Monday, October 21, 2013

What makes a strong offer?

The first questions is, what is an offer? We all know the answer to that so I won't go to the Dictionary to give you the formal definition of an offer. Yes, is the word "offer" the right word? The offer states what you would like someone to do. Whether you are selling toothpaste, a car, a college education the offer creates the groundwork for a prospective student to decide to move forward and actually buy.

Remember the offer is the first step in the sales process. Your goal is to get people to buy, not browse and "kick the tires" so to speak. So the offer has to have some serious incentive to get someone to move forward. Let's look at a couple of examples.

You are selling a tube of toothpaste for $2.95/tube but the offer is $.50 off the retail price. The savings is 17%. Not an insignificant savings.

You are going to buy a car, It's retail value is $15,000, you offer a $1,500 discount plus a trade-in guarantee of $1,000 for a total savings of $2,500. The savings for this offer is 16.6%.

Now, you send out a mailer, offering a student a degree completion offer with a total projected cost of $20,000 and you offer to waive the application fee (estimated at $75). The total savings for this offer is .37%. Pretty pathetic when you compare your offer to offers people see every day in the overall marketplace.

People have come to expect something for their investment. Whether it's toothpaste, a car, or an education. I find, that most Higher Education institutions don't recognize the fact that to attract more students (note, I did not say prospects) they have to give them something that they consider valuable! And keep in mind, that doesn't have to be money. Meeting the needs of a busy family, a tiring job, a busy work schedule and around hobbies and other areas that conflict with them completing their degree can be more valuable than a cash outlay. However, it's YOUR job to translate the intangible benefits of your institution into a strong offer.

One negative example comes to mind. I have a good friend, single mother, child under the age of 10, who was working on completing her degree. She registered for a class, started taking it, and due to a work/child scheduling problem missed two classes. When she returned to class after her mini crisis she was told by the professor, she had been dropped. She knew, going in, that she was only allowed one absence/semester. Now, this may have been a totally unreasonable professor (by the way, it was a required class) yet, had the institution had a resource to help her work through that issue this could have been a huge offer to make. We have an office to help you with a flexible schedule. Had this institution done that she would have remained in school or that class she would have felt wonderful. As it was, she finished her other class, dropped out and completed her degree at another local institution.

On the other hand, a positive example. A Midwest University wanted to increase enrollment to their degree completion program. After three email deployments, 75,000 each they ended with 112 new REGISTERED students. How? They offered each of them a $1,000 scholarship, no strings attached. It's the offer and how you communicate the offer to your client that makes the difference.

My recommendation is, don't think institutionally, think like a prospective student. What do they want and from there, create the best offer possible. The offer is what get's them to buy.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Landing Page 101

Anytime you use social media, email, banner ads to advertise your schools programs you need a landing page. But many people don't understand the true purpose of the landing page and why it is so important. In addition, many don't understand what makes a landing page effective. These tips will show you how to make your landing page effective.

In a nutshell, a landing page is an internet micro site that is a single web page that simply states your offer. When someone clicks through to a landing page they have shown that they are interested in learning more. Opening an email (as an example) doesn't have much meaning. But clicking a link is an action that they take on purpose. Something in the email/banner ad/social media has peaked their interest. It's up to the micro site to capture that interest and get them to act on it.

What are the most important elements of a landing page?

·         It must state your offer simply and directly.

·         Do NOT add links that allow them off of the landing page without filling the form.

·         A consistent message between the email/banner ad/social media and your Landing Page.

·         It should have no copy "below the fold".

·         The call to action/variable fields are above the fold.

·         No more than 5 mandatory fields to complete.

·         Keep it simple, not text heavy. State the offer, give them a form to complete and be done with it.

·         Make it visually interesting but not visual heavy.

Once they complete the variable fields and click "submit" send them a thank you note immediately after their submission and tell them information is on the way.

Remember, this is the ONLY way you will know who they are. Keep it direct, to the point. This is not the place for a full sales pitch. That's what your Admissions staff is for. This is for your prospect to tell you who they are and how to get in touch with them.

So, what do most Universities do wrong? I've developed a list of mistakes that are fatal in capturing the needed information.

·         NO OFFER! Everyone expects or needs some incentive to buy. Going back to school is no different. It could be as simple as a scholarship, day care, a free class to get things going, discounted tuition. Anything that gets them past the time and cost involved in returning to school.

·         Variable fields that go on, and on, and on, and on, and on. 60% of all internet users who click through to a landing page will abandon the page if there are more than 5 variable fields to fill out. FIVE!

·         More text than existed in the original message. This is the place to make short, bulleted points that reinforce your offer. Make the sale, but make it simple.

·         Multiple links that allow the visitor to click away from the landing page without filling out the information. There can be only ONE way to leave the Landing Page. Fill out the form and click "Submit"

·         If I have to I will say it again. NO OFFER - no one will complete the form!
The landing page is the one way for you to capture your leads. The role of prospecting is to identify those who are interested (clicking through does that) and capturing who they are (the Landing Page). Most schools violate one or all of the above bulleted points. To be successful, you need to adhere to the first set of recommendations. This isn't rocket science, it's a study in psychology and motivation. If you give them the proper motivation, they will do what you want them to do

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Why prospect three times a year, when potential students are looking for degree information on a daily basis?

My past 23 years has taught me a few interesting things about Universities. First, and foremost they are "traditional" in their approach to marketing. They think that there are two key semesters per year, and one summer session (by and large). So, they market three times a year. Yet, prospects are a fickle bunch. They go on line, research for information and want to make a decision when THEY are ready, [...more] not when you advertise to them. So, the question becomes, how do we reach prospects when they are doing their immediate search, OR, as close as possible to the time when they are doing their research.

As most advertising articles will tell you, customers frequently select an item based on their last impression. What I am saying is, when presented with a number of options to buy from a given company/institution, the one that last contacted them (or, in the case of Higher Education was the first) is the one they choose. Degree program offerings, cost, location are all factors, but when you get right down to it, if you have the right program, at the right price in the right place, you will capture them as a student simply because YOU were the one to contact them.

Let's say there are 20 different institutions of higher education in your market area. Prospects are confused, curious as to which one is best for them, and yet, the one that is responsive, contacts them first, follows up with good information in a timely manner will likely win. So, how do you do that?

Change your mindset from marketing three times a year, to marketing monthly, weekly and if possible daily! Imagine one week after searching for a degree program in business, a prospect gets an e-mail from your institution offering them a free consultation (for not only the student, but their family as well), give them a counselor that is uniquely theirs to contact, invite them to visit a class, whatever you are able to offer to get them moving forward. They expressed interest in completing their degree or getting an advance degree only 4 days ago. Now your message goes out, offering to help! Kind of like setting up a school Concierge program.

We do the e-mail campaign, you get the response in a timely manner. Change how you think about marketing. Focus on what the prospect wants TODAY. A quick reply to their search. Market Mapping plus LLC can make that happen. Contact us today for a quote and to discuss how to implement a program that targets your best audience in a timely way.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

When did you last talk to one of your adult students?

When did you last talk to one of your adult students?

This is an interesting question that often goes unanswered. Why? Most of us are sitting in our offices, toiling away at each daily project given to us by our boss, a department head or some other project that is critical for our institution's success. We know there are adult education classes on campus (or on a nearby campus) and we know that there are students in those classes (after all, we in Marketing were instrumental in getting them there) yet, we rarely if EVER go talk to them! The excuses are many. "These are night classes, I have to be somewhere." or "What can they tell me? What would I ask them?" or maybe "I don't get paid any extra to stay late and track down these classes, talk to the professor, get permission to talk to a few of the students either before or after class, what a hassle!"

Well, let me tell you, you are missing a fabulous opportunity for some primary market research. Research that will answer any of the following questions:

·         Why did you decide to get your degree from XYZ University?

·         Was cost an issue to you?

·         Who influenced you in your decision to attend our school?

·         Have you had a good experience while attending classes here?

·         What were your expectations when you first started and what are they today?

·         Is there anything specific that you can tell me that made our institution stand out in your mind when looking for a (degree completion, advanced degree) program?

Imagine what you could do with all of that information! Say a majority of the students reference location as a key motivator. If there are a few students who have that point of view, I guarantee there are others who have the same issue. What if they say "fear" was a roadblock to going back to school. Fear of failing. Fear that they will be the oldest person in the class. Fear of not having enough time for work, class, family and hobbies. Ask them how they conquered their fear. Learn from them.

As with direct marketing, each mailing is a new test. What are you testing? If you don't know the answers to the above questions (and those are the tip of the iceberg) you have NO idea how to market your institution. Ask, learn, grow, test new ideas. That's what direct marketing is all about. The ability to test new ideas, new thoughts, new markets. But without a sound basis for the testing you're just wasting dollars and time.

Focus on learning as much as you can about your audience, not only demographically but also psychographically. Get out of your office. Walk around campus, set up a routine EACH semester to visit at least three different adult education classes and talk to the students. If you feel up to it and have the budget (ok, stop laughing now) invite a class to dinner on marketing. A small investment in a few meals will reap huge rewards with marketing success.
Contact for more information on how to identify and reach your target markets.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Content Marketing in Higher Education

Content Marketing is the latest trend in marketing. You build content based on your prospective audience and then find the audience to drive to the content. That sounds simple, yet it's not. What is included in Content Marketing? Well, basically everthing you do to market your College or Univeristy. Direct mail, e-mail, website, blogs, FAQ's, billboards, newspaper/radio/television/cable ads all contribute to the overall marketing of your Content. The difficulty with Content Marketing is that the content must constanly change, be updated, be new, and most institutions aren't very good at keeping things fresh. New videos of campus, new blogs from either marketing or the world of academia you are promoting.

Imagine a blog(s) sorted by field of study, written by not only professors (I know, thats a major topic in and of itself) but by students in the program. Maybe a video of a "fun" class. Lab work. An experiment where something blows up! You never know what might peek someone's interest.

Transform those blogs into copy for the school website. Include them in a direct mail/e-mail campaign to promote attending YOUR institutaion. So, what is content marketing in reality? Nothing more than a well coordinated effort to promote your institution to prospective students. The difficulty is, your prospect pool is so diverse, you need massive amounts of content to fill that need. Yet, by providing content on Education, Pre-Med, Psychology, Computer Science, Liberal Arts you are finding ways to promote all you have available, on a unique/personalized platform.

Imagine, sending out an e-mail campaign to prospective degree completion prospects, with a list of potential programs for them to consider. Each e-mail lists the degrees with a link to a unique landing page (yes, 10 programs mean 10 landing pages) but each is tailored to a specific degree program. Then once they fill out the form (keep it short), send them to an information/welcome page for that program, then to the admissions site to apply.

All of this is content driven, focused and uniquely yours to implement for YOUR institution. Content Marketing is not easy, but can be HIGHLY successful if implemented correctly.