Focus Group Research for Digital e-Marketing Strategy Development

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Digital or e-Marketing Strategy Development
Research Design & Methodology

 

Optimal research is based on triangulation between scholarly and industry research representing a process with related factors, then analysis and coding of key stakeholder feedback according to same process.  Thirdly, it can be followed by quantitative data gathering or survey of customers’ attitudes on the factors that emerged, joining the circle or triangulation.

 

The literature review can highlight research and industry issues or views of marketing and communications for international education or related products and services, leading to an optimal marketing and communications construct to inform strategy and professional practice.  Additionally, to inform or validate any construct, qualitative data needs to be collected through focus type respondents from industry or target market, coded and analysed for inclusion of important factors in a survey instrument.

 

Quantitative data can be collected, described and analysed; resulting in a practical process and template for both small and large entities. It is limited neither to education nor marketing, but applicable to any workplace investigation or consulting, not unlike good investigative journalism or detective work or training needs analysis.

 

Research Approach Rationale

 

This data collection and qualitative research use the inductive approach, with grounded research methods, which informs development of a survey instrument, and represents the purchase decision process model.  The focus is ‘information search or discovery process’, produces data for analysis and then informs a generic marketing and communications model or template, for marketing and communication practitioners, through a process.

 

This is opposed to taking the deductive approach of testing a hypothesis already formed from previous research or practice, assuming data and a hypothesis or rationale is publicly available.  However, the deductive approach is precluded by the lack of the following: transparent marketing strategies, access to data, direct process based KPIs key performance indicators and ROI return on investment, meaningful analytics on student marketing and communications, and access to statistically significant sample population(s).

 

 

Effective medium or long-term strategy may be precluded by a short-term sales or ROI type of analysis of an annual marketing investment budget, evaluating only selected inputs and outputs, but neither processes nor future income streams.  Accordingly, with related scholastic research lacking in this field, a contemporary framework or construct reflecting both target market and changing technology, is needed to aid analysis and future marketing.

 

Research Design & Methodology

 

The research can start with question or proposal round ‘information seeking’, review of marketing research literature and education industry reports with expert focus respondent feedback.  From the latter, a survey instrument can be developed, piloted, data collected, then analysed according to descriptive statistics through e.g. Survey Monkey, then data tabulated, presented, analysed, reported and linked back for business applications.

 

Inductive Approach to Qualitative Research

 

One can take the approach of ‘theory first’ and test deduced hypotheses to verify theory, or conversely ‘theory after’, not starting with theory but collecting data to generate a theory or model.  This is not unlike inferring the significant factors that impact how Google and Facebook Page search algorithms affect SEO, when the algorithm is commercial in confidence.

 

The research is based on eliciting relevant process or factors to inform and develop a latent construct of optimal marketing and communications for students as purchasers, especially related to the information seeking phase or journey.  This construct, developed through inference, should suggest good industry practice that includes latent factors or (re)sources that allow students to find relevant information to analyse for a future purchase decision.

 

Advantages of this approach are that it allows one to take a research direction, it does not force respondents to adopt a restrictive theory or framework that may preclude relevant feedback (Saunders et al., 2009).  Such a construct can be used to develop a marketing and communications strategy or template, then used to develop initial, or compare existing, strategy and evaluate, according to users, clients or students; creating systematic process and utility in the sector.

 

Research Proposition

 

How do students’ or customers’ information seeking behaviours relate to marketing and communications strategy in international education or related service industries?

 

The research proposition posits that there is a relationship between more recent information seeking factors exemplified by digital, and the older WOM word of mouth, for a purchase decision process, with development of grounded, practical marketing and communication strategy.

 

This data collection and research focused mostly upon the similarities in recent digital based ‘information search or discovery process’, the factors that are related to this process and could be used to infer an optimal information seeking construct or model (Kotler & Keller, 2012).

 

Reference List:

 

Kotler, P. & Keller, K. (2012) Marketing Management. (14th Ed.) Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education – Prentice Hall.

 

Saunders, M., Lewis, P. & Thornhill, A. (2009) Research Methods for Business Students. (5th Ed.) Harlow UK: Pearson Education Ltd.

 

 

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Diversity in Digital or e-Marketing Communications Strategy

Marketing and Communications
in Diverse Digital World

 

Hofstede Cultural Dimensions

 

Hofstede’s four cultural dimensions: ‘Power Distance, Avoidance of Uncertainty, Self vs the Group, Male vs Female’, all have significant impact on WOM and brand communication, plus a low or no negative WOM being important when engaging with target audience (Lam et al., 2009).  Hofstede’s dimensions are now six after being expanded further to include ‘Long-Short Term Orientation’, and ‘Indulgence-Restraint’ (Hofstede, 2011).

 

Marketing research and mapping of customer journey in digital and social media marketing

Diversity and Culture in Digital or e-Marketing Communication Strategy (Image copyright Pexels)

 

Some issues with this model include being culturally specific to IBM or the sample population at the time, predated wider access to travel, communications technology, newly emergent broad middle classes, with very significant regional and language differences within target market nations e.g. India and China.  Additionally, there are now demographic and cultural dynamics in societies along with globalisation; but the process of investigation of culture is very worthwhile, especially within a specific business or organisational environment (Myers & Tan, 2003).

 

 

This research study focused upon similarities of individuals when searching for information, not differences between nationalities, precluded by constraints of this study.  However, for utility or at a practical level any marketer or institution must be aware and sensitive towards cultural or national differences, that need to be accounted for in marketing and communications strategy, without national stereotyping.  As suggested, there is no one common behaviour or culture, however, a skilled marketer would understand the importance and how to assess, then account for in any regional or nation specific strategy under their purview.

 

e-Consumer Behaviour – What do they do?

 

Another more contemporary approach has three dimensions in e-consumer behaviour for brand trust: ‘Brand Experience’ and ‘Search for Information’, ‘Brand Familiarity’ and ‘Customer Satisfaction’, both cognitive and emotional (Ha & Perks, 2005).  Again, ‘brand experience’ and ‘search for information’ are highlighted as significant dimensions of consumer behaviour, underpinned by both rational thinking and feelings, including or represented by WOM.

 

Importantly, WOM referrals have longer or greater impact, if part of marketing communication strategy to leverage lower costs and speed of message via internet to persuade consumers, but little if any measurement or research has been conducted (Trusov et al., 2009).

 

Relationship Marketing, Interaction & Consumer Input

 

This leads onto to relationship marketing and online interaction that have become more important with internet due to two-way or multi-lateral communication potential (Liu, 2007).  In related ‘youth’ industry i.e. tourism and travel, youth users of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and SM have changed their behaviour on how they search for information on products, and can contribute to or participate in design, development and distribution of new products (Bizirgiannia & Dionysopoulou, 2013).

 

This highlights the fact that purchasing is a process over time, youth expect interaction around the product, two-way communication helps inform them and they can contribute to new products, including the marketing and communications strategy e.g. SEO.   In other words, talk systematically with and analyse your target market for feedback on products and experience, in addition to preferred distribution or communication channels and behaviour, to ensure any strategy works well.

 

Reference List:

 

Bizirgiannia, I. & Dionysopoulou, P. (2013) The influence of tourist trends of Youth Tourism through Social Media (SM) & Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) at the 2nd International Conference on Integrated Information. Available from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877042813003959 (Accessed 18/11/2016).

 

Ha, H. & Perks, H. (2005) Effects of consumer perceptions of brand experience on the web: Brand familiarity, satisfaction and brand trust. Journal of Consumer Behaviour. 4(6) pp. 438–452.  Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cb.29/abstract (Accessed on: 18/11/2016).

 

Hofstede, G. (2011). Dimensionalizing Cultures: The Hofstede Model in Context. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture, 2(1). http://dx.doi.org/10.9707/2307-0919.1014

 

Lam D., Lee A. & Mizerski R (2009) The Effects of Cultural Values in World-of-Mouth Communication. Journal of International Marketing. 17(3) pp. 55-70 Published by: American Marketing Association Harvard system

 

Liu Y (2007) Online interaction readiness: conceptualisation and measurement. Journal of Customer Behaviour. 6(3) pp. 283-299. Available at: http://www.yupingliu.com/files/papers/liu_interaction_readiness.pdf Accessed on: 10/01/2017.

 

Myers, M. & Tan, F. (2003) Beyond Models of National Culture in Information Systems Research. In Tan, F. (Ed.) Advanced Topics in Global Information Management Vol. 2. pp. 14-29. Hershey PA: Idea Group Publishing.

 

Trusov, M., Bucklin, R. & Pauwels, K. (2009) Effects of Word-of-Mouth versus Traditional Marketing: Findings from an Internet Social Networking Site. Journal of Marketing. 73(5) pp. 90-102.

 

 

Marketing Word of Mouth Push Pull Factors International Student Satisfaction

International Education Marketing – Push and Pull Factors, WOM, Satisfaction & ROI

 

Extract from MBA dissertation:

How do international students’ information seeking behaviour relate to marketing and communications strategy in international education?

 

Some decades ago research highlighted home country ‘push factors’ vs destination ‘pull factors’ considered with following prioritised steps: decide to study abroad, choose destination and then institution; much impacted by WOM (word of mouth) of influencers, peers and family (Mazzarol & Soutar, 2002).

This model is too simplistic nowadays with many other potential factors or dimensions.  Additionally, it ignores the detailed factors related to how students search for information, that matches an optimal strategy i.e. including WOM amongst friends, more on social media (SM) and MIS (Management Information Systems) to match (Whitler, 2014).

 

Further, in addition to course choice, is the need for increased service and information quality to support students and increase the perception of quality, suggesting a linkage between quality and effective marketing (Russell, 2005).

 

Other issues that have not been addressed include the lack of detailed marketing strategy evaluation to assess effectiveness and direct outcomes, versus return on investment based upon on enrolment outcomes, while ignoring processes in between (Hemsley-Brown & Oplatka, 2006).

 

Good strategy should allow focus upon relevant factors, along with WOM communication for analysis and transmission of marketing messages, through analysis of the information seeking factors making up that phase or dimension.

 

Further, this may include revisiting marketing process based KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), that may not represent the process fully e.g. both existing and prospective student behaviour over time, digital channels or social media carrying WOM, and accordingly maybe invalid?

 

Reference List:

 

Hemsley-Brown J & Oplatka, I (2006) Universities in a competitive global marketplace. International Journal of Public Sector Management. 19(4) pp. 316 – 338. Available at:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09513550610669176 (Accessed 18/11/2016).

 

Mazzarol T & Soutar G (2002) Push pull factors influencing international student destination choice.  The International Journal of Education Management. 16(2) pp. 82-90. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09513540210418403 (Accessed: 18/11/2016).

 

Russell, M. (2005). Marketing education: a review of service quality perceptions among international students. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management. 17(1). pp. 65-77 https://doi.org/10.1108/09596110510577680 (Accessed: 21/03/2017).

 

Whitler, K. (2014) Why word of mouth marketing is the most important social media.  Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kimberlywhitler/2014/07/17/why-word-of-mouth-marketing-is-the-most-important-social-media/#2f76616d54a8 (Accessed: 10/05/2017).

 

 

 

Business Communication Theory – Application for Professional Practice

Communication Theory and Professional Practice 1.2

Subject of Business Communication

 

Prescribed text referred to in these notes is Mohan et al, 2008, Communicating as Professionals, Edition 2, Cengage Learning, Melbourne. These notes are for the use of Bachelor of Business students with purchased copies of the text, not to be copied or sold separately.

For similar blog articles about subject of business communication click through.

Preview

 

What are the rules for good communication according to the transmission model, and what are the pitfalls?

 

The elements required of a professional communicator include the need to be clear and responsible, organised message, optimal use of medium, allows for receiver and environment, and allows response to check understanding.

 

Understanding different types of communication, views, attitudes and opinions that society, groups, people, consumers, clients, cultures, voters and customers have, with different preferences and ways of communicating, is essential for effective communication.    Accordingly, when we as a professional plan and prepare for communicating a message we must take all these elements or variables into account, if we want to achieve our purpose.

 

A simpler example follows, in communicating instructions with purpose, ‘Purposeful communication’.  Which is the best and why?  In English we have an expression for effective communication of systems and instructions, ‘KISS keep it simple and short’

 

Another example, too many students are gathering out front smoking cigarettes, leaving the area untidy, obstructing pedestrians and giving Stott’s a bad image in Lygon Street.  Write a message for the notice board to change this behaviour.

 

Finally, to show the importance of clear and purposeful communication in the workplace or professional life see Case Study 1.3 ‘Structuring the message’.  What is wrong with the message and how should it be communicated, i.e. purposefully keeping in mind ‘KISS’.

 

Transmission Model

Shannon Weaver Transmission Model of Communication

Shannon Weaver Communication Model

Standing here lecturing I am the information source, my vocal chords/mouth the transmitter, speech is the channel, your ears/hearing the receiver and you the destination.  What happens is that ideas, facts, data or commands are sent as a message, i.e. relates between source and transmitter, and then receiver and destination.

 

A message has content, structure such as explanation or narrative, and code e.g. language, images, music or body movement, depending upon sources and destinations.  Different sources could be academic, lecturer or teach versus research student, university student and school pupil.

 

Medium or channels are numerous sensory bases including face to face verbal, written, telephone, musical, poetic etc. and now the information communication technology (ICT) revolution a potential mix of all. Important, is the choice of channel(s) to convey the message (s).

 

How is communication carried between source and transmitter to the receiver and destination? (Medium/channel) Give examples, advantages and disadvantages?

 

What do we call an answer or response?  Does it always exist in communication? Give examples

Feedback Communication Model Loop

Schramm’s Circular Model of Communication

Schramm’s model is logical continuation of response or feedback, i.e. circular continuous and exemplified by encoding and decoding through various signs e.g. question and answer in conversation, which allows immediacy and accuracy.

 

What is a loop? What are examples of signals carried within loop?  In customer service this occurs whether face to face, over the telephone, online messenger or automated telephone service.  The latter example of an automated telephone service is purely technical form of communication and can be used to lodge a simple tax return, but if the message is not decoded, interpreted or encoded correctly, then you can defer to a live operator.  What are other examples of this communication working, and also where this would not be possible, and why? Would this be suitable for a detective interviewing a suspect, or a doctor attempting to diagnose a patient, why or why not?

 

Flow of communication generally in one direction or from one source such as gossip, rumour or the grapevine but with commensurate distortions though omission, alteration and addition.

 

Another example is your choice of study destination, agent, courses, visas, immigration and accommodation?  Who did you seek advice or suggestions from and from where did their advice come from?  Why might people use the ‘grapevine’ in preference to other sources e.g. official websites or government offices? What are the issues or potential problems with gaining informal advice from the ‘grapevine’?  Are there other ways the ‘grapevine’ can be used professionally e.g. ‘viral marketing’ by the advertising industry?

 

Summary:

 

What are the rules for good communication according to the transmission model, and what are the pitfalls?

 

Transmission model requires good communication through well thought out objective(s), message structure, optimum medium, socio cultural elements, eliciting and managing feedback, and keep direct to minimise distortion.  Because it is dependent upon the person for transmission, and subjective regarding the message, meaning and other elements are not taken into account when communication takes place, or too simplistic.  In a professional context the message must be very clear and checked for accuracy, while personally or socially be aware of the pitfalls and do not believe everything you are told, again check.

 

Reference List:

 

Mohan T., McGregor H., Saunders S. & Archee R., 2008, Communicating as Professionals, 2nd Edition, Cengage Learning Australia P/L, Melbourne.

Schramm, W. 1954, ‘How communication works’, in Schramm, W. & Roberts D. F. (eds), The process and effects of mass communication, University of llinois Press, Chicago.

Shannon, C. E. & Weaver, W. 1949, The mathematical theory of communication, University of Illinois Press, Chicago.