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Creating awareness for a company or product is the biggest challenge managers face. There exist many options to communicate this message to customers in the market; they include: personal selling, media advertising, direct mails and, most recently, web marketing has been added to the marketing mix. The method of producing a consistent brand message to each customer is called integrated marketing communications (IMC). Its major objective is to foster awareness of products to customers on features, benefits and points of sale. Its ultimate purpose is to influence customers to purchase; this can be achieved through the following steps:
Goals of IMC
- IMC creates awareness among potential customers. People usually buy products they are only aware of: this process, therefore, simplifies the process of creating awareness for companies.
- This method provides target customers with information and knowledge concerning certain products or services. Accurate and appealing information about what the product is and what it can do is provided as well.
- IMC ensures that it creates a favorable impression to people who do not buy features but benefits. Due to this technique, products and services are presented as something that will likely improve their lives and relieve them of everyday problems.
- IMC ensures that customers form the correct opinion concerning the product at hand. This enables customers to consider a certain product to be the top priority when they want to make a purchase decision.
- In addition, it creates a purchase intension among target customers if the right steps are taken.
- Successful purchase is the result of all these steps and an assessment of whether IMC was impressive to the customer.
Vehicles of Communication
A properly financed marketer can access various options of communication such as print and electronic media, teleconferencing, direct mail solicitations and personal selling as well as public relations. Most consumers are quite familiar with these avenues because they witness such techniques on daily basis. However, the pressing question each advertiser should ask is how to cut through the process and reach the purchase decision stage in the minds of potential customers.
In order to address this issue, communication vehicles are divided into two groups. The firs group conducts targeting and customization by addressing individual prospects whose needs and interests are known. Such mediums of sale are direct mails to customers and direct visits by a sales person. On the other hand, a TV commercial is viewed by millions of undifferentiated people in the society; as a result, it cannot target specific viewers. Such a commercial is usually one-way communication and can only create awareness showing the features and benefits of a product. On the other hand, a salesperson and a potential buyer can negotiate about a product and strike a purchase deal because personal selling is a type of two-way communication. The section between one-way and two-way communication includes TV info-commercials, web based communications and direct mails because they possess the characteristics of both.
Public Relations (PR)
PR is a form of communication whose objective is to create public awareness and understanding of a product as well as promote a favorable opinion about the company. PR tools include press release, executive speeches and public service activities. However, this channel is not similar to others because it operates through unpaid channels; thus, companies do not have control over any possible consequences and time such communication occurs. The best virtue of PR in marketing is that it highlights products and services in appealing ways.
Choosing the Right Communication Channels
There are some factors to consider in selecting the right vehicle available for marketing one’s products. First, the period of time it takes customers to make a purchase decision and the awareness they have about merchandise should be of primary concern. The simple understanding can help managers identify the best vehicle for communication. If target audience is engaged in a tight competition with rivals, the best channel is personal selling so as to easily lead to a transaction. Second, managers should use the mostly targeted vehicle, unless the principal aim is to appeal to heterogeneous and broad public.
Integrating the Communication Elements
It is important to keep the following six elements in mind when communicating with customers.
- Market – this refers to whom such communication addresses: customers, retailers or wholesalers.
- Mission – it is the objective of communication.
- Message – specific points communicated: product features, benefits, terms of trade, delivery, discounts among others.
- Media – the combination of communication vehicles employed to send messages.
- Measurement – this is the evaluation of communication’s effectiveness in relation to the final results.
- Money – one should consider the budget for the marketing efforts.
The companies’ management has the bulk of coordinating their spending to all touch points of their strongholds. Currently, distribution channels and customer communication are broad and varied; as a consequence, brand managers have to optimize their resource allocation to obtain the best possible results.