As I have said before in this blog, I continually see businesses advertising for marketing staff and when you examine the job description, the new staff member is solely focused on digital marketing, particularly social media management.
Such recruitment advertising worries me. It’s not that digital marketing isn’t important. it’s that these businesses seem to be putting all their marketing eggs in one basket. They also seem to be treating digital as a form of marketing promotion instead of its proper definition as a communication channel.
Digital is only one part a businesses promotional armoury. It isn’t a magic pill which will solve all your marketing issues. Digital marketing isn’t cheaper than traditional marketing channels and in some ways it is a riskier enterprise.
Your use of digital marketing needs to be strategic and it must fit with your target audience. Foe example, if you are selling teenage fashion, it is likely that social media and digital platforms will be prominent in your marketing activity. However, if you are selling stairlifts and disability aids to pensioners, traditional promotional techniques such as television advertising, direct mail and newspaper advertising would dominate your promotional mix.
Remember, Digital is a promotional channel not a promotional technique.
When you are developing a marketing strategy, it is important to create the proper balance of channels and tools. Your use of these must meet the expectations of your target audience.
Consider that businesses operating in the same market may have distinctly different promotional mixes. Max Factor use television advertising, magazine advertising and the internet to promote their cosmetics however Avon rely on direct marketing and sales representatives to promote their products.
Today, most businesses try to create an integrated marketing communications strategy which promotes you products but which also creates a unified brand image.
To define a promotional mix you must first examine the nature of different promotional tools.
- Advertising: Advertising can reach a mass audience which is geographically dispersed. It can be a form of promotion which has a low-cost per consumer exposure. It can allow a message to be repeated several times to intended recipients. Digital media can be used to advertise e.g. Facebook or YouTube. Consumers view advertising as a legitimate form of promotion and it can be used to create a brand image over the longer-term. However, advertising lacks the personal touch and is a one way form of communication. Some forms of advertising can be expensive and a large budget may be required if it is to be effective.
- Personal Selling: Personal Selling is good for building buyer preferences, convictions and actions. It involves personal interaction between two or more people. It can be used to build personal relationships by sales representatives solving customers problems. However, personal selling is the most expensive form of promotion: up to three times the cost of advertising.
- Sales Promotion: This is techniques such as offering coupons, discounts or premiums for purchases or repeat purchases. Sales promotion uses a wide range of such tools and is good at attracting the attention of target consumers. It provides strong incentives to purchase and it can dramatize product offerings to boost sagging sales. Sales promotion invites a rapid response from consumers. The message isn’t ‘buy my product’, it’s ‘buy it now!’. However, the effects of sales promotions are short-lived and over the medium to long-term sales promotion will have less impact than advertising or sales promotion. Sales promotion does not create long-term relationships with customers.
- Public Relations: Public relations is a very believable form of promotion. PR is the presentation of commercial messages in the form of news stories, features and sponsored content. PR can reach people who are adverse to advertising and who avoid sales representatives. It can add drama to a campaign. traditionally PR has been underused by marketers but as the environment becomes more crowded with commercial messages, its use is increasing. PR is most effective when it is used in conjunction with other promotional mix elements. Heinz have successfully used PR to promote their Salad Cream. In fact they have had three bites at the Salad Cream PR cherry. A few years ago, they issued press releases saying that they were ending production due to falling sales. The response was a huge increase in sales of Salad cream. A few months ago, they announced that they were changing the name to Sandwich Cream, again they got headlines. Last week they announced that they had changed their mind and were retaining the name. Yet more column inches about the product. However, over use of PR creates cynicism in the minds of consumers.
- Direct Marketing: This is the use of brochures, catalogues flyers and online advertising. it is a less public form of promotion but you can target your message to particular groups. Direct marketing can be interactive, a dialogue as opposed to a monologue. It allows tailored messages to be delivered quickly.
Once you have decided on the tools within your promotional mix, you must define your strategy.
There are two forms of promotional strategy: Push strategy, where a firm pushed its goods through the sales channels by promoting them to channel members such as suppliers and retailers; and Pull strategy; where business promote their goods to end consumers, who in turn pressure retailers to stock the firm’s products.
Some business to business industrial companies only use a push strategy but for most businesses the promotional mix is a carefully balanced combination of push and pull strategies. B2B firm’s tend to use more push strategies, B2C firms tend to use more pull strategies.
To create a successful promotional mix, you need to have a smooth integration between mix elements. The promotional mix needs to be guided by an company-wide communications strategy. Mix elements need to combine to create a unified brand message your messages must be consistent and conform to your brand image. Your messages must appear where they can be seen by your target customers. All parts of your business and all your internal stakeholders must be involved in the promotional effort. Your promotion must engage all your sales channel stakeholders e.g. wholesalers and retailers, not just end consumers.
A confused communications strategy can dilute the impact of your promotional messages and lead to a confused market position. A confused strategy will not maximise you marketing efforts.