Monday, September 17, 2012

Branch Campus Value Propositions

From Wikipedia:  A value proposition is a promise of value to be delivered and a belief from the customer that value will be experienced.”  What is your institution’s value proposition?  Does it distinguish you from your competitors?

Take a look at some institutional web sites and surf the Internet to see what is available.  I swear it seems as if every institution in the country is offering an online criminal justice program.  Check out how many business degrees and RN to BSN completion programs are available online.  Students have many options, and as they become increasingly value conscious, it follows that you need to make sure that your messaging differentiates your institution from competitors.

Now, consider the preferences of adult learners, who are a prime recruiting target:  We know they value the program they want, delivered flexibly and at an attractive price.  We know they care about how long it will take them to earn their credential.  So, your marketing-recruiting effort should set you apart in ways that matter to the audience you want to reach.

Sometimes, that sort of differentiation is difficult for branch campuses, as well as for online programs and main campus programs intended to serve adult learners.  However, if these audiences show the greatest potential for growth, then prospects need to easily find what interests them on the front door of the institution’s web site.  Links should be prominent and intuitive. 

For branch campuses, differentiating on program or price is increasingly difficult.  Students simply have too many options.  Although you may offer popular programs and price competitively, your prospects still have many ways to go.  Perhaps they are considering a fully online program, or maybe a key competitor offers an accelerated one-course-at-a-time model that you do not.  If you do not offer credit for prior learning, prospects may view that as a time and money issue, choosing to go elsewhere.

The point is that many students today will balance the pros and cons and then make a very intentional decision based on perceived value.  If differentiation based on program or price is difficult, then how do you set yourself apart?  Increasingly, in my opinion, the difference maker will be student services.  In an era driven by social media and word of mouth, institutions that are truly student-centered will have an advantage.  In the branch context, you need somehow to persuade students that connecting with you will bring value that is harder to find, elsewhere.

Next time:  What it means to be student centered.

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