New Research on Canadian Executive Education Programs Reveals Five Proven Tips to Drive Enrolment

October 26, 2017

Executive Education

The combination of program customization and flexible time commitment has created a renewed demand for Executive Education. In fact, 78% of team leaders say their organization will have much more need for Exec Ed in the next five years. Many companies are offering tuition reimbursement as an employee benefit, which means a significant opportunity for Exec Ed programs to grow enrolment.

A new research study by Strategic Counsel and LinkedIn examining student and employer attitudes towards Executive Education in Canada has uncovered some key findings to help Universities and higher education marketing professionals increase their recruitment effectiveness. The survey, fielded online to more than 300 professionals and managers in Canada, sought to identify how prospects and supervisors learn about Executive Education programs and important factors that lead to choosing a course.

What we discovered is that team leaders want their employees to learn relevant strategies and tools that are tailored to the specific needs of the company. — Pam Ward, Principal at Strategic Counsel

More than three-quarters of those surveyed said their employers had agreed to cover some or all of the costs associated with their course. Another trend Ward highlighted was the use of professional networks, including colleagues and supervisors, by prospects to complement their online search of programs. School websites and brochures, long thought to be the primary channel for lead acquisition, came last.

Flexibility is also a must among those surveyed, with more than half seeking a hybrid program that offers both online and in-person learning options. But students don’t want to be entirely online as 80% wanted at least some form of in-person learning.

“There’s a tremendous growth opportunity in the Executive Education sector,” added Ward, “but it requires educational institutions to focus on relevancy in content and delivery as well as tapping into peer engagement.” The following five strategies are designed to build on these trends to drive enrolment:

1) Promote Relevancy Over Reputation

It’s counter-intuitive for most higher education marketing professionals, but in the case of Executive Education, course content – not prestige – drives enrolments. Of the nearly 300 current and prospective students surveyed, the three most appealing factors in an Executive Education course are: 1) tailored to function, 2) tailored to industry and lower cost, with prestige in last.

Drilling down further into which course topic attracts the most candidates, leadership or executive leadership are the top two, securing 20% of all prospective candidates’ first or second choice. Project management, management, and human resources rounded up the top five.

2) Give Your Prospect Benefits to Share with their Boss

It’s human nature to choose the path of least resistance. In this case, when a prospective student needs permission from their supervisor or human resources manager to enrol in a program, arming them with key selling points ensures she is more likely to move ahead with the conversation. According to Ward, some of the most popular reasons for pursuing Executive Education for employees is to deepen their knowledge in a particular area, advance their existing career, or increase their leadership skills and abilities – all which serve the organization as well. Other key benefits for prospective students to promote could include gaining specific technical skills and increasing their professional network.

Providing key messages is particularly important for employees who are seeking tuition reimbursement. When framing the benefits above, it’s important to make a connection of how those skills will support the organization’s goals and that the prospective student has a plan to balance work duties with school tasks.

3) Ask for Referral (and More Business) from Alumni

Did you know that nearly three-quarters, or 86%, of students who completed an Executive Education course were likely to complete a second course in the next two years? “Our survey findings revealed that alumni of Executive Education courses are likely to be repeat buyers,” observed Ward. Just as with universities and colleges, targeting alumni is as simple, and effective, as promoting news and updates of your program and successful alumni on your website and social media platforms, including LinkedIn.

4) Stay Engaged and Top of Mind

We also found that half of surveyed prospective students would consider at least two and up to five programs before enroling in their final choice.  With so much competition, it’s important for programs to remain engaged with their prospects at every touch point. Leveraging social media channels like LinkedIn offers a number of engagement tools. Through LinkedIn’s rich professional and personal demographic data, you can target by title and company, type of industry, interests and skills, and even where prospects are in their career – starting out, career changers, or senior executives. Once you have your targets selected, LinkedIn offers a wide range of organic and paid content to build your brand presence and increase awareness.

5) Send the Right Message at the Right Time

As tuition reimbursement makes a comeback as a popular employee benefit, it’s important to address what team leaders are looking for in selecting a staff member for Executive Education and time it to key budgeting cycles within the organization. “While a good pitch is important, it is just as critical to be in market when budgets are being allocated,” added Ward. “It’s a delicate balance between the message and the calendar.” Budget allocations were constant throughout the year but saw peaks in September, January and April.

According to the research, the primary source of funding came from the unit itself. The key factors driving the decision to support Executive Education included:

  • Addressing a skill deficit in the team
  • Supporting a team member in a new role or with new responsibilities
  • Rewarding a team member’s strong performance
  • Address the need for stronger performance
  • Fostering retention with at-risk star players

Get Started

Now is the time to take advantage of this growing market. Learn more about this and other higher education research studies and tips by taking a look at this SlideShare, "Five New Tips to Boost Exec Ed Enrolment."