Marketing For Your Ed Organization
Integrated marketing has become very popular in businesses however, universities have been wary in adopting this important strategy. Still, international competition has made it important for schools to adopt the integrated marketing approach. This assignment first examines and discusses integrated marketing, then the application of integrated marketing in education, develops an instrument that can be used to asses the degree of integrated marketing prevailing in an organization. Finally the assignment discusses the case of a hypothetical business school and gives recommendations of applying integrated marketing to the business school.
Integrated marketing communications refers to the lining up of organizational communications with the needs of customers. This requires the marketer to take several measures. He is required to carry out marketing research to find out why the communication messages fail or work. It is important to build up learning over time. However, retesting is required to revalidate or rule out old finding. In addition, user experience of the product or service needs to be used and the information managed to optimize the experience. Usability professionals are important for this part of marketing integration, they help build up an association with the potential customers. They are interested in and are involved with the customer’s perspective. Their experience with the customer is important for marketing integration. A cross-agency organization and planning should go into the budgeting process of the communication. Only after the cross agency ideation inputs are received should budgets be committed to media. The hallmark of integrative marketing is that original thinking and out of the box ideas should be encouraged during interactions between company and agency. There should be brilliant structuring of the ideas for creative collaboration to fructify. Finally, there is a need to correctly and exactly define the problem that needs to be addressed using Marketing Communications (Smith. P & Jonathan. T 2004),. In essence marketing integration refers to a close collaboration with the media partners throughout the communication planning, and development stages.
From another standpoint, integrated marketing refers to holding a person responsible for the integration of marketing. Usually it is a top marketing executive in an organization and a top agency partner. These persons need to be selected carefully as their selection is important for integration to take place. There needs to be an integration of ideas, from the agencies, the media personnel and the marketer. The person holding responsible position for integration should be willing to integrate ideas even after the plans have been prepared. He should communicate in an unequivocal manner and there should be a single brief for the creative, media and website. The brief should be comprehensive but should be targeted accurately. Further, the integrative communication manager should learn from the leaders of integration in marketing communication, their strong points should be documented and studied for ideas. Finally, integration needs to be specified very clearly so that it is strategic in nature and can be used for positioning and every aspect of marketing (Pelsmacker. P & Kitchen. P 2004).
Education is basically a people based personal service (Cowell, D 1984).It is a form of marketing of services. It is perceived to be a service similar to that of other professions that provide services. It has great similarity with service institutes. However, direct comparison with marketing is not always done because education gets a bad name as a business having commercial goals. Moreover, it is believed that the objectives of marketing are different and at variance with the goals of education. In addition, it is feared that marketing would lead to harmful conflict with other educational institutions as marketing is competitive in nature. Finally, there is a feeling that marketing of educational institutions would lead to dysfunctional domineering leadership and a consequent loss of self-governance of the institution (Ball, S 1993).
Marketing of education actually requires creating a mix of educational services that identify, improving and targeting of services at specific segments of customer so that specific customer needs are satisfied. In this context the educational institution needs to develop its services in such a manner that they are different from those offered by other educational institutes. Literature emphasizes that this development should be focused on increasing customer satisfaction and should not be limited to sales promotion. In addition, literature has focused on the three goals that educational institutions follow, namely enrollment of student, retention of the students, and recommendations from the students and their parents (Holmes, ST 2003). In the same context, it has become important for marketing to focus on customers. The student needs are studied and the institutions are becoming more student (customer) oriented than ever. This requires a metamorphosis of the attitudes and beliefs of the educational institutes. Moreover, there is a change in the educational policies of institutes. It has more on providing a wider choice to the students and this has intensified the competitive forces among educational institutes. This trend of providing a wider choice as well as quality programs has been increasing steadily and is predicted to increase. In essence, what the educational institutions have been doing is to differentiate themselves and position the institutions as educational institute of choice. Currently, educational institutions have increasingly used websites to market themselves and their websites have become media of information, promotion and positioning.
Integrated marketing is of utmost importance for educational institutions. The personnel who head the institution should be having a collaborative attitude towards the society and the community. In addition, the management should be more student oriented, there should be a change in its structure and culture. Finally, at the classroom level there should be a change in the focus from the teacher to the student. In addition, there should be accountability to ensure that marketing communications is integrated. It is in this context that educational institutions need to get ideas from their partners. These include the persons who are having an interface with media representatives as well as the web site developers. For the purpose of differentiating and positioning the educational institution is imperative that the focus of communication throughout the institution should be comprehensive and clear. The administration, the management and the teachers should unequivocally understand the focus and the objectives of the institute. There should not be any clash of ideas, it should be clear to every person that the focus is on providing a wider choice to the students. Further, the educational institution should seek to learn from the leaders in the field of education today. They should study the best practices that are being undertaken by the top educational institutes to enroll students, the strategies for retaining the students and finally, the measures taken to get good recommendations. Most important, educational institutions should very specifically define integration, lay down the rules for integrated communication to increase student satisfaction and the steps they need to take to increase consumer satisfaction. There should be no ambiguity about the change in student profile. The current student is better informed, independent and involved in the selection of the educational institution. It is fact of life that he has a choice and knows his options. The educational institution needs to change to meet with the requirements of the changing environment and increasing supply of educational services.
Educational institutions that have been steeped in orthodox methods of functioning should learn the need for unconventional thinking. Creativity and democratic collaboration for the purpose of increasing student enrollment and retention is important. The solution ideas often emerge from cross-functional teams. Moreover, to formulate the strategies to get recommendations from students and their parents is an ongoing process and requires close collaboration with the media, especially in times when the positioning of the institutes is done through the web. The objective of the institute personnel at all levels that is the administration, management and teachers should be to enhance student experience and should be focused on the student point of view. To implement change successfully and improve the positioning of the educational institution, there should be a continuous process of testing and measuring the efficacy of the integrated marketing process, this process should lead to an optimization of the use of the institute’s resources and a continuous learning process.
Survey questionnaires will be used to study the attitudes of the management/administration/teachers towards the educational changes that have been proposed.
There will be meetings held with a cross section of the management/administration/teachers to identify the issues regarding cultural change, which concern them.
The survey questionnaires will employ a Likert-type scale in which the management/administration/teachers will be asked to place themselves on a continuum-ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”- in terms of their attitudes about a particular cultural change.
For example Question: Overall, I am satisfied with the market reputation of my school..
Response Continuum: Strongly Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly
There will be a pilot test for scale development and a small sample of employees will be used for that.
The items in the instrument will be:
On the whole I know all the problems that students face in this school.
I do not know the academic problems that students face.
I know the policies of the school.
I was not involved in the policy formation of the school.
I discussed the school strategy with the advertising agent.
I have not seen the website developer.
I know the issues students are interested in.
I have no idea about what the students want.
The international rating of this school is known to me.
It is doubtful if this school is known internationally.
I have been involved in making this school popular.
I do not know why students chose to study in this school.
Our school has most of the strengths that the best school in the country has.
We cannot attract the best students because of prejudice against us.
I know the goals of the school.
I am not clear what the mission of the school means. It is too long.
I have met the agency people. I know what the students want.
The students just need discipline. I know this for years.
It is manager marketing that is responsible for enrolment.
Someone in the management is responsible for the enrolment. I don’t know exactly who it is.
The scale will be scored from 1 to 5 that is Strongly Agree will be 5, Agree will be 4 and so on. The scores of the even numbers will be reversed.
The case study is that of a hypothetical business school. This school is well located in a prominent North American city. The students have access to global companies, markets and even stock exchanges. There is fruitful interaction with business leaders and some of influential business minds drop in for classroom interaction. The environment of the University is beautiful and the campus is very well maintained. The business school has a 120 year heritage and prides itself as a merit-based institution, committed to diversity, innovation and excellence. The mission of the school was to deliver the quality management education, to contribute to the development of business knowledge and to connect to the business community through the imparting of business education.
However, the business school had difficulties. The enrollment was falling it had touched 75% in 2005 and had fallen to 72% in 2006. The number of student enquiries and requests for prospectus was falling every year and even the number of visitors on the school website had fallen. That apart the average GMAT score of the student had fallen by more than 100 points in last five years, the average GPA had come down by 0.5 during the same period and the drop out rate for MBA students during the first year had climbed by 200% in the last five years.
Everyone was at lost about why the school was faltering. The management said that the teachers were excellent, the computers were the best available and the lawns most beautiful. The administration felt that it must be the ‘recession’ that was responsible for the low enrolment. The teachers felt that it was the high academic standard that was driving away students. The website developer felt that it was the cheap design of the business school website that was driving away students.
The students had an entirely different story to tell. The knowledge, skills and experience that the business school offered was not up to industry standards. The knowledge was not professional. It was academic in nature and did not equip them with the tools required in business. They were taught every concept and theory but practical projects were missing. They had to learn by rote every detail and reproduce the ‘facts’ in an exam. The experience that they required to perform well in business was missing.
The result was that the students were not offered salaries comparable to that of MBAs from other universities. As the knowledge levels and skills were tested on job, the word spread and the alumni were offered lower salaries. The rating of the business school fell and so did the enrolment. During 2005 only 60% of the students got a job in the first year after leaving the business school and during 2006 only 55% of the passing out students got a job.
In addition, the school alumni that are the natural network for getting jobs after graduation did not positively evaluate the knowledge and the skills of the students. This left students struggling after graduation and often jobless. The student’s full potential was not realized.
The positioning of the school with the students was low on the dimension of developing relevant skills and low on the dimension of job potential. Those students who were refused admissions in every other business school joined here.
If we apply the instrument that we have developed to the case study, we find that typically the management/administration/teachers are not aware of the problems that the students face. They are involved in their own narrow duties and unaware of the travails of the students. I is expected that most management/administration/teachers do not know of the academic problem either. In relation to items 3&4 it is doubtful if the management/administration/teachers know the policies of the school. This is clear from the differences in opinion about the confusion in the personnel about the reasons for low enrolment.
If we administer the instrument to the management/administration/teachers of the business school it is unlikely that anyone has discussed the school strategy nor has anyone seen the school’s website developer. This would be a strong indicator that the school does not have integrated marketing. Even if some persons in the institute have an idea of what the students want, they may not be believed, nor the policy of the business school changed on the basis of their opinion. In most cases the management/administration/teachers would not have known what the student wanted. To make this worse it is likely that the opinion of some of the personnel is prejudiced. For instance some teachers feel that the students are not enrolling because of high academic standards!
Similarly, the international rating of this school is not likely to be known to most of the management/administration/teachers; however, because of falling enrollment, most will guess that the rating is actually low. The involvement of most of the employees in the marketing of this school (items 11 and 12) is likely to be low. In such institutes only the person charged with marketing the school and the persons directly reporting to him are involved in the marketing process. So a candid reply to “I have been involved in making the school popular” is likely to be Strongly Disagree. The most realistic answer to question 12 is that students enroll here when they get rejected elsewhere must be well known to every person but they will not admit it. While responding to questions 13 and 14, most of the management/administration/teachers will not respond positively as they are aware of the low enrolment. However, there are several strong points that the business school has. It has an excellent location; it has access to the markets and has direct contact with business leaders. Question 14 of the instrument is likely to provide an excuse to some respondents. Respondents may not know what the goals of the school are however; they will recognize several short term goals like increasing the enrolment rate of the students, improving the standard of recruitment and retaining students. Still, in absence of integrated marketing the real problem and mission of the school will not be known. As far as items 17 and 18 are concerned it is unlikely that either the web designer or the agency people have met most of the management/administration/teachers. On the other hand every person makes assumptions like the students are not disciplined enough and so on. Question 19 tests if the management/administration/teachers know who exactly is responsible for enrolment. On the other hand 20 indicates that there is an ambiguity as to who is responsible for the enrolment.
It is expected that when marketing integration takes place, the problem is clarified to every employee that is involved in the business school. Every person should know what the real issues are. In addition, every management/administration/teacher should actively be involved in finding out a solution to the business problem. At least they should contribute to the brainstorming. If integrated marketing strategy is implemented, there would be clarity about the marketing message, strategy, policy and problems. What is lacking in the business school is that there are differences of opinion about the causes of the problem, the shortcomings of the school and about what might be needed to pull the school out of difficulty.
The greatest shortcoming in case of the business school is the lack of customer orientation. Teachers put the blame on students! The consumers are being blamed for not buying! The real reason is that the teachers are not equipping the students with the skill that are required in the industry. This is the root cause of the decline. One of the main tools of marketing integration is to measure and find out the reasons for the problem. Most of the management/administration/teachers seem to be ignorant of the problem. The bottom line is that if the students earn more when they leave, the enrolment will increase. The education at the business school has become outdated and needs to be overhauled. For integrated marketing to be successful, every person in the business school must be focused on improving the school and should be aware of the common goals and objectives of the school.
For the business school it is recommended that the marketing integration should be defined clearly. Every person should know the strategies and policies that have been adopted. Moreover, if every person knows of the problems, every person should actively contribute to the solving of the problems. They should also borrow ideas from the best business schools in the USA and streamline their marketing communication. The courses should be updated, their contents should be made more pertinent to corporations and those skills that are in demand should be developed in the students. Moreover, the business school should ascertain from business houses the skills that they seek in students and incorporate new material into the program. Obsolete courses should be phased out and replaced with job oriented courses.
Above all every management/administration/teacher in the business school should know what the institute is doing. The communication to everyone should be comprehensive and unequivocal. There should be inputs from different levels into the website development. There should be improvements based on suggestions from the management, administration and teachers. In fact, the best business schools take inputs from current students in developing their sites. Web developers and media managers handle several accounts and are in touch with the current trends. They should be consulted and involved in web design and fine tuning the marketing communication of the business school. Finally, there should be a manager who should be held responsible for marketing integration. He should form plans and ensure that the objectives of the business school are achieved. He should ensure that the downward trend in enrollment and retention is reversed.
To sum, integrated marketing is essential for a school to function properly and meet its objectives. If the principles of integrated marketing are ignored then there will be loss of competitiveness and decline in the performance of the school. This means orchestrating the entire organization to strengthen the strategy of the school.
Ball, S (1993), ‘Education Markets, Choice and Social Class: The Market as A Class Strategy in the UK and the USA’, British Journal of Sociology of Education, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 3–19.
Cowell. D, (1984), the Marketing of Services, Oxford, Butterworth.
Holmes, ST (2003), The School Marketing Manual, 3rd edn, MB Designs, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Pelsmacker. P, & Kitchen. P (2004) Integrated Marketing Communications: a Primer, Routledge (UK).
Smith. P & Jonathan. T (2004), Marketing Communications: An Integrated Approach, Kogan Page.