Marketing - Both a Science and an Art

It pays to be obvious, especially if you have a reputation for subtlety.
-Isaac Asimov (Novelist and Biochemist)

This is another example of how marketing principles can be applied to an industry or extrapolated to another - of course in the right hands and that is where Niche Solutions can help. This article address the issues of Marketing as both a Science and an Art.

belogning child-grandmother.gifIf you think you are doing a great job, then how do you let others know?

Despite Aged Care providers’ good intentions, there remains a wariness in our society about ageing and care for the aged. From an operational perspective, this translates to an additional impost of anxiety on the people and the systems in facilities. Oftentimes, the subtleties inherent in Aged Care operations are not obvious to those outside. A Marketing approach offers new ways to better communicate with communities and reduce families’ anxieties. This requires a planned and proactive approach to inform them about the benefits Aged Care facilities offer. The key outcomes of Marketing campaigns are to build reputations, trust, enhance the lives of all those associated with the organisation, optimise usage (fill beds), and encourage and retain quality staff, all in sustainable ways. Used effectively, Marketing can give fresh insights into how to connect people and ideas and deliver value real and perceived value. By now, you are familiar with the processes of Marketing described in Article One (Why Market Aged Care) and Article Two (the Key Elements of Marketing). In this article, I am going to use examples outside your work environment to help you as consumers appreciate the nuances of Marketing as a Science and an Art, addressing how to recognise their use in Aged Care.

Peter Carey, the much-lauded Australian author of novels such as Oscar and Lucinda, the History of Ned Kelly and Bliss etc. describes a great novel as having two key components: the story and the language. He says “when books are reviewed people spend an awful lot of time doing plot synopsis, but this alone tells you nothing about what the art of the book is, and of course the art is contained in the arrangement of the letters and the words, what they do and how they feel. So that’s the river, the reader is swimming in and that’s what does have to be beautiful and new and never have existed before. The plot is the landscape which takes the river to its destination.”

Peter Carey contends both plot and words are integral to success. A good plot without the right language does not make a successful work, likewise well-structured sentences and words without an overall story do not succeed. In addition, the book needs the right publisher and editor to produce, distribute, promote and sell, because without these, no matter how talented the writer is, that skill will be undiscovered. The book in this example is an Aged Care facility. Marketing is the editor and the publisher, fine-tuning the words to find the essence of meaning and then promoting the final product.

Some writers send a summary of a story line and one or two chapters to a publisher before they write a book. Likewise, in any organisation, it is best to employ Marketing skills at the early strategic planning stages to review the overall intent and direction, and sustain these skills in the implementation stages of promotion and selling. Sound Marketing practices, based on the organisation’s strategies, form the building blocks of communication both inside and outside the organisation. To achieve this Marketing uses both science and art.

For our purposes in this discussion, science is knowledge that is quantifiable, measurable and process based. Art involves experiences that bring understanding of broader questions about values and attitudes held by individuals and communities. Art finds expression through communication and imagination. As in great novels, science and art are integral to successful outcomes.

Applying these concepts to Aged Care, the science in Aged Care operations (plots) are process based, adaptive, precise and structured. Just as some prolific writers use a formula for their stories, Aged Care facilities replicate sound operational systems. The art is the implementation that gives expression to the vision, mission, goals and values that are unique to organisations, and connects organisations to their community (readers). Art give expression to cultures that is cohesive, imaginative, believable and engaging (people-centred, consultative). However, the caveat is that organisations cannot just promise to deliver key benefits (art); the systems must support that delivery, which means all involved in delivering Aged Care must “walk the talk”. Residents and communities must perceive that operations match organisations’ promises; otherwise, credibility is lost!

The Science of Marketing

Just as writers research the details of their story lines, Marketing uses research to identify and quantify those internal and external elements that impinge on organisations’ sustainability. Below are some of the elements that Marketing strategies address both outside and inside organisations. Resources are best allocated, where this information is understood and applied.

1.    Demographic trends are quantifiable,

2.    Social trends impact attitudes,

3.    Macro - Economic trends influence:

  • Pricing policy
  • Financial models
  • Funding

4.    Environmental issues address the built environment & sustainability,

5.    Competitors are not necessarily obvious,

6.    Positioning in the market place compared to direct competitors,

7.    Organisational structures and management skills are measurable,

8.    Key alliances may be traditional or new,

9.    Accreditation standards are a bench market which can be exceeded,

10. Organisations’ business models and strategies

The Art of Marketing focuses on people, how to communicate with them, and the benefits they perceive they derive from organisations. The art addresses:

1.    The attitudes and expectations of the various audiences:

  • residents and their families,
  • management, staff, owners,
  • the community,
  • health professionals,
  • volunteers, alliances,
  • governments,

2.    Identifies key messages about organisations that:

  • differentiates the organisation from its competitors,
  • informs the community,
  • coalesces the values of organisations from within

3.    Uses a range of Marketing tools and channels of communication including:

  • training to convert marketing promises into reality,
  • public relations to educate, to raise issues and awareness,
  • events to encourage interaction,
  • brochures to promote and inform,
  • websites easily accessed to promote, inform and refer.

Drawing again on the analogy of the novel, once produced the book has a concrete format that does not change. The variable is what meaning readers apply from their own experience and knowledge; whereas, organisations are complex works in progress, influenced by constant change. Marketing practices identify the essence of organisations, anticipate change by alerting organisations to trends, and how to manage and capitalise on them. Using both science and art, Marketing can deliver key benefits to organisations including:

  1. raise profiles in the community that build reputations,
  2. clearly differentiate from competitors,
  3. attract quality staff who are passionate carers, take pride in
  4. their work, and lower staff turnover,
  5. clients and their families place a high value on the offer,
  6. measurable results in $$$, attitude and aptitude

Marketing does not happen by chance, even if your organisation has a reputation for subtlety, it pays to be obvious. Like a great novel, the organisation that pays attention to Marketing as a science and an art can have greater impact on peoples’ lives. And at its heart that is the essence of Aged Care - humanity!

While Aged Care has been the basis for this paper, the principles apply to any organisation which markets a product or service and employs people or engages volunteers.

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