More than ever, we believe that our dreams for the future influence our behaviors today. That makes examining the results of our second annual Freshman Forecast exciting and important. Investigating where today’s college students see themselves at the age of 30 can significantly impact how we educate them today. As marketers, it enables us to communicate with them in a way that will better resonate and motivate them toward achieving their dreams while considering and attending your institution.
The survey gave respondents the opportunity to express their own ideas about the future through free-form narrative guided by hypothetical scenarios. The result is an electrifying gaze into their crystal ball that just might demonstrate a need for all of us to radically change our student engagement model. For example, 67% of respondents believe they will have earned a graduate degree by age 30. That points toward the need to partner early with undergraduates to create a pathway to graduate degree achievement within your institution. Another finding indicated that today’s student expects to hold several jobs by the time they turn 30. That would indicate that now is the time to tackle the challenge of creating degree programs that prepare students for more than one career path.
Another good starting point might be to align your content with the positive outlook today’s students radiate. Specifically, your communications should reinforce the unique ways your institution personifies happiness and optimism. How can today’s students or prospects “make the world a better place” by attending your college or university?
We hope you’ll take this opportunity to download the compete study to see more of the correlations between your marketing efforts and reinforcing the future your students are striving for.
Though unsure where they’d like to go to college, students have a lot of opinions about how schools should – and should not – try to recruit them.
A panel of high school students at the recent AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education provided interesting perspectives of how they wanted to be contacted as they progressed through the college search process. They all noted that in their junior year, it was fun to be initially bombarded with brochures and “lookbooks” from a wide variety of colleges. But as their academic interests and lifestyle preferences solidified, they were more focused on schools aligned with those traits.
In their junior year, students reviewed everything that became available to them, but they advised “Don’t contact me in senior year if you haven’t already contacted me. It’s a waste of time.” They are also very eco-minded(ecological and economical), bristling when they received lookbooks from unfamiliar schools with no chance for consideration.
Their media consumption was a bit surprising… since most major surveys report different characteristics. Perhaps it’s the difference between those seeking higher education and those moving directly into the work force.
In terms of direct mail, high school students looked forward to opening correspondence and literature from colleges and universities. As they progressed in their recruitment, they had a less positive reaction to communications that appeared too late in the process or were not aligned with their desires. They especially reacted poorly to personalized mail from unfamiliar schools, reporting that the volume was overwhelming at times and patience ran thin with each “excessive piece.”
University websites didn’t fare too well with the entire group, who were dissatisfied with the combination of too much information and poor navigation. Many couldn’t find an “apply now” or “learn more” button and left the site with no contact. As a result, that school fell off the consideration list. But they did value websites that included a cost estimator.
Another complaint expressed was that “every college has class outside,” referring to an overabundance of website photos depicting an unrealistic scene. Also, the website needs a “fast facts” page: number of students, acceptance rate, etc. This group of college prospects did, however, acknowledge that websites provide their parents a means to participate in reviewing the consideration list.
They consider their Facebook accounts personal unless you are invited in. Otherwise, you are an intruder. Their chief concerns are:
- They don’t like schools filling up their newsfeed.
- They want a line between school and personal life.
- They think schools are trying too hard. School’s use of language and tonality is inconsistent with the rest of Facebook.
As a result of these violations, students are now changing their Facebook IDs to avoid college stalking.
But students gave high marks for creative use of social media. Using YouTube as a virtual campus tour excited them, for example, as long as it was authentic and not canned or overproduced.
- Email works, but students should be able to unsubscribe if schools send too much information or if they lose interest. These messages do break through if a school is high on a student’s consideration list, and it’s good for following up.
- Postal mail is fine — it helps students segregate familiar names from unfamiliar.
- Personalized mail is also fine, but only if it’s truly personalized to a student’s interests.
- Send quick facts and ask for permission to follow up. Not doing so might put your school information in the garbage can.
These students have been accepted to various colleges and are making final determinations. What they all have in common is that none of the final set of schools are the same as the initial set they thought they’d be attending. Along the path of self-discovery, their needs or priorities changed. What cemented the relationship in most cases was the campus tour, and they cited the following components for campus tour success:
- Passionate ambassadors
- Best speakers
- Strong interaction with students
- Specialization toward academic interest
- Quality of lookbook
- Virtual campus tour as the initial tour would be acceptable, but it must be natural and genuine
If you or a relative are going through the excitement of choosing between colleges and universities, please share your experiences with us.
Branding was the primary presentation topic of the day at the recent American Marketing Association Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education (#amahighered). However, the B-school roundtable revealed some meatier issues that kept those marketers up at night. The 50 or more in attendance voiced concerns were varied, yet many were shared. This infers there is not one central issue to rally around, but rather a variety of challenges facing today’s higher education marketer, especially in business schools. I believe many of these issues are directly transferable and relatable to other university colleges and schools as well.
The following top issues were almost equally distributed in importance and urgency:
- Lack of direction from university leadership.
- Not changing programs to keep pace with student needs or technological advances. This related to courses of study as well as teaching method.
- Under resourced and under budget to meet the expectations of internal constituencies. This was voiced by both centralized and decentralized marketing departments.
- Changing school name affecting branding and name recognition.
- Changing skill set requirements with existing staff skill set especially with social media and mobile marketing influences.
- Defining, obtaining and analyzing metrics (what’s working, what’s not).
- What happens to the lead when it’s handed off to admissions, referencing lead nurturing.
- 30 second elevator pitch; being prepared to talk to prospective students or influencers in a non-campus setting.
- Consistency in messaging across all schools and colleges within the university, especially with regard to brand guidelines.
- How to maintain database inclusive of segmentation.
- Mobile site or app – when and how to choose.
- Social media analytics – establishing KPIs, measurement methods.
- Branding was last on their list of concerns.
CBD Marketing will be addressing each of these concerns in upcoming blogs and e-newsletters. Please feel free to comment and help our fellow higher education marketers move their brands forward.
With last month’s announcement that scores of top-tier research universities will begin offering popular courses online, the work of higher education marketers just became more critical and urgent than ever. The situation wields a double-edged sword. While this offers enormous potential for students and the global economy, colleges and universities fear that it may make them obsolete.
According to an article reported by the Associated Press, supporters say these online courses can lower teaching costs, improve learning (both online and off) and significantly expand access to higher education that can fuel technological innovation and economic growth. On the other hand, critics warn that quality virtual education will undermine the finances of colleges and universities. Think about how web content decimated the newspaper and magazine industries.
No doubt some colleges and universities will suffer as a result of the proliferation of these mass open online courses (MOOCs). But you can safeguard your institution by planning and implementing more thoughtful and meaningful marketing—starting with brand differentiation.
By clearly identifying what your institution stands for, who it appeals to and how they’ll benefit from it, you’ll be well on your way to preservation and prosperity. You must convey that you have relevance far beyond the quality education you provide. In short, you must articulate a broader brand vision. That means defining your guiding star, your institution’s chief inspiration, world view and central philosophy. This will provide you the focus you need to achieve long-term goals.
From there, center your work on developing unique brand positioning. Quite simply, the net impression you intend to own in your audiences’ minds. Use this brand positioning statement as your internal strategic brand guide and overall communications compass.
Once positioned, follow up with strong value propositions. Think about the assets and promises you can deliver that make your positioning credible then deliver it in your own fresh voice. Communicate your values through your personality.
As you are well aware, there are many other steps involved in differentiating your institution and communicating value proposition. It can be a long and arduous process. But don’t wait; start this effort now.
It’s the difference between being prepared to thrive in the face of change and being scared into ignoring it. The reality is that higher education just entered the age of marketing, and it’s one where marketing requires a seat at the strategy table. The acknowledgment of senior administrators is not only a game changer, but a lifesaver.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal discussed the arrival of chief marketing officers (CMOs) at U.S. colleges and universities. It was unfortunate to learn that all too often the main focus among CMOs is the need to defend their job internally followed by convincing parents of the value of investing in higher education. Truly, their attention is needed elsewhere.
There is no room for marketing complacency in today’s saturated higher education space. From student acquisition and degree completion to alumni advocacy and capital campaign achievement, colleges and universities have to embrace marketing as a strategic initiative critical to survival and growth.
Job one in the higher education market is to differentiate an institution in a way that is meaningful and not easily replicated by the competition, and to develop a unique value proposition that can resonate with myriad audiences. In addition to providing constant and consistent brand stewardship –which includes aligning various schools/sub brands– driving demand for programs is essential. Things such as leveraging intellectual capital, stemming attrition, attracting sponsorships and cultivating alumni relations are just a few of the day-to-day initiatives that require marketing expertise.
Simply put, there isn’t a post outside the CMO position that can efficiently manage these crucial elements; all are vital to an institution’s financial health. More importantly, these responsibilities require inclusion among the highest ranking administration to ensure success. Often times, only a CMO can command and be confident in receiving that kind of C-suite support.
Together these responsibilites total a simple equation that quantifies a CMO’s value and return on investment (ROI).
I recently read an article that questioned whether resumes would become obsolete. The author, a very talented man by the name of Doug Gross, interviewed companies and asked them about their hiring process.
The results were intriguing. Most businesses claimed that perusing someone’s Facebook or Twitter would tell them more about a worker than a resume. Some companies went so far to say that they would hire based on a bit of social stalking.
To us in the technological world, this makes sense. Social media is a tool. It would be foolish not to use it. Running someone’s name through Facebook or Twitter is really just a business doing its due diligence— a background check of sorts.
However, how long this tool will be available to companies is questionable. If you haven’t noticed, social media is a touchy subject. It began as a personal outlet and remains as such today. Even if businesses started using social media to solely recruit from, a little issue called invasion of privacy is bound to get in the way.
Our advice would be not to write off resumes just yet, but we would love to hear what you think. Is it smart to focus more effort on social media platforms than a resume?
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