Using Market Research to Optimize Messaging

Using Market Research to Optimize Messaging
Using Market Research to Optimize Messaging

Enrollment Management//

July 24, 2022

By Dr. Harry Bloom, Senior Vice President, Client Solutions, Measuring Success

(This is part three of our series to help you define your school’s prime prospects.)

When it comes to using market research to optimize messaging, the first step requires defining your school’s prime individual and target segment enrollment prospects.

In part one of this series, we discussed the data science of using Lookalike Analysis to identify a school’s prime enrollment prospective families. In part two, we discussed the strategy of market segment targeting and prioritization which represents the second, complementary method of recruitment prospecting.

messaging-2After you’ve defined your school’s prime individual and target segment enrollment prospects, you'll then need to implement the market research to inform your messaging strategy. Here in part three of our series, we will describe quantitative and qualitative market research, and discuss how to understand the overall competitive landscape.

Additionally, we’ll show you how to optimize your school’s messaging approach for your market—focusing on high priority prospects, specifically what they “need” to hear as opposed to what they “believe” about your school. Use this research to develop market segment-specific penetration strategies with pinpointed messaging and tailored outreach methods.

If your school has a database of its prime Lookalike prospects and has prioritized its market segments (based on their enrollment potential) there are two market research options available to guide your marketing messaging and delivery methods.

Quantitative Research

One market research option you can implement is a quantitative research program. The purpose of quantitative research is to glean reliable, standardized facts and statistics to guide your planning questions, such as “Is there a strong market for our school?” or “Are our programs attractive to prospective families?”

More commonly thought of as primary research, quantitative data is often captured through surveys and questionnaires. Quantitative data collection methods typically rely on close-ended questions to generate insights.

The most effective way to collect quantitative data is to target and survey your prime Lookalike prospects. This can include anywhere from 100–200+ prospective Lookalike families.

In this scenario, you can gain valuable insights about your market including:

  • your school’s competitive positioning;
  • outcomes prime prospect families value most;
  • prospects’ knowledge about how your school’s performance in these key choice areas compares to competitors;
  • perceptions about differing levels of private school tuition; and
  • value relative to tuition.

These types of results have completely altered the outcomes for schools that are unsure of their branding. Specifically, with the support of quantitative research, schools are able to discover what is known and perceived in the market, how their perceived value proposition measures up, and their enrollment growth potential.

To implement a quantitative research program: A school can identify prospective families based on referrals from current families—developing and deploying a survey that captures information about school choice priorities and their school’s positioning relative to competition and attitudes toward different levels of private school tuition.


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Qualitative Research

An alternative to quantitative research is qualitative research. The purpose of qualitative research is to develop an understanding of a prospective family’s motivation and emotion. In this sense, if quantitative research is mainly about the “what” of a prospect’s behavior, qualitative research is about the “why."

This approach can be useful for revealing aspects such as why prospective families like or dislike a school, why they like particular marketing messages and dislike others, and what motivates their actual behavior.

There are many ways to conduct qualitative market research, such as focus groups, online bulletin boards, and in-depth interviews. There are advantages and drawbacks to these strategies and tactics, but experienced moderators know how to handle each methodology for optimal outcomes.

Because the pool of respondents for qualitative research is smaller, it is essential to make adjustments to avoid bias or end up with raw information but little actionable insight.

Effective qualitative research focuses on exploring the details of market share growth strategies with a strategically limited number of families. They are carefully chosen from prime prospective market segments (e.g., high potential target feeder schools or employers).

Qualitative research is generally implemented through scheduled 30 minute video conference sessions—optimizing the opportunity to engage in deep conversation with your prime market segment families.

Typical areas of discussion include:

  • school choice and search methods;
  • required school attributes;
  • perceptions about a school’s performance on those attributes;
  • the source of those perceptions; and
  • the interviewees’ opinion about how your school can increase its market share among families like your prospective Lookalike families.

These insights provide invaluable guidance about what media and messaging strategies to use. This messaging strategy helps you decide how to best deploy parent and student ambassador programs—specifically ones involving direct word-of-mouth advocacy outreach to members of target market segments where they share a social network relationship.

To implement a qualitative research program among prime members of target market segments: A school can conduct in-depth interviews with recent new families from those segments and probe deeply into their school choice criteria. This can include considered schools, perceptions about how well those schools perform on their school choice priority factors, trusted information sources, and required evidence of school performance.

Both research methods provide the kind of data-science-enabled insights that can replace anecdotally-driven thinking. Anecdotally-driven thinking has historically been based on the assumptions staff members make about what is true—often developed from what they have observed from current families. And those anecdotes have not been validated by research that is directed toward prospective families.

Research-based thinking creates a powerful impact for your school’s marketing messages. Here’s what other schools have to say.

“As a school leader who engaged in market research, I am so grateful for the partnership we established between Measuring Success and Justin-Siena High School. Measuring Success helped us unlock some latent potential we had relative to our value proposition,” said David Holquin, Emeritus President at Justin-Siena High School, and President at De La Salle High School in California.

“Measuring Success helped us identify what made us unique and worth our tuition. We moved away from simple anecdotes to using data and measuring our relative worth. In fact, when we retained their services in the spring of 2019, we had projected an enrollment of 520 students, yet welcomed 545 young people! We beat our long-term plan by three years in just one summer with the help of Measuring Success. The support, encouragement, tools, and information was truly valuable, and I am grateful to Measuring Success for their work.”

Understand the most effective marketing themes and evidence messaging to focus on—optimizing your marketing channels and budget. Gain insight based on evidence derived from your school’s best prospects.

To learn more about optimizing your marketing message through market research, email schoolsuccess@isminc.com.

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Never engage in generic marketing again. Rely on the expertise of ISM and Measuring Success to better understand your school’s perceived strengths and weaknesses. We’ll identify families in your area who are most likely to enroll and build a brand-new list for your marketing efforts. Contact us to learn more.

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