May 6, 2024

Silver Bullet #1: Marketing Will Save Us!

Overheard at a board meeting:

“We need to market better.  If all of the full pay families in our market knew how great our school or college really is, we would have full enrollment and even waitlists!”

Wow.  If I had a dime, as they say.  Every good independent school or college is always seeking the silver bullet.  And, in this case, it is marketing.  They assume that — if they can just get their messaging, identity and communications right — it will naturally add up to full enrollment and healthy fiscal operations.  From our lived experience?  Bad assumption.  It doesn’t work that way.

This is perhaps the most common silver bullet in our industry:  great marketing will save the school.  As a result, these schools place undue pressure on their advancement and strategic enrollment management people to find “more full pay families”, building aggressive marketing campaigns to sustain their operations. Heck, there are even professional development seminars aimed at finding more full pay families.  That, alone, should tell you that the problem is not message but price to market fit.

Private schools and colleges will go — and have historically gone — to distant lengths to use operational solutions to fix systemic problems. Rather than looking closely at market to product fit, they seek for a simple silver bullet to solve their enrollment and financial challenges.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Marketing plays an important role in enabling and communicating an excellent identity and value proposition.  We support and help schools and colleges do just that.  But, better promotions and messaging will not overcome a poor product-market fit.

Next week?  Silver bullet #2.  Any idea what it is?


  1. Laura Nicholson on May 7, 2024 at 1:32 am

    My HOS and I were having this exact conversation today. We will stay tuned for #2!

    • Ian Symmonds on May 7, 2024 at 2:44 pm

      So true, Laura! There will be four or five parts to this series, I think some will bring a chuckle. 🙂 Hope you are well.

  2. Lee on May 14, 2024 at 12:27 am

    As always, love your content! Most hilarious the perplexed looks you get from school leaders when you even utter the words “product market fit”. Hilarious…then depressing.

    • Ian Symmonds on May 14, 2024 at 12:09 pm

      So true. We have a long way to go in our industry.

  3. Manon Johnson on June 18, 2024 at 3:59 pm

    I like the cliffhanger… can’t wait for more!

    • Ian Symmonds on June 18, 2024 at 4:39 pm

      Thanks Manon. More insights to come… Stay tuned for #2!

Leave a Comment