One of the key strengths of a distance education program also can be a weakness. While web-based learning increases dramatically the pool of potential students that you can target, the number of competitors vying for those same students increases as well.
In order to grow your online program and outpace the competition, you need a smart marketing program that understands market needs, and is flexible enough to respond to shifting opportunities. Further, given today’s shrinking budgets, you need to be able to do of all that in the most cost-effective manner possible.
In the recent online seminar, Cost-Effective Best Practices for Marketing Online Programs, Keith Bourne, CEO of Adaptive Campus, provided strategies and techniques for creating a web marketing experience that will drive traffic, build relationships and convert leads into enrollments.
One of the low-cost strategies Bourne recommended is to conduct search engine analysis using Google AdWords and Google Analytics. Unlike traditional marketing, pay-per-click advertising allows you to easily perform A/B testing to test different keywords, and see what resonates with your target audience. In addition, because you can set your budget and you only pay when someone clicks on your ad, it is relatively simple to control costs.
Once you drive prospects to your website, it’s important to create an experience that keeps them engaged and makes them willing to part with their email address. Bourne recommends that you have a simple yet prominently displayed box on each webpage, asking only for their email address. Resist the temptation to ask for name, phone, etc. The more information you request, the worse your results. Start with the email, and as you continue your courtship, you’ll learn more about the prospective student.
“This is one of the differences between traditional marketing and permission marketing,” said Bourne, a former marketing director for Sloan-C. “You can’t just walk up to someone and propose marriage. You want to create a relationship with the user and move them up the ladder until they take the action you’re looking for.”