This report aims to propose an integrated marketing communication plan for Training in Electrical (TIE) which would aid in targeting a larger base of potential customers. The main focus of this report is the B2B segment, however, the B2C segment is considered partially. The contents in this report are addressed by employing the SOSTAC model which includes external and internal business environment analysis, taking into account the perceptions of the past and current customers from both segments. Further on, achievable objectives are formulated followed by profile strategies and tactics (aligned with the objectives) to be effectuated by deploying current as well as new resources. Finally, the action and the control and evaluation variables are illustrated. To build a solid base for analysis, the team has done multiple interviews and questionnaire surveys among customers (both individuals and organizations) and staff of Training in Electrical to gain their perceptions. Some secondary research has also been done to align with these first-hand insights. The results of both the primary and secondary research have been analyzed profoundly to formulate the appropriate communication plan. As a whole, the analysis rendered here will assist Training in Electrical to differentiate itself from its competitors, and thereon to build and sustain a larger base of potential customer influx.
Training in Electrical is an approved QCF electrical training provider which is accredited with City and Guilds and Logic Certification. It provides up-to-date electrical training courses to both new starters and electricians who want to upskill themselves. The courses provided cover the domains of domestic, commercial and industrial electrician as well as renewable energy area. Training in Electrical has been successful in impressing previous and current students with their qualified teaching and unique offers such as weekend and evening classes. In order to broaden its business, the company is looking forward to attract more customers in new market segments in the construction sector.
This consultancy project aims to assist the company to identify new market segment in the construction sector and to develop a communication plan, which will aid in targeting the potential customers in the future. Some primary and secondary research have been conducted to fulfil this purpose. This report serves as medium to illustrate the results of the research done by the team as well as the recommended communications plan in the marketing activities. The report will follow the SOSTAC model, starting with Situational analysis in which PESTLE, Porter’s Five Forces, SWOT, customer analysis, competitor analysis and internal analysis is included; followed by Objectives, Strategies, Tactics, Action and finally Control and Evaluation.
This research is based on Primary quantitative and secondary qualitative data collection techniques. For the primary research of the past and current students of Training in Electrical, a survey that was designed on Qualtrics, it was sent out via E-mails for responses to gain insights about the perceptions of candidates regarding the company. Also, electricians from the previous companies such as Games Workshop, Bard house accommodation and NTU electricians were interviewed by the prior consent of these companies. The results of the key findings were integrated and realistic facts and figures were produced around which the literature and key theories were incorporated.
For the secondary research, considering the external business environment, a PESTEL analysis and Porter’s 5 forces analysis was compassed by using journal articles, electrical training websites, academic books, databases, and reports that aided in the use of theories and literature around our findings. Also, for the internal business environment the above stated academic materials were utilised to bring the positive and negative aspects of implementing strategies and tactics. Finally, the presentation of the report is based on the SOSTAC model.
A personalised validated survey for past customers was carried out to get insights about the perceptions of students that have utilised the services of Training in Electrical Company. This Survey has revealed some important facts and figures regarding the company. Concerning the advertising activities, it is shown that 50% of the customers came to know about the company through recommendations, 38% through the company’s website, and 13% through the Internet.
Where variables such as price, reputation, flexibility in time, qualifications, and location are concerned,students chose price and qualifications as the apex reason to choose TIE, followed by flexibility and reputation, suggesting that during times when seasonal sales are low (e.g.,during the summer season and Christmas) effective suitable tactics such as buying allowances can be implemented to make sure that affordability puts the company in a position of a competitive advantage. Smith and Brynjolfsson (2001) suggest that consumers tend to be price-sensitive most of the time, meaning that price is the most important factor in the acquisition of customers, and Training in Electrical has competitive pricing.
The results of the survey also included ratings for the website and android phone app.The website was rated 4.5 out of 5, and it was suggested that it could incorporate minor changes for purposes of navigational clarity.The android application was rated 3.5, which shows that significant improvements can be made to tactically achieve competitive benefits. See appendix 3 for further information.
With the cooperation from Training in Electrical, the team has successfully completed the survey on current students, which is of great value to the project since it provides the basis for further analysis and allows for the formulation of recommended strategy and tactics. The team has received 42 effective respondents in the current students’ survey, among which 41 are male and 1 is female. The age distribution is such that 45% of the respondents fall in the age group of 36 to 50.
The results from the survey reveal some valuable facts. First, it is clear that company’s website and internet searches have played an important role in leading potential customers to be more aware of the company, pointing to the necessity of advertisements. Next, it is shown that suitable qualification, competitive price, and flexibility in time are the most important factors that have made the current students choose the company as their source for professional training. Training in Electrical should sustain these factors as advantages in the face of the competition. In particular, the company should make scheduling flexibility (e.g., weekend and evening classes) into its Unique Selling Point to attract customers. It is also important to note that Training in Electrical has received extremely positive feedbacks from almost all of the current students.
Ninety per cent of the students are highly satisfied with such aspects of their learning experience as the interaction with the staff and the quality of teaching have made more than 90% of students satisfied. Additionally, the words that students choose to describe the company include many positive and affirmative terms, such as “friendly”, “professional”, “qualified”, “helpful”, and so on. Finally, the survey results showed that the preferred ways to receive course updates and marketing information include emails, brochures, and pamphlets, which means that Training in Electrical should focus on these particular channels as methods of communication and marketing. See appendix 4 for further information.
It has been found from the interviews with past customers of Training in Electrical that word-of-mouth and the internet seem to be the most effective techniques of attracting potential customers. They choose Training in Electrical because of its up-to-date facilities, the quality of teaching, the suitability of courses that they require to suit their needs, and the convenient location of the training centres. The company was most suited for the other businesses’ needs due to the customized trainings they offered, which were specifically tailored to the these companies’ equipment.
Customers indicate that the communication with Training in Electrical was favourablein terms of providing regular feedback, updates, studentsattendance reports, and follow-up courses. Additionally, candidates have enjoyed their training with friendly trainers, as well as a high pass rate, whereas FE colleges were not able to offer the same quality, and the candidates could not perform well in their courses.
Training in Electrical seems to have built a good reputation through maintaining valuable relationships with their customers, who clearly intend to approach the company again in the future and are keen on recommending it to others. This indicates that the company promotes brand purchase intention with their customers, which indicates their commitment to undertaking training from this company.However, it does not essentially ensure the actual purchase of the service (Percy, 2009). See appendix 5 for further information.
From the interview that was conducted with NTU electrician department, it was found that they received training from FE colleges because they were local. On asking them, whether they knew about Training in Electrical, it turned out that they were not aware of this company. Nevertheless, it is clear that they are keen to undertake courses from a local company.
In addition, they prefer to consider benchmarking for their electricians from a specific company. This refers to the ‘category need’, which demonstrates the perception of the target audience that they require a product or service to fulfil their need and link this need with a particular brand (Percy, 2009). As can be seen from this interview, the lack of awareness of a local company means that TIE will have to indulge in a more intensive marketing and advertising campaign. This intensification will aid in targeting and attracting a larger customer base.
Competitors’ analysis for Training in Electrical has been conducted based on their target customers, marketing activities, prices, courses and extra facilities offered. FE colleges as a threat are also considered that nevertheless use usual marketing techniques but they have a well-established reputation among people. Major competitor seems to be Tradeskills4u from whom various facilities can be exemplified and implemented upon. See competitors’ matrix in appendix for further information.
Through Training in Electrical staff’s interview，the analysis can be classified into two different types .
An effective internal communication plans constitutes channelizing two way flow of information through communication. Training in electrical believes in verbal communication, phone calls and e-mails among staff members. In addition, they keep staff updated with changes recurring in the company about the new trends in the industry through monthly meetings and occasional e-mails. However, staff think that these meetings should be more a regular basis than on a monthly basis. Training in electrical also keep themselves up to date with the recurring changes by recruiting an internal verifier who checks the course updates, grades and suggests qualifications to take on. This fosters communication initiation to be aligned with the business goals.
The company communicates with the students internally on a one-to-one basis and conduct classes with a small number of students, which enables them to give personal attention to students. As a result of this, their success rate has amounted to 80% to 90%. Additionally, they communicate with students on a weekly basis through emails and Facebook to keep them updated with class contents. Also, they keep past students updated with the courses through emails and Facebook.
Based on the key findings from competitors’ analysis and staff’s interview, it has been noticed that the company have various strengths as follows. The company offers flexibility in accommodating its customers’ busy schedules, by providing weekend and evening classes. Compared toother training providers, Training in Electrical has average price affordability. Also, it has a good website and a good online brochures which can be used to communicate with existing and potential customers. Additionally, the company adopts small class teaching, ensuring that each student receives personal attention. The company offers interest free payments for 8-week courses, which would suit significantly for students. In term of business to business (B2B), the company provides bespoke training and in-house training which has been found the most appealing for the companies in the interviews.
Comparing to the competitors, it has been noticed that the company does not have a clear segment of B2B services. Additionally, the company is not sufficiently involved in marketing activities. Also, the company does not have a long-established reputation in comparison to well-known companies and colleges. The company does not have other training centres except in Nottingham which limit its ability to serve other regions. Moreover, the company has not established a clear system for offers and discounts. As a result, the company is exposed to decline in sales in certain periods such as Christmas.
Referring to PESTLE and Porter’s five forces’ analysis, it has been found that changes in technology and renewable energy provide opportunities for the company, since the demand for electric cars is increasing significantly, the provision of electric vehicles charging points is expected to become an essential part of nearly all domestic electrical installations (Electrical Times, 2013). Additionally, the introduction of SMART meters by the government can lead to opportunities for electrical training companies (Electrical Review, 2013). Since consumers are increasingly shifting toward automated technology in their homes, new opportunities arise for electricians, who will be required to install the new technologies (McCarthy and Bratt, 2013; Pratten, 2013).
With regards to changes in government policysuch asthe Green Deal initiatives, it provides opportunities for electrical training companies (Santander, 2013). The Train to Gain policy and the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers (AGE) enable employers to offer training to their employees, thereby attracting more potential customers (DERA, 2008). In terms of social aspect, the recent shortage of trained electricians which is expected to increase in the future, provide opportunities for electrical training companies as more electricians will need training (National Career Service, 2102).
Referring to PESTLE and Porter’s five forces’ analysis, it has been noticed that there are many threats the company might face. Firstly, the fierce competition arises from FE colleges and large companies with established brands and loyal customers (Keynote, 2014). Secondly, the narrow range of prices characteristic of this industry makes survival difficult for a company that does not have core competences, such as service differentiation, that enable it to face the competition. Thirdly, whereas training companies are looking to train the new, younger generation of electricians without much experience, the delayed retirement plans for aged electricians represent a threat for the company. Lastly, rapidly evolving technology makes it difficult for electrical training companies to stay on the cutting edge demanding a constant flow of huge investmentsinto new equipment.
Table 1: Summary of SWOT
· Increase the customer base by 17% to 20%, particularly targeting construction companies operating that operate in growing markets over the next 12 months.
Referring back to the situational analysis, according to the Telegraph (2013), the UK population is rising, which suggests that there will be more demand for houses, thus increasing construction activities. In addition, the recent trends and changes such as the green agenda and awareness of the eco-friendly measures among people, will lead to an increase in the construction of green and environmentally friendly new houses.
· Increase ‘Training in Electrical’ brand awareness locally as well as nationally by increasing inquires by 25% to 30% over the next 12 months.
Percy (2009) defines brand awareness as “Target audience ability to recognize or recall the brand and associate it with the need” (p, 225). Training in Electrical is still in the growth stage, which presents the need to reinforce its brand awareness. Referring to the situational analysis, even though word-of-mouth recommendations have decreased for the current students, more than 90% of the students would still recommend the company to others. This will still initiate the company’s brand awareness among a significant group of electricians.
· Improve and enhance internal communications in line with objectives 1 and 2.
Walker (2014) recommends holding meetings as a medium for enhancing internal communication to inform, clarify, and exchange the management and staff’s views of the company. He also suggests setting the frequency of these meetings to be twice a month. Upon analysing the internal communications, it is suggested that the company should have regular meetings every 2 weeks.
According to Bass (1994) Profile strategy is one that builds a conglomerated reputation of the company. It considers variables such as correct positioning, targeting and branding etc., for effective deployment of resources to achieve goals. For Training in Electrical, agreement concerning targeting construction companies in the east-midlands area is stipulated upon. Where positioning is concerned, it means fabricating positive perceptions about the company in consumers’ minds (Ghodeswar, 2008).
Also, in the company's emerging and growth stage, building brand awareness to attract a large customer base forms an apex part, as it can help sustain regular customers (Bendixenet al, 2004). As addressed in Porter’s FiveForces, because the electrical training industry has low service differentiation, effectuation of correct brand awareness techniques can aid in building a company’s reputation over similar proliferated services and courses provided by other electrical training companies (Aaker, 2009). Concerning B2B channels, branding through corporate advertising is the most effective (Fill and Fill, 2004). Building B2B brand awareness is important because a brand is not just a logo, but a reputation, a perception of the businesses as a whole, and the essential factor that aids in the decision-making processes for businesses (Kotler and Pfoertsch, 2007).
Whereas B2C channel is concerned, creating brand awareness is necessary to maintain a strong foothold in the market in order to gain a recognizable market share (Luo and Tung, 2007). Referring to the diagram below, building brand awareness is important because consumers tend to be loyal to a brand that they know, because they associate pre-set quality with a known brand.In other words, name awareness can fabricate brand associations in the minds of the people (Aekar, 1991). For example, some consumers may associate Training in Electrical with a company that offers weekend and evening classes.
Figure 1: Brand Equity Model
Adapted from (Aekar, 1991, p 17)
As can be seen in the flyer or the magazine advert designed for Training in Electrical in appendix, the strong points of the company have been highlighted such as using slogans ‘Your Training, Your way’ is formulated to highlight the strengths of providing evening and weekend customised trainings suited to customers and companies. This is called Unique Selling Proposition (USP) messaging theory which is the description of activities that distinguishes a company from the others or competitors (Zinkhan, 1993). USP messaging theory states that from the customers’ spectrum, at least three USP’s must be highlighted in an advertisement for initiating implicit visual appeal (The Economist, 2009). However, (Hackley, 2010) argues that level of visual appeal for all individuals is different as few consumers may tend to notice more pictorial visualisations as compared to those who prefer reading.
Direct marketing consist of direct mail, email, and telemarketing. Direct mail has been an important part of the communications mix and B2B markets, as it can be used to support personal selling by building awareness, enhancing image, establishing credibility, and taking orders, as well as providing levels of customer management. It can be highly targeted based on the previous behaviour of the customers if there is a database. Telemarketing can be used to facilitate customer enquiries, to establish leads, make appointments, and in certain circumstances, provide direct sales channel (Fill, 2009).
The essential character of direct marketing lies in its action orientation, as well as other traits like a targeted and personal approach, measurability, testability, and flexibility (Csolosova et al., 2013). Direct marketing helps a company to establish interactivity or one-to-one communication with the customer, which further leads to measurability. Direct marketers can successfully measure the customer responses, on which further and more effective targeted marketing activities are based.
As Training in Electrical prefers using emails as a cost effective marketing technique, they can use their customer database to update information about their students, and keep them updated in turn. However, TIE should use specific customised messaging techniques to reach out to specific audiences. This tactic is aligning with objective one.
Internet marketing activities are now commonplace in marketing communications. The Internet and especially social media communication, has been identified as highly important for B2B companies. B2B companies can use social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn to communicate with their customers and suppliers, build relationships and trust, as well as to identify prospective partners in terms of B2B selling (Michaelidou et al., 2011).
Marketing through the Internet, and especially social media, can be relatively cheap, and all messages can be spread rapidly on a global scale. Additionally, the accelerated trend of smartphones and tablets aids the company in interacting with existing or potential customers. Digitally based communications can improve the accuracy of the information provided, thereby giving a good measure of the effectiveness of marketing communication activities (Fill, 2009). See appendix 6 for further information. This tactis is aligning with objective two.
B2B advertising creates awareness and favourable brand attitudes (Percy, 2009). It targets people who are involved in the decision making process for buying products or services for a company, which might or might not be the end-consumer (Percy, 2009). It helps to provide related factual information that is necessary for decision-making (Fill, 2009). Corporate image advertising enhances the company itself instead of a particular product or service (Percy, 2009).
Trade magazine advertising is the most essential marketing technique in B2B, the main role of which is to inform and remind the target customers of the company’s services (Fill, 2009). It is greatly selective; it can reach a particular target audience, as it has a wide array of specialist titles that enable effective segmentation (Fill, 2009). Trade magazines are only read by a specific interest group, which means that wasteful circulation is avoided (Trehan and Trehan, 2009), making them a cost-effective tactic to reach the target customers (Fill, 2009). As it has been found in the situational analysis, trade magazines are read frequently among the company’s customers. However, the cost of advertising in the trade magazines differs based on the magazines’ reputation (Fill, 2009). An additional downside is the minor market coverage and the long lead-time. Furthermore, it is often overloaded with advertisements; therefore, it is possible that not every advertisement will be noticed (Trehan and Trehan, 2009). This tactic is aligning with objective two.
Percy (2008) finds that the importance of advertising and promotion is varied in different market characteristics. He states that advertising is most effective in the growth stage of the product’s lifecycle, while promotion is most essential in the decline stage. With regards to product differentiation, advertising is fundamental when a product or service is truly distinctive from competitors in the customers’ minds (Percy, 2009). However, even when there is no actual difference perceived, advertising can be used in the long term to build a meaningful perceptual for the brand (Trehan and Trehan, 2007). While promotion is essential at least in the short term, when customers perceive all brands as nearly the same (Percy, 2008). Moreover, with a strong market position, advertising will be more essential. However, when sales performance is not up to expectation, promotion becomes more essential, because it could provide immediate sales (O'guinn et al., 2014).
The view of a ‘ratchet effect’ suggests that in the case of using advertising in conjunction with promotion raises the value of the brand’s promotion while diminishing the influence of that of the competitor (Percy, 2008). The graphs below show the contrast between the effect of promotion without advertising and Moran’s ‘ratchet effect’.
Figure 2: Using Just Sale Promotions
Adapted from (Percy, 2008).
Figure 3: Using Sale Promotions Combined with Advertising
Adapted from (Percy, 2008).
Exhibitions provide a two-way communication stream between existing or potential customers and companies (Luff, 2010), and enable direct contact with current and prospective consumers (Cheverton, 2005). Since exhibitions are specific to every industry, their visitors will consist mainly of the companies’ fundamental demographic, which then enables businesses to notice prospective customers and promote their crucial values (Luff, 2010).
The key aim of exhibitions is to establish a long-standing partnership with consumers and to reinforce the corporate identity (Cheverton, 2005), additionally,enabling companies to enhance their brand awareness (Luff, 2010). It is also useful for trade relations and for building presence and credibility (Cheverton, 2005). However, the cost of exhibitions tends to be high (Fill, 2009). Additionally, one of the key disadvantages of exhibitions is that there planning and implementation tends to be time consuming (Fill, 2009). This tactic is aligning with objective two.
Sales promotion is principally used as a means to fasten sales by offering customers extra incentives (Fill, 2009). Price deals, coupons, etc. provide an added value to a product. Lee (2002) suggests that sales promotion can be used either to compete, as a form of inertia, and as the means for meeting short-term and long-term sales objectives. Peattie and Peattie (1994) divided sales promotion into value increasing (discount, money-off coupons, refunds, etc.) and value adding (service/product trail, gift coupons, etc.).
Training in Electrical should primarily implement the value increasing technique as it can help further demand during periods when sales are commonly low (e.g., during Christmas). The company can use the price reduction method on a product or service for a specific period of time, which will help in generating sales typically when sales are typically low. Secondly, Training in Electrical can also indulge in ‘discount pricing’, where companies get a certain percentage of discount for more than 2-3 candidates. These techniques will not only help in reaching new customers but also add value to the services offered by the Training in Electrical (Fill, 2009). This tactic is aligning with objective one.
Aligning with objective 3 and considering the interview that was conducted in Training in Electrical, the company management desired an increase in the frequency of meetings from 12 per year to double the amount. To assure the effectiveness of a downward flow of communication, Morrison (2008) suggests that holding regular meetings (at least once every two weeks) helps to inform, clarify, and exchange information. This should be followed even if there is nothing important to report. This is because communication will happen only when there is information to convey if meetings are held only to keep the management updated.As a result, there will only be a one-way stream of communication, and the organisation will suffer. The purpose of meeting once every two weeks is to understand that there is no major change and immediate problems (Morrison, 2008). See appendix 7 for further information.
According to Kubr (2002), the Implementation is a very essential phase of the marketing communication plan.It provides a test for the relevance and viability of the proposals developed by the consultancy project team in cooperation with the client. When a project begins, unpredictable new problems and obstacles may arise, and false assumptions or planning errors may be uncovered. Resistance to change may be quite different from what was assumed at the proposal and planning stages. See Appendix 8 for further information.
Budgetingcan assist the company when considering the benefits and costs of various planned activities, and assure that the objectives of marketing campaign can be achieved. Also, it enables the company to predict the financial aspects for future campaigns (Fill, 2009). It is suggested that the company to have a separate budget for its marketing activities to ensure that no recurring expenditures are incurred.
The evaluation part is an important element of a communication plan. First, to ensure that the communication objectives are met, it is essential to evaluate the performance of a communication plan. Second, to ensure that the strategies are implemented correctly, promotional tools should be implementedto their full potential and with optimal utilization of resources. An evaluation plan provides feedback, indicators, and benchmarks for shaping future strategies (Fill, 2009).
Finding out how the objectives where achieved should guide the evaluation of campaign success (Baines, 2008). The marketing tactics can be examined in advance ‘pre-testing’,and aftertheir implementation ‘post-testing’ (Fill, 2009). Pre-testing is based on qualitative and quantitative criteria. To ensure that the final advert meets its objectives, it is vital to test it before it is published (Fill, 2009). See appendix 9 for further information.
Table 2: Measuring the Effectiveness of the Recommended Tactics
To conclude, an in-depth analysis for Training in Electrical’s business environment has been conducted, including identifying positive and negative elements. Additionally, surveys and interviews have been carried out to gain profound insights as to the company’s customers and staff. Based on primarily and secondary research, an appropriate marketing communication plan has been formulated, in which specific strategies and tactics were recommended to reinforce the company’s brand reputation. These can also be adopted to reach the target B2B customers. Lastly, effective control and evaluation methods are provided to measure the success of the campaign.