Image credit : Shyam's Imagination Library
This is an India specific article, but discussion is not, I invite views and insights from experts globally.
Elite Educational Institutions & Eluding Parental Patronage!!!!!
When I decided to write this article on February 22nd, all I had for content was the above sentence with the exclamation marks which kept on adding.
On 22nd February 2011, I announced that I would be writing an article on the above subject and invited discussions, dissents, opinions, advice from the people from various fraternities. The response that I got from people of all walks of life was tremendous, many times more than what I had anticipated. The participation was from both the parents and educationists.
Now on 20th of April 2011, when I sit to write this article, I have the benefit of valuable information which I am happy to share with you. More valuable than the feedback was the desire and the intent of the people to interact and contribute.
The earnestness in the subject was demonstrated by more than 1029 views of my Linkedin profile by people from everywhere. Which included, more than 300 views, from the Deans, Directors, & Principals.26 Heads of the Institutions have sent contact requests and now they are my contacts. Majority are from India and the United States. The credit for all this responses goes to the tremendous power of the internet and the social media. As someone rightly said, what you can convey to ten people with normal means, with the same effort and time internet can convey it ten million.
(Fortunately no one questioned my ability and expertise to write on this subject.
Probably they had viewed my role as a CAO in Lead India 2020 Foundation where we
had dealt thousands of Schools, DEOs, Education Ministry officials and the
Government. Above all of course my exclusive privilege of working under and for the
greatest teacher in contemporary India, Bharat Ratna Dr. Abdul Kalam.)
Now speaking of the power of internet, how many Institutions are leveraging the highly defined & much demonstrated power of Internet to promote their elite attributes to the elite prospects??
Not many, I think.
We will discuss the power of internet and inbound marketing a little later in this article, but as of now let us get back to the people, response and feedback.
The feedback confirmed among other things, the following
1. The existence of this problem.
2. The glaring fact that most of the promotional programs of the institutions didn’t extend beyond the rhetoric.
3. Parents could not find anything elite, beyond the physical infrastructure in most of the elite institutions.
4. The positioning and projecting of institutions was not accurate. In target shooting, you get the maximum impact when you hit the bull’s eye. The impact dilutes when it is in the outer circles. The same seems to be happening in case of the Educational Institutions.
Education and its quality is one factor that decides & impacts the quality of socio economic life a person leads. Naturally every parent aspires for the best in education for his children,especially in India where there is virtual hand holding till at least the graduate level. Now if you think, this is the trend only amongst the educated parents, you are in for surprise.
In a survey conducted in the Hyderabad slums, it was found out that 65% parents sent their children to private schools. This fact was more or less corroborated by my own experience, while interviewing post graduate students (MSc) in the prestigious Andhra University campus at Vizag. I found that a large number (almost majority) including girls hailed from small villages and whose parents were laborers surviving on daily wages. The grit, the determination, and the mindset of these uneducated parents make the thinking of pseudo intellectuals like us look pedestrian.
Now who is a real intellectual? The uneducated intellectuals more than deserve the few lines that I have dedicated to them.
This proves that the desire for education is universal among the parents irrespective of the socioeconomic status. However the craving for the elite institutions hugely depends on the social and economic status of the discerning parents.
This may sound a bit surprising again, considering that India which has 22% of world’s population has also 35% of world’s illiterates.94% of the children start primary education,76% proceed to secondary,46% make it to tertiary, and only 7% complete graduation. The figures for postgraduate and management education are not available with me, but it cannot be more than 3 to 3.5%. This more or less gives us the information about the total market size for various segments of education in India.
With all these diversities, India is till the third largest education market after China dna the United States.
The essentials of promoting an elite Institution:
Beyond the Rhetoric
Most of the Institutions talk of special methods of imparting, special personal care, individual attention. While this is what an institution is normally expected to do, this being projected as a special add on is what irks the parents. And add to this is the fact that almost all the institutions parrot the same lines, reduces it to nothing more than a rhetoric. Institutions should be able to think beyond the normal and provide value to the paying customer. What constitutes value is different for different segments of education. It varies for schools, junior colleges, degree colleges, and the management colleges. For example for a management college, an affiliation with a business school is a value; a close interface with the industry is a value. Guest lectures by reputed academic and industry professional is again a value.
A Third party conversation is always better than a monotonous
& monosyllable self broadcast
Institutions advertise themselves through hoardings, banners, and other visual media and consider their job to be over. This only helps in being noticed but doesn’t help in decision making. The very loud statements made by the ads have often very poor marketing values and seldom generate leads or change opinions. Most of the time, they are an eyesore for the people.
Instead the Institutions should work hard to generate values that can be fit to be a part of the third party conversation in meetings, seminars, general discussions and other conversation.
Right from the first person graduating from the Institution to the newly enrolled, there should be a chain built over the years of conversation regarding the values. Monosyllable monotonous broadcast will not impress a discerning parent who can easily distinguish between an elite and a pseudo elite.
Position yourself above the mushrooming neighborhood schools
There are neighborhood schools in all colonies and communities. Their advantage is their local influence in the locality and the proximity factor. Parents who do not like their children to travel usually patronize these institutions. These schools have very little to offer other than the proximity aspect. You should position your Institutions a few rungs above these. It is ideal to hire a marketing expert, who can work on the positioning aspects and create USP’s that bring discerning parents.
Leverage the tremendous potential of the online inbound marketing
The internet will take you to places unimaginable. There is significant segment of families who relocate every year. These include people from India and the NRIs who are returning to India in large numbers. These people search internet for the elite schools on internet. The marketing agencies you hire will create highly effective and vibrant inbound and outbound marketing plans. If you are a corporate entity with large number of Institutions in different segments, We can help you with long term inbound & outbound strategies.
There are of course many other strategies for marketing an institution or a group, but all that cannot be included in the scope of an article.
Finally I wish to conclude by hoping that there would be sufficient evolution in the educational system in India, that the education would become affordable for parents and sustainable for the institutions.
You can also view my Linkedin Profile