When looking at the stakeholders in a school, many are involved in its marketing. One can easily name a school's principal, teachers, students as key individuals who are involved in the marketing of a school, but one team is just as important, and has an impact on everyone involved: the business office.
The power of business officers
It should be noted that when it comes to schools, nothing can appear dryer than taking care of money, but business managers, in-house financial staff, and even the school's CFO hold a distinct role in the school's function, and ultimately how the school looks to prospective parents. Business officers influence strategy, and they have strengths which are in line with what marketing needs: institutional and environmental financial research, a financial understanding regarding affordability, a unique view on school tuition along with longitudinal trends on enrollment, and providing the quantitative information for marketing efforts.
Institutional and Financial Research: Is your school competitively priced? Tuition is often the key to most decisions when it comes to parents. They may love your school, adore that it is a perfect for for their child, they may even share personal stories with you about how it was like when they were students there, but if they can't afford the tuition, then all of this is moot. Business officers have a direct say where tuition goes, because they will have an eye on their parent's (and prospective parent's) geographical location. This is important because the consumer price index (CPI) can help guide tuition decisions. For example, if the cost of rent has gone up in a neighborhood, then teachers are going to be looking for a salary hike which matches the CPI rise, a hike in tuition may compensate for this, but too much of a hike could affect the ability of prospective parents to afford your school. Business Officers know this information, and they help keep a certain equilibrium when looking at finances.
Affordability: Business Officers also have a keen eye on financial aid. Affordability is key for most parents, and many, if not all parents will rely on some sort of financial aid in order to be able to afford tuition for their child or children. Using outside systems like FACTS and other eligibility-determining tools, they are able to not only help parents gain access to an education for their children, but they also act as a key face of the school for parents.
Longitudinal Trends: The Business officer will have a unique and needed view on the tuition trends of the school. Has the tuition been rising? Have fees affected student retention? Has the extra financial aid helped bring in more students? All of these longitudinal questions directly affect the school's marketing.
Quantitative data for marketing efforts: Whether looking at family income trends, geographic location of prospective parents, or number of children in a family, data will help drive marketing efforts. The better the quality of the data, and the more recent, the better the marketing team will be able to craft their message, and hone in on the proper market segment. It is the Business Office which provides this information, since they are the ones who gather it, process it, and make preliminary decisions with it.
Members of the Community
What is sold to most prospective parents of students is a community above anything else, a community of learning and growth in a safe environment. The gatekeeper, and most important member for parents, the business officer is an integral member of the community in any school setting. Their interests are the same as that of parents, and that of teachers: the successful growth and development of students. Many stand on committees, volunteer with students, and even advise students directly. They cultivate an intimate relationship with the community they are a part of, and help it thrive.
Business officers, such as managers, accountants, school CFOs, and data processors are an integral part of the school's community and definition. They comprise more than the mere "bean-counters". They are the back end, the "behind the scenes" team which pushed the school community forward, rather than "pulling" it. We neglect them, and their influence on school marketing, to our detriment, and the detriment of the organization as a whole.
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