A product-centric approach to marketing is one that is focused on the product or service rather than the customers that buy the products. It might be described as a ‘take it or leave it’ approach.

A school needs to establish product superiority and/or operational excellence if it is to attract families using a product-centric approach. As I reflected last week, product superiority in the context of a school might refer to student achievement in external assessments or college placements. Operational excellence might refer to the availability and quality of facilities.

A product-centric approach to marketing is best suited to a seller’s market – a market in which buyer’s perceive their options to be limited. This approach is certainly not doomed to failure and there may be no need for a school to move away from it marketing itself to potential families. However, some aspects of product-centric marketing make it not quite as great as it used to be.

Advancements in technology and communication have contributed to the commoditization of many products and services and this holds true for schools. Many schools run on models that are almost indistinguishable from competitors in terms of facilities, curriculum, extra-curricular activities, etc.

These same advancements have led to parents and students who are increasingly less passive in their consumption of education. They are better informed and more demanding.

Customer-centricity is a strategy that aligns the development and delivery of products and services around the current and future needs of a select set of customers in order to maximize their long-term financial value. Rather than telling customers to ‘take it or leave,’ the needs of a select set of customers are established and every effort is made to meet those needs.

Customer-centricity requires a school to be willing and able to identify and adapt to the changing needs of the parents and students that it has set out to serve. For well informed and demanding parents and students, it may no longer be enough for a school to point to past external assessment results and college acceptances to attract new students. Customer-centricity would suggest that rather than relying solely on reputation, a school must also clearly articulate how a prospective student’s needs will be met and aspirations realized if he or she was to enrol.

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