Applying Soccer Wisdom to Higher Education Marketing

Applying Soccer Wisdom to Higher Education Marketing

I spent years coaching high school soccer. During that time, players asked me one question more than any other: “Coach, what do I have to do to make the starting lineup next year?”

My answer was always the same: 

“Work on your left foot.” 

The logic is simple. Most soccer players are right-footed. And if a player only focuses on improving their dominant foot, they’ll eventually encounter the law of diminishing returns

In soccer, and in life, people are better off working to improve an obvious weakness than a strength they already exhibit. Your left foot offers far more opportunity for growth.

The Right Foot of Higher Education Marketing

Colleges and universities tend to rely too heavily on their right foot. When it comes to enrollments, a school’s right foot is the segment of prospective students who would apply to a program even if the school did the bare minimum to reach them. 

These self-selecting students are often within the school’s geographic bullseye. In most cases, they’re already familiar with the school. Maybe they have alumni in their families. If they’re considering a graduate or continuing education program, they may have even attended the school as undergraduates. 

There’s no doubt that these students are integral to a college’s enrollment numbers. But to effectively grow enrollments, schools must start focusing on the left foot.

To Grow Enrollments, Focus on the Left Foot 

Growing enrollments requires trying out new tactics to reach audiences of prospective students who don’t already know your brand or your program. It requires thinking bigger than higher education marketing that conveys tried-and-true “safe” messaging: “Our school has been around for 175 years. We’re well-known in our region. And that’s why you should enroll here.”

If you continue to tout the same offerings to the same audience, you’ll never capture the attention of anyone outside your immediate sphere of influence. And you certainly won’t grow enrollments in any meaningful way. 

Efforts prioritizing the left foot won’t always be immediately effective, and the cost of acquisition won’t be cheap. But if you’re willing to invest in learning about and addressing a larger audience, you will likely see an increase in enrollments over time.

I Know What You’re Thinking…

The most common counterargument to working on the left foot is that it’s better to focus on and elevate what you’re already good at. Why not develop the best right foot possible and ignore the left foot entirely? I don’t entirely disagree with this principle. But at a certain point, you can only improve your strengths so much. That’s when your weaknesses begin to place limits on your success.

Building up your left foot requires trial and error. But you don’t have to stray too far from the path you’re on to explore something new. Start by taking a single step outside of your comfort zone.  If your idea doesn’t work, you can take a step back inside it, then try another approach.

At MindMax, our “learn always” core value inspires us to take these brave steps. It reminds us that we learn from all experiences (successes and failures). It compels us to keep experimenting to continually grow. 

If you’re ready to shift some focus of your higher education marketing efforts to the left foot, MindMax can help guide you. Connect with us today to learn more.