One of the unique things about Idea Spring, is that although we're dedicated to helping small business with their branding and marketing, our roots in technology and engineering means that we're always keeping on top of the latest trends. Our tech-geek background is sometimes applied directly, for example when we're working with technology-product manufacturers.  But it also means we're keeping up-to-date on technology trends that impact small business, especially when it comes to marketing and automation.

Our current tagline is "Building Brands that Matter", but it used to be "Making enterprise tools, technology, and techniques feasible for small business."  Although we've changed our tagline, the commitment and passion for technology hasn't stopped. In fact, we pride ourselves in being able to deliver big-business services in a way that makes sense for smaller businesses and budgets.

In the early days of the Internet the amazing result was that for the first time, small businesses could compete with big business on a "level playing field."  Unfortunately, that didn't last too long.  Sure, slower moving big businesses took some time to move, but those early days are gone. Now, small businesses must compete for the same attention-diluted-and-advertising-weary audience as larger businesses with larger budgets.

We are staying up on Internet of Things (IoT) including Industrial IoT (IIoT) and the movement of technology at the edge, and "fog computing" in addition to the rapid growth of Cloud computing and Microservices architecture - something I didn't see called out on the Forrestor report, but an approach that I believe is a game changer in how new cloud services will be designed and launched in the future. We are also continuing to dive deeper into deep learning and neural networks, and the integration of learning software in automation. 

Although we like to geek-out on the technology itself, we are always looking at how to apply that technology in ways that can help small businesses do more with less.  Of course, some of the technologies are still early in their adoption lifecycle, but we're excited about the direction. 

Here are the technology trends released by Forrester which will help you maximize the value of business technology during 2018-2020.

Read the full article at:

The Kano Model as a Means of Individual and Brand Culture

The Kano Model is a theory of defining what customers value in a product or service. It is “complex” but not “complicated” in that it ultimately stems from first understanding “simple” expectations of the customer.

Some of the basic elements of the Kano Model include:

· Delight Features: Features that are not expected and that when successfully delivered can exponentially increase the customer’s perception of the brand, product, or service.

· Performance Features: The features that are expected to perform in a way that provides a competitive advantage, or why the customer selected the product over a competitive product.

· Minimum Features: These are minimum expected features, the lack of which can exponentially decrease the perceived value of the brand, product, or service.

· Undesired Features: While not common, these are features whereby their existence would lead to negative perception — that is the customer does not want these features to be present.

“There is a scientific and mathematical approach to engaging with customers to understand subjective desires and shape overall product and service direction.”

So, how does all this relate to individual team members and overall brand culture?

The Kano Model contains factors that not only encompass the product and service features — but *how* successfully those products and services are delivered. The same factors of delight, performance, minimum, and undesired can be mapped to the physical interaction with our brand in the delivery of the products or services.

“Given the importance of customer service and customer engagement, as leaders we should also work to define those brand and team member attributes which contribute to success.”

Other aspects of the Kano Model is that it can be used to help define and prioritize new products and services that should be offered by the brand. There is a scientific and mathematical approach to engaging with customers to understand desires and shape product and service direction. Given the importance of customer service and engagement, as leaders we should also work to define those brand and team member attributes which contribute to success.

What are the minimum expectations of the brand and team as it relates to the customer experience? What can be done to provide a competitive advantage? And what would our engagement look like if we really wanted to generate delight? And what should we *not* be doing? These subjective qualities can also be mapped to customer satisfaction surveys. We also develop and use associated metrics to reward employees and team members for performance that delights our customers.

5 Digital Marketing Trends That Will Disrupt Your Business

The social and mobile web are transforming business models. Here are 5 digital marketing trends that will disrupt your business:

Sourced through from:

At Idea Spring we've found three main issues common to most organizations:

  1. Not enough time
  2. Not enough resources
  3. Frustration from rapid change

Online marketing seems to hit almost all of those categories.

Today, it takes  diverse skillets to launch, run, and manage effective marketing campaigns.  And just as you've tuned your marketing strategy, and everything is humming along -- the rules suddenly change.  What worked as a best practice yesterday, could tank your results tomorrow.

Since marketing and marketing automation are no longer just something the "big businesses" do... it is something that everyone needs. I'd even argue that is more true for the small businesses and solo-entrepreneurs. Marketing automation is vital for companies with limited time and resources.

Idea Spring has worked with a number of the leading platforms, and our consensus is that it's really a function of finding the right tool for the right job.  However, none of the platforms are a good choice if you don't have a solid marketing and content strategy developed first.

The more integrated the platform, the less agile those systems are at dealing with both strategic and technological change. That's why our platform takes a modular approach to content management and automation. We look at the functionality of each component and wire them together to build the right solution based on budget and need. As the technology or rules change, we can then substitute for a different individual tool instead of the entire system.

As a result, our tip to anyone needing to maximize time and resources, and considering making the important move to marketing automation -- the best first investment you can make is to start with your marketing strategy and content strategy.  Finally, when you know your game plan, you find the right platform.

Effective marketing strategies all have one thing in common: it starts with knowing what your audience really cares about and making your messages relevant.

Read the Full Article Here: Know Thy Audience: Relevancy and Marketing Strategies

The latest Idea Spring post on Marketing Matters. Discussing the importance of relevancy in improving marketing effectiveness.

Marketing Differentiation Strategies

The old cliche “Do what you love, and the money will follow.” is well known, but often ignored for various reasons. After all, for a long time the definition of success was to get an education, get a good job, and raise a family. Of course very few people finish the end of that story, which is apparently to keep raising your family, showing up at work until you retire and eventually die.  No wonder so many people live life wondering, “Is this all there is?”

The millennial age and the ‘gig economy era have started to push-back on those ideas. Beyond pushing back, they break the doors wide open with new opportunities to reinvent the meaning of success and earning a living. Many millennials are forgoing the traditional paths, and focusing on jobs and careers that align with their core values. If you are one of the estimated 80% of people dread going to work each day, now is the perfect time to rethink your career and profession. Why do I know it’s the right time? Because there is no guarantee of how many tomorrows you will have, so the best time to start doing what you love is always now.

So what does this have to do with marketing differentiation strategies?

Simon Sinek’s popular TED talk about the “Golden Circle” and “Start with Why” puts it this way:

People don’t buy what you do - they buy why you do it. The goal is not to do business with everyone who needs what you have -- the goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe… The goal is not to hire people who need a job, the goal is to hire people who believe what you believe.

Marketing differentiation strategies are extremely important for all businesses. The need to clearly define points of differentiation is especially true if you are in a profession where the average consumer (and sometimes the professionals themselves) view the services as a commodity. Where the perception is that one professional is likely as good, or as bad, as another. This often occurs in industries that are heavily regulated and uniform, like financial services, real estate, and insurance industries.

I was once advising a newly launched wealth management and financial advisory firm on some marketing concepts related to differentiation and relevancy. One of the advisors said, “Well… it’s different in our industry because what we offer is really a commodity.”  Let me just jump ahead a bit, and tell you that if you view what you do as a commodity -- you are in the wrong business.

So how does one develop a marketing differentiation strategy in a market where everyone is seemingly doing the same things, bound by the same regulations, where there is ubiquitous access to the same information, or regulated pricing?  The answer will be different for each person or firm.

Another question that Simon Sinek poses in his talk is, “Why do you get up out of bed every morning, and why should anyone care?” The first part of the question, why you get up out of bed every morning, is really asking “What do you believe?” Since people don’t buy what you do, they buy what you believe, knowing what you believe will help you articulate why you do what you do.

So the more regulated or uniform the industry, the more your points of differentiation will need to reflect who you are, and why you do what you do. Those beliefs in turn will shape your company culture, and impact the experience the customer has at every point of contact. From your marketing materials, your website, and most importantly what clients tell others when referring your business.

The second part of the question about why you get out of bed every morning, is “why should anyone care?” This question really speaks to the importance of being relevant to your target audience. Remember,  the goal isn’t to offer your services to everyone who needs it, but to offer your services to those who believe what you believe.  One of the hardest lessons I had to learn was how to walk away from clients who did not believe what we believe. In fact, it has become so part of our values, that our home page leads off with why we do what we do.

Next, your messaging needs to clearly communicate how that differentiation will directly benefit your audience.  In today’s digital marketing world, there is an ever increasing scarcity of time, so marketing differentiation strategies needs to be increasingly targeted (to the right audience) and increasingly relevant (explicit in how their lives will be improved.)

Videos To Help Kick-Start your Marketing Differentiation Strategies

There is so much more to this line of marketing philosophy. Below are some great videos I’ve compiled to kick-start your thinking about how you can differentiate by thinking about why you do what you do, and thinking about how you shape your business based on that.  I recommend watching the videos with an open mind.  After all, the issue might not be differentiation, it might be finding a different path altogether and redefining your definition of success.

Start With Why - Simon Sinek

Do What You Like, Like What You Do - Bert Jacobs

Have the balls to follow your dreams - Diana David