3 questions you should ask focus groups to guide program strategy

Best practice of the week July 24 - 28

Interactions between frontline staff and prospective students, especially students who ultimately decide not to enroll at the institution, represent an undervalued source of market intelligence. However, these interactions often occur in a silo, and marketing staff and COE leaders are unable to systemically capture these insights to understand common barriers to enrollment and in-demand programs the institution does not yet offer.

To break down these siloes and engage frontline staff, the director of marketing for continuing education at The New School has developed cross-functional frontline focus groups to systematically mine this intelligence and develop actionable advice to guide marketing campaigns and unit strategy.

Quarterly interactive sessions convene nominated representatives from prospective and current student-facing functional groups, including program-specific recruiters, academic planning and advising, marketing and admissions, and the registrar’s office to brainstorm new and innovative marketing and program development strategies for nontraditional students. Together, these groups provide unparalleled insight into the needs and concerns of both current and future students.

In these cross-functional meetings, frontline staff representatives engage in a range of marketing and program development activities. Meeting agenda items include brainstorming sessions to develop detailed student personas based on interactions with current and prospective students, in-depth audits of current marketing channel strategy, and even intensive sessions to develop and present new program ideas. Illustrated in item three, below, The New School calls these sessions “create a new class hackathons,” to denote the new company or product development events in the tech community.

Other benefits to these sessions include cross-training frontline recruiting staff who work within single departments or colleges on the programs offered by other departments, helping frontline recruiters to better understand every program available throughout the New School. With improved knowledge of the full program portfolio, recruiters can more effectively triage prospective students who inquire at one department about a program in another department to their programs of interest.

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