February 22, 2016
How to Make Your School’s Strength Your Selling Point
Every school has it—what makes you “you.” Maybe it’s your research. Maybe it’s your location. Maybe it’s athletics. The fancy word that gets tossed around boardrooms is “differentiator.” But it can get lost in the higher ed marketing mix. So how do you capitalize on it?
The benefits of bringing your differentiator to the “show window” in higher education marketing are many, but it can sometimes be overlooked. We learned this in our work with University of Georgia’s online programs.
Through our research, we discovered what was overwhelmingly most important to UGA Online’s prospective students:
As you can see, quality faculty tops their list. The UGA faculty are world-class (we’re talking Pulitzer Prize), and as opposed to some other online programs, only faculty teach online, rather than third-party or adjunct professors. So online students have the same opportunity as traditional students: the chance to learn from field-leading professors.
We helped bring that to the forefront of their messaging, and send it out through multi-channel campaigns. Their biggest strength became their biggest selling point.
So how do you find what makes you “you”, and what should you do from there? Here’s a few tips to help you discover the core and spread the word.
Ask your people
Sometimes, your biggest strength may not be obvious. So ask the people who know-your students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Ask them: “Why did you come here? What makes this University a great place to be?” A common theme or themes should emerge.
Ask your prospects
Another group to ask is your prospective students—through surveys, focus groups, social media, and face-to-face interactions like campus tours. Especially if they’ve expressed some interest, there’s a reason, and they’ll probably be eager to share.
Find the answer
Next, gather your feedback and sort through it. Write out some examples on a whiteboard, and see what jumps out at you. Have fun with it! Try creating a word cloud with your survey responses, and see what the strongest themes are. Once you have it, narrow it down to a story (notice I didn’t say tagline) and focus on telling that story.
Get your story front and center
In UGA’s case, their biggest strength lined up with what their prospective students were looking for. There are students out there who want what you can offer, so once you know what it is, you’re on the right path to finding them. Now take that story and bring it center stage. Give it a place on your homepage, make videos about it, write blog posts telling the story, interview students and faculty/staff and have them share their stories related to that theme. As momentum builds, the power of your biggest strength as your biggest selling point can grow by leaps and bounds.
Tell Us What You Think
What’s your school’s biggest strength? How have you brought it to the forefront in your higher ed marketing? Are you having trouble finding it? Share your feedback in the comments.