Software-Defined – Wide Area Network (SD-WAN): the Super-Duper WAN!

Digital Information Stream

Image: Courtesy NASA

ReportBuyer’s press release dated April 24, 2017, “SD-WAN Market Size Forecasts to grow from USD 738.9 million in 2016 to reach USD 9,066.2 million by 2021,” estimates a 65.11% Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) for SD-WAN over the next five years with the managed services segment “expected to have the largest market share during the forecast period.”

Mike Wood, VP of marketing at VeloCloud, in an interview with RCR Wireless News published April 25, 2017 says, “Adoption of SD-WAN has reached an inflection point.” Mr. Wood claims that deployments between the telecom space and the enterprise space is “is approximately 60% enterprise and 40% service provider/telecom, but this is shifting to 50/50.”

So the race is on and SD-WAN has become the hottest new thing in the IT networking space. Everyone in telecom, networking, cloud services, managed services and what have you is getting on board. Even Hughes Network Systems, the global leader in satellite broadband for home and office, jumped on the SD-WAN bandwagon with its January 19, 2017 press release, “Hughes Launches Fully Managed SD-WAN Solution for Distributed Organizations.” It appeared to be a managed services overlay, but it’s one that gets you in the game.

Even before the arrival of the commercial Internet in the mid-1990s, Sun Microsystems’ prescient tagline was “The network is the computer.” But it was only couple decades later after the public Internet penetrated the enterprise WAN with an assortment of must-have XaaS services and applications via the cloud that private corporate networks were forced to reckon with the ubiquity of the public Internet as part of their overall infrastructure for anyplace, anytime computing.

Since then there has been a growing recognition that private MPLS-based WAN infrastructure is not optimum for cloud-based services. In fact, notwithstanding the intrusion of cloud-based services, it’s an accepted fact that the weakest link in the underlying network is usually the static, fragile hardware layer regardless of the transport protocol it deploys. But now a software-defined overlay has revolutionized WANs over the past few years and the increasing impact of SD-WAN is being felt in the enterprise and telecom space making SD-WAN an imperative need.

To help us better understand this rapidly growing phenomenon, Aryaka released a whitepaper, “Top 5 SD-WAN Myths—Busted,” which is a must read. Nonetheless, these myths are listed here for the benefit of readers and they can dig deeper into the “why” for each myth by downloading the whitepaper:

  • Myth #1: All SD-WAN vendors are WAN providers.
  • Myth #2: SD-WAN is synonymous with Hybrid WAN.
  • Myth #3: SD-WAN is similar to WAN Optimization.
  • Myth #4: All SD-WAN providers reduce network costs.
  • Myth #5: All SD-WAN solutions enable global enterprise expansion and cloud migration.

These myths deserve to be debunked, even as a bigger myth proliferates – the one that pits MPLS vs. SD-WAN, as if the latter is all set to replace the former. Now unless an enterprise has no private MPLS-based WAN infrastructure, leased or owned, and has moved everything to the cloud – this is highly unlikely to happen anytime soon.

However, as more and more businesses, especially organizations with multiple locations and remote branches, start using cloud services such as, Salesforce, Microsoft Office365, Box, Google Apps and Amazon Web Services, as part of their daily business modus operandi, SD-WAN becomes more and more relevant. But customers have to be careful, as not all SD-WAN providers are created equal, as the Aryaka whitepaper points out.

Also, in its April 17, 2017 article, “Tips and tricks for a successful SD-WAN,” Network World notes:

“SD-WAN adopters can turn to any transport protocol — 3G, 4G LTE, MPLS, Internet or Wi-Fi — to provide the best cost and performance benefits for specific applications.”

The article goes on to cite a few successful deployments, including Borrego Health, whose CIO notes, “IT management tends to assume that implementing SD-WAN has to be either a rip-and-replace project or significantly disruptive to deploy. We found it to be quite the opposite of that.”

Zeus Kerravala of ZK Research in his March 29, 2017 NoJitter post, “SD-WAN Value: More Than Cost Savings,” points out that SD-WAN offers a lot more value beyond cost savings. These are listed here for quick reference but are explained in more detail in his post:

  • Ability to handle “brown outs.”
  • Centralized configuration.
  • Networkers become orchestrateable.
  • Zero touch provisioning.
  • Direct cloud connectivity.
  • Operationally simpler.

The SD-WAN debate has shifted from its indispensability in enterprise WANs to its ability to handle security at the enterprise grade level, especially at the network edge and at remote branches served by disparate ISPs. As if on cue, the aforementioned Cloud-Delivered SD-WAN™ company made this announcement on April 11, 2017: “VeloCloud Introduces Comprehensive SD-WAN Security Ecosystem to Protect SD-WAN Users’ Branch, Data Center and Cloud Networks.”

VeloCloud’s SD-WAN Security Technology Partner Program includes security industry leaders, such as, IBM Security, Check Point Software Technologies, Fortinet, and Zscaler, blending its flexible enterprise SD-WAN architecture with some of the world’s premier security solutions. So a marker has been laid for security in the burgeoning SD-WAN market.

Back in May 2014, The Marketing Id had defined the E = MC6 ecosystem and the evolution of the social Enterprise – one that supports Mobile, Customer-centric, Cyber-secure, Cloud-based, Communications, Collaboration & Content. The evolution of SD-WAN further ensures that the social Enterprise is now a more secure, rapidly scalable, and surprisingly flexible WAN environment than it has ever been. With a potential $9 billion market looming over the horizon, it is no wonder marketers have a nickname for SD-WAN: the Super-Duper WAN. Let’s hope SD-WAN turns out to be all that it is cracked up to be!

 

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For Managed Service Providers (MSPs), Marketing is the Tipping Point!

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In its September 2016 report, “Managed Services Market by Data Center (Hosting, Colocation, and Storage), Infrastructure (Print Services, Desktop, Inventory), Networking (Remote Monitoring, MPLS, VPNS), Information, Mobility, Communications, and Security – Global Forecast to 2021,” MarketsandMarkets predicted that the managed services market would grow from $145.33 billion in 2016 to $242.45 billion by 2021 at a 10.8 percent CAGR!

Is it any wonder that Managed Services Providers, or MSPs as they are commonly called, have been proliferating and the competition to differentiate oneself is heating up as well? And yet, as recently as 2014, only 3 in 10 organizations used an MSP for their IT needs, according to Carolyn April, Senior Director – Industry Analysis, at CompTIA. But that was then and this is now, as MSPs compete with each other to grab more and more of the IT pie. The standard MSP fare – customer relationship management (CRM) applications, backup and recovery services, email hosting, and network monitoring – are no longer attractive, financially and otherwise, as companies are increasingly able to pick these services easily off a menu of options through the ever expanding “…-as-a-Service” Cloud operators.

It is thus that a more recent June 2016 CompTIA report, “Fifth Annual Trends in Managed Services” found cloud computing, cited by 62 percent of companies, “topping the list of things that keep MSPs awake at night.”

Ms. April of CompTIA further noted in the above referenced press release announcing the availability of this report:

“Naturally occurring market commoditization accounts for a portion of slimming margins, but some of the blame also falls on MSPs themselves, many of whom continue to compete with one another solely on pricing.”

Thus it becomes incumbent on MSPs to differentiate themselves either through a focus on specific vertical markets or specializing in the premier “ABCD” of IT prowess – Advanced Application Monitoring, Business Intelligence, Cybersecurity, and Data Analytics.

But even if MSPs managed to differentiate themselves along these lines, there still remains the issue of driving sales with the perennial “Cloud” hanging over MSPs? Sonian, a pioneer in cloud-based email archiving, recently surveyed a wide range of MSPs and its founder and CTO, Greg Arnette, presented the survey findings in an online slideshow, “Top Managed Service Provider Trends and Challenges.” From among Sonian’s various conclusions, nearly 6 in 10 survey respondents agreed that finding go-to-market partners needs to be a primary area of focus for MSPs. This was borne out in another of its findings, which showed that more than 95 percent of MSPs believed that their partners provide adequate resources to help sell and support their products.

However, depending on partnerships is not the only key to success for MSPs. In a December 13, 2016 blog post, “Is Your Managed Services Business Running Into These 5 Problems?Continuum’s Director of Technical Account Management, Ray Vrabel, stresses that MSPs should be marketing their business as well. Mr. Vrabel says:

“Marketing goes hand-in-hand with selling. Having a sales team with no marketing counterpart is like having wide receivers with no quarterback.”

The Marketing Id could not have stated it better. Mr. Vrabel recommends leveraging “inbound marketing techniques and channels to find and engage new prospects” and remembering, “networking is key.” In fact, The Marketing Id’s mantra of “Marketing the Right Content to the Right Entities at the Right Time using the Right Channels” needs to be adopted by MSPs as gospel. Because when it comes to communicating the benefits of managed services to end users, especially one’s competitive advantage in specific verticals or one’s unique selling points (USPs) in the aforementioned ABCD technical domain, MSP’s appear to be lacking adequate marketing skills to sufficiently engage their prospects.

Complex technological solutions require simple marketing explanations. From partner propositions that reassure internal IT departments of a need for their ongoing complementary role to the development of must-have USPs, and benefits and value messaging, MSPs must make this winning proposition to the end user:

MSPs are the optimum choice when it comes to offering holistic IT solutions, including Cloud transparency, where required.

And, for MSPs, marketing is clearly going to provide the tipping point towards capturing a bigger slice of that rapidly expanding managed services market!

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Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Content Marketing, Sponsored Content and Native Advertising

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If you think that the wall, which separates the news from opinion in broadcast and print media, has been crumbling in the past decade or more, then sponsored content or native advertising is definitely not your cup of tea. HBO’s John Oliver in a “Last Week Tonight” segment dating back to August 3, 2014 had eviscerated this burgeoning concept taking hold in the broader publishing industry.  In fact, one has to be very careful using traditional monikers of publishing, advertising and distribution in this evolving scenario, as these roles have become increasingly intertwined in the digital world and there is a certain amount of confusion pervading the entire industry with respect to who’s the buyer, seller and consumer in these roles.

So The Marketing Id was surprised to read a more recent New York Times article datelined July 24, 2016, “How Sponsored Content Is Becoming King in a Facebook World,” defending the concept, primarily because of a rapidly changing business landscape:

“Younger companies like Vice and BuzzFeed have built whole businesses around the concept. The Atlantic expects three-quarters of its digital ad revenue to come from sponsored content this year. Slate, the web publisher, says that about half of its ad revenue comes from native ads, as sponsored content is also called, and the other half from traditional banner or display ads. Many major newspapers, including The New York Times, have declared sponsored content to be an important part of their strategies.”

Social media platforms, such as FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter have been struggling with very low click through rates on display advertising. Also, news websites have been losing subscribers to social media companies as well as aggregators. And, all of them are being hurt by ad blocking software. So there is a redefining-cum-cannibalization of who plays what role in this evolving digital media world. Chad Pollitt, VP of Audience and Co-founder of Relevance, has done a pretty comprehensive job in sorting out this content conundrum in his article, “Everything You Need To Know About Sponsored Content.

Now, The Marketing Id began this post referencing “sponsored content or native advertising” as interchangeable terms. Before I get into the analogy or distinction between those two terms, we have Joe Pulizzi, Founder of the Content Marketing Institute, taking serious issue in calling native advertising as a form of content marketing! Mr. Pulizzi defines content marketing as follows:

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action by changing or enhancing consumer behavior.”

Mr. Pulizzi goes on to add, “In content marketing, the brand owns the media. It’s an asset.”

Then Mr. Pulizzi defines native advertising in the following manner:

“For most situations, longer-form native advertising (I’m not talking about Google or Twitter ads) is:

  • A directly paid opportunity – Native advertising is “pay to play.” Brands pay for the placement of content on platforms outside of their own media.
  • Usually information based – The content is useful, interesting, and highly targeted to a specific audience. In all likelihood, it’s not a traditional advertisement directly promoting the company’s product or service.”

Mr. Pulizzi goes on to add that native advertising is, “Delivered in stream. The user experience is not disrupted with native advertising because it is delivered in a way that does not impede the user’s normal behavior in that particular channel.”

Mr. Pulizzi concludes, if content “is valuable and relevant, designed to attract a clearly defined audience, and posted on your own or other unpaid platform, it’s content marketing.”

But then just as you think the confusion regarding content marketing, sponsored content and native advertising has been cleared up, along comes Shannon Porter, Project Marketing Manager at Professional Case Management, who begs to differ. In her blog post, “What Is the Difference Between Sponsored Content and Native Advertising?” Ms. Porter describes native advertising as follows:

“Native advertising is promotional in nature (hence the name “advertising”) and its goal is to convince rather than inform an audience. While it can still look like an article, there will be a distinct call-to-action or it will contain brand-biased content that contains the company’s name.”

And, then Ms. Porter points out that:

“Sponsored content on the other hand is not brand-biased and its goal is to inform the audience, not convince them. The strategy is to position a company as an expert in their industry, with the hopes that if the audience goes to the company for advice they will eventually purchase their products or services.”

The Marketing Id agrees with Mr. Pulizzi’s semantics on the distinction between content marketing and sponsored content/native advertising. However, semantics aside, The Marketing Id also believes that Ms. Porter makes a fair distinction between sponsored content and native advertising, especially in the long sales cycle world of B2B, where sponsored content can be a useful channel to nurture a prospect along the path to eventually becoming a customer.

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To be, or not to be – that is the question for B2B Digital Marketers

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Wikipedia attributes to the Financial Times, a rather succinct definition of Digital Marketing, which says:

“Digital marketing is an umbrella term for the marketing of products or services using digital technologies, mainly on the Internet, but also including mobile phones, display advertising, and any other digital medium.”

From a target market standpoint, digital marketing seems to have had a fair amount of penetration in the business-to-consumer (B2C) world, but still seems to lag in terms of holistic adoption in the B2B (business-to-business) world, and even less so in the B2G (business-to-government) world.

As a marketer, who has worked in all three of these environments (B2C/B2B/B2G), one of the major problems I noticed in the B2B/B2G domains is that many companies invariably lack a digital marketing plan or even a digital marketing strategy. Some of these companies not only lack a Revenue Performance Management vision that incorporates Marketing as an equal partner in driving Sales, but they also tend to dabble in digital media activities on a largely ad hoc basis. The corporate directive appears to suggest digital marketing is tantamount to having a web site that displays the perfunctory social media buttons – while, in reality, these social media properties and blogs languish due to a concomitant lack of timely and pertinent content marketing efforts. If at all, any B2B content marketing efforts are sporadic and opportunistic with no guiding long-term strategy or plan.

My efforts to find out why “B2B digital marketing” is not being adapted in a more meaningful manner, led me to an insightful article on entrepreneur.com – Daniel Newman’s “The 10 Essential Tips for B2B Marketing Success in a Digital Economy” Mr. Newman breaks up B2B digital marketing strategy into three basic concepts – being found, being seen and being heard. He then goes on to explain what each of these concepts entail and I have summarized the steps below:

BEING FOUND

  1. The website: Your digital kingdom.
  2. Content: What’s your story?
  3. Search basics: What SMBs really need to know about search.
  4. Social listening: Figuring out your audience online.

BEING SEEN

  1. Social media: Connecting your ideas with the world.
  2. Paid media: Placing content in the right spots.
  3. Upcycling content: Increase visibility and your reach.
  4. Social selling: Moving consumers through the funnel.

BEING HEARD

  1. Build commitment: Like, follow, subscribe.
  2. Online engagement: A one-to-one conversation.

For more details on each of the ten steps, readers can click on the above link and read the entire article. I also found another interesting take on the subject from smartinsights.com – David Chaffey’s “Don’t get left behind with your Digital Marketing Strategy, follow these 7 Steps to Brilliant B2B Marketing!” Mr. Chaffey outlines seven steps that a B2B needs to follow in its digital marketing efforts:

  1. Develop a B2B strategy
  2. Effective websites
  3. Search Marketing
  4. Content and Inbound Marketing
  5. Social Media for B2B Marketing
  6. Lead Generation and CRM
  7. Analytics and Improvement

The bottom line is B2B/B2G companies must get out of yesteryear’s mindset that Sales is the only critical function that contributes to revenues. SEO/SEM, content marketing and social media properties cannot be treated as merely advertising and branding tools – they need to be integrated into the ongoing management of a company’s revenue cycle. Especially in long sales cycles, digital marketing, when executed with a well-planned strategy that has been incorporated into the annual financial plan and a longer-term business plan, can contribute significantly to a company’s growth, productivity, customer satisfaction, and yes, its brand equity.

Marketing has come a long way from the days of the “Mad Men” of Madison Avenue. Today’s Don Draper is a hybrid “creative-analyst” with a laptop, who nurtures clients throughout the revenue lifecycle by marketing the right content to the right entities at the right time using the right channels – this, in a nutshell, is what B2B digital marketing is all about. And, when executed as outlined above, there is no question digital marketing has to be… an integral part of every B2B’s business plan and its marketing function!

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Top 10 Old Adages Adapted for Millennials, Meme Aficionados, and Social Media Enthusiasts!

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We all grew up with popular proverbs that were directed at us by family, friends and mentors when they believed these were required to correct, coach, or cheer us depending on the occasion. Well, that was then and this is now. It’s not that the message has changed as much as it has been adapted to a new medium—the Internet and all of its affiliated social media channels.

The classic maxim that was born in the era of broadcast TV, “the medium is the message,” is taking on even more meaningful interpretations in the era of the interactive Internet. But that is a philosophical discussion for another time. In this tongue-in-cheek article, I would like to focus on how some ageless pearls of wisdom might be better adapted to modern times and still be relevant to millennials, meme aficionados, and social media enthusiasts.

  1. Lao Tzu, the great Chinese philosopher said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

In today’s Internet era, it would probably make more sense to say, “A journey of a thousand pages begins with a single click.”

  1. Henry David Thoreau, the distinguished American author perceived, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

Millennials today would probably be more comfortable with, “It’s not what you click on that matters, it’s what you find.”

  1. Socrates, the renowned Greek founder of western philosophy counseled, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

For today’s “if-it’s-on-the-Internet” generation, it seems more like, “The only true wisdom is in knowing that the Internet knows everything.”

  1. Mahatma Gandhi, the legendary Indian leader preached, “My life is my message.”

Online Gandhian disciples of today would be more likely to hear, “My Facebook timeline is my message.”

  1. An old English proverb posits, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

In today’s social media savvy universe, it would probably be wiser to postulate, “A tweet is mightier than a gun.”

  1. Another old English proverb cautions, “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.”

In today’s “digital-never-dies age,” it would probably safer to recommend, “People who live in Google’s domain do not have a right to be forgotten.”

  1. At the start of the 20th century, newspapers started reflecting the axiom, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

At the start of the 21st century, the YouTube generation is proving, “A video is worth a thousand pictures.”

  1. This mantra has been repeated by parents and teachers alike, “Actions speak louder than words.”

In an era dominated by social media discourse, the PTA crowd would probably tweak it to say, “Comments speak louder than likes.”

  1. How many times have you been warned in your lifetime, “Look before you leap.”

In today’s meme and sharing culture, the dictum would probably caution you to, “Think before you click, send or tweet.”

  1. Finally, in the good old days, we were often consoled, “Every cloud has a silver lining.”

In today’s “everything-is-in-the-cloud” world, we are increasingly hearing, “Every cloud has a hacker mining.”

If these do not make your Top 10 list of adapted adages for the new millennium, please feel free to share ones that you think I missed.

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Five Synergistic Factors That Bind the Science of Marketing with the Art of Sales

In his 1954 book, “The Practice of Management,” management guru, Peter Drucker, famously declared:

Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.

And yet, six decades later, Sales still takes precedence because it is responsible for a company’s top line revenues. It’s only in the past couple of decades¾with the advent of the World Wide Web, social media, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, marketing automation platforms (MAP) and a prolific demand for purposeful content¾that Marketing is finally getting its “revenue” due. In marketing-driven companies, as Drucker always wanted them all to be, the Chief Marketing Officer is gradually being recognized as an integral part of the corporate Revenue Performance Management (RPM) team.

So what is it that is bringing Marketing and Sales closer together in today’s hyper-connected, social media savvy, content rich business environment? One of the primary reasons is the evolution of a more tightly integrated E = MC6 ecosystem and the evolution of the social Enterprise, which The Marketing Id has previously defined as:

A social Enterprise is one that supports Mobile, Customer-centric, Cyber-secure, Cloud-based, Communications, Collaboration & Content.

In this new E=MC6 ecosystem, Marketing and Sales take a holistic, same view, customer-centered approach, in which the business strategy is to optimize interactions with customers and prospects across a company’s revenue cycle to enable predictable revenue growth. This RPM strategy requires a business to manage its revenue cycle across an extended, yet integrated “sales and marketing” funnel as shown below:

REVENUE CYCLE ACROSS INTEGRATED SALES & MARKETING FUNNEL

REVENUE CYCLE ACROSS INTEGRATED SALES & MARKETING FUNNEL

Looking from left to right at this integrated funnel, it’s pretty clear that before anything enters the funnel, there is an overarching business strategy, which defines what goes into and what comes out of it. With this overview in mind, the following is a discussion of the five well-known, yet newly synergistic, factors that are compelling Sales and Marketing to work in sync towards achieving business goals:

  1. Marketing drives business development strategy; Sales executes it to generate revenue.

Thanks to the Internet, search engines embedded with sophisticated algorithms, CRM-integrated MAP platforms, and social media applications supplemented with monitoring tools, Marketing now possesses reasonably accurate scientific means to generate and maintain an ongoing awareness of a company’s value proposition. The corporate RPM team uses this awareness to generate a business development strategy that Sales executes to generate revenue.

  1. Marketing generates leads; Sales closes deals.

The old-line method of telemarketing is slowly dying on the landline vine and the traditional Sales cold call is losing its efficacy as The Marketing Id had anticipated almost four years ago in, “Hello Sales, the Cold Call Just Got Warmer!” Thanks to MAP and inbound analytics, Marketing can generate more hot leads and in a more efficient manner than cold calls ever did. Sales can thus focus on closing real deals and delivering more predictability to a company’s revenue stream.

  1. Marketing provides competitive intelligence; Sales uses it to outsmart the competition.

Competitive intelligence is no longer either the sole or the reliable domain of professional analysts and their magic quadrants, which while useful at a strategic level are not granular enough to impact a company’s tactical revenue generating decisions. Again, thanks to the increasing power of search engines, social listening and Big Data analytics, Marketing can closely monitor the competitive landscape and hone in on prospects with much better accuracy than ever before. The closer the Marketing Qualified Leads to Sales Qualified Leads ratio is to one, the better Marketing is doing its job in analyzing the competition and qualifying prospects. Sales then needs to use its innate selling skills to outsmart the competition.

  1. Marketing owns the product ecosystem; Sales owns the customer base.

Rumors of the demise of the original 4Ps – product, pricing, placement and promotion – have been exaggerated ever since Al Gore invented the Internet. Again, almost four years ago, in “How Inbound Marketing Is Driving the B2B Marketing Mix–Viva La 4Ps!The Marketing Id had revealed how a company’s product ecosystem had benefited because:

“Clearly inbound marketing has become a rather useful driver of the traditional B2B marketing mix – in fact; the 4Ps have become more reliable and effective within the new marketing paradigm!”

More importantly, while Marketing has gained a more customer-friendly hold on the product ecosystem, Sales has also seen a commensurate benefit because it is able to use this customer-driven product lifecycle to more effectively manage not only its customers, but also its prospects. Deal making, while still an art, has thus become more predictable.

  1. Marketing owns the content ecosystem; Sales disseminates content per requirements of RPM lifecycle.

In the new marketing paradigm, the cliché “content is king” is being superseded by the reality that content marketing is ace! Marketing owns the content ecosystem for sure, but barely four months ago, The Marketing Id had discussed “Overcoming Content Marketing’s Two Biggest Challenges.” If Sales too needs to be “targeting the right content in the right amounts to the right audiences at the right times” – Marketing simply has to find the time to create this content as required.

Finally, the good news from the Internet and social media revolutions has been the evolution of a tighter relationship between Sales and Marketing. While the former remains a very sophisticated art, the latter continues to evolve into a more exacting science. Together the synergies between Sales and Marketing are breathing new life into the revenue generating abilities of the business enterprise.

 

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7 Pertinent Lessons from Brian Williams–Jon Stewart Double Play

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Those of us, who have been watching “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” for a long time, might recall an ongoing segment that he used to run several years ago, “The Giant Head of Brian Williams.” Given Brian Williams sudden fall from grace this week, including a six-month suspension from work, Jon Stewart’s literal representation of him from way back when, almost seems metaphorically surreal. In fact, in that April 10, 2007 video clip that I have linked to above, Brian’s big head, looms large on a giant TV monitor behind and overlooking Jon at work on his Daily Show set, and mockingly says to him:

Jon…you use a teleprompter…so let me get this straight, you have to read the fake news, you can’t remember it?

Given the turn of events in the past few days, it looks like Brian was pretty much doing something similar on occasion under the garb of real news? So when news simultaneously broke on February 10, 2015, about Brian’s suspension by NBC News and Jon’s own announcement regarding leaving his “fake news” show, I facetiously tweeted this:

#JonStewart leaving #DailyShow & #BriWi suspended 6 mos–it’s a fake news double play? Say it ain’t so, Jon? http://nyti.ms/1EWF7f9

No schadenfreude was intended by my tweet. In fact, there are several lessons that we as business professionals can learn from this “double play” that might help us in our own daily lives. Here are what I believe are the 7 most pertinent lessons:

7 When any set of facts involves more than just you, manipulating these facts is a fool’s errand.
6 With the passage of time, your memory might play tricks on you, but the memories of others – who were also involved in the same set of facts that you have since manipulated – might not be concurrently playing tricks on them.
5 Over a period of time, what began as a seemingly harmless manipulation of a set of facts eventually turns into lies, especially if you repeatedly brag about that manipulated set of facts, increase the distortion with each telling, and somehow you never get caught until karma finally catches up with you?
4 When you tend to manipulate the facts over a great length of time, the truth eventually comes out, sometimes at the most unexpected of moments – karma is a witch.
3 When you do finally get caught in your web of lies, your ensuing apology must be immediate, sincere and display a genuine sense of remorse.
2 Your contrition must include keeping a low profile during your time away from the public eye, where applicable, and you must not attempt either a premature rehabilitation or a public relations makeover.
1 It’s always best to leave voluntarily when you are at the top of your game, when people will wonder why (à la Jon Stewart), not when they begin to doubt why not (à la Brian Williams)?

It is worth noting what that other lovable “giant head,” actor Michael J. Fox, once said:

One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.

So I suspect that Brian Williams will redeem himself and be back in the public eye, even if he doesn’t return as anchor of the NBC Nightly News. However, most of us will really miss Jon Stewart, after he ends his run at The Daily Show. So let me indulge in this Mark Anthony type eulogy in reverse, where I come “not to bury Jon, but to praise him” as follows:

Jon Stewart has taken his comedic talents to an art form – he is funny, smart, naturally self-deprecating, articulate, well versed on a variety of topics, a natural interviewer, very intelligent (different from being smart, and he masks his intelligence in order to not overwhelm either his guest or his audience), and most importantly, a lovable personality to both sexes. So this kind of complete package is going to be very difficult to replicate. It is a persona that needs to be cultivated over a period of time and with experience. 

We will miss Jon Stewart in “Indecision 2016” but we will savor every episode from now until he signs off later this year. It’s another tribute to Jon Stewart’s acumen that he is going out while he is still on top, while his adoring fans are still wondering why?

So that’s the #1 lesson, we all should have learned from that infamous double play of February 10, 2015 – it’s always about knowing when to say when?

Image – courtesy “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

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Overcoming Content Marketing’s Two Biggest Challenges

“The Periodic Table of Content Marketing,” is courtesy of Chris Lake at Econsultancy LLC.In a recent “Content Marketing Report” (based on over 600 survey responses from B2B marketing professionals), Holger Schulze, Group Founder of the “Technology Marketing Community” on LinkedIn, highlighted the following as one of Top-5 Trends in Content Marketing:

“The number one content marketing challenge is having enough time and bandwidth to create content (51 percent). 
The next biggest content marketing challenge is producing enough content volume (50 percent) …”

The Marketing Id agrees and views content creation as the numero uno problem for B2Bs in their content marketing efforts! Most B2Bs simply do not have either the marketing bandwidth or the required subject matter experts (SME) to create the necessary and sufficient amount of content to achieve success in their content marketing efforts. In fact, according to Schulze’s report, only 36% of B2Bs use SMEs and only 30% of B2Bs use external agencies or consultants to create content.

And, the above-mentioned Top-5 Trend goes on to add:

 “… followed by producing truly engaging content to serve the needs of marketing programs (42 percent).”

The Marketing Id’s July 2011 post, “Top 5 Myths About B2B Inbound Marketing,” had addressed the subject of truly engaging content by introducing a phrase, “character of your content.” It suggested that in the new world of content marketing, B2Bs could no longer stand out only on the style aspects of their content, but would also need to engage consumers of their content based on its actual substance. The phrase succinctly reflected a compelling need for B2Bs to produce content that was of a consumable character, i.e., one that offered value to the consumer of that content? So how does your B2B’s content stand out or add more value than that of a competitor B2B’s content in the same realm? In this age of content overload, all other things being equal, why would a potential customer bother to consume your content over someone else’s? In simple terms, “character of your content” means the quality of content, in its various forms and types that B2Bs use in their content marketing efforts. Schulze’s report identifies the Top 10 content marketing tactics/formats used by B2Bs as follows:

  • Blogging (65%)
  • Social media (64%)
  • Case studies (64%)
  • White papers (55%)
  • Press releases (51%)
  • Customer testimonials (49%)
  • eNewsletters (48%)
  • Videos (47%)
  • Online articles (45%)
  • Webinars / webcasts (45%)

For B2B content marketers, when your content lacks character, consumers won’t click through and when they do click through, you don’t really know if they are actually digesting your content. It should be noted that nine of the Top 10 content types listed above (except for social media, which can be viewed both, as a content type and as a content channel) are invariably presented to content consumers as links embedded in email or links embedded in summaries presented in popular social media channels, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, etc.

The Marketing Id’s September 2013 post “If the headline doesn’t tick, people won’t click!” discussed some of the click-through aspects for embedded links that then take you to the actual content. But once you land on the content page, the actual character or quality of that content is an entirely different story – the creation of consumable content requires an adherence to marketing communications principles and discipline. In this regard, marketing automation leader, Marketo, has published “The Definitive Guide to Engaging Content Marketing,” which provides a detailed tutorial on how a B2B can do this.

Content Marketing has been creating a lot of buzz in the B2B world lately, but these efforts can be frustrating, if they don’t produce the desired results. Per Schulze’s report, B2Bs identify the top three content marketing success factors as audience relevance (58 percent), followed by engaging and compelling storytelling (57 percent), and content that triggers a specific response (54 percent). If your B2B is not creating and targeting the right content in the right amounts to the right audiences at the right times using the right marketing channels, it needs help from marketing professionals who can. The Marketing Id has a dream that one day all true content marketers will be judged by the “character of their content!”

(Publisher’s Note: The above image, “The Periodic Table of Content Marketing,” is courtesy of Chris Lake at Econsultancy LLC.)

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Marketing’s Enigma—Messaging in 140 Bytes—Cracking the Twitter Code!

The_ThinkerSocial Media has not only revolutionized the marketing paradigm on the B2C side, but also has dramatically changed the marketing engagement methodology on the B2B side. CRM integrated marketing automation platforms are become increasingly popular in the B2B world as revenue drivers and are also becoming the new beating heart of a perpetual “curiosity-to-customer” engagement lifecycle.

But its Twitter that continues to fascinate me as a marketer because it is literally a launching pad for content marketing, PR, thought leadership, etc. and it gives you only 140 characters to make a difference. Walter Chen, Co-Founder at iDoneThis, published a LinkedIn article, “The Dullest, Most Vital Skill You Need to Become a Successful Manager” a little over three months ago and it has garnered over 600,000 views so far. Mr. Chen, who is not a LinkedIn influencer, claims that it is indeed, writing that is the vital skill one needs to be successful and I couldn’t agree more.

In fact, my personal Twitter (@MahaTweeter) profile reads, “MahaTweeter is a means for satisfying my inner writer by offering an original thought every day. I am because I write, I write because I am…” But then long form writing requires a certain skill and tweeting, especially business tweeting, requires something more. You don’t have to be a marketer to do the former, but you most certainly need to be a PR, thought leadership, social media maven all rolled into one to do the latter. It was sort of the idea behind my post from over a year ago, “If the headline doesn’t tick, people won’t click!

As a marketer, I have previously postulated that tweeting in the B2B world requires a combination of left-and-right brain panache, which was the thinking behind my post of September 20, 2011, “The Art & Science of the B2B Tweet and Strategic Intent!” I went on to elaborate five tweeting factors — Interrupt, Inform, Interact, Investigate and Inquire in my February 19, 2012 post, “Five i-Factors That Can Ensure Every Business Tweet Counts” — that are critical to achieving a tweet’s objective.

In my nearly five years on Twitter, I have tweeted on a variety of subjects from economics, foreign policy, marketing, politics, and spirituality, et al. It has always been a challenge to meet my own five i-factor threshold in 140 characters, especially when hashtags and an embedded link can consume up to 30% of your message in a tweet. No wonder, most B2B organizations don’t want sales guys tweeting – as they are rarely thrifty with their words and hardly ever get to the point in a succinct manner. But I kid, my sales brethren!

In any event, to illustrate this marketing enigma, I went and pulled some of my recent tweets relating to my publishing efforts on LinkedIn to let readers decide how they stack up:

June 13, 2014 – We hold these truths to be self-evident that all searches are created = but some have a right to be forgotten http://linkd.in/1kRkPJz

July 24, 2014 – Content is in the eye of the beholder, but content marketing is in the hands of curator and distributor! #B2B http://linkd.in/1udxkoT

August 12, 2014 – Top 10 Ways for B2B Marketers to Succeed: the ABC and Moneyball Approach–nurture… don’t always be closing! ‪http://linkd.in/1kUPwjg 

August 18, 2014 – Top 10 Checklist for ‪#B2B to Acquire WMD–social media is not only about sharing but also social listening! ‪http://linkd.in/1sJ7Nm3 

November 24, 2014 – A brand by any other name… is not a brand! Your brand is also what people don’t say about you? ‪http://lnkd.in/dh8m7ia 

If readers click through to some of these very insightful articles, I think I might have just made my point. If not, I would have still made a point — some of my messaging in some of my tweets did not resonate with some people. But this is what the inbound marketing enigma is all about — sending the right message to the right person at the right time using the right medium. Maybe, Twitter is not everyone’s thing or maybe I need to keep at it. I haven’t seen the movie, “The Imitation Game” as yet, but if any B2B marketer has cracked the Twitter enigma with a 100% success rating, I’d love to hear from them.

Happy Holidays!

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A brand by any other name… is not a brand!

brandsjarWe all love Shakespeare’s romantic lament, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Yes, true, but a brand by any other name, not so much! But I digress and will return to this metaphor later. So what better way to discuss branding than to see what some of the world’s greatest brands’ creators/owners/managers have to say about the subject? As a business school graduate (Columbia Business School, Class of 1991), I would like to begin with a trip down memory lane and pay obeisance to Kellogg Professor Philip Kotler, whose Marketing Management 101 branding principle still resonates:

“The art of marketing is the art of brand building. If you are not a brand, you are a commodity. Then price is everything and the low-cost producer is the only winner.”

It should come as no surprise then that the name behind the world famous Trump brand, which everyone knows is far from a low-cost one, is often credited for saying, “If your business is not a brand, it is a commodity.” That adaptation of Kotler’s quote just seemed to fit “the Donald” better – he plays it like his “Trump card,” if you will?

Foremost among The Marketing Id’s lessons in communications… “the medium is the message” stands out! Wikipedia has this to say about the subject, “‘The medium is the message’ is a phrase coined by Marshall McLuhan meaning that the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived.” Kotler’s message somehow seemed to embed itself in Donald Trump and it is now generally perceived as his. Such is the power of the brand.

Jeff Bezos, creator of that monster Internet brand, Amazon is quoted as saying, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Again, true, but your brand is also what some people don’t say about you – because of any or all of the fear, power, monopoly, etc. associated with your brand. Just maybe, Amazon is turning into a “bully brand” as its recent clashes with eBook publishers seem to indicate? Per a recent CNet report, “The back and forth with Hachette may have damaged Amazon’s public image, said BCG analyst Colin Gillis. ‘People associate with authors,’ he said. ‘It’s good that it was resolved, but we’ll see if hardcore readers see Amazon in a different light.’”   Amazon must realize that when your supply chain issues start adversely impacting your customer, your brand starts getting impacted as well.

Mark Cuban, my favorite entrepreneur on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” provides this wise counsel, “Focus on building the best possible business. If you are great, people will notice and opportunities will appear.” This is especially true when it comes to brand building, which is an adjunct to building the business; it is a labor of love that accumulates over time. There are simply no short cuts to building a good and sustainable brand name – it takes a lot of time and effort, no matter what.

Then there are brands that get cultivated over time due to a business enterprise’s performance and growth, but are subsequently sustained more on the business owner’s personality and reputation. The aforementioned Trump brand is a classic example. However, Rupert Murdoch, Chairman of both, News Corporation and 21st Century Fox, is a better example of a personality-driven brand in this regard. It used to be almost impossible to find any news item for the old News Corporation that was not preceded by Mr. Murdoch’s name, as in, “Murdoch’s News Corp.” So much so, that Mr. Rupert Murdoch himself has said, “For better or for worse, our company is a reflection of my thinking, my character, my values.” The caveat, of course, is will the brand endure once the personality is no longer associated with the business?

The answer to that question might lie in Starbucks, the company that made premium priced coffee a ubiquitous brand. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld often joked about its “Four Bucks” brand of coffee that was pioneered by Chairman and CEO, Howard Schultz, a strong personality but one who professed a simple philosophy, “If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.” Mr. Schultz sure got that right because there are no fiercely loyal customers that are more faithful than Starbucks customers, of which yours truly happens to be one. As that wise old sage, Warren Buffett, remarked, “Your premium brand had better be delivering something special, or it’s not going to get the business.” Starbucks has been getting my business almost exclusively for over fifteen years, as it clearly does from millions of other loyal customers.

For The Marketing Id’s final thoughts on brand, I would like to quote British fashion designer, Ozwald Boateng, who had the best take on what really makes a brand, “You can’t have style if you don’t have substance.” That says it all, but I must return to how I began this dissertation on branding. My article is titled, “A brand by any other name… is not a brand!” for a good reason. It harks back to The Coca-Cola Company’s infamous, albeit, short-lived 1985 effort to rebrand its signature “Coke” as a “new Coke” that included a change (yes, in substance and style) in its 99-year old formula. The new Coke brand failed miserably, even though “A Coke by any other name, New Coke, tasted even sweeter!” The company learned very quickly (79 days, to be precise) that its established Coke brand just did not translate to another brand name – old, in this case, was truly gold – and Coca-Cola classic has since endured. Purists might argue that Coca Cola classic was a rebranding as well, but in the customer’s mind it was a return to the old brand (and its proven 99-year old formula), which is what really mattered. This goes back to Mr. Boateng’s point about substance – Coca Cola went back to the substance that had made the Coke brand so stylish.

All that said many iconic brand names have disappeared over the years as Fortune magazine reminds us in this recent article. At the end of the day, a business may die but its associated brand name can live on in our memories forever – such is the power of a brand!

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