Questions That You Need To Answer
Jan 15, 2018
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When we get called in to help a college that has been struggling to achieve their adult enrollment goals, we like to start off with a series of questions that helps us understand what’s been done, what hasn’t been done, what’s worked and what hasn’t worked.
Today, let’s focus on the typical questions we ask about the target audience because these answers will impact where you go to attract qualified new students and what you need to address with your messages and offers to grab their attention, stimulate their interest and become recognized as the most unique, valuable solution for their wants and needs.
Who is our primary target audience?
I teach marketing and marketing research, and whenever we discuss this question, I make sure that they understand the more details based on data, the more effective the results in terms of quality and quantity and (typically) lower cost.
So “Millennials” isn’t enough. Either is “…people over 25-years of age…”
What you need, for example, is:
- Age Range
- Marital Status
- Education Level
- Household Income
- Own/Rent Home
How many of them are there?
Why is this level of detail important? Here’s what I tell my students…
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At that point, the questions become specific to your audience.
What do they want?
This speaks to experiences and outcomes they feel are important. They may present these things as ‘needs’ but when you get down to it, they are more likely to pass on it when they see something else that is perceived to be more valuable.
Example? Most adults will tell you they ‘need’ an experience that is ‘fast, simple, easy’, and doesn’t add stress to their lives. However,
What do they need?
This question needs input from you and your team since you are the experts in education – but will require you to ask your own specific set of questions so you understand their learning style and capabilities.
This question also needs input from those in the market that employ or might employ these adults. This requires you to invest time to discuss and understand what the leadership at businesses, government agencies and non-profits feels they need their employees (current and future) to possess in terms of skills and experiences.
What do they expect?
This is a question that you better get a handle because too many situations that fall outside their definition of “expectations” can overwhelm anyone – and that can lead to them withdrawing and/or dropping out.
And the problem here is that too many schools, focused on hitting enrollment goals, will sugar coat responses rather than openly, honestly telling them that “…that’s not how it works, here’s what you should expect…”
Example? How many adult students opt for online because of their expectation that “flexible and convenient” means “do the work whenever I get around to “? And how many dropped out once they realized there were deadlines?
What do they perceive about your institution? Other institutions/competition? Higher education?
How do they identify their need for education?
Where do they go for information?
What is their selection criteria?
With these questions, you develop your messaging and offer strategies that are used in promotional efforts (paid, earned, owned and social) as well as by your faculty and staff when they converse with members of your target audience.
You also develop your media strategy from these questions. Knowing where they go for information helps you select the media most likely to be used by your audience – and that, along with your messaging and offer strategy, drives a higher quantity of high quality inquiries and leads.
Then, there are these questions that few ask and, when the answer is not something they want to hear, many ignore.
Is our primary target audience large enough for us to achieve our goals and objectives today?
Is our primary target audience large enough for us to achieve our goals and objectives 1 to 3 years?
Is our primary target audience large enough for us to achieve our goals and objectives 4 years?
If not, who is our secondary target audience?
These are questions that are all to often overlooked and that can have a significant impact on your ability to consistently achieve your adult student enrollment goals and objectives.
First, you really can’t set accurate enrollment objectives if you don’t know the size of your audience. And we’ve seen plenty of situations where the objective surpassed the actual number of people – making the objective impossible to achieve.
Second, if you are attracting adult students from a certain geographic area (your target market) and the make up of that geographic area is changing over time, these questions help you stay on top of where your audience is located. If you find that they are relocating outside your target market, you have a decision to make – follow them to their new location or find a new audience segment within your target market that offers you the opportunity to achieve your objectives.
These are the questions you need to have answers to if you want to achieve your adult enrollment goals in 2018.
Of course, there are other questions beyond these that address the competition, the market (government/politics/law, economy, society, technology) – but when it comes to your target audience, these questions are key.
If you are searching for the answers, contact us – we do this extremely well and for a fraction of the cost others charge.
Patrick McGraw is VP of Higher Educaton Marketing Services and has more than 25 years experience in market research, competitive intelligence, business intelligence including database marketing and CRM, strategic planning, brand development and management as well as operations/campaign management. His work has consistently helped his clients and employers develop and implement more efficient ways to attract and retain profitable customers, enter new markets and launch new products. His areas of focus include the education, hospitality, travel and tourism, hi-tech, telecommunications, financial services, and retail industries on both the agency and customer sides.