The nimble reaction to government cuts
Cache, which designs and assesses qualifications in the fields of children’s services and social care, derives about 85% of its income from public money. Although the departments that fund the charity’s activities fared better than most in the Spending Review, uncertainty remains over the funding it can expect to receive in future.
This creates further uncertainties for the marketing team, not least because the charity’s direction will be influenced in part by where government money is eventually allocated across its areas of business.
The market for adult social care qualifications is estimated to be twice the size of Cache’s core childcare market. According to sales and marketing director Guy Lane, this means the organisation must be nimble and adjust its offering to introduce new qualifications to market, as it is currently doing for health and social care.
Lane says the charity doesn’t have to throw lots of money at marketing to generate awareness. Public relations activity through the trade press and events has generally proved the most effective method of reaching Cache’s target audience. He says: “With the professional nature of the market that we cater for, articles [about our work that appear in the press] have far more impact than advertising.
“We are also seen as a lobbying group, so when we produce an article, relevant publications want it. Advertising is far more expensive and I do not think it carries a great deal of weight in the professional market we are in. It can be an expensive waste of money.”
Although the charity is shunning traditional advertising, Cache is exploring how the digital space could benefit the business. It has recently launched a Twitter account and a new website, Cachezone, which invites user participation. Marketing team manager Sarah Lee explains: “This is less social media and more of a secure website for our customers. We will be using forums and blogs to create a safe environment where our customers can talk to each other.”
Public relations manager Lobna Benllahssen adds that Cache is also exploring the possibility of using YouTube for training purposes. The idea would be to post videos of training sessions, where customers unable to attend live events could watch demonstrations online at any time.
While financial restraint clearly influences marketers to consider new low-cost options such as these, Lane does not believe budgets are the biggest factor in executing successful marketing plans. More important is “the character of the people in the department”, he says. “You can have as small a budget or as big a budget as you like but if those people are not by nature inclined towards innovation, they will just pursue the same old routes. If you are prepared to be innovative and imaginative, then you can be, irrespective of your budget.”
Lee adds that budgets will be used more wisely in the coming months. With this in mind, the charity has invested in a customer relationship management system to target customers and understand their habits better. The aim, she says, is to “make sure that we are using our marketing budget to invest in the right things that provide them with the right value”.