Marketing: A Community College Success Story

Article excerpt

The authors of this article will explore how investments in effective marketing can help make a community college be "successful." This means for this essay, that enrollment increase, increased endowments, outreach, and community support all grow. The source of this study was a community college in the Midwest in a state with relatively flat population. The school is 35 years old and is a comprehensive community college. This is written to academics because the various academic search engines do not provide any information relative to this issue.

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What was the college marketing strategy like before the college had spectacular growth and community support?

The college's message was scattered, funding was dispersed based on department territoriality, and division of labor in marketing was overly decentralized. Enrollment had grown but was flat at 5,600(fall credit headcount) Communication both internally and externally was imperfect and often unplanned. As such, there was not a cohesive consumer benefit driven outreach plan.

What was done?

1. Marketing (marketing, admissions and related) were centralized under one administrator reporting to the president. Following this (new) administrator's internal interviews with deans and department heads (actually "clients") and after some consumer perception research, a plan and budget was developed. The college was divided into about fifteen enrollment areas and preliminary strategies, tactics, timing and budgets were developed. Individual department marketing funds were centralized in the new division and the total budget increased substantially. Synergy between departments was sought in promotional messages.

2. Consumer research was conducted and indicated that prospective students wanted help to determine college and career directions. While the college's overall image and awareness were adequate, there appeared to be room and public "permission" for the college to become more proactive in it's outreach. A sense of the personal benefits people sought as a result of college attendance also flowed from the research and was used in future advertising efforts.

3. Advertisements and recruiting materials were centered on psychographics and numerous demographics matched to specific programs for potential students to make choices among the college's programs and to select the college in general. In advertisements, permission was given for many to continue on with their education or to return to school. Thus, benefits were humanized

4. The marketing plan was then integrated into the school's overall plan and budget. Branding became essential. The general population knew the school in "top of mind" surveys (second only to a large big ten university nearby.) Not only qualitative goals were established, but also quantitative ones. Thus, enrollment numbers were forecasted and projected using the potential population of the school's geographic area. Quantitative enrollment (revenue) goals became the benchmarks for deciding on marketing investments.

In addition to enrollment and tuition income goals, "clients" input the qualitative goals they wished to focus upon such as quality of teaching faculty, facilities or career opportunities.

5. There was a supportive institution. Parenthetically, the college had a dynamic president. This was true of other personnel all across the campus. Additionally, the community college became the school of choice for more students looking for skills to compliment their liberal arts experience in the emerging global information society. …