Steps for Higher Education Institutions To Find Their Unique Selling Point

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014 at 9:00am

Higher education has become more competitive than ever, so knowing how your college or university can stand out in search marketing is key. In such a saturated market it’s important to focus on your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). A USP involves creating a plan that highlights what makes your organization different. Focus on aspects of your university that you want to be known for when marketing to prospective students. Creating a USP will help boost your clicks and viewership in the slew of search engine results.

Here are some easy tips on how to determine your USP:

List out the reasons why you stand out from your competitors.

These are the things that make your university unique and desirable. Examples may include accreditation, affordability (scholarships, grants, or cost of living), international programs, location, or community involvement. The options are endless on what you choose to be the specific quality you advertise to prospective students. Just remember, the more unique, the better your chances are of getting the students to click on your ad.

Determine the emotional needs that will need to met.

This should be thought about through the perspective of your prospective students. What emotional needs will they have when applying to a college or university?

Some of these emotional needs may include:

Cost: Can the student afford to attend the university? Are they anxious about incurring a large amount of debt without knowing how they'll pay it off after graduation? Are there any scholarship programs or grants that they could apply for?

Location and distance: Are they nervous about being on their own for the first time, removed from their families? Are they excited about living in a particular city or area?

Community: Are they worried about feeling isolated and not being able to make new friends?

Programs offered: Are they attracted to uncommon majors, such as Auburn University's online interpreting program?

Even the simplest emotional needs can play a significant role in the decision-making process. For example, a prospective student's familty may be attached to a specific sports team, or he may identify with a university's mission and culture.

Determine the aspects of your university that other universities do not have.

Mark anything that cannot be copied by another university, such as a deep-rooted history, specific degrees or top-ranked programs and athletics.

From this information, create small blurbs or phrases about these unique aspects.

They must be short and to the point. This is when you will use the words that you generated in steps 1-3.

Last but not least, be able to answer the prospective students’ main question: “What's in it for me?"

When choosing a university, students are picky. Their decisions are based on both research and emotions. Students want to know that you will provide them with what they are looking for and want you to show them why you are worth considering.

Once you have gone through these steps you can determine what your USP will be and how to begin a successful search marketing campaign.

Here are a few of our clients that we think are nailing it in the USP ad copy department:

MSU Ad Copy

Michigan State University did something interesting by making their USP current events within their university.

CofC Ad Copy

College of Charleston made their USP about current headlines and in doing so also mentioned programs that are offered.

Wesleyan University Ad Copy

Wesleyan University chose to highlight their liberal arts status and describe what to expect in their liberal arts environment.

What are some other great USPs you've seen? How does your organization separate itself from the competition?  

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