Benchmark This!

Latest Trends Impacting Marketing and Higher Education
from Director of UPCEA's Center for Research and Strategy, Jim Fong

Marketers Matter More in the Dynamic World of Professional, Continuing and Online Education

Advertising and marketing should never be confused. There are many types of marketers in the workplace and hiring the wrong one or not retaining the right one impacts enrollment success. Tomorrow’s marketer needs to understand strategy, competition, metrics, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and digital and social media and positioning. They also need to manage above to leadership, across to peers, down to staff and they also need to be effective internal communicators. Therefore, the perfect marketer is a rare and precious commodity.

Furthermore, with enrollments declining nationally as a result of increased competition, new educational pathways such as alternative credentialing and a changing economy, the role of marketing a professional, continuing and online (PCO) educational portfolio is critical for institutional success. PCO units need to make strategic choices around marketing infrastructure, and personnel and budgets. Marketers need to know what position to create, whom to hire and when to hire. They also need to know how to set a marketing budget, as well as work with outside partners.

The ability to mass market is practically nonexistent in higher education marketing. Target markets are becoming more and more fractured and segmented. Digital and social media channels continue to evolve and become more complex. Therefore, reaching the target market has become more complex and costly. Creating a cutting-edge marketing department can be a challenge and having the right marketing personnel or outside partner in place is critical for an institution to hit its enrollment goals, reach new markets and launch new programs.

Stephanie Platteter, Executive Director of Marketing and Enrollment Management at the University of Minnesota College of Continuing and Professional Studies, says, “Unlike traditional undergraduate admissions, marketing in professional, continuing, and online education needs to play a key role beyond promotion and recruitment. We must analyze markets and audiences to help make program decisions and to position our programs successfully. With decreasing budgets, more competition, and an increasingly diverse student body; PCO units are under increasing pressure to contribute revenue to the university with market-driven programs that met the needs of a variety of audiences. Because of this, I see the role of strategic marketing leadership in PCO education growing in importance in the years to come.”

The infographic below shows that the typical UPCEA marketing director or leader tends to have a master’s degree and nearly two decades of marketing expertise. Marketing directors have an average salary of $91,566 within a narrow salary band between the $75,000 and $100,000 quartiles, and with an upper range of $200,000. Their jobs are complex in that they are often tasked with marketing online degrees or courses (96%), credit programs (75%), non-credit programs (71%), as well as other programs. They also supervise an average of 6.1 full-time marketing employees and 0.6 part-time employees. Many are also tasked with working with vendors and partners. Given the complexity of their jobs, they are a critical piece in the professional, continuing and online education organization. An analysis shows that on average, revenue per marketing FTE is at $3,742,949. For smaller PCO units (those with less than $5 million in revenue), the amount is $976,449. Economies of scale are yielded for larger institutions (those with more than $15 million in revenue).

Marketing is complex in today’s world. There are many different types of potential students and many ways to reach them. Internal communication is almost as important as external communication. Knowing about enrollment management and CRM systems is critical. Find your strategic Swiss Army knife marketing professional.  Take care of them. Compensate them. Support them. Keep them. You may otherwise regret it, especially if they are correlated to enrollments and revenue. Marketers matter.

Jim Fong, UPCEA

Lead consultant Jim Fong, the founding director of UPCEA’s Center for Research and Strategy, has extensive background in marketing at Penn State, as well as experience in private industry. Jim brings a rich understanding of the dynamics driving today’s higher education leaders, providing research-driven strategy and positioning. Jim often presents at UPCEA’s regional and national conferences, sharing vital information with attendees.

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