It All Starts with Marketing and Sales

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It All Starts with Marketing and Sales

Sitting in a coffee shop today in a college bookstore, I realized once again, as I eavesdropped on a couple of conversations, how life is marketing and sales. Marketing in how things are positioned. Sales in making the presentation and reaching an agreement to move forward with a business proposition.

Two doctoral students were discussing papers they were writing for some kind of study proposals. The student’s task is to detail how her education is going to serve humanity. Her overall topic is evil.

“How am I going to spin this so they’ll like it?” A marketing problem.

A woman who works on curriculum for the university comes in for a meeting with a man who has taught university courses. It’s a sales call for him, and she clearly wants to work with him while making sure it’s a course students will want to pay for, especially because it would be a noncredit class, meaning primarily adult education.

The guy wants to teach a philosophy class. I’ll keep the specifics out of it—I was, after all, eavesdropping on someone’s idea presentation—but part of the course sounded complicated and technical, as philosophy can, while another part sounded like something I’d want to know about.

The woman gently tried to steer him in a more salable direction, and he went back to a more intellectual presentation. Then she spelled out the marketing position.

“We advertise to a very general audience,” she said. Whether she said it directly or not, she was saying that a philosophy class in a specialized area would not have strong enough interest for a general audience to get people to open their wallets.

“How does it appeal to a broad audience? You have to think about that kind of audience when you are thinking about what you want to teach.”

She listed the demographics of the typical noncredit student—and she knew her marketing. “A class like this may appeal more to seniors wanting to keep their minds active.”

He made enough of a sale to get to the proposal stage of writing short and long course descriptions. As I listened, I spent time on my own marketing work of sending emails on our network contact program. I decided the best way to spend the afternoon was following them up with phone calls, the first part of our sales process.