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What Are The Principles Marketing Policies Employed By Connexions Card Teams?

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Using promotional strategies to connect with stakeholders
Young people leaving compulsory schooling must be motivated to continue learning and gain useful work skills. It is a big problem in all areas if many 16 to 19 year olds are neither in education nor in employment. This is wasting talent and storing up social problems. The Connexions Card helps to address this. The project is being delivered through a Public Private Partnership (PPP) between the Department for Education & Skills (DfES) and Capita. The Connexions Card is specifically targeted at 16 to 19 year olds. Cardholders are rewarded for their achievement and participation in learning through exciting and innovative rewards.
To target a specific youth market involves marketing communications. All businesses must consider the needs of their target markets. The Connexions Card needs to communicate clear benefits to a variety of stakeholders. How will young people benefit from the Card? How will teachers, parents or trainers benefit? Marketing communications must be built upon key messages about the Connexions Card. Communications to the various stakeholders must be consistent and work in an integrated manner and so support the overall aims of the Card. This study illustrates the application of some key marketing tools.
Stakeholders
Every business organisation has people or groups who have an interest in what it does. These are 'stakeholders'. It matters to these groups what happens with a business and how it happens. Like all businesses, the Connexions Card has a number of different stakeholders, each with differing needs. Promotional messages about Connexions Card must register with each one.
Whilst the benefit of holding a Connexions Card applies to young people, to reach them means communicating with learning centres. These are the first stakeholder group. Learning centres are the schools, colleges or work based trainers who provide learning. Collectively it is important that teaching professionals understand how the Connexions Card could be an incentive for their young people. The aim is that young people will be motivated to attend their learning centre and be more likely to reach their full potential.
Connexions cardholders are able to earn points which are then exchanged for a wide range of rewards such as study guides, stationery, fashion accessories, money-off vouchers, books and travel tickets. This means that Connexions Card must have a number of reward partners. These businesses are prepared to offer suitably attractive rewards. Companies like BSM, Pentel, Orange, Letts and Arriva all offer rewards. Another benefit from the Card is the discounts a cardholder gets. This means that some businesses are discount partners. Many high street names offer discounts to cardholders including: Topshop & Topman, Blockbuster, Miss Selfridge, Hollywood Bowl and Silverscreen.
Collectively, these business partners are a second group of stakeholders. Their interest is that the Connexions Card succeeds and brings young people to them, as customers. There are good PR opportunities involved in being associated with good causes. They have a stake in the success of the Card.
The most important stakeholders are young people (aged 16-19) themselves. They must know why the Connexions Card is a great thing to have. The Card must make itself well known. It must keep in touch.
To promote the Connexions Card to its target market and to various stakeholder groups, a number of methods are used. Some of these are said to be 'below-the-line', others 'above-the-line'.
· Below-the-line - Non-media advertising or promotion when no commission has been paid to the advertising agency. Includes direct mail, point of sale displays, giveaways.
· Above-the-line - Advertising for which a payment is made and for which commission is paid to the advertising agency.
The Connexions Card team employs a combination of methods, mainly below-the-line, keeping it in direct control.

BELOW-THE-LINE
Telephone

The Connexions Card team employs Business Development Managers to set up appointments with learning centres interested in offering the Card. The telephone is the preferred means of doing this. Using the telephone, people get to know each other, and can instantly set up meetings.
Once the Card scheme is set up, an Account Manager manages the relationship. Learning centres receive updates and raise queries. The telephone is a quick and cost effective communication tool.
Face-to-Face
Sometimes business relationships need more than telephone interaction. People need to meet face-to-face to gain better understanding. The Connexions Card offers many benefits to young people and learning centres, and meetings help learning centres to understand these.
Literature
Written literature plays a big role. This has to be tailored to different audiences. The Connexions Card team has conducted primary research to help it create better literature about the Card. This is known to have enhanced the effectiveness of these tools.
New cardholders receive a welcome pack. This is written in language that is more likely to appeal to the target group. The look and feel of the pack is attractive. The benefits and potential gains are made clear. For the target group, the welcome pack must act as a motivator as well as an explanation.
The learning centres need a different set of messages in their promotional literature. How to encourage take-up of the Card, the process involved, contacts and when to promote it will be key information. The Connexions Card team knows that it is often through enthusiastic staff that the Card will have an impact.
Poster campaigns are used to reach everyone in learning centres. Posters obviously need to draw attention to the exciting benefits of the Card. These remind existing cardholders of the discounts and rewards available to them and potential new cardholders are persuaded to enquire. The image of the Card needs to be positive and vibrant. Posters have to be imaginatively designed.
Letter
Email has overtaken the necessity for a paper-based letter in many cases. Today Connexions Card writes to cardholders only for administration purposes. Letters however have the benefit of being formal, reasonably cost effective and direct. A letter can have an impact but this is very hard to measure.
Direct Mail
Not all Connexions cardholders have an email address. Some people have limited Internet access. The Connexions Card team on occasion will directly mail specific rewards information to cardholders. This is done only to those who have given them permission to do so. Connexions Card does not mount direct mail campaigns to a mass audience in order to encourage young people to apply for a Connexions Card. Mounting such a campaign involves using mailing lists. In such a diverse target group, mailing lists are hard to create or source.
PR
The Connexions Card team can make use of public relations. This is done by issuing media releases. This is a good, low cost tool. The results of these can be measured in column inches. Comparisons with the costs of newspaper advertising space show that free PR coverage is very good value. The number of publications reporting on Connexions Card stories can easily be measured.
The Connexions Card initiative is rich in good images about young people. Newspapers and mass media coverage of the age group tends to be negative. The Connexions Card team seek to promote achievement. Many young people show initiative, enterprise and selfless care for others. In promoting these good things through Club Together and experience based rewards, the Connexions Card promotes itself. Business reward partners and discount partners also become associated with these fresh, uplifting aspects of young peoples' lives.
Email
Email is now a very effective - and efficient - means of reaching cardholders. In an instant, millions of people can be contacted. Using e-newsletters and reward alerts cardholders are kept informed as the Connexions Card offers new rewards and discounts. New reward partners are joining the scheme all the time. The Card is a dynamic product. As it evolves, email is the ideal information vehicle. To make good use of the Card, and gain the most from it, cardholders must know what it is worth and what it can offer them.
For all stakeholders the use of email must be carefully managed. Excessive use of email could mean loss of credibility. Connexions Card is aware that unsolicited promotional emailing goes straight into the 'junk' category. Worse, SPAM is a curse to all email users. The solution is to use 'opt-in-mailing'. In this, Connexions Card seeks permission to email. If a potential recipient does not want emails, it does not get them. Research has shown that permission mailing is effective in giving positive messages about a business.
Website
Internet traffic is growing all the time. Promotional messages about the Connexions Card and the administrative detail can be delivered via the web.
Rewards are an important motivator. Cardholders can gain points for learning achievements, good attendance or reaching personal goals. The Connexions Card website at www.connexionscard.com allows cardholders to check their points total and use their points to claim rewards. All the latest rewards and discounts available can be instantly uploaded and promoted on the site. The Connexions Card team have direct control of the site maintenance.
Using the web allows the Connexions Card team to measure the effectiveness of the site. The success of the Connexions Card depends on young people valuing the rewards available. The more people know about the rewards, the greater numbers will go for them.
Web graphics is the study of website visitors and trends. Connexions Card measures its site to find out which sections work best. This is regularly checked and statistics extracted. By monitoring the site's statistics, pages viewed, click-through patterns, rewards claimed etc, it can be continually improved.

Using promotional strategies to connect with stakeholders
ABOVE-THE-LINE
Advertising
Wide scale advertising can be very effective. Yet, the Connexions Card is not promoted extensively this way. It would have to mount a huge advertising campaign with an external advertising agency. This is an expensive investment. How would Connexions Card be able to measure its effect? This is a question of strategic judgement.
The target group is 16 to 19 year olds. This is a very broad category with no single means of reaching them all. The Card itself is a specific product that relates to personal learning achievement. The message of the Card does not fit well with the leisure time interests of young people. If they are happy reading about music, computer games or the latest DVD releases, a learning based product such as the Connexions Card will not sit comfortably in that context. The Connexions Card team feels that it might be an irritation. At best, people will ignore the message. For these reasons wide scale advertising as a means of promotion has been avoided.

Conclusion
The Connexions Card team must promote the Card to all stakeholders. Each promotional effort must add to the team strategy. This is to sell the benefits of the Connexions Card:
Raise the value of young peoples' achievement
· motivate the cardholders and engage learning providers.

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