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Does Your School Marketing Have Target Arrogance

Posted by Scott Barron on Jan 19, 2015 1:52:46 AM
Scott Barron

Target Failure in CanadaTarget Stores is suffering from what some describe as market arrogance, and is now closing 133 stores in Canada. What can school leaders learn from this business debacle?

I actually enjoy shopping at Target and have found their customer service to be impressive. But the company's expansion into Canada went terribly wrong. Target is a $72 Billion company that lost credibility because of its lack of appreciation for the ecosystem of the community each store served. Almost 18,000 jobs will be lost, and the brand image will suffer negatively in the range of hundreds of million of dollars.

Why was Target was off target?

The leadership didn't listen to the desires of the Canadian consumer who wanted lower prices, better selection, and reliable access to goods. Management overestimated demand from a significantly smaller population than in the U.S., and they underestimated the level of competition from other retail companies who were already established. They also chose poor locations for the extremely rapid opening of their stores instead of using accurate data to anticipate where each market was growing.

How can school board members and administrators learn from Target's failure?

  1. Know Your Market. Listening requires humility, especially to avoid the confirmation bias from which we all suffer. Knowing starts by listening to the families you seek to serve. What do they really need and want? What do/can you offer that is different/better than the other options available?
  2. Improve Faster. School leaders will inevitably have to learn faster and accelerate their improvement plans because of more aggressive competition. Just like in every other industry, educators are learning to innovate more rapidly in order to sustain enrollment and funding. Three to five year strategic plans are only relevant for a portion of your school design--quarterly plans produce faster results, develop a growth mindset, and model entrepreneurial habits for your students.
  3. Plug into the Ecosystem. Learning and adapting today requires a level of resources that exceeds that of most schools and districts. Leverage the power of your ecosystem by truly partnering with other schools, companies, and community organizations to collaborate on services and solutions. You are vastly underutilizing the majority of the businesses on your accounts payable report, using them as vendors rather than innovation parters. They have a wealth of knowledge and other assets that you could convert into a mutual benefit for your faculty and families.

Similar to the Canadians, your families want lower prices, better selection, and more reliable service. Does your school suffer from market arrogance or can you deliver the goods?

Topics: School Design, Marketing

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