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Can You Sell Well

While editing this issue, I was struck by a common theme touched on in two separate columns: “Visionary,” and “IT Support.” Though they refer to it in different ways, both speakers (UC Berkeley’s Jack McCredie, and consultant Mikael Blaisdell, respectively) are talking about the importance of internal marketing. And whether that term makes you cringe, or welcomes you like an old friend, the importance of internal marketing to adequate funding, resource allocation, and general campus community and senior-level support for your initiatives simply can’t be disputed in this day and age.

One reason why internal marketing is so important in higher education is the fact that it’s just so darn hard to quantify return on investment in this realm. In corporate America, it’s no great stretch to equate the bumping-up of resources and tools with a direct increase in sales, and thus, profits. It d'esn’t always take remarkable skill for executives to connect those dots and help a CEO understand that, at least up to a certain threshold, increases in dollars spent may result in even greater increases in products sold.

It is infinitely more difficult, however, to convince higher ed senior management that additional dollars allocated to new technologies, increased staffing, or enhanced IT support, will eventually have a direct impact on enrollment yield, rankings, or other yardsticks of institutional success. In higher education, “soft” benefit is actually “hard” benefit (Are we serving our students, research, the community, man- kind?). And yet, when money is tight, it’s often hard to make convincing arguments for lofty institutional goals. How many of us have, in recent years, seen dollars directed toward more technology “stuff” that competing institutions have deployed, while funding for manpower to maintain and support what was already on site was cut?

Yet, who should be making the arguments for the most urgent needs, outlining (or marketing) the successes, and defining the true ROI to the institution? It is incumbent upon those closest to the need for new technology, additional resources, and increased support to make the arguments (or market internally) for them, says McCredie, and often that means campus personnel other than IT people.

“When faculty members see that IT is providing a better quality education or reducing costs, they need to present those arguments,” he insists.

But the arguments, adds Blaisdell in his column on IT Support, must be presented in a language that is understood by senior management (controlling the dollars), who may not speak the language of your area or technology.

“Presidents and CFOs don’t care about Erlang tables,” he cautions. “They speak in strategic terms, and you’ll have to match your language to theirs, if you want to build resources....”

In other words, if you want to advance your area’s ability to support the goals of the institution, learn to market internally. Then, after you’ve got the message down pat, just make sure you pick the right messenger and the right dialect.

Katherine Grayson, Editor-In-Chief
What have you seen and heard? Send to: [email protected].

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