You’re Asking For It!

I was going to call this, “If You’re Not Asking For It, You’re Asking For It,” but I thought that would be WAY too confusing – especially if you’ve just started school. You need a little less confusion right now.

But remember when you were a kid, and you kept “pushing” your mom by some kind of repetitive behavior, and she would sometimes retort with, “You’re asking for it,” so that you’d stop doing whatever it was that was annoying her?

Playground bullies also used to threaten kids smaller than them if they engaged in a behavior that was annoying to them. The phrase was usually accompanied by a non-verbal – a clenched fist vacillating in mid-air.

As we’ve come to this point in history, the phrase should take on a new meaning…the only way to get something is to ask for it. The Good News of Jesus Christ tells us to “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Mt. 7:7-8). Will we always get what we ask for? Read the line from scripture again – it doesn’t specify what “it” is. And the second part of the line says that everyone who asks receives. It doesn’t say one will get what they ask for. I may request patience, when what I really want to ask for is for something that’s annoying me to go away. The only way to attain patience is to have it be tested.

How does this relate to marketing? Remember that the rest of this parable speaks of the widow calling out to the judge in the middle of the night repeatedly, to the point that the judge finally relents and pays attention to the woman. Such is what we have to do when we’re telling the story about our schools. Many school administrators think that one advertisement in the newspaper, one billboard or a static Web page is an effective way to promote their school.

It’s not.

Five years ago, it took at least NINE exposures to the same message for the intended audience to begin to recognize some cognitive dissonance – that is, their current way of thinking is interrupted with some new information that sounds interesting and important, but doesn’t quite fit with their current way of thinking. Today, if you look for an answer on Google regarding how many times it takes for a marketing message to have an effect, you’ll find “The Rule of Sevens” (which was the best guess before the interruption of social media into the marketing space), to nine, to thirteen or more.  Frankly, with SO many messages out there, it may take even more as time goes on.  That’s why Google Ads are so attractive for advertisers.  If you’ve searched for something on the Internet, and then you visit another site that has space for Google advertising, you’ll start to see ads pop up there for the site (or sites) you’ve recently visit to maximize your exposures in minimal time!

How does this need for more and more marketing messages affect your school?  If a parent’s current way of thinking is to enroll their child in the local public school because the school has a good reputation, doesn’t cost them tuition, and has a great tutoring program, it may take quite a few messages aimed at that parent to cause her to realize that her child may be in the tutoring program because the teacher isn’t taking the time necessary with their child so that he may more fully comprehend the subject matter.  Multiple exposures to your school is necessary for the parent to just begin to change her mind.

Unfortunately, the tendency for us is to do something once, and then if nothing happens, consider what we’ve done a failure. After all, we’re talking about parents here. We have to tell children again and again what to do, but all that changes when we become adults, right? Just ask us to do something once, and we’re doing it that way for the rest of our lives. We don’t need reminders, and definitely not multiple reminders, right?

Don’t think so.

In fact, the adult learner can take a little longer to process new information if it cannot be immediately connected with current experience…so NINE to THIRTEEN exposures is being optimistic. And, in the words of the writer Samuel Johnson, “People need to be reminded more than they need to be instructed.”

When you painstakingly craft a message about your school and then you hear it over and over and over and over again, you may become tired of hearing it (your whole staff of administrators and teachers may even become tired of hearing it), but the message is not for you and not for them. It is for those who do not know about your school, and who you know would benefit greatly by having their children enrolled in your school.  Just when it gets to the saturation point with your school’s staff, that’s probably the time when its effect is only beginning to take a stronghold with parents.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2008-2018 (Original Publication Date: 20080825)