Published on 2014/06/25

Innovative Graduate Programs Require Targeted Marketing

Innovative Graduate Programs Require Targeted Marketing
Institutions must properly communicate the nature of their innovative programs to prospective graduate students so they can make informed decisions about where to pursue their advanced degrees.
As the number of innovative, non-traditional graduate programs and the institutions offering them grows, the landscape becomes increasingly complex not only for educational institutions but for the students considering them as well.

While a competency-based MBA with adaptive learning technologies and game-based simulations sounds interesting and exciting, students need to clearly understand what this really means before they start investing thousands of dollars into a program. It’s quite possible that the new and innovative approaches to instruction address the very needs that have since kept many students from earning an advanced degree. But it boils down to fit, and the only way to identify a program that is the best fit for the student is to begin the discussion with an identification of his or her needs. To do so, targeted marketing and personalized communication are critical.

If your marketing is a one-way announcement of the amazing programs available to students, then it’s all about your institution, not the prospective student. Delivering effectively responsive communication to prospective students based on what we incrementally learn about them through their digital and personal interactions with our institutions is, simply, responsible. It provides what we promise students from the start: an education. Students should first be educated about your institution and unique offerings in meaningful, personalized ways before you ask them to invest their time and money.

This is about responsibly-planned expansion of institutions as they branch out into new avenues of instruction. For institutions to collectively address the broad needs of our society’s advanced education needs, we must provide them with the information they need to select a program that maximizes their chances for completion. With an increasingly complex and varied set of options available, the decision for the student becomes more complex as well.

Two major issues with higher education marketing are the dependence of institutions on reputation and, on the other end of the spectrum, aggressive marketing. If students make a decision based only on the broad reputation of an institution, they aren’t considering the program of study and the nature of the instruction they’re signing up for. If students are enrolling with the institution that has invested the most in reaching out to them, the decision may be equally uninformed.

We need to treat students pursuing an advanced degree with the respect they deserve. These are educated people that have proven they can effectively evaluate and process information to solve problems. The decision process around pursuing a degree should be no different.

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Readers Comments

Charlene L 2014/06/25 at 8:09 am

Isn’t the onus on the prospective student to cut through aggressive marketing tactics and institutional reputation to make an informed decision? You make it sound like the institution is at fault if students make the wrong choice. At the same time, you say students are “educated people that have proven they can effectively evaluate and process information to solve problems.” If that’s the case, they should be trusted to make their own decisions and wear the consequences of them.

    Frank Gowen 2014/06/25 at 4:39 pm

    I disagree. Despite their best efforts, smart, thoughtful students are sometime unable to make informed decisions if an institution presents misleading information at the enrollment phase. There is a responsibility on the part of the institution to be fair and accurate in their marketing to students. It’s in the institution’s best interest to enroll students who are a ‘good fit’ for their programs, so there’s greater likelihood of persistence to graduation.

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