Positioning is the consumer perception of an organization that resides in their mind. For higher education institutions, positioning and strategy for critical for their marketing, communication, and product- development decisions.
However, within colleges and universities, and within the distance-education space, this may not always be the case.
It has been observed that many colleges and universities conduct marketing on an ad hoc basis, which can ultimately erode the institution’s established position.
An integrated approach to positioning that reinforces strategy and provides a consistent identity is more likely to cause a positive marketing effect.
According to Hesel, proper positioning and strategy require defining a number of key elements:
- What should the institution offer?
- Who should the institution offer it to?
- What should the communications say?
- How will it be communicated differently than the competition?
- What does one want to be known for?
Answering these questions, among others, helps to create a marketing strategy that ultimately makes other decisions such as product and promotion decisions easier since these actions are not independent of the strategy.
An action to develop a distance-education program or degree that is not in alignment with an organization’s core competencies is less likely to be sustainable long-term.
Marketing under conditions where the product strategies are in alignment with the marketing strategy is more likely to be successful, and with a clear strategy in place, distance-education providers – especially colleges and universities can step out of the trap of “marketing-as-you-go.”
Market Segmentation of Education Services
The Indian Education System can be broadly divided into three segments, which are schools, professional colleges, vocational training institutes.
1. Schools: The segmentation of schools are shown in the figure given below:
i. Pre-Schools: These are places where formal education is not imparted, but children are taught basic activities that help them get independent foster.
While pre-school has been an old concept in the West, it is catching up in India, mainly because of working parents.
ii. K-12 Segment: In the K-12 segment, formal education is imparted to children. It starts with Lower Kinder Garten (LKG) till XII standard, following which students go for professional education.
Currently, most schools are run by non-profit charitable institutions.
iii. Private Tutoring for Schools: Private tutoring has become a flourishing business in India with estimated market size of almost U.S. $2 billion.
While the sector is very fragmented with classes being run even in residential premises, larger players like Coaching Classes, Mahesh Tutorials, etc., who have a wide network, are benefiting from this growing market.
The initial investment for setting up the infrastructure is high, but the breakeven period is about 2 to 3 years and generates good cashflows.
2. Professional Colleges/Higher Education: The distinction between private and public institutions in Indian higher education is ambiguous.
If the government promotes and sets-up an institution, it is referred to as a ‘public institution.’ On the other hand, an institution promoted and set-up by a private party is referred to as a ‘private institution.’
However, some private institutions are supported by the government and are thus highly regulated.
3. Vocational Training: This is the third segment in education services. Vocation is an occupational skill on which a person is specifically trained.
Currently, in India, there are many privately owned institutes that are providing vocational training- It includes the following:
i. Teacher Training: It also comes within the aspect of vocational training. Educomp has a separate division for teacher training.
ii. IT Training: IT training, by its very nature, comes under vocation. The IT sector currently employs around 1.7MM people and has grown at a CAGR of 26.6% in the last few years.
4. E-Learning and Online Tutoring: India’s education policy has missed-out largely on taking advantage of a technological revolution in education.
The general notion is that e-learning is expensive and entails huge investment. It is inconvenient to use.
But the reality is that e-learning is not expensive, and its biggest advantage is that a student can opt for employment while still pursuing his studies.
Marketing Mix of Education Services
The 7Ps for the educational services are explained below:
1. Product: Product in the educational sector is related to school facilities such as workshops and training labs, libraries, element in this sector is similar to the physical evidence.
The major factor of selecting a university from the prospective students is the university facilities.
2. Price: Price is the amount of money that the buyer pays to the service provider. But the tuition that parents pay for their children’s education is the corresponding price in the educational sector. So price involved tuition issues.
3. Place: This factor is related to whether the school is available and will be comfortable to travel there or not. Prospective parents may choose a school, and it is a simple reason which school is located near their home.
The reduction of parents traveling time to school will lead to positive perception and it has a positive impact in improving the school image in their mentality.
4. Promotion: Promotion may be a key element in the school marketing mix. Indeed, most marketing efforts that are performed at schools are classified as a promotion.
The purpose of promotion is communication with the target markets. The same concept today plays a significant role in creating a competitive advantage for organizations against competitors.
The plan will not succeed without effective promotional plans. Most schools in the world use promotional activities such as public relations.
However, television and press advertising is less common in the educational sector. Some of the usual promotional activities in private schools:
i. Advertising: Place advertisements in outlets that are frequented by the target audience. Suppose marketer’s services are aimed at high- school seniors.
For example, put extra resources into online advertisements, since that is where this audience prefers to seek information.
If marketers are targeting low-income adults and families, consider posting ads in local print newspapers or job classifieds.
Take full advantage of the website’s search engine optimization and established social-media following to spread the word about new programs at a relatively low cost.
ii. Public Relation (PR): It is creating of favorable school mentality among different groups of the target market, without having to pay for it.
PR encompasses a wide range of activities, such as media relations, interviews. The role of PR is, enhance the marketing efforts in the schools.
An important goal of it is shaping a way to introduce and create public awareness about the achievements of the school. One of the most common types of non-media public relations is PTA (Parent-Teacher Association).
iii. Publicity: A special place occupies the printed publicity like brochures, letters, Christmas cards.
There are also objects like pens, pencils, bags, keyrings, badges, garments which have printed the name and emblem of the educational institution.
iv. Expo: It is common among private schools. These exhibitions are part of the perception managing of parents.
Expos prevent the spread of rumors about schools and will be accustomed parents with the characteristics of the school and its achievements. Also will expand communication between the schools and parent.
v. Brochure: Among elements in advertising, brochures are used in schools more than others. Brochures often are the first contact between the parents and the schools.
It can make possible create and developed a favorable image of the school in parent’s mind.
vi. Direct Marketing: Faculties, schools, and other educational institutions are always (speaking for themselves) sending out a message to the public on their existence regardless of whether they formally have a communication program or not.
Also, the institution must determine and get a comprehensive insight into the information needs of the internal environment (faculty, staff, existing students, and others within the internal environment, etc.
5. People: This factor can be related to all staff, employees, and members, including principal or deputy as well as teachers.
In fact, people include all members of the school that can serve students (consumer) and parents (customer).
It is emphasized in a study that the people factor is vital for the successful delivery of the service is very important.
It is related to the ability, skills, experience, and knowledge of teachers. According to his opinion, the most important aspect that affects parental satisfaction is teaching features that lead to learning.
6. Process: These are all the administrative and bureaucratic functions of the university, which are registration, course evaluation, examinations, result dissemination, and graduation.
The learning process and social activities as processes that occur in universities.
7. Physical Evidence: The intensity of intangibility of the educational services will be reduced by physical evidence. University facilities and buildings can be considered physical evidence.
The first image in the university student’s mind will be shaped by this factor—video projectors and facilities necessary to present lectures as physical evidence.