Why would a college offer a 40% discount?

SUMMARY: Have you heard about that girl who just graduated from college with $80,000 in student loans? Ouch! What a terrible predicament. This girl should have gone to Hiram College in Ohio.

They are offering a 40% summer semester discount. Guess what? Enrollment increased. Mmm… I wonder why. In your business, it’s all about the offer. Your customers are asking: What’s in it for me?

Have you heard about that girl who just graduated from college with $80,000 in student loans? I bet you hear about these stories every day, don’t you?

What a terrible predicament for a twenty-something girl! I don’t understand why colleges let this happen.

Well, yes, I do. They want to make money like any other business. But still I think it’s bordering on being immoral.

Heck, when I went to college I worked my tail off during school and in the summer, and I didn’t take another semester of college until I had money in the bank. But I don’t want to turn this into a lecture on money management.

I’m a marketing expert. If I owned a college, I would really look at ways to attract students and help them avoid going into debt.

A college discount?

I saw a story in USA Today with the headline that said, “Discounts draw in students.” The article was about colleges that offer discounts during the summer or other incentives.

The particular story talks about this sophomore named Jenna who is attending Hiram College in Ohio.

Apparently, Hiram College is offering 40% discounts on tuition to entice students like Jenna to go to school during the summer. Way to go Hiram College.

In the article, Jenna says she can pay her tuition out of pocket with no debt. Good for you Jenna! Hiram College is not the only university and understands it all about the offer. Other universities are even promising tuition freezes to boost enrolment.

I love to hear this. The universities win with higher enrolments during dead times, and students win with lower tuition payments. Everyone wins.

People are asking one main question: what’s it in for me?

What does this have to do with your marketing efforts?  Well, it’s all about the offer.

When someone reads your ads or watches your TV commercials or sees your e-mails or hears your radio commercials, they are asking one and only question: What’s in it for me? They want you to offer them something.

If you want to draw people to your business, you need to give them a strong reason to come.

Can you use the free word?

Of course the strongest offer you could ever give is the free word. If you have something free to give, use the free word in your headlines and in your body copy and in your coupons. Everybody wants something for nothing.

But you don’t have to always give away something for free. I do not believe that you should be a discounter like Walmart. Businesses that live by the discount die by the discount.

In your business, what is your offer?  What can I offer people for at least testing my product or service?   What incentive can I give?  Think creatively. Think outside the box. You don’t always have to offer a dollars-off coupon.

What could you give away?

For example, these colleges, in addition to offering a tuition discount which is the easiest thing to do, could have offered a two for one special.

For example, they could have offered two students for the price of one.

Or they could have offered two credits for the price of one.

Or they could have offered free parking.

Or they could have offered free lunch for a semester.

You get the point. It’s about the offer.

So, as you market your business don’t forget that your markets are asking, What’s in it for me?

My advice is simple: make your offer strong and watch your sales increase.

THINK ABOUT IT: Can you offer discounts on your products?

• • •

Get to the point immediately in your headline

This ad appeared in Reader’s Digest around 1959.

Would this type of ad work today? Absolutely! Four things make is work.


Research showed that women liked the design, modern look and feel and considered the shape itself implied an advance in lighting.


Boom! The bold headline screams the message and benefits immediately.


The photo and headline are saying the same thing. You always want your headline and art to say the same thing.


Notice the before-and-after photos. Great idea.

Look at the text: “New eye saving bulb gives even, all over brightness that’s much easier on your eyes.”

The result of the campaign: a substantial increase in share of market for Westinghouse.

My advice: make sure that every marketing document that leaves your company gets to the point right away.

(SOURCE: The Best Advertisements from Reader’s Digest, Random House, 1962.)

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