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Marketing/How to Market an Adult Education Program


QUESTION: Here's a challenge for you:  what advice would you give to a struggling adult education program that desperately needs to get new students?

Our website:

In a nutshell we serve adults who did not complete high school and need a high school equivalency diploma (what used to be referred to in New York State as a GEDŽ).

Students come of their own free will and are under no real obligation or mandate to enroll in our program.  In other words, they are like customers.

Our problem:  enrollment is dwindling.  We don't seem to be able to get new students to come in.

Now I know this is probably due to a number of factors beyond the scope of this question.

My question to you is:  what are some effective marketing techniques we can use to drum up business?

Think of our program as a business -- any business -- and our students (or potential students) are customers.  How do we get them to come in?  What techniques or strategies can we use to let them know about our program?

Thank you!

:: Jim

ANSWER: You could possibly contact students who have completed the program in the past and have benefited. You could do a contest with some type of prize, where they would tell their story in 200 words or less (or some limit). You could award prizes for the best one or ones, but as a condition of entering the contest you could use all of them in your marketing. If you do not have a Facebook page, definitely get one, and that would be a good place to share success stories, along with your website. Social Media, like Facebook or Twitter, is a great way to spread the word at a very low cost, or no cost.

Is here some type of mailing list of people who did not complete high school - if so, that might be a good place to start marketing - sending out a post card or brochure.

Is the problem the cost? If so, perhaps some local businesses could provide scholarships, as a public service and a way to gain good will in the community. Here in Georgia, I could see GreyStone Power (the electric company) doing something like that. If scholarships were available to lower the cost, that would probably help enrollment.

If I think of some other ideas, I'll send an update. I hope this helped a little bit.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for a fantastic (and super-quick answer)!  

I like the contest idea.

Unfortunately, we don't have a mailing list of folks who did not complete high school -- probably some privacy law stuff here in New York.  We got laws up here about everything.

We do, however, have a Facebook page, albeit I'm not sure who's in charge of it or what is being done with it (I'm just a lowly teacher in our program).

Our program is free to the student, but not without cost.  What I mean is that we get our funding through the government (federal mostly).  The nuts and bolts of it is rather simple:  the more students we have, the more funding we get.  And conversely, the fewer the students, the less the funding.

Nevertheless, perhaps we could solicit some private funding.  Our program is in a small town (Oneonta NY) -- but, someone did some research a while back and told us there are over 5,000 people in our area who do not have a High School Diploma.  5,000!  Our question is:  where the heck are they and how do we reach them?

Now, this is the way it is:  the big boss has called for a special staff meeting on Monday, February 3, 2014.  

She wants on ideas on how to recruit new students.

That's why I've contacted you, because I don't have a clue about marketing.

At this meeting, I will naturally bring up your ideas.  Do you want me to credit you by name?  I mean they are your ideas, not mine.  I'll gladly tell the big boss and the other staff where I got my ideas from if that's what you wish.

And please, if you come up with any other ideas, let me know.  I (We) have until Feb-6th.

Thanks again Tim for your fantastic advice!

:: Jim

One more idea - a lot of the people without a diploma may be unemployed. Is there an unemployment office locally that you could leave materials at. You may also look at contacting other local charities that help people in need - for example the Salvation Army. Since the lack of a diploma can definitely cause long-term financial hardship, I'd try to get the word out to any organizations like that, and give them some materials to hand out.  I would also be sure that the school system has materials that they are able to give out to people that might contact them. I would also be sure that the Chamber of Commerce knows about you and that you are listed on any local government websites.

You don't need to mention my name.  You could tell them you went to a website called All Experts, if you want to. That was a good idea on your part.

Definitely also read the thing I wrote about press releases. Any kind of publicity you can et is going to help.

Around here there is a 4th of July parade, where local businesses can have a float. Even something like that would be a big help.


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Tim Collins


I am happy to try to help business owners come up with ideas on how to market their business, based on my 25 years experience in advertising and marketing.


I have been in the advertising and publishing field for over 25 years. I have published a newspaper and currently publish two magazines. I have also run a flyer delivery service. I created an independent yellow pages publishing company. I also sold radio advertising early in my career, and have had some experience in direct mail. Our magazines currently have the most Facebook fans of any local business in the areas they serve.

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