Niche-based digital marketing attracts nontraditional students

Establishing ‘niche’ factors

Hobsons employed a behavioral targeting approach to attract prospective students to the college. Merritt explained that Hobsons examined the current student population in order to establish marketing campaigns focused on specialized “niche” areas.

Service men and women are one such niche area, as two of Mount Olive’s campuses are located near Marine bases.  As a result, personalized advertisements have been created to target this unique population.

“We really don’t take the one-size-fits-all approach here at Mount Olive College, because we know that each student has his or her own special needs, and our whole concept is transformational education [that] really says, ‘we want to provide services to the needs of that individual student,’” said Kerstetter.

A recently launched mobile campaign has garnered success for the college. If a student types “colleges in Wilmington, NC,” into the Google search engine, a Mount Olive College advertisement will pop up in the search results. If students click on the link, they are directed to Mount Olive’s microsite, which succinctly lists the advantages of a Mount Olive education, provides links to explain available degree programs further, and lists the college’s six locations. If students want to learn more, a brief contact form is included in a sidebar.

Since the launch of the microsite, Mount Olive reports a 5.6-percent conversion rate of inquiries to enrolled students.

“We have a four-step admissions process,” said Lisa Nuesell, dean of extended education. “A student can contact the college in a number of different ways, [and] our representatives typically get back to them within 24 hours. [Then] the student comes and has an on-campus informational meeting [to] go over their goals and outline the programs, [and later] they come back to do an orientation visit.”

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Recognizing the need

Mount Olive aims to simplify its processes as much as possible to attract nontraditional students. While deciding whether to invest in a one-night-a-week program, college administrators conducted research to determine local interest levels.

“We did some focus meetings with people in eastern North Carolina, [and] we hired someone to go and talk with employers throughout the state,” said Barbara Kornegay, vice president of enrollment. “We knew that [employers] would recommend [the programs] to their [employees] if they thought it would satisfy a need.”

Mount Olive purchased another college’s format and curriculum for its first one-night-a-week program in Business Administration, and as a result of student interest, the programs have grown tremendously since then.

“These programs began back in the ’90s and were very successful because they appealed to working adults who, at the time, had very few options to attend classes one night a week,” said Kornegay.

(Next page: Success stories)

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