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.

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