Developing Social Marketing Plans

Corporate Social Marketing differs from other marketing activities as it focuses on responsible behaviours that help society and the environment. This contribution suggests that there are many benefits for businesses who carry out laudable initiatives. Social marketing raises the businesses’ profile as it strengthens the brands’ positioning relative to others. It improves the financial performance of firms, especially if it supports the firms’ marketing goals and objectives.

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Of course there may be many cynics among stakeholders (including customers) who view social marketing campaigns as none of your business. Therefore, developing and supporting social marketing campaigns will surely involve more than writing a cheque.

Businesses ought to pick an issue which is closely related to their individual organisation’s core business. The organisation’s resources and the corporate marketing strategies should focus on initiatives that have the potential for long-term sustainability. In addition, every member of staff should be encouraged to engage in socially and environmentally responsible behaviours. Perhaps, there is also scope in forging alliances with the public sector and non-profit organisations. Such external stakeholders can possibly provide relevant expertise, credibility and extended reach into promising customers. For instance, non-governmental organisations can easily identify the needs and wants of the communities around businesses. Finally, strategic marketing entails sequential planning processes which will involve consumer and competitive research as well as the effective utilisation of marketing mix tools.

A cohesive approach is necessary to ensure successful results. Therefore, the following steps and principles are highly commendable for the successful implementation of social marketing plans which will eventually reap fruit in the long term:

  1. Determine a vision for social behaviour: Who is the main sponsor of this concerted effort? What is the purpose of doing this? What social and environmental issue(s) will the plan address and why?
  2. Conduct a situation analysis, which triggers a SWOT analysis: What are the internal strengths and weaknesses? What are the external opportunities and threats?
  3. Segmenting target audiences: Which individuals and/or organisations in the community have the greatest need? Are these potential segments readily accessible?
  4. Set behavioural objectives and change management goals: A key success factor is the setting of specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and timely (SMART) objectives that become the core of campaign effort.
  5. Determine potential pitfalls to behaviour change: Perform a cost-benefit analysis of the desired behaviour. At this stage that it is also necessary to look at the competitors’ behaviours. The target audiences can also change their attitudes and perceptions about products and services over time.
  6. Draft a positioning statement: Are the businesses’ target audiences valuing socially and environmentally responsible behaviour?
  7. Develop the marketing mix, marketing strategies and tactics: Businesses need to respond to the barriers (and motivations) that target audiences may have. Some customers may be sceptical of the businesses real intentions. A few issues to consider in each of the 4Ps include: (i) Product – provide tangible products or services in the social marketing campaign, ones that will add value to the brand. (ii) Price – non-monetary forms of recognition can add value to the exchange transaction.(iii) Place – look for ways to enhance the distribution of the product (or service) by reaching out to the desired target market in a convenient way.    (iv) Promotion – develop marketing communication messages prior to selecting media channels. Messages have to be clear, understandable and relevant to particular target audiences .
  8. Develop a plan for evaluation and monitoring: Evaluation of target segments. Where there any behavioural changes in customers? Is the social marketing campaign successful?
  9. Allocate budgets and find additional funding sources: There may be scope in corporate partnerships (for philanthropy) with all sectors in society: e.g. public agencies, non-profit organisations, foundations and special interest groups.
  10. Complete an implementation plan: A three to five year plan may be required to educate staff, dedicate financial resources for infrastructures, change attitudes and perceptions to support behavioural change.

Also Published by the Times of Malta (18th July 2013)

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