Benchmark This!

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

Marketing in the Modern Economy for Professional, Continuing and Online Education

David Packard, one of the founders of Hewlett Packard, once said “Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.” However, the inverse could also be true—that marketing should not be done without a marketing department. Effective marketing requires a strategic, data-driven approach; a team to manage it; a budget to support it; the technology to deliver it; and a willingness to explore outsourcing or external expertise to advance it.

Source: 1999-2018 UPCEA Marketing and Enrollment Management Survey (2018 In progress)

UPCEA has monitored organizational marketing for professional, continuing and online (PCO) units and media spending since 1999. During this time, the PCO marketing department has shown signs of evolution, as the educational landscape has changed dramatically with more online degrees, alternative credentials and Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) entering the market. For-profit institutions challenging traditional institutions of higher education for market share, coupled with a changing global marketplace, shifting demographics and the emergence of new technologies further complicate the role of a marketer.

The 2018 UPCEA Marketing and Enrollment Management Survey was recently launched and a preliminary sample of forty marketing departments shows some that they too have evolved with changes in the educational programming mix. Marketing units may have shed some of their creative and production staff in favor of digital staff or outsourcing relationships. PCO marketing units report that 9% of their marketing budget goes to outsourcing relationships. A recent Blackboard/UPCEA survey shows that 15% of PCO units surveyed outsource some functions of marketing or enrollment management.

Source: 1999-2018 UPCEA Marketing and Enrollment Management Survey (2018 In progress)

In fact, in 2006, of the 8.4 marketing staff, 3.7 were creative staff (or 44% of marketing staff). In 2014, that number declined to 1.8 or just under 30% of marketing staff. 2018 numbers suggest a staffing recovery. More analysis will be provided later as additional data comes in, but the second figure suggests an increase in staffing in electronic sources, such as digital or social media, which may include video production staff which could play a part in explaining the increase in staffing from 2014 to 2018.

The survey will continue through August and can be accessed by the senior marketing decision-maker at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/UPCEAMarketing2018a

A copy of the survey instrument can be found here.

We hope that you’ll help us shed light on issues around staffing, budgets, digital media, marketing staff professional development and organizational structures.

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.

Whether you need benchmarking studies, or market research for a new program, UPCEA Consulting is the right choice.

We know you. We know the challenges you face and we have the solutions you need. We speak your language and have been serving leaders like you for more than 100 years. UPCEA consultants are current or former continuing and online higher education professionals who are experts in the industry—put our expertise to work for you.


Data that tells your story.

Whether you need to assess the viability of a new program, find out how you stack up with the competition or would like a program portfolio review, we can assist with research and data that will help move your unit forward. Your decisions impact the quality of your operation, as well as the bottom line. We’ll provide data that does more than sit on a page—it’s data that tells the story.

The UPCEA Center for Research and Strategy offers a variety of custom research options through a variable pricing model.


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