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Enrollment Marketing for Higher Education

The Challenge

Like most higher education institutions, OCU’s marketing resources were limited. The urban private university with about 2,000 students was challenged with splitting ad dollars between undergraduate recruitment, graduate recruitment, college, and department-specific recruitment and reputational advertising. Not an uncommon situation.

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A nationally recognized program in theatre, with alumna Kristin Chenoweth as current Artist in Residence, is worth marketing. And an innovative graduate program in energy also warrants promotion. OCU needed a marketing plan with a realistic budget to be effective for its specific programs and other initiatives to drive brand and enrollments.

Running marketing budgets on autopilot limits the effectiveness of any campaign, no matter how interesting the program or compelling the creative. In a recent PS&L poll of more than a hundred higher ed marketers, 63% indicated that their marketing budgets are inherited, and not based on current marketplace data or enrollment goals. To find the right balance of investment for marketing specific departments and brand awareness, OCU sought enrollment marketing expertise.

The Solution

PS&L’s Media Market & Budget Analysis (MMBA) provides insightful intelligence to establish media budgets required to reach specific audiences within defined geographies. This solution provided OCU with hyper-specific answers on where and how to market to reach enrollment goals.

The diverse audience group populations for Oklahoma City University’s geographic target areas were put through a model campaign. It used predicted costs of various advertising tactics, frequencies, economies of scale, and efficiencies across an eight-week flight based on active PS&L campaigns. Because of this actual data and defined tactics in the modeling, a more accurate market saturation analysis was created.

While 100% target audience saturation may seem ideal, it is unrealistic from a resource perspective and not required to “move the needle.” For higher education, an appropriate market saturation within a well-defined target audience and geography ranges from 20-40%. Big retailers with big marketing budgets like Nike aspire for 50% market saturation.

The Results

Based on this analysis, PS&L implemented a new campaign that invested all dollars in OCU’s primary market to achieve 20% market saturation for three programs, one of them being their on-ground and online MBA programs. OCU’s large primary geographic radius of 150 miles had more marketing potential than fully realized; ad dollars were being diluted in secondary and tertiary markets like Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas.

The campaign PS&L implemented led to OCU increasing its on-ground MBA enrollment by 35% and online by 15%, because they were now spending the right amount of money to reach the right students.

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MSB graduate student enrollment is currently double what is was this time last year. The campaign PS&L delivered is producing well for us.

Kevin Windholz Vice President for Enrollment Management & University Communications, Oklahoma City University