Marketing to Adults: Make the Message Matter

Stamats Insights

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In order to build a successful campaign, it helps to understand why some campaigns fail. Though the reasons are many and varied, the most obvious reason is this: You haven’t met your prospect’s needs. In order for someone to share their contact information, the value proposition must be crystal clear. Simply put, your prospects want substance. For colleges and universities, that substance must be directly related to prospective students’ goals and motivations (i.e., what’s driving them to further their education). Here are the top four reasons adults go back to school:

  1. Advance careers
  2. Change careers
  3. Increase salary
  4. Improve job security/value

Of course, on the other side of those goals are the hard realities of contemporary higher education. Adult students are keenly aware of challenges that lie ahead. According to Stamats 2017 Adult StudentsTALK survey findings, the top five challenges adults face when returning to school include:

  1. Total cost to attend
  2. Time commitment (juggling family, work, and other commitments)
  3. Securing aid to help pay for college
  4. Child care expenses
  5. Transferring credits from other institutions

It’s interesting (and slightly disconcerting) to note that none of my higher education clients address even one of these issues in their messaging. Yet, these challenges are at the heart of decision-making. I reviewed the five most recent campaigns that I’ve worked on for clients and discovered an interesting fact:  None of them speak to the largest roadblocks adult students face as they consider completing their degree or pursuing an advanced degree. Instead, the campaigns are filled with glittering generalities such as:

  • “We provide students with the skills and experience to become leaders in the field of…” What? How does this address the five most important barriers to attending school?
  • “Launch an impact-driven career.” Again, does this really speak to any of the prospects’ key concerns about going back to school?
  • “People like you are accomplishing their goals every day by getting their degree.” Again, does marketing hype really drive admissions?

Forget the flowery language. Tell prospective students exactly how you can help them solve their key issues in going back to school. Not sure how to begin? Here are some examples of relevant, action-centered statements:

  • “Scholarships are available to lower your cost of attendance, and in some cases, pay for your tuition!”
  • “We know family and work are important. Our flexible schedules help make your degree attainable.”
  • “We offer childcare programs to support busy parents during class.” Or, “Our online programs let you earn your degree without sacrificing time away from your family.”
  • “We make transferring from other schools simple and easy. We can help you get the information you need to maximize your transfer credits. Plus, you may be eligible for life experience credits!”

The bottom line is this: Every message you send should focus on your prospects’ needs, expectations, and goals—not yours. From that baseline, make your messages specific and concise and avoid hollow marketing jargon. Focus on what your audiences need in order to confidently take the next step with you. Remember, your future students are listening; solve their problems and they will enroll!

David Fant
Market Mapping Plus, Inc.

David Fant is the founder of Market Mapping Plus, Inc. which helps businesses throughout the United States identify and reach their intended markets through direct mail, in-bound and out-bound telemarketing, broadcast, and corporate special events.

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