How to Market Career Development Programs and Services
Book review by Meghan McQuellon
How to Market Career Development Programs and Services, by Carol A. Edds. Broken Arrow, OK: National Career Development Association, 45 pages.
Carol Edds's monograph, How to Market Career Development Programs and Services, is a reference for career development professionals seeking a basic understanding of the marketing process. Edds explains the importance of marketing programs and services in all fields and delineates her three keys of effective marketing: distributing the message in a cost effective manner to the right people at the right time. When a marketer falls short on any of these elements, the entire process can fail.
Many career development professionals mistakenly believe that the quality of the programming they offer is all the promotion needed to attract an audience. Generally that is not the case. Marketers must be proactive in convincing target groups that a certain product or service is relevant and necessary to their goals. Edds believes that effective marketing can be based on a five-step circular model that encompasses the marketing process from beginning to end. This process includes market research (knowing your audience and their needs), program design (selecting the right format and structure for the program/service), marketing strategy, promotional activities, and customer service and feedback. She describes each process in detail and includes a sample marketing plan for readers to reference in designing their own plan.
Edds then focuses on creating promotions and the specific, time-tested principles that govern all marketing activities. These include meeting the needs of your customer, finding your niche, promoting the benefits of your product or service, using promotional writing, being flexible, and keeping promotional and marketing items simple. Edds underscores the importance of utilizing photos, testimonials, and bullet points as key elements of promotional items. This is especially true for programs that are marketed to college students and younger audiences. These elements can help the audience connect with an organization and specifically describe why the product or service is so important to each individual in that target market.
The monograph addresses marketing on a budget in chapter four, where Edds provides several tips for career development professionals who promote programming with limited resources, especially relevant in these tough economic times. Chapter five explores the benefits and limitations of Web marketing, including the use of Web sites, e-mail, podcasts, and Webinars, and a checklist that defines appropriate promotional applications for each. Several appendices round out her work. These consist of diagrams, examples, and templates that can be used by career development professionals to design a basic, comprehensive marketing plan for their organization or independent business.
Edds gives a succinct overview of the marketing process that is, for the most part, complete and applicable to many disciplines. Discussion of key marketing concepts is generally thorough, and various diagrams are especially helpful in providing clarity to a marketing novice. While somewhat correct in her observation that much of the marketing process is pure common sense, it must also be considered that elements, concepts, and activities associated with quality marketing are often common sense in hindsight only. A marketing plan may sound simple and commonsensical when read in its entirety at completion, but the ideas behind the plan may originate during several weeks of research, preparation, and brainstorming sessions.
A concept that Edds briefly touches on is consistency. Consistency in marketing an organization is a foundational principle around which a marketing plan should be built, and this deserves more than a one-sentence mention when explaining core marketing concepts to career development professionals. In light of the recent push to integrate all aspects of an organization's marketing mix, it is imperative that marketers place a heavy emphasis on message consistency. Message consistency includes regular use of a logo and slogan or tagline as well as similar design of print, electronic, and other marketing materials to help create a strong identity.
Another element, one that is inextricably linked with Edds' three keys of effective marketing, is that of using the correct medium to reach the target audience. This concept has grown in importance with the rise of technology, and nowhere is this more visible than on college campuses. Edds does provide a chart in her chapter on electronic marketing that lists e-marketing vehicles and appropriate uses of each, but she makes no mention of the importance of utilizing suitable media to disseminate messages. For instance, using social networking sites to promote an event to a group of senior citizens is not the most effective method of promotion. Senior citizens as a group spend much less time on the Internet than the general population, and when online are unlikely to peruse sites targeted to students and young professionals.
Finally, Edds could have covered some of the ideas and tips in the monograph more thoroughly. As many career development professionals work on college campuses with student populations, more discussion of electronic marketing, specifically social networking sites (i.e. Facebook) as promotional vehicles, is necessary. Web sites are now vital to an organization's livelihood, especially to those that serve younger populations. Creating and maintaining a Web site should be mentioned as a marketing necessity. In addition, Edds mentions designing promotional materials in-house as a way to cut costs, but refers only to "a number of design programs" that can be used to create promotional items. Those unfamiliar with graphic design may need a specific list of appropriate programs in to get started.
While lacking discussion of some important concepts, Edds monograph offers a concise summary of general marketing strategies. The included marketing plan template and customer profile sheet are especially vital in the development of a marketing plan. The monograph provides a good introduction to the marketing process, including the necessary tools to assist a beginner in creating and implementing a basic plan to promote and publicize an organization.
Meghan McQuellon joined the Florida State University Career Center in February 2008 as the publications and promotions coordinator after obtaining a master's degree from FSU in Integrated Marketing Communication and a Bachelor of Arts in Advertising and Psychology from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She is primarily responsible for writing and designing marketing materials for CareerCenter initiatives and services. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.