Why the education category is a smart investment in a recession

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Do you get depressed every time you open a magazine or newspaper these days? Between stories about budget cuts, layoffs, and foreclosures — not to mention Bernie Madoff — you'd wonder if there is any good news. In the perfect storm of the global financial crisis, direct marketers all seem to be looking for a silver lining.  

As the GM of a media network (Netmargin) that helps both advertisers and publishers reach their desired goals, I understand that no one opportunity will save the day. I do, however, think we can be bullish on evolved businesses that take full advantage of online advertising and e-mail, and address important consumer needs (not wants) that are affordable. Before and during this financial crisis, the post-secondary non-traditional education industry has been growing stronger, and 2009 is already shaping up to become a record year.   How is that possible?  

Huge demand

The number of high school graduates is growing for the first time in 25 years; projected to grow from 2.7 million in 1989 to 3.1 million in 2010. Beyond that, more than 9 million people are now unemployed in the US, many of whom are seeking to improve their skills or acquire training in order to change careers. Approximately 18 million students were projected to be enrolled in postsecondary institutions in 2007, and the number is projected to grow to 18.8 million by 2010.

Intelligent marketing

For-profit higher education companies tend to spend 70% to 95% of their direct marketing budgets online where their media buys can be directly linked to back-end ROI and optimized on a near real time basis. Many brands are now realizing that branded acquisition email campaigns are scalable, generate high enrollment rates and help drive brand awareness and favorability — offering the best of both the direct response and branding worlds.  Advanced schools, EDU Portals and media suppliers are also providing each other more transparency, resulting in improved marketing optimization which drives operational efficiencies and profits.

Virtual classrooms
Online courses make it easy for schools to efficiently expand beyond the confines of a classroom to serve students throughout the world. These virtual classrooms are popular among students because they offer flexible schedules, more courses, and they don't cost a small fortune to commute to day after day.

Available credit

One issue schools have been concerned about in the last year is whether or not students will be able to secure the loans necessary to attend their desired institution. President Obama has promised to help make student loans easier to obtain which should help spur enrollments and assuage certain financial fears among students and schools.

Online education is not only a smart move in terms of career growth; it is also a great category to leverage in your business efforts.  Working with colleges, universities and vocational schools, direct marketers can help shape future generations while ensuring their own success. With the internet's ability to target messaging and match programs to a person's interests, our industry provides the final step to fulfill the education revolution that has been taking place these last few years. 

I was asked to describe why the education vertical is recession-proof. The answer is educating students and retraining America will lead us all out of current financial problems. Every direct marketer that helps a prospect find their best school helps everyone.

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