Summer @ Northeastern: Short & Sweet Messaging

In March I was asked to write the messaging for Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies lead generation page for its summer courses. Among other tactics, the page is promoted on the CPS website main home, and through paid search, paid social media, and email to targeted lists. The page is now live (my original unedited copy in pdf), and I’m happy to share more on this short fun project.

A crowded space

There are 114 colleges and universities in Massachusetts, of which 85 are private (Wikipedia has a very cool tree map showing their relative share of the market by degree awarded). Most offer summer courses or programs, so there’s a lot of competition. And that’s without factoring the global online learning offering. This requires solid positioning around key differentiators that really matter to college students and parents. Focusing on our target audience also meant that we’d want short, mobile-first, straight-to-the-point yet engaging copy and visual.

Focusing on key differentiators

After some research on 40+ competing institutions, we found that Northeastern’s CPS courses were offered at one of the lowest cost around. On top of that, CPS added a perk: a complimentary career coaching session. For a top-40 university known for its flagship experiential learning program (“co-op”) that places students in jobs all around the world, this is big. Even though the target population probably just wants to catch up on algebra this summer, education is a journey that families take together.

For the various fields, there is not much room for imagination: dates, courses, what you’ll gain, etc. But the copy is consolidated and optimized as much as possible. For example, only in-demand courses are shown. Students can do an advanced search through the catalog of 229 courses for more. The summer start dates are also the deadlines for registration, hence the merging of the two. And compared to the previous year, I removed the institutional boilerplate and instead focused on what CPS offers as a whole to students on their learning journey.

Of course, I looked at other summer pages out there. One that I remember is Boston University’s summer challenge page (Colors! Headlines! Video! Totally responsive!).

Grounded content for students and parents

I created engaging and informative headlines, with key elements, like low cost and flexibility, up-top for parents and students to see first. We want students to sign up for one or more courses, but really for them it’s about catching up and, even better, getting ahead. I personally remember my summers for many reasons, hence the leads “This Summer, Get Ahead with the College of Professional Studies” and “Flexible, Affordable, Memorable: Your Summer @ Northeastern.”

The main call-to-action is a clear “Register now” button. CPS traditionally uses red for these buttons, but research has shown that this can actually reduce conversion so they’re trying out blue (not sure if they’re A/B testing). A side CTA offers the option to talk to an enrollment coach via email or toll-free number, showing that CPS cares about the learning journey as a whole.

CPS-mobile_20170509Neither the website’s format nor the Marketo page template support pure mobile at this point, so I kept the copy short on purpose and this seems to do the trick on hand-held devices. The single image shows an actual student on the campus in the summer.

With this campaign, Northeastern’s Enrollment Marketing team obviously wants to increase enrollment in the summer courses, but they’re also hoping to raise awareness in the college’s and Northeastern’s educational offering and approach to learning.

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