How marketing helped make it big online

Oct 8, 2019 by

TV ads helped Southern New Hampshire University become a household name, but with mounting competition and increased scrutiny of spending, getting to the top — and staying there — isn’t easy.

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By Lindsay McKenzie –

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Back when Southern New Hampshire University was still a small regional institution with a modest online presence, Paul LeBlanc, the university’s president, called a meeting with his online team.

The group watched as LeBlanc opened the University of Phoenix’s website, filled in a request-for-information form and placed his cellphone on the table. A few moments later, the phone rang. It was a Phoenix representative calling, ready to help the president enroll in an online degree program.

LeBlanc wanted to show his team what they were up against. He understood that “speed-to-lead” times would become paramount in online admissions. Calling potential students 10, 15 or 30 minutes after they submit an inquiry wasn’t good enough.

“We’re not where we need to be,” he said.

That was over a decade ago. SNHU representatives now aim to call prospective students so fast that they don’t have time to click away from the university website. The university typically returns 98 percent of new lead calls in under three minutes.

Speed and efficiency have helped SNHU to grow its online enrollment from 3,000 students in 2003 to around 132,000 students today.

But there is another magic ingredient that has propelled SNHU — hundreds of millions of dollars spent on advertising and student recruitment.

As competition for students increases, SNHU faces two options to continue growing: spend even more or innovate.

With a marketing spend of more than $139 million last year, LeBlanc is attempting the latter.

An Ambitious Growth Strategy

During his 16-year presidency, LeBlanc has transformed SNHU from a sleepy regional college to a slick online behemoth.

He is candid about the fact that for-profit institutions such as Phoenix helped pave the way.

“We learned a lot from the early days of Phoenix — how to be more student-centric, how to be more customer service-oriented, how to improve our processes and use data better,” he says. “All things that higher ed, not surprisingly, [was] never good at.”

At its height in 2010, the University of Phoenix enrolled more than 470,000 students. Inside Higher Ed reported that Phoenix’s enrollment likely dipped below 100,000 last year.

Source: How marketing helped Southern New Hampshire University make it big online

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