Books that matter: Sam Waterson on ‘The Five Most Important Questions…’

The latest installment in our books that matter series of guest posts is from Sam Waterson (@slwaterson), executive vice president for RHB.

The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask Your Organization

Review by Sam Waterson

The_Five_Most_Important_Questions-744583If you’re visiting this blog, you’re aware of the state of higher education in the United States. You understand the crossroads that the industry faces and can easily re-trace the steps that brought it there. But despite these challenges, you value the transformative nature of higher education in creating a more informed public and better citizenry. And you’ll do whatever it takes to protect it, solve its challenges and help it flourish.

In the quest to market higher education, there is one volume that every marketer must read: The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask Your Organization (FMIQ), written by one of the most trusted marketing sages, Peter Drucker.

FMIQ is a guide for the self-study of non-profit organizations. Why self-study? Drucker writes, “The self-assessment tool forces an organization to focus on its mission.” In a higher education landscape wrought with mission adultery, this volume is not only practical and insightful, but also necessary.

FMIQ presents timeless strategy that is as relevant today as it was when it was published. This doesn’t mean that non-profit marketing is without innovation, but rather that Drucker presents the fundamentals that need to be understood before we start building our new “app.” Or making it “sticky.” Or “disrupting” something.

Those fundamentals are examined in the following questions:

What is our mission? “A mission can not be impersonal; it has to have deep meaning–something you know is right.”

Who is our customer? “Who must be satisfied for the organization to achieve results?”

What does the customer value? “What do customers value? What satisfies their needs, wants, and aspirations is so complicated that it only can be answered by customers themselves.”

What are our results? “Results…are always measured outside the organization in the changed lives and conditions…”

What is our plan? “To further the mission, there must be action today and specific aims for tomorrow.”

I bring these questions to bear in every client engagement. The questions enable us to see past the symptoms (falling enrollments, student/donor attrition, reduced gifts) to accurately diagnose what is almost always the foundational problem that the institution faces. While many marketers are tempted to address missional challenges of their higher education clients by repackaging an institution’s offerings, they run the risk of ultimately—and unknowingly—helping those institutions abandon their missions. And when that happens, scores of young minds remain unchanged, their potentials unmet.

If you can help a client articulate a compelling answer to every one of Drucker’s questions, it will make your job easier and your client’s institution stronger.

FMIQ is the volume that higher ed marketers should begin with.

Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

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