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Decision Making in the Board Room: The Data Connection. Donna Orem, Agenda. Part I: The Value of Market Research Part II: Gathering Trend and Consumer Research to Drive Marketing and Strategic Planning Part III: Conducting your Own Research

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Presentation Transcript
  • Part I: The Value of Market Research
  • Part II: Gathering Trend and Consumer Research to Drive Marketing and Strategic Planning
  • Part III: Conducting your Own Research
  • Part IV: Case Study—Using Research to Assess Market Potential
part i

Part I

The Value of Market Research

why conduct market research
Why Conduct Market Research?
  • Market research:
    • Provides a systematic and objective method for collecting, analyzing, and using information for strategic planning and marketing
    • Enables you to know your constituents (parents, students, alumni)
    • Ensures that you are data-driven rather than anecdote-driven
market research keeps a school strategically focused
Market Research Keeps a School Strategically Focused
  • What are our priorities?
  • How well are we doing?
  • What global, national, and local trends do we need to be aware of that might affect our school?
  • Will local demographics sustain our school in the next 5-10 years?
  • How do our constituents and the general marketplace view us?
  • Where should we apply our financial resources?
market research informs
Market Research Informs
  • Parent Surveys help to clarify:
    • Why families choose a school
    • How to best market a school to prospective families
    • Where a school is succeeding and where it needs to improve from the parent perspective
    • What differentiates parents’ views of a school
    • How families experience a school’s culture
    • What is the profile of your typical family
    • How price sensitive are your families
market research tells a story
Market Research Tells a Story
  • Alumni Surveys aid in understanding:
    • The long-term benefits students gain from attending a school
    • Potential for alumni fund raising
    • How to best serve alumni today
    • How to connect with alums from different generations
market research provides data to make informed decisions
Market Research Provides Data to make Informed Decisions
  • Demographic Research provides hard data on
    • The numbers of school-age children in the area from which you recruit and their family’s income, race, and ethnicity
    • Other useful data such as trends in housing prices, consumer spending, etc
sample market research agenda
Sample Market Research Agenda
  • Environmental Scanning (global, national, and local trends): Annually
  • Parent Research (satisfaction, why students enroll, priorities): Annually
  • Admissions Research (students who enroll and who do not enroll, attrition studies): Annually
  • Demographic Research (school-age population, family incomes): Annually
  • Alumni Research (alumni planning and fund raising, alumni stats for marketing): Every few years
  • Image Assessment (community, current and prospective families, colleges): Every few years
    • (From “The Value of Market Research” by Kathleen Hanson, Marketing Independent Schools in the 21st Century, NAIS, 2001.
part ii

Part II

Gathering Trend and Consumer Research to Drive Marketing and Strategic Planning

what we see from trend research
What We See from Trend Research
  • Current families are looking for specific data on value-added of independent education
  • More choice in educational environment: public, charter, parochial, magnet, home-schooling
  • Tuition is rising more quickly than disposable income in some parts of the country
  • Generational differences are driving different choices in education
nais economy research 2009
NAIS Economy Research 2009
  • The goal of this research is to try to understand how the economy might impact enrollment and giving to independent schools. The research encompasses four studies:
    • Education consultant survey
    • Prospective family survey
    • Current family survey
    • School pulse surveys
who are your families
Who are Your Families?
  • Slam on the Brakes—Vulnerable and hardest hit financially
  • Pained-but Patient—Resilient and optimistic about the long-term, but less confident about recovery in the near term
  • Comfortably Well off—Feel secure about their ability to ride out current and future bumps (mostly top 5% income bracket)
  • Live for Today—Carries on as usual (typically urban and younger)
    • Excerpted from How to Market in a Downturn, Harvard Business Review

Why Prospective Families Are NOT Considering IS?

  • Past experience with private schools BAD
  • I do not like the elitist perspective with which children are imbued in private schools
  • They went to private from K-8th, time for the real world
  • Need for ethnic diversity in their environment
  • Believe in a public school education
  • FISD public schools are the best in the country
  • No private schools within our area
  • Services required not offered by independent schools
  • Saving money for college versus private school education
  • Haven't found a school to suit our daughter's special needs
  • Not desired

Current Family Enrollment Plans

Parents’ Enrollment Plans

  • 80% plan to continue sending their children to the same independent school next year. (with conditions)
  • 4% will switch to another private school
  • 3% will move out of private independent schools
  • 6% are unsure

Drivers for leaving: Cost, competitive cheaper private schools or free public schools, diversity, desire for “real-world” experiences


“We will hold on for as long as we can…”

  • For many families, continued enrollment over the long-term is conditional and somewhat uncertain due to economic factors…
    • Overall loss of wealth/savings
    • Rising cost of tuition greatly outpaces yearly salary increases
    • Job loss and/or new job at a much lower income
    • Retired or near retirement
    • Business owner and business is very slow
    • College costs are a major concern—especially for families with more than one child
    • Total tuition costs if more than one child in independent school

Current Parents on Financial Aid

  • 22% of respondents currently receive financial aid
  • 11% who do not currently receive financial aid plan to apply for financial aid during the current or next school year
  • Some who need aid will not apply

“We will do anything…”

  • Parents are considering deferring or sacrificing elements of their lifestyle to keep their children in independent schools
    • Vacations (73%)
    • Eating out (59%)
    • Buying new clothes or personal items (54%)
    • Putting money into savings/retirement plans (50%)
    • Home renovations (49%)
    • Purchasing an automobile (41%)

Giving Plans

  • More than 80% of parents made a charitable contribution to their children’s school in the past and plan on making contributions to these schools in the future
    • 49% will give at the same level as before
    • 7% will give at a higher level than before
    • 18% will give at a lower level than before
  • 50% gave under $1,000; 21% gave between $1,000 and $2,499
  • 24% of parents reporting incomes greater than $300,000 plan to give at a lower level
from the center on philanthropy
From the Center on Philanthropy
  • Most households continue giving even through lean times, although some do so at decreased amounts
  • Donors earning under $50,000 are more likely to become non-donors than are those earning more than $50,000
  • The number of contributions of $1 million or more made by individuals — which, during the first half of 2008, had been on track to exceed the tally for 2007 — fell sharply in the second half of 2008, down 33 percent versus the same period for 2007. This constituted the largest drop since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The Effects of the Economic Downturn on the District of Columbia Metropolitan Area

  • The DC metro area has seen a steady decline in employment numbers, from +1.01% in April 2008 to -3% in April 2009
  • A considerable decline in investment and new housing starts, down 50.42% in April 2009
  • A sustained decline in industrial production, down from +2.49% in April 2008 to -12.38% in April 2009

Retrieved from Moody’s and’s Adversity Index,


District of Columbia Economic Outlook:Strengths

Highly educated workforce

High per capita income

Status as the nation’s capitol stabilizes economy and ensures tourism

Strong growth in suburbs maintains demand for DC workers

From Moody’s State Précis District of Columbia Economic Outlook,


District of Columbia Economic Outlook:Weaknesses

High business costs

Weak population growth

Security and crime risks

Weak school system

From Moody’s State Précis District of Columbia Economic Outlook,


How does Moody’s rank the District of Columbia?

“Employment Growth Rank for 2008-2010 (1=best, 54=worst):

  • 2 (1st quintile)

Cost of Doing Business (composed of labor costs, tax burdens, energy costs, and office costs):

  • 115% (15% above national average)

Per Capita Income:

  • 163% (63% above national average)”
  • From Moody’s State Précis District of Columbia Economic Outlook,
part iii

Part III

Conducting your Own Research

options for conducting your own research
Options for Conducting Your Own Research
  • In-house research expertise
  • Market research expert: local or national
  • NAIS SurveyBuilder
  • NAIS Demographic Center
nais surveybuilder
NAIS SurveyBuilder
  • Standard Surveys w/customizable questions
    • Parent Satisfaction
    • Young Alumni Outcomes
    • Board Assessment
    • Head Evaluation
conduct demographic research
Conduct Demographic Research
  • NAIS Demographic Center
    • Run reports on demographic changes by zip code/census track/block group
    • Study Metropolitan Area Reports for a summary of overall changes
    • Use Profile Analysis tool to pinpoint target recruitment areas

The NAIS Demographic Center

In November 2006, NAIS partnered with Easy Analytic Software, Inc. (EASI) to create the NAIS Demographic Center



  • They include variables such as school population, families with children by income, race/ethnicity, and educational attainment
  • Types of reports:
    • Summary Reports
    • Detailed Reports
    • Multiple Area Reports

DEMOGRAPHIC CENTERAdditional Reports for Advanced Use

  • They include variables such as population, households, families, housing, income, employment, education, sales, cost of living, and/or consumer expenditures.
  • Five types of reports:
    • Quick Reports
    • Ring Studies
    • Quick Maps
    • Rank Analysis
    • Profile Analysis

Changes in the District of Columbia

School-age Population

The District of Columbia recorded 3.04% decline between 2000-2009 and is forecasted to record 3.58% decline between 2009-2014.


Growth in School-age Families w/ Income

Of $350K+ in the District of Columbia


Growth in Hispanic and Asian

Populations in the District of Columbia

part iv

Part IV

Case Study: Using Research to Assess Market Potential

what the school sought current position in marketplace
What the School Sought: Current Position in Marketplace
  • What are the school’s five- and ten-year admission trends? Yield trends?
  • How do they compare with independent schools in the area?
  • What is the image of the school among the region’s families? How could that be improved?
  • Given the educational needs of Gen X families, what are the school’s competitive strengths and weaknesses?
  • Who are the school’s parents today (e.g., by income range, race/ethnicity, public/private school orientation, financial aid history)?
  • How price-sensitive are parents today?
  • Does the school have waiting lists today? If so, where?
what the school sought affordability
What the School Sought: Affordability
  • How are income demographics changing in the region?
  • What is the elasticity of the school’s tuition in the current market—at what price will the school begin to lose families? At what price will the school become unaffordable in the market?
  • How does increasing tuition at the current rate affect the school’s mission (i.e., how important is “affordability”)?
  • Is the current financial aid model the correct one or should it look more like the college model in which most tuition is discounted?
the research agenda
The Research Agenda
  • Study the admissions funnel (inquiries, applications, acceptances, enrollment) for this school and similar schools in the marketplace to understand five- and ten-year trends for demand and yield.
  • Conduct a parent satisfaction survey and review past parent satisfaction studies to assess satisfaction levels and to determine a profile of the school’s families.
  • Collect and analyze demographic data on growth of school-age children by zip code (those zips from which the school currently draws students as well as those zips where there is the greatest growth in numbers).
  • Collect and analyze demographic data on income growth for families with school-age children by zip code (those zips from which the school currently draws students as well as those zips where there is the greatest growth in higher income families).
  • Conduct a survey with area education consultants to identify changing trends overall and trends specific to the school.

Parent Satisfaction Study

  • Key Areas of Inquiry
    • What is most important to parents and how satisfied are they with how the school delivers?
    • What attracted them to the school?
    • To what other schools did they apply?
    • What is the profile of the school’s families?
    • What is the elasticity of the school’s tuition?

The Power of Filtering Data

  • Understand the nuances of the market by filtering data by:
    • Age
    • Income
    • Gender
    • Satisfaction w/school
    • Grade of entry

The Demographic Trends

  • Although the school-age population in the zip codes from which the school attracts students is declining, the number of children from high income families is increasing.
  • There is great potential in adjacent zip codes; that is, zips from which the school currently gets few students, but are adjacent to zips from which the school gets many.
  • There is great potential in farther out zip codes if the school could find a means to attract those students.

Survey of Area Education Consultants

  • What the School Sought
    • Are consultants aware of the school?
    • How would they describe it? To what kinds of students would they suggest the school?
    • Are families aware of the school?
    • How do they view the school, its strengths and weaknesses?
    • What trends are they seeing?
    • What suggestions do they have for the school?

Survey of Education Consultants

  • What the school found
    • School is well known in surrounding area, but not at distances past 3-5 miles
    • Consultants are confused about the school’s stance on students with learning differences
    • Consultants are seeing different entry patterns for schools in the region


  • The results of this study enabled the school to:
    • Pinpoint where to target marketing
    • Understand what resources are needed to effectively market the school in this economy
    • Be clear about tuition elasticity at the school—i.e., which families is the school likely to lose at what increase levels
    • Gain a fairly clear picture on how the school is perceived in the marketplace
    • Get a sense of changing trends and what the school needs to do to accommodate those

Conclusions (cont.)

  • Understand parents’ satisfaction level overall and target those areas in need of improvement
  • Gain a clear picture of how likely current parents are to recommend the schools to others
  • Gather ideas for non-tuition revenue streams
so what does this all mean for a trustee
So…What does this All Mean for a Trustee
  • Comprehensive market research can help you to:
    • Forecast tuition revenues
    • Forecast financial aid need
    • Forecast giving
    • Budget dollars for those programs that attract and retain students
    • Identify non-tuition revenue opportunities
    • Plan for future school development
some closing thoughts about the economy steps for boards to take
Some Closing Thoughts about The Economy: Steps for Boards to Take
  • Identify the key metrics that really reveal how you are performing in key areas.
  • Reprioritize initiatives. Focus on those initiatives that will have the most immediate impact on recruiting and fundraising.
  • Budget for a smaller class. It is much better to budget for a smaller class now than to cut budgets later.
  • If you need to cut or trim a budget, don’t be fair—be strategic. Use the recouped dollars to invest in other programs with greater market interest.
  • Work hard to address families’ concerns and issues. Position yourself as a resource and a partner.
    • Excerpted from Wise Moves in Tough Times, Dr. Robert Sevier, Stamats
some closing thoughts cont
Some Closing Thoughts (cont.)
  • Conduct a tuition pricing elasticity study. These studies can pinpoint how planned increases in tuition will impact market share.
  • Focus on recruiting and marketing activities that you know work. Do not invest in new initiatives that will drag resources away from proven strategies.
  • Hire and deeply train the best recruiting, marketing, and fundraising staff you can. There is nothing more helpful than talent.
  • Identify your top four or five competitors and gather competitive intelligence.
    • Excerpted from Wise Moves in Tough Times, Dr. Robert Sevier, Stamats
and some final thoughts on the value of acquiring new information
And some final thoughts on the value of acquiring new information…
  • Every creative act involves

a new innocence of perception

liberated from the cataract

of accepted belief.

-Arthur Koestler

thank you
Thank You!
  • Donna Orem
    • Chief Operating Officer
    • NAIS