Whether you are trying to recruit students for a 3-year degree programme or a short cooking workshop, marketing courses are very different from marketing any other product.
Here are a few reasons why:
- You are effectively selling an investment. This means that after the commitment is made, it takes a long time for the pay-off to show.
- Your “clients” are not just investing money, they’re also investing time. There are people for whom even a luxury car is an impulse buy. Not so for courses. People can only take a very limited number of courses at the same time, and to do so they will have to give up treasured leisure time and shift other priorities.
- Long decision cycle. Because of the stakes (money and time investment), your potential new students will spend a lot of time comparing options. This means you need to invest in good content (collateral, case studies of current students, videos, open days) to help them feel at ease with deciding to choose for you. And for maximum effect, it is best to push out these materials well before the application deadline, and even year round.
You might not even be able to accept your most “eager clients”. Most fashion stores will give you a chance to try their wares, but whether they fit or not, they will likely let their clients buy whatever they want to buy. Not so in education. Whether because of visa difficulties or because they don’t meet your application criteria, you’ll have to say “no” to a lot of applicants. Just because you are promoting your “product” doesn’t mean you can offer it to everyone. Even if you offer less formal courses, say in cooking or pilates, not having clearly defined admission criteria may come back to bite you — unqualified students will end up as unhappy students, and you’ll get the blame!
Every advantage has a disadvantage! I have outlined a lot of challenges above, but each of them has their positive sides as well. Recruiting students requires an extraordinary dedication to build a relationship up front. Prospective students need to be excited enough not just to apply, but to be stoked to take your offer if and when it comes. But after they have made their final decision, they are committed to your course — which gives a depth to the relationship that is rarely achieved in markets for other products.
All of that goes to say that your current students are your closest allies!