This partnership has been one of the most rewarding of my consulting career and next week, I will have the pleasure of presenting our joint story along side our client, Dr. Javier Reyes, at the UPCEA Summit for Online Leadership and Strategy. Dr. Reyes oversees the university’s online division – the U of A Online. Together, we defined a plan that would increase the visibility of online programs, with the ultimate effort of increasing enrollments, using a thoughtful, strategic online marketing approach.
At the start, Dr. Reyes mapped out his expectations. He needed our collective teams to increase enrollments in online programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level by expanding to new audiences. And, because budgets were limited, we needed to prioritize the programs most viable for growth both from an internal and an external perspective. Our steps included:
- Picking the right programs for investment
- Understanding our target audience
- Determining why students will choose U of A
Picking the Right Programs
We used the fundamentals of Supply and Demand to understand the right programs for growth. We evaluated the competitive availability of each program within the region. And, we researched demand for those programs among prospective students and employers. Next, we layered on institutional inputs. We visited campus and joined Dr. Reyes in meeting Program Deans to review our research and discuss the overall trajectory for each degree. These inputs influenced our final choices in a profound way.
Understanding Our Audience
With our top programs selected, our next step was to better understand our most successful prospective students. By looking at the attributes of students who have chosen online learning thus far, we were able to make strong assumptions about our prospects. We took both demographics and psychographics into account to ensure that our messaging would resonate with people apt to choose online in the future.
Differentiators (Why Students Choose U of A)
Keeping in mind what we knew about our target audience, we also validated the top reasons why students were choosing or would choose U of A for their online degree. A survey helped, along with an in-depth competitive analysis on five key competitors. We also conducted a phone survey to 20 regional employers to learn about their perceptions and needs.
Taking Our Strategy to Market
We experienced a wonderful luxury in completing this project. We had the time and resources to carefully plan our approach prior to launching a campaign. This is not always the case. Many times, institutions want results as fast a possible and immediate action is needed. Here, organic enrollments were already coming to U of A Online. To boost this natural growth, we launched our digital media in October 2014. Fresh new messaging, a media microsite, and display ads supported this campaign.
Christina Fleming is responsible for leading the marketing and enrollment team within Blackboard Student Lifecycle Services. Christina works closely with Higher Education clients of all sizes to deliver strategic marketing and enrollment plans, execute on media and creative, and bring programs to market that are based upon market research and quantifiable insights.