More than often, marketing remain as an essential part of good management practice that involves a process of identifying customer needs, wants and wishes, and fully satisfying them. Integrated marketing communication is a concept formulated in the late 20th century that involves planning of both marketing and corporate strategies as a way of achieving customer satisfaction. More considerably, integrated marketing communication is a marketing strategy that includes the components of sales promotion, general advertising, direct marketing, as well as public relation, which involves adding value to products and services. In most cases, the changing customer’s preference and competition create the need for the organization to formulate new strategies on how to communicate to their audience (Belch & Belch 2011). As a result, it is important to establish both the benefits and detrimental factors that arise from the theory of integrated marketing communication especially in the higher education sector where efficient, fast and effective means of providing prospective students with information seems to establish opportunities and threat of social media in the management of communication marketing.
More significantly, higher education institutions integration of promotional message in marketing their services remain essential in achieving their goals and objectives. Integrated marketing communication came into existence due to the emergence of a new form of communication in the media that increase student enrolment as public relations, advertising, personal selling and direct marketing remain as traditional ways of increasing institution growth. The development of new media channels such as digital television, personal computer, social media, internet, mobile phones and the technological development has created a competitive market environment. Considerably, it is critical to understand the theory of advertising intends to change the consumer decision making as higher educational institutions strive to increase student enrolment as they increase the services they provide (Kotler 2000). As a result, integrated marketing communication and advertising remain interrelated because they achieve the same thing by inducing customers to purchase products or services that the institutions are offering as they develop positive attitudes towards their brands.
As many institutions understand the needs, preferences and perceptions of their customers they enhance focus on the value-creating and communicating activities that create a strong customer base and competitive advantage over their competitors in the market. The theory of advertising and public relations are one of the theories that are behind the formulation of integrated marketing communication. As a result, integrated marketing communication focus more on customer satisfaction, rather than increasing level of sales and competitiveness by undertaking persuasive communication to the customers (Pugsley & Coffey 2002). Eventually, increased level of customer satisfaction is achieved through persuasive advertisements that eventually increase brand recognition of higher institutions to the target market, as it intends to make the addressees pay interest to the message, understand what is presented, give way to their arguments, receiving feedback and then acting on it (Rindfleish 2003). As such, the creation of integrated marketing communication aims at making it easy and simple to understand the target audience. The importance of the integrated marketing communication in higher educational sector in today’s world is to achieve the marketing goals and objectives that they have set.
Nonetheless, the use of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) seems suitable, as it focuses on data based marketing, rather than general-focus advertising as it accounts for greater agency in terms of accountability in advertising. In addition, increased internet availability and access to goods and services through online market advertisements have set forth increased enrollment and cash benefits from advertising costs as they remain the cheapest means to the institutions. Considering the strong online presence of media outlets and blog sites that focus on academic institutions, a controlled press release strategy would be a critical promotional strategy that would help in spreading the word through internet about what products are being launched by different higher educational institutions (Soutar, & Turner 2002). As such, technology and internet development has brought communication in the world to be much easier, faster and cheaper. Information is passed with much ease from one person in a different location to another in a more convenient way as consumers are able to know what products and services are offered by the institutions. As technology integrated marketing communication considers efficiency of advertising tools, institutions should seek to use suitable visual elements, such as real pictures, to connect customers with the product (Ivy, 2001). In addition, technology has made the higher education institution analyze, customer’s expectation using the integrated marketing communication concepts and meeting them and out maneuvering the competitors.
Considerably, institutions seek to achieve increase enrollment with increased education demand as a result of globalization emergence in the world. As a result, the use of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) is a decisive option available to higher education institutions advertising team because it helps in making intelligent choices that meet customer needs at different regions (Gomes & Murphy 2003). As a result, current higher education institutions marketing managers should seek to use internet as a widely available and efficient form of advertising because of the strengths of the media source. This is because integrated marketing communication has created a platform that information in different countries is passed according to the country’s culture.
More than often, the use of advertising through the internet is a unique and fruitful advertising strategy, as it will help the higher education institutions reach specific objectives in terms of specific types of student enrollment and market share. Nonetheless, the marketing goal of higher education institutions should focus on reaching as many customers as possible at a minimum cost. This advertising strategy should be in line with the marketing goal of institutions reaching a sizable customer base and at a relatively lower cost. As a result, several advantages, made through online advertising, seem suitable as a shift from the media advertising using multiple forms of traditional communication medium including billboards, posters, radio, university newsletters, and alumni magazines remain less effective. More so, the use of mass media is more specialized, as it centers on specific target audiences who can access the advertisement especially the students enrolling to the institutions.
Just as any other company seeking to increase customer base, higher education institutions advertising strategy, should seek to identify the consumer market, as the company intends to reach out to its customers, widely spread in different locations. As a result, the institutions have to identify a specific target market (Taylor 2003). The company’s target market is comprised of customers who not only provide stability on sales but also form a foundation of the company’s client base. In addition, higher education institutions can effectively utilize a unique way of advertising most of its products and services via the internet.
Considerably, the choice of the online advertising strategy remains a suitable free advertising platform, as it enables the company to reach its target customers due to the appealing nature of the internet that comes about with the increased level of creativity (Taylor 2003). Nonetheless, internet advertising remains the most preferred medium for reaching many potential customers with relatively low expenses involved to both the institutions and consumers. This is because the internet allows higher education institutions to use words that are more easily understandable because images and pictures can capture and hold the attention of prospective customers.
Public relation is another promotional strategy that higher education institutions should seek to use in addition to advertising. By using this strategy, the institution employees will provide information, regarding the products and services, being offered to the media through both online and print media. Similar to advertising, public relation is relatively inexpensive and more credible as compared to advertising. However, this strategy is risky because the persons that provide information to the media are unable to control what information the media will release.
With the rampant increase in higher education institutions striving to increase student enrollment in higher learning institutions there is increased need for institutions to understand the perceptions and expectations of students that later translate to the marketing activities that would attract and retain students (Reay, Ball & David 2002). More significantly, as integrated marketing communications remain as a complex marketing tools it is essential for the marketing management to understand the perceptions and expectations of students and decode them into market activities that would retain and attract students. Considerably, the marketing challenge for institutions will require a shift in market focus as the marketing strategy focus on developing a proposition and strategy which creates a meaningful and differentiated positioning, as a way of promoting increased levels of the target audience consistently.
In addition, the existence of different cultures of an organization inhibits the development of integrated marketing communication. As a result, higher education institutions might face difficult in the introduction of integrated marketing communication because it does not conform to the institution culture. As a result, it remains difficult to interlink the organization culture with integrated marketing communication advancements in increasing student’s enrollment as institutions seek to enhance institutions public image and its customer. In addition, the use of internet at consumers’ disposal blocks inbound marketing messages from reaching out for information when they want it. As a result, majority students enrolling in higher education institutions seek information from other external sources they seek to trust including social media than the institution website information (Rindfleish 2003).
More than often, resistance to change within the organization inhibits existence of integrated marketing communication. More notably, management within the institutions view that integrated marketing communication as a new concept as they threaten and fear for their jobs as the marketing focus shift to online and internet marketing. In addition, organizations are mostly entangled in politics where organization employees feel that they are more better-quality to others. As a result, management remains skeptical of integrated marketing communication and thus failing to implement it in the organization (Price et al 2003). In addition, the financial emphasis by the managers rather than consumer consideration in the implementation of integrated marketing communication that enhances customer satisfaction that remains as one of the marketing objectives of the company.
The higher educational institution image is enhanced by the integrated marketing communication. More considerably, the information that is passed by an institution when advertising its services to their customers is enhanced by how people perceive on the services it offers to their customers. Integrated marketing communication play a critical role in the creation of higher education institution identity and maintaining it in the corporate world as they can use social media as an advertisement tool.
More significantly, higher educational institution focus should shift to using a lot of internet advertisement because it is complimentary, and as a result, the sales team can reach the target consumers and maximize its profits levels. Considerably, internet advertising remains a non-traditional approach that companies gain an ultimate way of reaching a number of consumer markets with relatively little expense involved, as it entails the creation of the company’s website to make it easier for shorter Google search for customer products (Gomes & Murphy 2003). More significantly, well-established higher educational institution would use pictures and information that will instantly shift customers focus as they remain connected with the essential consumer market that stays important for the company in maintaining good customer relationship at the social media sites including face book, twitter and LinkedIn. Without a doubt, higher educational institution choice of online advertising strategy will help the institutions to attain its specified goals in terms of market share and target consumers.
Nevertheless, it is essential for higher educational institution to focus more on satisfying customers, rather than increasing level of sales and competitiveness of the company in the industry. This is because, the increased level of customer satisfaction in a company’s product allows for maximum increase in brand recognition besides sales levels as it creates an advanced word of mouth advertisement (Price et al 2003). Considerably, higher educational institution should seek to serve its customers more satisfactorily through increased sales levels in the students’ enrollment. In most cases, higher educational institution students should readily receive assistance from the institution associates who are honest in their own opinion to give students suitable academic choices, rather than helping them in just finding their specific academic prospect. In addition, the higher educational institution should establish and source out for different students needs and specifications as a way of guaranteeing customers that they will get great quality products that suit their own choice (Ivy 2001).
More notably, higher educational institution management should focus on customer satisfaction plan that seeks to have complete customer trust as maintenance of excellent customer relationship remains relevant for any educational facility. More so, the academic staff should focus on ensuring that the customers’ personal information remains secure, while its advertisement and communication with consumers, as they choose courses remain honest. Also, higher educational institution should ensure that it adheres to high standards of fair competition in the highly competitive fashion industry as a way of guaranteeing their customers’ satisfaction; as a result, the institutions should vary its educational courses costs depending on the individual’s need (Gomes & Murphy 2003).
On the other hand, higher educational institution advertising team should use other promotional strategy that involves general detail announcement advert about the product on the institutions website as an alternative strategy. This will provide clients with a policy, where they can read about the institution new products and even sign up for product update alerts when necessary at the social media site (Pugsley & Coffey, 2002). More so, the use of online promotions and advertisements makes messages more consistent and credible to the customers unlike other means of advertising, as it gives more information based on the institutions products. As a result, it gives the customer more confidence as they make choices of academic programs making the search process easier and viable for the company to read out the upshot of brand comparisons.
Conclusively, higher educational institution should focus on using integrated communications that focus on reassuring sense of order in case of disappointed customer by answering to the customers queries using online messages, social media and phone call. Higher educational institution use of online advertisement should seek to make the brand of its products strong through consistent images, relevant, useful messages that seek to help nurture long-term relationships with customers. As a result, the institutions can create customer databases, where it can enhance efficient communication, based on the positive and negative feedbacks, as a way of maintaining its customers’ levels in the competitive higher educational institution industry.
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