Education Marketing and Advancement

Objectivity, transparency, and a collaborative spirit

Marketing Therapy

with Mike Connor

Herman Trend Alert: Connor Associates a Trendsetter

Helping Schools and Nonprofits Mine Their Acres of Diamonds*

Recently we had the privilege of interviewing exceptional education marketing consultant Michael Connor. We sat fascinated as he recounted his roadmap for helping his clients, mostly independent schools, boost their enrollments in an admittedly competitive environment.

Tuitions have skyrocketed

In the last 10 years, while the Consumer Price Index has gone up 22 percent, school tuitions have gone up 67 percent. If that trend line continues, tuition may cost $100,000 USD/year in 15 years, according to the US-based National Business Officers Association. In fact, tuitions are already so high that even many wealthy families need tuition support.

Competition abounds

Plus, there has been additional competition from public and charter schools with special arts and/or sciences programs. Established by well-respected private venture capitalists, these new schools are adding to the mix of educational options.  These new competitors include systems such as Khan Academy, AltSchool, and High Tech High. Basis Schools in Arizona, Texas, and Washington DC also appeal to families who have traditionally been independent school prospects.

Independent school leaders need to keep their schools sustainable

The Heads of Schools and their Boards are understandably concerned. To keep their enrollments up, these leaders have embraced Connor’s highly targeted and effective approach. CFOs and Boards of Trustees need as much psycho-demographic information as they can find to target mission-appropriate families who are most likely to have the resources and the will to enroll their offspring.

Connor‘s program: a highly targeted method

Using big data, Connor’s Enrollment Feasibility and Five-Year Forecast, based on predictive modeling, helps schools locate their most qualified leads. Factors like home values, household income levels, ages of students, and education levels of parents help client schools find the best target families in their geographical areas.

The valuable deliverables Connor’s program provides are a map of the locations of the best-fit families and an overlay with the locations of “Brand Ambassadors”, such as current families, alumni, and trustees.  In addition, schools can identify and run recruitment campaigns based on religious preference, ethnicity, interest in arts, sports, or environment, and philanthropic interests.  The research culminates in a Five year forecast with detailed demographic projections and maps to locate areas with promising potential.

Person-to-person outreach

This valuable data allows the schools to target the best households where they may apply word-of-mouth marketing to find the “right” families and students. Of course, then the ambassadors may contact the prospective parents with the right messaging and call to action invitation to visit the school. Typically, about 60 percent of the targeted households will sign up for a visit---most impressive. By this means, the school may strategically deploy its assets to optimize its enrollment activities. It also has value for direct mail campaigns to raise awareness.

Community outreach is important, too

This kind of program works best when the community already knows and appreciates the great work of the school in preparing kids for the world they are going to inherit, so External Image Audits and Board Sphere of Influence Studies can also help.

Applicable to many types of non-profits

With data about which families have interests in educational philanthropy, the arts, music, environment, and other characteristics, schools can further target development opportunities. However, these data could also be valuable to other non-profits in the area. It is important to remember that with appropriate enhanced data, any local non-profit may optimize its marketing activities.  In practice since 1980, The Herman Group of Companies provides futurists who speak on workforce and workplace trends to a variety of services to corporations and their leaders, trade associations, and government agencies. Concentrating on the human side of enterprise, the Herman Group provides information, advice, and counsel through consulting, professional speaking, writing, and a number of educational products.

* “Acres of Diamonds” refers to a fable about a wealthy man selling his farm to seek his fortune afar, while the man to whom he sold his farm found “acres of diamonds” underneath his feet.




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