How to Develop a Higher Ed Value Proposition That Targets Adult Learners

How to Develop a Higher Ed Value Proposition That Targets Adult Learners

Looking to grow enrollments for your school’s adult education programs? It may be time to rethink your value propositions. 

In our conversations with higher education leaders, we’ve learned that an adult learner’s values and goals are much different from a college freshman’s, and a school’s more standard value proposition isn’t going to resonate with this audience. 

Adult learners are outcome-driven and laser-focused on return on investment (ROI). They typically have clear goals in mind (e.g., obtaining a certificate to advance in their career), and they seek programs that will help them achieve their goals in a way that fits into their busy lives.

The Characteristics of a Great Value Proposition

A great value proposition has these characteristics:

  • It’s concise and easy to understand 
  • It sets your program apart from the competition
  • It defines what you do 
  • It explains how your school resolves a pain point for a potential student 
  • It answers the question: “Why should I enroll in this program?” 
  • It’s true—and it’s backed up with data, testimonials, and evidence 

However, with many schools offering the same or similar programs, a large percentage of which are online and available to anyone nationwide, the challenge becomes: developing a value proposition that is truly unique. 

What Sets Your School (or Program) Apart?

At MindMax, we encourage schools to ask this critical question when developing a value proposition that targets adult learners: “What sets our school (or program) apart?” Here are some factors to consider highlighting:

  • Professional outcomes. What can a student expect to accomplish coming out of the program? For example, if they get their CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification from your program, how exactly will this help them reach their professional goals and get a return on their investment?
  • Faculty. These prospective students want to know that they will learn from true industry experts and practitioners with practical, real-world experience to share. Consider highlighting faculty bios, testimonials, and videos that reveal insights and expertise on what a student will gain from the program.
  • Price point. Affordability is important to many adult learners. They need to be reassured that they aren’t going to break the bank for a weeks-long or months-long program.
  • Flexibility. Between family life and a full-time career, adult learners are busy. They want to know how long it will take to complete a program and how many hours per week they’ll need to commit during that period. If you offer a flexible program that meets them where they are, they’ll appreciate knowing that.
  • Networking opportunities. Adult learners know the value of networking in helping them advance their careers. Be sure to highlight any networking opportunities they’ll benefit from by taking your program. 

Getting to the core of the value your program provides

There are a few ways to determine what sets your school or program apart and provides the most unique value to students. While higher education marketing departments will have some idea of the differentiators to highlight from the beginning, other means of honing a value proposition can include: 

  • Talking to students, alumni, and faculty. Existing testimonials and pre-student and post-student graduate surveys are useful tools for gaining insight into students’ experiences with a program and what they found most valuable. Look to these resources for solid examples of professional outcomes, in particular (e.g., “This Excel course taught me how to create better budgets and calendars, which helped me get a promotion”). Faculty members can also share insights on professional outcomes from their expert perspectives.  
  • Analyzing marketing data. When helping schools develop value propositions for adult education programs, MindMax will often analyze the performance of a program’s existing messaging across various platforms leveraged in a full-funnel campaign, such as emails, digital ads, and landing pages. We look to determine: What message is resonating with the audience? What are users clicking on? What is generating the highest engagement? 

Get Higher Education Marketing Support from MindMax

MindMax is committed to supporting higher education marketing and enrollment efforts for our many successful clients. We know higher ed—and we know adult learners, too. If you’d like to discuss rethinking the value proposition for your school or program to more effectively target adult learners and grow enrollments, let’s start a conversation