Successful Marketing Communications Strategies
Promotional Strategy For Services :
The fundamental characteristics of services differ from those of physical goods. The services are characterised by the qualities of intangibility, variability and perishability. Thus due to these attributes the differences in the promotional strategies arise. 1. Intangibility : The basic difference between a product and service is their tangibility, i.e., products have tangible attributes and services have intangible attributes. Goods’ attributes can be defined, tested and measured, where as these can’t be tested for services – one can know only when he has experienced or consumed it. Also the satisfaction can be felt but not measured. Qualities of a product can be measured and maintained, but for services they can’t be done directly, but by some other subjective method like paying attention, emotional or moral support to the clients. 2. Heterogeneity : Normally machines manufacture the physical goods which can be controlled or programmed to produce the products of similar or same quality parameters. But as the service involve persons directly, it is difficult to maintain the level of uniformity. This varies from time to time, place to place, mood to mood, condition to condition, etc. Sometimes this heterogeneity can be productively used for differentiating services for discerning and general customers. 3. Inseparability : Normally, the goods are produced and stocked before selling and consumption. But, in contrast the services are consumed at the time of production, i.e., they can’t be stocked or kept on the shelf before consumption. Since, the production and consumption happen simultaneously, there is an interaction between the consumer and the marketer or its representatives. So consumers tend to relate the server (who is responsible for the serving) to the quality of the service (they are inseparable). Therefore, the service marketers try to improve the quality of the servers in their approach, courtesy, dealings, etc. 4. Perishability : Certain consumables, like ripe fruits perish in the course of time if they are not consumed, and become unfit for consumption, which is a loss to the seller. Similarly, here, some kinds of services if not consumed when it is available, are lost for ever, which is a loss to the marketer. E.g., time – if not utilised can’t be stored and used at a later date. The controlling of this kind of services to prevent the opportunity lost is very complex and critical, and this can be only minimised, but not really prevented. The marketers need to consider all critical aspects and plan carefully to have the optimum utilisation of capacity for providing services.

Generic Differences between Goods and Services :
The above characteristics which differentiate goods and services are very general in nature are not strictly applicable in some cases. Some marketing gurus like C Lovelock tried to use certain other attributes to differentiate between the two, as follows : 1. Nature of the Product : According to L L Berry, goods can be physical objects, equipment, devices, or things where as services can be deeds, performances, activities, experiences. In most cases the market offerings are some combination of the two in different proportions. The marketers adopt different strategies for different combinations. 1

2. Problems in Quality Control : The intangible nature of the services makes it difficult for the quality definition, measurement, setting standards and delivery. In fact they are all inside the mind of the consumer, which differs from person to person according to their perception. The other problem is that the quality can’t be improved once it is delivered for it gets consumed on delivery. So the marketer has to be very careful about the quality at the time of delivery. 3. Involvement of Customer in Production and Delivery : Goods are produced and stored till some buyers buy them. In contrast most services are designed, produced and delivered in the presence of buyers according to their need and order. So not only the buyers decide the quality and other attributes of a service, they also influence or create an environment for the delivery with interaction with the servers. This may be pleasant / favourable or unpleasant / unfavourable which again tell upon the final delivery quality. To eliminate the interaction with the servers and to enhance the buyer involvement, today much automation has taken place, like ATMs, Tele banking etc. 4. Absence of Inventories : Services can’t be stored unlike goods, when demand is less more goods can be produced and stored to meet the increased demand at a future date. Services are not available later if they are not utilised at the time of availability. Also in case of mass or group service, the capacity can’t be exceeded. 5. Structure and Nature of Distribution Channels : For the goods there are distribution channels which make them available with the buyers. But services normally don’t have one as these are consumed at the time and point of production, so this is like direct marketing of goods. The services come directly from the service provider or its franchise. 6. Importance of Prompt Service : Time plays an important role in providing service. People don’t like to wait for the service to be delivered, and look for that elsewhere. In case of goods, the time tolerance limit is more in general. 7. Difficulty in Evaluating Service Quality : It’s very difficult to assess or evaluate a service before consuming or experiencing it. The best method available for this purpose is to go by others who have used the service – word-of-mouth, opinion of the experiencers. But again the experience or the level of satisfaction varies from person to person, so one has to be careful in selecting. In view of the above differences between service industry and physical goods industry, the service providers can adopt any of the following promotional techniques : 1. Sampling : It’s a technique for promoting products by offering them as a sample free of cost. It’s more widely used for packaged or physical goods. However, some service industries like credit card companies travel and tourism companies offer free services during the promotional period. For example, some credit card companies offer cards without initial charges. 2. Premiums : Premiums provide tangibility to services. This is used more regularly in insurance sectors where differentiation of services is not possible. An insurance company might fix the premiums depending on the initial deposits of the amount of policy insured by the customers. 3. Prize Promotions : Prize promotions are adopted to keep up the interest of customers and involve them in the service consumption. 4. Price / Quantity Promotions : These promotions include reduction of price for a category of customers, or all customers for a limited time. For example, a company


might offer a price reduction for the first fifty customers who will consume the service. 5. Refunds and Future Discounts : These type of promotions aim to increase brand loyalty among customers and promise them certain amount of refund or discounts in future. For example, several airlines offer discounts as per the mileage points collected by the frequent fliers. 6. Coupons : Coupons may be offered for a direct reduction in prices, free services for one or more persons with the original customer, or a discount on the original service offer.

How To Design A Service Promotion :
Designing a successful promotion is not easy and involves inclusion of tangible attributes, which adds up the cost of campaign. A service provider should try to (1) identify the services to be promoted, (2) choose the target audience, (3) estimate the value to be added, (4) decide the timing and duration of the promotional campaign, (5) the techniques to be used, and finally, (6) determine how the promotion is different from those of the competitors. 1. Which Service to Promote : If the service provider is under heavy pressure from competition and his aim is to survive in the market, he may opt to promote his services accordingly. If a service provider’s aim is to attract new customers then he should opt to promote a low-risk and relatives inexpensive service which will do the job successfully. Once new customers are attracted to the service, a service provider can sell other services apart from the original service offered (cross-selling). On the other hand if the service provider’s aim is to stop the competition from snatching away customers a service provider can opt to increase the period of contract with customers. 2. Who would be Target Consumer : Service companies have an opportunity to target their promotional campaigns to a specific market segment or to the entire market. This kind of promotion targeted at demographic segments is not possible in packaged goods industry. Further services are flexible compared to packaged goods and have numerous opportunities for price differentiation. 3. What would be the Value added to the Product / Brand : Service providers should be careful when assessing the value to be offered to the customer. Factors like promotional objective, costs of promotion, and customer perceptions of value should be considered while developing value promotions. These can be of two types : a. One is offering more for the same price, b. The other is offering the same for a lower or discounted price. 4. Is the Timing right for promotion and how long should a Promotional Campaign run : The timing of the promotional campaign depends on the demand fluctuations in the service demand. The duration of the promotional campaign should be based on the value of the service offering, the target consumers’ purchasing power and finally it should be extended to make sure that most customers are covered by the campaign. The frequency of promotions depends on the existing competition in the market and the target customer’s purchase cycle. 5. Who’s benefited from the Promotion : Service providers should carefully identify the group of customers whose purchase behaviour needs to be influenced by the promotional campaign. After identifying the target customers, companies should


verify if the end customer is benefited directly. For example, sometimes, the company sponsoring employees’ flights get the benefit of frequent fliers programme. 6. How to differentiate a Promotional Campaign : A service provider who has designed an innovative promotional campaign soon finds hid competitor in the market imitating it. To avoid this, a service provider should design a promotional campaign that can’t be easily imitated by competitors. Otherwise, it should enter into agreements with other service companies to develop joint-promotions that make it impossible for the competitors to imitate easily.

Strategies for Effective Promotion :
Some service companies no doubt design good promotional campaigns but use up or waste too much of resources like, time, money, effort, thereby greatly reducing the net outcome. The following are the guidelines for implementing effective promotional campaigns : 1. Effective Planning :Service organisations should develop a programme calendar to monitor the sequence of promotional events. Further an exclusive promotion department in the marketing division of an organisation would help a service company monitor the promotional process continuously. This would result in variety and innovativeness in the promotions, and a common thread of consistency can be maintained in developing the various campaigns. 2. Focussed Objectives : Service providers should set a few objectives, as it will help them to do a better job. The choice of objectives should be according to their promotional expenditures rather than expecting too much from a single campaign and hoping to achieve too many objectives with one promotion. 3. Accurate Timing : Service providers should decide on the timing of the promotional campaign, its duration, and the frequency of such campaigns. Service providers should not extend the campaign to the extent that consumers tend to think it’s a permanent offer. These situations can cost the service provider heavily. 4. Adding Value through tie-ups and promotion overlays : Often, service providers offer promotions in packages either by including other services of their own company or by tying-up with other service companies. Further, if service providers tie-up with packaged goods then these promotional offers are quite attractive. 5. Employee Motivation : A successful promotional campaign requires the efforts of the entire sales force and the marketing team. Therefore, service companies should motivate their employees, consumers, sales intermediaries, etc. by using both push and pull strategies effectively. 6. Well Differentiated Campaign : Service companies should ensure that their promotional campaigns are well understood and well-differentiated from those of their competitors. 7. Regular Evaluation of Campaigns : Service campaigns should evaluate increase in sales due to the launch of promotional campaigns. This helps them assess the valueadded by the promotions and evaluate their campaigns to identify avenues for improvement.

1. A corporate communication network can be conduit through which information is disseminated, discussed, debated, and ultimately incorporated into constructive action and long term knowledge. Calls to action, goal setting, unifying behind a 4

common mission- a company can carry out none of these activities without an affective communication plan. 2. Public relations carried out by senior executives who advise top management on how the organisation presents itself is called corporate communication. These executives, and the PR agencies that advise them, are very much focused on maintaining the corporate brand and corporate reputation. Another term for the work they do is corporate relations, because it involves creating and maintaining relationships with key stakeholders who can affect the organisation’s business, such as govt. officials and regulators.

Corporate Image And Reputation :
1. The difference between an image and a reputation is sometimes confusing because the two are somewhat related. An image is more of a façade or a representation of a brand or organisation derived from planned communication, such as advertising and brand publicity. Reputation reflects how a company behaves, and it’s based on what others say about the company. Reputation is the esteem that a company or brand has in the eyes of its stakeholders. Reputation depends on the organisation’s behaviours and is reflected in the word of mouth and confirmatory statement by others, as well as in personal experiences with a company and a brand. Image can be created; a reputation is earned. 2. A brand image is what a company believes about its products, and reputation is the brand plus behaviour. Both the brand image and brand reputation are important; ideally they merge to create brand integrity. A brand was defined as the net sum of its relationships. Another way of describing a corporate brand, then, is that it’s the net sum of its image and reputation. These two elements together drive brand relationships. 3. Corporate Branding is the practice of managing the identity and image of a corporate organisation.

Corporate Advertising And PSAs :
1. Public Relations use two kinds of advertising. Public Service Announcements (PSAs) are ads for non-profit organisations that run on time and space donated by the media. Corporate advertising is an ad programme designed to build awareness of a company and explain what it does or believes. Both public service and corporate advertising are different from product or brand advertising that focuses on the product and is targeted exclusively to customers and potential customers. 2. Corporate Advertising is most frequently used by large, multi-product companies and by new companies that results from mergers or acquisitions and want to establish a new corporate identity.

Mission And Cause Marketing :
1. A mission is the task or objective that a company is striving to accomplish, and it reflects the core value of the company or brand. A central mission can be an important part of an IMC programme and become the central focus of integrated communication. The mission statement sets forth the corporate purpose above and beyond making money; it indicates the company’s raison d’etre. Both marketing and PR should not only be involved in setting a corporate mission but also should be responsible for promoting it. 2. Mission Marketing : The missions of some companies reflect core values of social responsibility. Generally, such companies engage in mission marketing which is using 5

the company’s mission as a selling strategy in order to differentiate and add value to a brand. The company’s socially responsible mission drives all of its business decisions. It’s also a platform on which an integrated marketing programme can be built. a. To market its mission, a company selects sponsorship opportunities that tie the mission with a larger public interest, and builds on the connexion for the long term. b. The objective of mission marketing is to build a good corporate or brand reputation for the long term. c. Because of the increasing number of product choices and the similarity of many products, companies are looking for ways to give their brands an edge. Mission marketing is one way of doing that.

3. Cause Marketing : Related to mission marketing is cause marketing, company or brand support for a good cause through donations of percentage of sales. Cause marketing requires an agreement between a non-profit and a for-profit company that seeks to maximise the benefits to each partner. The benefit to the company comes from its association with the good cause, such as fights against hunger or cancer. Cause marketing, however, often reflects a shorter-term approach than does mission marketing. Both cause and mission marketing make strong emotional appeals, but mission marketing delves deeper because it rests on a long-term commitment.

Characteristics Of Successful Sales Promotions :
We have seen that sales promotion is a powerful tool that can be use to achieve a verity of promotional objectives. Some aspects that are important to consider in making sales promotions successful are as follows : 1. Maximum effect at minimum cost : When the nature of promotion objective is such that it can best be achieved by sales promotion, rather than advertising alone, and the objective is achieved at minimum cost. 2. Motivates consumers to buy now : Successful sales promotion induces a sense of urgency to buy now and avoid postponing purchase. The consumer is moved to take immediate action and gets involved in the transaction. 3. Offers what the consumers want : Sales promotions must not attempt to push any offer that is not regarded as desirable by target consumers. They can’t attract consumers towards offers that are not perceived as interesting, exciting and valuable to them. 4. The promotion should be clear and uncomplicated : It offers a single but powerful incentive to engage in transaction. Any subsidiary offers stems from or is closely related to the main offer. In a simple and clear language, it communicates how consumers can take advantage of the promotional offer. Too many hurdles discourage consumers to participate. 5. Promotion should be highly visible : The offer must draw attention of target consumers. The media selection is important. Effective promotion draws attention from high visibility and from creative qualities. 6. Promotion should benefit all concerned : Usually promotions involve co-operation of sales force and channel members. They need to be motivated to make efforts successful.


7. Promotion must be believable and honest : It makes reasonable and believable claims, tells the truth, there are no exaggerations, and it respects public’s intelligence. 8. Promotion must be legal : The marketers must check the legalities of promotion before announcing it. 9. Promotion must be implemented efficiently : In some types of promotions, handling houses and premium suppliers are involved. Proper arrangements must be made with these outside parties to avoid any complication.

The Making Of A Good Campaign - The Ground Rules :
1. Some campaigns are memorable, other run off the mill. What are the criteria for a successful campaign? Experts have varying opinions. An advertising campaign is always goal-driven. The goal could be (1) to improve sales, (2) to create the top of the mind awareness about the product advertised, (3) to persuade to respond to competition, (4) to build the brand, etc. 2. Some campaigns carry on for a long time, with the same strategy, while others are seasonal. Research has proved that successful campaigns have better longevity. 3. When should an advertising campaign be dropped? Most advertising agencies would not hesitate to drop a campaign if it stopped working, but some successful campaigns outlive their utility. According to Brainsfair (1992) the reasons for this are : a. Successful campaigns often lead to career advancement for those who are responsible for their success. b. Positive consumer research. c. Change of agency.

4. Some campaigns which were really the outcome of the synergy between the marketing and advertising teams, both from the advertiser and advertising agency. For example, Prestige Pressure Pan, Dettol, Milkmaid, and the Dunlop Radial Tyres campaign. 5. By studying the above examples we find that developing effective advertising is not a function of following one system or one philosophy. There’s much more to it than that. All the great advertising campaigns, whether they follow the USP route or the Positioning route, or the Brand image route, whether they are emotional or rational, attention-getting and memory jogging, most of all they are highly persuasive. Hey stirred the consumer from the state of inertia- either in terms of motivating them to buy the product or forcing them to change attitudes or beliefs. 6. There are campaigns that win awards, there are campaigns that are memorable, and there are campaigns that send the cash registers ringing. What will really click with the consumer is very difficult to predict. 7. The role and the relevance of strategy in advertising and how the success of an advertisement campaign depends on an effective strategy. Both media and creative rendition requires strategic considerations. 8. Strategy is defined by an analyst as the art of developing available resources to attain objectives in the face of active oppositions, which could be in terms competitions, client, and availability of resources.


9. The marketing plan is analysed for its elements. To develop a winning strategy, the first step is to specify the key fact- a single minded statement from the consumers’ point of view that identifies why he and she will or will not buy the brand. 10. Then comes the planning process in an advertising campaign and the planning cycle. The various steps from the time a brand feels it needs- communication to the launch the campaign and feedback need to be considered. 11. The area of budgeting and various methods of arriving at advertising appropriation are very important. Budgetary decision making has two steps : a. Determination of the total appropriation and b. Allocation to various areas. Both managers from the company and advertising agency generally participate in the exercise.

© Himansu S M / Written Oct-2006, Published Feb-2010


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