Marketing Communications. Ace Grace Care Homes Marketing Communications

Executive Summary

This paper holds that marketing communication is one of the most salient aspects that firms should focus on in their quest to maximize profit and increase their customer base. The paper entails a comprehensive analysis of the marketing communication adopted by Ace Grace Care Homes, which operates in the UK care market by identifying the various factors that the firm’s marketing manager should take into account to create awareness regarding its operations. Some of the main factors taken into account include the nature of the product, the stage of the firm’s product in its life cycle, the available funds, and the type of buying decision that customers will be involved in. Additionally, the paper also outlines the marketing communication campaign that the firm should think of integrating in its effort to attain its marketing objectives. The marketing communication campaign proposed takes into account the concept of integrated marketing communication. Some of the two main methods of marketing communication proposed include advertising and direct marketing. Finally, the paper outlines and discusses the advantages of undertaking integrated marketing communication.

Introduction

Marketing communication or promotion is one of the most crucial elements in the survival of firms. The process of marketing communication focuses on attaining three main objectives, which include informing potential consumers regarding a particular product or service, persuading potential consumers to purchase the product, and reminding consumers to continue buying the product. Pursuing these objectives presents an enormous task to marketing managers. The aforementioned objectives vary depending on the prevailing competitive environment and the stage of the product in its lifecycle. Other sub-objectives that marketing managers can consider include creating awareness, understanding, attitude, reinforcement, and changing the consumers’ behavior. Kotler (1999) posits that tomorrow’s winning companies “will have to heed three certainties: global forces will continue to affect everyone’s business and personal life, technology will continue to advance and amaze us, and there will be a continuing push toward deregulation of the economic sector” (p.1).

Kotler (1999) further asserts, “Modern marketing calls for more than product development, pricing and making the product accessible; however, firms have to communicate with the present and potential stakeholders and the general public” (p.271). The effectiveness with which a firm undertakes marketing communication is dependent on the choice of marketing communication method selected. The method and tools selected should contribute towards the attainment of the promotion method. There are different methods of marketing communication that firms can incorporate. These methods constitute the marketing mix and include direct marketing, advertising, sales promotion, personal selling, public relations and advertising (Kotler 1999). Each method and marketing communication tool selected has its advantages and disadvantages.

Consequently, the marketing manager should take into account several factors prior to selecting the promotional mix. Secondly, a comprehensive marketing communication campaign that aligns with the organization’s marketing needs should be formulated. The marketing communication adopted should culminate in the development of an interactive dialogue between the firm and its customers. Kotler (1999) opines that to develop an effective marketing communication, it is paramount for firms to take into account a number of steps. The main steps that firms should incorporate include identifying the target audience, formulating the communication objectives, designing the message, selecting the channels of communication, allocating funds for the communication budget, determining the communication mix to use, measuring the results and managing the integrated marketing communication process.

In the course of its operation, Ace Grace Care Homes, which deals in providing care to the elderly, intends to ensure a steady flow of potential residents. One of the ways through which the firm intends to achieve this objective is by implementing continuous marketing communication. Consequently, the Ace Grace Care homes’ marketing department intends to influence its target audience through a comprehensive marketing campaign. In light of this objective, this paper evaluates the factors that Ace Grace Care Homes should consider in selecting its communication mix, the communication mix campaign that the firm should adopt, and the advantages of undertaking an integrated marketing communication.

Factors to consider when selecting the communication mix

Marketing communication mix is one of the most critical aspects that firms should consider in their marketing process. In their marketing communication, firms can employ different marketing communication methods. Some of the factors that should be taken into account in selecting the marketing communication mix are discussed herein.

Nature of the product

Kotler (1999) posits, “Promotional allocation varies between business and consumer markets” (p. 295). Marketing services such as the home care services offered by Ace Grace Care Homes are particularly challenging due to the unique characteristics of services, which include inconsistency, inventory, interaction, inseparability, and intangibility. Due to their intangible characteristics, some parties might not understand the benefits associated with the service being marketed (Berkowitz 2011).

In the course of its operation, Ace Grace Care Homes’ will focus on offering care services to elderly persons in the UK. Consequently, the firm will be dealing in the provision of consumer products. The firm will target families of elderly persons and healthcare professionals. Therefore, to create awareness to a large number of potential customers, the firm should adopt a marketing communication mix that focuses on the target market.

Considering the nature of the product, Ace Grace Care Homes should adopt advertising and direct marketing as its marketing communication methods. The advertising campaign should aim at developing brand familiarity amongst the target audience. In its advertising process, the firm should utilize diverse mediums such as television, radio, print media such as care magazines, and the Internet. In its direct marketing process, the firm should adopt persuasive personal selling. According to Lamb, Hair, and McDaniel (2012), this move will aid in enhancing a strong relationship with its customers.

Buyer-readiness stage

The choice of promotion mix is also subject to the cost-effectiveness associated with the various stage of buyer readiness. In the awareness-development stage, the most effective promotion method to use is advertising and publicity. Personal selling and advertising play an important role in creating customer comprehension. Additionally, personal selling is very critical in nurturing customer conviction regarding a particular purchase decision. On the other hand, sales promotion is critical in closing the sale (Kotler 1999).

Stage of the product in its life cycle

The stage of a product or service in its life cycle plays a pivotal role in deciding the promotional mix to select. This aspect emanates from the fact that every stage is characterized by a unique degree of cost-effectiveness (Kotler 1999). For example, in the introduction phase, the core objective of marketing communication is to inform the target market regarding the existence of a product in the market. Consequently, the most effective promotional methods to use include advertising and publicity. In the growth stage, the marketing manager can decide to incorporate other marketing communication methods due to increase in the level of demand. The demand arises from increased market awareness by customers through word of mouth (Kotler 1999). In the maturity stage, the most effective promotion methods include advertising, sales promotion, and personal selling.

Available funds

Marketing communication is a complex process that requires firms to invest a substantial amount of money in their marketing communication campaign. The marketing manager should ensure that the available marketing communication budget is allocated to the various promotional tools selected. Kotler (1999) is of the opinion that “each promotional tool has its unique characteristics and costs” (p.278).

The size and scope of operation that the Ace Grace Care Homes has managed to develop indicate that the firm has a substantial amount of funding. Therefore, Ace Grace Care Homes should adopt a promotion mix that incorporates diverse marketing communication elements. However, because the firm is in its growth stage, the marketing manager needs to incorporate various low-cost options that require minimal budget. Some of the strategies that the firm should consider include online strategies.

Type of buying decision

Purchasing decisions can be complex or routine (Lamb, Hair, & McDaniel 2012). However, if the purchasing decision cannot be categorized as either routine or complex, the most appropriate method of marketing communication that a firm can adopt is public relations and advertising. On the other hand, if the purchasing decision is complex, consumers tend to search for information from different sources in order to make an optimal decision. As one of the care homes in the UK, the firm intends to attract a large number of potential residents. However, decision for families to take their elderly people care homes is difficult. This argument arises from the emotional connection and bond that might exist amongst family members. Consequently, family members may not trust the care homes to take care of their loved ones.

Considering these issues, it is crucial for Ace Grace Care Home to adopt a more effective promotion mix. In a bid to win the trust of the residents and their families, the firm should adopt direct marketing. Direct marketing will play a vital role in the consumers’ decision-making process. Additionally, effective implementation of direct marketing will also contribute towards the creation of a strong customer relationship hence customer loyalty.

Communication campaign for Ace Grace Care Homes

Effective market communication is critical in influencing the consumers’ decision-making process (Lamb, Hair, & McDaniel 2012). Consequently, it is paramount for the firm to formulate a comprehensive marketing communication. Therefore, to attain a steady flow of potential residents, Ace Grace Care Homes’ should formulate a comprehensive marketing communication campaign. The marketing communication (Marcom) adopted should enable the firm to influence its target audience (Shimp 2010). In its marketing campaign, Ace Grace Care Homes should focus on attaining a high degree of efficiency. The firm’s management team should adopt the integrated marketing communication (IMC) in its marketing campaign. IMC refers to a process of planning, creating, integrating, and implementing different forms of marketing communication. In its marketing communication campaign, the firm should incorporate different marketing communication methods. Additionally, both traditional and emerging marketing communication tools should be adopted. Considering the fact that the firm targets the elderly, their families, and healthcare professionals, adopting an advertising strategy would play a critical role in creating awareness for the target audience.

Advertising

Prior to implementing an advertising campaign Kotler (1999) is of the opinion that the marketing manager should ensure that five main components are incorporated. They include the mission, money, message, media, and measurement. Consideration of these elements increases the probability of a particular advertising campaign being successful.

The Ace Grace Care Homes management team should consider utilizing various advertising mediums. Considering the diversity of its target group, the firm should integrate both the traditional and emerging advertising mediums. Some of the marketing communication methods that the firm should adopt include media advertising, interactive advertising, direct response advertising, place advertising, and use of store signage. In its media advertising, the firm should incorporate tools such as the use of television, radio, and print media such as magazines and newspapers. An example of a magazine that the firm can post its advert on is the Caring UK, which is the leading magazine about the provision of information on the elderly care sector.

The advert cannot be effective if it does not have a well-designed message.

According to Kotler (1999), the message selected should gain the target audiences’ interest, develop a desire, and elicit a certain action. Some of the aspects that marketing manager should take into account in the process of designing an effective message include the message content, message structure, message format and message source. Consequently, it is crucial for the firm to design a catchy slogan that will influence the target audience in their decision-making process. The slogan selected should arouse curiosity in the target audience (Koekemoer & Bird 2004). The advertising message should focus on creating awareness regarding the existence of the care home and services offered.

The current change in household composition and an aging population presents an opportunity for Ace Grace Care Homes to increase the number of its residents. The firm can only achieve this goal by creating a sufficient level of market awareness.

Considering the expected transformation in the sector, it is paramount for the care center to utilize Information Communication Technology (ICT) in its marketing communication campaign in order to be efficient. The Internet technology is one of the tools that the firm should utilize. Growth in Internet technology has led to a significant evolution with regard to marketing communication for the technology has facilitated the maximization of the marketing communication impact (Thorson 2007).

The firm should create market awareness of its services by designing a website that is not complicated for the target audience to navigate. The website should detail information regarding the firm and the care services offered. The website should be made known to the public through various mediums such as the print media, television, and radio. This move will increase the probability of a large number of customers accessing the site. Additionally, the firm should also create market information through various search engines such as MSN, Google, Yahoo, and Ask by entering into a formal agreement with the search engine companies to post its advert on their home pages. This aspect will significantly improve the probability of the information reaching a large number of target customers due to the large number of consumers searching for information through the Internet (Srivastava 2008).

Additionally, it is also noteworthy for the firm to utilize emerging social communication tools such as blogs, wikis, YouTube, and Facebook among others. The high rate at which consumers are utilizing these social networking tools presents an opportunity for the firm to communicate to numerous potential customers as evidenced by the high rate at which firms are utilizing emerging social networking tools.

Direct marketing

The firm targets families with elderly persons and healthcare professionals in its quest to increase the size of its residents. Consequently, it is paramount for the firm to adopt interactive advertising. In a bid to ensure effectiveness in its interactive marketing, the firm should design a customer database, which will aid the firm in developing a comprehensive understanding of its target audience and their needs. Direct marketing can be expensive (Kotler 1999), and thus to cut the cost of creating awareness, the firm should adopt the direct marketing method using instantaneous methods of market communication such as fax, telephone, email, direct mail. Despite the cost, the firm should also consider using field sales personnel to visit the homes of potential customers is also paramount in its effort to develop a strong relationship (Kotler 1999). As a result, the firm will understand what customers want, and thus develop products that increase their retention. According to Mullin (2002), direct marketing will enable the management team of Ace Grace Care Homes to develop a relationship with the customers. Ultimately, customers will trust the firm’s operation and thus seek its services.

The firm’s management team is of the opinion that by targeting healthcare providers, they will in turn influence the target audience. The firm should use direct mails when communicating to healthcare providers. In a bid to create awareness within the domestic market, it is essential for the firm to employ place advertising. The firm’s marketing department should use diverse place advertising tools such as billboards, cinema adverts, posters, and transit adverts. The firm should search for advertising companies with strategically located billboards. The adverts on the billboards should integrate the entire advertising message such as the slogan. The firm should also design posters and place them in strategic locations in the major UK cities to increase the probability of the message reaching a large number of potential customers.

Benefits of undertaking integrated marketing communication

Adopting an integrated marketing communication is critical in influencing the outcome of the marketing communication process given that using different marketing tools aids in compensating the disadvantages associated with some tools (Katrandjiev 2000). Adopting IMC is critical in a firm’s efforts to deal with the prevailing marketing challenges. Some of the major challenges that firms face relate to technological growth with specific reference to the Internet, a high rate of globalization, and the need to develop a strong brand image. Ace Grace Care Homes’ can accrue numerous benefits by incorporating IMC in its market communication campaign.

IMC enables organizations to develop a highly competitive advantage (Smith & Taylor 2004). In their decision-making process, consumers go through a complex decision-making process. The process starts with need recognition, information search, and evaluation of alternatives, actual purchase, and post-purchase analysis. IMC assists consumers to become effective and efficient in their buying process for consumers do not have to undergo the complex information search. Through IMC, a firm can develop a sufficient competitive advantage, which emanates from the fact that the IMC process enables a firm to initiate, nurture, and develop a strong relationship with its target customers (Smith & Taylor 2004).

The relationship developed contributes towards the enhancement of a high level of customer loyalty. For example, by incorporating direct marketing, Ace Grace Care Home will become more precise in marketing its services to the target market. Ultimately, the firm will be in a position to create and sustain a high degree of customer loyalty that will promote the firm’s future survival. Consequently, the firm will stand a better chance to deal with competitive forces emanating from other care homes.

The adoption of IMC increases the probability of firms attaining their profit maximization objective. For example, using advertising allows firms to become effective in their effort to persuade their customers, and thus developing a strong brand.

Additionally, using IMC can enable firms to unify the marketing information communicated to the public through various methods and mediums (Smith & Taylor 2004). Kotler (1999) asserts that IMC enables firms to unify their various brand messages and images. Additionally, marketing communication using IMC culminates in the attainment of a high level of consistency, which culminates in development of high sales impact.

Previous studies conducted reveal that using diverse marketing communication methods and tools can lead to sales increment for a large number of potential customers accessing the information. For example, by using different communication tools, the firm will create avenues through which the customers will be influenced in their buying process as underscored by the fact that creating effective market information is the first step towards making sales. Reminding consumers of the existence of a product or service in the market is one of the main objectives of marketing communication. By adopting IMC in their market communication campaign, firms can provide customers with timely reminders and updates regarding their products. The effective and continuous information provided to customers enables them to make optimal decisions in their purchasing process.

According to Katrandjiev (2000), combining different marketing communication tools by designing a balanced marketing communication campaign is more effective compared to adopting a single marketing communication tool. One of the main advantages of IMC is that it enables firms to lower their marketing budget, which is attainable through the impact of the IMC, which enables firms to eliminate duplication that might occur due to the use of photography and graphics. Additionally, firms can eliminate high agency fees that might arise due to the use of various agencies. By incorporating IMC, only one agency is enough to undertake the entire marketing communication. This aspect plays a pivotal role in reducing the marketing communication budget (Katrandjiev 2000). By incorporating IMC, a high degree of consistency in the marketing information is attainable and ultimately, firms can develop a high degree of credibility regarding the information being communicated.

Conclusion

The analysis makes it evident that marketing communication is a tremendously crucial process in the survival of firms irrespective of their products or economic sector in which they operate. This assertion hinges on the fact that marketing communication forms the first step in a firm’s efforts to make sales. In a bid to ensure effectiveness in their marketing communication, it is paramount for the marketing manager to design an optimal marketing communication campaign. The choice of the promotional mix to incorporate should be determined by taking into account several factors such as the nature of the product, stage of the product in its product life cycle, availability of funds, and type of buying decision. Therefore, to improve the chances of success in their marketing communication, marketing managers must incorporate integrated marketing communication. Such a decision would allow the firm to accrue the benefits associated with IMC such as profit maximization, attaining a high competitive advantage, developing a high level of customer loyalty, and cutting the marketing communication budget.

Reference

Berkowitz, E 2011, Essentials of health care marketing, Jones & Bartlett Learning, Sudbury.

Katrandjiev, H 2000, ‘Some aspects of measuring integrated marketing communication’, Economics and Organisation, vol. 8 no.4, pp.87-93.

Koekemoer, K & Bird, S 2004, Marketing communications, Juta Academic, Lansdowne.

Kotler, P 1999, Marketing management: Millennium edition, 10th edn, Prentice Hall, New Jersey.

Lamb, C, Hair, J & McDaniel, C 2012, Essentials of marketing, Cengage Learning, Mason.

Mullin, R 2002, Direct marketing: A step-by-step guide to effective planning and targeting, Kogan Page, London.

Shimp, T 2010, Advertising, promotion, and other aspects of integrated marketing communications, Cengage Learning, Mason.

Smith, P & Taylor, J 2004, Marketing communications: an integrated approach, Kogan Page, London.

Srivastava, M 2008, Developing emotional appeals in internet advertising: A study of contributing factors in provoking emotional appeals, GRIN Verlag, Munchen.

Thorson, E 2007, Internet advertising: Theory and research, Routledge, New York.