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Marketing Executive Education Programs

"The people who are crazy enough

to think they can change the world

are the ones who do."

Steve Jobs

How do you market an executive education program?

Innovatively - As an institution you need excellent content and a professor who can inspire and challenge seasoned professionals to advance their career development. Also, the program must be interactive and diverse so participants can share lively discussions and learn from real-life scenarios.


Direct Marketing is the best solution to finding interested registrants that meet the challenges above.


Gone are the days of doing mass promotions to a large-scale audience with the hopes of getting enough registrants from diverse backgrounds. Instead, institutions now have to be very targeted on the individuals to receive their marketing message. Therefore, the institution should know specific demographics (ie. job title, gender, company size, etc.) about the potential registrant to send relevant marketing content that can address their job challenges and aid in their professional development.

 Harvard Law Executive Education


In a recent consult I had with an Executive Education institution, they let me know they spent $10,000 on a prior executive education promotion and did not receive one registrant. Oh my, $10,000 and no registrants, how can that be? I had to dig further to find out. Here a couple of details on why it failed:

  1. They rented a few lists of individuals interested in continuing education classes but no other criteria. Unfortunately, the marketing company they were using didn't spend the time to understand the institution's audience and find lists with specific demographics that would be most appropriate for the course curriculum.
  2. They did one-off email blast campaigns and did not use a Multi-channel approach to make sure they were reinforcing their marketing messages. You can no longer send one-off emails and expect great results. To achieve a good response, you have to do Multiple e-blast campaigns or a combination of other marketing channels (display ads, print, social media, etc.) to create a comprehensive campaign.

STOP!!!  Direct Marketing only works when done correctly. I will go into more details below:


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#1 Reputable Executive Ed programs must take the time to do the research and know their audience to target promotions to those who would benefit the most.

 Here are some factors to weigh --

  • Who will benefit the most from their course?
  • Who will actively participate in the course?
  • How will they participate? Is it virtual or in-person?
  • How do you attract a diverse group? Here are some demographics to consider: Geography, Company Size, Title, Organization type - Public Sector vs. Private vs. Government . . . 


Taking the time to research knowing the ideal registrant and finding the right demographic mix will ensure a high-impact environment that will result in a successful program.  


Below is a quick overview of details to help pinpoint a list that has the right selects to reach a specific audience. 


Two ways to find a reputable response list:

  1. Use a list broker that works in the list industry every day. The broker should know what publishers and conference companies are keeping their files Clean/Updated and Compliant. You never want to use a file that will get you blacklisted or tarnish your reputation as a prestigious institution.
  2. Do the research and put together a list of sources that would be appropriate. 

     A) Google keywords to determine publications and conference companies that pertain to your ideal audience.

     B) Review data cards and media kits to make sure a specific audience is on the file. 

     C) Call the publisher/conference company to discuss your specific program. They can offer great insight and suggest how to reach your audience and what channels are  successful.




#2 What marketing channels to use?

You cannot get executives to register for expensive programs using just social posts or one-off promotions. 


Think about how busy you are? Are there days when you quickly open your inbox and delete anything that is not pertinent to day-to-day tasks? We are all short on time and need to be reminded about important events. Example Birthdays, Anniversaries, Registering for Programs you want to attend . . . 


Have you ever purchased a $2000+ item based on a Social Post you saw? I don't think so.


Now that you know your target audience, you have to create a strategic marketing plan that attracts the right people and nurtures them into signing up.


This is where a multi-blast or combining marketing channels can gently move your prospect into becoming a buyer. Some combinations: 

  • 2 or 3 time multiple email blast.
  • Email blast + postal promotion to those that open the email.
  • Social posts that are sent before and after the email.
  • Email blast + Podcast Interview 


Email marketing is a great way to raise awareness and push the registration numbers up before the registration deadline.   

There are so many different combinations to test and find the right mix for your institution.   

People are busy, and their inboxes are constantly being inundated with messages. If you've done your research you will be able create an email subject line that is relevant and timely. It's as if you are reading your customer's mind. They will be compelled to take action on your email promotion. Then have relevant content packed with so much value that they will determine the program is necessary for their career development.

** MOST IMPORTANT TIP: To have a successful Direct Mail or Email Marketing campaign, it is essential to find good quality lists that reach your specific audience. It doesn't matter how great your course is, how well known your professor is, or how good your content is if it doesn't get in front of the right audience at the right time.


Once you have done your research and determined your ideal registrant, it's time to implement your marketing campaign. Remember, we want to execute a multi-channel marketing plan that is scheduled around the program date. If you are doing a postal mailing as part of your campaign, make sure you consider the costs. Some people will say postal mailings are too expensive, and if not executed correctly, I agree. But since direct mail is responsive, we don't want to omit it altogether. For example, we had a client wary of the cost of sending the complete program guide as a marketing piece. We were innovative and implemented a campaign of an Email Blast followed-up with a Direct Mail piece sent only to those that opened the email. Sending the mail piece to only the opens helped us cut back on the Direct Mail cost and create a nurturing sequence that made the individual aware of the program and prompted them to register. Also, I would recommend doing a social media campaign along with the email and postal promotions so there are reminders not to forget to register.


To have a successful executive education program, you need to promote the course to the individual who will get the most value. 


You have to reach them on the channels where they are and connect with a diverse group to create a high-impact program that will interest seasoned professionals.


If you would like to discuss your target audience and how I would recommend quality response email and postal lists, please feel free to contact me directly. 


Phone:  1-860-210-8088