Friday, May 29, 2009

Marketing of Education

What do I get from a degree?

This post is a little different and reflects more of 'my day job' rather than purely personal thoughts.

Recently we've had the opportunity to talk to several education institutions and this intense activity got us focused on the question: How do we approach marketing a degree?

Rather than start with the media plan, we thought about the reasons why someone gets a particular degree. That in turn provided insights into who and why a person wants that benefit. Finally, these considerations informed the media planning process. Using the classic consulting 2*2 matrix approach for positioning and differentiation we've outlined outcomes for various types of schools and programs giving each a name, an image and a reason for being.
  • Schools: range from general state universities to very specific niche or prestige schools
    • General: full range of education opportunities: national online schools, state schools, general liberal arts
    • Specific: Branded B-Schools, any 'top 10', single focused schools
  • Programs: range from general purpose degrees, e.g. liberal arts, to specific skills and credentials
    • General: Masters Finance, BA Psychology
    • Specific: Masters in Jurisprudence Health Care, Bachelor in Internet Marketing, Cosmetology Diploma
What people want as an outcome from these two dimensions is fairly easy to imagine and explain using an analogy of sand boxes.
  • Stepping Stone: a general program from a general school allows you to get the next level of your career. This is often a default or local choice where 'any sandbox' will do. (Masters in Finance, UofU)
  • Short List: a very specific program from a general school gives you the credentials to get in the short stack of resumes in the HR office. This combination gives you the 'tools to make things from sand'. (MJP Healthcare, Loyola)
  • Open Doors: a general program from a specific school is about the network and access. A 'business' degree from branded B-Schools opens the doors because it was the 'right sandbox.' (MBA, Wharton)
  • Key to the Kingdom: the singular focus of a program and school is all about achieving a dream. The degree gives you the ability to make sand. (Rhode Island School of Design; Computer Science, Neumont)
What we draw on the whiteboard looks like this:

Each quadrant has a persona and hence warrants a different approach to marketing. For instance, it is clear that the brand may be the school or the program. In rare cases like Thunderbird, they are one and the same. This impacts messaging. The degree to which one of the dimensions is 'specific' influences the choice of broadcast or targeted media because people are more likely to research and extend effort to attend one of these options.

More to follow.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Innovation Needs Roundup

How do we know which ideas to pursue?

The transition from ideation to execution reminds me of tending a perennial garden. There's lots of stuff growing there but not all of it is desirable.
  • Ideas sprout up everywhere, in places we don't want, and usually a lot faster than we can control.
  • Good ideas, like perennials don't look like much when you first plant them.
  • Bad ideas can be aggressive and crowd out those needing nurturing.
  • Good ideas produce sustainable, year-to-year, growth; bad one's are seasonal.
  • Bad ideas attract as much attention as good ones yet are designed to be viral (dandelion).
Most ideas are weeds, we need a weed killer.

Personally, I need to heed my own advice -- lots of ideas; some should be killed. Although at $9 a pound 'wild greens' (aka weeds) are the new gourmet food and maybe I should sell them.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Implications of the Destination Free Web

What does the world look like when there are no websites?

The idea of a web without sites continues to be nurtured, poked, prodded and experimented with. Two years ago Steve Rubel wrote that traffic happens elsewhere and again this week he wrote about the end of the destination era.

The mantra of "If we can drive traffic to our site, all will be good in the world." rests on a presumption that people want to go to or find a site.

Some factoids:
  • Of all the possible sites on the web, the average person visits just over 100 a month.
  • Over two-thirds of us don't visit a blog or social network site during the work day.
Given a finite amount of time that we can give to the sourcing and consumption of content coupled with continuing proliferation of pages something doesn't add up. While the odds that people will use the Internet for information continues to rise; the odds that a specific piece of content will be found (like this post for example) does not rise at the same rate, if at all. The math doesn't work.

However, a new model is emerging: the ability for people to share and filter is a game changer. While RSS was a step in the right direction past the bookmark they both presume I want to see all content from a given source - I don't. In business, information needs are highly time and topic sensitive. Today's challenges will be solved and we move on to the next. The beauty of conversations is: I can ask for help. And people being social creatures are very willing to respond.

If it weren't for people sharing things they find useful, I wouldn't know what I know. Tweet Bite

This shift has profound implications for marketing functions like 'search', advertising and analytics.
  • How do we find things if they aren't somewhere?
  • What do we tell people instead of "Come to my place?"
  • How do we track the flow of objects through the ether?
The Internet and the Web were created to connect files; the browser started as a frame around text located someplace else. At the time it made sense - connection and transport was expensive; local storage wasn't. Small, incremental innovations over several decades got us to where we are today. (I alluded to this in a piece on the history of Web 2.0). But, now that the flow of bits is near ubiquitous and 'free' the question has to be asked:

Why do we put stuff somewhere to be found rather than out there to be shared? Tweet Bite

Monday, May 04, 2009

Rethinking the Ps of Marketing

What should a brand be thinking about?

A lot of us were taught the four Ps of marketing: Product, Price, Place and Promotion. On a one-way street from company to shopper these made sense. The marketer owned the communication and was in the driver's seat making educated guesses or decisions about the go-to-market strategy.

But in this day and age of ubiquitous communication are these the only Ps? With people having a way to share their voice (they always had one) there are other considerations that arise.
  • What promise are you making to me?
  • Where do you position yourself in my mind?
  • Does your personality match mine?
Promise, Position and Personality are the new Ps - particularly in a world where people share their aspirations and frustrations. It seems that understanding these is important to defining the original set.

Branding is about Promise, Positioning, and Personality - selling is about product, price, place and promotion.