THE EFFECT OF INTEGRATED MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS ON THE SALES PERFORMANCE OF MICROFINANCE INSTITUTIONS; IN THE NORTH WEST REGION
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Of recent, the concept of integrated marketing communications (IMC) has swept around the world and become an integral part of marketing, and even the corporate, communication strategies of many companies (Kitchen, 2005; Schultz et al., 2011). IMC IS now a significant factor affecting the outcomes of marketing strategy and can help companies position products/services/brands, reach target markets, and build brand image, whether nationally or internationally (Hsu et al., 2009) (Naik and Raman, 2003; Prasad and Sethi, 2009).
Since the last decade, the integrated marketing communications (IMC) concept has increasingly gained momentum and is been largely regarded as the key differentiating factor between successful companies that control large market shares and those that don’t. Intensive competition is urging companies to look for new and innovative ways not only to gain market share as it has been the case but to retain what they already have. IMC has therefore of recent played a very pivotal role in marketing management issue, and is ranked as a top pillar in developing a company’s marketing strategy. Effective strategies focus on the successful development of integration of marketing communications tools (e.g. advertising, public relations, direct marketing, sales promotion, and personnel selling) to optimize the communications impact on target consumers (Kotler, 2006).
Along with the effect of rapid and continuous evolution experienced in communication and information technology, intensity in the marketing activities of the companies has emerged (Haynes, Andy, Lackman, Conway, Guskey, Andrey, 1999). Disorganization brought along by this intensity can lead the consumers to experience confusion and become hesitant. Proctor and Kitchen (2002) point out that in twenty first century, the successful marketing strategies require successful communication strategies, and this in turn, necessitates all the communication activities to be gathered together within an integrated approach in a creative manner.
Integrated marketing communication (IMC) is being practiced worldwide at very large scale. Integrated marketing communication is consumer oriented approach rather than organizational oriented that focuses on organizational needs. IMC is performed in a manner of synergy rather than in isolation (Kitchen, Philip, Schultz, Don, 2003). IMC is associated with some positive results like brand awareness, customer satisfaction, brand loyalty, positive brand image, unique brand association, greater profitability, increased sales and cost savings.bIMC has major impact on organizational performance and brand equity. There are some barriers to successful implementation of IMC program (Jooyoung, Kim, Morris, John, 2003).
There are several reasons for the growing importance of IMC. These include: a change of strategy in allocation of marketing expenditure from the traditional media advertising to other forms of promotion, particularly consumer-and trade-oriented sales promotions; a movement away from relying on advertising-focused approaches which emphasize on mass media to lower-cost more targeted communication tools such as event marketing, sponsorships, direct mail, sales promotion and the Internet; a shift in marketplace power from manufacturers to retailers; the rapid growth and development of database marketing; demands for greater accountability from advertising agencies and changes in the way agencies are compensated; the rapid growth of the Internet, which is changing the nature of how companies do business and the ways they communicate and interact with consumers; increased efforts to measure and improve marketing communication return on investment (ROI) by both clients and agencies (Belch and Belch, 2004).
Marketing communication is a continuous process and proper communication with the internal as well as the external customers is crucial to ensure effectiveness of promotional measures in achieving the corporate business goals. The present day banking is totally different than it was in sixties and seventies. The economy is moving from monopolistic and protected state to a free and liberalized market environment where only the effective and efficient will survive. It is therefore, absolutely essential to adopt appropriate marketing communication strategies and use them through an integrated approach, in the absence of which it will be difficult for the banks not only to progress but even to maintain their business positions. A well thought and innovative marketing communication strategy backed by a practical action plan will certainly enable the banks to satisfy their customers and make profits without losing sight of the social obligations and changing customer expectations. Marketing communication are messages and related media used to communicate with a market. In this competitive era when market is full of similar service providers’ effective Marketing communication strategies can prove to be a mantra for the success of banking. With the help of marketing communication a bank can inform the customers. It becomes even worse as financial institutions has little elements of tangibility or lack evidence of assurance.
The concept of microfinance dates back before the 19th century where money lenders were unofficially carrying out the role of now formal financial institutions. The unofficial financial institutions comprised of: village banks, rotating saving groups and social venture capital funds to help the poor. These institutions were those that provided savings and credit services for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises and most especially to the poor.
They mobilized rural savings and had simple and straight forward procedures that originated from local cultures and were easily understood by the population says (Germidis, 1991). The creation of the Grameen bank in Bangladesh by Muhamadou Yunus because of high capacity of the innovation of the informal sector contributed to the growth of microfinance in the world.
The CEMAC regulation defines Microfinance as an activity carried out by an institution that do not have the status of banks or financial institutions as defined in the appendix in the convention of 1992 (17th January) to harmonize and regulate the banking activities in the Central African State, and which carry out on a regular basis, loan operations and/or savings collections and offers specific financial services to population who mainly operate outside the traditional banking channel.
Robinson, (2001) in his work titled; “The Microfinance Revolution” defines microfinance as small-scale financial services offered to people into small business in both rural and urban societies. He went further to point that the goal of microfinance institutions is to improve living standards or get rid of poverty through the provision of small business financing and consumer credit or bring financial services to poor and vulnerable people in the society.
In Cameroon, the first micro finance institution was created in 1963 at Njinikom in the North- West Region of Cameroon by a Roman Catholic priest; Anthony Jansen, a priest from Holland. The relative success of noticed in this industry lead to the creation of CamCCUL in 1968 by 34 credit unions that were already in existence (Zengue , 2006).
From the main purpose of Microfinance Institutions which is to provide financial and non- financial services to the poor and those excluded from the traditional banking system, we see that there is a need for computerized accounting system to help the Microfinance institutions ameliorate the provision of these services to the targeted group. Despite the main aim of MFI to provide the aforementioned services, they also need to engage in activities that will generate income to ensure sustainability.
Microfinance institutions have been gaining popularity in the recent years and are now considered as effective tools for alleviating poverty. Most MFIs are well-run with great track records, while others are quite self-sufficient. The primary goals of microfinance institutions are the following:
Transform into a financial institution that assists in the development of communities that are sustainable.
Help in the provision of resources that offer support to the lower sections of the society. There is special focus on women in this regard, as they have emerged successful in setting up income generation enterprises.
Evaluate the options available to help eradicate poverty at a faster rate.
Mobilise self-employment opportunities for the underprivileged.
Empowering rural people by training them in simple skills so that they are capable of setting up income generation businesses.
As per World Bank data, close to 1.7 billion people across multiple countries do not have access to basic financial services. This is where microfinance institutions play a major role.
The part that microfinance plays in economic development is noteworthy. Some of the key benefits of MFIs include the following:
It enables people expand their present opportunities – The income accumulation of poor households has improved due to the presence of microfinance institutions that offer funds for their businesses.
It provides easy access to credit – Microfinance opportunities provide people credit when it is needed the most. Banks do not usually offer small loans to customers; MFIs providing microloans bridge this gap.
It makes future investments possible– Microfinance makes more money available to the poor sections of the economy. So, apart from financing the basic needs of these families, MFIs also provide them with credit for constructing better houses, improving their healthcare facilities, and exploring better business opportunities.
It serves the under-financed section of the society – Majority of the microfinance loans provided by MFIs are offered to women. Unemployed people and those with disabilities are also beneficiaries of microfinance. These financing options help people take control of their lives through the betterment of their living conditions.
It helps in the generation of employment opportunities – Microfinance institutions help create jobs in the impoverished communities.
It inculcates the discipline of saving – When the basic needs of people are met, they are more inclined to start saving for the future. It is good for people living in backward areas to inculcate the habit of saving.
It brings about significant economic gains – When people participate in microfinance activities, they are more likely to receive better levels of consumption and improved nutrition. This eventually leads to the growth of the community in terms of economic value.
It results in better credit management practices – Microloans are mostly taken by women borrowers. Statistics prove that female borrowers are less likely to default on loans. Apart from providing empowerment, microloans also have better repayment rates as women pose lesser risk to borrowers. This improves the credit management practices of the community.
It results in better education – It has been noted that families benefiting from microloans are more likely to provide better and continued education for their children. Improvement in the family finances imply that children may not be pulled out of school for monetary reasons.
Microfinance institutions sell the same products with very little product differentiation. These challenges include: creating awareness of a particular product when competition has exactly the same products offering the same values, creating a brand identity for the products, and attracting the targeted audience who are also targeted by the competition. When marketers attempt to differentiate their marketing mix, the role and support of the promotions mix is essential. Accordingly, it is important for a marketing manager to understand how an integrated marketing communications mix can be used to market unique products and create a competitive edge in the market (Kotler and Keller, 2009).
Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) is defined as an approach to achieving the objectives of a marketing campaign through a well-coordinated use of different promotional methods that are intended to reinforce each other. As defined by the American Association of Advertising Agencies integrated marketing communications “recognizes the value of a comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic roles of a variety of communication disciplines that combines them to provide clarity consistency and maximum communication impact.”
There has been tremendous growth in the Cameroon banking industry. Changes in the Cameroon economy, Commercial Banks and microfinance institutions have not been spared from the impact of these changes. The banking sector in Cameroon comprises of about fouteen commercial banks and more than one hundred microfinance institutions.
Integrated Marketing Communication practices adopted by microfinance institutions in Cameroon remain an understudied area. Little has been done by researches with regard to IMC practices applied by microfinance institutions in Cameroon.
Marketing communication in banking sector/microfinance institutions has been an understudied area. Much of the microfinance marketing literature has concentrated on marketing theory than on communication strategies. Effective marketing communication of microfinance institutions is crucial since services are intangible products and it is hard to stand out, considering the fact that all microfinance institutions offer similar products. Literature review depicted several gaps which makes the way for different researches. Firstly most of the studies in banking sector are on marketing of banking services (Bhattacharyay, 1989; Rullis and Sloka, 2010; Shonde and Gandhave, 2011). Secondly the study of marketing communication strategies is done taking either one or other communication tools like personal selling, sales promotion, publicity and public relations individually (Singh, 1983; Laskey et al., 1992; Dan and Ho,1993). Thirdly no study is conducted from banker’s point of view, only customer’s response is considered (Greenyer, 2004; Mittal and Mittal, 2009).
Moreover intense competition in the banking industry in Cameroon have had a lot of bearing on the sales performance of microfinance institutions in the North west region coupled with the socio-political nature of the business environment causing their sales to drop by several percentages at the close of the financial year 2020. For example BAYELLE Cooperative Credit Union (BACCUL) recorded a 12% decrease in net profit at the close of 2020. Gone are the days when traditional advertising could work out effectively alone to enhance customer’s experience. A more integrated approach is needed
1.3: Research Questions
1.3.1: Main Research question
The main research question is; what is the effect of integrated marketing communications on the sales performance of microfinance institutions in the North West Region?
1.3.2: Specific Research Questions
1 To what extent does advertising affect sales performance of microfinance institutions in North West region?
2 What are the effects of sales promotion on sales performance of microfinance institutions in Bamenda?
3 How does direct personal selling affect sales performance of microfinance institutions in North West region?
4 What is the influence of direct marketing on sales performance of microfinance institutions in North West region?
The main research objective is to determine the effect of integrated marketing communications on the sales performance of microfinance institutions in the North West region
1 To analyze the influence of advertising on sales performance of microfinance institutions in North West region
2 To determine the influence of sales promotion on sales performance of microfinance institutions in North West region
.3 To examine the influence of personal selling on the sales performance of microfinance institutions in North West region
1.5: Research Hypothesis:
The hypothesis are stated in a null form
Ho1: Advertising has a significant effect on the sales performance of microfinance institutions in North West region
Ho2: Sales promotion has a positive relationship with the sales performance of microfinance institutions in North West region
Ho3: Personal selling has a positive effect on sales performance of microfinance institutions in North West region
Ho4: Direct marketing has significant effect on the sales performance of microfinance institutions in North West region