Term Paper: Blackboard, Inc. Marketing Plan

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Blackboard Inc. marketing plan

Blackboard Inc. is a software company focused on delivering high quality products that satisfy a wide array of customers. Their products and services mainly target students, teachers and universities and are aimed to facilitate the e-learning process. Aside from online learning, the Blackboard products are also used for online purchases and other e-commerce operations. However, the current marketing plan is focused on the learning features of the Blackboard products, represented by the Blackboard Academic Suite.

But in order to analyze the one particular product, emphasis must be placed on the current features and characteristics of the overall company, including its' vision, objectives, core competencies, human resource and financial highlights. The outside environment must also be analyzed in order to identify what defines the company's competition, social, political, technological and economic backgrounds and also the company's current and potential customers. Also, analyses have to be conducted as to better understand the manufacturer's internal strengths and weaknesses, along with the environment's opportunities and threats.

Further on, the emphasis will be placed on the product itself, through a detailed description of its unique features, its functionality, its price and the adherent promotion and distribution strategies. Once these elements are understood, the past financial highlights will be discussed, followed by projections for the future. In order to successfully market the Blackboard Academy Suite, the company has to possess a skilled marketing department to design and implement the stated strategies, which will be evaluated and controlled by the Blackboard management.

2. Company Description

Blackboard Inc. was founded in 199 in Washington DC; it operates in the electronics industry and it went public in 2004 (NADAQ: BBBB). Given that they are a relatively new public company on the stock market, Blackboard is committed to the highest quality of their financial and accounting reports, promoting integrity and high ethical standards. The key figures within the company are Chairman Matthew Pittinsky, President and CEO Michael L. Chasen, Chief Financial Officer Michael Beach and Chief Legal Officer Matthew Small.

Blackboard Inc. currently produces and markets six software applications grouped into two groups: The Blackboard Academic Suite and the Blackboard Commerce Suite. The Blackboard Academic Suite includes the following three applications: the Blackboard Learning System, the Blackboard Community System and the Blackboard Content System. Blackboard Transaction System, along with the Blackboard Community System and the Blackboard One are the remaining three applications that compose the Blackboard Commerce Suite.

The customers of the Group include colleges, universities, schools, other educational providers, textbook publishers and student-focused merchants. On 28 February 2006, the Group acquired WebCT. On December 31, 2006 the Group acquired more than 4,700 licenses of five software applications, in two suites and 3,400 clients in approximately 70 countries."

Customers of the e-learning and e-commerce systems manufactured and sold by Blackboard can choose between installing the application onto their own servers or installing it on the company's server. "As of December 31, 2006, approximately 87% of Blackboard Inc.'s installations were installed locally and approximately 13% were hosted by it."

However their existence is short, it has been marked by legal confrontations with other software companies. In all, Blackboard Inc. manufactures software applications that support the e-learning process. They sell their products worldwide, currently being present in over 70 countries. In 2006, the company operated with a total of 765 employees. Their financial highlights for fiscal year 2006 included:

Revenue: $183.06 million

Gross Profit: $128.38 million

Operating Income: -$11.83 million

3. Strategic Focus and plan

Mission/Vision

Blackboard Inc.'s mission is to enable educational innovations everywhere by connecting people and technology.

Blackboard Vision:

Our role is to improve the educational experience with Internet-enabled technology that connects students, faculty, researchers and the community in a growing network of education environments dedicated to better communication, commerce, collaboration and content.

Blackboard's large and diverse community of practice supports, enhances and extends our offerings every day, all over the world. The Internet offers great potential for education and the educational experience. While our role as the platform is important, communities of practice make the best solutions. The value of the network is connectedness. Each Blackboard client makes every other Blackboard client's solution more valuable as a result of that connection.

Goals

Blackboard Inc. has certain financial, strategic and individual goals. The financial goals "component is based on total revenues (30%), pre-tax earnings (40%) and contract value plus non-ratable deferred revenue (30%). Contract value is an estimate of annualized recurring ratable revenues under existing contracts with clients. The company strategic goals and individual goals components are based on criteria established by the Committee and the Board of Directors." All Blackboard goals are SMART in the meaning that they are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

The company's financial goals revolve around:

Increase total revenues from $183.06 million in 2006 to $339 million by 2010;

Increase gross profit from $128.38 million in 2006 to $140.00 million by 2010;

Increase the BBBB quotation on NASDAQ from $42.52 in November 9, 2007 to $60.49 in November 9, 2010

Increase customer palette and market share from 60% to 80% by 2010.

Product Improvement goals:

Increase Ease of Use by enabling meaningful adoption among both novice as well as advanced users

Create an Open Architecture and provide pedagogical and administrative flexibility through extensive API technology for clients and 3rd-party developer

Enterprise Technology - Enabling a mission critical e-Education operating environment that is reliable, scalable and interoperable with other key systems

Maximizing Value - Addressing client's goals while protecting previous technology investments and reducing burdens on precious administrative resources."

Other goals:

Increase investments in client support and services; the goals is to register 100% client satisfaction

Upgrade goal: "integrating the campuses through technology, better sharing and distribution of knowledge resources and enhancing learning opportunities for the more than 18,000 students and faculty at the institution."

Improve the quality and the interface of the Blackboard Academic Suite in order to make it more user-friendly study conduced at the Humboldt State University by professors Munoz and Van Duzer revealed that only 21.4% of the participating students prefer Blackboard; therefore the company's goal is to increase users' preference of Blackboard Academic Suite

Core Competency and Sustainable Competitive Advantage

Blackboard Inc.'s core competencies are those of a high quality of their products and services, combined with the usage of the latest technologies. "Blackboard has built core competency in continually delivering cutting edge software for the education industry and we will continue to do so for years to come."

The company's comparative advantage is represented by their large understanding of the business sector, understanding which led to several alliances with companies that produce and market complementary products and services. "Blackboard Inc. has entered strategic alliances with a few companies selected for their core competencies and shared vision of expanding the Networked Learning Environment. Providing complementary products or services or incorporation of the partner's products or services into our Blackboard's core system architecture is a key to a successful partnership and business outcome."

4. Situation Analysis

Blackboard's situation analysis revolves around the five major C's of any company's situation analysis: Company, Collaborators, Customers, Competitors and Climate. The Company component answers questions in regard to the organizational culture, its perception on the market, its objectives, products and services, the technologies used and the company's expertise in its work domain. The Collaborator component highlights any strategic alliances and the company's relationships with the distributors, purveyors and other intermediaries or partners. The Customers component answers questions in regard to Blackboard Inc.'s market share, segments, customer demands and behaviour. The fourth C. points out competitors' features and the level of threat they pose upon Blackboard. Finally, the Climate component, otherwise known as the PEST analysis, answers questions in regard to the political, economic, socio-cultural and technological environments.

Company

Blackboard Inc. produces software applications that ease the e-learning and e-commerce processes. The current plan is focused on the Blackboard Academic Suite

The Blackboard products are perceived as high technology software, with great potential, but with high prices that other competing products and with a less user-friendly interface

Blackboard uses Java programming language, and imports API packages into each other, instead of importing the packages into classes, the general procedure used by developers. The technologies used allow clients to host their applications on the company's servers or on their own servers. The main purpose of the technologies used by Blackboard is to improve the e-learning process. The technologies developed by the producer include: the Blackboard Learning System (TM), the WebCT Vista (TM) and the WebCT Campus Edition (TM). Other technologies used by Blackboard include.NET, Datatel, Macromedia, Oracle, Sun Microsystems

In the ten years since its foundation, Blackboard has gathered significant expertise in the e-learning and programming processes and has successfully managed to combine the two into the Blackboard Academic Suite

Blackboard is committed to its stakeholders and combines their personal goals with the company's organizational goals through actions that promote diversity, satisfaction and high ethics standards

Blackboard's main goals are those of expansion and growth through product improvement and increase of customer… [END OF PREVIEW]

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