The Growth Mindset of the School Entrepreneur
We are getting pushback from a client school on our R&D ads.
The head of school is concerned about doing any testing at all.
She is reluctant to send out variations of ads that might not be 110% aligned with their mission statement.
Contrary to popular belief, marketing is less about communication and more about experimentation.
Above all else, we first have to figure out what resonates with each school's parent audience.
So we create dozens of ad variations to measure which image, copy, and call-to-action resonate most.
As David Ogilvy once wrote:
"The most important word in the vocabulary of advertising is TEST.
Test your promise. Test your media.
Test your headlines and your illustrations.
Test the size of your advertisements.
Test your frequency.
Test your level of expenditure.
Test your commercials.
Never stop testing, and your advertising
will never stop improving."
Certainly, one or two clicks don't mean anything, but when you start getting hundreds of clicks, patterns emerge.
If you do your testing right, you get statistically significant results.
This way, parents "vote" for what they prefer, instead of us deciding beforehand.
Similarly, don't parents trust you to teach their kids through trial and error...?
When you talk about small classes and individualized attention, are you not affirming the need to treat each student differently?
Are you not endorsing the need to try out different ways to communicate to your students according to their unique needs, strengths, and weaknesses?
In this light, isn't it wise to give your teachers enough space to try out different instructional approaches?
In school marketing, just like in teaching, we don't have years to discover what works. There is so much complexity in the world that a top-down approach to parent engagement is ineffective most of the time.
It is presumptuous to start off with the belief that you already know what resonates most with your parent audience.
So we must speed up our learning through high-velocity experimentation.
In fact, today, we decided to pause our relationship and refund the school in question.
Some closing thoughts...
The startup mantra in its simplest form is this: "try stuff out and see what works..."
This leads to many failed experiments and a few with exponential gains that overcompensate the lost time and effort.
Don't jump into digital advertising if you are not ready to take some risks.
Just like everything in our world ... to be a good CEO for your school, and to be liked in the long run, you must take risks that may upset some people in the short run.
If you make decisions that everybody likes all the time, then those are the decisions they would have made without you. You're not actually adding any value.