What Is Marketing?
Marketing is an effort to clarify, distinguish, and connect.
- Clarify the purpose and intended users of products (usually courses or educational software and hardware) and services (instructional design, curriculum planning, and performance consulting
- Distinguish products and services from others in the market
- Connect products and services with their intended users
- Mere promotion aimed at anyone
- Saying anything to get a sale
- A sleezy or unethical activity
Why Is Marketing Important?
At the least, technical communication and educational technology units need to market their work so their intended “clients” are aware that the courses and resources they requested are now available.
- They also need to market to promote capabilities and increase use of learning products and services.
- To promote capabilities in the group that can make the entire organization more effective
- To increase use of—and dependence on –learning products and services (in a healthy way)
What Are the Key Concepts of Marketing?
Decisions regarding marketing cover these aspects:
- Product (or service): that is, the “thing(s)” that you want stakeholders to buy from you, such as designing learning, creating content, advising on content strategy, analyzing performance needs, and suggesting technology for communication and learning. Not only do you need to consider your product or service, but also similar similar products and services.
- Price: the cost you have established for the product or service, how that price compares to those of similar products and services, and the willingness of stakeholders to pay that price.
- Place: that is, where you make the product or service available. For consumer products, place refers to the location of a store or the website. For services offered by educational technology and technical communication units, it usually refers to whether you offer them at your location or the sponsor’s. This also refers to the availability of telephone, online and, if appropriate, in-person options to register for courses and initiate a request for a project.
- Promotion: which refers to efforts to make potential clients aware of the product or service, using devices such as a catalog of services, advertising, and interna promotions.
Because these four issues each begin with P, these are called the four Ps of marketing.
Some business specialists also suggest a fifth P: positioning. Positioning refers to the perception you would like to create of your products or services in relation to those offered by competitors. Do you want to be perceived as a premium service? Best value for the money? Quickest? These desired perceptions guide choices about the other four Ps.
What Is the Process of Marketing?
The process of marketing, in turn, goes through a series of phases known as AIDA (like the opera):
- A: Attention, which involves getting the attention of prospective consumers. Without attention, no one can hear the message about your products andservices.
- I: Interest, in which you provide an attentive audience with information that would generate deeper interest in your product or service. For example, if you are aware of the issues that are especially important to consumers, you would raise them at this time.
- D: Decision, in which the consumer becomes serious, requests additional information and perhaps a demonstration (if appropriate) and a formal price estimate, because the consumer is seriously considering purchasing the product or service.
- A: Action, in which the consumer takes action, ultimately purchasing the product or service.
What Are the Key Tools for Promoting a Product or Service?
Organizations use these key tools for promoting a product or service.
1. Collateral. Marketing collateral refers to the basic materias needed to promote the availability of products and services on an ongoing basis.
Examples of marketing collateral include a central website for a technical communication or educational technology group, the catalog of courses or services offered by a group, a portal to the learning programs managed by a group, information sheets that guide Subject Matter Experts through review processes, and similar materials that have a long shelf life.
Like collateral on a loan serves provides insurance against a default, so marketing collateral is an insurance policy of sorts that prospective customers can be made aware of, and learn about, the product or service. Because such information is essential–and no promotional efforts can begin without it–marketing professionals use the term collateral to describe it.
In addition to basic descriptions of services, products, and ordering instructions, marketing collateral usually provides helpful information. What’s helpful depends on the product or service covered by the collateral, but might promote links between training courses and career planning (including some career planning resources), provide overviews of the development process to reassure prospective customers that the organization can handle the work; curriculum roadmaps that help prospectie or recent students continue their learning in the longer-term, and similar types of information.
Collateral also needs to demonstrate how the educational technology or technical communication unit supports the strategic initiatives of the organization.
Organizations can prepare collateral using enterprise technology. For example, many Learning Management Systems let organizations create a portal or one-stop-shop for instructional programs and related services. Similarly, technical communication groups can use content management systems to create and post their capabilities to the rest of the organization and other prospective customers.
All collateral must be available and published the day a product or service is announced, such as the announcement of a course.
Similarly because these products and services change with time, collateral must be regularly reviewed and, if needed, revised. That’s easier said than done because most people in our field prefer to focus on new content, rather than keeping older content up to date.
Most organizations notify students and other stakeholders of major updates. Social marketing (described later) is an excellent tool for such notifications.
Organizations assess the effectiveness of collateral by the number of people who use it (if that can be tracked), the amount of money generated by changes, and its availability when the product or service was launched.
2. Sales-promotions refer to special short-term discounts and premiums intended to drive sales during a brief, well-defined period, as well as the materials used to make consumers aware of these promotions.
A 10 percent off sale for a 3-week period is an example of a sales-promotion, as is a 4-week special in which someone who enrolls in a class gets 3 free books with the registration.
But an organization might merely focus a sales-promotion effort on publicity, not offering any discount or premium. An organization might launch a sales-promotion effort, for example, when launching a new service or course.
To promote the discount or premium, the organization might publish an advertisement or send a special mailing to prospective customers.
Organizations consider sales promotions in these instances:
- After announcing a new product or service, so prospective customers are aware of it
- When enrollments in a particular course or sales, or usage of once-popular services wanes. This usually means that a product or service is moving to a new phase of its life cycle. Sales-promotions can encourage purchases in the short-term, but the product or service might need to be changed or replaced in the long-run if it is to remain on the market.
- To encourage consumers to purchase sooner, such as purchasing by a certain date to receive a discount or premium.
Organizations can measure these efforts. For example, by sending prospective customers to a particular website and having them submit orders from it, you can determine which announcement or advertisement is driving these sales. Furthermore, you can see whether the sales-promotion efforts are having the intended effect with the intended people. Are the people who actually purchase the ones whom you had hoped would purchase? If not, what’s different? Why? If they are the same people, are the number of prospective consumers purchasing whom you intended to purchase? If not, why does the number differ? Did you mis-estimate or has something else affected the situation.
A sales-promotion is only intended for short-term results. Organizations should only consider a sales-promotion after they have prepared and published their marketing collateral.
Organizations determine the effectiveness of sales promotion by directly measuring the change in sales from just before the start of the promotion to its end.
3. Press and Publicity refers to efforts to get information about your product or service published in various newspapers, magazines, webzines and blogs that are not published by you. Pres and publicity also refers to efforts to be featured on television, in radio, and on websites run by people other than your organization.
Technical communicators and educational technologists typically use two means to get publicity:
- Sending press releases, which are formal announcements sent to newspapers, magazines, television and radio news rooms, and other news organizations with the hope that these news organizations will share the announcement with their readers and subscribers. Press releases are written in a particular format. With the ability to easily customize this material, many press specialists tailor each press release to the unique needs of the publication.
- Writing material intended for publication, usually on topics that directly relate to the educational technology, communication, or some area in which the communicator or technologist has expertise.
Organizations assess the effectiveness of press and publicity by the number of newspapers, television and radio stations, webzines, magazines, and blogs ran the announcement or story.
4. Direct sales involves having marketing representatives sell directly to customers. This only works for:
- Large contracts ($50,000 and up)
- Long lead times (plan for 12 months from initial contact to actual sale)
Typically, part or all of the salary of marketing representatives comes from commissions–that is, a percentage of the sale price of the product or service. In some cases, to encourage marketing representatives to sell specific products or services (ones that are especially strategic to the organization), organizations give them a higher commission for selling them.
Effective direct sales requires that marketing representatives have a well-defined list of prospective clients, plans for approaching them and specific suggestions for which products and services might meet their needs.
Direct sales are almost exclusively used to sell contracting and consulting services, and one of the ways that organizations sell training courses and content to large customers.
Most organization establish a quota for marketing representatives. A quota refers to the dollar amount of sales that the marketing representative must generate.
Organizations assess the effectiveness of direct marketing by comparing the value of sales generated by the marketing representative with the extent of sales predicted earlier in the year.
5. Business shows involve promoting products and services at conferences and trade shows, such as the ASTD International Conference and Exposition or the Society for Technical Communication Annual Summit. Organizations assess the effectiveness of their participation in a business show by the numbers of inquiries and sales generated afterwards
6. Telemarketing provides sales through the phone and the Internet. Although many people think of telemarketing as outbound–that is, when an organization calls prospective customers; most telemarketing is inbound–that is, when prospective customers call the organization to ask for information and to place orders.
Telemarketing is needed for products or services sold in high volumes . For example, education providers let prospective students enroll by telephone or through the Internet.
In contrast, few organizations use telemarketing to sell services.
Organizations typically assess telemarketing by the sales generated, the cost of handling the call, the amount of time spent with the caller, and the accuracy of the response provided to the caller.
7. Social Marketing involves promotional efforts using media to reach many people as quickly as possible. One example includes using social networking (Facebook, LinkedIn) or microblogging (Twitter) to frequently send announcements about your product or service. For example, you might set up a Facebook page or LinkedIn group to post news and specials about a product or service, and encourage people to “Like” the page or join the group so that they always receive news.
Another example of social marketing involves using blogs to promote a product or service. The blog might be one that you publish, and where you can provide insights into your product or service as well as share your expertise with prospective customers. The blog might also belong to another blogger, whom you might ask to mention your product or service.
Table 1 lists the types of vehicles used in social marketing and the means typically used in social marketing.
Table 1: Vehicles and Means of Social Marketing
|Facebook pages and groupsLinkedInUpdatesGroupsTwitter updates
|Viral videosViral messagesMostly, persistent posting|
Organizations assess the effectiveness of social marketing by the number of people reached as well as by the number of sales generated (if it is feasible to track them).
How Does One Market?
Marketing is purposeful activity. It requires advance planning to determine which combination of the 7 marketing tools you plan to use, when and how you plan to use them, and the resources needed so you can use them effectively.
Use the Template for Preparing a Marketing Plan, provided under Managing the Business–>Business Resources to guide you in developing a marketing plan for your organization. It provides a structure for thinking about issues related to marketing.
Then, you implement the plan, making adjustments as you learn the extent to which the plan addresses the reality of the market you are working with.
© Copyright 2012. Saul Carliner. All rights reserved. If sharing or excerpting, should be properly cited.