Marketing Strategies for the Blind
According to an article from Hare Rama Hare Krishma, there are 37 million people across the globe as of October 2007 - Marketing Strategies for the Blind introduction. This only shows that there is a large population of visually impaired all over the world. The population of the visually impaired only shows that the market of the visually impaired population is large enough to be tapped by the marketing world. Marketing strategies can be used to introduce and promote a certain product. This would be discussed in the succeeding part of the paper.
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When a certain company has a target market, it is important to determine the needs, preference, habits and thoughts of the users who would be using the product or the system. Having visual disability does not mean that the user he or she is less of a person. The president of the Committee on employment (1998) with disabilities had stated that customers with disabilities have the same preferences in the quality of the products, services that they need, the reliability of the product and the prices of the products that they are buying. In order to market the products to the people with vision disability, it is important to show that they are valued as customers. There are already existing strategies in the market that had been used by the visually impaired. Technology had played a big role in the marketing and the development of the product for the people with visual impairments. Some companies thought that the market of the product for the people with disability is very small and insignificant. However, based on the report from the website Moceascil.org, the implementation of the accessibility of the Americans with Disabilities Act had increased the revenues of the hotel and hospitality industry by 12%. This only shows that there is a large market percentage for the people with disabilities and companies must consider to tap the market.
Like any product in the industry, it is important to segment the market and define the disability market that the product is for. In this case, the market that would be talked about in this paper are the consumers with visual disability. Moceans.org had stated that the people with disabilities are the only ones who knows what they want. This is the reason why companies with the market for visually impaired must research the same population in order to know what the market really wants. Zhou and Beacham (2007) had stated that in considering the visually impaired it is important to know the percentage of the visually impaired population. Second consideration is that the needs of the visually impaired market varies depending on what type of eye disease had caused the blindness. A certain population may be because of glaucoma a result of the diabetes, a person who had been blind from birth, and other diseases related to visual impairment. Another consideration that must be taken when selecting marketing strategies is that there is no single solution to meet the needs of the visually impaired population
There are several strategies that the companies had used in order to advertise market and promote their products. There are several strategies that can be used to market products for the visually impaired. The strategies that would be discussed in this paper are the following: audio marketing, use of Braille and speech, one-on-one sales talk, website advertising, article features, joining visually impaired conferences, marketing through a loved one and lastly by becoming involved by sponsoring and participating in a national or local event or project.
A. Audio Marketing
It is common knowledge that the visually impaired person uses the sense of hearing to communicate and understand what is happening around him. In order to communicate to the visually impaired, web designers searched for a way for the visually impaired to hear what is on screen. The radio is a powerful tool to use for the visually impaired. A marketing strategy that is used for the radio is the use of Audio advertisements. The Audio Marketing Technologies website had introduced an Audio Adz transmitter to provide Audio Advertisements to the radios. Peter Craddock (1996), the director of Share the Vision Project, a UK project for the visually impaired, had used talking newspapers and magazines. According to Neil McLachlan (1997), his article showed that there are now 530 Talking Newspapers. These newspapers are estimated to have helped 250,000 people to keep in touch with the local affairs. The Talking Newspapers had started in the year 1995.
Companies can use these talking newspapers and magazine to advertise their products to the visually impaired. Craddock had stated in the paper that most visually impaired person prefer to use audio reproduction to understand the news better than the printed material such as the Braille. Aside from the talking newspapers, the telephone can also be used as a means to market a certain product or a service. However, a disadvantage of this strategy is that the person who listens to the phone may not believe that the person on the other side of the line is serious because there had been cases of fraud and scams in the telemarketing business. Michael Shroeder, a staff reporter from the Wall Street Journal had reported that the Canadian and the US enforcement have joined forces to stop the telemarketing financial schemes.
B. Braille and Speech Synthesizer Marketing
Businesses had learned to adapt to persons with disabilities. In an article from Seattle Times, Judith Blake (2004), the author, had named several restaurants and interviewed a visually impaired customer on the service of the restaurant. The restaurant, Bothell Canyons, had been offering Braille menus for visually impaired persons. This had helped them read the menu without someone reading it aloud to them. This is a good strategy for the restaurant because using the Braille, the blind or visually impaired customers would feel that they are independent and can choose easily from the menu that they have. Blake (2004) states that the number of restaurants offering Braille Menus is already increasing as time goes by.
Braille newspapers are available depending on the country and location. It is important for the marketing personnel to know that not all locations in the world have Braille newspapers or Braille magazines. These newspapers and newsletters can be used as a means to transmit the advertisements of companies in Braille to reach the visually impaired market. The web and software designers had developed several programs such as Braille Surf and Alva Braille to help the visually impaired understands what they are looking at the screen through the use of a Braille Bar. The strategy of developing such software would help the software companies tap the market of the visually impaired.
C. One-on-One Sales Talk
There would come a time that a blind or a visually impaired customer would come in inside the shop. In order to be able to give good service the staff must be trained to handle customers that are visually impaired. Easdurbanton.com.uk had given several guidelines on how to treat the customers that are visually impaired. The guidelines include the following: speaking to the customer while approaching, using a formal tone of voice to the client, distraction must not be done to the dog of the owner, do not leave the customer without informing him or her, precision in giving details about directions and the details of the product, gentle guiding of the customer to a specified location or chair and offering assistance to the customer before leavingThe Human Resources Department could also provide training modules for the sales people on how to treat visually impaired persons. Such training is important so that the sales personnel is ready to serve customers that are visually impaired.
Through the use of one-on-one sales talk, the message conveyed to the personnel is personal and the sales person would be able to relate with the needs of the customer. Being able to interact with a visually impaired person needs to be established so that the marketing department would gain first hand information from the customer. The use of the one-on-one sales marketing with the customer would show how the company cares for the client.
D. Article features in the magazine and the Internet
Marketing of the products or service for the visually impaired also uses news articles and featured articles. Same as a product advertised in the magazines and newspapers, to target visually impaired users, there are some products that uses article features. The article features may help show the important points that the readers need to know. An example of an article featured products is the software Braille Surf and AltaBraille. The following softwares were featured in the website mardiros.net. The features of the said system are written in the article. This way the company has been able to show what the systems are for and at the same time the visually impaired would be able to determine what system they would purchase since the different features are stated in the article. The person can choose before buying.
Being able to show the potential of the system and what it does is a big plus to the users. The users build an impression on the product because of what the article had written about the product. Another example of article featured article is the Shoney’s Restaurant (1991). The restaurant promotes its Braille Menu to the public using the internet. This has been done in order to show that the restaurant is already practicing the use of the Braille in their menu. The article is a way to tell the public about the Braille menu and this would then attract more visually impaired customers.
E. Use of Visually Impaired Conferences and Event Sponsoring
There are several companies that use conferences and sponsors event to promote their products. One example of such is the company McDonalds, McDonalds is known to provide for the charities and institutions that are need of sponsorship. The Pepsi Company’s Gatorade is known to sponsor events and conferences that is related to sports such as the championship game in the NBA and the like. Issler and Jentle (2000) had shown that the use of special events, taster sessions and launches can be a way to promote services and products. A company can use events to promote and demonstrate their products to visually impaired and the blind. By going to conferences, the marketing personnel is able to increase their contact of clients and potential suppliers. An example of a successful conferences for the visually impaired is the conference last May 1999. This was sponsored by the National Library for the Blind and the Royal National Institute for the Blind. The conference was the National Touch Reading Day/Touching Experience Festival. According to the reviews, the National Touch Reading Day had become a very successful conference because this had brought together societies, schools, artists and community groups. The libraries had started to work in partnership with local visual impairment organizations.
Getting Feedback from the Visually Impaired persons
Visually Impaired persons can also be asked regarding the development of services just like a normal marketing personnel would do to a normal client. It is important to determine the feelings and complaints of the visually impaired person so that there would be a development on the service or the product. The National Library for the Blind (Issler and Jentle, 2000) in the United Kingdom had been conducting interviews and surveys to improve their services. Interviews, surveys and questionnaires can be used by the endorsers and marketing staff in order to get feedback from the customers.
There have been several innovations done in order to tap the market of the visually impaired. Peter Galli (2007) had featured in his article the new plug-in of Microsoft for the visually impaired. This innovation had shown how the Microsoft is adapting to the visually impaired population. This software is a good technological development for the visually impaired. This way they would be able to use Microsoft Word. Adaptation is important; the market is not only consisted of normal people who uses the computer. Nowadays, blind people are also using computers and Microsoft had thought of a way to provide for them.
Another innovation that had been done is the use of talking mobile phones. Nokia had released a talking phone for the visually impaired. The phone unit is Nokia 6682RVI. This phone can be set to the NUANCE TALKS to enable the audio output of the phone. The menus, instructions and content displayed are using audio output.
Billy Gates and Dr. Russel Smith had developed a computer that talks. BrailleNote has been developed in order to cater to the Braille users. The computer has a Braille keypad and Braille displays in order to allow the operator to write in Braille and read what has been written through the use of the fingertips.
As a conclusion, marketing strategies for the visually impaired does not significantly differ from the strategies used for a normal customer. Both markets have different needs and wants, however, both also have common needs. If a certain company or product targets the visually impaired it is important to know how to reach the population. As stated above, the different strategies may help the products and company promote their product to the visually impaired population. Through the use of marketing strategies, the company is able to choose what kind of actions they would do in order to give awareness and information to the public. Most of the companies may choose to use media advertising however, it is also important to explore different strategies in order to attract a large group of the visually impaired population.The people of the world do not only include the normal ones but the normal people must also accept that there are disabled people in the world. Acceptance is really necessary because people cannot escape the reality that there are disabled people in the world.
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