Every residential college is proclaiming they are different. Some are really shouting about it while others are quietly putting the message out there. But, when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of it (and be very honest about this) how different are you from every other college?
Your logo might look different however, at a guess, it’s probably still a crest, the same as many other colleges. Your communications material might feature happy students who attend your college – why wouldn’t it. You might have the best accommodation available to students but only until someone else builds something better.
It seems clear that pretty much every college is in fact offering exactly the same as its competitors! What is surprising is that many are consciously acting like sheep – merely milling around and waiting for something to happen.
You are probably aware of the following ‘differentiators’ because you may well use them to sell your college – ‘a well-rounded experience’, ‘preparing global citizens’, ‘a safe environment’, ‘a sense of community’, ‘convenient locality’, ‘modern facilities’, ‘price’. However, as everyone else is using the same differentiators, does that make a mockery of what a unique selling point actually is? How can you expect potential students be drawn to your institution if it’s being sold in exactly the same way as your competitor down the road?
But every cloud has a silver lining. You are in the perfect position to do something about this now, before it really becomes an issue. That might seem a little daunting, but wouldn’t it be more so if you left it too late? How would you feel if your college’s revenue began to suffer, if its ability to secure future funding became impossible or if its capacity to attract prospective students was notably weaker because you’d been to slow to react to the problem of lack of differentiation?
However everyone else is in the same boat at the moment so maybe this is your opportunity to distance yourself from the pack. And if you don’t, someone else will seize the initiative and beat you to it.
The key is simply to be different. Find out what it is that sets yourself apart from all your competitors and actively use it. Tread your own path, stand-out from the crowd. Becoming highly visible amongst a sea of competitors would make your target audience listen to what you’ve got to say. How valuable would that be if suddenly everyone was listening to you? And here is the added incentive, if you are the first to do it, you are more likely to be remembered. Maybe everyone would begin to follow a new leader – you.
Continuing to mimic your competitors will ultimately become a race to the bottom of the barrel. Differentiating from your competitors will put you in a league of your own and make you unique. That’s something that everyone should want.