In a recent blog post, we shared how colleges and universities can stand out from the noise by saying less, but meaning more by articulating their differentiators. In this blog, we build on that by looking at the differences between value propositions, messaging, and positioning—and how they translate into results.
A value proposition states the promised benefit that the institution will provide students and their constituents. (For more on discovering the values or differentiators, click here.) A value proposition answers questions such as:
1) What value-added need does the institution fulfill?
2) What do prospective students and their constituents “gain” from the institution?
3) What unique benefits and advantages does the institution provide?
This value proposition, in the hands of a university’s marketing and admissions teams, is a powerful instrument to differentiate an institution from others being considered. If presented early and often in the admissions/enrollment process, it can assist in overcoming the price or cost objection with which counselors are often challenged.
To create and articulate a strong value proposition, start by creating individual value statements for each degree program or service offering that addresses an Issue (e.g. prospective student/constituent degree program preference, financial aid need, housing interest, athletics, etc.).
Value statements can then be supported with one or more features or services offered by the institution. To validate the value statement to the audience, consider sharing a prospective student/constituent story that illustrates how this need was fulfilled by what the institution provided. Here’s an example:
We’ve just paid for two of our children to attend private colleges. So in order to save money we’re going to have our third child attend Junior College for two years and then transfer to a four-year college.
A student attending a Junior College and then transferring to a four year school can end up costing a family more money because it can take 5 or 6 years total to eventually graduate. This can delay starting a career and losing one to two years salary.
Example University offers a 4-year graduation guarantee.
Example University believes that graduation in four years should be feasible for all students. You can spend up to six years completing the undergraduate degree requirements at many schools, thus adding to tuition costs.
Value Statement # 1:
Example University’s 4-year graduation guarantee ensures timely completion of a great liberal arts education, positioning students for transition into graduate school or a career of their choice ahead of most peers.
Value Statement # 2:
95.6% of Example University’s graduates have jobs or are in graduate school within 6 months of graduation.
“A collection of quality value statements helps create
a strong value proposition.” - Jim Allen
Positioning is the narrowing of the value proposition in respect to the specific target audience and personas—to whom the value propositions matter. While value propositions are relatively broad, positioning is the targeted version of the value proposition. An institution's positioning should:
1) Be tailored to the institutions target audience and specific personas
2) Further and more deeply differentiate the institution's brand from cross-app schools
3) Highlight the benefits prospective to which prospective students and their constituents find most valuable/interesting
Messaging is where it all comes together: it's the language all the teams across the university use to communicate the institution's value proposition. Once an institution has properly positioned the value proposition, enrollment teams aligned with a marketing team can craft the right message. These messages can be disseminated via marketing campaigns that directly result in applications.
Each of these areas are built on articulating and knowing the institution's differentiators—the value unique to your institution. We've developed an eBook to help colleges and universities work through these and other steps in this process:
For more information on how to build a successful enrollment team that delivers confidently, read Vance Pascua's blog on the topic, here.
The Team at Value Based