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Educational Institution – Response to lowering learners numbers in 2022
An educational institution I am involved with as a consultant recently shared that a significant decline in learners is creating a cashflow risk for the company. Although the firm has already put some strategies in place to alleviate the problem long term, the short term issue is still very much a reason for concern within the management team.
The question was: What can we do, short term, to bring the learners numbers up.
When most companies face a similar problem, the decision is often to run towards a promotion. But lowering the cost of products and services is a huge risk for many. Once a customer is made to believe that a product is not worth its full price, this customers is extremely likely to constantly search for a better deal.
So instead of advising them to slash prices with a certain percent, I advised a portfolio diversification based on the needs of customers.
Reasoning behind the proposal
Being aware of the current job market and the switch of careers many people are currently undergoing, I suggested that the company offers rapid qualification courses for people looking to enter a new career. Admittedly, the only “research” I used was my monitoring the market following the end of the COVID pandemic, social media content creators and their response to returning back to work, people within my personal environment, and the business news.
What I have been observing over the past few months (January 2022 until now, May 2022) is that the Great Resignation is certainly not just a North American phenomenon. I can’t speak of other countries, but the massive shuffle is obvious in the UK, too. Naturally, everything happens with a far greater level of politeness.
The proposed solution
Using these observations and the knowledge of the company’s products and services, I suggested an intense marketing campaign using the Agile methodology, to present a new service to “switchers” (individuals looking to change career paths.).
The campaign would involve 2 landing pages for L3 and L4, allowing people in junior roles to pursue a level 3 qualification and people in more senior roles – a level 4 qualification. Level 6 was not suggested as this targets professionals who are currently in a field different to the one that they will be qualifying for.
Essential elements of the campaign:
- Tone of voice
It is important for a campaign targeting “switchers” to be presented in a light tone of voice, addressing the exact pain point that they are experiencing – the desire to change paths. The key sentence I proposed was “[Industry name] needs new blood. Are you it?” To grab the attention.
- Starting days of the learning courses
I proposed that the company offers 3 starting dates for the new courses – 1.5 weeks after the release of the campaign, 3 weeks after the release of the campaign, and 4.5 weeks later. This structure would allow the company to communicate with certainty with potential sign ups and be flexible if not enough people are signed on a specific course to justify the financial investment.
- Payment scheme
Since the current economy is “all over the place” for a lack of a better term and switchers could be facing financial difficulties, it was clear that a payment plan needs to be presented to ease clients in. The specifics of that were to be decided by the finance department. A 0% interest is essential in this instance.
- On-page payment
Whilst the company was keen to follow up on leads to receive payments after obtaining details via the landing page, I insisted this is not the best solution. Pursuing a new career path is a scary endeavour and it takes moments for people to fall into their fears and give up on the exact things that could help them. To prevent this from happening, the entire campaign needs to be motivational and allow switchers to move smoothly. Therefore, first payment must be obtained on the page and following communication should have in inspirational style.
- Campaign launch
Due to limited finances, the company can’t spend a large budget on the campaign. To make the most of free resources, I suggested a heavy emphasis on social media with multiple publications a day. Alternating publications in type and description (hashtags, no hashtags, video, image, text, audio) would allow the firm to have maximum exposure as the algorithm of social media channels serves different content types to different individuals.
To maximise on engagement, I proposed that the company creates an email sequence for every person who signs up for a course. The emails should all emphasise on the new opportunities that switchers would experience by acquiring the qualification. The proposed sequence of emails was:
- First welcoming email – with words such as “welcome to the new chapter of your life”. This tone would keep the momentum for people and maintain the excitement.
- Introduction of workshop tutors – more information and a photo of the tutors that will help the learners will help create the “human connection”. This email could be further enhanced by inviting learners to connect to the tutors on LinkedIn, additionally making the programme real.
- Breakdown of session 1 – the third email can be a breakdown of the session with more information about the topics that will be covered and a list of pre-screened good reads/videos/podcasts on the topics that will give learners some idea of the upcoming topics.
- Technical details – what will happen on the day, any software that they need to download for the meeting, and whom to contact in case they are experiencing a problem.
The service would be an expedited learning experience able to prepare individuals for the new career. It is based on assets and abilities that the organisation already possesses. In effect, the only thing that needs to be done is to re-organise assets.
To suit the target audience, I proposed that the workshops during the course are delivered on Saturday where a full day event is needed. Instead of textbooks, I suggested podcasts are delivered to learners. Furthermore, quick evening calls can be added throughout the duration of the course where people can ask questions about the topics and receive additional real-time guidance.
To implement the new service I proposed using the Agile methodology for both the product and the marketing campaign. The marketing campaign will look like this:
Sprint 1 (2 weeks)
First sprint will be used to prepare for the campaign launch. This will include:
- Creating landing pages
- Syncing landing pages with CRM
- Implementing payment system with finance option (the company already has a contract with a payment plan provider)
- Edit company website to reference the campaign
- Create social media content
- Create email content and setup email sequence
- Setup Google Analytics goals
- Setup dashboard to monitor performance
Sprint 2 (2 weeks)
This sprint is about launching the campaign. Daily monitoring of performance is necessary and a team effort to engage any suitable shareholder. Get tutors for the workshops to talk about it and aim for press coverage.
- Generate social media for next two weeks
- Expand to new channels
- Monitor performance and optimise budgets (where suitable)
- Monitor customer journey closely for errors or imperfections
Sprint 3 (2 weeks)
In this sprint there might already be users signed up for the course and marketing should have a conversation with them to learn more about their motivation, monitoring closely the wording that clients are using. Taking this wording, marketing should create the content for the last two weeks of the campaign.
- Evaluate social media channel performance and potentially drop low-performing channels
- Generate content for social media
- Monitor customer journey
- Continue monitoring performance.
Sprint 4 (2 weeks)
Within the last two weeks of the campaign marketing should focus strongly on engaged customers and other stakeholders. Content is ready and no new content needs to be produced, so the week must be spent in evaluation of success, so the company can now if the campaign ought to be repeated or replicated for another learning programme.
- Communicate with engaged switchers
- Monitor campaign performance
- Evaluate campaign success
- Prepare campaign analysis
- Prepare campaign reports