June 2006 Vol. 11 Issue 2
Marketing your programs involves offering ‘test drives’

As a Purdue Extension educator, it’s possible that, at some point, you’ve said, “My programs and information are great, but it’s hard to get people to see the true value of them.”

For the sake of illustration, let’s think of one of your programs as a car on an auto dealer’s lot. The goal, obviously, is to get that customer to make the purchase. But, before that can happen, the individual must be persuaded to take it for a drive — to give the car an opportunity to show what it is capable of doing. The customer will either become more interested — discovering features that meet more personal needs — or the customer will hand the keys back to the dealer and ask to see the next model.

People face the same types of decisions about “test driving” Purdue Extension.

Our marketing goals have focused on branding the name, “Purdue Extension” in the minds of Hoosiers across the state. You’ve heard us say time and again, “When you’re talking to your audiences, be sure to use to ‘Purdue Extension’ as if it’s one word.” The intention is to get you recognized and positioned in the county as a single entity with a lot to offer.

The process that guides your audience through the several complex decisions in their test-drive of Purdue Extension depends on the three C’s of marketing. The three C’s are not meant to tell you how to get the job done. Instead, they’re intended to get you thinking about specific marketing practices when considering your overall marketing plan.

The three C’s of marketing are:

Company direction

Is the Purdue Extension brand a known commodity in your county? If so, how do the people know you and how would they describe you? Purdue Extension provides quality, research-based information and educational resources that enable people to improve the quality of their lives, businesses, and communities.

In short, Purdue Extension improves lives through education. The fact that you understand the needs of your community and address those needs personally and locally is an added value to your county.

Think about your written Impact statements. What do you do with them each year? From a company direction standpoint, they offer excellent marketing material for your intended audiences: Purdue Extension’s direct impact on their very own community can be the most influential marketing of all.

Customer value perceptions

Everyone has an opinion.

It doesn't matter how objective or unbiased a product or resource is, every individual tends to lean toward a more positive or more negative attitude. When a customer participates in a Purdue Extension learning opportunity, is that person blown away by the professionalism, the personalized service, and the quality of the product?

Individuals who choose to attend a seminar or short course expect to learn something they can apply. When marketing Purdue Extension, it is just as important to build and maintain those high expectations, as it is to describe your program’s benefits.

Think about the test-drive example again. The feeling one gets about buying a new car affects a person’s decision more than the benefits of the car itself. Think of any current automobile ad. Those ads are not necessarily about the car being sold as much as they are about an idea and an expectation. Think about the Volkswagen ads: “V-dub in da house… Yah!” That ad sells a mindset, an idea of fun, not necessarily a car.

Competitive opportunity

Every day is littered with opportunities to buy thousands of products, and form opinions about hundreds of services. What is it about Purdue Extension in your county that clearly makes it a step above the rest?

Of all the C’s, this could be the most challenging, because among all the options available to your potential customers, you’ve got to find ways that get you noticed and that will motivate individuals to choose you now and in the future (as well as spread the word to others about the great experience they had with Purdue Extension).

If you want your audience to choose your Purdue Extension program from the lot, you’ve got to determine what features are unique and most appealing to the intended audience.

Future On Target articles (and marketing training from AgComm) will help you find ways to discover Purdue Extension’s competitive opportunities, describe our company directions, and create high customer perceptions of Purdue Extension.

Abigail Borron, aborron@purdue.edu

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