It seems to me that there can be as many ways to use market data to support new program concepts as there are institutions (or even programs). In my conversations with campus stakeholders over 15 years, I’ve heard just about anything. No consensus has been reached on what constitutes the most effective way to use market data (or what data to use), but more and more institutions have begun to include it in their planning.
My own thinking about applying market data to decision making has evolved over the past few years, and to put it simply, I think it meets accuracy, cost-effectiveness, and timeliness. There are (at least) two large buckets in which current practices reside:
Some say the only way is to use the “gold standard” of primary market research – surveys, focus groups and the like. It scores high on “accuracy” but not so much on the “cost-effective” and “timely” scales. In fact, depending on your methodology, it may even score lower than you think on the “accuracy” scale.
Others say that using secondary data that we all have access to (IPEDS, Bureau of Labor Statistics, etc.) is the way to go. This data offers a basic understanding of the market factors most important to institutions:
- Where titles are generated in greatest numbers (for short-term profits); and
- Where employer demand appears (for a longer-term growth strategy).
Such an analysis scores high on the “cost-effective” and “timely” scales, but (depending on how it is used) may score much lower on the “accuracy” scale.
Dos and don’ts when using market data
In both of these cases, it’s a case of “Do’s” and “Don’ts” coupled with some really good “How To” suggestions that will be the basis for successful strategy development. In our upcoming webinar, Using Market Data to Inform Program Selection and Prioritization: Dos and Don’ts, we’ll cover how to get to some of the best places to meet with accuracy, cost-effectiveness and timeliness.
Here are some of the items we will explore in the webinar:
Do: In many cases, primary market research is the step that completes the picture you need to ensure your programs are positioned correctly in the market. However, there may be better ways to determine the programs that are in greatest demand, and there may be more affordable ways to understand your audience than conducting randomized surveys in your region.
No: Among the most alarming “savings” actions I’ve seen using primary research is focus only conducting focus groups because they are cheaper than large surveys. However, this means that you are making impactful decisions program development for tens of thousands of dollars to feedback from several dozen people (however knowledgeable).
No: In the past few years, I have been struck by the growth of formalized new program proposal processes that include a requirement for market research. Too often, however, this “box” can be “checked” by submitting IPEDS, BLS, and other data to support that program. Why is this a problem? Because without context (perhaps with the same data for other programs) you can’t be sure if the numbers are positive or less positive.
Do: Secondary data can be a powerful way to support strategic programmatic decisions—whether it’s about what programs to focus marketing dollars on today or what new programs should be implemented in the future. This data provides an actionable overview of current student demand and longer-term employer requirements. But you have to use them in a way that shows their true power.
You can find more resource saving recommendations in our webinar
These are just a few of the things we’ll talk about in our Using Market Data to Inform Program Selection and Prioritization webinar.
All participants will be entitled to a set of regional data, accompanied by a “Sherpa session” to help them effectively apply it to their institutional efforts, so I encourage you to register for the webinar.