Marketing Plan. Achieving NECC Enrollment and Image Enhancement Goals. Supporting Existing College and Presidential Priorities Priorities 7/1/10

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1 Marketing Plan 7/1/10 Achieving NECC Enrollment and Image Enhancement Goals Supporting Existing College and Presidential Priorities Priorities

2 TABLE OF CONTENTS I. INTRODUCTION Page 3 II. ASSESSMENT: A. Objectives and Rationale Page 3 B. Situational Analysis Page 4 C. Competitive Positioning Page 5 D. Summary of Available Data Page 5 E. Links to Other Internal Plans Page 5 III. STRATEGY: A. Marketing and Communications Objectives Page 6 B. Competition Page 6 C. Target Audiences Page 6 D. Marketing and Communications Strategy Page 7 IV. PERFORMANCE MEASUREMENT: A. Analyze, Learn, and Improve Page 8 B. Identify Future Research Required Page 8 2

3 I. INTRODUCTION This plan will serve as the working document for Northern Essex Community College's on-going marketing objectives, strategies, and implementation activities. The plan is divided into three major sections. Section one identifies the institutional strategic objectives that are the driving influences behind our current strategies, and also assesses the college's current competitive position. Section two focuses on the college's stated marketing objectives and the strategies that have been developed to help achieve the desired results, and section three details a plan for continuous refinement of the college's future marketing efforts. II. ASSESSMENT A. Objectives and Rationale: The marketing objectives outlined in this plan, and the subsequent strategies developed to help achieve them, have been specifically designed to support various directives, as outlined by NECC's existing institutional strategic objectives. Objective Stay committed to increasing our student enrollment, with a target goal of 5% growth per year in credit seeking students Rationale For a variety of reasons, including institutional funding, it is vitally important that the college continues to focus on recruiting both credit and non-credit seeking students even during a time of sustained growth Develop strategies that create linkage among all of the college s marketing efforts and addresses the issue of brand promotion Identify programs where target marketing is the best approach Develop recruitment initiatives that are designed to increase the enrollment numbers of both high school and adult students The idea of promoting our institutional brand which is opportunity across all media and all strategies is an important factor in sending a consistent and persuasive message, and ultimately attracting prospective students The diverse nature of NECC's potential student pool requires targeted approaches to maximize budgets and resources Although NECC continues to do well recruiting high school graduates from our service territory, there is still room to improve in this area and as the adult population in Northeast Massachusetts continues to decline, as people migrate out to try and find employment and more affordable housing, it is imperative that we do a better job of attracting and enrolling adult students 3

4 Objective Rationale Strengthen the relationship between all enrollment, marketing, and retention activities Strengthen the college's commitment to diversity Cohesive planning is crucial to maximizing available budgets, presenting a consistent image, and offering a viable product NECC remains committed to providing educational opportunities to a population that may have historically had barriers standing in their path to attaing a college education B. Situational Analysis: Northern Essex Community College is a public, two year institution that offers comprehensive programs of study leading to an Associate in Arts degree, an Associate in Science degree, and Certificates of program completion. Over 10,000 students attend NECC annually on either a full or part-time basis. The college seeks out potential students who may not be aware of the educational possibilities around them. Age, ethnic or religious background, physical disability or past academic records are not prohibitive factors to admission. NECC offers a wide range of support services or reasonable accommodations to help students overcome obstacles of an educational, financial, personal, motivational, or physical nature. The college also encourages life long learning. Northern Essex Community College is committed to student success. Since the school's inception in 1961, thousands of NECC graduates have either successfully transferred to baccalaureate programs at four-year colleges, or gone on to become highly skilled members of the business, industrial, or professional work force. Excellent facilities, solid academic support, and dynamic student activity programs all contribute to making NECC such a viable educational option. Over 90% of the college's faculty hold advanced degrees, and many actually hold the highest degree possible in their field of expertise. NECC embraces the belief that high quality, low cost education should and can be available to everyone. NECC offers prospective students throughout this region an affordable educational alternative. NECC's primary market territory includes 22 communities throughout Northeastern Massachusetts, as well as various other bordering locations in Southern New Hampshire and Central Massachusetts. NECC has permanent campuses in both Haverhill and Lawrence. Multiple locations allow for easier commuting and minimal strain on students' schedules and family life. Flexible day and evening course scheduling, as well as online and hybrid classes, give NECC students the opportunity to achieve their educational goals at their own pace. NECC also constantly strives to be a vital member of the lower Merrimack Valley's cultural, economic, and educational community. 4

5 C. Competitive Positioning: An integral part of mapping out a successful marketing campaign is identifying the college's strengths, and then crafting marketing messages that promote them effectively. The content for upcoming NECC promotional materials will focus on: 1. Affordability - the reasonable cost of attending NECC versus other educational opportunities, as well as financial aid options and scholarships 2. Transferability - the variety of available transfer options (Joint Admissions, transferable credits, etc.) 3. Flexibility - flexible course scheduling options (day, evening, weekends, online, etc.) 4. Diversity - diverse course alternatives which prepare students for careers in some of businesses' fastest growing industries and professions 5. Outstanding Faculty - over 90% of the college's faculty hold advanced degrees, and many actually hold the highest degree possible in their field of expertise 6. Excellent Facilities - state-of-the-art technology, computer labs, fitness and wellness center, etc. 7. Convenient Locations - multiple campus locations in Haverhill and Lawrence D. Summary of Available Data: In order to reach and persuade potential students as effectively as possible, there is some key support data that needs to be compiled, analyzed, and synthesized. Some of this information, such as demographic data, economic trends, and population trends, exists as public information. On an annual basis we strive to complete at least one key piece of research that can be used to guide decisionmaking and resource allocations. In recent years we have gathered research in a variety of key areas, and that information is used to help guide all of our strategic planning. Some of the research that has been compiled has focused on important topics, such as; image awareness, information prioritization, message resonance, and media preferences. Some very limited surveys of current and potential students have also been conducted to cultivate additional data. These abbreviated efforts have supplied some insightful support information, with answers to various questions, such as: Who or what has the most influence on which college you will attend? What is your perception of what NECC has to offer its' students? What motivated you to attend NECC? How did you hear about NECC? Historical data can also be very influential in shaping future marketing and communication planning efforts. Analyzing past regional enrollment patterns to shed some light on possible market penetration strengths and weaknesses, is an example of one of the advantages of utilizing existing data in the ongoing refinement of this marketing plan. E. Links to other Internal Marketing Plans: It is crucial to the effectiveness of all NECC marketing efforts that a cohesive and consistent approach is implemented across all areas of the college. In order to promote and encourage this consistency, a template will be made available to serve as a guide in the preparation of individualized marketing and communication plans for other departments (Public Relations, WD&CE, Institutional Advancement, Alumni Relations, etc.). 5

6 III. STRATEGY A. Marketing and Communications Objectives: Internal (the college community, the NECC Leadership Team, etc.) and external (contracted communications audit by consulting agency) resources have collaborated to identify several immediate marketing and communication goals. 1. Continue to refine all on going external marketing materials and strategies 2. Continue to refine all on going internal communication efforts 3. Continue to develop all online marketing strategies (website, social media, marketing, etc.) 4. Identify areas where new marketing materials are required 5. Investigate ways to maximize the current NECC marketing budget 6. Continue to improve NECC's image by incorporating a set of consistent and professional visual design standards in the preparation of all marketing materials 7. Work in conjunction with enrollment staff to continue to use available data to pinpoint potential recruitment opportunities B. Analysis of Competition: Direct competition comes from a long list of other higher education alternatives. These include; other 2-year colleges, 4-year public colleges/universities, 4-year private colleges/universities, vocational/technical institutions, specialized training facilities, and a wide range of continuing education options. Indirect competition comes from a variety of external sources, and manifests itself as alternate choices. Some potential NECC students are faced with a wide range of career/life choices, such as: school vs. work?, when and if to go back to school?, can going to school help me further my current career?, can going to school help me change careers?, can I afford school?, is joining the military a viable option?, etc. C. Target Audiences: On a broad scale, current and future external NECC marketing and communications efforts will focus on several primary target audiences. 1. Graduating high school students interested in attending college 2. Adult students seeking continuing educational opportunities 3. The parents of potential NECC students 4. The regional Latino population 5. Individuals interested in pursuing career development/enhancement opportunities 6. Regional businesses interested in investigating work force development opportunities 7. Individuals interested in pursuing personal interest or workshop-style educational opportunities There are also many secondary audience segments that will be addressed with more specialized marketing efforts. Our goal will be to clearly identify our target audiences, and deliver a marketing message that is tailored to that particular individual's unique point of view. This will help increase our return on investment, and also help to curb wasted effort. 6

7 D. Marketing and Communications Strategy: 1. Refining Existing Marketing Materials - The ongoing refinement of all external NECC marketing materials, as well as all internal communications, will be achieved by improved planning and upgraded execution. Some of the factors that will improve planning are; Clearly identify a target audience for each piece Outline the goals and objectives for each piece Prepare a project schedule and milestone timeline Clearly identify individual and department responsibilities Build in performance measures Upgraded execution will result by implementing the following procedures; Utilize a consistent set of visual design standards Track project progress against milestone timeline Capitalize on existing strengths of in-house personnel Utilize cost-effective outside resources whenever it is applicable Stay focused on a project's objectives throughout the entire planning and production process 2. Refining Internal Communication Materials - Creating a consistent visual approach for internal communication materials will also contribute to enhancing a professional image. 3. Identifying Needed Marketing Materials - The task of identifying areas where new promotional support materials may be needed will be accomplished through a collaborative effort between recruitment and marketing personnel. Once a weakness has been identified, a plan will be put in place to create whatever tool is necessary. 4. Maximizing the Existing Budget - Maximizing the NECC marketing budget will be achieved by creating a set of performance measures that will give us the return on investment information we are currently lacking. By measuring the results associated with each marketing expenditure, we will be able to pinpoint what is working in a costefficient manner, and what is not. This data will be gathered in a variety of ways, including; reply card results, survey results, tracking phone call results, etc. 5. Improving NECC's External Image - Defining a clear set of NECC visual design standards will be one of the vital steps in achieving many of our stated marketing objectives. These standards will guide the use of logo, font styles, colors, lay-out styles, etc. for all NECC marketing materials. These guidelines will help to add consistency and professionalism to NECC s external image. This task will be completed utilizing both internal and external resources. 6. Pinpointing Potential Recruitment Opportunities - A thorough review of available data will insure that all potential markets are identified, analyzed, and evaluated as segments that warrant new recruitment activities. 7

8 IV. PERFORMANCE MEASUREMENT A. Analyze, Learn, and Improve: Performance measures will be utilized to gauge the impact and cost-effectiveness of our advertising and marketing communication expenditures. Direct mail marketing will be measured by the response rates. Student (including past, current, and potential students) survey responses will be tallied and reviewed to help identify strengths and weaknesses in our marketing efforts, as well as to help understand how NECC s image is perceived by the community around us. Tracking incoming calls and website traffic will help pinpoint the effectiveness of our messaging and information hierarchy. Patterns that develop in the research will help us measure the effectiveness of our efforts. This will enable us to continually refine our communications and advertising plans. Decisions to modify existing marketing efforts will be based on the results we gather. Strengths and weaknesses in our approach will be judged by criteria such as; response rate per hundred dollars spent, ratio of target audience response, and substantive improvements in image perception. B. Identify future market research required: As NECC s marketing communication efforts go through their continuous analyze, learn, and improve cycle, new market research will be required to enhance the refinement process. As new recruitment opportunities are identified, new research will be gathered and synthesized to help insure that ongoing marketing efforts remain as targeted and cost-effective as possible. 8

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