The landscape of higher education has changed dramatically the last 10 years. Some might argue that the last five years have been even more monumental as education is becoming commoditized like many other industries. When a product reaches that point, marketing and advertising become major players in determining your niche and creating value for customers. Unfortunately, advertising/marketing costs money.
The Office of University Relations fields questions all the time regarding our marketing strategy and the venues we choose. Even with new and social media outlets, there has been a shift back to traditional advertising channels. Because of this, we evaluate daily, via various metrics and tools, what is working and what type of marketing are causing customers to take notice of Azusa Pacific and its offerings. To complicate matters, our product has a 6-18 month buying cycle. This means we have to be in front of our customers in various forms for more than a year. At that point, our goal is to be in their top three choices for school, giving us a 33% chance to get their business.
The only way this is possible is to be aggressive in all media, as people have different preferences for receiving information. This proves challenging as we are bombarded daily by more than 4,000 messages. To date, we have been aggressive in television, radio, search, paid search, natural search, college newspaper, traditional newspaper, e-blasts, direct mail, targeted websites, social media outlets, billboards, movie theatre ads, and targeted trade publications.
Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t a silver bullet. Rather, the recipe for success is stretching your dollars to utilize all media, as one size does not fit all. Further, mixed media messaging types compliment each other. For example, I might hear a radio spot numerous times, then see a billboard or a print ad, but it was a conversation with a co-worker that drove me to apply. However, that referral alone wasn’t the driving factor rather it was the marketing mix combination that resonated over time helping me to reach that decision.
Students have a variety of options when making the decision of where to go to school. We need to shift our thinking in academia and understand that we are selling $25,000 graduate products or a $120,000 undergraduate experiences. Think about your large purchases and the amount of thought you put into them, as well as the value you expect from them. To quote Warren Buffett, “Price is what you pay; value is what you get.”
In my next post, I will try to share how we use television to promote the Azusa Pacific University image.