Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Have you been a prospect lately?

I was reading a trade magazine the other day and came across an interesting article. The magazine was for catalog marketing; tips, techniques, trends, etc. One of the central ideas they focused on was "Have you been a customer today?" Their idea was a wonderful one. We get so wrapped up in day to day work, we forget to look at what our marketing program looks like from a STUDENT'S perspective.

That raised an interesting question in my mind. How does YOUR institution handle prospective students? From the time a you start a campaign and a lead comes in, whether by mail, phone call, web site, social media. How is that lead handled? Who touches the lead? What is sent to them? How is this prospect treated, classified (hot, warm or cold lead)? And how is your staff interfacing with these prospects (if they are at all)?

In addition to the above questions, is your website easy to navigate? I have visited many clients and prospect's websites. Some websites are complicated to use AND the only way you can get any detailed program information is to contact the Office of Admissions. Make it easy for prospects to see exactly what they are getting for their education. Not only program information, but social activities, athletics, not as individual discussions (ie: one section for athletics, another for classes, yet another for community information), but how they all relate to the Higher Education experience! Here are some key thoughts for you to consider:

1) At least once a month, sign on to your website. Your goal is to see what it looks like, read the content again, is it attractive to prospective students and check all of your links, page connections to make sure they still work.

2) Fill out forms! Do they work?

3) Read your website as if you're a prospect. As someone with NO knowledge of your school. Does your website make sense? Is it inviting? Are answers there for even the most basic questions?

4) What does your website say about YOUR institution? Is the copy, approach and content different for adult students when compared to high school students? And how easy is it to find key information regarding admissions?

5) Are you using texting and/or social media in a way that your prospects use these services?

Following these five tips can help you focus on what's important, getting more students to register and ATTEND your institution. So many times we overlook the basics and worry more about the trees than the forest. Remember, attending a college or university is exciting, frightening, intense, fun and fulfilling if the match is right. The initial contact you make, just like meeting someone face to face for the first time, is a lasting impression. If they don't like how you interface with them either via mail, phone, website, texting, blogging, you will never get them as a student.

The idea of a mystery shopper can be applied to checking how YOUR admissions recruitment is done. Market Mapping plus LLC can set up a program to contact your institution for more information. Once that contact is initiated, we will follow all future contact's to see how you are doing. Did you send the requested information? How long did it take to receive that information? Were there follow-up contacts in a way that the prospect wanted to be contacted? All done with a full report at the end of the study. We will also evaluate how easy your website is to navigate, and provide suggestions on how to improve your website with copy suggestions, reorgainzation of key elements or a change in approach. Whatever is necessary to help you become more "prospect friendly" in this age of information.

In the words of Ron Popeil, don't "set it and forget it"! Keep in touch with your systems, your image and your outside contact points in order to keep up to date, functional and effective.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Futurist Tom Frey's View of Education

I came across an interesting article today. I read it this morning and found it interesting, however, making an entire industry change would NOT be easy. I would recommend reading it if for no other reason than to see what one person's view of the future of Education might be.


As for marketing education, new approaches should be considered, developed and used to meet the changing needs of both High School and Adult Education students. Market Mapping plus LLC is ready to work with you to find ways of integrating social media, texting, direct mail, e-mail, broadcast and other advertising media.

Our partners include advertising/copy design specialists, direct mail printers/lettershops and vendors in all areas of marketing and advertising. Contact us today to start your advertising program analysis.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Media Integration/Tracking

There are two distinct audiences in the higher education market. High School students matriculating to college, and Adult/Continuing Education/Degree Completion students. Each, has it's own unique needs and demands on their time, interest and goals. OK, so this isn't rocket science with that statement, but, so many institutions fail to understand that information is knowledge.

I send out about four direct mail postcards a year to the Directors of Admissions for over 4,000 colleges and universties nationwide. It's interesting in that this is obviously a sales post card from a vendor asking for a response to my offer to sell prospect mailing lists. Interestingly enough, I get about two large envelopes back from various institutions with a full catalog, admission form, and other prospective student information. What is it with these schools who don't take the time to look at something and assume every piece of mail is a prospective student? And then spending $4.80 in postage plus the cost of the catalog and other printed materials on someone who is OBVIOUSLY NOT a prospect.

This is where so many schools fail to perform. They have no plan, no screening process and no REAL method of determining what is working and what isn't. In addition, they may segment the above two audiences, but do they truly treat them differently in how they go about recruiting High School students versus Adult Education students?

I have determined that over the past 20 years of working with Institutions of Higher Education that most suffer from the "We've always done it that way" syndrome. Innovation is based on a knee jerk reaction to "Oh, we need a web site", "Oh we need to e-mail, that's what people want today" or "Oh we need to mail information to anyone who communicates with our office". None of which are realistic or should be the point.

I had a client who needed more leads, leads, leads! Leads were their life. When they hired me to do a lead tracking analysis (who touched a lead?, what were they sent?, how was it sent?, where did it come from?) I discovered that they had a database of over 56,000 leads that they had NO idea they had. Surprisingly enough the head of the mail room was dutifully mailing this database every month without fail. Yet, most of the leads were over 2 years old, and no one upstairs in the Executive wing knew this was going on. An extreme case maybe, but how many of you know what is happening in your institution?

And, more importantly is a lead worth anything? Not really in the greater scheme of things. If you have 100,000 leads but can't get anyone to register and sit in a class room aren't all those leads wasted energy AND dollars? Are you tracking leads to conversions to student? I have no doubt that many institutional staffs would be thrilled with 50 new students, yet upset that the response rate was only .0001% of their marketing effort. What is the disconnect here? Low response rates don't necessarily equate into bad results. It's the bottom line SALES that are important.

Who's being mailed what and when? How is a lead being generated, and most importantly how are you responding to that lead? In addition, how do you know who is responding using what medium? Is it direct mail that's driving leads to you? School visits? E-mail? GoogleAds? All of these questions need to be quantified and evaluated for continued success.

I just read an article about a study that was done. They showed that since 2007 to first quarter 2009 13 - 17 yr olds text messaging has gone from an average of 241 per month to over 2,800 per month. So, is text messaging a part of YOUR recruitment strategy? And maybe, more importantly, SHOULD text messaging be a part of your strategy. Everyone seems to jump onto the latest "media" bandwagon. Yet, are you actually acheiving your goals, or simply diluting your message into areas that don't generate students but look "cool"?

We work with clients all the time in building an effective tracking system for all types of advertising. Direct mail is the most quantifiable, but other methods of advertising can be easily tracked as well. And building a program that is student oriented! What gets prospects to attend YOUR institution is critical to the overall success of your campaign.