Sales. Marketing. Branding. Social Media Presence. Analytics. SEO. ROI.
Just a few short years ago, terms like these were absent from board room discussions in the Jewish community, let alone among practitioners in the realm of Jewish education.
As the world has gotten more sophisticated, nonprofits in general and Jewish organizations specifically, had to respond. Those that deeply understand how social media and marketing influence their constituencies are better positioned to deal with the ebb and flow resulting from this change.
The ‘prosumer’ mentality, just a short time ago labeled selfish and self-centered, has permeated our culture and affects all sorts of decisions. People make choices on multiple factors, but the one that organizational leaders didn’t anticipate was when Jewish involvement became an optional expense.
Paying for Jewish education experiences is not any different for most people than deciding to pay for any other service (pun intended). This makes Jewish education providers work just a bit harder to provide relevant content in formats and venues that people want.
But as long as people base their judgment on the economics of choice, many will jettison long-term goals in favor of the immediate. So, “free” became the new standard as part of the value proposition.
Free trips. Free membership. Free pre-school.
“Free” is a great short-term sales pitch, but tends to devalue what you’re trying to ultimately sell.
Seth Godin, a well-known marketing guru, makes this point:
“If you are selling tomorrow, be very careful not to pitch people who are only interested in buying things that are about today.”
Mostly, Jewish education is not about now. Character development, Jewish identity-building, leadership training, and critical thinking…are all about how it will impact you later.
Not only are we trying to sell tomorrow, we’ve increased the challenge by selling intangibles. Things you can’t brag about or take a selfie in front of. Nothing real that anyone can update in a post on Facebook.
How are we to market to this new reality?
Well, according to Godin: “Before a marketer or organization can sell something that works in the future, she must sell the market on the very notion that the future matters (bold typeface mine). The cultural schism is deep, and it’s not clear that simple marketing techniques are going to do much to change it.”
Clearly, the burden is on us. But you already knew that.
The marketplace is the decider, and we have to weigh in with a compelling model of value.
And even more than that, we have to stop fighting each other for a piece of a disappearing pie. What we offer matters, but it has to be about now–and later.
In the simplest of terms, offering experiences provides the now, and when infused with educational content, it provides the later. People will come back for more if they experience real-time growth and change.
David Bryfman, Director of the New Center for Collaborative Leadership, once gave a talk about the downside of offering “free” in the Jewish marketplace}.