Successful Endeavours - Electronics Designs That Work!

Introducing Andrew Walla

This is a guest blog article from Andrew Walla who is working with us and an expert in Radio Frequency Engineering (RF), particularly focusing on small form factor Antennas. So the emphasis is on compact antennas which fits in with our recent emphasis on the Internet of Things (IoT).

Andrew Walla

Andrew Walla

A couple of other caveats. Notable omissions include the pioneering works of Faraday, Orsted and Gauss. For those wanting to dig deeper, the first wireless transmission was by Loomis in 1866, long before Hertz‘ formal experiments were published. The history of wireless television, the Internet and more complex antenna arrangements such as phased arrays has largely ignored in order to keep this brief. And like Analog Electronics , RF and Antennas are a specialised area that is not easy to understand.

And for those who would like to be able to visualize what the final paragraph below means, this animated GIF might help.

Dipole transmitting antenna

Dipole antenna transmitting

The History of Antennas

In his seminal 1864 paper [1], James Clerk Maxwell presented a set of twenty equations (condensed into a set of four vector equations by Oliver Heaviside in 1888 [2]). In this work, Maxwell predicted the existence of electromagnetic waves; a phenomenon which would later be experimentally verified by Heinrich Hertz in a series of papers published in the late 1880s [3].

Guglielmo Marconi was influenced by such findings and worked to extended the field of research; he successfully demonstrated the ability of electromagnetic waves to transmit information over large distances in 1895 and in 1901 he was the first to wirelessly transmit information across the Atlantic Ocean [4]. While Marconi’s research focussed on transmitting information in the form of Morse code, Reginald Fressenden took the challenge upon himself to utilise this technology to transmit the human voice, a challenge which he successfully conquered in 1900 [5]. In 1920, the world’s first commercial radio station began operation (although the title of ‘first commercial radio station’ is contested by many scholars on the basis of differing criteria being used to define the title). This was followed by a rapid spread in radio broadcasting throughout the world in the 1920’s and 1930’s [6, 7].

In the century to follow came television, paging, mobile telephones and wireless internet. The number of wirelessly communicating devices deployed in the world now exceeds the world population [8]. More than one billion such devices are being produced each year and the rate of production is growing [9]. All these devises have an essential element in common that enables their functionality, the antenna.

An antenna is a device to transform a guided wave (a signal inside the circuitry of an electronic device) into a radiated wave (electromagnetic radiation propagating through space). From Maxwell’s equations, we know that an alternating current will emit radiation. We also know that an electromagnetic field will induce a current in a wire. The purpose of an antenna is to act as a transducer between the wireless device and surrounding space, ensuring that the transformation between electromagnetic waves and circuit currents occurs with the desired level of efficiency [10, 11].

References below will assist with further research of this topic.
[1] J. C. Maxwell, “A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field,” Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London, vol. 155, pp. 459-512, 1865.
[2] O. Heaviside, “The electro-magnet effects of a moving charge,” The Electrician, vol. 22, pp. 147-148, 1888.
[3] H. Hertz, Electric Waves, London: Macmillan, 1893.
[4] G. C. Corazza, “Marconi’s history,” Proceedings of the IEEE, vol. 86, no. 7, pp. 1307-1311, 1998.
[5] J. S. Belros, “Reginald Aubrey Fessenden and the birth of wireless telephony,” IEEE Antennas and Propagation Magazine, vol. 44, no. 2, pp. 38-47, 2002.
[6] W. J. Severin, “Commercial vs. non-commercial radio dring broadcasting’s early years,” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, vol. 22, no. 4, pp. 491-504, 1978.
[7] J. E. Baudino and J. M. Kittross, “Broadcasting’s oldest stations: An examination of four claimants,” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 61-83, 1977.
[8] GSMEA Intelligence, “GMEI 2017 Global Mobile Engagement Index,” GMSA Intelligence, London, 2017.
[9] T. Nguyen, J. T. McDonald and W. B. Glisson, “Exploitation and Detection of a Malicious Mobile Application,” Proceedings of the 50th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, 2017.
[10] A. K. Skrivervik, J. -F. Zürcher, O. Staub and J. R. Mosig, “PCS Antenna Design: The Challenge of Miniaturization,” IEEE Antennas and Propagation Magazine, vol. 43, no. 4, pp. 12-27, 2001.
[11] S. M. Wentworth, Applied electromagnetics: early transmission lines approach, John Wiley, 2007.

Andrew Walla, RF Engineer, Successful Endeavours

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Manufacturing Profits you can retire on

I was talking with one of our past clients a little while ago. They told me they had a problem. They said, “Ray, I nearly retired“! So I asked them what that meant. And they explained.

We had developed a product for them a decade ago. The total project cost then around $50,000 as it included both the product Electronics Design, Embedded Software and also the Automated Test Equipment (ATE) for Production Test which also had an Electronics Design, Embedded Software and Windows PC ATE Software component to it. And from that product they made nearly $2,000,000 in retained profit. From their perspective, nearly enough to retire on. And since they own the company it is theirs to distribute as they please. Now they wanted to do it again. So we are onto another very exciting Product Development for them. Can’t say any more about that yet.

So I though about the value proposition here. The maths says:

2,000,000 / 50,000 = 40:1 Return On Investment (ROI).

And that ignores the total value of the economic activity and profits their suppliers and customers have made.

Return On Investment (ROI)

Return On Investment (ROI)

Manufacturing Spearheads Economic Growth

The Victorian Government estimates that every $1 spent with a business like Successful Endeavours, there is $100 of overall economic value generated for the state. Makes you wonder why they don’t invest themselves? They used to through things like the Technology Voucher Program but all of that is currently shut down.

And of course there are the jobs this generates. Again, Victorian Government estimates are that every job in manufacturing creates another 5 jobs around it in the supply chain and supporting businesses. That is the highest ratio of any industry.

So what’s not to love about Australian Manufacturing! Let’s look at the benefits:

  • creates fundamental value (so the service sector has something to leverage off)
  • creates jobs and then more indirect jobs than any other industry so it is great for employment
  • creates profits

And far from being in decline, the Australian Manufacturing PMI has been in growth most of the past  2 years so that is also really positive for the overall economy. Check out he graph below from the Australian Industry Group (AIG).

Australia Manufacturing PMI 2015-2017 shows growth the whole way

Australia Manufacturing PMI 2015-2017 shows growth the whole way

The above graph was created by Trading Economics. They provide a a useful way to use the AIG Australian Manufacturing PMI figures to get reports in the format you want. If you explore it more deeply, you can see that we took a hit to Australian Manufacturing during the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) but it has been an upward trend from then on.



Go Australian Manufacturing!

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

5G for IoT

Thanks to the team at VDC Research who compile some very useful information on Embedded and IoT (Internet of Things) trends. It is free to join and the deal is that you contribute to their surveys in order to get access to some reports for free. They also do detailed reports for business purposes which are available for purchase.

VDC Research

VDC Research

The following 5G IoT Infographic was put together by them to show the progression of 5G cellular or Mobile Communications in terms of its impact in the Embedded Systems and IoT space. If you click on it you will get a cleaner version to look at and you’ll probably want to zoom in a bit.

5G IoT Infographic

5G IoT Infographic

I was interested to see that there are still no fully confirmed standards for 5G. And my previous post on Cellular IoT Communications shows this to be a trend where NB-IoT is still being ratified even though there are chip sets on the market. It is also sobering to think about where all the data will get stored as devices running Gb/sec data streams will have to be sending it somewhere. Big Data keeps getting bigger.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

LPWAN = Low Power Wide Area Network

LPWAN is typically thought about as cellular data networks but that involves a contradiction since cellular and low power are inherently in conflict with each other. For instance, a standard 3G or 4G cellular modem will have a peak current draw of up to 2A during transmission and needs to be carefully power managed if running from batteries. This has meant that a 10 year operating life from a primary cell battery either needs a huge primary cell or very infrequent communications. So what are the alternatives?

In IoT Versus M2M we looked at how the real benefit of IoT (Internet of Things) is that rather than a single Machine to Machine link being established, there are now multiple devices connected via shared web services and their combined data is being used to create extra value, and particularly if Big Data analytics is added to the mix.

SigFox Logo

SigFox Logo

LoRa Alliance

LoRa Alliance

There is also a lot of potential disruption in this. LoRa and SigFox are both looking to provide lower cost networks to replace dependency on cellular network operators for coverage and also address the power consumption problem. There is an excellent comparison of these 2 systems in SigFox versus LoRa. And both are trying to disrupt existing cellular network providers. An overall view at available at NB-IoT versus LoRa versus SigFox.


Which introduces Narrow Band IoT or NB-IoT as it is now commonly abbreviated to. Just to continue the confusion of acronyms, it is also called CAT-NB and CAT-NB1. There is a detailed view of this technology and its likely long term adoption at NB-Iot is dead – Long live NB-IoT.

The summary is that NB-IoT is too late to market and requires too much equipment changeover to win the early adopter market, especially in the USA, but will win in the long term. In the interim there is a host of other options also being developed. The cellular network operators have realised, at least 5 years too late, that their business and technology models were both under attack simultaneously. This is a particularly dangerous form of disruption.

Hardware is now becoming available and China adoption of NB-IoT makes them the  main early adopter market.


Quectel BC95 NB-IoT Module

Quectel BC95 NB-IoT Module

u-blox SARA-N2 NB-IoT Module

u-blox SARA-N2 NB-IoT Module

Low Power Cellular

So if up until now, low power and cellular were not usually compatible concepts, what is changing to address that?

To reduce power consumption, you have to have one or more of the following:

  • reduce transmit power
  • increase receiver sensitivity
  • reduce transmit duration
  • increase transmit interval
  • reduce network registration time
  • reduce data rate

Some of these can be mutually exclusive. However the key elements that are working together is to reduce the data rate and use a modulation scheme that means the transmitter power can be reduced. LoRa does this very well and NB-IoT is looking to achieve a similar thing. There are trade-offs and the lower data rate for NB-IoT means it is best suited to very small packets. CAT-M1 will require less power for larger packets because the faster data rate means the transmit time is a lot shorter.

Low Cost Cellular

So we have looked at the power consumption angle. How about cost and business model. And there are 2 aspects to cost. There is the hardware cost and there is a the network operations cost. To reduce cost you have to do one or more of the following:

  • reduce silicon and software protocol stack complexity
  • high volume production allows economies of scale for hardware
  • increase the number of channels available in the network
  • increase the number of simultaneous connections in the network
  • reduce margins

Both SigFox and NB-IoT aim to make the end device hardware cost as low as possible. In the case of NB-IoT and CAT-M1 the channel bandwidth can be reduced and so the same bandwidth can support multiple devices instead of just one. The power level in the device transmitter is reduced by reducing the bandwidth and data rate. As an example, a CAT-M1 module has a peak transmitter current draw of 500mA which is a factor of 4 lower than CAT-1. So low cost and low power can go together very well.

The graph below shows how the various cellular standards relate to each other.

Cellular IoT standards and how they relate

Cellular IoT standards and how they relate

IoT Deployment Options

We have been using standard 3G/4G Cellular modems for our broadly distributed IoT offerings. As of the end of this month, we ship our first CAT-1 based offerings. These have the advantage of supporting both 4G with fall back to 3G. Although NB-IoT hardware is available now from both Quectel and u-blox, the networks in Australia don’t yet support it. And while NB-IoT is ideal for fixed location assets, we also do mobile systems so these need to be CAT-M1 once it is available.

CAT-M1 is expected to be available in Australia on the Telstra network around September 2017. I am also taking this as meaning that NB-IoT is 2018 or possibly even longer. So we plan to move to CAT-M1 as soon as it is available. The modules are expected to be available about the same time as the network upgrades.

Here are some CAT-1 and CAT-M1 offerings from Quectel and u-blox.

Quectel BG96 CAT-M1 Module

Quectel BG96 CAT-M1 Module

Quectel EC21 CAT-1 Module

Quectel EC21 CAT-1 Module

The Quectel EC21 is what we are deploying in our units later this month.

u-blox LARA-R2 CAT-1 Module

u-blox LARA-R2 CAT-1 Module


u-blox SARA-R404M CAT-M1 Module

u-blox SARA-R404M CAT-M1 Module

IoT Network Upgrades

Ericsson have announced the roll out plans for the Telstra Network CAT-M1 capability.

And Telstra have announced their own Telstra IoT Network Plans.

This is the overall Telstra road map. Summary:
CAT-1 now
CAT-M1 by September
NB-IoT sometime after that but no dates yet

Other carriers will follow although Vodafone are well placed to introduce NB-IoT first as they have Software Defined Radio base stations from Huawei and so can roll it out as a software update.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Connect Expo

the Connect Expo is on each year around late March in Melbourne at the Exhibition and Convention Centre. I had gone to previous events but this was our first time as an exhibitor.

Connect Expo - Successful Endeavours

Connect Expo – Successful Endeavours

This was by far the best Connect Expo I have been to. The mix of software vendors, web platform vendors, component suppliers and specialist IT vendors was excellent and there was also a specific section for eHealth. We set up our own IoT Platform demonstration with a QR code you could scan with a phone and take you to a webpage showing real time (less than 5 second delay) updates to the status of a device on the stand. A simple demo of the Internet of Things in action.

We will definitely be going again next year.

A really good trend I noticed was several Software Testing companies represented in the mix. Testing to confirm software is working correctly is a very important part of delivering a high quality product and it was good to see this coming through at the industry level.

We also shared the stand with Minnovation who do data science and analytics so it was also good to see how rapidly that area is expanding.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Software Costing

There is an old saying that goes something like this: “hardware is almost free and comes from China; but software is actually free and comes from India”. Actually not such on old saying, and certainly not true. But we do see signs of this myth being alive and well when providing project pricing and estimates for new clients. I covered some of this in Software Estimation.

Software Estimation

Software Estimation

This was about how to try and work out a Software Development Budget in advance. Including forgetting that the entire Software Development Process involves more than just typing. So is it possible to know what it really  costs from real world (non-imaginary) data?

Software Cost

The answer is that it is. My thanks got to VDC Research who recently did a survey of Embedded Developers and made the data available to subscribers of The Embedded Muse, a software development newsletter authored by Jack Ganssle. If you develop software, especially for Embedded Systems, I recommend you sign up if you aren’t already a subscriber.

Jack Ganssle

Jack Ganssle

Here is a summary of some statistics that gave me insights into real Software Development Costs.

Average Median
Project Team Members 19 7
Project Cost $27,000,000 $250,000
Lines of Code 627,000 20,000

So that is a big spread. Our projects are often below the median level shown here so I was interested to work out what these statistics translate to in cost. The $ are all USD$. And the large lines of code average probably represents larger projects using a major Operating System such as Linux as part of the project.

Cost per team member Cost per line of code
Average $1,421,052 $43.06
Median $35,714 $12.50

My first thought is that we don’t charge enough if these are industry typical figures. A bit more thinking shows the process costs of much larger systems. As far as I know there would be few software developers actually getting $1M for their part in the project. And there will be tools costs also included. The statistic missing for me was the duration the money was spent over. We typically budget $5 per line of code for larger projects (20K lines is a decent sized project for a small embedded system) and $2.50 for smaller ones (say 5K lines of code of less).

So there you have a really rough way of estimating cost based on Lines of Code and number of Software Developers involved.

The above is a very small example of the data collected by VDC Research so consider signing up if you want to see all of it.

Software Lines of Code

Software Lines of Code, or LOC, is only one measure of a project. There is much more to consider. We had a recent project where we were asked to fix 50K lines of code for a product that was proving unreliable. So I ran RSM over the top of it to get the average Cylcomatic Complexity and got 6.2! Those who know what that means probably have no idea how you could write code that hard to debug. And no, it wasn’t lots of switch statements. So is the correct answer $250K at $5 per line of code for a complete rewrite?

The answer is a resounding “NO”!

And the reason is because we redesigned the control flow and changed the UI to a table driven design and reduced a spaghetti mess of 50K lines of code down to 10K lines of cleanly designed code. Which is a budget more like $50K. In this case, it was much more cost effective to redesign from scratch than to try and rescue it. We also fixed the hardware design as that was in part responsible for the unreliability.

So the other answer is that good requirements analysis and good design will reduce Software Cost.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Power Supply Specification

The idea for this post came from a discussion in IEEE Collabratec on how to design a Power Supply. The question of how to design a Power Supply seems innocuous enough until you really start to think back on past Power Supply designs. I was originally concerned that this was a student wanting someone else to do their coursework assignment for them but the discussion progressed into something quite useful. Here is what I posted after getting the following specification:

  • Output Voltage: -300VDC
  • Output current: 0.5-20mA
  • Tolerance: 30Volts
  • Input Voltage: 220-240 AC
Power Supply

Power Supply

Analysing Requirements

Hi …

is this project part of your course work?

The reason for this question is that the intent of coursework is to help you come to grips with what you are being taught and learn it from a practical perspective as well. Among other things, this helps a lot with retention.

I run a company that designs products for other people. I only employ graduate engineers who have demonstrated the capacity (though their academic results) and inclination (through their having done their own projects and learned how to use the teaching they have received) to do engineering and to be capable of quickly learning all the things they can’t teach in a course.

So if it is coursework, what subject is it part of?

Because if they want you to design a switching mode power supply, that is very different to an AC rectified transformer design.

You also need to be careful with a design assignment like this (coursework or a product that will be manufactured) because it is capable of killing you if you don’t use good safety practices.

I’ll assume your tolerance figure is +/-30V = +/-10% of -300VDC. So the voltage at its maximum excursion from 0V could be -330. And the maximum current is 20mA. This is 6.6W of power so it will get hot. And again, there is enough voltage to kill you.

If it is for a commercial product, then there are usually other constraints. Here are some of the questions I would be asking:

  • The input voltage range is specified as 220VAC to 240VAC but it is normal to allow for short term transients. So does the output voltage have to be clamped during mains transients?
  • Is soft start required?
  • How quickly must it respond to load transients?
  • What is the load and how much does it vary?
  • Does the input stage need to be designed so that it keeps harmonics and power factor under control (this is a legal requirement for some product types)?
  • Is there a maximum size?
  • What is the design life and/or MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure)?
  • Is fan forced convection allowed, and if so, is that even a good idea because of the MTBF or because it goes inside a sealed cabinet)?
  • What is the maximum temperature rise allowed on any of the outside surfaces?
  • What type of connections for the input and output voltages?
  • What has to happen if the output goes short circuit or open circuit (you had a minimum current of 0.5mA so is there a minimum external load and what is allowed to happen if that isn’t there)?
  • What is the environmental specification (0->70C, -20->85C, -40->85C etc)?
  • Is there a manufactured cost target?
  • Do you have to simulate it only, or are you building one and proving the performance?
  • Are there any special safety or EMC compliance requirements for this application?

And there are lots of other questions like this for a real product design.

So regardless of the reason for the design, understanding the intent of the exercise is important to delivering a satisfactory outcome.
This is one of the reasons engineering is not easy. We create the future. Others say that as well. But we also create the infrastructure and products that make a more advance future possible. And there are always lots of constraints.

I hope that has maybe encouraged you to think a bit deeper about the question. It is unlikely you will solve a problem you don’t fully understand. And an answer you don’t work through for yourself will probably not expand you understanding.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Making Music is Creative

Making music is a creative process. At every level. There is not only composing and playing, but there is the instruments themselves and also how we record and play back music. Technology and creativity abound at every level.

I’m a musician. That is how I ended up in Electronics Engineering. I even wrote a blog piece about how Music Electronics was where my passion for creating new electronics devices all began.

Miller Puckette

I learned something new this week about music creation. I use Ableton Live as my sequencer and it incorporates a product from Cycling 74 called MaxMax was created by Miller Puckette quite a while ago. So I see another soul keen to push the boundaries of what is possible and was fascinated to read his history. Everything from Teaching Music at UCSD to creating music software like Max in 1988, its successor starting around 1996 which is Pure Data, or Pd as it is usually abbreviated, and which was set up to be an open source project so others could contribute and it wasn’t locked down by commercial constraints like Max is.

Miller Puckette - musician and music technology creator

Miller Puckette

I was also pleased to hear that Miller Puckette continues to perform music. This is something I also enjoy.

The only way to understand what is possible with tools like Pd is to see it in action. Enjoy.

Did you notice that the player on the left is moving his hands on a cloth covered platform. This is being tracked by a camera and the hand movements are used to trigger notes and other controllers and effects. You can reach him at Jaime E Oliver and the cellist accompanying him is Michael Nicholas.


And if you found that interesting, then check out the concert video from PdCon16~ . That’s right, Pd has its own conference.

The first video has Miller Puckette as a contributor.

And the last one also has Miller Puckette as part of a duo. This is all very avant-garde yet the degree of expression possible is amazing.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Self Thinking Robots

Although that is what they are called, I’m not convinced it is actually thinking. It certainly wouldn’t pass the Turing Test. But I thought this showed a good comparison as to how far the state of the art has come.

Lets start off with a look at the very beginnings of software controlled autonomy.


Above we have the first Autonomous Robot, Shakey, that could learn about its surroundings and adapt. Today any Roomba or equivalent can do better. But this is the same time period as we first went to the moon. And I believe my wrist watch currently has more computing power in it than the whole of the 1960s possessed.


And below we have an example of the latest offerings from Boston Dynamics named Handle.

Quite a bit different in capability. This might still be a 1 word robot by name, but you can see a lot of possibilities that weren’t even on the radar back in 1968.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Good Marketing Generates Growth

This is part 2 of the SEBN (South East Business Networks) business breakfast held just before Christmas 2016. Here we have John Berenyi of Bergent Research sharing with us on how big a game changer good marketing can be. John is a registered psychologist with degrees in commerce and technology. He presented a series of ideas on good marketing and the profit improvements than can be achieved by using good marketing principles. This is an excerpt.

John Berenyi

John Berenyi

A bit of research shows this is a common presentation topic for John and one that has been requested Internationally so it is worth paying attention to what he says.

Game Changing Growth

Good Marketing delivers:

  • increased profits
  • reduced sales time
  • reduced costs

And how does this happen? By giving your buyers what they really want! Seems simple yet my experience is that this is not as simple as it sounds.

Because in our highly marketing driven environment there are fewer dollars left on the table, giving customers what they really want leads to them buying. And it also leads to a Value Monopoly.

Value Monopoly

Value Monopoly

Value Monopoly

Value Monopoly comes from:

  • Tight brand – build margin because you can sell at a premium Eg. Apple, Harvey Davidson, lego
  • Right communication – if you don’t do this you are wasting money
  • Emotional brand benefit
  • Rational brand benefit
  • Price kick
  • Real value

A good example is Harley-Davidson. They sell a Motor Bike. Or do they? Here is a quote from their head of marketing: “What we sell is the ability for a 43-year-old accountant to dress in black leather, ride through small towns and have people be afraid of him.

So the comment about selling what people really want comes in here. They don’t want just a motor bike. They want a motor bike with attitude. They want benefits beyond, speed, fuel consumption and reliability. In this case, image.

And there is a formula for this.

Value Monopoly = (pQ x Eb) / (P + rT)

Value Monopoly in Detail

Value Monopoly in Detail


  • pQ = perceived quality
  • Eb = ego boost
  • P = price
  • rT = relative time to acquire

So price is important but it is a long way from being the whole game. However if you are more expensive and can’t justify it, then you have a big issue. From the above you can see that reducing price only helps if they can get it quickly or either the perceived quality or ego boost go up. When did reducing price ever increase the ego boost or perceived quality?

So this is an interesting formula. You can increase your value monopoly mostly by increasing the perceived quality, increasing the ego boost associated with the product (for the buyer type), making it quicker to get, or making the price lower. Amazon have gone with the quick to get and lower price strategy. Most of the products aren’t theirs so they are stuck with the ego boost of the market, and the same goes for the perceived quality. So they have primarily tackled the terms on the bottom line. An exception is a product like the Kindle where they also went for perceived quality. So 3 of the 4 terms.

Back to price. On price you have these 5 buyer types:

  • Budget buyer
  • Negotiator
  • Specials junkie
  • Bang for buck with every feature
  • Dream buyer (their dream, not yours)

We are all like this but which type of buyer we are depends on the product category. Studies show that budget buyers are only 10% of the market. This also applies to your customers. So again, just selling on price is a mistake unless it is that 10% you are specifically going after.

But how do you find out what type of buyer each prospect is?

Here is where the problem comes from when you try to find out what type of buyer you are dealing with:

  • They don’t know
  • They can’t tell you because they don’t have the language / concept
  • They won’t tell you because they are either embarrassed or have some other reason

Ultimately, if you understand what your customers really want and can communicate what you offer so they get it, then you will sell a lot more of the same product. But you will also need to look at understanding what they really want, and not just what they say they want.

Here is a list of recurring reasons for buying a house:

  • Make my sister really jealous
  • Prove to mum and dad that I’m responsible
  • Prove how successful we’ve become
  • Let me be popular for once
  • Make my family love me
  • Show my life’s work is worth something
  • I want to feel in control
  • Keep my marriage together
  • Prove emigration was good idea

As a real estate agent, it would be helpful understand the current buyer so you can offer them something they want. But they are unlikely to be open about it up front. And to everyone wants to be sold to the same way. We all have a disposition in how we are sold to. Not everyone wants their agent to be their best friend. Not everyone wants efficiency. Here is an example of some ways people think about the salesperson they want to deal with.

Buying Disposition

Buying Disposition

All of the above fits my concepts of good marketing. So lots of stuff to think about there. I hope you found this helpful as you are considering how best to navigate 2017.

My thanks go to John Berenyi for making his slide deck available from the morning. Most of the graphics came from that.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

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