California-based Connor Associates Strategic Services (LLC) enters its 20th year in 2018! We are grateful for the wonderful clients we've worked with around the world over the years. We started with one employee. But now it's time to take stock. Who are we now? What do we stand for? How have we changed?
I've encouraged our client schools and non-profits to answer these and other questions as a way to discover their identity and brand. What's good for the goose is good for the gander!
What We Stand For
After 20 years on the consulting and speaking front lines, and another 15 in various school capacities, we hold these four truths to be self-evident:
1. Everyone in the organization has a role to play in enrollment, retention, communication, and fundraising. Everyone is expected to advance the mission of the School.
Prior to consulting, I served in nearly every administrative position in independent day and boarding schools, and also taught at the college, high school, and elementary level. This organization-wide viewpoint remains at the heart of our approach. People don't enroll in admission or donate to development. They see us as a gestalt. The whole is greater that the sum of the parts. Authentic marketing touches everything.
2. The mission and the market must intersect.
Marketing is “the exchange of things valued,” not advertising. It is a relationship, not a one-way street.
It means listening intently to those you serve and seek to serve in order to create a culture of responsiveness and continual improvement. Conducting third party image and perceptual audits are helpful to stay ahead of the game. Listen objectively and with courage to those you seek to serve to find out who they think you are, what they think you do, and what they think you must do to become a more compelling educational cause that merits their interest and investment.
3. Effectively differentiating your school in the marketplace demands that you boldly plant your flag. GET LOUD. Proclaim who you are, who you are not, what you stand for, what you will under no circumstances stand for, why you matter, and where you are headed. If your school didn't exist before, why would it need to be created today? Where are you taking your families? Why should they join you on the journey?
Providing contrast -- saying who you are NOT and what you will NOT stand for -- sharply clarifies your core values. How do you know if your values are "core?" Values are only core if you are willing to shut down the school or your organization rather than compromise or abandon them.
These statements form your identity and “brand.” It offers your internal and external constituents pride of association, and attracts those you can best serve. These critical statements promote positive word of mouth, which generate up to 80% of all new enrollments. BE CLEAR.
4. For our schools to thrive in an increasingly competitive educational marketplace, independent schools must prove why and how they are worth what they cost.
The public doesn’t measure value by your school's noble intentions.
When we consider what families are paying in tuition and expected philanthropy, they are entitled to evidence of outcomes and value. Fair enough! But it is equally important that the school defines and takes a stand on what it means by “success” so that these outcomes are measured by the fulfillment of the mission’s promise. (This is why #3 is critical).
Connor Associates: What's Next?
Today, we continue to stand for what set us apart from the beginning. We've grown to include 10 -- soon to be 12 -- partners with skill sets that are both comprehesive and integrated: skills that are based in best educational practice, client relations, qualitative and quantitative ROI market research, enrollment feasibility and forecasting, data analytics, price sensitivity and financial modeling, brand development, and strategic planning.
Associates live in Michigan, California, Virginia, Florida, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. And we are committed to continual personal and professional growth to help our clients stand out.
Your success is ours.
If your needs and values align with ours; if our truths resonate with yours, let's talk!
And to all of our past clients, who remain in our present thoughts and in our hearts, thank you very much for allowing us to work alongside you over these past 20 years.