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How to Market an Online Graduate Program: Building the Foundation to Ensure Success
[00:00:00] Zach Busekrus: Welcome to How To Market an Online Graduate program, a special four-part podcast series brought to you by Enroll I and our friends and Archer Education. Over the course of this series, we'll unpack everything you need to know to properly design a go-to-market strategy for your new online grad program, and we'll also talk about what the first few years of marketing and growing your program should look like.
[00:00:26] We'll dive deep into where, when, and how to use paid search and paid social effectively. How you should think through appropriately balancing paid and organic efforts in years one and two versus years three and four. We'll talk about what positioning strategies you should test out. We'll also talk about how to properly leverage the personal brands of your faculty and staff members and so much more.
[00:00:48] This series is made possible thanks to our friends at Archer. Archer is an education technology company dedicated to personalizing student recruitment. If you wanna learn more about how Archer might be able to help your institution get [00:01:00] more bang for your marketing and admissions buck, head on over to archer edu.com and tell them that your friends at RFI sent you their way.
[00:01:08] Without further ado, welcome to this special series, how to Market an Online Grad Program.
[00:01:30] In episode one of How to Market an online graduate program, you'll meet Angie Moore, s v p of Student Engagement and John Goodwin, senior Managing Director at Archer. Angie. John and I discussed what the key differences between marketing in-person grad programs and the online programs are, and how schools should tailor their marketing strategies accordingly.
[00:01:47] We also discussed why marketing leadership should have a seat at the table during the development of the program itself. And what the balance between paid and organic strategies should look like in the initial stages of marketing and online grad [00:02:00] program. For more information on this series and on Archer Education, be sure to check out the channels below.
[00:02:05] But without further ado, welcome to episode one of How to Market an Online Grad Program.
[00:02:14] All right, Angie and John. Welcome to this first ever. Not first ever, but first of this new season of collaboration between enroll I and Archer for this special podcast series that's all around designing how to build, how to launch, how to market, and how to scale an online grad program. How are you both doing today, Angie, we'll start with you.
[00:02:38] You, you're all bright and sunny looking like where? Where in the world are you?
[00:02:44] Angie Mohr: Um, first of all, I'm doing well and yeah, thanks for having us back. I'm really excited to do this. I'm just in Kansas City and it's just randomly sunny, I guess, today and really hot and humid. Oh,
[00:02:54] Zach Busekrus: wow. It looks like
[00:02:54] Angie Mohr: you're, I don't know why I say just, I'm in the lovely city of Kansas City where it is [00:03:00] sunny and bright.
[00:03:00] But also humid and hot. Ah,
[00:03:03] Zach Busekrus: well, the, uh, your, your background makes it look a little bit more like a California vibe, so, um, yeah, I, I thought you were gonna say you were in LA somewhere. Um, but John, how about you, sir? How are you doing today? I'm super fantastic
[00:03:15] John Goodwin: today. Thank you for asking. I am in, uh, Centennial Colorado, which is suburb of Denver.
[00:03:20] Zach Busekrus: Okay. We've got a lot to talk about today, guys, and this is the, the first part of, uh, really a four-part series, as I mentioned, that we're producing with, with, uh, the wonderful team at Archer. And we wanted to put this series together for, for all of our listeners because one of the questions we get asked a lot here at Enroll is, Hey, how should you, when you're launching a new program, Especially when it's new online grad program.
[00:03:42] How should you think about sort of setting longer term objectives, but also sort of, you know, shorter term goals and how do you balance the shorter term goals with longer term objectives? What are marketing strategies and tactics that are appropriate in that kind of like first year of standing up a a program, [00:04:00] and how should those change and evolve as the program begins to take off?
[00:04:04] How do you. Take the insights that you've garnered from, you know, the launch year and learn from them and not repeat the same mistakes in years two and three. And then also, you know, figure out what you did well and, and, you know, pour some extra gas on on those efforts. So what we wanna do today, Angie and, and John, is really just establish a foundation.
[00:04:24] So we want to think through what should that kind of first year. Look like. So you, your institution has decided you're gonna launch a new program. It's gonna be online, and it's gonna be focused on grad. Where, where do we wanna start? So, I, I thought I, I would kick us off here by kind of posing this question to, to the both of you.
[00:04:44] And Angie, we'll start with you and then John, I'd love your, your reactions to this question, but you know, what, what are some of the, the key differences between marketing traditional in-person grad programs versus, versus online programs? How, how, Angie, do you think schools [00:05:00] should tailor their, their marketing strategies accordingly?
[00:05:05] Angie Mohr: I love this question and it really just, Kind of makes me think about how much things have changed even in the last five years, three years, uh, you know, with Covid. Um, so this question that the, the first thing that I kind of think of that is, How much more the demographics and how much more marketing programs online versus, you know, on ground are, you're talking to more similar people today than, than different, right?
[00:05:37] Mm-hmm. Um, there was this stat in a recent r and l report around, um, online student expectations. And basically they had said somewhere around 25% of online, um, Undergrad enrollments, I know this is undergrad, but are in the traditional age range of under 24 and or first term freshmen. And I think just thinking about how that might translate to grad programs is, [00:06:00] especially when thinking about grad programs, you're talking about people that are typically working and have a lot going on in their lives.
[00:06:06] And so in terms of just marketing right. Needing to just understand that, that you're, you're talking to a, an audience that has more similarities today than they used to. Mm-hmm. So the other thing that comes to mind when you ask this question, and again, I think, you know, I'm, I'm happy that you're gonna be talking to a lot of the team members here at Archer that, uh, you know, can dive into really specific, you know, marketing and channel tactics.
[00:06:29] Um, John and I, and, and the topic of this kind of conversation is around like foundational thoughts and, and beliefs and actions and things like that. And I think that there's this, just from a, a higher level kind of marketing world, there's kind of this misconception that if you're marketing online programs that you don't have to have, provide any sort of.
[00:06:49] Understanding or, um, you know, there's no campus experience, but there still needs to be a student experience that is really built around what your institution can, [00:07:00] you know, the community that you have, um, within these online programs. So those are two things that just kind of come to mind, um, when you ask that question.
[00:07:07] I, I
[00:07:08] Zach Busekrus: love that last point in particular, right? About the temptation might be, oh, it's easier, right? Or it's, or you just have to, you know, worry about lots of paid ads. Maybe you should pay a little bit more attention to, you know, organic search than you might in, in, in other contexts. But that's, that's really a fallacy, right?
[00:07:23] Like, you, you, you're still. You still need to offer an exceptional student experience, but the way that that experience is delivered is just through a different modality, quite frankly. Right. The way that digital recruitment experience is delivered. Yeah. The exper you can't, you can't remove the experience, right?
[00:07:40] You just have to figure out how do you adapt it to, to, uh, a, a unique modality. John, would you add anything to that? What, how, how, how else would you unpack that question? I think the
[00:07:49] John Goodwin: biggest answer that I've got is what communities are you trying to serve? Um, when you're looking for online graduate programs, Who are you trying to serve?
[00:07:58] Because it may not be [00:08:00] local, it might be industry specific, or it might be Affinity Group specific. It might be, are you upskilling or looking to reskill based on the type of degree that you, that you've got there, um, and what you're trying to provide. So based on the type of community you're trying to serve, that's gonna, that's gonna help you, um, reimagine, deploy, and work with those prospective students, uh, in your.
[00:08:23] In your program. But other than that, I think Angie's, Angie's spot on, um, with regard to the variance of the differences or maybe not so different, um, in whether you're with whether the modality is gonna be ground or it's going to be online, but hopefully. The university that's launching a a, an a online graduate program has done their research to know who they're trying to target Hmm.
[00:08:46] And what audience they're trying to serve. It's just like a product or service, right? You have to know who your, who your audience is going to be and where they're going to be, and, and, and, and then how you're going to attract them or go after them.
[00:08:57] Zach Busekrus: Yeah. Yeah. I [00:09:00] wanna pose this, this next question, which I think is, is a, a nice piggyback to what we're talking about here.
[00:09:05] O oftentimes, At least traditionally. Marketers, even at the leadership level, the director, VP level, right. Uh, have not had a, a particularly influential seat at the product development stage, if you will. Right. So this idea of developing a program sometimes, and, and, and this is still true in many contexts, one day someone opens their email and they find out that the faculty and or the powers that be have decided that we're launching a new online grad program and.
[00:09:33] There. You need the VP of marketing to go ahead and do some marketing now for that program. Right. And we, we know in other contexts, right, that this would just be totally frowned upon, right? Like mar marketing absolutely needs a seat at like the product development table. Every other industry knows that.
[00:09:51] Right? And yet sometimes in higher ed we, we, we forget that. So I'd love your all's thoughts on. Why it's important to, even in the, the [00:10:00] conceptualizing the, uh, of the program, why it's, why it's essential that the marketing leader, right, regardless of how that might look at your respective institution, has a influential seat at the table when, when figuring out what this program is gonna look like.
[00:10:13] John, why don't we start with you on this one and then we can, uh, ping back to ping back to Angie. This
[00:10:18] John Goodwin: is a big, this is a big question because I think it speaks to the infrastructure. Of the business of higher education. Right. So a lot of times, at least in today's world, the marketers are, you've got a marketing lead inside of a, of a university.
[00:10:32] But a lot of the, the practices, strategy, implementation, the talent, the subject matter expert expertise is outside of the actual institution or the university that's trying to market the program. So I, you know, it, it, it's one of those, it's one of those questions I think that's going to continue to, um, It's, it's, it's continued to be a problem for some of our higher education universities because a lot of the subject matter expertise that they need to market a program [00:11:00] are external.
[00:11:00] Hmm. Um, and bringing them to the table, it can, can be difficult. Now, a, a best practice to that, if that's okay to answer that a little bit is to You're absolutely right. Do an interview with the faculty, the lead faculty, the lead staff members or the curriculum design developers to help them understand how they're going to market, how they're gonna position, um, the, the actual program.
[00:11:22] And, and, you know, a great place and these might be words or. Or, uh, acronyms that people don't know is to look at SIP codes and SOC codes. SIP codes are what's the program going to be accredited to and what are the outcomes of that? And the SOC codes would be what industries are they serving? What positions are they servings and what outcomes are going to get those?
[00:11:41] Um, what would those students have as far those outcomes as it would serve their, their positions, their jobs or the, or the job they're trying to get. But, but yes, I mean, that is a critical component. A lot of organizations like Archer and marketing groups understand that critical nature. You're talking about dac, it's just, but it's [00:12:00] just not inherent in the thinking.
[00:12:01] A lot of times a program's built or developed because a company said, Hey, we need more people and we need more employees like this and or, Hey, we've got this faculty member that's just a rockstar over this content and they wanna build that program. Yeah. So, You know, again, serving the community is critical and you, you're right to serve your community.
[00:12:21] You've gotta understand the product that you're building and who you're gonna serve with that particular product. But it's just not inherently, um, or innately inside of the university to have that kind of, Thinking and and structure.
[00:12:35] Zach Busekrus: If you work in student recruitment, you are in the market for eyeball time.
[00:12:39] You're not just competing with other institutions, you're competing with every other brand that's in the market for views, clicks, and conversions from your target audience. Getting attention is hard enough, so once you have it, You've gotta do everything that you can to harness it and to keep it. And that's what our friends at Archer Education helped schools do so dang well.
[00:12:59] Archer is [00:13:00] pioneering a new era in personalized student recruitment through its story-driven and technology enabled approach that's designed to support the entire enrollment process. If you wanna learn more about how Archer might be able to help your institution get more bang for your marketing and admissions, Buck, head on over to archer edu.com and tell them that your friends at RFI sent you their way.
[00:13:21] Again, that's archer edu.com.
[00:13:31] Yeah. What, what would you add to that, Angie? Well, first of all, I
[00:13:36] Angie Mohr: um, Love how John is so good at always reminding people about the zip code and SOC codes and how important they are. Because to his point, those are, those are really critical and I think sometimes we just kind of overlook in in going after maybe, You know, uh, what are the hot programs and not necessarily aligning those things.
[00:13:54] But anyway, I just, I I love that, that, um, he's so good at just reminding people about that. But [00:14:00] something that was kind of on my mind as we were even talking about, the last question, and I think it it plays in here too, is just how competitive, if you think about the online graduate market is today. Yeah.
[00:14:11] So competitive, and again, like even in the last three years has gotten so much more competitive. And what I mean by that is the cost to market. Them, or one of the things I guess I mean by that is just the cost to market these programs has gotten just crazy expensive. And so you have to be really good at it.
[00:14:28] You have to make sure that you have something that's, um, really, uh, compelling for a message. And, and so, you know, before maybe that was. Speaking to things like this audience needs, like flexibility and like, do, you know, do this on your time. And now that's a given, right? Mm-hmm. Like you can't just speak to those types of, um, things and think that that's gonna be a differentiator.
[00:14:48] And so I think the marketing team, having a seat at the table, uh, is so important because they have this lens of. You know, or they should, anyway, what's going on in the market and what would, what would we [00:15:00] need to say to be competitive? Or what are students out there looking for? What are other similar programs like this offering?
[00:15:06] What would we need to be able to do or say, or, or offer to make this a really compelling, um, um, program or a really compelling message among other things. I think that's the thing that really just stands out to me, is just being able to have that voice in the room.
[00:15:19] Zach Busekrus: Yeah. Yeah. I, I couldn't agree with you, with you both more here.
[00:15:23] I. Uh, you, you, I think, John, you just touched on this briefly in, uh, response to the, the first question I asked, but when you, when you, when talking about market research right, and, and doing market research, I think PE-people have a love-hate relationship with market research, right? Period. Right? Because on the one hand, if you're the VP of marketing or you're, you're in some sort of leadership position and some firm comes to you and says like, we have to do market research immediately you think, okay, I'm gonna pay a lot of money to get told things that I already know.
[00:15:53] I'm just. Paying this because I, my boss or the powers that be don't trust me and my, my, you know, my [00:16:00] data or, and or my instincts. So I'm gonna go pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to get a report that says exactly what I already know. That's one perspective. Right now that's, that's an extreme example, but some people fall into that camp, and then the other, the other sort of camp is, whoa, whoa.
[00:16:14] We need to research the heck out of everything before we do anything right. And that if that takes five years, it takes five years, right? Like, show me the data, show me the data, show me the data. So how, how do you all think in, in a, in a contemporary, uh, contemporary marketplace where things are super dynamic and changing all the time, and quite frankly, the rate of.
[00:16:37] Of learning and just the, the way that things move is just so much quicker than they were a decade ago or, or let alone a couple decades ago. And so, as you guys think about what is the, what is, as you guys talk with clients, like what is the appropriate balance of. Of doing market research well, like how do you ensure that you have enough data to make a good informed decision when you're developing a product?
[00:16:58] And then [00:17:00] where might you be getting into analysis paralysis? And it's like, no, no, no. Like you just at least need to ship the beta, so to speak. Uh, and, and we have all the information that we need to ship the beta. We'll learn from the beta, right? And we'll make adjustments accordingly. But like we first need.
[00:17:14] To, you know, put this program into the market and see how people play with it. Like how do you guys help advise people on, on how to, how to discern, how to appropriately tackle this really important objective. John, what are, what are your thoughts here?
[00:17:30] John Goodwin: Gosh, I think you should be in the middle of that. I think you should recognize the importance of getting to your best.
[00:17:37] But there's iterations upon iterations upon iterations that you're gonna do, 'cause to your point, If you get most of it right, that's all that really matters. And, and you're right, people, some people can blink and they have 90% of the information that they're going to need, right? There's other people that need to have the supporting documentation 'cause they're not nearly as close to it.
[00:17:57] And you want an organizational commitment to the strategy of [00:18:00] the program. And so you've gotta recognize the need that I can blink and I can say, yes, that's probably right, but the person that needs to finance this or help us finance this program may not have that, that understanding. And so you do need to provide the data, at least from a foundational level, uh, to understand that.
[00:18:16] And the foundational level could look at. Here's what our brand is good at, here's what our program is going to serve. Here's what our, um, community needs, and then here are the markets. Um, here are the competitors in our market. Here's the price point. You can do all of that natural easy stuff, um, to find out how you're gonna be positioned or how, how, if you were to land in the middle of the market, how it would actually look to consumers on the whole.
[00:18:41] Hmm. Um, okay. That's just the starting point. And we call that at, at Archer we call that the good approach. But iteration and, and learning what the market is saying back to you and getting feedback from your marketing channels, getting feedback from. Prospective students and things like, that's gonna help you get better and better [00:19:00] and better until you feel like you're at best or you, or you're able to make a different type of decision based on what the market's providing you.
[00:19:06] You're right, you can get analysis paralysis, but you do have to pay attention to the key critical success factors and the indicators that, that I just mentioned, um, to, to make everybody. To get everybody on the same page of what we're trying to do here and what those critical success factors need to look like for us as an institution or an organization to be successful at this.
[00:19:25] Zach Busekrus: Yeah. So, so well said. Uh, Angie, from, from your, your perspective, like what are, what are some of those kind of like critical factors and or, and are, you know, as you, as you work and, and talk with marketers at, at, you know, at senior levels within, uh, within an organization, within an institution, How do you help them think through these, these critical factors?
[00:19:47] Yeah. And, and what questions they should be asking and who they should be asking the questions to, et cetera.
[00:19:53] Angie Mohr: Yeah. So just to kind of add to what John was saying too, 'cause I think this plays into what you're asking is I think [00:20:00] there can be this. Fear of not being perfect out of the gate or not having it, you know, maybe we don't have all the information that we think that we need or that we don't understand this market perfectly, and so we're just gonna continue to gather information and, and, you know, that creates that kind of, um, analysis paralysis where, what John is talking about and, and what we, you know, I like to think help our clients do and understand is that, um, you know, progress is better than perfection.
[00:20:32] You do need to have a really, you need to make well-informed decisions, right? We can't just go after the things that we think are shiny or, you know, exciting. Yeah. But we need to be able to launch a program and learn from it and, and understand that. And from a marketing perspective specifically, we're not gonna get it right a hundred percent right out of the gate.
[00:20:53] And that we can refine this over time, make the marketing messaging better, make the experience better, get that feedback that we [00:21:00] need. You can't be perfect out of the gate without some of that real user feedback. Um, but yeah. So thinking about, you know, what are some of those, the, the critical things that you need to be able to feel good about moving forward?
[00:21:13] Marketing a program. Um, one of the things that comes to my mind is critical that I feel like can be a little bit, I. Of a touchy subject, I guess is just competition, right? Like who, who else around you in your local market, in your regional market, and then nationally might also be, uh, marketing to these students.
[00:21:33] And I think sometimes the misperception or misconception there, excuse me, is that. It's the other institutions that we align with ourselves that are similar to us or that have, you know, you know, similar characteristics, but you really need to understand the actual marketing landscape. Who's out, what brands are out there, uh, with, with, uh, their brands, people's eyeballs on their brands.
[00:21:55] Yeah. And talking about their programs. And that's, that's one area where I feel like. Um, you have [00:22:00] to, you really have to understand if you're going out and searching, do your research, uh, keyword research, and just understanding, um, who's marketing for what programs. Um, that to me is like the number one.
[00:22:12] Like, and another reason too why marketing should have a seat at the table with these conversations is that that's, you know, they live and breathe that, um, every day.
[00:22:21] Zach Busekrus: Well, and also when it, when it comes to like, online grad programs, right? Sometimes your competition at the, you know, uh, at the ground and local level for your overarching institutional brand might be vastly different, right?
[00:22:35] Than your competition in, in the graduate online space, right? Just because you, you know, university of Virginia and you're competing with school X or, or school y for on-campus learning does not mean that you're. Your, your competitors in, in the online space are, are the same. Right. And, and I think one of the things that's really important for folks to discern is does our on the ground brand help or, you know, [00:23:00] Not really help that much, the promotion of our online grad program because, promote, because that might actually, that, that should be an indicator in how much you do or don't leverage that quote unquote, like parent brand in your marketing.
[00:23:13] That should be dependent on how it's perceived in the markets that you're specifically targeting. Uh, with, with, with, with respect to the, to the launch of the new program. Um, I I wanna talk a little, a little bit about strategies and tactics. O once you've got the people on board that you need to get on board, you've shipped, uh, uh, V one, if you will, of, of the program.
[00:23:36] You're excited about it. You realize it's the first year I. You're recruiting your first cohort. What, what are the strategies and tactics from a marketing perspective that make the most sense in, in this kind of like inaugural year? Like how do you guys think about helping schools balance spend on pure branding versus, you know, spend.
[00:23:57] That's maybe a little bit more focused [00:24:00] on, uh, uh, on, on core marketing metrics that can be easily tracked and and attributed. What are, what's, what's that marketing mix look like in the first year? I'll just start
[00:24:10] Angie Mohr: with this, and I, I know that this, people hate this answer, but it really depends on, on a lot of factors and one of those, one of those being.
[00:24:20] To your point around just brand, how much brand recognition do you have in your, um, you know, in your local market? And I think to piggyback on, on the way that you kind of phrased this question too, is how, thinking about how you'll market your brand and programs locally, regionally, however far you wanna go, you really have to think about that at each of those, you know, as you expand out, um, geographically too.
[00:24:47] But that number that. Percent is just gonna vary so greatly depending on your brand recognition in a, in a particular market. And so I guess one thing I'll just add to that is if you are trying [00:25:00] to expand into new markets or new areas, first of all, You know, you, you can't just come out and try to market these programs nationally if you are not, if you do not have a brand that is known nationally.
[00:25:11] Right? I think that's still kind of a misconception that you could, that you could do that, um, as you get further and further away from your physical institution. No matter if your program's online or not, that brand awareness just goes down. And so every 25 mile radius, you add on costs more and more and more and more as you try to expand, right?
[00:25:32] So to, so to reach those individuals just to try to build your brand gets just exponentially expensive. So you just have to understand kind of where, where you live, and then I think you have to understand what you're willing to spend from a brand recognition. Standpoint and then a program recognition and lead generation standpoint.
[00:25:53] And so there's no, I wish there was like a magical, you know, number for this or just like, oh, it's, you know, definitely [00:26:00] 70%, you know, programmatic and 30% brand, but that's just not reality, especially in different geographic areas. John, I'm sure you have other thoughts to add to that too, but that's just kind of where my mind immediately goes.
[00:26:13] John Goodwin: Well, there's, you know, I think that's, that's absolutely spot on, Angie. I think that the only thing I would, conceptually, I would, I would add to that is you have a short game and a long game when you're, when you're launching a program and the short game is going to be more familiar or earned. Right.
[00:26:27] Whether your brand is earned or whether you've got an industry that you can, um, pierce into, or whether you've got an alumni network or things like that, that you need to do an instant boost on the program to make it financially viable, but then also learn, um, from what your market is telling you and, and different things like that.
[00:26:42] The longer game is what Angie's talking about, at least in my opinion, is, is you know, where's your brand going to go? Where do you want it to go, and how do you wanna begin to. To spend on the brand recognition and then you work into program recognition under the brand. Um, you know, and there's, there's lots of concepts that we could spew out here.
[00:26:59] Like, [00:27:00] are you a browse, a house of brands? Are you branded house? Different things like that. But I think that, that it's really about the investment tolerance and how quickly you need to get. Um, students into the program and prove out either from an accreditation standpoint or prove out from a marketing standpoint or from a demand standpoint.
[00:27:15] And, you know, so again, you've got a short game and a long game, and I think you need to play it very carefully, um, uh, as far as how you're spending and, and where you're investing your marketing dollars to recruit students and, and keep students.
[00:27:26] Zach Busekrus: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:27:27] Angie Mohr: One thing I'll just quickly add to that, if that's okay, is, is that, you know, to John's kind of earlier point around maximizing.
[00:27:36] And you didn't use the word organic, I don't think, John, but no, I didn't, not just organic online. Not just organic online traffic, but what, what existing relationships you already have, where students could be coming from. Yeah, yeah. We always, we always say you've got to max out your local market before you think about expanding, uh, beyond that, because it's just, again, the brand presence is there or the brand awareness is there.
[00:27:59] Um, [00:28:00] and so those, those enrollments are, you know, often. Half, if not less expensive to enroll than trying to expand your, your, you know, your reach from a geographic standpoint. So we always kind of preach that max out your local market before you try to expand, um, as a philosophy for how to think about spending and, and branding versus program and
[00:28:22] Zach Busekrus: all that, which I love that you guys are talking about this and that you champion this because, That is sort of counterintuitive to how a lot of people think about the reason for launching an online grad program or like, like you can hear the conversations.
[00:28:36] I, I can hear 'em right now, uh, that the faculty are having it. So what you're saying is we need to launch this online grad program to target people that could actually come to our in-person program that's equivalent to this, right? It's like, what? No, like you, you, you, you would typically think that the reason for launching an online grow.
[00:28:53] Uh, grad program is 'cause that's our, that's the way that we do go national. Right. And, and, and that's, and that, that, that doesn't [00:29:00] mean that you will never get there. Right. But to, to your point. I love that. It's just, it's, it's a simple, but like a very important reminder that no, no, no. Your brand recognition is hottest in the, you know, 60 to a hundred mile radius of, of where you actually live.
[00:29:14] Right? I'm making those radiuses up. You guys probably know what they actually are, but like, it's pretty accurate. Point, point being that like, You, you want cheap traffic and cheap leads, right? And, and cheaper enrollments that start there. You can always expand. But if you take a national approach on day one, unless again you are a name brand institution, that's gonna be a a probably a recipe for disaster for most.
[00:29:38] And you'll probably end up spending not enough in any one particular region, right, beyond kind of your core market where you won't have good data on like what worked and what didn't. And you won't really be able to uncover what markets you. Could, you know, market to outside of your, your, your kind of like regional hub because you won't be able to spend enough to really understand where [00:30:00] there is other kind of like maybe outside motivation for, for your respective program.
[00:30:05] What you guys got Any reactions to that? If you
[00:30:07] Angie Mohr: wanted to launch with a national. Presence and, and recruit nationally, it would take your breath away how much that would cost. I think to your point, it not only is it crazy expensive, you know, multi multimillion dollar, uh, marketing budgets to do that kind of thing.
[00:30:24] Um, and today, yeah, I'm, I'm probably even underestimating what that would look like, but, To your, to your point, you also take away your opportunity to, to learn in, in doing it in such a broad, you know, you're, you're not necessarily gonna maximize the efficiencies of that marketing approach in any way, shape, or form.
[00:30:43] Yeah. But I, you know, I, again, like it can be done. It's just I haven't met an institution yet and rightfully so that would be willing to spend what it takes to do it and to do it well. Right. So, yeah. John, curious to get your, your take on that too. I feel like this is a conversation that we [00:31:00] have all day every day.
[00:31:03] Right. What does it take to grow your brand presence geographically from more than you know, wherever you are today with that presence and expanding it? Yeah,
[00:31:17] Zach Busekrus: I think, I think it's one,
[00:31:18] John Goodwin: yeah, I think that's right, Angie. You know, it's one of those things where. Gosh, when I was growing up, the brand told you who they were and you believed it.
[00:31:28] We, you know, we, we, we learned who Coke was through commercials and all those different kind types of things. And now consumers tell us what a brand is worth and what it actually is. And we've gotta inform them of the products and the services that we have and in the market, in the respective market that we're trying to go after.
[00:31:46] Otherwise the awareness isn't just, isn't even there. And, and that is a, that's a key piece, you know, a lot of, um, universities still. Believe that if they build it, they will come. Yeah. [00:32:00] And that's not, that's, that's not gonna happen. You've gotta, you've gotta build it through awareness and through calculated risk taking and investments and things like that.
[00:32:11] And then you hope they come and you iterate after that. And iteration is gonna be, you're, you're, your ability to iterate from there is your critical success factor. That can or should be your superpower because you won't get it right in the first time, but you've gotta
[00:32:25] Zach Busekrus: get out there first. Yeah. Yeah. I, um, I wanna talk a little bit about kind of goals, right?
[00:32:32] And, and how folks should think about putting together marketing strategies for the launch of a new grad program. I. That, that's the sort of right mix of longer term goals with, with shorter term goals. And I know that all of this depends, right? And of course it depends on the client context, on budget, on the type of program, on the strength of the brand, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
[00:32:56] But like, could, could you guys give us, you know, one example of [00:33:00] just like one potential path, right? Of as, as, as you're working with. Your, your own clients standing up these, these new programs in that first year. Of the, the, the launch here, what are some of the metrics that you all are encouraging your clients to, to look at and to consider and to, to pay attention to?
[00:33:22] Do you have any examples of like specific strategies or, or tactics that. In year one of launching a new online grad program, you really don't wanna be paying attention to how many people, how many impressions you got on your Instagram reels. What you really wanna do is, is focus on X, Y, or Z, or, or what are, what are some of those more specific metrics that folks should pay attention to.
[00:33:42] John, what about, we'll, we'll start with you and then we'll pinging it over to Angie. Sorry to we on this line.
[00:33:46] John Goodwin: This is a, this is a huge question. This is a huge question and. You know, if I get this right, it's worth hundreds of millions of dollars at least. But I'll tell you it, it's a huge question, you know, so, so first, [00:34:00] first and foremost is we do encourage all of our clients to performer this out.
[00:34:06] Talk about what you're going to need to make this program a success in the first couple of years. And proforma it out means how many students we're going to use, how many sections? What are our starts calendar gonna look like? Are we gonna be on a traditional start? Are we gonna start every eight weeks?
[00:34:22] Are we gonna start every day? Are, what does that actually look like? Because that's gonna dictate your ebb and flow of your marketing dollars, right? Because, and then, then we look at. What are, what's the friction to a student, the student journey from the admission standpoint to say, gosh, um, what's our mission requirements?
[00:34:41] What do our decision making look like? What's that cadence? What does that all look like? We call those service levels, if you will. Yeah. Then we can back into that favorably or unfavorably on how many. Application, completed applications, we're gonna have to look at how many, how many then started applications to take to get a completed application.
[00:34:59] Then we start [00:35:00] working backwards and we get up to a number that says we're gonna need this many impressions, and where do we go get those impressions that turn into leads. You said something earlier about the cost per lead is the, is a critical, is a is a knowledge point. Yeah, but cost per enrollment and start.
[00:35:18] Is the one that's going to actually get you to the, to the, to the promised land and knowing what it took. Yeah. To get, get any, every one of those enrollments or every one of those starts is, and, and, and backward iterating or finding more of those and those and those audiences is gonna be a cri critical success factor.
[00:35:34] So, so I say, you know, build the proforma first and let's work backwards to say what that would look like. And then, and then decide whether you can afford that or not. To Angie's point. Yeah. Or whether you've gotta go back to the kitty and say, gosh, we're gonna need $500,000. 500 more thousand dollars for this, for this first year of this program to get to the impressions.
[00:35:52] Can we handle that? Can we tolerate, tolerate that? Or do we have to go back into some of our market research to say, okay, we're gonna have to work [00:36:00] with our alumni groups, we're gonna have to look at corporate partnerships. We're gonna have to look at all of these. Um, More targeted, more, more densely targeted markets, um, because we can't afford to go out into a mass market with this, this program based on what we've identified are our critical success factors in our performance.
[00:36:18] Zach Busekrus: yeah. That, uh, Angie, I wanna get your thoughts in just a second here, but just to quickly, uh, add something to what you were just saying, John, it, it sound, it sounds to me, right, like that, one of, that, one of the key objectives, maybe the key objective in that first year is to have a solid understanding of like, What it costs to enroll a student in that, in that new program.
[00:36:37] Right. Meaning like if, if at the end of that year you had at least a range of like, this is what it's going to, this is what it's gonna cost given the budget that we had, right? And given the tactics and strategies that we employed in this first year, this is what it costs to enroll a student from there again.
[00:36:51] Then you, then you're sort of empowered with. Hard data. That's your data, not data that you based these models off of from, you know, like [00:37:00] programs and, and other competitors initially, right? Which, which you have to do at the offset when you don't have your own data. Now you do have your own data and so if, if, if, if nothing else, at least understanding right, what it costs to get somebody to enroll in this, in this particular program that equips you with good intel.
[00:37:17] Good insight to be able to build a stronger right, uh, more reliable marketing program going into the second, third, and, and, and fourth years of, of, of the development and, and promotion of, of the program. Well said. Uh, Andrew? Yeah. What, what would you add to this?
[00:37:35] Angie Mohr: Well, I think to, to what you just said, I think that's so important and so critical and, and one of the many reasons why is that aligning around, you know, what does success look like or what will it take, uh, or what should we, what should we expect it to cost to enroll a student?
[00:37:52] Just really helps, you know, a leadership team align around expectations correctly, right? Mm-hmm. Like, you definitely [00:38:00] don't want. This person over here thinking that it's, it's gonna be a lot cheaper than it is, or someone, you know, you just have to be aligned around what reality looks like and what you would expect.
[00:38:09] The, the only other things I think that I would add are, you know that from the marketing perspective, yes, of course it is going to take time to build up the brand awareness. Um, you, you're gonna have to invest more in. Paid channels and, and you can't rely as much on organic at that point. So looking at those metrics with maybe a lens of curiosity versus, oh my gosh, we didn't get this many impressions, like what are we gonna do?
[00:38:36] Understanding where some of the wins are, where have you seen wins and how does that translate to your cost per application and cost per enrollment? But the other thing that I think is so critical is do you have a way, do you have a feedback loop to understand why students that aren't enrolling aren't enrolling or applying?
[00:38:54] Why students that are applying and enrolling are. Because that's really useful [00:39:00] information that any marketing team or any, you know, anyone within, within the institution can really learn from that. Yeah. And that has less to do with, with the numbers and more to do with, you know, are you listening? Are you taking this feedback?
[00:39:13] Do you have a way to get this feedback to where you can do something with it? Uh, because that's so critical in especially the first year. Right? What do we need to do? To, to improve this program or how we aren't speaking to the right things or, you know, we find that our, the people that are interested in this program really value, you know, um, the, the, the faculty's experience and their real world practitioners that are there.
[00:39:39] You know, like being able to just elevate some of those things in your marketing message messaging along with, Even just the process and the experience that you're delivering, are you finding that people are getting held up or tripped up at a certain point in that process? So, you know, you ask the question about like what's critical?
[00:39:57] And it's so hard because I do think in the first [00:40:00] year you need to have eyeballs on everything. Yeah. But I think it really does start with understanding like what. What does success look like and what should we be expecting to spend for every enrollment so that we can look at that information from a place again, of like curiosity and understanding where we can get better, uh, and, and, um, just improve versus, you know, freaking out because we didn't know what to expect.
[00:40:24] But maybe this was a little higher than like what I had in my mind.
[00:40:28] Zach Busekrus: Yeah. It, I wonder too if, if what you both are saying here, um, Is in terms of objectives for that first year, it really looks like beyond just, okay, what does it cost to actually enroll a student, assuming that. At least some of those students are what you, you all deem is the, is are, are right fit students for the program.
[00:40:46] Right. You know, everyone's enrolled students in a program that they're not the right fit for and they don't end up completing the program and, and whatnot. So it's not just about ensuring you don't understand how much it costs, but how much it costs to enroll the right student. Right. For, for the program, given the [00:41:00] stage the program is, you know, is in in, its in its early stages.
[00:41:03] Right. So maybe that's a, that's a key objective that. We, we should figure it out. And then beyond that, right, maybe it's May, may, or maybe in addition to that, right? It's like what are the positioning statements that best speak to the right fit students that did enroll, right? And then, and then what did that cost, right?
[00:41:20] To produce that and, oh, hey, wow, like, Of the right fit students that did enroll, 60% of them came through this particular channel, even though the number only four, right? Mm-hmm. Or whatever it might be. Mm-hmm. That, that should be a meaningful indicator about where you want spend time and energy as you scale in years two and, and, and beyond.
[00:41:41] That's exactly right. Got, yep.
[00:41:43] Angie Mohr: I would also, I think, add quickly in there too, that all these channels are working together, so. Uh, you have to look at the blended cost versus let's say, you know, I'm just looking at, um, my, um, Facebook [00:42:00] ads. You know, I, I can't rely on looking at my cost per app for that, especially right out of the gate to understand like, should I cut that channel?
[00:42:08] Because it, you know, maybe it's not performing as well as, You know, other lead sources. Maybe this is a given, but I do feel like, you know, we, we, we still talk about this and look at this from the blended perspective, just so we're not, especially I think in year one, making big changes or decisions based on any one channel's performance over a short amount of time.
[00:42:28] Yeah. Uh, but how those are all working together. So to your point, I do think it's really important to understand which, which channels are really winning, where are the conversions coming from, and the lowest cost. Absolutely. And you need a. Put more resources into that, but I would say just don't put too much value or don't give up on some of those other channels, especially higher funnel funnel channels that aren't converting at the same rate and just, and think that they're not, uh, worthwhile investments.
[00:42:54] So I think just focusing on that kind of blended cost per app and enrollment's really,
[00:42:58] Zach Busekrus: really critical. [00:43:00] Yeah, no, so, so well said. My. My, my final question for you guys is, is just a, a riff off of what we had been, uh, what we've been chatting about here. Uh, and I'll, I'll go to you, John, on this, on this one first.
[00:43:11] Um, when, when you think about advice that you'd give to, to your client, right around like, Hey, we're working on launching a new grad program. The program's launched. It's, uh, we're, we're at that 11 month mark. We're prepping, you know, the annual reports to assess what worked and what didn't. The client that you're working with right, is.
[00:43:32] Is worried that they spent money in all the wrong places, or like they didn't have their act together or they hired the wrong agency to help them or, or whatever it might be, right? What are, what are some words of encouragement and just some, some just realistic, like, Hey, here's where we find most people are at after that, that first year.
[00:43:50] Like, these are the kinds of, this is the kind of information that they have typically realized. These are the questions that, you know, they, they now should be asking themselves. [00:44:00] Or I guess what I'm getting at here is, Can we just level set a little bit on in reality from, from your all's reality and, and your, your viewpoint?
[00:44:07] Where are people typically at 12 months after launching an online grad program? It's
[00:44:12] John Goodwin: bipolar, to be honest with you. It's, oh my gosh, the demand was a lot greater. We're exceeding every enrollment target. These students came from places we didn't know even existed, um, to. Should we have launched that program?
[00:44:29] Um, we've got three people that started and one person that's still with us trying to, you know, in that program and we're, you know, so, so the, so bottom line, don't wait a year. Hmm. First of all, you said a year, a year later be watching what's happening at a cadence that's familiar to your, to your institution organization.
[00:44:49] That might be by start. Right. Um, because by start you will see new enrollments and you'll see ongoing enrollment. So you'll be able to assess whether your marketing is working for your new student [00:45:00] recruitment, and you'll be able to assess where the program is working for your current student enrollment, right?
[00:45:04] Mm-hmm. And be watching and listening to what's happening in the, the admissions funnel, but, but also, Equally, if not more important, be watching and listening to what's happening with your existing student population that you recruited in the last start or two starts ago, or three starts ago. Because you can learn a lot about what the program is doing, what it's not doing from those students, and you can refeed that back into the enrollment cycle.
[00:45:27] So, so bottom line, be always listening. And if there isn't a hear here, don't worry so much about it. It could just be that it's taking a little bit of time for your program to get. It's legs underneath it, you know? Um, but also look at the industry that you're trying to serve with that program too. So we could have said during covid of 20, uh, 2021, right?
[00:45:47] That's where we were, Angie, that teachers, even though some of our grad program and teaching were some of the most. Popular programs and some of the greatest affinity groups with the greatest retention and go, those were, [00:46:00] those were money makers. It could be a false negative if you launched a teaching program in 2021 when everybody was trying to decide whether they wanted to be a teacher anymore.
[00:46:07] Mm-hmm. Much less go back to school and learn to be a better teacher. Yeah. Same is true with nursing. So look at the industry that you're serving. Look at the organizations, the companies that you're serving, and find out what the heck's going on in those if you don't already know. Through your marketing surveys and, and, and trying to set this up as to what's happening.
[00:46:23] Supply and chain management was the hottest program in graduate studies in 20, in in 2020. In 2021. People were getting jobs if they didn't have a degree, they were being upskilled and re-skilled in the company because they had to be for organizations to survive during covid and supply chain management challenges.
[00:46:41] So just pay attention to those types of things. Pay attention to your environment that the program's in and, and it will begin to make sense. There's, you're gonna have to make some, um, develop some hypothesis around it, but I think you quickly, by talking to professionals, talking to peer institutions as well, can offer some sort [00:47:00] of, Um, advice or some sort of scorecard that you may not have already developed for
[00:47:04] Zach Busekrus: yourselves.
[00:47:05] So well said. So well said. Uh, Angie, any anything else that you'd add to that? I mean, I
[00:47:12] Angie Mohr: think, I think you said that so well, John, but it just got, it did get my brain spinning in a couple different directions as I feel like. You and I tend to do when, when we're having conversations. Yes. But I think, I think a to John's point, it is so program specific that you can't just say like, in the first year of launching an online grad program, I would expect X, Y, Z to happen.
[00:47:35] Yeah. 'cause it really is so specific to the program. But I think. You know, I know that in higher ed, like we don't like to think about it like a business at all, but this is where it becomes so critically important to really understand, do the research on the front end. What do we think it's gonna cost to market this program, to enroll the X number of students?
[00:47:56] Is that something that we're willing to spend? Is that profitable? Should we go [00:48:00] after that program? You know, knowing that the landscape in which, uh, you know, it, it will live and, and the cost that it'll take to market and enroll students, even if it's something that, you know, one of our strongest, you know, programs in terms of our ability to teach it and things like that.
[00:48:17] And then I think too, um, Just aligning around those expectations is so critically important. So it's doing the research, knowing what programs are viable that you should be going after, and that you have some really, you know, great differentiators. And then making sure everyone's on the same page about what success looks like.
[00:48:34] Um, Because, yeah, I think in, in the first year, again, to John's point, it's bipolar, right? You see, you see so many different outcomes, and it doesn't mean that one is a great success and one is a great failure. It just means you need to understand the wor the world in which you're operating, and I think that's just so critically important.
[00:48:50] Like don't compare yourself to others. Look at, look at your own institution and, and what you've deemed to be successful or what success means, and, and make sure that you're. Just [00:49:00] on track to hit that. Or if you need to make adjustments, understand what that looks like.
[00:49:05] Zach Busekrus: This has been a, a incredibly fruitful conversation.
[00:49:07] I, I am so thankful for, for both of you and, and, and your time and your expertise here. I learned a lot and I, I really do hope our listeners walk away with, uh, Taking some of these things to heart, right? And, and bringing them back to, uh, their leadership tables and discussing if, if they're in the process of currently developing an online grad program, really thinking through how are we going to measure success?
[00:49:29] How do, how do you know? How are we going to understand, what are the things we should actually be paying attention to when we can't pay attention to everything? Right? Like, what, what, where, where do we want our eyeballs? Right? And then being okay with the fact that, hey, you might miss something over there, and that's okay, right?
[00:49:43] Because you chose to place your attention elsewhere. Just make sure that where you do. You know, choose to. Place your attention that you're, that you're really focused there and that there's gonna be some meaningful outcome, um, uh, as a result. But Angie, John, thank you so much for your time. For our listeners, this is just the first [00:50:00] episode in this special series that we've put together with the Archer team.
[00:50:03] If you wanna learn a little bit more about the great work that Angie, John, and their respective teams do, Just scrolling down to the show notes. We'll have a link to their website where you can learn a little bit more about the great work that Archer does, understand some of the other clients that they have worked with.
[00:50:16] And if you need help standing up an online grad program, uh, they're, they're your people. So thank you both so much for. Your time. Really appreciate it and thanks again for all that you do for the industry. It's, it's very important. Thank you, Zach. Thanks for having us, Zach.
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About the Episode
The what's what...
Welcome to “How to Market an Online Graduate Program” a special 4-part podcast series brought to you by Enrollify and our friends at Archer Education.
Over the course of this series we’ll unpack everything you need to know to properly design a go-to-market strategy for your new online grad program and what the first few years of marketing and growing your program should look like.
We’ll dive deep into where, when, and how to use paid search and paid social effectively, how you should think through appropriately balancing paid and organic efforts in Years 1 and 2 vs Years 3 and 4 post-launch, what positioning strategies you should test, how to properly leverage the personal brands of faculty and staff members, and so much more.
This series is made possible thanks to our friends at Archer — Archer is an education technology company dedicated to personalizing student recruitment.
If you want to learn more about how Archer might be able to help your institution get more bang for your marketing and admission buck, head on over to ArcherEdu.com and tell them that your friends at Enrollify sent you their way.
Angie, John, and I discuss:
- What the key differences between marketing in-person graduate programs and online programs are — and how should schools tailor their marketing strategies accordingly
- Why marketing leadership should have a seat at the table during the development of the program itself
- What the balance between paid and organic strategies look like in the initial stages of marketing an online graduate program should look like
- And loads more
About the Podcast
Zach is the Founder of Enrollify. He thoroughly enjoys building new brands, developing and executing content marketing strategies, and hosting podcasts. When he's not working on Enrollify, he enjoys discussing life's quandaries over coffee (or a good bourbon) with friends, building Sponstayneous (his travel brand side hustle), trying out new HIIT workouts, and adventuring across the globe with his wife!
Problem solver. Relationship builder. Changemaker. Champion of individuality for brands. Lover of design. Angie is an accomplished marketer and creative leader with more than 10 years of experience developing successful brands, teams and marketing strategies. With a strong ability to move between the creative needs of a brand and the vision to craft and execute its strategy across paid, earned, and owned platforms, Angie believes it is important to constantly evolve; to push every medium and to create honest, unique work with a purpose. She loves the challenge of finding ways to break through, stand out, connect with people and encourage a deeper conversation. Specialties: Brand strategy, creative and messaging development; Multi-disciplined and multi-media creative team management; Traditional : New media integration (including broadcast, print, web, mobile, email/database, social, direct mail); B2B marketing. Follow Angie on social media at... Twitter: @thatsamohr LinkedIn: /in/angiemohr/
Providing subject matter expertise with over 20 years in providing Marketing and Enrollment Management Capacity, John is a Senior Managing Director at Archer dedicated to helping Archer's academic partners (Small, Medium, and Large National and Regional Universities and Colleges) DEVELOP and GROW their online presence and communities.
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