For some of you Marketing was Advertising (or Selling, or Sales Promotion, or Public Relations) before you took this course. But perhaps by now you appreciate the complexity of the marketing process and understand the need for a thorough analysis of the market, the product/service you are offering, the price you can charge, and the most effective and efficient channels to use before you develop a communications strategy. As you’re aware by now, an important part of determining an overall marketing strategy is examining the communication process and developing a communications strategy. In consumer goods marketing many times it’s the most important marketing mix element. How can we go about understanding this vital marketing function?
First, we need to understand how communication works – it’s simple, but critical in designing effective promotional programs. Once this is understood we can examine the major steps in developing a total communication and promotion program. Here are the basics of what the marketing communicator must do:
First, identify the target audience. A marketing communicator must start with a clear target audience in mind. The audience could be potential buyers of the company’s products, current users, deciders, or influencers. The audience could be individuals, groups, or the public. The target audience will critically influence the communicator’s decisions on what to say, how to say it, when to say it, where to say it, and to whom to say it.
Next, determine the communication objectives. Once the target market and its characteristics are identified, the marketing communicator must decide on the desired audience response. The ultimate response, of course, is purchase and satisfaction. But as we’ve learned, purchase behavior is the result of a long process of consumer decision making. The marketing communicator needs to know how to move the target audience along to higher states of readiness as they progress in their buying decision process.
Then, design the message. Having defined the desired audience response, the communicator moves to developing an effective message. Ideally, the message should gain attention, hold interest, arouse desire, and elicit action. In practice, few messages take the consumer all the way from awareness through purchase, but the framework suggests the desirable qualities. Formulating the message will require solving four problems: what to say (message content), how to say it logically (message structure), how to say it symbolically (message format), and who should say it (message source).
Further, select the communication channels. The communicator must select efficient channels of communication to carry the message. Communication channels are of two broad types, personal and non-personal and are made up of all the many varieties of media.
We then allocate the total promotion budget. One of the most difficult marketing decisions facing companies is how much to spend on promotion. Thus, it is not surprising that industries and companies vary considerably in how much they spend on promotion. Promotional expenditures might amount to 30 to 50% of sales in the cosmetics industry and less than 5% in the industrial sector. There are four common methods that companies use to decide their promotion budgets. They are the affordable method, the percentage-of-sales method, the competitive-parity method and the objective-and-task method.
We must decide on the promotion mix. Companies face the task of distributing the total promotion budget over the four promotion tools of advertising, sales promotion, public relations and salesforce. As with the promotional budget decision companies within the same industry can differ considerably in how they allocate their promotional mix budget. Avon concentrates its promotional funds on personal selling (its advertising is only 1.5 percent of sales), while Revlon spends more on advertising (about 7.0 percent of sales). In selling vacuum cleaners, Electrolux spends heavily on a door-to-door salesforce, while Hoover relies more on advertising. Thus, it is possible to achieve a given sales level with various mixes of advertising, personal selling, sales promotion and publicity.
Next, we measure the promotion’s results. After implementing the promotional plan, the communicator must measure its impact on the target audience. This involves asking the target audience whether they recognize or recall the message, how many times they saw it, what points they recall, how they felt about the message, and their previous and current attitudes toward the product and company. The communicator would also want to collect behavioral measures of audience response, such as how many people bought the product, liked it, and talked to others about it. The measurement of promotional results is a difficult job and one that few do very well. The “hype” and glitter of advertising many times gets in the way of the planned, calculated measurement of what really happened.
Finally, we manage and coordinate the total marketing communication process. The wide range of communication tools and messages makes it imperative that they be coordinated. Otherwise, the messages might be ill-timed in terms of the availability of goods; they may lack consistency; or they might not be cost effective. Left alone, each manager of a communication resource will fight for more budget irrespective of the relative merits of each tool. The sales manager will want to hire two extra sales representatives for $80,000, while the advertising manager will want to spend the same money on a prime-time television commercial. The public relations manager wants more money for publicity. Little thought will be given to telemarketing and direct-mail programs unless they have their internal advocates.
Reading for this week:
For this discussion forum, pretend that you work for a marketing firm. Knowing that effective marketing is of increasing importance in today’s competitive environment, how would you advise your firm to more effectively market to organizations? Describe for us your firm, products, competition, and the organizations to which you will be appealing. As you make your case, back up your argument by citing at least one scholarly article pertaining to marketing management.
Follow up posts…After your initial post, read over the responses posted by your peers and your instructor. Select at least two different posts, and address the following in your responses: Is there a common theme in your peer’s responses? What advice or tips would you offer your peers, to help them be more effective? What topics from the textbook did your peers include in their posts?
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