Demographic research can provide some very useful information about your target audience, but it definitely doesn’t tell the whole story. Recently, we spoke with researcher Susan Baier to find out what higher ed marketers can gain from looking at a different type of data.

Susan is the owner and founder of Audience Audit, a marketing research firm specializing in custom attitudinal segmentation research. She has more than three decades of experience in the marketing industry but, for the last ten years, her focus has been helping clients cultivate stronger marketing strategies based on insights gained through custom research. Here are a couple of interesting soundbites from our discussion.

What is attitudinal research exactly, and why is it such a big deal?

One notable element of attitudinal segmentation research is that it splits the prospective audience into groups based on shared attitudes, rather than grouping people by demographics like age or gender. By breaking a broad audience into distinct attitudinal groups, attitudinal segmentation surveys reveal valuable information about the priorities, pain points and conversion triggers of each segment—in short, the things that actually drive consumer decision making.

By breaking a broad audience into distinct attitudinal groups, attitudinal segmentation surveys reveal valuable information about the priorities, pain points and conversion triggers of each segment—in short, the things that actually drive consumer decision making.Click To Tweet

Identifying your audience and understanding how they feel is an important first step toward positioning yourself to meet their needs. Moreover, it will help you anticipate which audience groups your school isn’t well-positioned to serve, allowing you to streamline your marketing efforts, make more efficient use of your time and budget and, ultimately, attract students who are the right fit for your institution.

Uncovering the unexpected

Attitudinal segmentation research often unveils surprising insights. One anecdote Susan shared with us concerned a private, Christian university in the midwest.

To the astonishment of university administrators, an attitudinal survey of current and prospective students revealed that nearly 28 percent of enrolled students, and a sizeable percentage of prospective students, were interested in the school in spite—not because—of the fact that it was a faith-based institution.

This unexpected revelation gave way to an exciting opportunity. Up until that point, many of the factors that survey respondents had cited as most appealing, like geographic location, academic credentials and the promise of a traditional, on-campus undergraduate experience, hadn’t been emphasized in the school’s marketing.

To correct this, the university began offering multiple campus tour formats tailored to the distinct interests of different audience segments: faith-focused students, experience-focused students, academic-focused students and so on. The experiment proved to be a major success. In giving their audience the power to choose which information to receive, the university ensured that it would be able to put its best foot forward with every prospect.

Get the full scoop

My chat with Susan covered some really fascinating territory, including several other examples of how schools have used attitudinal segmentation to improve their advancement and enrollment marketing activities. You can catch the full interview here.