I. Executive Summary
The American Marketing Association is the largest marketing association in the world, consisting of 45,000 members. AMA is also the market leader in their industry. In addition to offering association membership, AMA offers a wide variety of marketing publications, including books and journals. AMA has recently expressed interest in implementing a certification program that would expand consumer’s knowledge and augment his/her marketability in jobs.
There is currently no widely accepted and comprehensive marketing certification program. Yet the marketing discipline encounters constant innovation and is increasing in size and popularity. The need for up-to-date and educated marketing professionals in organizations creates an enormous opportunity for AMA to successfully implement and market a certification program.
The certification program’s principal goal is to reach a large percentage of the market and to communicate the program’s benefits and value to consumers. AMA’s primary target market consists of business professionals, including both AMA members and non-members. The secondary market is comprised of students currently enrolled in college.
AMA will promote to their members through direct mail and e-mail. Non-members will be reached by Internet advertising, utilizing banner ads. Since AMA is targeting students, they will benefit by advertising through the school systems. This includes business counselors and professors, posters, business-related councils, clubs and fraternities. Targeting professionals will entail advertising to employer companies as well. These advertisements will consist predominantly of direct mail promotional pieces aimed at top executives. Companies can utilize the certification program to educate their entire organization, or as a training and hiring specification.
II. Environmental Analysis
The External Environment
The AMA has few direct competitors; therefore, this analysis will concentrate on the indirect competition faced by the AMA. All major colleges around the nation offer bachelor’s degrees in the field of marketing. The AMA niche is an alternative degree in the field of marketing. There are two certification programs that offer us the greatest competition, Sales and Marketing Executives International and Society for Marketing Professional Services. Sales and Marketing Executive International has an extensive website and is in direct competition with the AMA. These companies compete for market share with the AMA, and therefore present the biggest threat within the industry. Competition also exists from smaller schools that offer alternative degree programs, which may be used as substitutes for the AMA certification program. These specialty schools offer a certification program that takes only weeks to complete. The degrees provided are not as meticulous as a bachelor’s, but do offer a general overview on marketing principles. These specialized schools are usually an extended learning program used by major universities, although some institutions exist that specialize only in certification programs. These institutions and companies are homogenous in nature, and therefore offer the same services, general marketing certification programs. The Rocky Mountain DMA (direct marketing association) offers a professional development series in association with Regis University, based in Denver. This program entails an individual to take a series of courses, and to be tested on all related material. Once all requirements are passed, the individual is offered a certificate of fulfillment. This certifies that the individual has passed all requirements and now has a general knowledge of marketing principles and concepts. Various other companies offer this same service: general courses that, once completed in a satisfactory manner, entitle the individual to a certification of achievement in marketing.
The size of these institutions vary by geographic location. Major cities invite a substantial group of business professionals. A single seminar may reach as many as 500 individuals. In more rural areas, class attendance is minimal and numbers generally vary from 10 to 40 individuals per class. The growth for these agencies is high due to the lucrative service offered. Many schools see this as a substantial way to increase revenue through extended learning. The certification process can cost up to $500 per person, a definite revenue extension for any institution and a profitable business venture for an organization. The only stipulation is the number of agencies per capita. The venture would not be profitable if competing organizations are in close proximity to one another. Marketing certification is a resume-builder and adds to the repertoire of an individual’s skills. If an entire organization chooses to participate, it is tax deductible and increases a company’s equity, making the industry highly profitable. The target market consists of professionals looking to boost their skills in hopes of advancement. This range would consist of men or women, post-college (22 years and above), and pre-retirement (below 65). More specifically, the market can be identified as individuals between 22 and 45 years of age. The strengths of a collegiate institution would be the amount of revenue taken in per year. Another strength would include experience; marketing professors could work additional hours teaching these seminars. A weakness would be compliance. Allocation of teachers, classrooms, and time could be hard to come by due to the fact that most professors have many additional activities and responsibilities. Many schools have night classes for non-traditional students and their continuing education, therefore, allocating a classroom may be a problem. SMEI has already established itself, and has an extensive website that can direct the user on how to comply with the professional certification program through a series of tapes and seminars that are readily available.
Professional Marketing Certification is readily available anywhere in the U.S. Regions break down the target markets. These regions consist of major cities (Los Angeles, New York), medium cities (Denver, Phoenix, Portland), and some smaller geographic locations. If the customer has a need to be certified, he/she can find a program anywhere in the country. With consumer spending at an all time high, the economic climate for certification is outstanding. More and more people are using the Internet, and e-commerce has become a driving force. Consumers today have more buying power than ever. Although relatively volatile, the stock market is at an all time high. The forecast for economic growth is good.
Political, Legal, and Regulatory Issues
The AMA is currently licensed to provide marketing certification to consumer groups. Since we are dealing with a domestic market, foreign policy is not an issue. The AMA privacy statement asserts that the company provides information based on membership status, although you do not need to be a member to earn a certificate. There is no current legislation effecting the venture’s sole purpose of certifying professionals. Compliance with the company policy, ethics, and procedures will vacate any instance of illegal activities. Current set legislation will be complied within the venture of certifying professionals. If laws are broken, the offender will be dealt with accordingly. Seeing as this venture complies with the laws governing current business practices, we foresee no political or legal issues arising.
Changes in Technology
Technology will play a major role in the AMA certification program. Searching for information on the web will allow professionals a variety of options. The AMA must see to it that they play a major role in the exchange, making themselves readily available to their target markets. The two major competitors, Sales and Marketing Executives International and Society for Marketing Professional Services, both have extensive websites allowing professional information and sales for their respective certification programs. Remaining competitive and informative will be imperative to selling the certification program to its end users. The order placed will not be in real time, the companies will both respond to questions and purchases with e-mailed responses. The SMEI website asks the user to take a preliminary exam. If the applicant can pass this exam with at least 35 on a varying point scale, they will then be eligible to become certified. The cost of certification is $595.00 less $100.00 for members of the SMEI. The SMPS system is somewhat different. The requirements are the following:
Requirements to apply for the CPSM examination:
- A bachelor’s degree plus four (4) years of experience in marketing or business development for firms in the built and natural environment, or
- Without a degree, eight (8) years of experience in marketing or business development for firms in the built and natural environment.
- Must pledge to abide by the CPSM Code of Ethics.
Earning your CPSM designation is a three-step process:
- Complete the application;
- Sit for the examination; and
- Maintain the designation through continuing education and active participation in the profession.
The fee total is $770.00 for non-members and $385.00 for members.
These are the AMA’s top two competitors and what their respective websites offer in terms of compliance to the stated objectives. The AMA obviously has no link as of yet to a certification program, but the prices have been set as follows: $350.00 for AMA members and $450.00 for non-members. E-commerce has revolutionized almost every industry. Most major companies do substantial business on the web and this will be the case for the AMA. Their web certification program will be the main medium of their certification process. Since the AMA’s top competitors, as well as indirect competitors, have web-based certification programs up and running, it is crucial that the AMA have it’s site up and running as soon as possible. No future problems of obsolescence can be foreseen, and as long as there is a demand for market certification, the website will be an excellent medium for selling.
The trend of capitalism doesn’t seem to be going away; it seems to be increasing with society’s materialism. Sales generate revenue and every culture in America is concerned with a better way to get ahead. This will be one of the key benefits of marketing certification. Hewlett Packard executives give recommendation for the SMEI certification program. This certification makes the individual more marketable, which can mean a better understanding of the customer, sales, and promotion. It’s a resume builder and can be compared to the title of “CPA” which gives a resonance of authority and knowledge. Our target understands and wants these key benefits. The value associated with this certification will only be fully understood after the end-user has completed the program. This is why it is vital for our target to perceive the value associated with the marketing certification. The content of the message being conveyed must make true believers of the target market.
Who Are They?
AMA’s primary customers are directly identified in their mission: “The AMA is an international professional society of individual members with an interest in the practice, study, and teaching of marketing” (http://www.ama.org). AMA is an association composed of, and created for, marketers. Their products and services are focused around satisfying the needs of marketing educators, students, and professionals.
AMA serves customers within a broad spectrum of demographic arenas. Members range from low-income, young, college students to wealthy, elder, business professionals. In addition, AMA’s customers are scattered around the globe. Chapters exist in 92 countries, with more than 500 around North America alone. They comprise a diverse web of individuals, with differing ages, incomes, geographical locations, and social and cultural statuses. Yet, they are all bounded by a similar interest in the field of marketing.
Customers seek AMA to fulfill a variety of wants and needs. Students are able to increase their comprehensive knowledge of the marketing discipline and build job and leadership skills through AMA’s publications, chapter conferences, and seminars. Business professionals are provided with networking opportunities, and remain up-to-date on current events and innovations in the profession.
AMA membership is obtained on an individual basis. Generally, each member of the association purchases their own membership, although in a few cases organizations will compensate employees’ memberships. Individuals are often informed and persuaded to join AMA through their peers, schools, and organizations. Publications are sought and purchased by both individuals and for use in businesses and schools. In such cases, the product user can differ from the actual purchaser and buyer. This is also the scenario when companies sponsor their employees’ participation in conferences, classes and seminars.
Once members join the association, there is an increased exposure to AMA’s other products. Product awareness is expanded through newsletters, website information, and other informational sources. The opportunity for AMA to gain revenues from complimentary products &emdash; such as books and seminars &emdash; by members is immense.
Where do They Purchase?
The majority of AMA’s products are available for purchase on-line. Most customers utilize electronic media to order and buy memberships, books, and other publications. As electronic commerce has currently increased, this seems to be a viable and successful medium for AMA. Many of the marketing publications are obtainable in full, on-line view over the Internet. On-line publications reduce paper waste while granting current and immediate availability of the product to users. Customers are able to purchase books and journals in stores and with a toll-free number directly from the firm as well. Applications for membership can be downloaded off the website or ordered from AMA via telephone. This enables customers around the world to have access to the association’s products.
When do They Purchase?
Individuals can join AMA at any time of their marketing career, on any given date, as new memberships are granted year round. However, in some situations, there appears to be annual trends in traffic volumes. For instance, collegiate chapter additions rise at the beginning of spring and fall school semesters. It is during this time that college students become aware of, and identify a need for, the product. This has a rippling effect as they often mimic the buying decisions of their peers. Heavy purchase volumes of publications parallel their availability. Biweekly, monthly, and annual publications are often sold near the time they are originally released.
Why do They Purchase?
Consumers select AMA over other organizations principally due to their comprehensive, yet specialized, nature. AMA offers a variety of products and services that cover all sectors of marketing. They are focused on building and maintaining well-rounded marketers. As the discipline’s perceived importance is increasing, this is a valued benefit to both the customer and their institution and organization. Transactional exchanges can flourish into repeat purchases and ongoing relationships. The key is for AMA to communicate their benefits and quality off-hand. Customers will then continue to renew memberships and subscriptions. Otherwise, individuals will remain customers only for the duration of their current member or publication contract.
Why Potential Customers Don’t Purchase
As with any large organization, AMA’s target market defines a much larger population than their customer base reflects. This discontinuity can most likely be attributed to communication deficiencies between AMA and the market. Individuals may not perceive personal value in AMA’s current services. Perhaps they are not aware of the association’s existence or its wide variety of offerings. A more extensive marketing mix would increase the public’s awareness of AMA and all that they offer. People who are not aware of AMA and do not belong to institutions or organizations that support or promote AMA, have no means to discover them.
Review of marketing goals and objectives
The AMA has great goals and objectives and strives to stick with these goals throughout the organization. One of the best goals the company stands by is practicing and leading in ethical professional conduct. It is very serious about this part of the organization because it wants the integrity of the organization to remain high. In fact, the association has put together a set of AMA code of ethics to stand by. If any AMA member violates any segment of the code of ethics s/he is in danger of having his or her membership canceled or suspended. AMA also wants to continue to be the leader in their field. AMA also has professional and collegiate chapters that help promote their goals and objectives. The Professional Chapters Division stands by its goals of “promoting an understanding of marketing to the local community, educating members and non-members about marketing and its ramifications and facilitating contact and exchange of information between members of the marketing community.” (www.ama.org) The Collegiate Chapters Division’s goal is to be the world’s frontrunner in student organizations by professionally developing the students in the area of leadership training and involving them in the actual field of marketing. AMA also has goals for its certification program and these are:
“- To acknowledge the skills needed to function as a professional marketer
– To advance the prestige of the marketing profession, both to marketers and non-marketers
– To provide a mechanism for marketers to demonstrate professional development continuing education
– To enhance the ethical and professional practice of marketing
– To assist employers in identifying candidates with knowledge of core marketing skills” (e-mail, Dan Mendelson)
All of these goals and objectives stated above are consistent with AMA’s current mission statement which states “The American Marketing Association is an international professional society of individual members with an interest in the practice, study, and teaching of marketing.” They have two principal roles in that they help in the personal and professional development of their members and they also want to advance “the science and ethical practice of the marketing discipline.” (www.ama.org) An example is advancing ethical discipline; AMA has a full text of code of ethics a person needs to follow to stay a member of the AMA. It is important that the goals they want to reach through the certification program follow their mission statement. The goals are also consistent with changes to the environment. One of the major changes that has taken place in business is the growth and use of the Internet. AMA has noticed this and has put out a code of ethics that focuses on marketing on the Internet. AMA is also the market share leader (worldwide) in their industry. Because of being a leader, the AMA organization has much awareness and is respected throughout the world.
Review of current marketing performance
Compared to other firms in the industry, AMA is the leader. It has 45,000 members in over 92 countries and also boasts 500 chapters in North America. As a whole, the industry is improving and does not look to stop. The association is expanding worldwide and offers a variety of resources to meet the many needs that individual members might have. With the start of the certification program, AMA will keep growing in this industry because it will attract a broader target audience. There are so many things that AMA offers such as AMA chapters, magazines and journals, marketing books, etc., thus showing that it is trying to reach and develop as many people as possible.
Review of current and anticipated organizational resources
In the area of relationships, AMA is at the top. AMA has been around since 1937, and therefore has the experience to back up how great it really is. Relationally, AMA is doing great because basically it’s mission statement is all about the customer. It focuses on developing customers into being the best the person can be in their area of marketing. Because AMA is the leader, we assume that it has the finances and capital to promote what it does and what it is about. AMA is a non-profit organization. About 50 percent of its finances come from publications it offers and about 50 percent come from the conferences it conducts each year (O.C. Ferrell). When it starts the certification program, relational resources will change in that they will only get better because they will be reaching more customers, thus proving more that the association cares about the customer’s development of marketing. Financial resources might also change because it is the hope of AMA that the certification program will fund itself in a few years. As of right now, it is funded by AMA operation funds.
Review of current and anticipated cultural and structural issues
The two areas that AMA really needs to concentrate on are the firm’s overall customer orientation and the firm’s emphasis on short-term vs. long-term planning. The positive side of AMA’s customer orientation is that they are the largest and offer a large array of resources to help a person advance themselves in the area of marketing. On the flipside though, AMA is getting really big and it is a problem and a challenge for them to keep the core values consistent throughout the organization. Also, it has become a challenge for AMA to offer added value to their customer base because it can be so large and impersonal for some people. This is one of the reasons AMA is offering the certification program &emdash; so they can add value to the customer by giving them a certificate to tell them how good they are. AMA has struggled with the idea of long-term planning. Sometimes they have the knack of being too short-term minded and they need to focus on trying to be short-term and long-term minded. It is good to be short-term minded because you can be great at changing when the environment and customers change, but it is always good to have a long-term plan to focus on. To be long-term minded, AMA needs to stick with the certification program through completion, which would include implementing the program, and really concentrate on how they can help and promote this program.
III. SWOT Analysis
Strength #1: Size and Capacity
The AMA is one of the largest marketing research-based firms in the U.S. Their depth and reach will allow the company distinct advantages over their major competitors. Financially, the AMA has a distinct capital advantage over both direct and indirect competitors. Their capital advantage comes primarily from published texts, and seminars are the secondary means of financing operations for the company. With the AMA’s rapid expansion comes loss of customer base – the company could overextend itself and lose some of the market. We feel that adding the certification process will vastly expand the company’s capital and reach to the consumer target market. Certification is the added niche in which the AMA can further expand its market share within the industry. The AMA’s reputation as the industry leader will create a pull for the certification program. The reason for this is the AMA’s size and capacity. The company is better suited than any of its competitors to handle a large influx of applications for certification. Within the industry, most professionals and business students have heard of the AMA or are already a member of the organization. Recall, awareness, and the company’s equity will aid in professionals seeking the AMA certification over that of its major competitors. The AMA has a strong established presence in the field of marketing that will help diffuse this new line of market certification.
Strength #2: Experience
The AMA was founded in 1937, making them one of the longest-running marketing-based companies in the U.S. The company has a meticulous track record for ethics and good business practices. Their published work and seminars sell millions and attract the most distinguished professionals in the world. All of this comes with experience. With only a minor stall in operations during WWII, the AMA has flourished. The AMA’s list of members allows the company to reach beyond most other organizations worldwide. On one end of the spectrum, the AMA enlisted a huge number of college students. This is the company’s lifeblood, new innovations, and ideas. This connection allows the AMA to grow with the industry, a constant incursion of innovation. On the other end of the spectrum is experience. Some of the most well-respected individuals in the field of marketing are active and participating members of the AMA. This gives the company hindsight, which is valuable in any industry. The introduction of the marketing certification program will not only add to the list of outstanding individuals, it will expand the AMA’s reach throughout the industry. Membership will include an array of professionals from all business practices; finance, IS, accounting, and the list goes on.
Strength #3: Individual Benefits
Whether promoting market certification to an individual or a firm, the basis is universal. AMA market certification will add equity to a résumé or a company. A great example is the need for coordinators for e-commerce. A company wants to start a website, market the site to the consumer, and have the best-looking, most functional site. This process generates major problems for companies. It is difficult to get these cross-functional divisions on the same page. That is why there is a huge demand for marketers with a huge IT background. This individual can act as a liaison between IT, IS, and marketing divisions, and companies will pay top dollar. This is what AMA will bring to the table. The market certification will allow the individual to become much more well- rounded in the marketplace. Certification of an entire company will be tax-deductible, and adds equity to the company as a whole.
Weakness #1: Getting away from core values
One weakness AMA is facing is that it is getting too big. While this is a strength for AMA this can also be a weakness depending on how they handle this. One weakness they are facing is that as they are becoming larger, they are facing the chance of losing the core values of AMA. This is important to fix because AMA was founded on the principals of developing and ensuring the success of the individual member. This is what the AMA is all about, so if they go too far away from this, then they will not be promoting what they have always strived for, which is helping their members become the best in their specific field of marketing. If they cannot get a handle on this situation, then AMA will start depriving new members and customers of their core reason for existing. We feel that this weakness does not necessarily make them worse to the competition because any leading company usually faces the problem of not having the core values expressed around the whole company.
Weakness #2: Adding Value to the customer
Another problem AMA faces is adding value to the customer. They are a large company that offers much knowledge and resources to a customer, but what do they have to show customers that they are worth the knowledge they are gaining? This is a big problem AMA is facing. This is one of the reasons they are starting the certification program – so that they can add value to the customer and the customers feel they are getting something out of it. If the certification program is not deemed successful, or it falls through, then the company would not being meeting the customer needs of wanting that extra value from the firm. This weakness could deter people from joining and it could make their organization worse than the competition. One of the competitors would be schools, and obviously schools add to the value of their customers by giving them a diploma when they graduate, which makes a person more marketable. If they do not offer this certificate – or anything else, for that matter -then they are not offering anything to the customer that helps them become more marketable, so they could look worse compared to the competitors in this situation. This is a weakness that must be focused on.
Weakness #3: Maintaining a Long-term Focus
AMA has struggled in the past with this problem and they need to have a long-term focus on some of the aspects that they are working on or looking at. If AMA does not become long-term minded then this could be very dangerous to the company. They would not have any goals or achievements to shoot for and in some cases, when you do not have long-term plans, you can lose your focus on what you are trying to achieve. Another danger is that you might never reach your potential if you do not state and express to the organization and members the long-term plans because you are not striving for anything and you will not know what your potential can achieve if you do not challenge it. This would prevent the customers’ needs because they might not come out with anything new and/or innovative for the customer to learn and achieve. AMA might find themselves behind the competition if they lose focus on long-term goals.
Weakness #4: Certification Program Awareness and Value
This is a potential weakness facing the company since they have not implemented this program yet, but not many people are aware of this program. Also, many people, especially with degrees, may not find the value in the program since they have already gained prestige with a marketing degree. There are so many marketers out there that do not know about this program, and when it is finally implemented, they need to get some awareness because people just do not know. Also, many people have business marketing degrees so this will be hard for people to reason with, paying $450 (non-member) when they already have the prestige of a degree. There are two ways that this could affect the potential customer. The first one would be that they would not know that there was even a test to take so they might not take advantage of this and the second would be that there are going to be people who do not believe it is worth it to take the test because they already possess a college degree. If people do not know about this program, this can really affect AMA compared to other competition, especially college competition. This could affect them because the certification program for some people could supplement a college degree, but if they do not know there is a program they would not look for this alternative, they might just look at colleges.
Opportunity 1: A Currently Untapped Market
Currently, a sufficient, comprehensive, and widely accepted marketing certification program does not exist. Thus, AMA would be the first to tap the market and realize its full potential. Although certification programs currently exist, they have not been highly adopted or adequately represented to the market. The material within AMA’s certification program is much more comprehensive, thus communicating a higher benefit to consumers. The present trends in professional marketing and education create a large demand for such a program.
Opportunity 2: Growth and Popularity of Marketing Discipline
Both the size of the marketing discipline and its perceived importance in the business environment are currently increasing. The demand for qualified marketing professionals in organizations parallels this growth. There are currently many marketing professionals working in businesses who are not qualified or educated in the marketing field. In addition, it is often difficult for executives to determine whether an individual is truly qualified when they are hiring for marketing positions. A comprehensive certification program would allow businesses to ensure that their employees retain marketing competence.
Opportunity 3: Field Innovation
Constant innovation and change accompany the field’s growth. Knowledge and technology are continuously developing. The AMA certification program would allow marketing professionals, especially those who have been in the field for a long period of time, to remain current and up-to-date in the discipline. This is also an opportunity for AMA to generate further revenues from retesting. Tests will be continuously updated and revised. Marketers may complete the program, thus becoming recertified, regularly to maintain their up-to-date knowledge status.
Opportunity 4: Increased Competition
The marketing profession has become increasingly more competitive within the past decade. A certification program would allow students an additional medium through which to display their knowledge and skills. Professionals are continuously returning to school for additional classes and education to be more marketable as individuals in the business. This program will allow professionals and students a direct medium in which to communicate to potential employers their accomplishments and proficiencies.
Threat #1: Business Colleges
One of the biggest threats to the certification program are business colleges that offer marketing degrees. Many individuals may not recognize the added value of certification in addition to formal education. Why would a college graduate want a certificate of achievement for marketing if he already has a degree in marketing? This threat is related to serving customer needs because if they cannot turn this around, then no one who has a degree is going to want to try this program. One way AMA can turn this threat into an opportunity and not affect AMA’s short- and long-term plans is by advertising on college campuses and showing graduating students that getting this certificate will only add to their marketable value as an employee. AMA needs to show that this certificate gives them that much better of an opportunity to excel in their certain job. They also need to convince them that the program and test information will not be the same information it is in college. They need to promote new and exciting information so students will know that this program is different from the average marketing degree.
Threat #2: Businesses might not care about the program
Another threat facing AMA is that when they promote the program to businesses, the company might not care about having it’s employees certified. As already noted, this program is expensive and businesses may not be willing to pay the money to have their employees certified. This will also affect serving customer needs because if they can not convince businesses to try this program then there are many employees that will not have the chance to even look at this program and know what it is about. If AMA can purge this market, they will reach many people in businesses who have never heard of the program. Many of these people they could potentially reach will be people without degrees who might find more value in this program than a college graduate would. AMA can prevent this threat from limiting their short- and long-term plans by promoting to businesses directly. They should promote this by showing companies that this is a way to give back to their employees for all the hard work they have put in and show how this gives added value to their employees. Also, they need to stress the importance to the businesses of how great it would look for a marketing company to be able to say that their entire company is AMA certified.
Threat #3: Other certification programs
Another threat that faces AMA is other certification programs. Since AMA has never had a certification program, people might go with a competitor’s certification program because AMA’s program might not be as known to them. This threat could also hurt customer needs if AMA has a better certification program, but customers go with other programs, then customers will not be getting the best program available. The way to prevent this from developing is to have an extensive ad campaign introducing the program to the public. AMA needs to find out where the other certification programs promote their programs and purge those markets so the people who know about the other programs will also know about AMA’s. If AMA can get these people, then they would be able to gain a competitive advantage over the other certification programs in the industry. Plus the word-of-mouth on the program, along with AMA’s experience and long running history in the field, will only advance AMA’s cause and will help them keep their dominant edge at number one.
AMA’s Size and Capacity
Currently Untapped Market
Growth and Popularity of Discipline
Retreat from Core Values
Availability of Substitutes
Business Colleges & Other Certifications
Denied Acceptance from Businesses
Matching, Converting, Minimizing, and Avoiding Strategies
AMA’s large size and capacity becomes a major advantage in meeting industry growth. The number of marketing professionals and students is constantly increasing, thus creating a larger market for AMA and requiring more of their products and services. The perceived importance of marketing in businesses today is constantly increasing as well. AMA’s size will enable them to successfully fulfill the needs of a growing population of marketing disciples.
One of the weaknesses AMA can turn into a strength is getting away from core values. If the company keeps pushing their core values and makes sure they spend ample time on relating this back to the entire company, then this could turn into a huge strength to the company. Anytime a company can keep their core values in a company, and keep growing at the same time, that company is doing themselves a huge favor. One way they can accomplish this is by conducting annual meetings within each organization and sharing the core values of AMA. Then, everyone has a chance to know the real values behind AMA’s past, current, and hopefully future existence.
A major opportunity for AMA is that there is currently no widely accepted marketing certification program. However, other companies and associations have developed certification programs – they have just not been heavily adopted. The threat of competition is minimized due to a lack of awareness and completeness of current testing and certification. If the AMA test is constructed in such a way that it is comprehensive in its coverage of the marketing discipline, competitor programs may become somewhat obsolete.
IV. Marketing Goals and Objectives
Goal #1: To build consumer awareness of the AMA certification program.
- Objective: To generate more than 10,000 hits on AMA’s Certification Website within the first year of the program’s introduction.
Objective: To have at least 80 percent of AMA’s current members recognize and comprehend the program within six months of its existence.
Goal #2: To Generate Demand for the AMA Certification Program.
Objective: To send direct mail promotional pieces to at least 1,000 top marketing executives in large companies prior to the introduction date of the certification program.
Goal #3: To initiate acquisition of AMA certification by marketing professionals and individuals with interest in the field.
Objective: To have at least 400 marketers enroll in the certification program during the first year of its existence.
Objective: To have 75 percent of non-passing program members re-test within four months of their original test date.
V. Marketing Strategies
Primary Target Market and Marketing Mix
Primary Target Market
Market certification has a primary target of young professionals looking to extend their current skills. This market consists of middle management marketing professionals who are probably 30-something with five to seven years of experience. Certainly the primary target market can be extended to include people with more experience presuming that the minimum requirement is five years. Other markets include employers who can use certification as a screening tool for considering applicants; universities and other educational organizations; and corporations who would use certification as a basis for employee education. Demographically, major rural and urban cities would be the most likely locations for implementation of this plan. Hotbeds of business activity (Boston, Chicago, etc.) would all be significant target markets. These are the kind of environments where this plan would thrive, providing numerous opportunities. First would be the vast numbers of our exact target, secondly these cities offer a great mix for promoting our product directly to our target.
The benefits of certification are continuous. Successful applicants will receive a certificate and a lapel pin and they will be able to use the designation on their business cards. Upon request, AMA will send letters to applicants’ employers notifying them of the certification award. Other benefits would include demonstration of dedication to professional development, possible edge when looking for a new job, possible advancement in current job, self-esteem boost, and recognition by peers. Although it is not beneficial to “rest on one’s laurels,” the AMA enjoys a substantial market share in their industry; this will be a sustainable competitive advantage. Differentiation strategy will come from the prestige of the AMA’s name. The AMA has built significant equity that allows certification with the company to fall under a prestigious positioning strategy. The brand name has become synonymous with marketing experience, ethics, and invaluable research.
Our main objective in our pricing mix is that this project will be self-funding in a few years. Initially, the certification process will be funded by the AMA’s operating funds, but if the certification program rapidly diffuses into the market, we could have a self-funding product within one to two years of introduction. The certification, study guide, and test will run between $350-$450 per person. The $350 price is for active members of the AMA, and is considered a discount. The $450 price is for non-members, but once the test is passed we suggest allowing these individuals full membership into the AMA. This price is neither high nor low compared to the most direct competition. The AMA’s main competitors, SMEI and SMPS charge more and are less prestigious. The reason for the lower price has less to do with over-priced books and more to do with brand prestige. The AMA’s competitors charge a higher price, due to the extensive line of books and tapes on theory sold to the unaided consumer. The AMA offers one book that informs the user on aspects such as promotion, sales, brand management, Internet sales, etc., passing the savings on to the consumer. The AMA’s name will also have a larger impact compared to those of competitors.
Distribution and Promotion
Our distribution will be from a division in the AMA directly to the individual’s doorstep or office. We have split the promotion and distribution into two separate categories depending upon affiliation with the AMA. Members will be easily accessible for promotion. As a member, you must list a mailing and e-mail address when filling out an application. We are using direct mail to contact the AMA member, via addressed mail or e-mail. This promotional vehicle will be highly efficient in contacting our target. Our second target for promotion will be non-members; this group will not be as easily accessible for promotional attempts. This group is comprised of professionals and graduating college students. For this target group we will use business-to-business mail notifications, Internet advertising, and targeting business colleges around the country. Business to business mail notifications consist of advertisements sent to major businesses in varying regions. We will be offering these businesses the opportunity to certify all or most of the entire organization. The designation of the AMA’s market certification can be posted on the company website, acknowledging the companies association with marketing certification. The promotion will state that the certification can be a tax deduction for the company. Internet advertising is pretty self-explanatory.
We propose banner ads on links related to business and/or marketing. Finally, we will be targeting business colleges around the nation. These are one of the certification’s threats and opportunities. We will target all majors except marketing, offering them a double major of sorts. Graduating seniors will be the main target, although any student can apply. We will offer them AMA market certification along with their degree. We feel this will be a highly lucrative market and will be using posters, working with professors and counselors, and working with various business related councils, clubs, and fraternities.
Secondary Target Market and Marketing Mix
Secondary Target Market
The secondary target market consists of students majoring in business throughout the country. The program may be utilized by students looking to complement their degrees. The demographics research can be easily accessed from www.princetonreview.com. This site allows the user to categorize the top to bottom tier business schools in the nation, giving sizes, student-to-teacher ratio, and population of all the business colleges in the nation. This research allows us to narrow our target demographically. In the initial stages of this venture, we will be targeting the major business schools in the country, meaning we will be looking at second tier and up as our target market.
The product is homogenous across the demographic boundaries. We are selling the same product (certification) to both our primary and secondary target markets; the only variable that changes across these target markets is the method of promotion.
Pricing will remain the same across the primary and secondary targets as well. The AMA certification price is lower than the competition, and AMA has greater access to the secondary target market due to AMA involvement with clubs. A good example would be the market conference held each year in New Orleans. If the student is a member of the AMA already, the price will be $350, and if the student is not a member the price is $450. The value can be perceived through the promotional mix we plan to initiate. We are offering this certification as an alternate degree, not associated with the college itself. This will allow the student to attain a degree similar to a double major without taking an extra semester to finish college. In the future, this segment can generate high revenues; we do suggest the alternative of lowering the price to attract more price-sensitive college students. This price is congruent with the target market. Top-tier schools contain a wealthier student body than lower-tier schools; therefore, it is justifiable to keep our price the same across our entire target market.
Distribution and Promotion
AMA affiliate schools allow an easy market to penetrate. Distribution will remain the same for both targets, the instructional text will be mailed to the student. The AMA has established a positive brand image, high ethical standards, and good-standing relations with many schools around the country. These pre-established relationships will be the starting point of our promotional campaign. Through the targeted business colleges, we will promote the certification. Business schools have many valuable mediums to promote through, such as business councils, clubs, and fraternities which help pull the certification through the channel. Counselors in the respective schools will be an invaluable asset to our promotion campaign. They can help promote the certification to students from within. We do not see a problem convincing the counselors to support our initiative for two reasons. One, the AMA has pre-established relationships in good standing with business colleges and their faculty. Second, the market certification is a great way to expand a student’s résumé, which is one of the counselors’ major priorities when helping a student. Finally, posters will be put up (with permission from the dean) advertising an alternative degree that is a résumé builder and diversifies the student’s portfolio. Word of mouth will exemplify the certification’s value throughout the market.
VI. Marketing Implementation
In implementing the marketing certification process and its introduction, a separate team of AMA employees will need to be designated. The members of the team should each have complementary specialties in marketing and promotion. This team will be responsible for managing and implementing the marketing and promotional activities involved specifically with the certification program. Especially during the introduction of a new product, it is important to have individuals focused solely on working with the product to ensure that the necessary time and concentration is allocated.
In addition, a company-wide meeting should be held in order to inform employees about the product and its planned strategy. Employees are not expected to display any resistance to, or problems with, the new product and its strategy. The product parallels AMA’s overall strategy and complements their other products. There is no variation from the organization’s general mission and/or goals and objectives.
The implementation strategy will vary depending on the area of the target market it is intended for. The primary target market, business professionals, covers both AMA members and non-member business employees. AMA members are relatively easy to access, as their contact information has already been released to AMA and they are generally frequent visitors of the AMA website. A section of the existing AMA website will be dedicated to the marketing certification program. Information regarding the program will be explained and further information will be available upon request. Furthermore, AMA members will be contacted via an informative e-mail expanding their awareness of the program. The certification portion of the web site can be created prior to the actual time that the test is available to build interest and demand. Upon introduction, members will receive either e-mail or a direct mail piece announcing the availability of the tests.
Non-member business professionals are slightly more difficult to target, as they are not as easily identified. In order to generate interest and demand, informative direct mail pieces will be sent to large businesses prior to the first available testing time. A mailing list of marketing executives at these companies will be used as contacts. These executives are the most likely to be empowered to make decisions regarding training activities and the marketing departmental budget. Promoting to top-level marketing executives will also be beneficial due to the fact that they have contact with lower-level marketing employees and are in a powerful and respected position relative to their subordinates. Lower-level employees will be more likely to adopt and revere a program that has been suggested to them by their boss.
In addition to promoting to business professionals, via their companies, these individuals will also be contacted through Internet marketing. Banner advertisements will be placed on popular business and marketing website locations. The advertisements will be simple and allow web browsers to immediately click through to the AMA website for further information. These advertisements will be purchased and placed throughout the entire introduction of the program to obtain awareness and acceptance of the program.
The secondary target market for the program is college students. College students will be contacted and informed about the program through their schools. Posters about the program will be sent to major business schools around the nation. Direct mail pieces will be sent to business advisors and departmental chairs. Students are heavily persuaded by their peers, professors, and advisors. Word-of-mouth will play a major role in the awareness and acceptance of this market. Professors will transmit information to other professors and to their students. AMA has a strong presence in universities around the nation. They are respected and trusted within the marketing and business disciplines. The AMA name will play a crucial role in promoting the certification program in schools.
In order to generate an acceptable amount of demand for the program, all direct mail pieces will be sent prior to its actual introduction. This will allow people an opportunity to learn about the certification program and sign up in advance, before the test is available. The test should be completed and in final form by September of 2000, when it will be made available for certification.
|Specific Tactical Activities||Person|
Developing the initial-version test and study guides
Editing and revising test
Executives and Team
Price Segmentation based on target segment:
AMA Members= $350
Professional Non-members= $450
|Ordering Dept., (amount determined upon ordering of the test).||Not Applicable||Not Applicable|
Setting up/contacting proctored testing sights
Mailing study guide materials
|Customer Service||Proportional to Ordered Tests||When Consumer Signs up for test|
Direct Mailers (to companies and schools)
Informational e-mail to AMA members
Posters to US business colleges
Internet Advertising banners
|Implementation Team & Advertising||Cost of Mailing Lists (~$.08/name), shipping, printing, and purchasing web space||July, 2000|
VII. Evaluation and Control
Formal Marketing Control
These preparations will take place three to six months before the actual implementation of the test. Initial preparations include an AMA staff to meet, discuss, and agree upon the standards under which to accept the applicants. From this, an application for certification will be drawn. Once finalized, a second meeting is needed. The personnel for this meeting should include the AMA top professionals in varying marketing fields (i.e. ethics, brand management, sales, Internet sales etc.) An outline should be drawn and test questions should be drafted. The pre-approved AMA certification-testing manual should be ready to be distributed to the end-users.
Input control for marketing certification consists of all resources needed to carry out the priorities needed for the pre-testing process. All of the control methods stated must take place during the promotional efforts. Professional liaisons will be needed to contact businesses by region, liaisons will also be needed to research which schools may be applicable and contact the necessary department heads. As the AMA certification gains awareness, a staff will be needed to accept applications and weed out candidates for admission. References will need to be checked, and authenticity of the applicant will also need to be analyzed. Once approved, applicants will be contacted, and made aware of deadlines pertinent to the certification process. The testing administrators must be carefully selected on the basis of ethics and other protocols. Proctors will be needed to administer the test. Large halls, libraries and other such testing facilities must be located. The project will be funded by the AMA operational funds initially, and later become self-funding.
Process control will take place in the first round of testing. Like economies of scale, the learning process will continue until all the problems throughout the process are weeded out. The leading teams previously mentioned must be in agreement with the testing standards and monitor the selection of the test-administering staff. The staff will be selected across regional boundaries, and be briefed on appropriate testing protocol. The trained staff will then administer the testing. Since funding will be initially low, the staff may need to be compensated from within the organization. Grants for research can be given, and promotions can be offered.
Finally, an evaluation of performance must be conducted to analyze the systems applicability. Corrective measures need to be taken to ensure the certification’s authenticity to the end-users. Price performance standards must be taken as well. Accountants are needed to assess the financial feasibility. If the certification process receives a profitable forecast, the price of certification may be revised. If the financial forecast is poor, then alternative measures must ensue. The final decision of whether to maintain the certification or discontinue it must come from the AMA board. An internal forecast must be done to ensure that AMA’s employees are satisfied financially and culturally. If we find that this program is not working within two years, then AMA must re-evaluate the situation.
Informal Marketing Control
Overall, AMA has a great company background and has always relied on highly ethical employees with great morals and values. AMA will need to continue this type of philosophy in order to successfully implement this program. AMA needs to let people know that this program is a great program that stands behind the value of the company. To do this, AMA needs to keep hiring the same quality-based employees who stand by their word and take pride in what they do. AMA’s employees who are working on the certification program will be satisfied because they are in control of what they are doing. They will also not feel overwhelmed with other work because they will be solely working on this program. The employees will stay committed to this by AMA conducting meetings at the beginning to keep employees informed and make them feel involved with the process of implementing this marketing plan.
If AMA’s employees do not share the firm’s values regarding implementing, then AMA needs to let them know why. It could come down to just a simple misunderstanding of why AMA is implementing the program, so what AMA needs to do is just share their values of why they are implementing the program throughout the company. Again the meetings that AMA holds at the beginning will let the employees know these values, so this should help make the employees feel comfortable with the situation.
AMA has a history of sometimes being too short-term minded as talked about earlier in the paper. This could be a social and behavioral norm that is detrimental to the company because they need to have a long-term plan so that this certification program will be long lasting throughout and not just another idea that is tried and then done away with because of poor planning and narrow-mindedness. A social and behavioral norm that exists in the organization that is beneficial is AMA’s attitude about their customers and their morals and values. AMA really wants people to excel and get the knowledge to improve their status as an employee and this type of attitude is what will make this implementation successful. If they keep this attitude, the certification program will be implemented because the program will help customers have a better knowledge of marketing and that is what AMA stands for and wants. Plus, the certification program will better the customer as to being more marketable for his/her company and that is also what AMA wants to stand for, bettering the image of people.
Overall, the culture of AMA is a good one. They want to succeed and continue to be the best at what they do. Through this process of change, AMA needs to take on the philosophy of the change approach. The change approach is when a company does whatever it takes to implement what they are trying to achieve. AMA needs to take this approach and stick with it, and they need to let all their employees know this. Throughout the company, the philosophy will be to do whatever it takes to implement the certification program. It is important for AMA to get this support from their employees so they can gain cohesiveness throughout for trying to implement this program.