Lost in the Data Forest
Metrics, analytics, data. Each has a place in your non-profit’s marketing strategy and should not be abandoned. But, I have noticed a slow and steady decline in the verbal, face-to-face responses of humans with the rise of the focus on data.
I recently visited a school and the administrator told me that she didn't have compelling word-of-mouth marketing. However, she had a large digital file of evidence that proved that her marketing efforts were reaching her intended online audience. Despite that, the school noticed a decline in both inquiries and applicant conversion, and poured more money into targeted social media ads and Google Ads. The school was at its budget capacity for marketing.
Curious, I asked a lot of questions. How did the administrator know that the word of mouth marketing was not working? New inquiries were not naming friends or family that attended the school as a way that they heard about the school. They were finding the school through searches and ads. But, the inquiries were not converting to applicants at the rate that they were two and three years ago.
Without the individual votes of confidence in the school from real people that they know, prospective parents look completely objectively at a school. That means that the smaller schools, without state-of-the-art buildings and a list of programmatic offerings a mile long, will have trouble competing regardless of the amount of money spent on online advertising. The best way for the small to mid-sized school to differentiate and articulate its value proposition is through stellar word of mouth marketing from delighted parents.
Schools can encourage word of mouth marketing first by doing what they say they do. By doing it well and doing it every single day. By keeping brand promises. And, by paying incredibly close attention to your actual customers: parents. Students are the beneficiary of your service, but parents are your customers.