Pitch for the Head, Or the Heart?


This week myself and my partner attended a couple of prospective secondary schools, for my daughter (currently in junior school).

Soon, we’ll have to select our preferred school from the options in our area.

This choice is a fairly important decision, as the next 5 years will set the stage for her entry to adulthood.

This choice is also important for the schools, who wish to maintain levels of attendance and popularity.

Therefore the visit is an opportunity for said prospective school, to pitch to us parents. And pitch, they do.

The Hard Sell

The format for these visits are much the same. A gaggle of slightly confused adults, with wide-eyed offspring in tow, are ushered into a large room.

From there, each family is herded into smaller flocks. We are then assigned to a current student of the school, who has the unenviable task of leading us around.

After the tour, we’re led into a big hall, where the pitch proper begins. And of the two schools I visited, this pitch differed greatly.

The first school concentrated on facts and figures. The headteacher addressed the hall with efficiency and pragmatism.

He explained the school rankings, exam results, pass grades – all in great (numerically dense) detail.

He presented a reasoned, balanced argument for why his school should be the parents’ preferred option.

In all, he appealed to the head.

The second pitch was slightly different, though the format was exactly the same.

The headteacher presented similar figures from a clipart-heavy Powerpoint. However, her strategy was different.

Instead of focusing on metrics, she talked about wellbeing. About safety, health and development.

She discussed personal values, and emotional growth.

Her pitch, spoke to the core of what every parent was truly concerned about in choosing a school.

Beyond facts and figures. Simply put, “will my child be happy here?”

She appealed to the heart.

Aiming High

This isn’t to say either strategy is preferable over the other. There are some instances where one may be more appropriate.

Based on the example above, many parents might prefer to make a decision based on reason and fact.

However, I believe we are more driven by emotion.

Emotion is what makes us want a sports car. Emotion is what makes us desire the latest tech, or fashionable shoes.

It’s what drives our sense of security, of wellbeing, of happiness. It’s how we feel about something.

“I have a good feeling about this deal”

If we all thought in terms of pure practicality, no one would own an Apple Watch.

A good bet would be to consider the audience you’re pitching to. What are their concerns? What do they ultimately want?

If if the answer isn’t clear – ask them.

Questions are a powerful, but often underused tool in marketing.

Not only do they provide illumination and clarity, but they also tell your audience that you’re listening to them.

So my recommendation would be to aim for the heart, but don’t lose sight of the head.

– Greg Bunbury

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