Your marketing - How will you let the people who may want your support service product know about it?
It is very clearly important for you to let people know about your support service as without customers you will not be able to generate income and this may mean your organisation failing.
Some more traditional providers of Adult social care support services will have been used to having a "marketing" relationship with Adult Services Departments, either Care Managers or Commissioners, however whilst this will remain important, more emphasis, under SDS, will need to be placed on marketing direct to the client. This may well need a different approach to what you are currently doing.
Your marketing strategy / plan
You may wish to develop a marketing strategy in order that you can plan how you will be able to communicate the benefits of your products and services to your customers and show them how they can meet their needs. It may also help you identify and then respond to changes in customer perceptions and demand and identify new markets for your support service products.
There are a couple of key steps, below, that you may wish to consider when developing your marketing strategy / plan. The aim is to understand where you are in the market in order that you can successfully promote your strengths, matching them clearly to the needs of the customers. For example, if a particular group of customers is looking for quality first and foremost, then any marketing activity aimed at them should draw attention to the high quality of your products or service.
Define your target market
Be clear about who your target market is (Your customer) and identify and define, and you may already have done this as you have following your market research and through the development of your product (Your product), the characteristics and needs of your target market (Your market).
Understand your market
Analyse your business environment to get an understanding of any external factors may impact on your market or your own organisation / business and consider what this impact may be. For example use PESTC analysis:
Political and legal changes - such as new regulations
Economic factors - such as interest rates and consumer confidence
Social factors - such as changing attitudes and lifestyles, and the ageing population
Technological factors - such as new methods of service delivery and growing use of the Internet
Competition factors - what are the substitutes or alternatives for your own product
Identify your position in your market
Do an honest and objective assessment of your own organisation to understand your current position in and how you interact with your market. The aim is to help you identify how you can maintain your position or develop in your chosen market. For example use SWOT analysis:
Strengths - things that you do well and that are favourable for your organisation
Weaknesses - things that you aren't so good at and that you may wish to improve (although just being aware of your weaknesses will help you)
Opportunities - Considering your strengths and your market position, what are the opportunities that you can target and exploit in the future in order to develop your business
Threats - Considering your weaknesses and your market position, what are the future threats that you need to guard and plan for, to either protect your organisation or turn those weaknesses into strengths.
Develop your strategy and action plans
Bring all the information you have gathered together, and considering all the factors decide what the message, highlighting the strengths of your organisation and product, you want to get across to your customers about your support service product is. You will also need to clearly define how you will focus your marketing activities to get this message across to your customers.
It is important for a marketing plan to:
set clear, realistic and measurable targets - for example, increasing sales by 10 per cent
include deadlines for meeting targets
provide a budget for each marketing activity
specify who is responsible for each activity
Make sure you think through each of your objectives logically. For example, you might set a target for the number of new enquiries. But if you don't provide the resources and training to follow up these enquiries and turn them into sales, you will have increased costs without any benefits.
Then you need to make sure your plan 'happens'. Set yourself a clear monitoring regime and review your activities so that you can learn from what has gone well and from your mistakes.
Your marketing methods
The 4 p's
When deciding on your marketing methods you may wish to consider the 4 P's:
Price - what is the pricing strategy for your product? How will you ensure customers understand this?
Product - how will you ensure customers understand what your product is and why they should want to buy it? How will it be packaged (how will it be presented to the customer)?
Place - how will you let customers know where your products are being delivered from?
Promotion - how will you let customers know about your product?
A number of providers will feel that the way to promote their product and gain new customers will be to advertise. However although advertising is a key part of marketing, it should only be one part of an organisations marketing plan. Marketing should be comprised of a number of methods, including:
Advertising - is about getting the word out about your business, product, or the services you are offering. You can send your message out through various mediums, for example newspapers, direct mail, billboards, television, radio, and the Internet.
Promotions - a one-off / short - medium term activity that aims to boost to sales. Promotions can range from straightforward price cuts to loyalty bonuses or free gifts.
Public Relations / Press releases - is really a means for getting people to talk and think about your business in a positive way, primarily through media coverage but don't forget the power of word of mouth and local community PR.
E-marketing - means using digital technologies such as websites, mobile devices and social networking to help reach your customer base, create awareness of your brand and sell your goods or services.
Direct mailing or tele-marketing - is about contacting the customer direct either through a targeted or broader approach.
Branding is a way of clearly highlighting what makes your product or service different to, and more attractive than, your competitors through developing a set of associations that customers have of your product or of your organisation. Although a logo is important, branding is much more than a logo with advertising, marketing, service proposition and corporate culture all helping to generate associations in people's minds that will benefit your business.
A very simple guide on what branding is and how you can use it can be found in The Design Council’s "The power of branding: a practical guide"
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