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  • mikebilden

1 Strategy for Colleges & Universities to Attract & Enroll More Adult Learners.

Wow, thank you for calling me back! We all want to be contacted back, communicated with, respected, and heard. In his book, Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing, author Harry Beckwith indicates that people essentially base decisions on small differences when deciding between similar options. He indicates that, “It means that the more alike two services are, the more important each difference becomes.” (Beckwith 1997, p.100). So, we may tend make decisions based on things that are small, slightly different, or sometimes even trivial when faced with similar options. Think about it. What products and services do you invest in that are very similar to a competing product or service? What do you base your decision on when choosing one product or service over another? Is the decision based on quality, quantity, convenience, color, smell, availability, timely marketing, brand loyalty, webpage creative, or something else?

So, how does this connect to adult learners and their goal of completing a degree or credential? People often can’t distinguish the difference between seemingly similar academic programs or even individual institutions when faced with multiple choices. Colleges and universities need to distinguish themselves in a world of seemingly similar offerings.

A strategy to help distinguish your program, or institution is to personalize the experience for an adult learner who contacts your institution. Personalize the experience by having dedicated, knowledgeable, and acquisition-minded representatives ready to connect in-person, via email, phone, and chat, while also proactively reaching out to prospective learners directly. That’s it. That can literally be the difference between gaining that enrollment or not.

If a prospective adult learner, or even a traditional student and their family, contacts your institution, does anyone pick up the phone? Does anyone respond to emails and submitted inquiry forms in a timely manner (the same day…)? Does anyone respond to text messages outside of an automated response system? Are you relying on the automated system and hope? If you are one of the fortunate few to receive their inquiry…contact them back.

Leveraging the power of human connection in an increasingly automated communications culture will separate you from your competition. I personally can’t count the number of times that I have picked up the phone or responded to an email where someone indicates that they were shocked that an actual person contacted them back. They have literally said, “Thank you for calling me back!”.

The education consumer assumes that they will be communicating with an automated system and not with an actual person. In fact, they may assume that they won’t be contacted back at all. Why is that?

Invest in the human-centered connections and enroll more students. While you’re at it, keep in regular contact with your current students and see retention increase too 😊.

Education consumers have many options. Make sure you’re one of them.

Mike Bilden


Beckwith, H. (1997). Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing. New York, NY: Warner Books, Inc.

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