John M. Belk Endowment
Our work with the John M. Belk Endowment attests to the role of higher education in collective prosperity. The mission of the endowment is to “ensure the future of North Carolina” by focusing on the employability of its residents. To that end, the endowment piloted a multi-million dollar endowment across five participating community colleges – a statewide effort designed to eventually scale up to all 58 community colleges in North Carolina, support millions of underserved adult learners, create pipelines of workforce talent, and fuel the state’s recovery in the COVID-stricken economic climate.
The challenge was manifold. Community colleges were suffering widespread enrollment declines in the aftermath of 2020. The path to a college degree, especially for adult learners, was riddled with both real and perceived barriers to success. For this first-of-its-kind initiative to pay dividends, the endowment needed a statewide campaign that would earn the attention of these hard-to-reach audience segments and inspire eligible candidates to apply for the grant at one of the participating schools. Internally, the five colleges needed to work together and rally behind a unified campaign strategy in pursuit of shared goals.
Translating campaign success into enrollment success took a village-wide lift. VisionPoint worked closely with each of the five community colleges and the endowment as a whole, alongside a multi-vendor team that included a public relations agency, a student recruitment team from InsideTrack, and a host of consultant groups enlisted by the endowment. The goal of our campaign was straightforward: to drive leads for the initiative. However, we needed a central message and media strategy that each college could adapt to their unique marketing situation and needs.
Our messaging approach was simple and poignant: ‘Better Skills. Better Jobs.’ This no-frills value proposition struck a delicate balance. It not only spoke to the career needs of adult learners, but also honored and aligned with the individual brand identities of each college. After gaining enthused buy-in from the colleges, we produced an inventory of print and social media assets that brought the messaging to life, scaled the campaign to their region-specific marketing situations, and built five custom, college-specific landing pages. We worked with each college to identify and promote the marquee, employment-driving programs that are most closely tied to career outcomes. On a separate front, the recruitment experts at InsideTrack reached out to a list of 500 stop-out students to bolster lower funnel conversions and nurture prospects to enrollment.
After just six weeks in-market, the campaigns helped deliver a total of 159 enrolled students across the five schools – a welcome sight amid the hemorrhaging declines from 2020. Along the way, we drove over 1,300 conversions, 15,000+ clicks, and more than 3 million impressions at a benchmark beating $53 CPA, providing the colleges with a much-needed jolt in awareness and engagement ahead of the pivotal Fall 2021 recruitment cycle.
Our work also inspired a cross-institutional culture shift, as the colleges began evolving their curriculums to better serve adult learners. For example, Pitt Community College built a ‘Better Skills, Better Jobs’ adult learning center and career fair to live into the campaign’s brand promise.
The collaborative nature of the project helped each college take their enrollment marketing efforts to the next level through the economies of scale we introduced. Our hands-on approach to campaign optimization based on data trends allowed us to regularly adapt the campaign successes of one school for the benefit of the group, inspiring healthy competition and camaraderie between the colleges while laying the blueprint for sustainable growth.