In Part 1, we discussed the similarity between the "first base" of brand and the "second base" of customer experience. To get positioned for a grand slam, however, requires a runner to reach "third base." What is the "third base?" Seamless collaboration among your internal groups to create great customer experiences. The director of school marketing (or its equivalent position at your school) has an opportunity to become the marketing "connective tissue" among those internal groups.
Among the major challenges we face as school marketers is aligning our typically siloed audiences of teachers, administrators, parents, and trustees to collaborate on creating the best customer experience possible at every touchpoint and at every level. Too often we try to create that by imagining what we ourselves as school marketers think is best, and then we run into the walls of what everyone else in your school thinks is best.
Our research spanning 20 years show that Image Audits are the solution to breaking the stalemate and gaining actionable intelligence that can unify a school and solidify a marketing strategy:
In enrollment management circles, Image Audits typically listen to four groups: (Call it the dating and marriage metaphor for enrollment management).
1. Those who attended an open house or who had a personal tour – you went on a date and then they disappeared into the ether.
2. Those families you accepted but who chose another option, leaving you standing at the altar.
3. Those families you really wanted to return but who divorced you anyway.
4. New parents, to ensure that what they are experiencing matches up to what they expected when they said yes and chose you. (“The Newlywed Game,” for those of you with long memories).
But aside from the above popular “enrollment management four,” there are others whose perceptions are critical to forming a compelling, comprehensive marketing plan that will authentically reflect who you are, what you stand for, why you matter, and where you are headed:
5. What do people who could refer you think about you? Where do they position you as an option in their educational universe? (Think HR Directors, Real Estate Brokers, CEOs, education media providers, feeder school directors, and educational consultants).
6. What is preventing “mission-appropriate families,” – as identified by your parents, trustees, and faculty—from taking that first step to inquire?
7. How would the leaders at the schools or colleges where your students matriculate rate your graduates’ preparation and engagement on their campuses? What would they say you could do to improve their preparation? Likewise, what would alumni say about how you might better prepare incoming students, or how your school was a transformational experience for them?
8. What opportunities would community influencers recommend to explore partnerships and outside educational opportunities for your students that would raise awareness of your school in your city or region, and offer a real-world experience to supplement the classroom? Schools that will thrive in this increasingly competitive environment will be strongly linked with the communities that surround them.
And here is where the "third base" of Collaboration kicks in. The direct benefit of this market intelligence is not only the themes and stories that you can develop to feed the insatiable content appetite of social media. There is also an indirect benefit – providing you with the means to forge connections between the silos in your School. When faced with how the rest of the world sees your School, the key findings from an Image Audit can be eye-opening and unifying.
An Image Audit gives school marketers the means to become the connective tissue among all customer-facing employees in a school. And the fact is, in schools more so than in any other business, we are all customer-facing! Marketing stands at the intersection of all of those customer interactions.
All good things come from listening first. Recognize that you need to respectfully listen to have great word of mouth, to widen the net of those you seek to serve, and to prioritize the continuing conversation between you and your customers. How can we make the delivery system—teaching and learning—the best it can be? How can we provide the product—your graduates—with the skills they will need to be successful in the world they will inherit?
If your School is going to thrive or continue to thrive, each of us has to know our individual roles and responsibilities to ensure we’re working for the real boss: those families who support the vision that they want for their children. The marketing officer is in the best position to bring everyone together by providing evidence of how the external world is viewing the School from all angles.
Remember, your brand is what others say about you after you’ve left the room. What they say reflects their experience of you. An Image Audit can not only tell you what you should emphasize in your marketing, but what you need to pay attention to in order to help your School do an even better job at increasing enrollment, retention, and philanthropy. Finally, the Image Audit can give school marketers the means to link brand, customer experience, and collaboration and give you a plan for getting everyone onboard for “The Road Ahead.”
It’s a triple that will set your school up for a grand slam!
The "home run" that will bring in all four batters is the school you are helping to create that will offer the best teaching, learning, and program. That school will benefit from the work of the first three "runners" -- and the evidence derived from a neutral third party partner that will prove you are, in fact, the best choice out there!
If you missed Part 1, you can find it here.