INTRODUCTION TO THE ORGANIZATION

Vodafone spans through a rich 28-year legacy right from its inception on the 1st of January 1985 to the current day when it can boast of a customer base of more than 400 million. They may proudly claim that customers across the globe choose them as the first service provider to cater to their communications needs. The history of the telecommunications goes way back when it started off as a small sized mobile operator in Newbury (Anwar 2003).

This small concern has today grown into a globally renowned brand that operates in over 30 countries and around 50 or more network partners across the world. Vodafone has achieved the position of being the seventh most valuable world in global terms (Brearley 2006). The main aspect of this global group that has brought them forward and made them achieve numerous milestones is their ready adaptability to the technology and market. In today’s era when communication has gone leaps and bounds beyond texting and talking, Vodafone has also been pivotal in providing its customers services for broadband and fixed line too, which makes them not only a mobile service provider but a comprehensive end-to-end telecommunications vendor.

When communicating through mobile phones was a wonder, Vodafone was one of the first to have taken this to the customer and today when services like high speed internet, 3G and video calling is the trend, Vodafone is not behind in providing these facilities for their customers.

The customer spread of Vodafone is not limited to retail but they also have solution packages for businesses of all sizes, scales and needs. The examples of document sharing, video conferencing and multi-location file access are evidences for this fact (Whalley & Curwen 2013). The vision behind the Vodafone is to ultimately find the spark that triggers and empowers the customers, which is the very motto of them being in business. This truly translates to their tagline of ‘Power to You’.

TASK 1 (LO1)

The Role of Marketing Planning
Marketing is a highly divine concept in the absence of which existing customers may be unaware of your new product offerings and potential customers may be in total darkness with regard to what you sell and who you are. It is a known fact that millions of businesses have died out due to lack of a strong customer base. As a result marketing plays a pivotal role in the achievement of business objectives as it is a guideline for the business on how they shall be able to reach out to their potential customers. It is a tool that helps to gauge your market presence and brand awareness and the measure of the prospective business Practice that they have in market.

 

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The case of Vodafone has been no different. The organization was basically known as a mobile service catering to the needs of domestic customers. It was not much after that that they began to venture into fixed line internet services and broadband as well. Today when wireless internet is a basic need for laptops and portable devices, computing systems, Vodafone has the ready solution for it (Greenley 1989). It is to be understood that if Vodafone had not planned their entry into these verticals, they would have not been as successful as they are today. Vodafone in all its endeavours has been receptive to the needs of customers and moreover proactive in providing solutions which makes them a leader in the market.

Effective marketing cannot take place without proper planning since the mode of trial and error is risky and tends to fail in the market. Hence decisions on marketing have to well-planned and well-evaluated which in turn calls for efficient planning, it is part of business decision making. The first of the advantages that marketing planning brings along with it is the documentation of the plan that helps serve as a guide to the people undertaking to fulfil the objectives of the plan.

Marketing planning is also a mode for introspection into the company’s services and products and also calls for an attempt to compare the offerings of the company with its competitors. Since planning for activities cannot occur solely by the marketing department personnel, it is an integrated effort and calls for business integration that serves as a method for comprehensive business analysis.

One of the potential barriers to effective marketing planning is this itself when the organization tends to isolate the marketing function. It is recommended thereby that marketing should be a part of the operations since both of it are customer-linked. Many a time the concept of marketing planning is misinterpreted with strategy formulation and businesses consider that they are one and the same or rather tend to formulate business strategies on the pretext of marketing planning. Thereby it is suggested that initially the strategic plan for the business is developed and that is then broken down into multiple level operations plans, of which marketing is one such plan.

All businesses are customer-based and hence the organizational structure and internal operations should be reflective of the market and not the functions within the organization. Unless this is achieved to the fullest, marketing planning cannot be effective. The other common hindrances to effective marketing planning are the lack of skill and knowledge, the absence of a systematic approach to planning, the lapse on prioritising business objectives and basically the organizational culture that may be intimidating and decentralised at many times, challenging the freedom of the employees.

Vodafone has been able to overcome most of the potential barriers that have been listed and the most profound for them shall be the failure to be able to segregate tactics from marketing. The brand is quite forward in its marketing tactics as may be evident but the question is that how different it is from its strategy.
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Unit Solution -

TASK 2 (LO2)

Macro-Environment Analysis of Vodafone
We shall be deploying the PEST Model for the environmental analysis of the Vodafone Group Plc. The factors within this model may be considered as prospective opportunities or threats for the company that are usually outside its direct control. The results of this analysis may serve effective to the value creation for the company.

Political Factors – Vodafone has always been subject to telecommunication regulations in governing its business activities in whichever country it has been operating. As a result the company is politically governed by industry-specific laws, anti-trust laws and other service regulations. The EU Regulatory Framework for the Communications Sector is the standard of regulation that Vodafone has operated since 2002. The limitation to spectrum liberalisation has been one of the shortcomings of the harsh regulatory policies.

Economic Factors – The Gross Domestic Product or the GDP is a measure of the total economic activity of a country that guides price rise, inflation as well as price falls. Statistics reveal that the GDP has more or less constant for the past few years for countries in the European Union which means that the production activity of resident producers hover around the same figures or are stalled. Since Vodafone is a consumer-based business, this is not a very positive sign for the group.

Social Factors – The European Union is facing extraordinary demographic changes that are bound to influence the society and social systems. There shall be considerable changes in the patterns of consumption, education and careers in the forthcoming years (Paswan, Blankson & Guzman 2011). The rates of fertility have dropped and the income levels of people have improved. As a result the average lifespan of the population have increased. However reports suggest that the rise in population might not be much by 2050. In any case when the number of elderly people increase and children drop it is an opportunity for provision of more mobile services to mature customers, indeed a prospective business option for Vodafone.

Technological Factors – Research and development is a major factor underlying technological expansion and innovation and the creation of new and innovative services and products. The past decade has shown significant growth at a tremendous pace in the area of R & D, especially that related to telecommunications and technology. The Vodafone Group itself has invested in many new technologies and platforms and brought it to its customers and the trend is expected to continue. The only drawback in the EU is the lack of business-financed research.

Identification of opportunities

On a macro level we may identify that the main potential opportunity for Vodafone in the European Union would be to collaborate with the third world countries like India. With regard to the operations and customer spread of the group, India and EU are the two nations with the widest spread of their networks. India is in dire need of investment in the telecommunications industry and shall always solicit foreign direct investment from partnering companies (Udell 1968). Vodafone is rich in capital and other resources and shall be able to thereby exploit the potential business that India is able to offer.

The broadband vertical is a conducive option that both the countries look forward to invest largely in and since the objectives are parallel it is suggested that the corporation takes this forward positively (McTavish 1989). The recent splurge in technology and the intensity with which telecommunications is taking a different shape is undoubtedly a broad area for prospective business that shall take Vodafone to new heights and help them maintain their unprecedented position.

Definition of marketing objectives and SMART goals
The primary objective of marketing is to communicate the value of a product or service to its customers so as to appropriately influence their perceptions of the brand and alter their purchase decisions positively. On the basis of the study conducted on Vodafone it has been found that the main objective of Vodafone in this path should be to include customer feedback in its product strategy. The mobile phone market in the United Kingdom has achieved maturity in a remarkably short span of time which is the result of its continuous association with customers, especially the youth who are trendy and technologically savvy.

The marketing objectives need to be SMART, i.e. specific, measurable, accurate, realistic and time-bound. Thus the objectives should accurately and precisely entail what the brand wants to achieve quantitatively and qualitatively, and the time horizon within which they plan to achieve the same. Moreover they need to be defined against a realistic yardstick for measurement and improvement. Thereby we may list the objectives of Vodafone for the forthcoming period as –

To continue to develop products and services based on market trends and customer requirements
To provide much more value added services to the customers who are becoming more demanding and erudite
To offer the existing and new services of the company to their customers at competitive and affordable rates so as to be able to be penetrate into the market by 5% by the end of 2015
To attain new customers, retain the existing ones, introduce new services and updated technologies and continue to grow the brand by 10% over the next 10 years
TASK 3 (LO3)

Marketing Strategies to address the objectives
The prime aim of Vodafone is to retain its numero uno position in the UK market and it plans to maintain the leadership position through marketing efforts. Vodafone has always adopted a product-oriented strategy since the company has ever been evolving through the crafting and design of new products and services without leaving stone turned to harness the latest, state of the art technology. However Vodafone needs to take care that at no point of time it becomes complacent since the customer base today is highly informed and sophisticated. The customer is always on the lookout for new services and their demands are always tall. Even though the base of the customers might be highly loyal to them having been linked to Vodafone through many years, customers are always susceptible to shifting to new service providers once they identify that their existing brand has nothing more to offer them.

Furthermore customers need rapid service and are not ready to wait and has a result the strategy of the company should be vendor based as well. The supplier relationships need to be as strong as the customer relationships that are able to provide Vodafone with the necessary solutions in a minute span of time (Hartman & Lindgren 1993). Additionally Vodafone needs to always add value to its services, whether the conventional ones or the contemporary ones so that the customer always feels that the brand is offering them something more.

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As we have already identified that the key for Vodafone is to be able to retain old customers and attract new ones, it is necessary that the brand communicates with its customers regularly to either inform them of the latest offerings or to take account of their concerns. Therefore the brand shall have to adopt a communication based strategy to be in constant touch with their people. Marketing communications thereby plays an important role in this aspect and Vodafone needs to deploy the best of integrated marketing communications for this purpose.

Marketing Mix Elements
Along with this Vodafone may also need to look into to remodel its marketing mix elements as a part of its tactic to attract more customers. In order to define the elements of the mix we shall utilise the traditional 4P model and since it is primarily a services based brand, we shall also define the additional 3P’s for marketing of services.

Product and Price: Design and technology are the incumbent features of the product element. The UK market as is known has matured in the league of mobile services and handsets and hence Vodafone will have to take an extra mile to be able to appeal to its new customers. Since the aim of Vodafone is to grow its revenue and thereby improve its profit margin it shall have to add more value to its offerings so that the earnings from each unit sold is more. The suggested option is to offer a suite of value added services along with its handsets and mobile connections. The feature of live download of phone-related icons and wallpapers to name a few is a viable option. Additionally it may provide a platform to integrate the phone data with the PC and access to Vodafone services like the Vodafone Live through the desktop as well and personal files of the customer through the Vodafone handset, form of cloud computing solution.

Place and Promotion: To increase the global spread of the image of the brand, Vodafone may leverage upon the star value of leading global sports stars. Deploying a brand ambassador like Schumacher or Beckham and other highly prolific sports icons is a recommended strategy. Vodafone can also attempt to increase its geographical spread by establishing more number of stores and retail outlets that sell their products.

People, Process and Physical Evidence: People are integral to any service-oriented model and they form the base of customer service and orientation. The culture of the organization plays an important role in the attitude of the employees towards the customers and hence it is imperative that the employee dignity is upheld within and outside the workplace. Since people are involved at all contact points in a service delivery model, there are bound to be isparities in the consumption and availing of services (Gilmore & Carson 1996). Nevertheless Vodafone should attempt to standardise processes and procedures and offerings across all locations so that there is a uniform standard available for evaluation. The infrastructure and facility used for the delivery of services is influential for shaping the customer opinion and attitude. Hence Vodafone should always attempt to maintain the ambience and outlook of their stores for which they may issue a procedural policy which the store owners shall have to maintain at any cost. They may also choose to introduce a live gaming zone and a 3G cum Wifi experience zone in some of their stores that shall help customers in getting a hands-on acquaintance of the strength and coverage of the network of Vodafone (Grove, Fisk & John 2003).

TASK 4 (LO4)

Ethical Issues associated with marketing

Every company needs to have a guideline of ethics with regard to their marketing policy in order to be able to control them on aspects of pricing, research, promotion and advertising and other strategies. The first guideline shall be based on the business relationship between the company and its related entities like vendors, investors, stakeholders and most importantly customers. With regard to customers the policy should be fair, impartial and transparent treatment of customers by providing with just treatment according to the expectations of the customers and charging them the rated price as with all other customers. Many a time the salesperson indulges in unfair pricing practices, availing commission or other untoward practices which in turn eats into the reputation of the brand.

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The marketing decisions need to such that they are moral and place the needs and wants of the customers in priority at all times. It should be mutually beneficial for the customer, supplier and other partners in business (Rao & Singhapakdi 1997). Generally unethical business conduct can impact the value of a brand negatively and affect the relationships of the company with its stakeholders. However the common practice is to indulge in price wars, deceptive marketing and selective advertising to attract a certain niche of customers only.

Certain studies in the recent past have revealed that consumers prefer to be associated with companies who are practical and just in their business. Thereby ethics is not be considered as a ritual but as a unique selling point or a competitive edge that sellers may leverage upon. Ethical behaviour shapes the image of a company and therefore utmost care should be taken to withhold it.

 

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Vodafone in its journey so far has never attempted to establish its base through unfair pricing policies or by unlawfully eating into the business of its competitors. As should be the case it has always developed its brand image through its offerings and has hence been able to attract more customers. Marketing is a social approach that influences the intention of the customer to purchase the products or to avail the services of the company and thus behaving unethically is a potential threat to the brand.

Vodafone should always endeavour to make its employees sensitive to such needs and causes and apprise all people linked with them to refrain from such unappealing behaviour. Employees may thereby be incentivised for good ethical behaviour and penalised when instances of the opposite are cited or complained by the customer. Since it is better to nip the bud in the root and taking action before it reaches the customer it is better to adopt a policy of vigilance (Dodourova 2003). Once the issue reaches the customers it is bound to spread bad breath of the brand amongst the public and hence Vodafone may invest in employing an official for being watchful of such activities and whistleblowing instances where inappropriate behaviour is cited.

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