Jun 1, 2023

Why Knowing and Understanding Your Core Business is Everything

Marketing is not cleverly devising ways to dispose of what you have created. No, it is the art of creating true value in the minds of your customers.
— Phil Kotler

Your core business is the heart and soul of how an organization promotes itself. It is how your customers define value. And, it is often so forgotten by educational institutions that somehow seem to think their mission, vision or educational philosophy are their core business.

The famous marketing guru, Phil Kotler, once defined marketing as the “art of creating true value” in the minds of the customer. Kotler understood that why customers choose a product may have little to do with why the organization exists or how the product was made. No, they chose it because it met some sort of functional or emotional need they perceived and, as a result, created true value for them.

We may think that Starbucks is in the coffee business. I would argue that they are in the “building of community” business. That is their core business. They place a coffee house on every neighborhood corner that is designed to connect with its surroundings. They just use coffee as a lubricant to bring people together.

We may think that FedEx is in the package delivery business. I would argue that they are in the “predictability” business. Their most recent tagline — “The World on Time”— tells us as much. They focus on logistics as the “how” to achieving their core business of predictability, where their customers define value.

In all of the years that I have been doing this work, I have never heard a family or a student tell me that they chose a school or college due to mission or educational philosophy or faculty pedigree. Educational institutions often fool themselves to believe that customers define value in the ways that the institution prioritizes work or strategy. They don’t. Full stop. While it would be nice to think that all prospective students and families pay deep attention to the faculty that they hire or the educational philosophy that they hold dear, they are looking for value in the form of functional or emotional benefits. It is not that mission or educational philosophy are unimportant but they may not define value in the minds of the customer.

And, if you want to know how your customers define value it is pretty easy to find out.

Just ask them.

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