Research Proposal: Analysis of Marketing Communication Activities of White Pot Ltd

Marketing has grown from a simple process of trying to sell goods and services in ancient China times to a way of increasing sales by promoting them via newspapers in the industrial revolution era (Hardy, 2016). Nowadays, marketing is an industry itself and has become a tool for corporations to build a positive image of brand among customers. In 2019, global marketing and advertisement spending was $1.4 trillion, thanks to the vast availability of smartphones and the internet (PR Newswire, 2019). Marketing helps an organization in identifying its customers buying patterns and a chance to increase sales. For instance, in a research published by Forbes, an increase of 17% in brand awareness and a rise of 16% in the consideration rate of medical equipment supplier was recorded as a result of marketing practices (Gillum, 2013). Considering the impact that marketing has on the sales and revenue of a business, this study will investigate opportunities available to Whitepot Ltd. for improving its revenue by utilizing efficient marketing communication techniques.

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This research will investigate current marketing communication practices at WhitePot Ltd. and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of these strategies. Besides the marketing communication activities of WhitePot, the competitors of the company will also be considered in assessing the efficiency and effectiveness of techniques used by WhitePot. The research will be conducted using both primary data and secondary data to have a quantitative and qualitative understanding of WhitePot’s marketing communication. At the end of research work, data collected will be analyzed to put forward recommendations to WhitePot on how to improve already existing marketing practices. Moreover, the study will attempt to discover how WhitePot can enhance current marketing communication techniques to increase its revenue.

Organizational Background

WhitePot is a family-owned SME specializing in porcelain tiles. Hailing from a highly polarized ceramic industry, WhitePot has overcome the effects of the recession by diversifying its product offerings. It operates in four divisions, i.e. imports, retail, exports and manufacturing. Due to this expansion in operations, WhitePot faces new market segments and audiences. This study will focus on marketing strategies to be employed by the company to address the new customer base successfully.

Rationale for research

SMEs make up 99% of the local economy of Northern Ireland (Merchants Savvy, 2020). However, all the research regarding marketing is focused on big corporations and multinational companies. These companies have the financial muscle due to which they can afford failed marketing strategies. SMEs operate in a strict financial constraint and cannot afford marketing expenses, let alone marketing failure itself (Merchants Savvy, 2020). This study will assist SMEs in adopting successful marketing strategies to boost their revenue. WhitePot is a family-owned SME, and hence, there are no standardized procedures for marketing strategies, and proper marketing culture also does not exist. Marketing expenses are only incurred when the director or CEO thinks fit. Therefore, this study will aid WhitePot in making marketing decisions relevant to its requirements.

Marketing is considered to be the most critical function of a business because it tempts consumers to buy products of the company. Firms need effective marketing strategies to sustain their activities (Yohn, 2019). This study will investigate the importance of marketing for ceramic tiles industry, which is the core business area of WhitePot Ltd.

Research aim and objectives

Aim

This study aims to identify marketing communication tools being exercised at WhitePot. The organization’s current marketing communication strategies will be analyzed to find deficiencies in the marketing process. Moreover, the purpose of this study is to find out how WhitePot can improve its marketing procedures to attract additional customers and invent a new line of revenue for the company by using effective marketing approach. Furthermore, this study will also define the best marketing strategies that family-owned businesses like WhitePot can apply to gain competitive advantage.

Objectives

  1. To understand the impact that marketing has on the sales and revenue of small businesses owned by an individual or a partnership of 2-5 people
  2. To understand the importance of marketing for SMEs
  3. To identify loopholes in WhitePot’s marketing communication strategies
  4. To provide suggestions to WhitePot on how it can increase sales by analyzing its environment and marketing techniques

Research questions

  1. What impact does marketing has on small medium enterprises?
  2. How important is marketing for small businesses, i.e. if the value added by marketing justifies the expenditure incurred on it? Do these businesses continue to grow without marketing?
  3. What are the current marketing strategies of WhitePot Ltd and do they need any improvement?
  4. What strategies WhitePot Ltd. needs to implement to exploit the market and generate new revenue streams?

Literature review

Introduction

A review of the literature has been undertaken to identify the marketing strategies of WhitePot. A literature review provides the foundation on which research is carried out (Saunders et al. 2014). The review involves academic writings, published reports and journal articles to define marketing communication strategies, their impact on sales performance and importance of marketing communication for small-medium enterprises. The study is undertaken with the ultimate goal of finding the best marketing practices for WhitePot Ltd. and SMEs. A methodological technique is used to conduct the literature review.

Marketing communication and marketing performance

Perter Drucker (1954) stated that there are two mandatory requirements of a business, i.e. innovation and marketing. Innovation helps companies to continually develop new products and services while it is marketing which sells those products and services. Marketing is considered to be an essential tool in the sustained growth of a company. Marketing communication is like a coin; on one side of the coin is the offer and the other part of the coin lies inquiry (Varey, 2002). Offer part of marketing deals with providing information to customers about products and services of the business while the inquiry section relates to learning from others experience about the business.

Marketing communication originates from the promotion element of 4Ps of marketing which includes the product, price, place, and promotion (Todorova, 2015). It involves the promotion of a company and its products by advertisement. The promotion element of marketing consists of six items, i.e. advertising, personal selling, sales promotion, direct marketing, sponsorship and public relations (Bird et al. 2004). Advertising, personal selling and sales promotion are the most critical areas of SMEs like WhitePot Ltd.

Belch (2004) presented a pyramid which describes the impact of marketing communication on an organization. According to Belch (200), the fundamental purpose of any promotional campaign is to create awareness among the target population with the ultimate goal of creating a consumer base for the product.

Figure 1: Pyramid of effects of communication (Belch, 2004)

Importance of marketing to SMEs

SMEs refer to small and medium enterprises. The UK Companies Act defines a small enterprise as one with no more than 50 employees and turnover not exceeding £6.5 million, while medium enterprise is the one that does not have more than 250 employees and revenue not above £25.9 million (UCL, 2020). SMEs make up 99% of total entities operating in the UK. They employ 16.8 million people which make up 61% of the country’s total workforce (FSB, 2020). Since these entities work at a regional level and do not have huge profits, therefore, their marketing budget is far less than big corporations. As a result, these firms promote their products in a highly cost-effective manner. Marketing strategy is often set by the entrepreneur or senior manager of the organization and marketing is carried out in a pragmatic manner (Gilmore et al. 2007).

Andy (2019) argued that marketing helps small organizations differentiate themselves from crowds of SMEs and lets the organization be known among the target population. Small businesses often do conventional means of marketing, such as promoting their products or services by posting brochures and billboards of their business around their area of operations. However, it is important for SMEs to have a digital presence as according to a report, 93% of B2B decisions are made online (Andy, 2019). SMEs miss out on this opportunity by not building their websites. Moreover, another reason for local businesses to go digital is busy life schedule of buyers. Due to the vast availability of the internet, buying patterns have changed, and customers prefer online mode of shopping rather than physically visiting the shops (Hsiao, 2020).

The emergence of social media as a daily activity of people has completely changed how firms market their products. Nowadays, companies promote their products on Facebook by using banner ads and on YouTube before any video starts and a banner under the video (Rahal, 2020). Promotion of SMEs on social media is vital because the UK has 50 million social media users, which makes up 71% of the total population (Johnson, 2020). Broader product reach at low cost makes social media the best-suited medium of promotion for SMEs.

Marketing performance measurement

Performance of the marketing team can be measured using KPIs, which vary from organization to organization. Some of the KPIs are website traffic, return on investment (ROI), and social media engagement etc. (Hileman, 2020). Despite extensive research on marketing performance measurement, there is no clear definition of what exactly means by marketing performance (Yuhui, 2010). Clark (1999) argued that there is no generic tool available for measuring marketing performance because what accommodates success varies from one organization to another. Ambler (2000) used the term metric to measure marketing performance, and Marketing Science Institute (2004) defined metrics as performance indicators that senior management use to track and assess marketing performance of a business.

Since marketing incurs expenses, therefore, it is crucial to measure marketing performance and whether the value-added justifies the cost (Roberts et al. 2008). In the past, most of the work on marketing performance focused on the financial impact of marketing on the performance of an organization (Bonoma et al., 1988). Stewart (2009) asked for the development of marketing measurement model that can prove marketing worth to entity`s value. Yuhui et al. (2010) developed an integrated model for the measurement of marketing performance. This model used both financial and non-financial data for measurement of marketing performance. It takes into account the following five elements of a business to measure the performance of marketing and justifying marketing expenditure. These five elements include market share, customer satisfaction, customer retention, brand equity, and innovation.

Diagram

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Figure 2: Marketing performance measurement model (Yuhui et al., 2010)

Methodology

Introduction

This area of study considers the techniques used to conduct the research. Research design, research approach, and research methods are discussed in this section. Moreover, the reliability and validity of the research methods used will also be discussed in this chapter. Besides research philosophy, sampling techniques and ethical issues are also considered.

Research philosophy

Research philosophy is the most outer layer research methodology onion, according to Sunders et al. (2014). It defines the way in which data should be collected, analyzed and used. In the case of WhitePot Ltd., two research philosophies, i.e. positivism and pragmatism, can be used. However, pragmatism will be most beneficial as it follows the research question and can be applied to different methods such as quantitative and qualitative method and it provides social outcomes (Saunders et al., 2014). Therefore, pragmatism research philosophy is in line with the requirements of WhitePot Ltd.

Research design

Research design enables the researcher to answer the research questions unambiguously. Research design relevant to the problem helps the researcher in effectively finding the solution to questions raised (SHU, 2020). Exploratory and descriptive research designs can be used in this study. The exploratory design would be more beneficial as it provides the researcher with the option to ask open questions which help to clarify the problem (Saunders, 2014). Moreover, this design is best suited for research questions that start with “What” and “How” and is therefore in line with questions raised in this study. Furthermore, it gives the researcher plenty of options in how to perform research such as doing a literature review, conducting group and expert interviews etc.

Research method

Research method defines the plan to follow while organizing the research process and answering the research questions (Saunders et al. 2014). Several techniques are available for conducting research work, including quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods. The best approach in this scenario will be using a quantitative research method, as it generates numerical data which can be used for comparison and graphical representations. However, it requires straightforward questions.

Data sources

Two types of data will be used in research. The research team will collect primary data in the form of interviews and questionnaires. Interviews will be conducted of WhitePot’s staff, while questionnaires will be circulated among customers of WhitePot. The survey will be distributed among 300 customers outside WhitePot shops out of which, the expected sample size is to be 120 respondents. Besides, the interview of 8 employees of WhitePot will be carried out the premises of the company. On the other hand, secondary data will be obtained from published reports by government and research on the ceramic industry and university student and research firms.

Sampling technique

Probability sampling technique, i.e. simple random sampling, would be used to conduct the survey. One of the primary reasons for choosing probability sampling is bias-free sample it provides (Horton, 2019). Each member of the population has an equal chance of selection in probability sampling. Moreover, probability sampling is best-suited to data collected by surveys. Perhaps, probability sampling is the best fit for this research since surveys will be used to collect data.

Data analysis technique

Regression analysis will be used to obtain finding from samples. This technique helps to find the correlation between different set of variables (Gallo, 2015). This technique is useful since it will answer the two most important questions of the study, i.e. the impact of marketing on SMEs and the importance of marketing to small companies. However, regression analysis is not adequate as it only answers the dependence of one variable over another, and hence, the descriptive data analysis method will also be used. Descriptive analysis is a simple analytical approach which provides the mean, median and mode of the responses and does not overcomplicate subject matter (Trochim, 2020). The research findings can be reported graphically rather than lengthy paragraphs. Consequently, decisions can be easily taken based on the results of the descriptive analysis.

Ethical issues

Ethics refer to standardized behaviours that help a researcher in conducting the research work and guide him about the rights of respondents or those affected by the study (Saunders et al. 2014 pp 230). Personal data of respondents is of utmost importance and needs to be secured at all costs. Hence, steps would be taken to make sure that respondents’ data does not get leaked. Moreover, employees of the company may not be willing to give true information of what they think about marketing strategies of WhitePot, fearing any negative comments may make them redundant. Highest level of confidentiality standard will be practised making sure employees feel free to comment on WhitePot’s marketing techniques. Moreover, the deontological view will be practised, which states that acting outside rules by research workers cannot be justified (Saunders et al. 2014, pp 240), therefore confirming that the researchers strictly follow predetermined rules.

Risks and limitations:

Although sample selection will be made with due care, sampling process has an inherent limitation, i.e. sample may not be the true representative of the population. Since WhitePot is an SME, there is limited past study within the company and in the industry in which it operates, consequently leading to the risk of scope limitation.

Business value

WhitePot has a wide range of activities, for instance, retail, wholesale, and manufacturing etc. It deals with a broad range of customers with different backgrounds. This research will help WhitePot in understanding consumers’ areas of interest, preferences of buyers. WhitePot will get to know the buying power of its various market segments which will help the company in identifying most favourite to least popular designs. WhitePot will increase its sales by producing and importing designs preferred by customers. Moreover, market research will help WhitePot make a suitable strategy to deal with the implications of Brexit.

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Research timeframe

Task 1-30

October

1-15

November

16-30

November

1-15

December

15-31

December

1-4

January

Research

Proposal

Introduction
Literature

Review

Research philosophy
Data Gathering
Analysis
Findings
Recommendation
Submission

References

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