New year. New decade. And some strategic thoughts to get you started on the right path.
Know Your Audiences
If you are still referring to your audience as “traditional students,” “post-traditional students,” “online learners,” or “classroom learners,” stop it.
The first problem with these terms is that we have our preconceived notions regarding what these terms mean and what those people that fall within our definitions want.
The second problem is that people don’t think of themselves in these terms, and when we use these terms, we ignore their wants, needs, expectations, and perceptions.
In combination, these two problems lead to less effective recruitment and retention efforts. What you say and what you offer will not match what they are searching for, and that means you will be spending a lot of your limited resources and generating lower than needed results.
The solution – invest in some research so you can identify the segments you currently serve, the segments you are capable of serving, but are under-represented in your student population and those segments you cannot and do not wish to invest your limited resources in trying to recruit, retain and graduate. Then focus on the benefits they want and need so you can convince them through words and actions that you are uniquely qualified to deliver those benefits to them.
Know Your Market
Recently, I was speaking with the president and chief enrollment officer of a small private college about their struggle to achieve their goals. As we talked, it became clear they had little to no insight into their competition or the local economy. And it also became apparent that they weren’t leveraging technology effectively, resulting in higher costs and lower revenues.
One of their most popular programs failed to achieve enrollment projects in any term over the past 2-years, and the response from leadership was “work harder” while cutting the marketing/recruitment budget. If anyone had taken 30-minutes to perform an online search for similar programs in the area, they would have discovered that several other colleges in the area were no offering the same program for about 50% less – but they were busy trying to generate enrollments so no one had the time to check out the competition.
This same institution also failed to pay attention to the larger employers in the area and what education requirements they had for their open positions. Failing to pay attention to the local economy meant the lacked the programs that were in demand and would be in demand for the next 3 to 5 years. Other colleges in the area, however, had paid attention and were enjoying tremendous success.
Focus on Opportunities Where Your Institution has the Advantage
In Learn How to Future-Proof Your Campus, Dr. Bradley Fuster focuses on how companies like Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google are enjoying success with society’s preference for on-demand services and how these companies are expanding into the education sector.
The question is, what should colleges and universities do when these companies start encroaching on your business. My suggestion is to determine if this is a real threat to your institution. If this is a real threat, figure out what your options are now and take immediate action. That could mean partnerships or it could mean identifying niches in your market that don’t want what they offer and are more likely to want what you can offer.
Technology, financial resources, and customer service are strengths for all four members of FANG – and if they can acquire the expertise in education, you are going to be competing against a formidable foe. Do you have the strengths to overcome their strengths? If not, become an ally or partner – or go in search of better opportunities.
A Few Closing Thoughts
For 2020 and beyond to be successful for your institution, start with a focus on the basics. You can see substantial improvements in performance with a better understanding of your audience so that you have the right programs and services at the right price. And that insight will also help you select the most appropriate media, messages, and offers that help you grab the attention and interest of your target audience(s) so they are more likely to choose you over others.
Done wisely, this can be a low-risk approach to greater success in the years ahead.