Understanding Your Market
As you clarify your purpose and your target audience, you will want to do a formal or informal market analysis. Be careful about taking a build it and they will come approach. People need to know what it is and why they should participate. Although educators don’t often think in terms of market potential, competition, and marketing strategies, it is valuable to do so when starting an online learning program.
Keep in mind that marketing. in this context may mean something as simple as parent meetings to educate your students. families about your new online learning program so that they encourage (or at least don’t DIScourage) their student from taking your online courses. Marketing can also be as complex as a comprehensive, marketing plan with video, radio spots, print materials and carefully targeted mailings. Depending on the characteristics and goals of your program, you may wish to explore professional marketing companies to support or lead your efforts.
For your particular choice of purpose and audience, consider asking the following questions:
- What is your target geographic region, and how many students that fit your target profile are in that region?
- Are there other online or bricks & mortar programs that cover your geographic area that serve similar student populations or offer similar courses? How many students are in those programs? Is your goal to lure students away from other programs or to identify new groups of students to serve?
- Given the total number of students and the competition, what portion of those students can be expected to take courses in your online learning program? How many semester classes will each student enroll in?
- How do you expect the numbers and characteristics of students to change over the next few months or years?
- How will you distinguish your program from the competition?
- How do other programs market to the same populations of students, and how effective are their marketing strategies? What marketing strategies will you use?
- How will you track the impact of your marketing strategies to ensure effectiveness?
With clear answers to these questions, you’ll be able to spend your time and resources more wisely, and with the confidence that the program will attract the students you want.