A Note to Prospective Clients
I have reached that delightful point in life (i.e., kids out of college and working!) where one may choose to do what one prefers to do. I'm opting to limit my consulting to advising boards and heads on the tough issues. Situations where risks are high; where the answers depend on understanding changed markets, and schools' capabilities; where expertise produces quick-reads of the challenges, and recommendations. In these situations, one wants the guidance of a trained and practiced marketing professional, one who also has deep track-record and experience with schools. Professionalism, and instant credibility — my distinctions.
Bona Fides and Distinctions
The education sector is a major focus of the practice’s work. Over the course of the last 20 years, Jeff Wack has conducted marketing and advancement projects for nearly 100 private schools, colleges, and universities. Jeff’s expertise in this sector is suggested by the following:
- Invited speaker at Ivy League Plus, Council for the Advancement of Secondary Education (CASE), and National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) symposia and conferences.
- Produces the popular annual Marketing and Advancement Institute for Independent Schools that has been attended by more than 1,300 private school staff.
- Authored more than twenty publications in academic and professional publications, including chapters in three books published by NAIS.
Click here to read "Managing Value: The Marketing Perspective on Affordability and Demand".
- Multi-lingual communicator, including marketing-speak, school-speak, business-speak, university-speak, parent-speak, and trustee-speak.
What Is Marketing?!
Over three decades JTWack & Company has consulted on virtually every marketing issue faced by leaders of educational institutions---many of whom at the outset did not understand that marketing offers the tools to address those issues.
Non-marketers, including many communications professionals, use the word “marketing” as a synonym for communications, advertising, or selling. This is not how business schools teach Marketing or how Jeff practices it. Simply put, a marketing professional’s responsibilities include communications, but the job is much bigger than just communications. Rather, marketing is most like strategic planning, except with a greater emphasis on understanding the market, then designing toward it. Here are a few definitions of contemporary marketing drawn from Jeff’s articles and seminars:
- Marketing is a philosophy, a thoughtful and rigorous approach to how one addresses the marketplace. It is not a merely a collection of tactics or activities, of websites or brochures.
- Marketing is the only business function whose prime responsibility is attracting resources to the organization. This is accomplished by managing the 5 R’s: Reputation, Recruiting, Retention, Relationships, and Revenues.
- Marketing is what happens every time a part of the organization touches a customer. The big question is how consciously the organization manages these “touchpoints.”
- Many in education have adopted the term “advancement” to convey the idea that admissions, communications, fundraising, etc. must collaborate to advance the institution. In this usage, the term “advancement” is a genteel re-labeling of what others would call “integrated marketing.” To learn more about integrated marketing, click here.
Perhaps the best way to convey how contemporary marketing can advance schools is to simply list descriptive examples. Accordingly, below is a partial list of projects that JTWack & Company has completed for private schools and colleges.
- Completed “Wall Street quality” study for billionaire donor of market potential for a $80 million middle and upper school.
- Used innovative metrics in analysis of demographic trends to project demand in a complex metro market.
- Produced demographic analyses that informed decision to relocate a K-12 from an urban to a suburban campus.
- Guided administrative team in a competitive analysis intended to reveal gaps and areas of distinctiveness.
- Developed and implemented a five-year survey research agenda that addressed key decision and satisfaction points across the lifespan of students, from prospect to graduation to bequest.
- Conducted surveys of Ivy League college alumni, diagnosed reasons for giving or not, tested case statement possibilities and strategies of engagement.
- Assessed validity of admissions selection criteria used to predict student success.
- Led market analyses and supported a school's leadership in the decision to shift from single-gender to coed.
- Repositioned a Catholic, and a Jewish Day, school to boost enrollment by appealing to a wider constituency.
- Completed market analyses and financial scenarios that informed board’s decision to expand enrollment.
- Steered data-driven strategic planning process. This included designing research that not only drove the plan, but also served the additional purposes of meeting accreditation requirements and framing messaging for new admissions materials.
- Prompted redirection, articulation, and calendaring of a school’s recruiting process.
- Assisted board in creating a dashboard to monitor performance of the key advancement goals of reputation, recruiting, retention, and relationships to supplement the revenues measures customarily received.
- Led strategic phase of branding initiative, then guided the work of the communications agency selected to execute the print and internet vehicles.
- Conducted research for Ivy League client, and then led client work team through data-driven decision process that optimized print and web modes of alumni engagement.
- Developed strategy and tools (e.g., positioning statement, message platform), and provided direction for communications agency.
- Designed and directed the process that produced memorable message platforms and signature statements; e.g., “Tradition of Excellence. Spirit of Innovation. Culture of Caring” (Choate); “Academics for Life, Values for Living” (Convent of the Sacred Heart).
- Guided school in implementation of website strategy, including vendor selection, design, and analytics.
- Engaged in a multi-year retainer to fill the role of Vice President for Advancement. Responsibilities included coaching senior leadership in contemporary advancement practices, from recruiting to retention to relationship enhancement.
- Led Ivy League college’s initiative to design an integrated program with the goal of creating a multigenerational community that would support advancement goals from admissions through donations.
Advised head and board on major upgrade of communications and marketing capabilities, including job designs and recruiting for new role of Director of Strategic Marketing and Communications.
- Conducted an analysis that spearheaded board’s strategy of “build it and they will come.” Created marketing plan that yielded record enrollment and revenues in two years.
- On behalf of Ivy League college provost, completed surveys of the alumni of graduate school programs that informed changes to financial aid policies.
- Convinced head of upper school to recognize college counseling office underperformance as a complex web of marketing problems. Created resolution strategies that included students, parents, faculty, and college admissions.