Marketing is the wide range of activities involved in making sure that you’re continuing to meet the needs of your customers and getting value in return. Marketing is usually focused on one product or service. Thus, a marketing plan for one product might be very different than that for another product. Marketing activities include “inbound marketing,” such as market research to find out, for example, what groups of potential customers exist, what their needs are, which of those needs you can meet, how you should meet them, etc. Inbound marketing also includes analyzing the competition, positioning your new product or service (finding your market niche), and pricing your products and services. “Outbound marketing” includes promoting a product through continued advertising, promotions, public relations and sales.
A public relations has the goal of attaining and maintaining accord with the social groups on whom the organization depends in order to achieve its mission. Marketing has the goal of attracting and satisfying customers on a sustained basis in order to achieve an organization’s economic objectives. Every organization therefore needs both a marketing and a public relations functions. They are equally important to organizational survival and success.
PRIME FACETS OF MARKETING
Before discussing the role of public relations and marketing it is necessary to understand the prime facets of marketing. Public relations is more than just pitching stories to the media or mailing out press releases. The PR umbrella covers a number of related activities, all of which are concerned with communicating specific messages to specific target audiences. If you’re the PR person at your company, you’re responsible for managing communications between your company and your public.
The label public relations typically encompasses the following facets:
You have to thoroughly understand not only your company but also your customers and potential customers. What do you offer that is unique or special? What are customers looking for? And how well do you fill those needs? Market research and an internal company audit are the starting points of successful PR campaigns.
Merchandising is the methods, practices, and operations used to promote and sustain certain categories of commercial activity. The simplest way to define merchandising is to say that it is the way a product is sold. From the time a product is created, there will be people developing part of that product’s merchandising plan. The type of packaging, colors, and slogans are all part of this process. Later on, it will be which stores will carry it, where the product is placed in the store aisles, and how the retail store will promote the product that become important factors in the process. Products need to be visible if the store expects people to buy them.
A product will be merchandised to a target audience, or the people most likely to purchase the goods and services being offered. Merchandising assures that the right product is available in the right place to the right people, and at the right time. It wouldn’t make sense to have a huge stock of turkeys, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pies in July, but it makes a lot of sense in November, when customers are looking to buy those things.
Merchandising is more complicated than just figuring out where to put products on store shelves. It involves a lot of careful planning. Order too much of an item, and it might spoil or go out of style before it is sold out, wasting money. Order too little of an item, and people will buy it elsewhere once you have sold out, costing you sales. A merchandiser has to be knowledgeable about statistics, good at math, and have a keen eye for details to be successful in the field.
The paid, public, non-personal announcement of a persuasive message by an identified sponsor; the non-personal presentation or promotion by a firm of its products to its existing and potential customers. From a sales point of view a good advertisement whether it is on radio, television, or in print, should always seek to:
- Attract attention of the people
- Arouse curiosity about the product in people’s mind
- Convey a message about the features of the product
- Implant in the target’s mind a wish to own or use the product
- Persuade the target’s buying responses by convincing him or her that the commodity is good worth for the money he or she is spending on it.
The systematic planning, implementation and control of a mix of business activities intended to bring together buyers and sellers for the mutually advantageous exchange or transfer of products.
Advertising is a single component of the marketing process. It’s the part that involves getting the word out concerning your business, product, or the services you are offering. It involves the process of developing strategies such as ad placement, frequency, etc. Advertising includes the placement of an ad in such mediums as newspapers, direct mail, billboards, television, radio, and of course the Internet. Advertising is the largest expense of most marketing plans, with public relations following in a close second and market research not falling far behind.
The best way to distinguish between advertising and marketing is to think of marketing as a pie, inside that pie you have slices of advertising, market research, media planning, public relations, product pricing, distribution, customer support, sales strategy, and community involvement. Advertising only equals one piece of the pie in the strategy. All of these elements must not only work independently but they also must work together towards the bigger goal. Marketing is a process that takes time and can involve hours of research for a marketing plan to be effective. Think of marketing as everything that an organization does to facilitate an exchange between company and consumer.
The term Sales Promotion generally refers to all those promotional activities which are undertaken to stimulate interest, trial or purchase of a product by the end user or other intermediaries in between. Besides advertising and personal selling, all other activities undertaken to promote a product can be classified under sales promotion. Sales promotion includes several communications activities that attempt to provide added value or incentives to consumers, wholesalers, retailers, or other organizational customers to stimulate immediate sales. These efforts can attempt to stimulate product interest, trial, or purchase. Examples of devices used in sales promotion include coupons, samples, premiums, point-of-purchase (POP) displays, contests, rebates, and sweepstakes.
Sales Promotion Strategies
There are three types of sales promotion strategies: Push, Pull, or a combination of the two.
Push Strategy: A push strategy involves convincing trade intermediary channel members to “push” the product through the distribution channels to the ultimate consumer via promotions and personal selling efforts. The company promotes the product through a reseller who in turn promotes it to yet another reseller or the final consumer. Trade-promotion objectives are to persuade retailers or wholesalers to carry a brand, give a brand shelf space, promote a brand in advertising, and/or push a brand to final consumers. Typical tactics employed in push strategy are: allowances, buy-back guarantees, free trials, contests, specialty advertising items, discounts, displays, and premiums.
Pull Strategy: A pull strategy attempts to get consumers to “pull” the product from the manufacturer through the marketing channel. The company focuses its marketing communications efforts on consumers in the hope that it stimulates interest and demand for the product at the end-user level. This strategy is often employed if distributors are reluctant to carry a product because it gets as many consumers as possible to go to retail outlets and request the product, thus pulling it through the channel. Consumer-promotion objectives are to entice consumers to try a new product, lure customers away from competitors’ products, get consumers to “load up” on a mature product, hold & reward loyal customers, and build consumer relationships. Typical tactics employed in pull strategy are: samples, coupons, cash refunds and rebates, premiums, advertising specialties, loyalty programs/patronage rewards, contests, sweepstakes, games, and point-of-purchase (POP) displays.
Selling is last step in the chain of commerce where a buyer exchanges cash for a seller’s good or service. In business, “nothing happens until someone sells something.” Selling is trying to make sales by persuading someone to buy one’s product or service. From a management viewpoint it is thought of as a part of marketing, although the skills required are different. Sales often forms a separate grouping in a corporate structure, employing separate specialist operatives known as salesmen (singular: salesman). Selling is considered by many to be a sort of persuading “art”. Contrary to popular belief, the methodological approach of selling refers to a systematic process of repetitive and measurable milestones, by which a salesman relates his or her offering of a product or service in return enabling the buyer to achieve their goal in an economic way. While the sales process refers to a systematic process of repetitive and measurable milestones, the definition of the selling is somewhat ambiguous due to the close nature of advertising, promotion, public relations, and direct marketing.
PUBLIC RELATIONS IN THE MARKETING MIX
Public Relations involve developing and maintaining congenial relationships with clients and other outside entities. Public Relations is a significant component of the marketing mix of an organization. Recent years have seen the emergence of service paradigm in a big way. In such a scenario, Public Relation assumes significance in bringing a well conceived marketing effort to final result. Advertising is so often “in your face” and those of us that are interested are normally aware of a company’s advertising campaigns, but how often are we familiar with the associated public relations activities?
Marketing basically focuses on products (or services), and their price, promotion and place (distribution.) These collectively are known as the marketing mix or “the four P’s”. Britain’s first professor of public relations suggested that added to the classic four Ps of marketing should be for P for perception and this is where PR would come in.
It is sometimes said that public relations is new, as if it had been invented during the last few years or since the second world war, or just this century. In countries, such as Botswana, which have gained their independence during the last thirty years, public relations may well seem new.
Perhaps the reason why there is a mistaken idea that public relations is something new, is because in recent years we have enjoyed so many new ways of communicating. Before the advent of newer techniques such as television, videos and satellite broadcasting, a vital part was played by press, radio and cinema. It has, as a result, become both easier and more necessary to explain and create understanding about so many more topics as the target audience becomes ever larger. Today more than ever, public relations has to deal with the facts as they are – good, bad or indifferent and in that sense public relations has to be as new as the world in which it operates.
Let us be clear about the meaning of public relations. Basically, public relations is about creating understanding through knowledge, and this often involves effecting change. Public relations is therefore a form of communication. It applies to every sort of organisation, commercial or non commercial, in the public or private sector. Public relations comprise all communications with all the people with whom the organisation has contact.
Public relations should be to the marketing practitioner, an integral part of the marketing mix, and for this to be the case, the confusion as to its role, as oppose to that of advertising, needs to be clarified.
One definition of advertising is as follows “Advertising presents the most persuasive possible selling message to the right prospects for the product or service at the lowest possible price.” Advertising presents this message through the creative skills of copywriting, illustration, layout, typography, scriptwriting and video making based on a theme or “copy platform”. The emphasis is on selling, which differs very much from the public relations role of “informing, educating and creating understanding through knowledge.”
There is however a major relationship between advertising and public relations in that advertising is more likely to succeed when prior public relations activity has created knowledge and understanding of the product or service being promoted. This is sometimes better known as market education and is a practical example of how public relations can help the marketing strategy. It is wise business practice for public relations to work with advertising, rather than relying solely on advertising to break into a new market or to introduce a new and unknown product or service. A number of new products have failed to sell simply, because there is no build up or market education and hence the advertising spend was a waste of money.
Public relations can almost be regarded as a bigger activity than advertising, because it relates to all the communications of the total organisation, whereas advertising, although it may cost more than public relations, is mainly limited to the marketing function. Public relations is certainly not free advertising, if done well, it is time consuming and time costs money. Whereas the cost of an advertisement is always known, the cost of securing editorial space or radio/TV air time is difficult to quantify but its benefit is often of great value.
Advertising may not be used by an organisation but every organisation is involved in public relations. For example a fire brigade does not advertise for fires or even advertise its services, but it does have relations with many publics.
Another difference lies in the finances of the two – advertising agencies usually receive their income from a commission based fee structure, with monies received being spent on media and production costs. Public relations companies however derive income from time and quality of work performed, with monies received being spent on staff salaries.
Public relations embraces everyone and everything, whereas advertising is limited to selling and buying tasks such as promoting goods and services, buying supplies and recruiting staff. Public relations has to do with the total communications of an organisation; it is, therefore, more extensive and comprehensive than advertising. On occasions public relations may use advertising, which is why public relations is neither a form of advertising or a part of advertising, but a misunderstood, crucial tool that cuts right across the marketing mix.
The 4 P’s of Marketing
The major marketing management decisions can be classified in one of the following four categories:
- Place (distribution)
These variables are known as the marketing mix or the 4 P’s of marketing. They are the variables that marketing managers can control in order to best satisfy customers in the target market. The marketing mix is portrayed in the following diagram:
The Marketing Mix
The firm attempts to generate a positive response in the target market by blending these four marketing mix variables in an optimal manner.
The first element in the marketing mix is the product. A product is any combination of goods and services offered to satisfy the needs and wants of consumers. Thus, a product is anything tangible or intangible that can be offered for purchase or use by consumers. A tangible product is one that consumers can actually touch, such as a computer. An intangible product is a service that cannot be touched, such as computer repair, income tax preparation, or an office call. Other examples of products include places and ideas.
Typically, a product is divided into three basic levels. The first level is often called the core product, what the consumer actually buys in terms of benefits. Next is the second level, or actual product, that is built around the core product. The actual product consists of the brand name, features, packaging, parts, and styling. These components provided the benefits to consumers that they seek at the first level. The final, or third, level of the product is the augmented component. The augmented component includes additional services and benefits that surround the first two levels of the product. Examples of augmented product components are technical assistance in operating the product and service agreements.
Products are classified by how long they can be used—durability—and their tangibility. Products that can be used repeatedly over a long period of time are called durable goods. Examples of durable goods include automobiles, furniture, and houses. By contrast, goods that are normally used or consumed quickly are called nondurable goods. Some examples of nondurable goods are food, soap, and soft drinks. In addition, services are activities and benefits that are also involved in the exchange process but are intangible because they cannot be held or touched. Examples of intangible services included eye exams and automobile repair.
Another way to categorize products is by their users. Products are classified as either consumer or industrial goods. Consumer goods are purchased by final consumers for their personal consumption. Final consumers are sometimes called end users. The shopping patterns of consumers are also used to classify products. Products sold to the final consumer are arranged as follows: convenience, shopping, specialty, and unsought goods. Convenience goods are products and services that consumers buy frequently and with little effort. Most convenience goods are easily obtainable and low-priced, items such as bread, candy, milk, and shampoo. Convenience goods can be further divided into staple, impulse, and emergency goods. Staple goods are products, such as bread and milk, that consumers buy on a consistent basis. Impulse goods like candy and magazines are products that require little planning or search effort because they are normally available in many places. Emergency goods are bought when consumers have a pressing need. An example of an emergency good would be a shovel during the first snowstorm of the winter.
Shopping goods are those products that consumers compare during the selection and purchase process. Typically, factors such as price, quality, style, and suitability are used as bases of comparison. With shopping goods, consumers usually take considerable time and effort in gathering information and making comparisons among products. Major appliances such as refrigerators and televisions are typical shopping goods. Shopping goods are further divided into uniform and nonuniform categories. Uniform shopping goods are those goods that are similar in quality but differ in price. Consumers will try to justify price differences by focusing on product features. Nonuniform goods are those goods that differ in both quality and price.
Specialty goods are products with distinctive characteristics or brand identification for which consumers expend exceptional buying effort. Specialty goods include specific brands and types of products. Typically, buyers do not compare specialty goods with other similar products because the products are unique. Unsought goods are those products or services that consumers are not readily aware of or do not normally consider buying. Life insurance policies and burial plots are examples of unsought goods. Often, unsought goods require considerable promotional efforts on the part of the seller in order to attract the interest of consumers.
Industrial goods are those products used in the production of other goods. Examples of industrial goods include accessory equipment, component parts, installations, operating supplies, raw materials, and services. Accessory equipment refers to movable items and small office equipment items that never become part of a final product. Office furniture and fax machines are examples of accessory equipment. Component parts are products that are turned into a component of the final product that does not require further processing. Component parts are frequently custom-made for the final product of which they will become a part. For example, a computer chip could be produced by one manufacturer for use in computers of other manufacturers. Installations are capital goods that are usually very expensive but have a long useful life. Trucks, power generators, and mainframe computers are examples of installations. Operating supplies are similar to accessory equipment in that they do not become part of the finished product. Operating supplies include items necessary to maintain and operate the overall firm, such as cleaners, file folders, paper, and pens. Raw materials are goods sold in their original form before being processed for use in other products. Crops, crude oil, iron ore, and logs are examples of raw materials in need of further processing before being used in products. The last category of industrial goods is services. Organizations sometimes require the use of services, just as individuals do. Examples of services sought by organizations include maintenance and repair and legal counsel.
The second element in marketing mix is price. Price is simply the amount of money that consumers are willing to pay for a product or service. In earlier times, the price was determined through a barter process between sellers and purchasers. In modern times, pricing methods and strategies have taken a number of forms.
Pricing new products and pricing existing products require the use of different strategies. For example, when pricing a new product, businesses can use either market-penetration pricing or a price-skimming strategy. A market-penetration pricing strategy involves establishing a low product price to attract a large number of customers. By contrast, a price-skimming strategy is used when a high price is established in order to recover the cost of a new product development as quickly as possible. Manufacturers of computers, videocassette recorders, and other technical items with high development costs frequently use a price-skimming strategy.
Pricing objectives are established as a subset of an organization’s overall objectives. As a component of the overall business objectives, pricing objectives usually take one of four forms: profitability, volume, meeting the competition, and prestige. Profitability pricing objectives mean that the firm focuses mainly on maximizing its profit. Under profitability objectives, a company increases its prices so that additional revenue equals the increase in product production costs. Using volume pricing objectives, a company aims to maximize sales volume within a given specific profit margin. The focus of volume pricing objectives is on increasing sales rather than on an immediate increase in profits. Meeting the price level of competitors is another pricing strategy. With a meeting-the-competition pricing strategy, the focus is less on price and more on nonprice competition items such as location and service. With prestige pricing, products are priced high and consumers purchase them as status symbols.
In addition to the four basic pricing strategies, there are five price-adjustment strategies: discount pricing and allowances, discriminatory pricing, geographical pricing, promotional pricing, and psychological pricing. Discount pricing and allowances include cash discounts, functional discounts, seasonal discounts, trade-in allowances, and promotional allowances. Discriminatory pricing occurs when companies sell products or services at two or more prices. These price differences may be based on variables such as age of the customer, location of sale, organization membership, time of day, or season. Geographical pricing is based on the location of the customers. Products may be priced differently in distinct regions of a target area because of demand differences. Promotional pricing happens when a company temporarily prices products below the list price or below cost. Products priced below cost are sometimes called loss leaders. The goal of promotional pricing is to increase short-term sales. Psychological pricing considers prices by looking at the psychological aspects of price. For example, consumers frequently perceive a relationship between product price and product quality.
The third element of the marketing mix is place. Place refers to having the right product, in the right location, at the right time to be purchased by consumers. This proper placement of products is done through middle people called the channel of distribution. The channel of distribution is comprised of interdependent manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers. These groups are involved with making a product or service available for use or consumption. Each participant in the channel of distribution is concerned with three basic utilities: time, place, and possession. Time utility refers to having a product available at the time that will satisfy the needs of consumers. Place utility occurs when a firm provides satisfaction by locating products where they can be easily acquired by consumers. The last utility is possession utility, which means that wholesalers and retailers in the channel of distribution provide services to consumers with as few obstacles as possible.
Channels of distribution operate by one of two methods: conventional distribution or a vertical marketing system. In the conventional distribution channel, there can be one or more independent product manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers in a channel. The vertical marketing system requires that producers, wholesalers, and retailers to work together to avoid channel conflicts.
How manufacturers store, handle, and move products to customers at the right time and at the right place is referred to as physical distribution. In considering physical distribution, manufacturers need to review issues such as distribution objectives, product transportation, and product warehousing. Choosing the mode of transportation requires an understanding of each possible method: rail, truck, water, pipeline, and air. Rail transportation is typically used to ship farm products, minerals, sand, chemicals, and auto mobiles. Truck transportation is most suitable for transporting clothing, food, books, computers, and paper goods. Water transportation is good for oil, grain, sand, gravel, metallic ores, coal, and other heavy items. Pipeline transportation is best when shipping products such as oil or chemicals. Air transport works best when moving technical instruments, perishable products, and important documents.
Another issue of concern to manufacturers is the level of product distribution. Normally manufacturers select from one of three levels of distribution: intensive, selective, or exclusive. Intensive distribution occurs when manufacturers distribute products through all wholesalers or retailers that want to offer their products. Selective distribution occurs when manufacturers distribute products through a limited, select number of wholesalers and retailers. Under exclusive distribution, only a single wholesaler or retailer is allowed to sell the product in a specific geographic area.
Promotion is the fourth element in the marketing mix. Promotion is a communication process that takes place between a business and its various publics. Publics are those individuals and organizations that have an interest in what the business produces and offers for sale. Thus, in order to be effective, businesses need to plan promotional activities with the communication process in mind. The elements of the communication process are: sender, encoding, message, media, decoding, receiver, feedback, and noise. The sender refers to the business that is sending a promotional message to a potential customer. Encoding involves putting a message or promotional activity into some form. Symbols are formed to represent the message. The sender transmits these symbols through some form of media. Media are methods the sender uses to transmit the message to the receiver. Decoding is the process by which the receiver translates the meaning of the symbols sent by the sender into a form that can be understood. The receiver is the intended recipient of the message. Feedback occurs when the receiver communicates back to the sender. Noise is anything that interferes with the communication process.
There are four basic promotion tools: advertising, sales promotion, public relations, and personal selling. Each promotion tool has its own unique characteristics and function. For instance, advertising is described as paid, non-personal communication by an organization using various media to reach its various publics. The purpose of advertising is to inform or persuade a targeted audience to purchase a product or service, visit a location, or adopt an idea. Advertising is also classified as to its intended purpose. The purpose of product advertising is to secure the purchase of the product by consumers. The purpose of institutional advertising is to promote the image or philosophy of a company. Advertising can be further divided into six subcategories: pioneering, competitive, comparative, advocacy, reminder, and cooperative advertising. Pioneering advertising aims to develop primary demand for the product or product category. Competitive advertising seeks to develop demand for a specific product or service. Comparative advertising seeks to contrast one product or service with another. Advocacy advertising is an organizational approach designed to support socially responsible activities, causes, or messages such as helping feed the homeless. Reminder advertising seeks to keep a product or company name in the mind of consumers by its repetitive nature. Cooperative advertising occurs when wholesalers and retailers work with product manufacturers to produce a single advertising campaign and share the costs. Advantages of advertising include the ability to reach a large group or audience at a relatively low cost per individual contacted. Further, advertising allows organizations to control the message, which means the message can be adapted to either a mass or a specific target audience. Disadvantages of advertising include difficulty in measuring results and the inability to close sales because there is no personal contact between the organization and consumers.
The second promotional tool is sales promotion. Sales promotions are short-term incentives used to encourage consumers to purchase a product or service. There are three basic categories of sales promotion: consumer, trade, and business. Consumer promotion tools include such items as free samples, coupons, rebates, price packs, premiums, patronage rewards, point-of-purchase coupons, contests, sweepstakes, and games. Trade-promotion tools include discounts and allowances directed at wholesalers and retailers. Business-promotion tools include conventions and trade shows. Sales promotion has several advantages over other promotional tools in that it can produce a more immediate consumer response, attract more attention and create product awareness, measure the results, and increase short-term sales.
Public relations is the third promotional tool. An organization builds positive public relations with various groups by obtaining favorable publicity, establishing a good corporate image, and handling or heading off unfavorable rumors, stories, and events. Organizations have at their disposal a variety of tools, such as press releases, product publicity, official communications, lobbying, and counseling to develop image. Public relations tools are effective in developing a positive attitude toward the organization and can enhance the credibility of a product. Public relations activities have the drawback that they may not provide an accurate measure of their influence on sales as they are not directly involved with specific marketing goals.
The last promotional tool is personal selling. Personal selling involves an interpersonal influence and information-exchange process. There are seven general steps in the personal selling process: prospecting and qualifying, pre-approach, approach, presentation and demonstration, handling objections, closing, and follow-up. Personal selling does provide a measurement of effectiveness because a more immediate response is received by the salesperson from the customer. Another advantage of personal selling is that salespeople can shape the information presented to fit the needs of the customer. Disadvantages are the high cost per contact and dependence on the ability of the salesperson.
For a promotion to be effective, organizations should blend all four promotion tools together in order to achieve the promotional mix. The promotional mix can be influenced by a number of factors, including the product itself, the product life-cycle stage, and budget. Within the promotional mix there are two promotional strategies: pull and push. Pull strategy occurs when the manufacturer tries to establish final consumer demand and thus pull the product through the wholesalers and retailers. Advertising and sales promotion are most frequently used in a pulling strategy. Pushing strategy, in contrast, occurs when a seller tries to develop demand through incentives to wholesalers and retailers, who in turn place the product in front of consumers. Promotion decisions involve advertising, public relations, media types, etc.
The following table summarizes the marketing mix decisions, including a list of some of the aspects of each of the 4Ps.
- Marketing Mix Decisions
- List price
- Channel members
- Channel motivation
- Personal Selling
- Market coverage
- Public Relations
- Leasing options
- Service levels
Need of Marketing Manager
Now a days its can be seen that more and more South African technology companies are recognizing the need to employ marketing managers at a senior level within their organizations. Although this trend is increasing, it is interesting to note that, in South Africa, we lag behind the US and European countries in which over 90% of ICT (Information Communication and Technology) companies have some form of marketing representation at board level. This stems from a lack of understanding about what the role of a marketing manager should be, how to select the appropriate candidate and how to measure and reward this person.
Many companies consider the marketing manager to solely be a link between its advertising and public relations agencies and in most cases the marketing department exists in isolation from the rest of the company. In reality, marketing is key to the success of the business and it should form an integrating role with the company’s organisational structure.
The most valuable asset a company can manage is its customer base. Growing the value of this asset – the customer equity value – has a direct correlation to the creation of shareholder wealth. Consider who in your organisation has the responsibility for this critical function. It is not unusual to find this responsibility falling under the sales manager or split across various members of the board, but arguably this function requires a skilled, dedicated and focused resource. That resource should be the marketing manager, and due to the importance of this position this person should be part of, or report directly to, the board of directors.
What are the roles and responsibilities of the marketing manager? Firstly this person has to analyze information. This data can be created internally (sales and financial reports, product information etc.) or externally (primary or secondary market research data, competitive information etc.). Given this responsibility, it would be expected that the incumbent would have knowledge of statistical analysis and be able to interpret the results in a business context. Next, the marketing manager should be able to produce a marketing plan. This plan is central to and representative of the strategic future direction of the company. The plan then needs to be implemented which requires the coordination, project management and control of various programs. The marketing manager also needs to be involved in setting price levels, promoting the products and services and identifying and managing the distribution channels. In addition, this person needs to be able to form creative ideas that support the marketing processes. All of these activities need to be completed to achieve the organisational objectives. Thus the role of the marketing manager is a little more important than that of just liaising with advertising and public relations agencies.
The internal integration of the marketing department with those of other company functions is key to the success of the implementation of the company’s strategic plan. One of the most important relationships is with the sales department. The sales team is a great resource for market intelligence, since they interface with the customer on a daily basis. They tend to know better than anyone in the organisation about customer satisfaction, the customer’s needs, wants and expectations and what the competitive environment looks like. Yet, in most businesses, not only do the marketing and sales departments communicate very little, but also it is unfortunately commonplace that the sales staff does not know the direction set by marketing. In theory, the sales function is a sub-component of marketing and therefore it is suggested that the sales manager should report to the marketing manager. This would ensure consistency of all customer related activities. It is also critical that the marketing manager interfaces with his counterparts in finance, operations and manufacturing.
We can see that the specification for the marketing manager suggested, is perhaps a little different than exists in most companies in South Africa today. This individual needs to be creative, analytical, communicative, numerical and have leadership qualities. He or she will have had at least 4 or 5 years experience in a senior position and will probably hold a post-graduate qualification with an element of marketing theory training.
Specific objectives must be set for the marketing manager. These should be related to sales volume, market share and profitability. Other goals should be those of customer satisfaction, customer loyalty and product penetration. All of these should be consistent with the company’s strategic objectives, yet specific enough to enable the board to monitor performance over time. Given the nature of the marketing manager’s responsibilities, it would be most appropriate to offer remuneration in the form of an incentive driven package. Care has to be taken not just to reward these individuals based solely on short-term performance. These policies may tend to discourage innovation, acceptance of risk and aggressive pursuit of growth for future returns. In the United States marketing executives tend to receive some kind of long term performance incentive tied to share price performance, share options or direct share allocation.
The environment in which we work is one of increasing competitiveness. Retaining the appropriate skills at a senior level in an organisation is imperative in ensuring the company’s continued success. A skilled and motivated marketing manager is a key component in this team and it is this person that should be responsible to drive growth and secure the long-term health of the organisation.
INTEGRATED MARKETING COMMUNICATION
Integrated Marketing Communications is a simple concept. It ensures that all forms of communications and messages are carefully linked together. At its most basic level, Integrated Marketing Communications as we’ll call it, means integrating all the promotional tools, so that they work together in harmony. Promotion is one of the Ps in the marketing mix. Promotions has its own mix of communications tools.
All of these communications tools work better if they work together in harmony rather than in isolation. Their sum is greater than their parts – providing they speak consistently with one voice all the time, every time. This is enhanced when integration goes beyond just the basic communications tools. There are other levels of integration such as Horizontal, Vertical, Internal, External and Data integration. Here is how they help to strengthen Integrated Communications.
Horizontal Integration occurs across the marketing mix and across business functions – for example, production, finance, distribution and communications should work together and be conscious that their decisions and actions send messages to customers. While different departments such as sales, direct mail and advertising can help each other through Data Integration. This requires a marketing information system which collects and shares relevant data across different departments.
Vertical Integration means marketing and communications objectives must support the higher level corporate objectives and corporate missions. Check out the Hall Of Fame later for more about missions. Meanwhile Internal Integration requires internal marketing – keeping all staff informed and motivated about any new developments from new advertisements, to new corporate identities, new service standards, new strategic partners and so on.
External Integration, on the other hand, requires external partners such as advertising and PR agencies to work closely together to deliver a single seamless solution – a cohesive message – an integrated message.
The many benefits of Integrated Marketing Communication are examined below:
Benefits of IMC
Although Integrated Marketing Communications requires a lot of effort it delivers many benefits. It can create competitive advantage, boost sales and profits, while saving money, time and stress.
It wraps communications around customers and helps them move through the various stages of the buying process. The organisation simultaneously consolidates its image, develops a dialogue and nurtures its relationship with customers. This ‘Relationship Marketing’ cements a bond of loyalty with customers which can protect them from the inevitable onslaught of competition. The ability to keep a customer for life is a powerful competitive advantage.
It also increases profits through increased effectiveness. At its most basic level, a unified message has more impact than a disjointed myriad of messages. In a busy world, a consistent, consolidated and crystal clear message has a better chance of cutting through the ‘noise’ of over five hundred commercial messages which bombard customers each and every day.
At another level, initial research suggests that images shared in advertising and direct mail boost both advertising awareness and mail shot responses. So Integrated Marketing Communication can boost sales by stretching messages across several communications tools to create more avenues for customers to become aware, aroused, and ultimately, to make a purchase
Carefully linked messages also help buyers by giving timely reminders, updated information and special offers which, when presented in a planned sequence, help them move comfortably through the stages of their buying process, and this reduces their ‘misery of choice’ in a complex and busy world.
Integrated Marketing Communication also makes messages more consistent and therefore more credible. This reduces risk in the mind of the buyer which, in turn, shortens the search process and helps to dictate the outcome of brand comparisons. Un-integrated communications send disjointed messages which dilute the impact of the message. This may also confuse, frustrate and arouse anxiety in customers. On the other hand, integrated communications present a reassuring sense of order.
Consistent images and relevant, useful, messages help nurture long term relationships with customers. Here, customer databases can identify precisely which customers need what information when and throughout their whole buying life. Finally, integrated marketing communication saves money as it eliminates duplication in areas such as graphics and photography since they can be shared and used in say, advertising, exhibitions and sales literature. Agency fees are reduced by using a single agency for all communications and even if there are several agencies, time is saved when meetings bring all the agencies together – for briefings, creative sessions, tactical or strategic planning. This reduces workload and subsequent stress levels – one of the many benefits of integrated marketing communication.
Barriers to integrated Marketing Communication
Despite its many benefits, Integrated Marketing Communications, or IMC, has many barriers.
In addition to the usual resistance to change and the special problems of communicating with a wide variety of target audiences, there are many other obstacles which restrict integrated marketing communication. These comprise: Functional Silos; Stifled Creativity; Time Scale Conflicts and a lack of Management know-how.
Take functional silos. Rigid organisational structures are infested with managers who protect both their budgets and their power base.
Sadly, some organisational structures isolate communications, data, and even managers from each other. For example the Public Relations department often doesn’t report to marketing. The sales force rarely meet the advertising or sales promotion people and so on. Imagine what can happen when sales reps are not told about a new promotional offer!
And all of this can be aggravated by turf wars or internal power battles where specific managers resist having some of their decisions (and budgets) determined or even influenced by someone from another department.
Here are two difficult questions – What should a truly integrated marketing department look like? And how will it affect creativity?
It shouldn’t matter whose creative idea it is, but often, it does. An advertising agency may not be so enthusiastic about developing a creative idea generated by, say, a PR or a direct marketing consultant.
Integrated marketing communication can restrict creativity. No more wild and wacky sales promotions unless they fit into the overall marketing communications strategy. The joy of rampant creativity may be stifled, but the creative challenge may be greater and ultimately more satisfying when operating within a tighter, integrated, creative brief.
Add different time scales into a creative brief and you’ll see Time Horizons provide one more barrier to integrated marketing communication. For example, image advertising, designed to nurture the brand over the longer term, may conflict with shorter term advertising or sales promotions designed to boost quarterly sales. However the two objectives can be accommodated within an overall integrated marketing communication if carefully planned.
But this kind of planning is not common. A survey in 1995, revealed that most managers lack expertise in integrated marketing communication. But its not just managers, but also the agencies. There is a proliferation of single discipline agencies. There appear to be very few people who have real experience of all the marketing communications disciplines. This lack of know how is then compounded by a lack of commitment.
For now, understanding the barriers is the first step in successfully implementing integrated marketing communication.
How do we communicate? How do customers process information? There are many models and theories. Let’s take a brief look at some of them. Simple communications models show a sender sending a message to a receiver who receives and understands it. Real life is less simple – many messages are misunderstood, fail to arrive or, are simply ignored. Thorough understanding of the audience’s needs, emotions, interests and activities is essential to ensure the accuracy and relevance of any message.
Instead of loud ‘buy now’ advertisements, many messages are often designed or ‘encoded’ so that the hard sell becomes a more subtle soft sell. The sender creates or encodes the message in a form that can be easily understood or decoded by the receiver.
Clever encoding also helps a message to cut through the clutter of other advertisements and distractions, what is called ‘noise’. If successful, the audience will spot the message and then decode or interpret it correctly. The marketer then looks for ‘feedback’ such as coupons returned from mailshots, to see if the audience has decoded the message correctly.
The single step model – with a receiver getting a message directly from a sender – is not a complete explanation. Many messages are received indirectly through a friend or through an opinion leader. Communications are in fact multifaceted, multi-step and multi-directional. Opinion leaders talk to each other. Customers talk to opinion leaders and they talk to each other. Add in ‘encode, decode, noise and feedback’ and the process appears more complex still.
Understanding multiphase communications helps marketers communicate directly through mass media and indirectly through targeting opinion leaders, opinion formers, style leaders, innovators, and other influential people. How messages are selected and processed within the minds of the target market is a vast and complex question. Although it is over seventy years old, rather simplistic and too hierarchical, a message model, like AIDA, attempts to map the mental processes through which a buyer passes en route to making a purchase.
There are many other models that attempt to identify each stage. In reality the process is not always a linear sequence. Buyers often loop backwards at various stages perhaps for more information. There are other much more complex models that attempt to map the inner workings of the mind.
In reality, marketers have to select communications tools that are most suitable for the stage which the target audience has reached. For example, advertising may be very good at raising awareness or developing interest, while free samples and sales promotions may be the way to generate trial. This is just a glimpse into some of the theory. Serious marketers read a lot more.
Despite the many benefits of Integrated Marketing Communications, there are also many barriers. Here’s how you can ensure you become integrated and stay integrated. Following are the few golden Rules of Integration.
- Get Senior Management Support for the initiative by ensuring they understand the benefits of integrated marketing communication.
- Integrate at Different Levels of management. Put ‘integration’ on the agenda for various types of management meetings – whether annual reviews or creative sessions. Horizontally – ensure that all managers, not just marketing managers understand the importance of a consistent message – whether on delivery trucks or product quality. Also ensure that Advertising, Public Relations, Sales Promotions staff are integrating their messages. To do this you must have carefully planned internal communications, that is, good internal marketing.
- Ensure the Design Manual or even a Brand Book is used to maintain common visual standards for the use of logos, type faces, colors and so on.
- Focus on a clear marketing communications strategy. Have crystal clear communications objectives; clear positioning statements. Link core values into every communication. Ensure all communications add value to (instead of dilute) the brand or organisation. Exploit areas of sustainable competitive advantage.
- Start with a Zero Budget. Start from scratch. Build a new communications plan. Specify what you need to do in order to achieve your objectives. In reality, the budget you get is often less than you ideally need, so you may have to prioritize communications activities accordingly.
- Think Customers First. Wrap communications around the customer’s buying process. Identify the stages they go through before, during and after a purchase. Select communication tools which are right for each stage. Develop a sequence of communications activities which help the customer to move easily through each stage.
- Build Relationships and Brand Values. All communications should help to develop stronger and stronger relationships with customers. Ask how each communication tool helps to do this. Remember: customer retention is as important as customer acquisition.
- Develop a Good Marketing Information System which defines who needs what information when. A customer database for example, can help the telesales, direct marketing and sales force. IMC can help to define, collect and share vital information.
- Share Artwork and Other Media. Consider how, say, advertising imagery can be used in mail shots, exhibition stands, Christmas cards, news releases and web sites.
- Be prepared to change it all. Learn from experience. Constantly search for the optimum communications mix. Test. Test. Test. Improve each year.
IMPACT OF THE INTERNET
In recent years, the Internet has evolved into a communication network that many individuals have come to rely on. Although most users of the Internet use it for e-mail, there are some professions that are strictly dedicated to the Internet. Web designers and Webmasters are just two examples. However, professional use of the Internet is not just limited to those whose livelihood depends on the Net, but many different types of professionals. The Internet is used as a promotional, advertising, educational, profitable, informational and entertainment tool just to name a few. As technology advances, so does the capability of the Net and its users are taking advantage of it.
Public Relations practitioners have turned to the use of the Internet in great proportions over the past several years since the Internet boom. The Net has become one of the most powerful public relations tools available. Many companies use the Internet to publish their press releases, introduce new promotions and provide promotional support. Online public relations can be used as a supplementary or main mode of communication to reach target audiences. It has been said by many professionals that a company will not survive without a link to the online world and without good public relations the link to the online world will not survive. The Internet allows a company to directly communicate with audiences from all over the world at the click of a mouse. It is cheap and it is fast. Companies love it. Consumers love it. Public Relations practitioners love it. With the growth of the Internet, companies have had to do a great deal more crisis management than before. The online community gives people an opportunity to communicate with each other about problems in a very lengthy, in-depth manner as opposed to through media circuits such as the newspaper, radio and television where the lines of communication were limited.
Recent years have seen the advent of numerous websites, internet mailing lists, and “e-zines” or electronic newsletters devoted to improving the practice of public relations. Practitioners can find a wide variety of resources for their own education, knowledge development, and professional networking. Perhaps one of the most popular forms of PR professional development and networking is the “listserve” or e-mail mailing list. There are so many mailing lists, forums, and message boards devoted to marketing, communications, and PR that each of us no doubt has a favorite.