Nation Branding and Place Marketing – VII. Marketing Implementation, Evaluation, and Control

Nation Branding and Place Marketing – VII. Marketing Implementation, Evaluation, and Control

VII. Marketing Implementation, Evaluation, and Control

How can a country (region, state, city, municipality, or other polity) judge the efficacy of its attempts to brand or re-brand itself and, consequently, to attract customers (investors, tourism operators, bankers, traders, and so on)?

Marketing is not a controlled process in an insulated lab. It is prone to mishaps, last minute changes, conceptual shifts, political upheavals, the volatility of markets, and, in short, to the vagaries of human nature and natural disasters. Some marketing efforts are known to have backfired. Others have yielded lukewarm results. Marketing requires constant fine tuning and adjustments to reflect and respond to the kaleidoscopic environment of our times.

But maximum benefits (under the circumstances) are guaranteed if the client (the country, for instance) implements a rigorous Marketing Implementation, Evaluation, and Control (MIEV) plan.

The first task is to set realistic quantitative and qualitative interim and final targets for the marketing program – and then to constantly measure its actual performance and compare it to the hoped for outcomes. Even nation branding and place marketing require detailed projections of expenditures vs. income (budget and pr-forma financial statements) for monitoring purposes.

The five modules of MIEV are:

1. Annual plan control

This document includes all the government’s managerial objectives and (numerical) goals. It is actually a breakdown of the aforementioned pro-forma financial statements into monthly and quarterly figures of “sales” (in terms of foreign direct investment, income from tourism, trade figures, etc.) and profitability.
It comprises at least five performance gauging tools:

I. Sales analysis (comparing sales targets to actual sales and accounting for discrepancies).

II. Market-share analysis (comparing the country’s “sales” with those of its competitors). The country should also compare its own sales to the total sales in the global market and to sales within its “market segment” (neighboring countries, countries which share its political ambience, same-size countries, etc.).

III. Expense-to-sales analysis demonstrates the range of costs – both explicit and hidden (implicit) – of achieving the country’s sales goals.

IV. Financial analysis calculates various performance ratios such as profits to sales (profit margin), sales to assets (asset turnover), profits to assets (return on assets), assets to worth (financial leverage), and, finally, profits to worth (return on net worth of infrastructure).

V. Customer satisfaction is the ultimate indicator of tracking goal achievement. The country should actively seek, facilitate, and encourage feedback, both positive and negative by creating friendly and ubiquitous complaint and suggestion systems. Frequent satisfaction and customer loyalty surveys should form an integral part of any marketing drive.

Regrettably, most acceptable systems of national accounts sorely lack the ability to cope with place marketing and nation branding campaigns. Intangibles such as enhanced reputation or investor satisfaction are excluded. There is no clear definition as to what constitute the assets of a country, its “sales”, or its “profits”.
2. Profitability control

There is no point in squandering scarce resources on marketing efforts that guarantee nothing except name recognition. Sales, profits, and expenditures should count prominently in any evaluation (and re-evaluation) of on-going campaigns. The country needs to get rid of prejudices, biases, and misconceptions and clearly identify what products and consumer groups yield the most profits (have the highest relative earnings-capacity). Money, time, and manpower should be allocated to cater to the needs and desires of these top-earners.

3. Efficiency control

The global picture is important. An overview of the marketing and sales efforts and their relative success (or failure) is crucial. But a micro-level analysis is indispensable. What is the sales force doing, where, and how well? What are the localized reactions to the advertising, sales promotion, and distribution drives? Are there appreciable differences between the reactions of various market niches and consumer types?

4. Strategic control

The complement of efficiency control is strategic control. It weighs the overall and long-term marketing plan in view of the country’s basic data: its organization, institutions, strengths, weaknesses, and market opportunities. It is recommended to compare the country’s self-assessment (marketing-effectiveness rating review) with an analysis prepared by an objective third party.
The marketing-effectiveness rating review incorporates privileged information such as input and feedback from the country’s “customers” (investors, tourist operators, traders, bankers, etc.), internal reports regarding the adequacy and efficiency of the country’s marketing information, operations, strengths, strategies, and integration (of various marketing, branding, and sales tactics).

5. Marketing audit

The marketing audit is, in some respects, the raw material for the strategic control. Its role is to periodically make sure that the marketing plan emphasizes the country’s strengths in ways that are compatible with shifting market sentiments, current events, fashions, preferences, needs, and priorities of relevant market players. This helps to identify marketing opportunities and new or potential markets.

The Encyclopedia Britannica (2005 edition) describes the marketing audit thus:

“… (I)t covers all aspects of the marketing climate (unlike a functional audit, which analyzes one marketing activity), looking at both macro-environment factors (demographic, economic, ecological, technological, political, and cultural) and micro- or task-environment factors (markets, customers, competitors, distributors, dealers, suppliers, facilitators, and publics). The audit includes analyses of the company’s marketing strategy, marketing organization, marketing systems, and marketing productivity. It must be systematic in order to provide concrete conclusions based on these analyses. To ensure objectivity, a marketing audit is best done by a person, department, or organization that is independent of the company or marketing program. Marketing audits should be done not only when the value of a company’s current marketing plan is in question; they must be done periodically in order to isolate and solve problems before they arise.”