Published on 2012/10/09

From Marketing to Meeting the Expectations of Your Stakeholders

By taking a few simple steps, continuing education units can go beyond simply marketing their products and show how they are meeting the needs of their stakeholders through robust programming.

Continuing education providers are constantly trying to find the best marketing and sales strategies that allow them to reach different customer segments, while simultaneously competing with other providers to attract totally new customers. In the midst of integrating many new marketing channels and media avenues into our arsenal, we should stop and think differently. Instead of finding new marketing or sales tactics to reach the customer, we should think more broadly. The key lies with our various stakeholders, all of whom play an important role in helping us to reach our business or societal goals. How can we meet the expectations of the stakeholders or even exceed them?

My unit is dedicated to serving professionals and organizations who are actively developing their competencies and competitiveness. The training and learning services that we offer combine international networks, our state-of-the-art research, the expertise of faculty and the business experience of industry.

When bridging the gap between academia and working life, Aalto PRO, as any other University CE provider, is in the unique position to be able to see how the scientific interests of universities towards innovation differ from the business interests of companies. We also see the consequences of these differences in recognizing and creating the necessary knowledge and activity areas for university-industry collaboration. We utilize our unique combination of business interests and university research to achieve successful training and learning strategies. Operating in joint university-industry environment needs to take into account the attention of many different stakeholders.

For the university CE provider, stakeholders include (among others): customers, subcontractors, university professors and researchers, media, society and staff. How can we keep them all happy?

We have learned that in order to meet the expectations of your stakeholders, you need to focus on three things that are linked together: earn your stakeholders attention, work and create together, and provide good service quality.

Earn your stakeholders attention

At the core of earning the attention of the stakeholders is trust, transparency, and creating win-win scenarios.

This means that you have to be consistent in your engagement, and really care what your stakeholders are saying—not just pretending that you do. That way, you are trustworthy and transparent. Engagement can be made rewarding to all parties by creating not just a win-win situation, but multiple win-wins. Determining how this can happen depends on the stakeholder. How can you have a win-win engagement? You need to know what makes your stakeholders tick. To find that out, you need to have multiple stakeholder dialogues and actions going on at the same time.

Work and create together

The stakeholders need to be engaged into the process of deciding what you are creating and delivering. Keep them involved in a dialogue with you, dividing the responsibilities for this dialogue within your organization. Use suitable means to interact with them and engage them in appropriate steps of your development and delivery processes.

The role of university continuing education as a leader and innovator in the areas of professional learning and organizational development is strengthened through actively nurturing interaction with its stakeholders. Through interaction comes understanding. This provides insight and foresight on societal, cultural, environmental, economic, and technological development, enabling the courses and training programs offered to reach beyond expectations.

Provide good service quality

What does good service quality have to do with marketing? Plenty. By providing good quality services, you create a positive spiral of word-of-mouth. That is something you cannot buy with money or replace with good marketing or sales tactics. Word-of-mouth needs to be earned and that is why it has such a strong effect in reaching your business of societal goals.

When your service quality is good, you need to make it visible to the stakeholders. That is where the communication, marketing and sales step in. Be proud of what you have achieved and give credit to the stakeholders.

Conclusion

There are plenty of ways to succeed in meeting the expectations of the stakeholders. We do not believe that choosing any one single way can do it. The three areas of focus mentioned above are ways that work for us. The most important thing that we bear in mind is that we can always do better; that is something that makes the journey with our stakeholders fulfilling and rewarding.

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Readers Comments

Marlene Brauer 2012/10/09 at 8:24 am

One very important stakeholder only alluded to here is industry. University-industry collaborations are becoming an increasingly large part of the higher education landscape, especially in light of current funding issues, and specifically in continuing ed, as they are important in accurately representing and gaining insight into the business world and job market that CE works to serve (this is all discussed pretty eloquently and in-depth here: http://www.destinysolutions.com/university-corporate-partnerships-higher-education-2/).

I think this is something that higher ed professionals should be aware of and thinking about as one of their most important stakeholders—financially, and in terms of their insight into program content and delivery.

Greg Allan 2012/10/09 at 3:01 pm

Marlene, I agree that industry is definitely the player to watch right now. However, I think higher education institutions have to be very careful with such partnerships.

Ms. Miettenen talks about engaging stakeholders in “appropriate steps” of development and delivery, and I think this is a very tricky distinction to make: where is industry involvement appropriate, and where does it cross the line? When it comes to course content and focus, when it comes to research, when it comes to industry influence on any part of the process. The integrity of continuing education programs is as important as the industry partnerships they make.

It is a very precarious balancing act, such a relationship, but to be sure, one with potentially big benefits in our current socio-economic climate.

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