Putting the product back into marketing

January 28, 2011

There are 4 P’s to marketing:

–the “What” that we market
–a service, an idea, an experience, relationships knowledge (curriculum, co-curricular)
–of our product
–what are our customers willing to pay?
Place (Distribution)
–where does the exchange take place?
–what does the place offer?
–how is the product delivered?
–communicating with the customer
–about → product, price, place

Why is it that in higher education (and maybe other industries too) we so often align marketing with only the last “P” promotion. When was the last time that you as a marketing professional was brought in at the front end to talk about the product? So often we are given a final product and asked to promote it or told that “we need some PR help.”

Over the last 6-8 months my team has had the chance to have several “product” conversations with clients and have started to gain some momentum and success. It is still challenging to have product conversations – they take time. You have to really get to know your client, their goals, their organization and how your can help enhance their product.

In 2011 I hope to get involved in more than just promotion make sure we are we thinking about product, price, and place as well.

New position, new focus, new goals

November 30, 2010

I decided to write a blog post today since I felt like it had been a while since I had a chance to write. And it was. My last post was June 30, 2010. I think this gives you some insight into my summer and fall.

This spring we had two retirements in the Office of Communications & Public Relations, and saw an opportunity to restructure the office in a way that would support increased national visibility.  As part of that restructure in addition to my role with web communications I have also taken on the coordination of the College’s marketing efforts.

With any new position a person takes on a new focus and new goals. From July to now I have been working on what that new focus and those new goals should be. The last 6 months has been an amazing experience for me and I am looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead. It has been interesting for me to begin to more fully integrate with the communications team. The word marketing has so many meanings on a college campus. I have had conversations with staff and faculty that range from the color of the fire hydrants to the name and direction of programs and buildings.

The one thing that has been truly energizing in my new role is the opportunity to have an impact on the product. Product of course is one of the 4 P’s of marketing – and in many ways it is the hardest. Building collaborative team oriented relationships with programs is not an easy endeavor. Making recommendations to change the name of a program or tweak the way the program is offered to better meet the needs of the institution and the program is tough and offers a unique challenge. But, it is a challenge that is interesting and makes certain no two days are ever the same.

So what is the future of this blog?

I hope to continue to offer insights and a perspective that adds to the conversation around marketing in higher education. Hopefully I will be able to find the time to do so on a more regular basis as we approach 2011.




The Gambler

January 28, 2010

This year for Christmas I got an iHome system which allows me to play music on my iPhone through speakers at the house. Lately I have been listening to Kenny Rogers the Gambler quite often. (no comments on my musical tastes please) I was struck the other night how some of the lines are relevant to my everyday job.

You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.

Almost everyday as a marketing professional I make decisions about any number of items. How pages might look, where links will be placed, how to implement the College brand, which video projects to pursue, what goes on the homepage, and who to profile on the web. I find myself constantly thinking about trade-offs. What projects are worth the time? What pages are most relevant and need my help? Which areas and offices are most important to the strategic mission of the College? In a nut shell I need to know when to hold’em and when to fold’em.

Then there are times when I am just not going to “win” and it’s time to just walk away from the table and let the chips fall where they may. However in order to last I also need to know when I am in a situation or project above my pay grade and how to skillfully “run for the hills” or at least not get myself in too much trouble.

But as Kenny Rogers sings:

“every hand is a winner and every hand is a loser”

so it’s my job to make more winners than losers.

Downloads on the mind

December 14, 2009

As the holiday season is in full swing, finals week is upon us, and we prepare for some time off I have a downloads section of the website on my mind. I have often wondered in an age of social media and a focus on interaction and engagement why don’t more schools give users the tools to use the school’s brand online. Allow users to download your logos and use them to create Facebook groups, on emails, and with their blogs. Naysayers will remind you of all the “bad” things that can happen. But for there are so many positive interactions as well.

The Obama campaign provides a fine example of just how far a downloads section can go. The campaign incorporated everything from yard signs, to individual state logos, to interest groups. I can’t tell you how many of my “friends” on Facebook had an Obama logo on election day as their picture.

The technology is there. The users are there. Why won’t we meet them there?

How do we educate campus on best practices for e-communications

November 13, 2009

When it comes to marketing one of my favorite lines is when someone says “lets get an email blast out!” How do we as web professionals educate, collaborate, and assist the rest of the institution with best practices in e-communications?

Over the last four years I have found this to be a difficult question because there are so many components to an e-communication:

  • delivery system
  • body content
  • subject line
  • photo or banner
  • call to action
  • unsubscribe

Each of these of course has their own intricacies as well, which professional marketers spend time perfecting. In tough economic times not only is there not an opportunity to expand staff but in most cases web offices are being asked to cut or at least hold the line on resources. But web offices are not the only opportunity for institutional savings and we are seeing an increased interest in utilizing web based technologies including e-communications to communicate across our campus which results in an increased “email blast” effect.

I think there are a number of things you can do to help your community understand that you need to integrate e-communications into an overall strategy and plan in advance.

You need a good email system. We have used in-house systems, quasi in house systems, and now a vendor supported solution. Without a doubt the vendor solution has been a savior and allowed us to focus on best practices more instead of making sure the right lists load quickly.

Find your largest users and partner with them. In higher ed chances are good that your highest volume users are in development/alumni relations or admissions. Spend some time understanding their sequence and their needs. Having a partner early on helps when you want to work with other segments of campus.

Chances are resources at your institution are tight and you might not be able to get money to help you outsource your e-communications efforts. Set up a meeting with your IT staff who are in charge of institutional email. Share with them some of the best practices that you are trying to communicate with campus and see if they have anything additional to add. These members of your community spend a lot of time trying to block spam and you can probably use this free in-house resource to help you “beat” the spam filters.

Bring the major players together once a semester and host an e-communications summit. Share best practices and have your users talk about what works and what they are struggling with. This will help you set priorities and allow for free knowledge transfer across departmental lines.



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