As has become the tradition, the last Marketing Matter of the year is a compilation of what I’ve learned since Marketing is Education, and we are to be life-long learners.  In keeping with my systems thinking theory of the need for 5 elements in any successful system, I limit my sharing to only 5 lessons per year.  Some of them are quite profound, while some of them are just not nice.  Here we go:

1) The World is Full of Experiential Learners (a lesson repeated from about 6 years ago).

Some people would rather make decisions from a logical perspective, even though it “feels” wrong.  As educators, we know the affective domain is quite powerful.  In sales, the affective domain is what makes the decision, and it’s then supported by the cognitive domain.  If the only the cognitive domain is engaged, then unwise decisions can result.  When you add the kinesthetic domain to the mix, one may find that a decision that has been made without all the input one can gather results in frustration, additional work, or sometimes, a situation which cannot be easily corrected.

Think of it this way.  When someone is buying a new home, many couples and individuals can attest to looking at place after place, and then, enter a house and, even though they’ve never been there before, “feel” comfortable and “know” this is the place.  The same happens when parents of prospective students tour your school.  It’s why it’s important that parents investigating educational options for their children tour your school first before talking tuition, financial aid and all those other things that focus on “logical” questions, from “How do we get our kids here and back home everyday?” and “How will be able to afford enrolling our children here?”

2) People Would Rather Watch a Video Than Read Instructions – Even If Those Instructions Have Pictures

SO many parents have said, “Can’t I just watch a video?” when given a list of instructions to follow.  As an administrator, you know that the cost of video has come way down, and some pretty great things can be produced on mobile devices.  Unfortunately, quality videos take time and expertise, and if you don’t have either of those things, then you must pay someone for those things.

If parents MUST read instructions, then more than likely, they’ll simply skip them, especially if technology is involved since the process is expected to be “intuitive.”  It’s a quality of the Millennial generation – they expect excellence from everything they pay for.

3) The Key To Your School’s Success Is Not “Why,” “How,” “What” nor “Where” – It’s “Who.”

This is a “three-in-one” item, so to speak.  It deals with “who” comprises your school’s target market, “who” are your school’s paying customers, and “who” is in leadership at your school.  It’s also important to know there are two other “who”s you need to be aware of.  More about that a little further along.

Your school’s target market deals with your main audience, and to set your school up for success, you must choose the audience you wish to serve – those who can pay for your school’s services, or those who can’t.  When I mention this to school leaders, the usual response is, “We want to offer our educational environment to everyone!”  While that’s noble, it’s not a successful business strategy.  Before you say your school is not a business, does your school have a business manager?  If so, it’s a business….AND a ministry…AND a school.  The interesting thing is that when you choose your primary audience, you have the ability to serve everyone…not the other other way around.

Your school’s paying customers are primarily Millennials.  Millennials were born from 1985 through 2004, and are 15 to 34 years old.  It’s safe to say that the majority of parents in an elementary school is 34 or under, while most parents of high school students are over 35, and therefore members of Generation X – the ME Generation.  These groupings will change moving forward, as Genexers move toward paying for college while also dealing with their own student loan debt, and in a few years, Millennials will be the vast majority of parents with children in the PK-12 experience.  This experience will more than likely last longer than the usual 20-year timeframe, since Millennials are waiting to get married and have children, or, to have children and then get married.  We missed the insights into Generation X, and are inundated with the qualities, habits and preferences of Millennials since they are different from every generation that has come before them.  It’s good to know “who they are” so that you’re able to meet the demands of excellence from these customers since they determine your school’s “brand.”

Leadership is also key, as evidenced by the examples provided all around us regarding those in leadership.  The leader of your school becomes synonymous with the school in the marketplace.

The “who” relative to your school’s staff is what makes your school a remarkable place to be.  There is no other school that has the staff that your school does, and it’s the interaction of those staff members that create the culture of your school.  There’s been signifiant discussion about a “cultural fit” when new employees are being sought, so becoming more aware of your school’s “culture” can help to foster enrollment discussions with parents and donors interested in your school.

The fifth “who” refers to “who” makes up your school’s board.  It’s important to note that the board is an entity.  It is singular.  There have been many examples of a person who seeks a position on the board because they’re upset with the direction the school is taking, and then derails any of the advances the board has made toward the vision that the school’s been working toward.  There may also be instances where board members who are parents expect to receive special considerations regarding tuition and financial aid, sometimes to the chagrin of other board members who have a long-standing history of financially supporting the school.

4) Administrators Need to Realize They Need to Be “Future-Oriented”

In too many instances, administrators are the first line of defense for a teacher who calls in sick.  Technology has permitted us to be incredibly productive so that we can handle many tasks at once.  Unfortunately, leadership isn’t necessarily engaged with what’s going on in the day to day, but must focus on the year to year…and that takes planning time and energy.  Planning and visioning is work, as is networking with those outside the school who can help make the vision a reality.

5) “When” Is Not For Us To Decide – But It’s What Everyone Wants To Know, and Expects Immediacy

Advancement, Development and Enrollment professionals know this.  The school hires an Enrollment Director, and it’s expected that enrollment will increase – immediately!  An Advancement Director is hired, and the expectation is that $100,000 in new gifts will come rolling through the door – immediately!  Unfortunately, that’s not how relationship-building works.  The school may be struggling simply because there has been no one to “own” the responsibility of contacting parents of prospective students on a consistent basis, or sharing the success (rather than just the “we need your help” message) of the school with those who are interested in seeing the school succeed to serve students today and into the future.

May you and yours be blessed with a (note the 5 elements here) safe, happy, inspired, prosperous and peace-filled 2020!

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2019 (Original Publication Date: 20191230)