Organizational leadership by the marketing mix: Program (part 1 of 4)

In this series, I will describe how the marketing mix applies to organizational leadership in higher education. I covered this topic extensively in my doctoral thesis, which was a study of organizational adaptation and strategic marketing at Notre Dame College in Ohio. Dr. Andrew Roth, Notre Dame’s president, led the institution by an application of the marketing mix to organizational leadership resulting in a remarkable transformation of enrollment and revenue growth. How might others do the same?

The four Ps of the marketing mix are product, price, place, and promotion. Another conception of the marketing mix preferred by some higher education practitioners consists of four Cs—customer, cost, convenience, and communication. Regardless whether the marketing mix is described as four Ps or four Cs, the concept underscores the importance of satisfying customer needs through the delivery of products or services.

The first P is product, which I define as program or service in higher education. The “product” of a higher education institution consists of the execution of its mission. As such, programs will vary widely among colleges and universities, but the programs may be grouped into three main categories: curricular, co-curricular, and extracurricular.

The role of higher education marketing practitioners is to be sure that programs meet the needs and wants of students. A leader in this area will identify the programs and services the institution currently offers, how those programs compare with top competitors, how current and future students perceive those programs, and what programs might attract more students in the institution’s target markets. This responsibility is shared with other senior staff including the provost or vice president of academic affairs and the vice president for student affairs or dean of students.

To illustrate, Notre Dame College attracted more new students by introducing eleven new academic programs such as international business, nursing, and criminal justice. These three programs did not exist in 2003 but enrolled more than 250 students combined by 2011. Athletic programs also played a major role in attracting new students, with new sports such as bowling (men’s and women’s), football, and water polo (men’s and women’s). These programs combined enrolled nearly 200 students in 2011.

Marketing involves adapting an organization to its environment, and in higher education, that begins with programs. Regardless of your position at your institution, as a marketer investigate what students in your target market need and want and what programs you might offer to satisfy them.

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