In the first installment of Marketing as Strategy (Part One), I mentioned “it all starts with research – some internal, some external, some primary, some secondary, some qualitative, and some quantitative.” Research can be one of the great levelers, since different people throughout the institution have different knowledge and ideas about how the institution or school is perceived externally, based on who they interact with and how long they’ve been part of the organization.
Having accurate data on market perceptions helps move the discussion from hearsay and opinion to fact. It helps you get to the heart of the problem, confirms (or disconfirms) assumptions, and separates “what we think” from “what we know.” It changes the discussion from “what the problem is” to what should be done about it.
One of the most common mistakes in strategy and marketing initiatives is skipping the research phase. However, devoting the time and effort to do research upfront saves time, effort, money and heartache further down the road.
The good news is that you don’t need to launch an expensive market research project -- instead, start with what you know. One of the best places to start is with your own admissions data.
Looking back over the past few years, you can often determine, from the numbers, what is working and not working well. You can analyze data throughout the admissions pipeline to see who comes into your pipeline and where there might be “leakage” (both planned and unplanned).
Who is entering your admissions pipeline? How are they finding you? How are you matching your tools and messages to candidate actions as they move through the pipeline? Are you more or less likely to admit certain types of candidates? Are certain types of candidates more or less likely to accept your offer of admission? Are there one or more areas in the pipeline where leakage is more likely to occur?
Later you can identify why this leakage is occurring and perhaps why different groups aren’t entering your pipeline at all. And then the real fun begins.