Differentiation - Colleges Need to Be Uniquely Valuable
May 04, 2016
There’s an interesting article, Why College Brands Look So Similar, that appeared on InsideHigherEd this week and it’s generating a bit of chatter and on LinkedIn.
The lack of differentiation is a topic that pops up every year – we even offered up this white paper on how to differentiate about 3-years ago – but the sameness continues. And it’s more than a tag line in a new campaign – it gets down to your programs and services, your pricing and how you make your programs and services available to your students, faculty, and staff.
Why is Differentiation Important?
Why is this so important? When you provide a potential student with a uniquely valuable solution to their wants and/or needs, you are more likely to enroll them. And retain them. And have them refer others with similar wants and needs. All the while you aren’t focused on the price – because the uniquely valuable solution makes the price appropriate to them.
When we work with colleges, we push hard to understand what makes the institution uniquely valuable to potential students, current students, former students, faculty, staff and even the community. Often, the answers we hear are tied to concepts that are not unique and can be claimed by just about any other college in the nation.
What we suggest is that the leadership team at your institution engage your audiences – your key constituencies – in a little Q&A. Ask them what they think makes your institution unique and valuable to them. You should be surprised to hear that it’s more than “…you were founded in 1898…” and “…the faculty and staff really care…” Don’t get me wrong – tradition and hard working, caring faculty and staff are important and should pop up. But you should hear more – like that course that requires the students to work with a real business on a real opportunity so students get hands on experience that takes theory from class and allows them to put it to work.
Or the nursing students that talks about their clinical experience.
Be prepared to hear some things that you’re going to have to address. Like the non-traditional students that find “half-day Friday’s” during August in the student services department to be a little inconvenient to them. Or the online students that mention that Saturday morning seems to be an extremely popular time for IT to perform system maintenance – and that’s the time they want to log in and do their classwork.
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Patrick McGraw is VP of Higher Educaton Marketing Services and has more than 25 years experience in market research, competitive intelligence, business intelligence including database marketing and CRM, strategic planning, brand development and management as well as operations/campaign management. His work has consistently helped his clients and employers develop and implement more efficient ways to attract and retain profitable customers, enter new markets and launch new products. His areas of focus include the education, hospitality, travel and tourism, hi-tech, telecommunications, financial services, and retail industries on both the agency and customer sides.