Published on 2021/09/06

Marketing to Today’s Modern Learner

Marketing to the modern learner requires cutting through the noise to communicate your message. Utilize a broad range of platforms and a strong marketing team that knows how to spend its budget strategically. 

The pandemic has caused us to have fewer face-to-face encounters with students. Instead, we’ve had to focus almost exclusively on utilizing all aspects of media to communicate our message to students, including traditional venues like radio, TV, billboards and direct mail as well as not so traditional methods like email, texting, targeted on-demand tv services and social media. Social media, of course, takes our marketing onto many different platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and TikTok. 

We’ve teamed up with college recruiters in our student services division to look for opportunities to work together to reach potential students. So, it’s really a team effort that requires more strategic planning. In the words of our Dean of Student Services, enrollment is everybody’s business. Without a doubt, the pandemic created some challenges for us. Unfortunately, we couldn’t pull out a pandemic playbook and know exactly what to do. Our enrollment is down by about 9%, but we’re hopeful that the worst is behind us and that this fall we will see students in person. In the end, I think COVID made us stronger, wiser and better when it comes to recruiting.

The Challenges

The common challenge in marketing today is all the NOISE. When I was growing up, it was much less complicated. You got your information from traditional broadcast TV, radio and newspapers. Today we live in a noisy, high-technology, internet-based, digital society. Prospective students have so much to choose from. They get content from all directions. They have access to information around the clock. Information is distributed minutes and in many cases seconds after it happens—not just here in our local communities, but around the world. People go to sleep and wake up with their mobile devices. How do I know? Because I do it too, even though I represent a different generation. 

Here’s an example, when I was growing up, there were five TV channels to choose from: ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and PBS. At around midnight, the stations signed off the air. Nowadays, potential students have much more than five tv channels competing for their attention, so it take a tremendous effort to reach customers. When I was growing up, you made an appointment with your favorite TV show. You had to be there sitting in front of the TV on the right day, at the right time, or you missed it. 

Today, we don’t operate by appointment anymore. We receive our favorite programming on demand—when we want it and how we want it. If you don’t understand that, you’ll get left behind. 

Marketing’s Role in Driving Student Enrollment and Retention

The marketing team plays a vital role in driving student enrollment and retention. If you don’t believe me, send your marketing folks home for a few months and watch what happens. A marketing team is needed today more than ever before. If we live in a noisy, internet-based world, a marketing team is needed to turn down the noise by strategically planning where to direct marketing dollars. 

Our marketing encompasses an extremely large demographic. We market to 16-year-old high school students who are interested in taking college courses through our dual enrollment program, to graduating seniors, to older adult students who might be looking for training or education to get a better job. And we also market to parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts. They are the ones who write the checks to pay for tuition. So, we have a tremendous task in front of us.

The Takeaway

You must stay awake and stay abreast. There are a lot of moving pieces to marketing, and your team must remain fluid and flexibility. Marketing today to modern learners must be short, sweet and straight to the point. Students today are more informed, or at least have access to more information. It’s important for us to respond to that. 

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