When I was part of a sales leads group back in the early 1990’s, one of the most important segments of our meetings was the one titled, “Who Do You Know?”   The group leader would begin the discussion by asking something that related to the services that he offered, rather than coming right out and stating his main line of work.  For instance, he was an investment counselor, but rather than asking the group, “Who do you know that needs investment counseling,” he would say, “Who do you know that would like to retire before age 55?”  That was the market segment that he was targeting.  Anyone could use investment counseling, but he focused on a particular segment of the population to create a win-win situation for both him and his “target” clients.  Remember that concept – “target clients.”  More about that in a bit.

All of us gathered around the table would then try to think of people we knew that fit that target, and would suggest individuals he could contact.  Since at that time, I was producing on-hold advertising for businesses for my own company, I wanted to target businesses that used a radio station as their “on hold” music source.  Not only was doing so violating music publishing rights, customers that were calling could hear a commercial for that business’ competitor!  Targeting who would be contacted was an efficient use of time, and because the business was personally referred, it was a great way to “open the door” too.  Before long, a relationship was initiated and on its way to being developed.

Sadly, the concept of “who do you know” has deteriorated into precisely that, rather than a multi-faceted approach to relationship building.

Let me explain.

The concept of “who do you know” works because of the underlying principle of “who knows you.”  The people in the sales leads group had created a relationship with one another.  In fact, its how I met our auto insurance agent, whom we’ve been with for the past 28 years.  No one can beat the service and value we’ve received, and it’s kind of difficult to sever a 28-year relationship to go with another company that we have had no experience with, yet offers “exceptional service and value.”  Guess what?  EVERYONE says they offer exceptional service and value, as they should.  Otherwise, they wouldn’t be in business.

Today, many “who do you know” sessions at the corporate level have become confused with a brainstorming meeting – a placed where people around the table think of all the people they know in a particular business and feed it to one individual that has the sole responsibility of following up on every lead given to them.  The difficulty is that many of the people around the table feeding the leads to the unfortunate funnel person then say, “But don’t tell them I told you to call.”  If that happens, the “who knows you” component has been taken out of the equation, creating a potential cold call rather than a warm lead.

Today, with social media, the availability of tools to create an Internet presence, and the propensity of mobile connectivity devices, marketing becomes an indispensable avenue to allow people to know your school.  Indeed, if you build a remarkable educational program, parents will come to check it out…but they still need to know the way to get there.

And what about marketing yourself, and creating your own personal brand?  Although that sounds kind of strange, members of an administration of any organization become synonymous with the institution itself.  That’s why we’re so devastated when we hear that a church leader, a school teacher or an administrator of a non-profit organization is accused and convicted of embezzlement or other inappropriate and illegal behaviors.

Trust is built for your school through you.  Therefore, as you work through your day to day marketing efforts, are you a person that practices integrity (which is doing the right thing when nobody’s watching), is dependable, and follows through with promises made?  If you become known as a person who does those things, your reputation is being built, and so is the school’s.  As the Book of Proverbs states, “If you have to choose between a good reputation and great wealth, choose a good reputation” (Proverbs  22:1).

So what about those “target clients” mentioned earlier?

It’s very important to your school’s future to know which clients you want to target.  Of course, it’s important to know your market, and much has been written about Generation X parents (the “helicopters”) and Millennials (the “snowplows”).  But it’s even more important to know your target clients’ economic detail.  While many schools say they want to say that “all are welcome,” the way to serve all people is to choose to focus on one end of the spectrum or the other – either those who CAN pay the tuition you’re charging for your school’s educational experience, or the people who CAN’T pay the tuition you’re charging for your school’s educational experience – and then construct your school’s approach to revenue and staffing based on that focus.  Stay tuned for more information about this new approach to school sustainability.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2007-2022 (Original Publication Date: 20071029)