Features and Benefits in an Academic Setting
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Features and Benefits in an Academic Setting

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A short overview for new enrollment and admissions personnel on how to best approach the "features vs. benefit" conversation with prospective students and families. Includes examples.

A short overview for new enrollment and admissions personnel on how to best approach the "features vs. benefit" conversation with prospective students and families. Includes examples.

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  • 1. Features and Benefits - A Primer for New Enrollment Professionals Joe Szejk Omaha, NE joeszejk@gmail.com “These shoes make me run faster. Check out the lightning bolts on the side!”Understanding what will compel a student to choose an institution is among the single most important things we can do as enrollmentprofessionals. More importantly, we can directly attribute proper messaging to results in recruiting the best students who will besuccessful at your institution. As your messaging gets more clear, people will value your brand more and your work will becomeeffective. Therefore, as you message with students and influencers, be aware of the questions they ask and how to effectivelycommunicate the benefits of your educational experience to them.Benefits are the key element to every single successful marketing or advertising campaign ever created. At the heart of our role liesthe need to segment messaging to various audiences regarding the institution, its programs, aspects and culture.Enrollment offices discuss everything from academic programming to day care options for students to financial aid and what size sheetdo we need in the residence hall(s)? That said, we need to be able to discuss all of these in minute detail, some of which we aren’teven sure how to verbalize. ***Let’s get started by answering the obvious question: What are benefits?Etymologically speaking, benefit is the combination of two roots: bene meaning “good” and fit meaning “shape.” Its roots trace back tothe 14th century where it was used to describe a good and noble deed – or, something that was an advantage of profit. Knowing yourhistory comes in handy in this regard –a benefit is good and provides an advantage. Remember this when speaking to your prospectivestudents and influencers: your benefits must create advantage!In salespeak, benefits are those things that offer value and make the customer’s life better. Unfortunately most business owners,marketers and advertisers still confuse benefits with features and they are NOT the same.A feature is simply a component of your product or service. A benefit is what the user of the product or service will actually receivefrom that feature. Let’s clear this point up once and for all with a couple simple examples:
  • 2. The features are the attributes, while the benefits are what you get from the features. People don’t buy shampoo; they buy manageablehair. Teens don’t buy iPods; they buy coolness and portable music. Try this simple exercise to wrap your brain around talking benefits. Product BenefitMotorcycle Freedom on the open roadThis holds true for every single buying decision we all make, from pajamas to atomic microscopes. How can each facet of we havemake the customer’s life better? Specific to our job as enrollment professionals, what are the benefits students derive from attendingyour institution?Understanding BenefitsProduct benefits usually consist of four principal levels. They are features, advantages, motives, and benefits. Each layer has its ownset of attributes and characteristics, which varies depending on the product type and the market to which the product caters.To illustrate, here’s a description of each layer:  Features — what products have. For example, say you sell accounting software. You can say, “This accounting software has a reporting feature.”  Benefits — what those features mean. This is where you attach the advantages you outlined to specific motives those features satisfy.  Advantages — what features do. To continue our example, “Reporting provides real-time, on demand, updated mission- critical information to key personnel.”  Motives — what motives do features satisfy. For example, “Cost-savings, greater control, increased production, better decisions, etc.”Now, let’s try it from an academic setting. Take some features of your institution and extend the conversation through the stages. Feature Benefit Advantages MotivesSmall Classes Faculty are Active Participants They Know Your Strengths, Greater Opportunities for in Your Academic Success Weaknesses, Interests, etc. & Research & Internships that Will Mentor You Through Your Lead to Graduate School or Academic Career JobBy knowing what is compelling to the audience, you are better able to communicate to them the aspects of your institution that aremost important to them. Tying in with Behavioral Segmentation, this allows you to move the needle and connect with them on apersonal and emotive level. The more you practice, the better you get. After too long, you will find it as the key to your success! ***Joe Szejk is the former Vice President of Enrollment and Marketing at College of St. Mary (NE). With a broad background in communications, enrollment and marketing, he specializes inresearch, financial aid, and communications plans. He has spoken at the National Small College Enrollment Conference on multiple occasions and his work on CSMs microsite,WatchMeBloom.com was the subject of an article in USA Today. When not learning new Excel functions or working on a graphic novel with his best friend, Joe enjoys spending time withhis wife and children. He may be reached at: joeszejk@gmail.com.