About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Marketing 101

Christine Martell had an interesting post about market segmenting. As both an educator and a marketing instructor, I felt a post putting marketing concepts into education terminology was warranted.

I find that many of the concepts in education and marketing are similiar. Many educators don't like to hear this and many marketers would like to think their field is more "professional". However, straddling the two worlds, I often borrow concepts from both in my teaching and analysis.

Lesson 1: Know your Audience

Target market is the audience that you want to capture for your business. As educators, we walk into a classroom or learning environment and want to know where are students are at. Image walking into a classroom and basing all of our lessons on the stereotypes in the class (e.g. girls, african americans, low socio economic students, non-native English speakers). While we can make some generalities based on culture and experience, we would really need to know the individuals and then put together a class plan based on the strengths and weaknesses of the students, grouping them together based on what they do and know, not on personal characteristics. Those who are visual learners need to have visual cues (as opposed to saying that all girls need visual cues).

This is what Kathie Nelson means by Phycho-graphics. We do this the first part of any course, trainig, or class that we teach. It makes sense to use this when trying to "sell" your service.

Lesson 2: Choose your strategy

In education, most instructors have the choice of standardizing their teaching (assessing with tests, stating standard goals and objectives and hoping to teach the greatest amount to the largest number of students). This is called mass marketing in marketing. As in education, there is an advantage to this as you are able to reach the greatest number of customers with the smallest investment. However, this is not a "deep" approach (the complaint with standardized curriculum is the lack of "deep learning").

In marketing this approach is called "skimming" as you familiarize your audience with the concepts, with the understanding that some will "get it" and others won't.

The other common strategy used in training is individualized curriculum. This is especially effective for complex concepts and a "deep learning" approach. The same is true for "niche" marketing. Products or services that require the customer have a deep understanding in order to make a purchase decision are best marketed using an "individualized" approach. However, this requires a lot of investment in time and effort (as would an individualized learning plan).

So for most marketers, the most effective strategy is a mixed approach. Catagorizing the market into segments that have similiar or overlapping needs so that you can make slight modifications for the specific needs of the segments is similiar to the instructor that incorporates flexibility into the curriculum or instructional design so that the differences can be addressed while still allowing for a basis of core content.

In Christine's case, she can have a portfolio of visuals, from which individuals can pick and choose depending on their needs. This recognizes the differences between clients, but allows her to have some standardized material.

Lesson 3: Don't confuse communication with product

Marketing has 4 parts to it (often call the 4 P's): Product, Price, Promotion, and Place. Education has similiar concepts only using different terms: curriculum, resources (time, instructor, expertise), communication (teaching style, student engagement, student/instructor/content interaction) and place (learning environment, means of delivery-electronic, self paced learning, instructor in a classroom).

New marketers often look at marketing as just the promotion (advertising, sales). But the other parts of the marketing mix are just as important. This would be like assuming a person that can communicate the content is sufficient without resources, the correct mode of delivery, or a poor curriculum.

It is important to have a product that is appropriate for the customer (you wouldn't have a curriculum that did not meet the learning needs of the student because it was too advanced or too basic for the student needs). Price helps to create value, especially in a non-tangible good. Which is better a "cheap" dentist or a dentist that fits in your price range? The image of "cheap" dentist is someone that might not do the work correctly or pain free. In education, learning that requires more time input and effort is perceived as more valuable (as opposed to the "busy work" type of learning a student may need to do to "get the credits"). How a product gets to the customer is usually a negotiation, especially for a service. Services are difficult to "distribute" as they may require the customer to come to a central place or service provides to go to the customer. There is also a question of quality control so that the service provided is the service the customer expected. This might not be possible if the service customer is far away fromt the service provider.

Lesson 4: Marketing is a negotiation process between the customer and the provider

"The customer is always right" is not always true with a service. Rather, the saying should be, "let the customer perceive that they are right." It is important that the customer be satisfied, however, not at the expense of the company. In some cases, a company needs to cut a customer loose if it means the company's reputation or values will be compromised. On the other hand, we are in a different world in which customers are much better informed and have access to more information in the past. Companies can't assume that they "know better" than the customer. It is important that marketing is a dialogue between the customer and provider so that the product meets the needs of the customer, closing the perceived gap between a customer need and the product provided.


Christine Martell said...

Making the connection between marketing and education is helpful. You are so right, we are doing the same things no matter the language we wrap around it.

I'm moving toward providing a lot more education in conjunction with my products. So entwining the concepts in my mind more intentionally should help me provide more effective tools. Educate the potential customers as well as the current ones.

V Yonkers said...

Sometimes it's just the language you use. Perhaps if you were to change the language you use to match more of the vocabulary set your various clients use it would also make the concepts more accessible to them.