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Online Growth in a Competitive Market: 7 Essentials for Success

Updated 10/23/2023

In Enrollment Builders’ experience with organizations of all sizes, we often notice similar challenges each face as they plan for and implement online educational services for their students. Reframed, these obstacles form a set of must-haves for success in online program creation or strategic online growth. Though every institution is unique, here are the 7 essentials for online growth that our consultants have distilled from their work with a broad range of national and international clients:

1. Bold leadership. It’s clear to see that at nearly every level, education is rapidly evolving. To stay ahead of the curve and leverage all the advantages that progress promises, organizations must have strong leadership. Partnering with an experienced enrollment management service and shepherding change with faculty, recruitment and retention departments, financial aid, and executive leadership takes planning, diplomacy, and the ability to build consensus.

Often, adding an online education program requires nothing short of a cultural shift. Institutions that thrive in this space work to involve key departments early in the process to help foster broad internal investment.

2. Strategic planning. Like any endeavor, success is driven by a clear and attainable plan that’s supported by solid research and reliable data. Creating a roadmap for success in online education means understanding interdependencies, flagging potential obstacles, identifying efficiencies, and being nimble enough to respond to new information. Competitive data, market forecasts, employer input, and brand analyses are just a few of the key components that drive this part of the process.

3. An opportunity-focused culture. Entry or aggressive growth within the online space can be a daunting prospect. Though it may seem obvious, it’s worth mentioning: success takes a willingness to embrace disruption, proactively tackle challenges, and consider new teams and partners as collaborators in the success of your institution. Often, creating an engaged and opportunity-focused culture takes an internal "cultural reset" and preliminary team-building.

4. System and department integration. Creating a robust online education presence shouldn’t require reinventing the wheel or creating services that silo online students. System integration between recruitment, enrollment, financial aid, and other departments should be leveraged with an eye toward the future (i.e., what will not only work best today but will efficiently serve students five or ten years from now). Likewise, the integration of systems and databases should allow for seamless transitions between online and classroom learning.

5. Tactical investments in technology. Relatedly, ensuring that systems are well-integrated and prepared for growth often requires tactical investments in technology. A technology or operations audit can help identify any shortfalls that have the potential to negatively affect enrollment, financial aid, student support, and other administrative services. It’s important to note that assessments in this area can also help organizations act on long-delayed investments in technology that can add even more value by creating system-wide efficiencies.

6. Growth plans mapped to financials. As with growth in any space, online investments should closely align with realistic financial forecasts and internal financial models. When these two components are not in sync, long-term buy-in can be jeopardized and online resources are at risk of either being under- or over-resourced.

7. Data-driven marketing plans. Successful programs require marketing strategies that are firmly rooted in data and analytics. Understanding the competitive online landscape, the priorities of current and prospective students, and regional educational/employment needs form the foundation of a smart marketing plan. Post-launch and after a few enrollment cycles, key performance data can be used to better target marketing resources, refine media buys, and improve conversion rates.

If your organization is planning to launch or grow online educational programs for students, it’s important to have an experienced and capable partner. If you’d like to learn more about what we do, contact us at 513-518-7824 or request information here.