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Build Your Case for Value in Five Easy Steps

The cost of college is a major component of decision making for students and families. However, admissions counselors tend to focus too much on cost and are losing the opportunity to change the conversation to value. Let’s face it. No college can always be the least expensive option. So take cost out of the equation and start to sell the benefits of your college. Once you sell benefits, cost gets less and less important. Here’s how you can get started on putting your value proposition into action:

Step one: be prepared by knowing what makes your school distinct
Taking cost out of the equation that value equals cost times benefit (V = C x B), means honing in on the benefits of your institution. Know what your key differentiators are as well as what overall offerings are distinct to your institution. The more prepared you are about your school’s programs, majors, outcomes, faculty, statistics, etc., the more you can answer a prospect directly, without sending them to someone else at the college or university. Be a product knowledge expert of your institution, not a personnel knowledge expert.

Step two: acknowledge cost, and then own the conversation
It’s no wonder the focus for prospective students and their families is on cost – college is a significant investment that most parents fret over since the birth of their child. Be honest and don’t give false hope, but then have the confidence to change the conversation. Inquire about the prospect’s interests for study or profession and talk with detail and passion about the benefits of your institution. If prospects are undecided, share your statistics about other undecided students and what career counseling or seminars your school might have in place to guide that student.

Step three: establish opportunities for emotional connections
Sometimes when a big-ticket decision is made – like buying a house, for example – that say yes moment comes from an emotional connection to a sense of place, a sense of belonging. Often these moments can arise during an exceptional campus tour or a positive interaction with a faculty member or current student, but emotional connections can come with powerful campus imagery and moving testimonial online. Knowing your product is necessary, but so is creating emotional connections to your school beyond canned photos of smiling students or outcome metrics alone.

Step four: infiltrate your brand with value
Building a case for value isn’t just an on-the-ground experience, nor is it a one-and-done proposition. How prospects see the value of your institution can be felt not only in that first conversation on campus, but through every facet of your brand: every website, every publication, every testimonial, every infographic, every image. Not at all an easy endeavor to implement, but understanding the importance to sell value during every opportunity shifts the framework and can ignite new approaches to everyday decision-making.

Step five: it takes a campus to deliver a strong value proposition
Admissions counselors are absolutely your frontline in building a case for value, but the value proposition has to be understood and “sold” be everyone on campus. Can a financial aid officer answer a question about the FAFSA, but also talk about outcome metrics? Can a faculty member tell stories about students they taught or mentored that are now working in their first-choice field? Motivating your campus community to join in on the value proposition effort not only extends the campaign outside one department, it also opens the pipeline for more value proposition content, and every conversation, every piece of content matters.

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Dana Evans,

More than 17 years of experience in higher education admissions, enrollment management, and marketing. Most of it spent in-house at various colleges, including Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, prior to joining Paskill Stapleton & Lord. Facilitates focus groups, conducts interviews, crafts research instruments, and develops observations and recommendations on the findings.

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