“Making Your Case” for Strategic Positioning in a Saturated Market
By Angie Osborn
April 29, 2021
The team of MBA students volunteered with the “Making Your Case” project to assist a Director of Admissions and Marketing for The Gordon Institute of Engineering Leadership (GIEL) program in a strategic challenge of expanding the outreach of the GIEL program to increase total student enrollment to 50 admitted students.
This research topic explores marketing and academic programs offering challenges that higher education organizations face in the highly saturated Boston market. This research was done on behalf of The Gordon Institute of Engineering Leadership at Northeastern University to improve marketing positioning and optimize advertising to a strategic target market. This investigation includes that higher education organizations must leverage unique core competencies to carve out a unique position in the market to maximize their value proposition when marketing to prospective students.
Background on the Market
Boston Massachusetts is internationally known for its higher education offerings; the city of Boston is home to thirty-five colleges, universities, and community colleges. Six of the top forty higher education institutions in the nation (Harvard, MIT, Tufts, Boston College, Boston University, and Northeastern University) are located in the Boston area. Additionally, MIT, Harvard, Northeastern University, and Boston University rank on the top fifty engineering schools in the United States (U.S.News, 2021). Massachusetts is a highly saturated state for higher education, which presented increased competition for the elite universities in the area. Optimizing advertising spend and generating the greatest return on investment is a strategic challenge all higher education institutions must solve. The Gordon Institute of Engineering Leadership at Northeastern University also faces the added challenge of direct brand name competition with several institutions that bear the Gordon name and have a similar academic offering. The market is projected to grow over the next ten years and The Gordon Institute of Engineering Leadership must strategy to grow market share and capitalize on industry growth.
To address the challenge of competing within a highly saturated market I began by conducting marketing research. Survey data was collected from eight hundred undergraduate and graduate engineering students ages 19 to 35. The survey collected data points on market demand for a graduate degree in Engineering, purchase criteria for graduate engineering programs, brand awareness, and level of interest or demand for engineering leadership. This data was then processed and utilized to create an advertising A/B test. The variable of this experiment was the advertising copy which was focused of testing the top two purchase criteria discovered in the survey research. The lead metric of success was leads generated by each advertisement.
Applying the BE-EDGE Method for “Making Your Case” Project
The data collected through survey research and advertising experimentation was strengthened by utilizing the BE-EDGE framework. This approach to problem-solving was utilized to match The Gordon Institute of Engineering Leadership’s strengths to opportunities for growth. The BE-EDGE framework facilitated for the following analysis:
• Stakeholder analysis was performed to gain a full understanding of organizational goals and feasibility of strategy recommendations
• Core competencies to be discovered through the VRIO analysis
• The organizations market position was uncovered through the PESTLE framework and a competitor landscape analysis
• A SWOT analysis was utilized to map out variables unique to the organization
• Organization capabilities were mapped out by analyzing each employees’ specific strengths and competitive advantages
• Tangible and intangible resources were actualized
• A value map was created to discover where additional opportunities could be realized
To improve marketing positioning and optimize advertising to a strategic target market several strategy recommendations were presented to the The Gordon Institute of Engineering Leadership. The research and analysis performed in this study indicated that The Gordon Institute of Engineering Leadership should pursues a differentiation strategy to secure a competitive edge and grow student enrollment over time. This investigation includes that higher education organizations must leverage unique core competencies to carve out a unique position in the market to maximize their value proposition when marketing to prospective students.
Professionals in the marketing space who are faced with the dilemma of differentiating an offering in a highly competitive market should consider not only optimizing their advertising messaging but also their market offering. Applying the BE-EDGE frameworks allows marketing professionals to step outside of their responsibilities and understand the position of the entire organization. The VRIO framework is particularly insightful when crafting a competitive value proposition and will directly impact the efficiency of advertising messaging.
The discoveries of the advertising A/B test enabled The Gordon Institute of Engineering Leadership to increase advertising leads by 3% within two months which in turn significantly impacted the return on marketing investment. This study will also benefit the long-term advertising strategy as A/B tests can be performed over time to continually optimize advertising spend. The discoveries through the BE-EDGE framework have allowed the organization to increase their situational awareness and actualize their complete advantage in the highly complete Boston market.
Project Relevance for the “Making Your Case” Team
This project opened an opportunity for me to directly contribute to my organization at a higher level that I would not normally contribute in my role. Other members of the team agreed. Kristen said, This project is extremely relevant to my career as I work in consulting at a client-service firm. It was great to help assist a client that I know (Angie and her company!) and made the project more fun. Meaghan said, I currently work in a client-serving role in which we seek to create valuable solutions for companies, similar to the task at hand for GIEL. Shana said, This project allowed me to use my educational background in strategic public relations, knowledge of higher education, and a client I knew well to develop a company case study and consulting report that could be impactful to the organization. Rosa said, BS in Business and MBA Candidate. Masters in Higher Education and Graduate Certificate in Business Administration. Utilized program development and funding strategies to research potential funding options.
The data collected, the frameworks utilized, and the recommendations that were made in this case are objectives that I can immediately implement in my organization. Professor Ivy’s methods have given me a new set of tools to solve challenges my organization faces.
About the Author
Angie Osborn is a Marketing professional with 5 years of experience in the Higher Education industry and a specialty in digital marketing and developing brand identity. She is currently pursuing an MBA with a concentration in Marketing and Corporate Renewal at Northeastern University.
Higher education market Size, share & COVID-19 impact analysis. (n.d.). Retrieved April 30, 2021, from https://www.fortunebusinessinsights.com/higher-education-market-104503
The best engineering schools in America, Ranked. (n.d.). Retrieved April 30, 2021, from https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-engineering-schools/eng-rankings