When did you last talk to one of your adult students?
This is an interesting question that often goes unanswered. Why? Most of us are sitting in our offices, toiling away at each daily project given to us by our boss, a department head or some other project that is critical for our institution's success. We know there are adult education classes on campus (or on a nearby campus) and we know that there are students in those classes (after all, we in Marketing were instrumental in getting them there) yet, we rarely if EVER go talk to them! The excuses are many. "These are night classes, I have to be somewhere." or "What can they tell me? What would I ask them?" or maybe "I don't get paid any extra to stay late and track down these classes, talk to the professor, get permission to talk to a few of the students either before or after class, what a hassle!"
Well, let me tell you, you are missing a fabulous opportunity for some primary market research. Research that will answer any of the following questions:
· Why did you decide to get your degree from XYZ University?
· Was cost an issue to you?
· Who influenced you in your decision to attend our school?
· Have you had a good experience while attending classes here?
· What were your expectations when you first started and what are they today?
· Is there anything specific that you can tell me that made our institution stand out in your mind when looking for a (degree completion, advanced degree) program?
Imagine what you could do with all of that information! Say a majority of the students reference location as a key motivator. If there are a few students who have that point of view, I guarantee there are others who have the same issue. What if they say "fear" was a roadblock to going back to school. Fear of failing. Fear that they will be the oldest person in the class. Fear of not having enough time for work, class, family and hobbies. Ask them how they conquered their fear. Learn from them.
As with direct marketing, each mailing is a new test. What are you testing? If you don't know the answers to the above questions (and those are the tip of the iceberg) you have NO idea how to market your institution. Ask, learn, grow, test new ideas. That's what direct marketing is all about. The ability to test new ideas, new thoughts, new markets. But without a sound basis for the testing you're just wasting dollars and time.
Focus on learning as much as you can about your audience, not only demographically but also psychographically. Get out of your office. Walk around campus, set up a routine EACH semester to visit at least three different adult education classes and talk to the students. If you feel up to it and have the budget (ok, stop laughing now) invite a class to dinner on marketing. A small investment in a few meals will reap huge rewards with marketing success.
Contact David@marketmappingplus.com for more information on how to identify and reach your target markets.