Marketing is everywhere and everyone is a marketer. Each encounter with others – the way people answer the phone, the tone of your website, what the school tweets, the ease of doing business with the registrar’s office, how faculty interact with students, how you speak with the press, or how the institution hosts a reunion – is a marketing encounter. And every encounter is an opportunity to reinforce what the institution stands for.
Rarely will an organization win by copying what another institution does or by simply tightening operations or procedures. Success is created by bringing together the disparate parts of the university in service of the mission, focused by the understanding of what part of the higher education market the university is serving, and aligning resources and operations to create offerings that are unique and valuable to prospective students and employers.
Aligning these areas can create a cycle of success that reinforces the schools mission, attracts the right students, and delivers on the school’s promise to students during their time on campus and well beyond.
Effective strategic execution ensures that processes throughout the student lifecycle are aligned with student needs. This may mean becoming more learner-centric, rather than faculty-centric, and will certainly entail a cross-campus discussion about mission, goals, the current situation and how various units can work together to create a self-reinforcing cycle of success. Here’s how they work together:
- Building Awareness and Positive Perception. A clear, positive differentiation helps to attract best-fit students, faculty and staff that become lifelong ambassadors for the school and helps make alumni proud.
- Admissions. Admissions is on the front lines of marketing as the students you admit today will shape the perception of the school for years to come. They will be brand carriers of the institution for the rest of their lives. Being very clear about the students you wish to serve involves frank discussions and potential tradeoffs, and possibly the fortitude to stay the course if applications or enrollments decline as the organization adjusts and the market takes time to understand the institution’s new message.
- The Student Experience is where you actually deliver on the promise. Are you providing students with what you told them you would deliver? Are you preparing them adequately for the world beyond your campus? Are you making them lifelong ambassadors for the institution?
- Alumni Relations and Development. Your relationship with students doesn’t end when they leave the institution. In fact, it’s really the beginning – they are students for only a few years and alumni for the rest of their lives. How well you served them while on campus stays with them – and the university – for a long time. A powerful, active alumni network helps market the school and attract applicants and alumni can create both learning and career opportunities for current students. This also helps to enhance the perception of the school, which attracts more resources, students and attention and then feeds back into the system to build more positive awareness and enhanced perception.
Just as everyone is a marketer and marketing is everywhere, marketing is a team sport. It involves the marketing team, the faculty, senior administrators, and the various other units of the institution. Understanding how marketing links to strategy, using data and facilitating the process, marketing can help lead the charge.