Friday, September 5, 2014

Marketing new programs: A 5-W checklist to get started

If you've worked in higher education for more than six months, it's likely you've also been approached to help market a new program. Whether it's a new event, course, student service or even a degree program, you'll first want to answer these fundamental questions to help define your product before you start building your marketing campaign.

What is it? This is usually the easiest question to answer initially, but go deeper:
  • Has everything been approved by the necessary individuals or departments? 
  • Can changes be made for the program or project to be more marketable? 
  • Should any information remain private?
Who is involved, and who will benefit?
  • Who are the target audiences for the program?
  • Are there strategic partners who can help promote or sponsor the effort?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • Who can help reach these audiences (media outlets, professional organizations)?
  • Who are the key individuals who can provide insight in reaching your target audience?
  • Will your program create opportunities for participants to build their networks? 
When? To build your campaign timeline, it often helps to work backward from when the program will launch or the date of the event. Here are a few other things to consider:
  • How much time will your target audience need to decide to participate? apply? RSVP?
  • How much time is available to get the word out to your audience? Is this realistic?
  • Do you need an early incentive (for example, early registration discounts) to gauge interest?
  • How late can people respond and still participate?
  • What scheduling obstacles might your audience experience? These could range from general family or work obligations to incidental conflicts such as competing events, weather or traffic.
  • Is your location obvious or easy to find?
  • Does your location have a built-in target audience?
  • Are there nearby competitors for your program or event?
  • For new events, is the space conducive to achieving your communication goals (such as audience engagement or interaction)?
And most importantly, why? The success of your new program will often depend on your answers to these questions. 
  • Why should your audience participate in this program?
  • What distinguishes your program from others of its kind?
  • Can your new initiative help solve a developing or unique problem?
Working through these questions with your campus clients will help define your market, the messages and approaches to resonate with your target audience, and anticipate potential problems.

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