Competitive Positioning Defined Through Research


Time & Space was approached by a post-secondary institution, seeking to understand the variables impacting a decline in admissions. It was clear that competitors were winning the attention of potential students; the need to know how they were doing so was immediate.


The institution approached Time & Space to help them define how competitors were attracting enrollment.

The organization had a sense of core competitors, those post-secondary institutions that have seen enrollment growth, and those residing in historically strong recruitment markets.

Based on their competitors, our client aimed to clearly define these organizations’ marketing efforts and the scope of their promotions.

Though, they did not understand who the non-traditional competitors were and were seeking guidance in also identifying them.


At Time & Space, the team developed an approach that would capture a clear picture of our client’s competitors’ historical advertising trends, investment, and focus.

We then proceeded to identify the core media channels for student acquisition, which was determined to be search engine marketing.

Our team then established an approach to capture the competitive information the client was seeking. Leveraging data on roughly 3.7 billion keywords, we were able to isolate advertisers, ad copy, projected costs and historical appearance.

This data analysis provided the foundation to analyze the promotional focus and scope of their competitors.

We then developed a proprietary weighting system, allowing us to understand who was achieving the highest level of success from this advertising channel.

The analysis provided a clear picture of the direct competitors and provided the data to validate the non-traditional competitors. This data would help our clients understand why their admissions were slipping, who was beating them and what level of investment would be required to regain a leadership position in digital recruitment.


Within seven days, our team completed the competitive analysis and had developed micro and macro-level insights.

Our analysis revealed the historical traffic via advertising, historical investment in advertising, advertising focus, top keywords and ad copy for each university identified within the project.

This analysis also allowed us to evaluate the global trends. Over the previous 12-months, we learned that the amount invested in search engine marketing (SEM) advertising grew by 47%, with main competitors increasing their investment monthly by approximately 690%, averaging in excess of $14,000-CAD per month.

We were also able to analyze the group’s performance, helping us understand that universities within a unique region in Canada were investing, on average, $621-CAD for every $1-CAD invested by our client within the search engine marketing ecosystem.

These insights provided valuable guidance to our clients as they began their planning process to determine the route to market and investment requirements to begin improving their ability to attract prospective students to their fiscal and virtual campus.