BOSTON, April 27, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Story+Structure, specialists in human-centered design, knows higher ed, having helped institutions such as California State University, East Bay (CSUEB) Continuing Education, Berklee School of Music, and the Boston Center for Adult Education successfully evolve their approach to reaching prospective and current students. The company has excellent advice for post- baccalaureate program managers in today's challenging market. First and foremost: don't look to the competition for how to present what you have to offer students – instead, gain a better understanding of who you and your customers are!
"Historically, as unemployment goes down, the number of people seeking additional training through graduate and adult education programs flattens or even declines, and competition for those students increase," says Guy Felder, Chief Strategist, Story+Structure. "A mistake many institutions make is to adopt techniques of their strongest competitor, resulting in multiple institutions all saying the same thing about their product. We can call this idea of many programs shouting the same thing at the same prospect pool "noise". These institutions would be better served by working to understand who they are, what makes them different from their competitors, who their current and prospective students are and what those students need. Then, the program can be positioned to speak to those people in a way that resonates instantly."
"No amount of CRM or marketing tech wizardry can overcome or compensate for messaging that doesn't resonate," cautions Mr. Felder. Understanding your user's needs is something that goes beyond technology – a new website might be in order, but it's just a delivery mechanism. Resonant messaging, the kind that helps prospects know whether your program will help them reach their goals, is the result of human-centered design: of taking a disciplined, structured approach to understanding who your customer is and what their decision factors are.
To achieve this understanding, Mr. Felder recommends starting with what Story+Structure calls a "discovery engagement." Mr. Felder explains, "During a discovery engagement we work with the client to understand what they want their customer to know about them—what promises do they want to make? What impressions do they want to leave? Does your presentation of your services support the brand or detract from the brand? Does it clarify who you are as an organization, or does it create confusion? For institutions of higher education, indeed with any organization, ideally this process will be guided by an outside expert, in order to overcome the institutional bias and limited perspective inherent in an organization trying to understand itself from the inside in."
The end goal: to succeed in getting that professional graduate student and that mid-life career switcher to identify with your organization and enroll, and not least importantly, that current student to feel confident in their choice. Successful institutions will have created fully defined personas for their prospective and current students – What are their goals for the program? What costs can they bear? What are their definitions of success? - and will present messaging that directly addresses them.
"The graduate or continuing education program that thrives in the next five to ten years is going to be the one that clearly states how they can help students achieve the outcomes they want," says Mr. Felder. "If you show people that you care, and you engage them, that increases revenue. And so, human-centered isn't just a design approach – it's a culture that needs to be fully embraced. Do that, and success will follow."
For media inquiries, including scheduling interviews with Story+Structure executives, please contact Ariane Doud of Warner Communications, at [email protected].
Story+Structure is an innovation design firm that solves human problems. From strategy to implementation, we deliver solutions that promote meaningful engagement between people and organizations. For more information, please visit www.storyandstructure.com, and join the Human Centered Design and User Experience Discussion Group on LinkedIn.