Kuva: Campaign Creators (Unsplash)
RECRAFT, Erasmus+ K202 Strategic Partnership project ”Raising Awareness of Cultural Heritage Through Crafts”
As one of the areas for the development of the Erasmus + RECRAFT project, we are exploring the current marketing practices of the participating actors and the challenges of marketing adult education. Although there are very different operating environments in the project, there are many similarities between marketing challenges and how to reach prospective students, whether seeking a short-term visit to a museum workshop or studying for longer vocational training. Currently, the following are the most important marketing tools by operator:
Public Open Univercity Zagreb, Croatia
- Social media
- Radio and magazines
- Municipal funded projects for disadvantaged people
- Open-air screenings
- Projects funded by the EU
- Brochures and posters
- Student work exhibitions
Ljuddska univerza Nova Gorica, Slovenia
- Event announcement (email, Facebook, prints, bulletin boards)
- Exhibitions of participants' works
- Website, Facebook
Jyväskylä Adult Education Centre, Finland
- Course brochure
- Social media and customer letters (email)
- Information channels of the Adult Education College and the City of Jyväskylä (homepage, press releases)
- Specially priced and free target group courses
- Student work exhibitions
- Cooperation with other actors
- Taking into account course desires
Samogitian Museum ”Alka”, Lithuania
- Social media (Facebook, Instagram)
- Print media
- Magazine ads and articles
- Participation in exhibitions
Marketing is seen by all project participants as a key factor in their operations, but also as a very challenging field. As can be seen from the list above, the marketing tools for adult education are very similar, even though there are operators from all over Europe and there is also a lot of content difference. In particular, the costs of marketing, lack of skilled staff or resources and reaching the desired target group were the factors that made marketing more difficult. Reaching new target groups is important to everyone, but finding effective ways is still a challenge.
Regarding the marketing tools already in use (see lists) and the marketing objectives, four key areas for improvement can be highlighted that deserve special attention in adult education marketing:
Reaching new student groups
A typical client in adult education is a well-educated middle-aged or older woman. While the aging of the population is a strong trend across Europe, it is also important to reach new client groups with new aspirations and demands for their studies in order to maintain the attractiveness and competitiveness of educational institutions. A diverse student body (different ages, different educational backgrounds, different ethnicities, different learning objectives, etc.) requires the continuous development and renewal of teaching, considering students' goals and wishes. The goal is to become more customer-oriented, which requires renewal in teaching planning and in all other customer service.
Marketing and communication through many channels
Marketing channels have been fragmented in recent years and the target audience cannot be reached through a single communication channel. At the same time, communication has become more hectic and many customers are making their decision to participate later. That is why it is important that information is available at different times and with different tools to reach not only target age groups but also customers with different rhythms.
Targeting your marketing to the right target audience is a prerequisite for reaching new customers without wasting resources. However, targeting and reaching the target audience is one of the most challenging aspects of marketing, which requires a wealth of expertise and knowing the target audience.
Even though many people are easily reached through social media, one should not forget the power of personal interaction, for example, at various events. It serves as a digital marketing support to the target audience.
Development and renewal
Renewal of teaching (new areas of teaching, new teaching methods, new ways of studying, etc.) and content development are key factors in creating an institution's outward-looking operational culture. Although "regular clients" who have been studying for years often expect things to continue the same way year after year under the same teacher, the constant renewal of teaching cannot be forgotten without the risk of collapse. Customers have very different goals for their studies. For some, studying is a nice hobby for wellbeing, for others may be part of continuing vocational training. It is important that both get what they have come to seek. Customers' perceptions of the operation of the school are an important factor when applying for a student. If public opinion is such that teaching repeats itself and that current teaching is not available to me, changing the mindset can take a long time. There is a great risk that, without renewed ability, both old and new potential customers will be lost.
Perhaps the best long-term marketing tool is satisfied customers, who return year after year to their courses and talk about their studies in their environment. It is therefore important that, in addition to providing good course delivery and teaching, participants feel that they have good customer service as a whole and share their good experiences with others. It is a good idea to ask participants regularly for feedback (questionnaires, customer panel, etc.) both on the teaching and the activities of the whole school. It is important that feedback is also genuinely considered and that those giving feedback become aware of how the feedback has affected the organization.
Success experiences, student work exhibitions and performances and other events where students can present the results of their work are important places for performance assessments for both authors and the public, who may also be interested in studying.
Marketing is a critical success factor for adult education providers and a major challenge. Reaching target audiences requires not only knowing the customer groups but also the various marketing channels and properly targeting them in order to effectively target the resources used for marketing. However, even the best of marketing will not be successful if the entire school palette from teaching to customer service and administration is not in order. Bad experiences spread far more effectively than good ones. Therefore, the most important single marketing tool is probably the good reputation of the institution as an interesting and evolving service provider.