By Ben Wohl
Today's COE marketers and recruiters face a prospective student landscape that is fundamentally more competitive and dynamic than just a few years ago. Students have more educational options than ever, a wealth of information at their fingertips, and the online shopping savvy needed to navigate it all.
Prospective students demand that institutions address their specific needs and expectations with market-driven program options and useful, relevant marketing materials. However, before a unit can be truly responsive to the market, its faculty members, instructors, program directors, and marketing team must actually know what the market wants.
Read the full study: Marketing Across the Program Lifecycle
Recruiting, advising, and registrar staff have accumulated knowledge from the frontline about student preferences, which can inform and improve marketing campaigns and overall unit strategy. Unfortunately, marketing and academic staff rarely utilize this information.
Frontline focus groups share observations from the market
Interactions between frontline staff and prospective students, especially students who ultimately decide not to enroll at the institution, represent an underused source of market intelligence. However, these interactions often remain siloed, and marketing staff and COE leaders struggle to systemically capture these insights, understand common barriers to enrollment, and learn what in-demand programs the institution does not yet offer.
To break down these siloes and involve frontline staff, the director of marketing for continuing education at The New School in New York City has developed what she calls “cross-functional frontline focus groups.”
Reoccurring Focus Groups Offer Holistic Insights and Solutions
Every quarter, The New School gathers representatives from groups that work with prospective and current students. This includes program-specific recruitment, academic planning and advising, marketing and admissions, and the registrar’s office.
These focus groups share feedback from prospective and current students and brainstorm new, 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.
Focus groups translate knowledge into solutions
During these meetings attendees will translate this market knowledge into actionable unit strategies. Three typical focus group action steps include:
1. Developing detailed personas of prospective students and marketing pitches to attract and recruit them.
2. Audits of current marketing channel strategies to improve media mix and content.
3. Intensive academic planning sessions to develop and present new program ideas based on observed student demand, called "create a class hackathons" after similiar events popular in the tech community.
Put it into practice: 'Create a new class hackathon' agenda
Interactive Sessions Mine Intelligence
Additional benefits: Staff cross-training on full COE portfolio
By bringing together recruiters and academic planners from across campus, focus groups also cross-train recruiting staff, who typically work in single departments or colleges, on the programs offered by other departments. With improved knowledge of the full program portfolio, recruiters can more effectively help prospective students find their programs of interest.
4 key forces shaping your marketing strategy
In today’s growth-focused and increasingly crowded market, many COE leaders struggle to articulate their own value through marketing. Download these slides from our recent webconference, Marketing Across the Program, to discover four forces defining the marketing landscape—and how you can keep pace with them. Download the slides
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Marketing Across the Program Lifecycle