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GPRS Higher Education Marketing Agency

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Insights from the Higher Ed Experts

BY Anthony Campisi | March 29th, 2022

How well do you know your competition?

How well do you know your competition?You’ve identified your program features and benefits. You’ve defined your audience segments through personas. You’ve determined objectives and created ways to measure success. But how will you stack up with your prospect pool once your well-vetted marketing plan hits the market? Unless you’ve done your research, your competition could eat your lunch. So where do you start?

Perhaps one of the most critical (and overlooked) aspects of creating a marketing strategy is competitive analysis. Building this base layer can provide guideposts for developing messaging that will resonate with your target’s journey. Here are a few ways to determine who your competition is and some key areas to evaluate:

Regional competition

For every school, geography is a key consideration in building a marketing strategy. How far does your brand reach and how are you perceived in your market? How do you stack up locally, regionally, and nationally? How far are students willing to drive for an in-person program?

To evaluate your competitive set, begin with building concentric circles around your school.

  • Who’s in your backyard? Even if they may not seem like a direct competitor, the geographic location may make their program more viable for a prospect who’d prefer to stay local.
  • Who’s within a 2-hour drive? Take stock of programs beyond state lines. Local prospects may be willing to drive farther for a bigger name, stronger alumni network, lower cost, or flexibility.
  • Who’s online? In today’s higher ed space, everyone is competing with online programs. The recent proliferation of remote programs has forced innovation and provided more accessibility that did not exist previously.

Aspirational competition

An aspirational competitor is a school that you may share similarities with — in program offerings, benefits, regarded faculty — but there is little direct overlap in your pool of prospects. You aren’t directly competing with an aspirational competitor, regardless of whether they’re in your time zone or not, and they are often regarded as a market leader.

It’s important to include these schools in your competitive set because you can glean insights by evaluating their programmatic innovations, new content and marketing strategies. Even though your ideal student may not be applying to their programs, it’s true that market leaders often set the bar for expectations and outcomes, and it can benefit your school to be aware of their presence.

How to evaluate the competition

When building a competitive analysis, using the template below can give you a holistic view of the playing field.

Programmatic

This is where your prospects will be spending most of their time doing their research. The insights you gain in evaluating these pieces can help you position your program’s unique features and benefits. Begin building your competitive analysis matrix using these criteria for a well-rounded evaluation:

  • Credit hours
  • Curriculum focus
  • Program length
  • Tuition
  • Specializations
  • International component
  • Faculty

Admissions

While every school’s admissions process is different, it’s important to understand when the competition is hosting events in your market, how often they are pulling students from your pool and how they are reaching out to prospects. You can also see what types of events they are hosting so you can modify your event strategy. Most of this information can be found directly on your competitor’s website:

Marketing

Reviewing a competitor’s marketing may take some extra effort. Beyond scouring their website, you may not be able to see their geo-targeted digital advertising if you’re not in their market. Doing a bit of sleuthing can benefit your marketing team. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Email communication – try signing up as a ghost student to gain VIP access to their CRM system
  • Social – Subscribe to competitors’ channels to monitor campaigns and messaging
  • Content – Take note of videos, podcasts, blog posts, and other unique content types

Competitive benchmarking

If you need help evaluating your competition, GPRS can assist. We have worked with over 150 programs nationally and can offer you insights and information that can help you enhance your marketing planning process.

Let’s start the conversation today.

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Insights from the Higher Ed Experts

BY Anthony Campisi | March 16th, 2022

Moving prospects from awareness to application using personas

Moving prospects from awareness to application using personasEach step of the admissions and enrollment process represents a different stage of the customer journey. So, it makes sense that marketing messages should change based on where your prospects are in their decision-making process. Creating personas and using the data about your target audience can help you stay attuned to their motivations so you can address their needs and guide them through the different stages of the funnel.

In a past article, we examined how to create personas and how they can help you gain insight into your target audience. Here, we’ll take a look at how you can use your personas to target your digital advertising, pull prospects through the funnel with communications and encourage action and enrollment.

Top of the funnel: Interest and awareness

Activity at the top of your funnel is purely interest based. Your goal here is to create top-of-mind awareness and affinity toward your school and program. Here, you can use insights from your personas to shape:

  • Your audience segmentation: What “types” of prospects are you targeting?
  • Marketing strategy: What is your target seeking? How can you address their questions? How can you create brand awareness?
  • Your media mix: Where is your target searching for information?
  • Your messaging: How can you personalize your message for their career stage and where they are on their journey?

Middle of the funnel: Conversion

When prospects have made it past the initial “I’m interested” phase, it’s your job to make them feel welcome and give them all of the information they need to take the next step. You want them to learn more, engage by coming to an event or talk to a recruiter about the admissions process. Here you can use insights from your personas to address barriers and motivations and shape:

  • Your CRM strategy: How can you create an automated communications flow that maps the intended journey from “learn more” to “come to an event”? How can your present your program’s benefits in a structured way that your prospects will relate to?
  • Your event mix: What is the best way to engage with prospects? Are they ready to come to campus for an event, or do they need more information before taking the next step? In addition to preview days, would it be helpful to provide webinars, a phone call, an informal luncheon, etc.?
  • Your recruiting outreach: Based on your prospects’ barriers to entry, how can you help them feel more comfortable? Can you personally communicate with them or provide them with alumni contacts?

Bottom of the funnel: Taking action

Based on how your prospect’s journey has gone so far, this can either be the easiest or most difficult stage. Here, you want them to hit the “submit application” button, put down a deposit and commit to your program. At this phase, you can use insights from your personas to encourage action. This is your final push and staying attuned to their barriers will be critical. What will your personas tell you here?

  • What is holding them back?
  • What do they need to take action?
  • How will they convince their boss, their spouse or their family that their time away will be beneficial?
  • How will they justify the cost against ROI?

As you can see, there are many benefits to creating personas that extend past the initial insights. Not only can they help you craft your marketing strategy, but they can also carry you through all stages of the funnel to convert leads to enrolled students.

If you are looking for an experienced partner that’s skilled in creating personas and using those insights to craft marketing strategies at all stages of the customer journey, look no farther than GPRS. We have worked with over 150 programs to seat students and optimize marketing and recruiting processes. Let’s start the conversation today.

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ABOUT GPRS

For over two decades, GPRS has been a trusted higher education marketing agency, offering custom solutions to institutions of all sizes and degree types. Admissions directors, marketing directors, deans, and presidents rely on GPRS to provide a depth of services, including strategy, lead generation, digital marketing, nurture communications, recruiting, and analytics.

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