Introduction to Marketing – Part Nine: Communication and Relationships

Part Nine: Communication and Relationships

Promotion and advertising is the cornerstone of the marketing plan and marketing department, requiring a strategic plan to work out the best way to leverage marketing efforts to successfully promote a product.

The Promotion Mix

The promotion mix consists of advertising, personally selling, sales promotion, public relations and direct marketing, utilising the main elements of the original marketing mix. It depends on the product, industry and market as to which of the promotions mix to use, however usually a combination of two or more is the most effective way of communicating and sparking the interest of the target market.

Common trends have blurred the lines between which promotion method works well, and consumers today require very tailored messaging for them to actually pay attention to the marketing activity itself. “Same old” advertising is starting to get lost in the clutter, to be replaced by innovative and viral campaigns that engage consumers.

The IMC Approach

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) is the approach where all marketing efforts utilised by the organisation from the promotion mix communicate a clear, consistent and compelling message about the product or organisation themselves. Shifts in communication and message should be done slowly overtime, rather than confusing the customers by promoting inconsistent messages. IMC is a way that an organisation manages its entire portfolio of communication.

The Whole Communication Offering

An organisation is constantly communicating messages to the target market. These include:

(1) Planned and deliberate messaging: via the promotion mix

(2) Product messaging: via the marketing mix (such as price, distribution, etc)

(3) Service messaging: via interaction with the customers themselves

(4) Unplanned and uncontrollable messaging: via gossip, external publicity, reviews, rumours and other external environment buzz.

An IMC plan will ensure that an organisation presents a united, solid communication front to customers: this means the management of all contact points of an organisation and product (what is said in the promotional mix, confirmed by the unplanned messages, and performed via the product and service messages).

Elements in the Communication Process

All messages follow a process:

(1) The sender creates the message and encodes. By encoding, this means the process of creativity of the message.

(2) The message is then send out via the medium chosen. At this point is must also compete in amongst what is known as ‘noise’- these are all of the conflicting messages and all other interference that can distract the target receiver.

(3) Once the message is received via the medium, the receiver must decode the creativity of the sender, which is heavily biased by their own perceptions, judgements and past experiences, to finally receive the message.

(4) After this, a response action is triggered, whether it be dismissal, negative, positive, purchase, and so on.

(5) Concluding the action, feedback from the receiver to the sender is sent, which must also go through the ‘noise’ or interference factor before the sender can use the data.

Different elements of the promotional mix approach this cycle in different ways. For example, personally selling is effective because it completes the cycle entirely in almost one transaction, whereas Public Relations campaigns are slower and can experience high amounts of noise.

Developing Effective Communication

(1) Identify the target audience

(2) Determine the objectives and goals of the communication message

(3) Design or encode the message creatively, catered to what would spark the interest of the target audience.

(4) Select appropriate channels

(5) Establish a budget for this message so as to determine best use of resources

(6) Determine which elements of the promotional mix to utilise

(7) Measure results

(8) Manage the IMC system

(9) Collect data on this experience to improve the next message

Reach and Frequency

When it comes to marketing communication strategy, reach and frequency are the two main factors that must be decided upon.

The reach is all about the level of access to the target market. How many segments within the target market need to be accessed? What times? What demographics? Which media do they use?

The frequency is about how many messages through those reach channels, above. If, for example, a magazine is the selected medium, then how many issues is the communication present in? How many times does the advertisement run on television? And so on.

There tends to be an “S”-shaped response curve that occurs with frequency and effectiveness that all marketers must take into consideration. It is generally accepted that a low frequency of communications, such as between zero and three exposures, is not very effective at all. A medium frequency, above this, gains a high acceptance with the target market and thus is very effective (usually between three and ten rapid exposures). However a high frequency starts to lose its effectiveness and can even become negative if the target market becomes saturated and over-exposed to the content.

Advertising

Advertising, also known as paid-promotion or ‘above the line’ marketing is any communication message that is paid for by an organisation to a medium sponsor (such as a television station, a magazine, a bus shelter, a billboard, a radio station, and so on) that presents and promotes a product, non-personally. This means that it does not involve a personal, one-on-one interaction.

These kind of promotion offers the organisation almost complete control of the message as they can purchase a space and advertise however they’d like, within reason. This is usually the most expensive and competitive form however is extremely effective.

Marketers today, however, face a lot of challenges in advertising as there is a lot of noise and consumers are starting to filter out the ‘same-old’ advertising thrown constantly at them. As consumers are becoming more de-sensitised through over-exposure, marketers have to be far more creative to cater better and more effective messages to the target audience.

Marketers now tend to use different forms of advertising, such as ‘crowd-sourcing’, which is getting the target market actively involved in the advertising and creativity for a reward. This has large uptake by a target market as they feel involvement as worth their attention.

Advertising has five functions when being utilised: informing, persuading, reminding, adding value, assisting organisational efforts and favourability. One message can perform one or a combination of all of these functions. Favourability tends to be utilised more today- if a message is liked by an audience, it will tend to have more cut-through than an ad that rubs the audience the wrong way.

Public Relations (PR)

This is known as ‘below-the-line’ marketing and involves creating good relationships with the organisation’s publics and stake-holders through favourable publicity, positive corporate and product image and managing or debunking unfavourable rumours, reviews and messages.

PR can be positive or negative and can function as an outlet for information or promotion, depending on the context. Unfortunately, PR isn’t always in control by the organisation. Whilst some forms can be intentional, such as a press release, sometimes PR can be written or circulated without the knowledge of the organisation. Organisations such as Greenpeace tend to use witty PR campaigns to gain momentum for the causes within the community.

Event Sponsorship

Event sponsorship is a form of PR, where an organisation pays to be an official branded sponsor. This kind of PR allows for positive brand association with the event. However, for this to be a success, it is important that the product ties in well with the event- it can be a waste if there is no leverage by the organisation. Just a brand at an event isn’t enough; there must be some related activity such as a stall at the event. A good sponsorship PR campaign capitalises by promoting the tie with the event.

However, with event sponsorship, ‘ambush marketing’ threatens to take advantage of such events. This is where an organisation will advertise with the event’s theme unofficially so as to appear to be a sponsor and steal the limelight, when they’re in fact not.

Experiential Marketing Campaign

A good way to gain positive PR is by letting customers trial a brand or product as an experience so that they consume the brand in a favourable experience setting and then share this with the market. For example, wine tasting in a beautiful vineyard or sports drinks during a volleyball game on the beach.

Sampling is another similar example of this, where consumers are given access to free trials to promote the product and break through distrust barriers.

Sales Promotion

Sales promotion is a short-term incentive given to customers to spur and increase purchase behaviour, such as the push and pull strategies discussed above. These can come in the form of discounts, buy-one-get-one free, coupons, lotteries, competitions and so on.

It is important, however, than an organisation avoids the sales promotion trap, which is over-incentivising to a point where the discount becomes the norm and the organisation can no longer remove the promotion.

Diverting can also occur. This is where someone or an organisation avoids the restrictions of a sales promotion, purchases these discounted goods in one region, and then sells in a non-discounted region.

Direct Marketing

This type of promotion began with physical mail marketing and has evolved to email and mobile phone marketing. Basically, it is any form of advertising that utilises an interactive media to gain a measurable result and response at any location.

Unfortunately, direct marketing tends to bombard consumers, so a good ‘call to action’ together with something that sparks the interest and curiosity of the target market enough to get them to respond.

The Internet’s Role In Marketing

The internet is a fantastic resource for marketing efforts. It can perform the following functions for an organisation:

- Public relations
- Investor communications
- Customer service
- Prospect qualification
- Product sales
- Customer interaction and feedback
- Internal communications
- E-Commerce

It is very important that the use of the internet is consistent with the marketing strategy as, because it can perform so many simultaneous functions at once, all must be correctly utilised and managed to ensure a united front and message (a good IMC).

The internet’s use has shifted greatly from simple websites to completely out-of-the-square marketing efforts such as interactive social media campaigns, mobile device marketing and so on.

Basic Mobile Marketing Tips for Business Owners

Marketing your company isn’t easy, especially if you are a boot strap business. First, you have to come up with a budget that is affordable and gives you a competitive advantage at the same. Then you have to develop creative content and even visual aids (sometimes). Next, you have to consider and bet on marketing avenues that will work.

One marketing avenue that always produces results is mobile marketing. If you’re not familiar with mobile marketing it is basically the use of a series of tools that reach customers directly on their mobile device. You can use the tools in the way of email, text messages or social media updates that reach consumers and potential customers directly on their cell phones. The best option that is becoming affordable to small business owners is push notifications through their own app.

According to a mobile marketing insider a business client can expect to pay as little as $100 to several thousand to start using mobile marketing tools. Now a business can have a custom mobile app designed for less then $300 and a monthly service fee of $49 per month. By managing your own custom mobile app, you are able to send unlimited push notifications without extra fees.

Businesses have the possibility to simply send a message, or they can send a link that is attached to the push notifications. Also, which is the best option to push notifications, is the ability to send an image with a customized message on it. This will surely grab your audiences attention.

Mobile marketing can be confusing. One way it is ineffective is when customers place all of their efforts in one basket. Betting on one horse in the game doesn’t blanket coverage or ensure success. If you decide to start using mobile marketing, make sure you divide up your efforts. You want to have an equal reach for email marketing to a cell phone, push notifications to a cell phone, and also incorporate social media ads and updates.

A great benefit for mobile marketing is the eco-friendly attitude your company will be promoting. Essentially, eliminating the need for direct mail pieces or print ads not only saves money but it saves the environment and gives you “gone green” status to brag about and to also help amplify your brand.

Mobile marketing is a win-win for everyone involved and shouldn’t be discounted by business owners out of pure ignorance. Understand the real costs to owning an app for your business.

So You Think You Know Email Marketing?

Email Marketing can be the most powerful advertising and marketing tool out there. It is quick, efficient and cost effective, if done in the right way. If done properly, you can cut costs by saving on postage, advertising and so on. You can also evade the stress of whether or not users will come across your ad or content and actually connect with you. Email marketing allows you to directly connect with online users in many ways shape and forms.

There are many types of email marketing, the two main types being Opt-in Marketing and Third Party Marketing

Opt In marketing may take longer to achieve results, but it is well worth the wait. Customer lists are created organically through subscriptions and comment card and will result in your list being honest and useable. Your audience in this instance will want to hear from you and will interact more frequently with your content and business.

Third Party Marketing can be considered a little more tricky and unreliable. Third Party Marketing is when you purchase email lists from third parties. There are a number of factors that will affect the results of such a campaign, including the quality of the list you purchase and the users connection with your product or service.

Once you have figured out what marketing type you wish to go with, you must start looking at the key elements of your strategy.

1.) PLAN

Start from the bottom and work your way up. Make your plan and highlight in it:

Budget
Demographics
Geographical locations
When it comes to email marketing there is no ‘one size fits all’ and you must be clear from the beginning where exactly you want to take your campaign and how you wish to run it. Take into consideration what type of emails you wish to send, where you will send them and when they will be sent. Do you wish to start by simply advertising? Offering information about a specific service or product? Or, do you wish to begin by getting down to the ‘nitty gritty’ and sending out those greatly appreciated and received promotional codes?

2.) CONTENT

It goes without saying that in order to grab the readers attention, our content must be interesting and engaging. It must be relevant, informative and of the highest quality. Getting it just right is what is needed here, writing too much or too little can be dangerous and fatal to your campaign. Give your email a clear heading, make it stand out from the others and ensure that the content itself does not bombard or starve the user.

3.) DESIGN

When coming up with a design for your email, it is vital that you are aware of the common traps that most fall into. Creating the perfect design for your email marketing campaigns does not mean including as many eye-catching and colourful banners and pictures as possible, it is about being clear and concise! Many forget that most email users are using their mobiles and that the layout and design of an email is displayed completely different on a mobile than a desktop. Another thing that you must pay attention to is the use of images. Images are not automatically displayed on an email, therefore it is of utmost importance that we do not rely merely on images to engage the reader and call them to action. The images that we use must simply add to the content that we have added textually. Last but not least, the most important part of our design is the call to action. Where we will place our call to action will be the difference between our emails having the effect we desire, or completely flopping. The call to action should be placed at the top of the email or somewhere where is it clearly visible and must draw the readers attention, this is after all the whole purpose of the email.

4.) CODE

It is advisable here to use HTML code. Many email services still do not support CSS layout and let’s face it, we do not want to run the risk of our emails becoming disabled when they reach the inbox. You may be using an email blast programme that allows you to simply input your text / content into their pre-designed and coded formats, or you may wish to pay for the extra service of a custom design. Either way, make sure you code your email in the correct and most user-friendly way.

5.) TESTING

It goes without saying that your email has to be tested before it is sent out, we can hardly send out thousands of emails without knowing how they will look and work first. You should always check the following most important parts:

Visual aspect – Look at your email through the end user’s eyes: How does it look? Is it what you expected? Is the layout clear? Can all banners and text be seen?
Headline – How does it look in your inbox? Does it stand out? Would you open it?
Content – Is your call to action where it’s supposed to be? Will it actually call people to action? Is your address and contact information visible? If someone wants to unsubscribe, can they clearly find the link to do so?
6.) KEYWORDS

Keywords can grab the attention of the reader, or they can get your email spammed. When writing, we automatically use some words without thinking, but when writing our subject line we must be careful not to use specific keywords that may be picked up as spam. The list of keywords that can trigger spam filters to spam our mail is unfortunately quite long, here are a few examples of words to avoid using:

As seen on
Guarantee
Buy Direct
Clearance
The spam filter will add up the amount of ‘spammy’ keywords you have used and then decide on whether your mail is spam or not, so choose your words wisely.