The 5 P’s of Marketing Applied to Academia

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In the world of Marketing there are 5 P’s identified as important to consider when trying to sell a product or service. These 5 P’s are identified as Price, Product, Promotion, Place and People.

Rarely are these aspects considered with respect to academia. These 5 P’s of Marketing can be applied to both students and employees in academia. Consider the following:

Price:


With respect to price employees and students look at this from two different perspectives. With respect to employees in academia price is often considered their salary – are they being compensated what they believe they are worth? In a lot of job fields the assumption is pay will be commensurate with experience. In academia many aspects are considered relative to pay – title, experience, research, etc. However, there are some perks involved which should be included in this “price” but are not technically direct pay such as reimbursement for taking courses and medical/dental/eye and other benefits.

Student’s relationship with price is different. Many merely consider a price to students simply being their cost for a degree program, such as textbooks, tuition, room and board, etc. However, real consideration needs to be given to the return on investment students will see. For example, if they are paying for courses which are not going to help them in securing a job, the return on investment has to be even greater for other courses to defray the cost of a course which will not be helpful in students securing a job. How quickly students can turn around and secure an opportunity to defray what they spent on their degree is also another aspect of price. Loans, usually, only have a 6 month grace period before payments are required after a student graduates.

Product:


Product is another aspect of academia viewed differently by students and employees. Products with respect to employees are often viewed as tools to improve how they do their job. This can include textbooks, software, hardware, etc. In some cases these may not be the best tools and often require requisition forms to secure. In many cases these products will be secured based on the comfort of the individual using it, as opposed to securing the best possible product for addressing the needs. Some employees will conduct a needs assessment, but this is rare.

Products with respect to students are often viewed as tools to improve their learning and other cognitive skills. Some of these products they may pay for and express displeasure in having to do so such as textbooks and software. Some of these products are free and students love using them. Items such as YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn [free versions] have become go-to resources for students. Students are also more inclined to use free tools like Google Slides to create a group project’s PowerPoint than they are to use MS Office’s PowerPoint software. Due to the price of some aspects discussed above: textbooks, tuition, room and board, etc. students may look to cut corners and only use products they see a direct benefit in using. Students are more likely to try to learn a new product they are not familiar with.

Promotion:


How students and employees in academia promote their place of employment and enrollment greatly differs. Employees have a tendency to focus solely on the positive aspects of their employer. Unfortunately, as a result some potential students become skeptical when they only hear positive things. This has led to the rise of websites like Rate My Professors and other rating type websites where potential students can view what current and former students have to say about an academic setting or an individual employee at this academic setting. This method is often taken due to some HR policies preventing negative commentary, but provides biased and incomplete information. Due to these policies promotion set forth by employees of an academic setting are generally very specific, such as promoting an event, congratulating someone, and largely very thought out in their approach.

Students promote an academic setting in a completely different way. Students focus on a wider range of topics. Students may provide information to friends via word of mouth as to whether or not to attend a university or take a class or pursue a specific minor. Employee promotions tend to focus on “what is happening right now” while student promotions tend to focus on “here is what this place is, as I see it.” Due to this students tend to listen to other students over the information an academic setting promotes. Students often will look up educators on Rate My Professors to determine whose courses to enroll in during future semesters. A negative review means the student is less likely to enroll in a course taught by this instructor. Multiple negative reviews; especially those which suggest the instructor does not know what they are doing, does not know the subject matter, is difficult to get along with, and/or makes a course impossible, tend to complete dissuade students from enrolling in course those instructors teach. Students tend to look at the big picture [a macro sense] while employees focus on the small picture [a micro sense]. Students tend to attend an academic setting due to the more macro information they have available to them; as opposed to what the employees are promoting which focus on very specific things such as a recent publication or conference talk by an employee.

Place:


Place is also very different between employees and students. Place when it comes to certain employees has little importance. For example, if you are trying to become a tenured faculty member you are not going to limit yourself to one specific area, you are going to explore all possibilities. In rare cases individuals may be landlocked due to personal situations. In other areas, such as administrative assistants place may be more important. However, place, in academia ties more to fit than an actual physical location. If a university does not have a specific program where you are seeking to teach out of obviously you are going to look elsewhere. Seeing suspicious things related to an academic setting, such as constantly having openings in one specific field, may also be a red flag and not a good fit for some employees.

Students, on the other hand, view place more for the location along with some aspects. Each semester in Business and Professional Communication I ask students how they ended up at Monmouth University asking them to discuss their background and why they chose attending the university. Every student has expressed the proximity to their home indicating it was far away to where parents would not be constantly stopping by, but close enough to where they could go home if the need arose or the proximity to the beach. A few students here and there will also discuss the credibility of their major program, but the focus is nearly always on the physical location of the campus.

People:


People throughout academia should treat each other with respect and appropriateness. Unfortunately, this does not seem to occur. In academic settings there seems to be a similar tact taken by students and employees, but a different method in resolving the interaction with people. People as a whole tend to avoid others who have wronged us, ridicule us behind our backs, or just outright do not connect with us. In academic settings students seem to be those who present themselves as more mature than employees with respect to people interactions. Students will interact in a cordial manner with other students they are not found of, but they are not going to go out of their way to increase these interactions. Employees tend to be immature and avoid other employees they do not get along with or do not respect. Rather than attempt to be cordial and potentially build a stronger relationship employees in academia tend to build up walls and try to solely interact with those who are their friends. This can lead to contempt within specific departments and frustration over simply being around others.

Overall Takeaway:


What does any of this matter?

The overall takeaway here is the way students are attracted to a university completely differs from how an employee is potentially recruited. Students and employees also act very differently in their respective roles. However, the overarching focus of academia should be on developing cognitive skills and work/life skills students can utilize in the future. Having a disruptive work environment because people cannot get along or utilizing products which do not enhance student learning make it difficult to keep students from coming to a university. Considering the needs of everyone in an organization makes the organization run more effectively; especially if goals are being met to keep things running smoothly.

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