Topic: Strategy

Marketing Courses

Posted by Anonymous on 125 Points
I work for a non-profit professional association that offers a certification program. For the past 3 years we have been experiencing a 20% decline in enrolling new students. Our direct mailing to prospective students (employees of companies) does not seem to do the magic anymore.

What could be the problems for the decline?

How could we turn things around?
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  • Posted by wnelson on Accepted
    Maybe your education program offers no benefits to the potential students and/or doesn't address their needs? Maybe you have competition for their training dollars who are addressing their needs better?

    Best thing to do is to explore who your "customers" are and what their needs are. Understand your competition. Figure out what you can provide that meets the needs better than the competition. Find out how to get the word out to the "customers" that you can address their needs better than the competition and in a forum/media/language that will reach the "customers." In other words, back to marketing basics.

    I hope this helps.

  • Posted by michael on Accepted
    You may be experiencing lack of support from the employERS, not employEES. Many companies have decided to not pay for this sort of professional advancement as loyalty in the corporate marketplace wanes. So, the employee is footing the bill and won't pay for it out of their pocket. Maybe.

    Try a mailing for a crash course certification. It could be the mailer (message) or it could be the time commitment.

    Is there also a 20% decline in membership renewals or has that picked up? I'm guessing that has declined also. Are your demographics changing? Meaning, are the only active members those who have been around a long time? You might need an influx of new blood...a very common problem in prof assoc's today.

  • Posted on Author
    Thank you all for your valuable input. It looks like I have got a lot of work to do.

    Unlike wine, the older your products get, the likelihood of obsolescence increases.

    As a professonal association, running more specialized courses would probably have better appeal than having the same ones as what other education providers like colleges and universities offer. I guess product differentiation is a critical element in successful marketing.

    What's the best approach to make the case of strategic realignment to my board ?
  • Posted by wnelson on Accepted
    Start with the fact that the enrollment is declining. That makes the case that something different has to be done. And a differentiation strategy heavily depends on what the needs are of your potential students. After all, you can differentiate by being the professional association that delivers courses to its members in quantum physics - a huge differentiator - but I don't think your enrollment will increase. Once you know what the needs are, you need to understand the competitive offerings in order to know what to differentiate from. Of course, this assumes that the reason for the decline is competition. If it's because the employer market place has no value for these types of courses, then differentiate all you won't fix the problem! Your presentation to the board in that case would be the myriad of actions you can take to increase the value of this education to the workplace.

    Bottom line:
    • Find out for sure why the enrollment is declining

    • Understand the needs of the potential students (and their employers)

    • Determine who your competitions is and what they are offering and how it meets the needs of the potential students

    • Put together a program plan that addresses the needs better than the competition

    • Communicate to potential students and their employers the value the coursework provides them

    At this point you will be able to set a course of action and all of your homework will help you address the board.

    I hope this helps.

  • Posted on Author
    Wayde, your comments and suggestions are certainly helping me to understand a few things.

    Although, we have not done thorough research to find out what exactly are the causes for the decline, it is probably a combination of all the factors mentionned, so far, in the responses to this thread.

    One of the assumptions I draw from the responses is that no matter how much marketing and promotion you do, if your product is not meeting the needs of your audience, you will not be successful. Is this correct?

    I have briefly compared the Credit Management education programs of similar associations around the world with mine and it appears that they offer more specialized courses.

    Some people in my organization are of the opinion that when the economy is doing good, companies are less concerned with training their employees to manage credit risks. What do you think about this?

    I'm more of the opinion that when businesses are doing well (because of good economic conditions), they tend to make more training dollars available to their employees.
  • Posted by wnelson on Accepted
    Your conclusion relative to "promotion" is right on. You can promote a product as much as you want and if it doesn't meet the needs of the audience, you sell nothing. Now, as far as "marketing" is concerned, I'm going to get a little "symantical" on you! Promotions is just one part of marketing. Marketing also involves researching the customers, their needs, what affects them emotionally, what media they subscribe to..this is the up front stuff. In fact, if you look at the classical 4P's model of marketing, it's Product definition, Positioning the product correctly in the market, PP
    ricing it correctly, and Promotion. So in short, what we have been discussing is work on the up front pieces and your other P's.

    As far as your argument with colleagues, I'm not a credit expert. But, I believe your assumption that good times means more discretionary dollars for education is correct. As far as good times meaning companies don't train employees to manage credit risks....for all of the acountants I every worked with, times were never good enough to let concern for credit risk management slide. In fact, many of them clamped down on top 20 customers because the books showed a problem before examining the reasons (most times, it was an internal issue in my company causing the credit problem, not the customer's problem) and I had to take special measures to calm the customers down! I wish these accounting guys had some basic problem solving skills and some understanding that the customer is pretty important and before you shut him down, you might want to know all the facts! But, as I said, credit risk management isn't my field and I'm just speaking from isolated incidents.

  • Posted on Author
    I greatly appreciate all the responses received to my questions. This is the first time I use this forum and still learning about how it works.

    Thank you.

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