Differentiating Your School for Adult Students

Becky Morehouse

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In late March we did a webinar on how to differentiate your school for adult students.

This blog offers a quick overview of our top nine recommendations.

Before we began that discussion, however, we spent a little time exploring the idea of differentiation.

To get everyone on the same page we used the following definition:

Differentiation is a source of competitive advantage that involves developing and communicating a quality, attribute, or characteristic that is of value to your customers and not offered by your competitors.

As you can see, differentiation is not about just being different. Instead, it is about being different in ways that your target audience values.

This is central to what it means to be compelling.

With this foundation in mind, we offered nine strategies to help institutions differentiate themselves for adult students.

1. Differentiating

First, we recommended that adult marketers answer four questions:

  • How are you defining adult students?
  • Are you a brand or a commodity?
  • What makes you compelling?
  • Are you institutional-centric or audience-centric?

Answering these questions provides enormous clarity and confidence as you develop your overall marketing strategies.

2. Your Motivation

Second, we asked them to assess their motivations for recruiting adult students. We noted that it was important to understand the contributions mature students can make to their campuses and not just to their bottom line. We also suggested that adults will be interested in how you demonstrate this commitment. Do you have an adult student-specific website? Is your messaging adult oriented? Do you have an ombudsperson who focuses on helping adults?

3. Adult Student Motivation

Third, we explored the need to understand what motivates adult students. We suggested that they learn, through research:

  • What motivates adult students
  • How adult students choose a college
  • The fears and concerns of adult students
  • Who influences adult students
  • What are the media and channel preferences of adult students

As part of this research, it is also important to have a clear understanding of local and regional job trends.

4. Right Programs, Time, and Price

Fourth, we discussed how critical it is to offer the right programs, at the right time, and at the right price. We also viewed how much adult students value convenience and flexibility.

5. Pricing Vocabulary

Fifth, we explored the vocabulary of pricing and looked at how adult students view price, cost, and value. We also considered how helpful it is for current students to be involved in the conversation about cost and share their experiences.

6. Building Connections

We then examined how important it is to build multiple, rich connections. Not only between the prospective/inquiring/matriculating student and other students, but with the institution and alumni.

7. Hybrid Learning Experience

Additionally, we talked about the importance of a robust hybrid learning experience. Hybrid learning has moved well-past Zoom® and adult student expectations have never been higher. If you are interested in seeing what a truly robust hybrid learning experience looks like, we suggest you look at WeConnect which promotes collaboration and active learning, on-site and online.

8. Adult Marketing Plan

Eighth, we looked at the elements of an integrated adult marketing/recruiting plan. These elements include specifics around:

  • Broad goals
  • Audiences (and individual segments)
  • Geography
  • Message
  • Channels
  • Calendar (who does what, when)
  • Budget
  • How the plan and its strategies will be evaluated

9. ROI

Finally, we explored ROI in two dimensions. First, do students feel like they are getting a good return on their time and dollar investment? Second, are marketers able to measure the ROI relative to their key marketing and recruiting strategies?

If you would like additional information on any of these topics, or are interested in how we can help you recruit adult students, please let me know.

Thank you,
Becky Morehouse – becky.morehouse@stamats.com

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