Blackboard just wrapped up our largest event of the year, BbWorld, and it was a huge success! One of our favorite presenters was MIT’s Joi Ito, who talked about the 4 P’s of learning: Projects, Passion, Peers, and Play. It really was a fantastic presentation – as a lifelong learner, it struck a chord to think about a world where play and passion were equal to projects and peers. And, as a professional marketer, I appreciated Mr. Ito’s play on the traditional 4 P’s of Marketing.
Now a marketing professional in the higher education industry, I am constantly thinking of ways to help schools use technology to reach their primary audience: the student.
Here at Blackboard, we believe in the power of using data to help students thrive in their learning environment. That same idea can be applied to the idea of student-centric marketing – leveraging useful information to sharpen a school’s focus on prospective students. So, to continue on the P’s theme, I’m here to offer the 4 P’s of Student-Centric Marketing:
Start by asking yourself “who is my target audience?” Don’t just guess! Analyze your most successful students and what makes them respond to communications issued by you. This will help you improve your tactics. For example, are your students primarily looking for flexibility and convenience? Or are they looking for a high-touch level of service and guidance? Knowing who they are and what they need, well beyond demographics, is critical to develop a message that will resonate.
Fully understand the programs you want to promote based on student demand and viability for growth. This means using data and insights from primary and secondary research to determine where you should invest your dollars. IPEDS, for example, has open information about conferral rates, retention, and number of students enrolled. The Bureau of Labor Statistics job growth projections can help you understand what degrees may grow in demand by looking at anticipated changes in the labor market. And don’t forget to take notes on your competition – visit their website and social channels to see which programs they’re promoting and how they’re messaging to students.
Third, you need to have a firm grasp of what sets you apart and makes you truly different from other institutions offering similar degrees. What are the main reasons a student would choose your school over another? Do those reasons sound more compelling and markedly different than your competition? We have found some of the best ways to gain these insights are to ask students first-hand – whether it be your students, prospective students, or a general panel of students in the marketplace.
As the discussion around rising costs of education continues, one thing is certain: there is significant value in getting a degree. In fact, studies have shown that it is more costly not to pursue an education. But students are looking for proof that their investment will be worthwhile. What stories can you tell about success post-graduation? Can you help students go so far as quantifying employment outcomes?
Now, when planning your marketing strategy, remember these 4 P’s of Student-Centric Marketing to help ensure everything you do is done through the lens of your prospective students.