Profiting off of your education program takes more than an, “if you build it, they will come” mentality. Marketers in higher education need to answer these essential questions for students: What will they get, why should they get it, and how much will it cost? At SA, we drive enrollment for an array of education-based clients, and we have learned a thing or two about making your program stand out in a saturated market.
Colleges and Universities need to adapt to the changing mindset of younger generations. Today’s high school graduates are tech savvy and career driven, and in an über competitive working environment, college students are eager to find a career path that is affordable, profitable, and won’t be obsolete in 7 years. By better understanding the needs of these students, institutions can alter their offerings to stay competitive.
Merrimack College, for example, a small, private college in Massachusetts, has had increasing enrollment numbers over the past 5 years now. What’s their secret?
According to an article by the Boston Globe, “By stressing health sciences, business, and engineering over humanities and by tailoring its financial aid to attract high school graduates that best fit the small school, Merrimack has managed to boost student enrollment, build facilities, and stabilize its finances.” Merrimack College’s strategy can teach other marketers working in higher education some valuable lessons. We found three key takeaways from their enrollment strategy:
- Really know your audience
Knowing your audience is more than locating them. In the case of higher ed., target audiences can change every few months. Marketers must be aware of the changing trends and adapt messaging to be able to communicate with them on a personal level. By listening to the desires of graduating high school students, Merrimack College was able to strategize a way to stay ahead of student interests and emerging career paths. In this case, it was noticing a rise in STEM, business, and health science careers and directing more funds to those curricula, as well as placing a heavier marketing emphasis on them.
- Personalize your approach and reward engaged students
Another success Merrimack College had in this campaign was its ability to innovate traditional financial aid allocation methods by developing software that distributes the most aid to the students who interact with the college most frequently. This both encourages prospective students to communicate, and rewards those who do.
- Highlight differentiators
Call to attention the things that make your institution unique. While small, private colleges may not be able to compete with large state universities on things like athletics and Greek life, Merrimack College focused their campaign effort around the things they did offer, like renovated classrooms and strong curricula in industries with emerging student interests.
We employ similar marketing tactics for our own clients in education. By identifying competitors and highlighting differentiators in the form of innovative marketing tactics, persuasive copy, repeated communications and compelling graphic design, we allow our clients to stand out from the pack and remain relevant. Some of our successes in this area include enrollment marketing campaigns for Bentley University’s Part-Time, Online Bachelor’s Degree Completion Program, Northeastern University’s D’Amore–McKim School of Business, and Rutgers University Executive Education.