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I know, my job title identifies me as a “marketer” so the phrase, “marketing is everything” can seem like I am trying to push my own bias and agenda. The phrase is a cliche that many people dismiss as “marketing speak.” However, most of the time, people relegate marketing to only one of the traditional “4 Ps” of marketing. If we take a larger view of marketing and include a few things related or organizational development, I think we will see why marketing really is everything.

The 4 Ps of Marketing

The traditional 4 Ps of marketing are Product (What are we going to offer), Place (Where are we going to offer it), Price (What are we going to charge for it), and promotion (How are we going to make sure people know about it and encourage to buy it). Most of the time, people relegate marketing to the 4th P, Promotion. We view marketing as websites, advertising, content creation, fundraising, print design, etc. Unfortunately, that viewpoint can set us up for failure.

What is Upstream

The reality is that the other three Ps are “upstream” from promotion. All four Ps are interconnected, but they are more of an interconnected and interdependent circle than anything else. Product often defines place which defines price which ultimately impacts promotion. Then, market research enables us to see what kind of “promotions” people might respond to which brings us back to products, then place, then price, etc. Rinse and repeat.
When we view marketing simply as promotion, we fail to understand the immense impact every other “P” has on it. Really, once the product is defined, the other three Ps are pretty much set. What you offer determines where you are going to offer it and how much it is going to cost. Once those are decided, you have basically set the limit on promotion. Product, Place, and Price basically determine the market we can expect to have or reach. We often say “we need more students” or “we need more gifts” without understanding that our Product, Place, and Price may have already defined what is possible with promotion.

An Expanded View of Product

Because the definition of your product has such great impact on everything else related to marketing, I think it is important to take an expanded view of what “product” means. In higher education, we tend to think of our products as various degree programs so when we define or create our product we do so in terms of which courses will be in a degree program and how we might deliver different aspects of that program. Those are good components to consider, but I want to challenge us to consider the impact organizational structure, financial modeling, and mindset have on our products.
Our product must be created in such a way that the entire system of support, delivery, and evaluation is built into the way we design the product. If we simply say, “Let’s create this new program and more students will enroll,” we have failed to grasp the integrated nature of our work.

Nearly 70% of schools within ATS are operating on a deficit. I think it is time to reimagine what marketing means. Marketing is everything. It touches each and every part of a seminary. When we think about creating new programs or ask our enrollment departments why we don’t have more students, I want us to consider what we are talking about. We are talking about developing something new and different that will require everyone in the organization to think differently and consider the way in which they will impact that future of the organization.

Simply relying on Promotion to fix your marketing “woes” will not help you. By the time a seminary gets to promotion, it has already put a limit on what is possible. We must ensure we are looking as deep as possible when we consider Product, Place, Price and Promotion.

  1. Hey Greg. First, thanks for your blog. Keeps our creative juices flowing here at ATS as I share them regularly with our Cabinet. Secondly, I have often thought of ad additional product of higher education being our graduates…that is what the church, parachurch, counseling profession, or whatever is “buying” from us.

    1. You are welcome! Glad to have you as part of the conversation. I think you are right about our “product” when we think about those planning to do ministry as a paid vocation. Many students aren’t expecting to do that, but for those that are we can certainly think along those lines. In fact, we could probably find ways for this post to apply to that paradigm as well!

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