The Brandeis GPS blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Marketing 101: What’s Push versus Pull?

By Steven Dupree

Fishing on Ashumet Pond is one of the most relaxing things in the world. But good luck catching anything! Unless you’re Kevin. Kevin loves fish, he wears fish shirts, he puts fish bumper stickers on his car. Kevin once researched whether a surplus of carbon dioxide causes cataracts in fish. And Kevin catches fish when he wants to.

The way I see it, there are two ways I can someday snag fish like Kevin (besides trading in my Brandeis mathematics degree for marine biology, of course):

  1. Improve fishing skill
  2. Add fish to pond

Step One: Pull

Hopefully, your product or service already has an audience out there. They’re looking for you. It’s your responsibility to make customer value as available as possible. Find prospects wherever they are and meet their demand.

When I worked at LogMeIn, we coined the term “active seekers” to describe this population. These are the hungry folk. The old lawnmower broke and they’re searching for “John Deere riding mower” so they don’t have to collect and dump lawn clippings.

Pull marketing starts with search-based advertising (Google Ads) but it doesn’t end there. If you offer a niche consumer product or a B2B product, there may be digital marketplaces or directories where you want to be. Signs for bananas where the monkeys are famished.

Pull marketing (alternatively known as inbound marketing, demand harvesting) has two advantages: it’s relatively cheap and it converts quickly. The primary drawback? You can do a limited amount of pull marketing before you hit some invisible wall.

Ok, let’s suppose I’ve practiced casting my fishing rod. I know how to tie a fly. But the fish still don’t bite! What now?

Step Two: Push

You may need to stock the pond.

If you’re solving a pain point that customers don’t even know they have, then you may not have much of an audience (yet). And even if they know the pain point all too well, your audience may have trouble discovering you if they are not searching.

Push marketing (alternatively known as outbound marketing, demand generation) includes the vast majority of online and offline media: newsletters, display advertising, Facebook ads, most social media, billboards, door hangers, and sides of buses…to name a few.

Why are there so many more channels for push advertising? After all, the unit economics are typically more expensive than pull advertising. It takes longer to convert dollars into customers due to that nuisance of “educating” the customer. Why not invest 100% in paid search? Well, you simply may not be able to.

Push marketing, in contrast to pull, is virtually unlimited. Advertisers desperately need customers, publishers will gladly take your money, and all the while your target audience will do whatever they feel like. Success depends on delivering the right message to the right customer at the right time. Good push marketing does just that.

One year, they stocked Ashumet Pond with extra trout. I’m still a novice fisherman but I managed to catch one or two.

If Pull and Push Don’t Work?

Even if your audience doesn’t know or care about your product or service, you mustn’t lose hope. It may be costly to acquire customers and difficult to demonstrate positive return-on-investment “ROI” in the early days. But it won’t always be this way.

Ask yourself: can an “active seeker” population develop as your early customers share their experiences with your product or service–thus enabling you to add pull marketing to your mix? Rising demand for your product or service generates inbound interest. This enables pull marketing and defrays your acquisition costs. 

Or: will it become prohibitively expensive to rise above the noise–as competitors enter and your target market evolves? Customer education is always an option, but it’s expensive. You can do as much push marketing as you need if only you have an unlimited budget. Success still depends upon how receptive customers are to the value you provide.

Rule of Thumb:

In marketing and fishing, as in skeet shooting: pull first, then push!

Steven Dupree is chair of the MS in Digital Marketing and Design program at Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies. In his day job, Steven is VP, Marketing at Amava, a platform helping active retirees find opportunities to earn, learn, travel and more. He has previously held investing and operating roles including VP, Marketing at SoFi, the first and largest provider of student loan refinancing, and VP, Online Marketing Operations at LogMeIn, an early software-as-a-service provider of remote access and collaboration tools. He mentors entrepreneurs for Endeavor Global and Reforge, and serves on the board of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies is committed to creating programs and courses that keep today’s professionals at the forefront of their industries. To learn more, visit www.brandeis.edu/gps.

Complement Coding with Community

By Patrick Masson

It may be the best time ever for open source development and developers: both are in high demand.

Large and small businesses now rely on open source software across the enterprise. Advocates tout open source as a competitive advantage for startups, and a key driver of innovation for established companies. Open Source Programs Offices are now standard across industries. Beyond business/corporations, governments and non-profits are also leveraging open source to reduce costs, extend services, and support their missions.

With such tremendous growth, open source developers are in high demand, and organizations are now working hard to attract and keep open source coders. It’s now common to find Developer Advocates working within companies to recruit and retain open source talent.

For emerging or competitive businesses hoping to leverage open source to enhance and expand their products and services as quickly as possible, the focus is on technology skills, for developers, the focus is also on technology because it pays.

Skilling up job seekers with the desired technologies has become a bit of a cottage industry. Dozens of “coding boot-camps” offer courses that claim to prepare students in as little as nine weeks. More formal programs are also available, some even offering college credits. All of these programs will vary in their quality and commitment to students. I am sure many schools offer excellent services and support to help people develop the skills they need to land the jobs they want.

But “open source technologies” is not enough: not enough for the companies that hope to realize the benefits of open source software projects and not enough for students seeking career advancement through open source development.

In addition to technology skills, companies and developers need community skills, like:

Communication
Open source software development is all about collaboration, contribution, and co-creation. To share, understand, and resolve issues, to design and develop features, and to report and fix bugs, developers must be able to effectively communicate (both verbally and in writing). Communication means explaining issues and ideas to the wide variety of stakeholders who might be involved in a project. Communication means advocating–even arguing–for ideas and ideals. Maybe most importantly, communication means listening. Communication is just one of the non-technical skills a developer will need, and a company will want.

Networking
Open source developers do not work alone, and open source projects are not build alone. Both companies and developers will need to find peers, identify experts, promote participation, and foster collaboration to ensure projects enjoy the greatest levels of success. No developer has all the talent; no company has all the resources. Filling the gaps of a company, developer, and project requires building communities of practice to leverage the powerful potential of the network effect. There are many ways to develop and maintain a network of practice: attending or host events or a conference; join or moderate a social forum; participate in a user-group, etc. None of these activities require those technical skills a developer or company may typically desire in a coding boot-camp, but building relationships is vital for the success of both.

Business Process and Practices
Many new to open source have an idealized impression of both project management and governance. Self-motivated, self-organized, and self-directed communities find consensus through shared values of “many eyeballs,” rapid feedback, meritocracy, etc. Such practices are indeed essential to, and in, open source communities and differ tremendously from traditional development environments. But they do have specific meanings, developed over years of practice, with expectations (even standards) shared across communities. Understanding community norms, best practices, references, standards, and the vernacular of open source software, development, and communities is critical.

Open source technology skills are vital for those looking to work in open source software, and they are critical for companies’ hoping to compete in today’s technology-driven economy. However, non-technical skills are just as necessary and should be included in anyone’s educational efforts toward a career or advancement in open source software development. When assessing coding schools, learners should consider how they will learn about and engage with non-technology skills. When considering developers for open source positions, companies should review applicants’ experience with non-technology skills.

And after both developers and companies are working together, all must keep up their technical and non-technical skills to ensure they remain productive participants in the open source projects and communities they both value and rely on so much.

<<Learn more about Open Source Technology Management>>

Patrick Masson is the  general manager and board director of the Open Source Initiative.

Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies is committed to creating programs and courses that keep today’s professionals at the forefront of their industries. To learn more, visit www.brandeis.edu/gps.

Student Spotlight: Carlos Garcia

Student Spotlight: Daniela Colon

What role does Design Thinking play in Learning Experience Design?

By Brian Salerno

Brian Salerno, Program Chair, Learning Experience Design at Brandeis UniversityIn recent years, Design Thinking techniques, developed and adapted by organizations such as IDEO.org and the Stanford d.School, have become increasingly popular approaches utilized to drive creative thinking and innovation within companies, non-profit organizations, governmental agencies, educational institutions, and other settings. These Design Thinking techniques include a variety of structured activities and approaches individuals or groups can engage in to inspire new creative innovations, to guide the ideation and problem-solving process, and to explore ways to implement new ideas.

<<Join Brian’s upcoming webinar: Diving into Learning Experience Design>>

Simultaneously, the discipline of Learning Experience Design has emerged as the latest evolution of instructional design. Inspired by and infused with approaches from user experience design (UX), learning and cognitive sciences, learning analytics, interface design (UI), universal design for learning (UDL), and educational technology, Learning Experience Design (or LX for short) is a design discipline that emphasizes creation of impactful learning experiences that place the learner in the center. Learning Experience Design requires that we understand the personal, educational, and even professional contexts within which our learners reside, and to create a learning ecosystem that supports the whole learner and their educational goals. Successful LX Designers understand that an effective learning experience is about more than just content and assessment, it includes the visual and experiential aspects of a learning environment, the analysis of the efficacy of learning resources, the social and emotional domains of learning, and the tools and processes learners engage with in order to achieve a transformational educational experience.

Niels Floor, a dutch educator who is credited as being one of the earliest proponents of the practice of LX Design, describes the Learning Experience Design process as starting with a question or learning problem that needs to be solved, and continues with extensive research about the learner and the desired learning outcome, then the process proceeds with the design phase which includes idea generation and the development of a concept. Once the concept is solidified, LX designers move on to the development phase where a prototype is created, then the testing phase allows designers to ensure the design is truly learner-centered. Finally, after some iteration and adjustment, the learning experience is ready to launch.

If you’re at all familiar with Design Thinking already, these steps of Floor’s LX Design process should resonate because they are very closely aligned to the Design Thinking model created by the Standford d.School, which includes the steps: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test.

Design thinking steps: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test

Source: dschool.stanford.edu

The “Empathize” step in the Design Thinking process closely aligns to the “Research” step in LX Design, as “Design” aligns with “Ideate”, “Prototype” with “Build”, and “Test” with (of course) “Test”. This alignment makes it easy for a Learning Experience Designer to draw upon a variety design thinking techniques to support their work building learner-centered educational experiences. Some of the Design Thinking techniques most commonly used by LX Designers include:

  • Persona development: researching and creating an aggregated and detailed profile of the learners likely to be engaged in the learning experience
  • Journey mapping: creating a framework to identify key interaction points in a learning experience.
  • Rapid prototyping: building a number of prototypes to help visualize what a learning experience will look and feel like when complete.
  • “How might we” ideation: a process for quickly brainstorming as many possible design solutions that you can in a finite period of time to foster creative thinking.
  • Piloting: a longer-term test of your learning experience design solution, to gather information about it’s effectiveness.

These are just a few examples of Design Thinking techniques that can be easily utilized by LX Designers to support the learning experience design process. All of this is simply to convey that while Learning Experience Design and Design Thinking are not the same thing, Design Thinking provides a toolbox that LX Designers can draw upon to support the research, ideation, prototyping, and testing processes necessary for creating deeply engaging, creative, and learner-centered educational experiences. Those of us who teach Learning Experience design as a discipline and utilize it’s methodologies in practice emphasize the importance of being responsive to the unique needs of the learner. Design Thinking provides LX Designers with several useful tools to aid in the creative problem-solving that makes learner-centered design possible.

Brian Salerno is the program chair of the Master of Science in Learning Experience Design at Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies. He is the Associate Director for Learning Design in the Center for Digital Innovation in Learning at Boston College.

Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies is committed to creating programs and courses that keep today’s professionals at the forefront of their industries. To learn more, visit www.brandeis.edu/gps.

Student Spotlight: Alex Kramer

Alex Kramer student spotlight

Top jobs for 2020 reveal demand for skills that may surprise you

LinkedIn released its third annual emerging jobs report last month, and, as expected, AI and automation technology will continue to drive job growth across the world. Here in the U.S., the top job trends reveal that data science, robotic software engineering and online learning are among the fastest-growing industries in 2020.

What may be more surprising is that the pervasiveness of automation will likely lead to an increase in demand for the soft skills that robots can’t duplicate. According to the report, “the future of the tech industry relies heavily on people skills” that are necessary to complement and grow new technologies. Companies will be looking for employees who can demonstrate competencies in management, collaboration/team-building, communication and other areas that are impossible to automate.

If you’ve decided to skill up in any of these areas this year, make sure you’re choosing opportunities that provide training in both hard and soft skills. Brandeis University offers online programs and courses that not only tie directly to today’s emerging industries, but also allow you to develop stronger communication and leadership capabilities. Areas of focus include:

Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies is committed to creating programs and courses that keep today’s professionals at the forefront of their industries. To learn more, visit www.brandeis.edu/gps.

Student Spotlight: Lily Gardner

Open source practitioners weigh in on new three-course professional specialization

This January, Brandeis University will launch the first phase of a three-course online professional specialization in Open Source Technology Management. The January course, The Business of Open Source, will cover the successful deployment of an engagement with open source production. 

OpenSource.com’s Don Watkins recently sat down with a cohort of practitioners behind the specialization, including Patrick Masson, general manager and board director of the Open Source Initiative; Carol Damm, director of programs and assessments at Brandeis University; Ken Udas, program chair of the Open Source Technology Management specialization; and James Vasile, Brandeis faculty.

An excerpt of that conversation is below. You can read the full article here.

Don Watkins: How will the course prepare students to successfully deploy open source software and effectively engage in open source production?

Patrick Masson, OSI general manager and board director: The OSI receives many questions from all sorts of organizations—companies, governments, non-profits—and individuals who are just beginning to explore open source software. Many of these inquiries share a few common themes around acquisition, implementation, support, and development, such as: How do we “buy” open source software, and where do we send the RFP? Do we need to hire a programmer if we use open source software? Will the open source project provide end-user or technical support?

The OSI hopes the courses can prepare students by introducing the business case for open source, including business models, the value proposition, organizational practices, and operational and community processes. There are actually three courses: The Business of Open SourceOpen Source Community Development, and Open Source Development Fundamentals.

DW: How will students be challenged to assess traditional organizational practices and measure their capacity to manage reform in light of the differences presented by open source? Can you teach open source? How do you assess community building? Can it be assessed?

James Vasile, Open Source Technology Management faculty: I don’t want to frame these classes as presenting an approach in opposition to traditional development models. Free and open source software (FOSS) is its own way of fostering technical collaboration. To think of it as “reform” or to define it in terms of other models is to miss the point. Open source strategies are useful, and they often appear right alongside other approaches.

Open source is a range of practices, a set of licenses, a diverse community, a strategic approach, and even an ethos. There’s no one thing to teach. Rather, it’s a whole field. Engaging that field can be useful if you know what you’re doing. Right now, the primary way people learn the field is by spending a decade contributing to open source efforts. We are distilling the lessons learned by many experienced practitioners and trying to help people climb the learning curve quicker.

Metrics are, of course, a huge topic in the FOSS world right now. There’s no one-size-fits-all way to measure or assess community health and growth. What we do have is a set of context-specific indicators that can fit narratives. These indicators tell you where to dig. You don’t know whether you’ve struck truth or not until you get below the surface.

Click here to register for the online course in the Business of Open Source

Meet the newest GPS student advisor

Paris Mansoor, student advisorParis Mansoor, our newest student advisor, recently joined Brandeis GPS from Wellesley College, where she served as Assistant Registrar. She brings a wealth of knowledge in higher education to the role, as well as a deep commitment to supporting students.

Read below to hear more about Paris’ professional background and personal interests, as well as the best piece of advice she received as a student.

Q: What led you to becoming a student advisor at Brandeis GPS?
A: When I graduated college, my first full-time job was as a financial advisor at Boston University (BU). Getting a taste of helping students made me realize very quickly that my life passion was in higher education. I really enjoyed advising students about policies and procedures and helping them navigate the system. My love of advising and assisting students continued throughout my career with most of my time spent as an assistant registrar at BU Dental School and at Wellesley College. I wanted to be a student advisor at Brandeis because I knew the role would allow me to have more direct involvement with students in working with them from the start of their program all the way to the end.

Q:  What is the best piece of advice that you received as a student?
A: The best advice I have ever received as a student was to take a challenging project/task and break it down into smaller tasks or pieces. Map it all out and work on each different piece on a set schedule. Continue working on each piece while still keeping in mind how it all fits together. Sometimes grouping similar tasks together is best and other times working on one piece at a time from start to end is the way to go. It’s like planting seeds all over your garden, but then watering and tending to each section as needed until you have a complete garden. I still use this advice everyday in my personal life and work.

Q: What would your ideal Saturday or Sunday look like?
A: My ideal Saturday would consist of having french pastries and yummy iced coffee in the early part of the day while spending time with my husband and son on a sandy beach. In the afternoon, I would watch my 9-year-old son play town/club soccer and then close out the day with a game of Monopoly with friends and family.

Q: What’s the most important thing that you want students to know about you?
A: I absolutely love advising and helping students. I am here for you, so don’t hesitate to reach out, ask questions or just simply say hello. I am looking forward to working with you and to being a part of your team to make your journey at GPS a success.

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