Product Marketing Throughout Three Time Zones

Describe, from an organization and a customer’s perspective, the total product throughout the three time zones

In discussing an organization and a customer’s perspective on the total product throughout the three-time zones (the pre-service, the service encounter, and the post-service) it is good to note that the distinctive nature of services calls for an extended marketing mix comprising of seven elements (7Ps): product, place, price, and promotion (4Ps), process, physical evidence, and people. A departure from traditional marketing, service marketing involves taking into account the adapted elements of service product, process, and experience.

Since the basic product concept of a service is its intangibility, it can be difficult for a customer to grasp its meaning and context unless the whole interaction between the customer and producer is managed carefully and integrated service is delivered. The service interaction can involve a distribution channel and a form of personal marketing communication commonly known as the consumer-producer relationship. In services, people are very vital in producing and consuming the services product package or bundle. Therefore the people in the organization and the people consuming the perspectives of the service will matter a lot for any service product in its three time zones.

The relevance and suitability of measuring customer expectations, customer perceptions, customer satisfaction, and service quality is very essential in evaluating perspectives. There are two different perspectives in relation to service management and delivery.

One is the perspective of the customer and the other is the perspective of the service organization or management. Services are mostly evaluated from the consumers’ perspective in terms of their expectations, perceptions, and overall satisfaction with a service. From a managerial perspective, the services are assessed in terms of how efficiently customers are served and moved through the services process, how they are managed, and how competently service staffs deliver the service. These separate perspectives shape how services are evaluated, what is evaluated, and how and when and by whom the assessment is made.

Generally, both business to business and consumer marketing is mainly concerned with the importance of the consumer/buyer perspectives. For consumers within the context of different service market segments, their perspectives are mainly shaped by the attitudes and behaviors, which make them, relate as a homogenous group. For service marketing managers their perspectives are shaped by identifying the services needs, preferences, broad trends, and changes within the customer groups. For the consumers within the context of specific consumer services, their perspectives are defined by the desired needs.

For the service marketing managers, their perspectives will be shaped by identifying the specific consumers’ needs and preferences within a specific category of service and the understanding of the perspectives of the principal competitors and their customers1.

The nature of the product determines strategy; describe this product and describe how the nature of the product would influence marketing management strategy

Services are made up of two parts: the core service and the auxiliary service. The core service (core or expected product) is the basic service that is being offered such as lodging. The auxiliary service (augmented or supplementary product) is the added benefit, which differentiates the service from the competitors. In the case of the lodging facility, the auxiliary services can be offering free breakfast and a newspaper to the guest in the morning, which the competitors are not offering.

The quality of the service can be divided into two types: technical quality, which is the actual activity i.e. taking acquiring the lodging room; and the functional quality, which how the service is actually presented or delivered i.e. double room, single, spacious, small, air-conditioned or not. This aspect of the service is very essential with respect to the physical evidence, as the customer will evaluate all tangible aspects of the service. It is always very important that all elements of the service whether core or auxiliary are offered with high standards.

In developing a product mix, it is paramount that the key distinguishing features of a service from a product are evaluated and considered in the marketing strategy to blend with the aspects of a service producing a worthy marketing mix. These primary characteristics of service include inseparability, perishability, intangibility, and heterogeneity. Below is a discussion on how they can influence a marketing management strategy.

Intangibility

The majority of services include tangible aspects such as a hotel room, a meal, a classroom, but the service leading to a customer’s experience is intangible. The benefits of buying a service area from the nature of the performance. Due to this feature, services cannot be stored, be readily displayed, be protected through patents, and are difficult to communicate and set prices for. Thus, customers have difficulty in evaluating and comparing services.

Hence, they may use price as a basis for assessing quality and they may place greater emphasis on personal information sources. Due to this nature of services, they cannot be analyzed in terms of tangible design properties found in traditional product mix. Further, the physical distribution management may not be necessary in the place mix decisions. In service marketing tangibility element of services can only visualize. For example in a restaurant business, the atmosphere of the restaurant and the staff uniform can help tangible the experience.

Inseparability

Customers are one of the essential components in the production of service since services are normal processes or acts. Additionally, other customers may be involved in the production site and centralized mass production is difficult, especially when the service is more complex or customized. For a barber, it is difficult to shave more than one person at a time, so even when the demand for service increases he cannot improvise a way of attending to all his clients at the same time. In most instances, both the buyer and the seller need to be at the same place for the service to occur. Since centralized mass production is difficult, the customers mostly have to travel to the point of service production. For example, a medical treatment procedure will require both presence of the patient and the medical practitioner2.

In addition, the promotion by the service person may take place. For a teller or comedian, the way in which the service is produced is an essential element of the total promotion of the service. Lastly, the consumers are co-consumers of service with a number of others; hence, the behavior and attitude of other consumers may impact upon the nature and experience of a service. For example, a loud customer can deflect the service staff’s attention and affect the quality of service delivery to other customers.

Perishability

Due to the intangible nature of services, they cannot be stored, inventoried, warehoused, or re-used. For example, a dentist cannot store his expertise or knowledge for the other co-worker’s use while he is away. Similarly, a hairdresser cannot store haircuts design so that when a rush occurs all customers can have their hair cut at once. Therefore, the availability of sufficient opportunities for service delivery at relevant times is crucial for service managers.

Heterogeneity

The intangible nature of services makes it difficult to control the standards and quality of the services. Since people are involved in the provision of the services, they are unlikely to operate, as reliably and constantly as machines, thus it is difficult to measure and control quality. Hence, it may be quite hard for the customers to evaluate the quality and for employers to measure and control quality. Evaluation of the quality can be done but in a more difficult way than measuring and controlling the product quality. Lastly, these evaluations will largely depend on intangible aspects such as attitude, opinions, and expectations of the customers and the potential clients.

Describe the customer [STP strategies and tactics] and the management challenges facing the organization

Marketing strategies are built on STP (Segment, Targeting, and Positioning) strategies and tactics through which the organization discovers different customer needs and groups in the marketplace, targets those needs and groups that it can satisfy in a superior way, and then position its offering so that the target market recognizes the organization’s distinctive offering and image3. The STP process is vital in marketing strategy because it allows the organization to develop a tailored marketing mix to meet the needs of a specific group of the market who share similar characteristics and needs.

Market segmentation

Market segmentation is the process of dividing the total market (all the people the organization can sell its products or services to) into identifiable, measurable, and discrete groups sharing common characteristics or needs and whose attitudes or reactions towards communications messages about the products or services might be similar. The market segmentation process has evolved through three phases.

First, the early approaches to marketing adopted a mass marketing production orientation, whereby goods are mass-produced and distributed and the n promoted to all buyers. This was followed by product variety marketing, whereby producers recognized that different people have different needs that vary over time and so subtly different products can be designed towards satisfying these needs. These approaches then led to a target marketing orientation, whereby organizations identify discrete segments of the market and focus specifically on producing products and services tailored for their needs.

The level and type of segmentation process vary in organizations on the basis of the size of the organization; the stage in the marketing planning process; the financial position of the organization; and the current market position of the organization. In the tourism and hospitality industries, the markets are segmented mainly on demographic, behavioral, and psychographic approaches. Demographic segmentation is undertaken on the basis of age, gender, geographic region, stage in the family lifecycle, education, diversity (race, ethnicity, and culture), occupation or social class, and sexual orientation.

Behavioral segmentation will base on motivation/purpose of travel, frequency of use/purchase, decision-making processes, benefits sought from the experience, usage, attitudes, perceptions, values, and beliefs. Psychographic segmentation will base on personality, identity, and lifestyle. Most organizations may carry out market research into their current served markets and their future markets at various stages in their marketing planning cycle. In essence, market segmentation is an important tool that is used to identify new opportunities, creative segmentation help identify new emerging segments leading to service innovation. Hence, segmentation can contribute to competitive advantage and a differentiation marketing strategy.

Target marketing

Market segmentation gives rise to an identifiable variety of possible segments within the market. After this, the organization begins the targeting process, which involves developing measures of the attractiveness of the segments and selection of the segments to target. This process re-evaluates the segments and the profiles matched against the core competencies and resources to identify which are the most attractive segments to target. This process of segment prioritization requires two types of analysis: segment attractiveness and organization’s competitive position analysis4.

For analysis, a relevant set of criteria or variables must be identified to evaluate segment attractiveness. The segment attractiveness criteria may include factors such as market potential, growth rate, expansion opportunities, and positive developments in the macro-environment factors like legal, political, economic, demographic, technological, socio-cultural, and customers’ unmeet needs. Once the segments are evaluated on the attractiveness dimension, then the organization’s competitive position is evaluated. Competitive position criteria may include factors such as the ability to build competitive advantage, capabilities, and resources.

The target can be easily selected, once the segments are evaluated on attractiveness and the organization’s competitive position is analyzed. Mostly the desirable target would be one that is structurally attractive and the organization’s competitive position is strong. With the strategic choice of the target market chosen, the next process is to position a service product that meets customer expectations better than the competition in the market.

Market positioning

Market positioning is the process of identifying the needs of market segments, product strengths and weaknesses, and the extent to which competing products are perceived to meet customer needs. In developing a positioning strategy what matters in how competitors position themselves. A positioning strategy is aimed at aligning a firm’s products in the market and making them relatively competitive through excellent product design and effective communication through media to create a favorable product perception in the consumer’s mind, compared to competing products.

Successful marketing efforts require matching the right product or service with the right market. For marketing or product/service positioning, there are three options available. First, making a unique claim, an organization can make a unique claim through advertisement, which is different from that of the competitor; secondly, highlighting the product/service, i.e. highlighting the product/service features not spelled out by its competitors so far; lastly, promoting a product/service in anew market segment. The process of product/service positioning based on various factors will involve:

  1. Selecting the market in which the service will compete;
  2. Identifying the attributes that define the product/service segment;
  3. Collecting information from a sample of customers about their perception of each product/service on the relevant attributes;
  4. Determining each product/service’s perception;
  5. Determining each product/service’s niche in the market space
  6. Determining the target market’s preferred combination of attributes;
  7. Evaluating the position of your product/service compared to that of the competitor;
  8. Making a decision regarding the position of the product/service in the market.

The last stage in developing a market positioning strategy for the product/service will involve creating a perceptual or positioning map. This is a graphical representation of how consumers in a market perceive a competing set of products relative to one another. For hospitality marketers, it is important that they consider at the service/product conceptualization stage, and make a conscious decision as to where the product/service is going to be on the technology dimension and what level of process/people interactiveness it will carry. This decision will fine-tune the segment that one wants to service, the expectation one wants to create, and the satisfaction one wants to deliver5.

The STP management challenges facing the organization

They include first, providing marketing and management support to all departments and branches of the organization. The second is providing protection for process secrets. Thirdly, finding other suitable organizations to partner and consult with. The fourth is establishing a sound financial base to deal with the STP economically and sustainably. Lastly, creating and analyzing the potential market for the products and services is becoming a bit difficult.

Communication is an important part of services marketing what is the role of the travel brochure throughout the three time zones

First, the photographs in the travel brochure act as a magnet attracting customers to want to know or see what is in the brochure. This is enhanced by “making sure that the content follows a proper informal tone supporting the pictures”6. Like in the Contiki Holidays for 18-35, Europe Summers brochure front page, there are very attractive photographs and a positioning statement “legendary for a reason” which serve as a bait to customers creating the first impression or contact7.

Secondly, brochure are essential for content design and presentation, for example, on the second page of the Contiki Europe Summers 2011/12 there is a well-blended display of some destinations, a list of contents, and an attractive message “We’re all travelers who are as passionate about seeing the world as you are”8. These serve as a good invitation which almost everybody would like to explore further.

Thirdly, travel brochures “provide a glimpse of various destinations in the travel package”9. In the travel brochure, there are photographs, interior shots, and aerial views of various destinations providing a brief and clear description of each destination, which enables the reader to develop an irresistible desire to visit those destinations and contact the travel agent. Like in Contiki Europe Summer brochure, there many nice photographs and shots followed by a short vivid and attractive description of destinations such as the Eiffel Tower, Trevi Fountain, and Flamenco in Barcelona, Colosseum, German beer hall, Island Hop Greece, Amsterdam, Swiss Alps, Great Pyramids, and many others10.

Additionally, travel brochures offer advice and information on matters relating to travel from the travel insurance business, sellers dealing with travel equipment, and instruments to airline details, and other relevant information to travel.

In the Contiki brochure the travel insurance, airlines, travel equipment, and many other details are contained saving the customer the time, energy, and resources that would have used in soliciting all this information. This serves the purpose of cross-selling and creating the impression that cares much about your customers. Lastly, the travel brochures can be used for feedback gathering and determining the success rate of the promotion measures. In Contiki brochures, there is a free coupon to be answered by readers about various destinations and other matters.

Given that quality, value, and satisfaction are key success factors how would you as a manager ensure that the organization was achieving its goals for these determinants and why is it important to measure manage these factors

It’s very important to measure manage quality, value, and satisfaction factors because when the pursuit of quality determines the strategic, managerial, and operational activities of the business, it could results in a number of advantages such as distinctiveness of product, cost reduction due to the streamlining. This leads to zero defects in the production and delivery processes and the efficient use of resources, customer satisfaction (no differences between customer expectations and experiences), and finally, value to the customers irrespective of price levels.

As a manager, I would ensure that the organization was meeting its goals for quality, value, and satisfaction factors in the following ways. First, as a manager in the tourism industry, I would work together with the team to ensure that the destinations in our packages are of high quality, so that the tourist destinations can offer distinctive, authentic, and higher value holiday experiences and develop competitive advantages in the increasingly competitive tourism industry.

Secondly, I would ensure that all the organization’s employees are well qualified and competent enough to meet and exceed their expected level of performance. Additionally, I would motivate and empower the employees so that they can develop positive attitudes and behavior leading to the spirit of service among them. Spirit of service will ensure high-quality service encounters between the employees and the customers leading to high value, customer satisfaction, and high quality of the services offered by the organization. Lastly, I would ensure that professionalism is well observed to safeguard the reputation of the organization.

Bibliography

Contiki, T. (2011), Contiki Holidays: Europe Summer. Web.

Kotler, Phillip and Keller, Kevin. Marketing Management. 12th Ed. NJ: Prentice Hall, 2006.

Lovelock, Christopher, Patterson, Paul & Walker, Rhett H. Services Marketing: An Asia-Pacific And Australian Perspective. NSW: Pearson Education, 2011.

Footnotes

  1. Christopher Lovelock, Paul Patterson & Rhett Walker, Services Marketing: An Asia-Pacific And Australian Perspective. (NSW: Pearson Education, 2011).
  2. Christopher Lovelock, Paul Patterson & Rhett Walker, Services Marketing: An Asia-Pacific And Australian Perspective. (NSW: Pearson Education, 2011).
  3. Phillip Kotler and Kevin Keller, Marketing Management. (NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2006), p.68.
  4. Phillip Kotler and Kevin Keller, Marketing Management. (NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2006).
  5. Phillip Kotler and Kevin Keller, Marketing Management. (NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2006).
  6. Contiki, T. (2011), Contiki Holidays: Europe Summer. Web.
  7. Contiki, T. (2011), Contiki Holidays: Europe Summer. Web.
  8. Contiki, Ibid, p.2.
  9. Contiki, Ibid.
  10. Contiki, Ibid, p.4-15.