One, the education market is changing. Students are older, more savvy and expect more tangible results from their educational investments.
And two, marketing works best when you speak to the specific needs and concerns of your target audience.
Combine those two facts, and it’s clear that more and better data about what students actually want equals a better marketing strategy. In short, with college enrollments declining and students becoming ever more price sensitive, market research is the key that unlocks education marketing success. Here are four ways to use market research to improve your marketing strategy, craft effective marketing messages and build your curriculum.
Use market research for higher ed to target your message
You might believe you already understand your ideal student. But demographics, and by extension, the needs and concerns of the average student are changing rapidly. Most institutions are finding that somewhere between 40 and 75% of their students can be defined as post-traditional. That means they meet one or more of the following criteria:
- study online
- live off campus
- are returning to school from the job market
- already have a full-time job
- have families to support
- otherwise don’t fit the classic image of a college student fresh out of high school.
These post-traditional students expect flexibility, affordability and an institution that understands their needs and concerns. Messaging that works for the traditional student will not work on them, and might actually push them away. If your enrollment marketing hasn’t been remodeled in a while, now is the time, and market research is the foundation to build on.
Personalize your marketing materials with market research
Market research into the overall state of the industry can help you understand how to target your message to reach real students. Resources like the annual Online College Students Report or the Post Traditional College Students Report from Aslanian Market Research offer valuable insight. But you can drill down even deeper to find out what your specific students are looking for and how to communicate with them. Regional market analysis can help you understand the students in your area. If you’re a college in rural Maine, your students may have different needs than students at a college in urban Los Angeles. Market research uncovers those differences and helps you understand how to speak to students from different areas. Meanwhile online student market analysis can help you assess the demand for online degrees and certificates in your region. This type of regionalized market research is valuable even for online programs because many online students prefer to study at an institution that is physically close to them even if they intend to study entirely online – a fact that comes directly from market research.
Stay on trend with market research for higher education
Trends in industries lead to trends in demand for different programs or certificates. With employer studies, you can understand what types of educational opportunities will meet the needs of employers. You may even be able to uncover opportunities for partnerships that can lead to higher enrollment from employers offering tuition benefits. Approaching the same question from a different direction, you can use data from program feasibility studies, to decide if there is sufficient demand for a program your institution is planning to offer. You’ll know a program has potential before you spend money and time on it. Blindly following trends can mean you spend a lot of resources without a tangible result. With thoughtful market research you’ll know exactly where to spend your time and money for the greatest possible ROI.
Find your blind spots with market research
Finally, market research can help you understand where you can improve. If enrollment rates aren’t as high as you’d like, or if leads are going cold, you may have places for improvement in your recruitment and enrollment process. Lost customer studies can help you spot weak points and find ways to strengthen them. You’ll learn how students first heard about your institution, whether your offering met their needs, and why they eventually enrolled where they did. This information can help you bring your blind spots into focus. Use it to improve your overall performance, or to understand why a particular program isn’t doing as well as you’d hoped.
One size does not fit all, but one key can open the door to your marketing success. By targeting your market research to your institution’s unique needs and goals Education Dynamics and Aslanian Market Research can help you get the results you want. It all starts with a free market research consultation.