Archive for March, 2010

After spending 40 years in higher education working to help institutions become better understood, I find myself thinking back on the “lessons I learned.”  Most of them were lessons learned the hard way, sometimes wasting years laboring under misconceptions about how things really work, or stifled by my own lack of confidence to find a way to just keep pushing ahead.

So years later, it now has become a passion of mine to find talented marketers, skilled communicators, and high potential institutions, and to help them save as much time and pain as I can. While it’s not advanced rocket science, success in institutional marketing requires a nuanced combination of art and science nudged ahead with a good dose of seasoned experience and savvy.  Join me in the months ahead and I will share what I think I have learned.

Lesson #1

Much of the reluctance to embrace marketing in nonprofit institutions, NGOs, associations, government agencies and universities is based on the misconception that to do so will commercialize the enterprise and turn it into a retail sales organization. And, of course, most professionals in these institutions find this inappropriate to their purposes.

But, much to the contrary, marketing is a way of thinking that enables an organization to align its competitive advantage strengths with changing social needs and trends.  It is a management practice of considering products, programs, their price, their distribution and their communication, simultaneously. It is the assertion that it is impossible to successfully promote a product or program that does not connect to a real need in society, or is not priced appropriately, or is not delivered conveniently. Successful institutional marketing, then, is merely making a genuine connection between the right product or program and a real need in the marketplace.

Most program executives, university administrators, or faculty members who come to see marketing as a way of thinking, rather than as a way of commercializing, are able to understand how this tool can become a powerful way of making the institution better understood, and thus more successful.  My suggestions is to always begin explaining institutional marketing to institutional executives with these words: Marketing is a way of thinking…”

Each week we will identify and discuss more hard learned lessons, and respond to your reactions and ideas. Welcome to our conversation.

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