pricing, the benefits of a podium approach are clear.  What do you think?  If you are a service provider, are you getting the support you expect from the IT vendors on whose solutions your managed service is based?  If you are a vendor, are you helping your service providers find a place on the podium?  I’m interested in your feedback.

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