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Marketing educational organizations

The basic resource of society is (will be) knowledge and value is to be created by productivity and innovation (Drucker 1993). Amidon (2002), in her recent work entitled The innovation superhighway: harnessing intellectual capital for collaborative advantage states that the rapid shift in orientation over the past 50 years from data to information to knowledge is a profound and fundamental change that highlights the importance of individual and collective knowledge in the new economy.  The rapid changes that have taken place in this new era have created a “new economy” that presents new challenges and problems.
There are now new markets that are available and the traditional mindsets or practices that have been utilized by institutions and foundations in the past may even be no longer applicable to the current scenario.  This short discourse seeks to explain how these changes have created an impact in the “new economy” by highlighting the influence that these changes have made to modern education administration theory in relation to the emerging contemporary marketing perspectives.
As previously mentioned, the basic resource of society is (will be) knowledge and value is to be created by productivity and innovation (Drucker 1993).  While this may not necessarily be a new concept, it certainly creates an added dimension in this discussion as it leads to three (3) implications.

The first being that educational institutions are no longer immune or removed from the “new economy”, as was previously thought; the second implication being that education presently being looked upon to provide answers or solutions to the challenges of preparing people for this new environment or “new economy” and the third being that educational institutions need to face radical organizational change issues in order to be aligned with the “new economy” consumer and the operating requirements demanded by the “new economy”.
In order to properly understand or comprehend the impact of these changes it is first essential to delve into a brief discussion of what marketing really means and how it is currently being understood in the context of the present day discussions regarding this issue.  “Marketing, according to Kotler (1994, p. 6), “is a social and managerial process by which individuals and groups obtain what they most need and want through creating, offering, and exchanging products of value with others”.
As key to achieving organizational goals, marketing focuses on satisfying customers and meeting their needs and is central to any organizational improvement.  This aspect of marketing is what makes it essential to the concept of the “new economy” in that marketing determines the success of organizations existing and operating within the bounds of the “new economy.”
Since the marketing has constantly evolved evolving from a concept with the purpose of convincing consumers that they should buy what is offered, to a conceptual base that suggest that the product or service be customized to meet and satisfy what consumers want, its applicability to modern education administration now becomes clear.
There is no question that with the emergence of the “new economy” there has been a shift towards education being a basic resource of society (Drucker 1993).  What is questionable however is the extent that this shift is relevant to contemporary marketing perspectives.  The answer to this question lies in the relevance that education has in the application of contemporary marketing perspectives.
As an ongoing conceptual evolution in practice, marketing in education is the key to gaining a competitive advantage over the other players in the field.  While this relevance may substantially vary from one educational institution to another, there are some elements of marketing that have always (arguably) existed in educational institutions.
As Amidon highlights, this is now the essential ingredient for economic prosperity (Amidon 2002).  The reason for this is because of the impact that education has on contemporary marketing perspectives.  In this highly competitive “new economy”, for any player to survive and to prosper, it must be able to sustain its advantage over the other players.  This can only be achieved by employing an effective strategy aimed at developing the current advantages and addressing the needs as posed by the current disadvantages which the organization is faced with.  An effective strategy however necessarily entails initiating an analysis of the total operating environment (Porter 1996).
There are those however who are highly critical of the idea of applying contemporary marketing perspectives to modern education administration theory, citing that there is no need to apply such perspectives because of the fact that educational institutions are beyond the realm of these perspectives and are hence inapplicable to the current scenario.  But as shown in the earlier discussion, the emergence of the “new economy” has indeed prompted the examination of traditional views and practices and necessitated the application of new theories such as contemporary marketing perspectives.
The resistance to such application also springs from the fact that most of these educational institutions are too focused on the perceived failure or threats from the application of such theories that they, in essence, become too hesitant to institute or implement such changes (Kotler 1985).  The tendency of institutions to embrace these perspectives only when they are confronted with problems that they cannot deal with at a time when the application of these perspectives may become too late is the real problem.  Institutions, according to Kotler, must learn to realize and understand that the analysis of opportunities is more important than focusing on the perceived threats and dangers that come from its utilization in such a scenario (p 75).
Marketing of education has been approached mainly from the operational level as tools for student recruitment and income generation. Responsible marketing in education, as called for by its terms of reference, is concerned with how to effectively bring students into contact with programs that are both beneficial and rewarding from the broadest sense of personal as well as societal fulfillment (Liu 1998).
Most, if not all, of the current individual educational institutions are at any of the three (3) stages in terms of their understanding and application of marketing to modern education administration.  While it has been argued that in the current scenario marketing is only at the early stages of development in most educational institutions, typically at stage 1 or stage 2 of this continuum, there promises to be more growth and development in this field because of the relevance that it has as discussed in the previous segments of this discourse.  Marketing, therefore, as a selling or product based concept can be applied to modern education administration.
The application of marketing perspectives to educational theories is possible in many different aspects.  One of these aspects is in recruitment, which is analogous to the earlier theory of coming up with a strategy.  In this aspect, marketing can play a very important role as it will effectively make the educational institution stand out and become more recognizable.  When products become increasingly similar, companies need to segregate themselves from the rest of the players to create a preference for their offerings.
This is similar to the current scenario which exists in the education sector wherein most schools provide the same basic services and information as others.  By employing marketing strategies, such as branding, these educational institutions are able to distinguish themselves from the other players in the field by promising that the company’s offering will create and deliver a certain level of performance, and in this case that the education offered will be exactly what the target market needs in order to succeed (Kotler 1994).
The concept of branding is also applicable to a stage one (1) or stage two (2) marketing approach which essentially is limited to recruitment.  The ability of branding to increase recruitment is only one aspect as branding has also been shown to increase retention and referral.  This however exposes a fundamental difference between the various approaches to marketing education.
A stage three (3) marketing approach incorporates a focus on what can be termed the 3Rs: • recruitment – student (and parent) • retention – student (and parent) • referral – student (and parent).  The successful implementation of these strategies however clearly creates for opportunities for any educational institution than it does threats and therefore strengthens the position that there indeed is an advantage that contemporary marketing perspectives can bring to the field of modern education administration.
In conclusion, the dawning of the “new economy’ which emphasizes the primacy of knowledge and education also brings about new challenges and opportunities for the field of education administration.  In order to capitalize on this whoever education institutions need to recognize the fact that there are indeed more benefits to be gained from employing these perspectives and should instead consider marketing and strategy concepts that allow for sophisticated planning, implementation and monitoring procedures to anticipate and meet customer needs and enhance satisfaction in line with the current development in marketing theories.
References:
Amidon, DM (2002) The innovation superhighway: harnessing intellectual capital for collaborative advantage, Butterworth-Heinemann, USA
Drucker, Peter (1993) Post capitalist society, Butterworth Heinemann, UK
Kotler, Philip (1994) Marketing management, Prentice-Hall International, USA.
Liu, Sandra (1998) Integrating Strategic Marketing on an Institutional Level Hong Kong Baptist University, Kowloon, Hong Kong Journal of Marketing for HIGHER EDUCATION

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