Colleges and universities across America will soon begin detailed planning for their yield campaigns, if they have not already done so. Since money is still so tight for many families, a number of institutions will look carefully at the discount rate to see if there is any way to give students better financial aid packages. That is a viable and effective way to improve enrollment.
Unfortunately, not every college can afford to significantly increase financial aid. In fact, some institutions may now find that they need to cut the discount rate. What can aid in increasing yield performance without giving away needed revenue? Coming up with attractive new programs or facilities is great, but takes time and money. In the short run, better marketing may be your best option.
Marketing’s effect on tuition cost issues
As Starbucks has clearly demonstrated, people will often pay a little more for something they really want. Boosting your marketing’s effectiveness can make a real difference. To illustrate, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on last winter’s survey by the College Board and the Arts & Sciences Group. It found that more than half of high school seniors said they had ruled out colleges based on their sticker prices. But only 35% of college-bound seniors had used net-price calculators as they looked at tuition rates. Why not check the real price before eliminating an institution? Research demonstrates that those students lack genuine interest.
Studies have led psychologists and marketers to recognize that people are “cognitive misers,” expending as little brainpower as possible in many decisions. Often they use judgment heuristics, mental shortcuts for quick evaluations. But researchers found that when people are genuinely interested in something, they pay close attention. Thus, while students may quickly eliminate a college due to cost if they do not feel drawn to it, they will pay close attention to an institution that piques their interest. Thus, effective marketing is vitally important, even when cost is a major issue.
Better marketing on a budget
A number of organizations can help enrollment managers improve their marketing – for a substantial fee. But with so much emphasis on reducing costs to contain tuition rates, hiring them can take a big bite out of already tight budgets. An affordable alternative is using marketing tactics drawn from social psychology to improve response rates. This approach makes sense.
Social psychologists study why normal humans, including teens and parents, behave as they do. One branch - the psychology of influence and communication – researches the factors that make people respond to one message and not another, or why one appeal stirs action while others do not. These controlled studies have to pass the same rigorous peer-review process used in medical research and clinical trials. Only when important results have been successfully replicated several times do the corresponding principles achieve scientific consensus as factors that truly influence human behavior. Thus, if the right research is applied correctly, the results can be truly outstanding.
Increasing response rates with marketing psychology
A multichannel Yield Program combining high quality design, one-to-one customized printing and a “sticky” website helped one university in New England achieve a remarkable 44.8% yield rate with accepted students who visited the site. What made the website sticky? Effective use of marketing psychology. The admissions staff managed to drive a full 25% of accepted students to the site, so that 44.8% deposit rate really boosted enrollment. It brought in an estimated $500,000 in additional first-year tuition, but cost the university relatively little for The Allied Group to design, execute and host. Please email me if you’d like more details.
There is no question that high-quality, relevant programs, excellent professors and enjoyable surroundings are vital elements for any college. Many competing institutions have these things. But like a special sauce that makes a good entrée great, excellent marketing communications based on the right psychology research can help good institutions get outstanding results.