Stemming Tuition Sticker Shock

Regardless of the size, rank or location of a college or university, sticker shock is a very palpable and common concern for prospective students and their families. According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2016–2017 school year was $33,480 at private colleges, $9,650 for state residents at public colleges, and $24,930 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.

Affordability is among “the most influential factors when students develop their college consideration lists.

Stamats 2016 TeensTALK study, confirms affordability is among “the most influential factors when students develop their college consideration lists.”

So what are enrollment marketers to do when undiscounted tuition and fees are published out of context and outside competition is at an all-time high? Don’t hide the ball. Run with it.

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Address finances early and often in recruitment campaigns. Direct students to easily digestible information about awards, work study and federal loans in an easy to find section on your website. Invite questions. Communicate directly with parents. Consider communications specifically about completing and submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)—a top enrollment predictor that takes approximately 20 minutes to complete—during recruitment and even throughout yield.

In 2016, Nerdwallet.com reported high school graduates missed out on as much as $2.7 billion in free federal grant money, mainly because of incomplete or unfiled FAFSAs. Confusion about the process or perception about not being eligible for federal aid are cited factors that led to the lack of applications.

Don’t hesitate to make use of a number of free resources made available in the DOE online Financial Aid Toolkit, including handouts, videos and infographics. There’s even more educational content available across DOE Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts that’s designed for social sharing.

Refer students and parents to your cost of attendance calculator so they gain a better understanding of their estimated net price—the important number. The reported "cost of attendance" is rarely what students actually pay.

Let them know—more than once—because confusion about costs shouldn’t stand in the way of recruiting the best class possible.

How To Do Higher Ed Diversity Marketing The Right Way

Recruiting a more diverse student body is one of the more common priorities popping up on universities' strategic plans today. In the latest in a series of published reports, this month an article in The Atlantic shined a light on how high school graduate demographics are shifting from being around 70% Caucasian today to closer to 50% by 2030.

Huffington Post, Inside Higher Ed and numerous others also confirm that, while demographics are changing, universities should be very thoughtful about how they adapt to enroll a more diverse student population that reflects of our broader society.

Luckily, modern enrollment marketing is as nuanced as it is complicated. Big data allows for very creative segmentation, while the expansion of digital media enables colleges to target prospective students that were difficult to reach before.

Universities should be very thoughtful about how they adapt to enroll a more diverse student population that reflects of our broader society.

But if you want to recruit a student body that’s more inclusive than the one you have today, think about how you want to address diversity—ethnic, racial, economic, geographic, etc.—in your messaging and on your campus.

How have you positioned diversity on your website? Are your faculty and staff diverse? What services do you have specific to those students who are the first in their families to attend college? Will minority students actually feel at home on your campus? The answers to these questions and more can shape a very powerful narrative and, more importantly, one with greater potential for success. 

The goal of a more diverse and culturally rich academic environment is a noble one. Just be thoughtful and authentic when you have great stories to tell.

University Apps: a Campus in Your Pocket

Time magazine recently proclaimed smartphones "the new backpacks.”  Indeed, with note-taking apps, recording apps, and research apps, today’s college student likely feels as naked as a campus streaker without his or her smartphone.  Nearly gone are the days of massive physical textbooks and backpacks bulging with papers.  

While some voices of academia continue to bemoan the ever-presence of technology in the classroom, universities have begun to embrace the medium of smartphone apps.  They can range from simple homework and grading platforms (think “Blackboard” to go), to university-wide social media sites.  In some cases, the social media apps are too popular among co-eds: Florida A&M’s app “Yeti – Campus Stories,” has recently come under fire for a lack of regulation of explicit sexual content, including an assault.  

Of course, plenty of campus apps find a balance between the cachet of a social component and the functionality of a class component. Many universities have successfully cultivated a smartphone presence, offering the benefits of a campus community with pocket-size portability. Here are a few worth noting: 

University of Virginia: UVA’s “The Good Old App” employs “augmented reality technologies,” in order to create a comprehensive experience for users.  Users on campus can tap into restaurant listings, directions, and even security escorts back to the dorm.  Arguably the coolest feature is that you can snap a photo of a building or landmark on campus and receive information about it.   
 Ohio State University: The Buckeyes were early on the trend, and their mobile app has, for years, offered all sporting event information, course communication, campus announcements, and a photo sharing feature that has become popular for alumni across the globe. 

MIT: As you might imagine, for a school that offers courses in app creation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology has an expansive app that provides the usual services (courses, restaurants, announcements), but also offers a self-guided campus tour, top news, and access to campus librarians and maintenance help.  

Harvard University: Harvard actually has a slew of mobile apps, from the standard campus app, to Harvard Virtual Tour, to the Arboretum Explorer (featuring plant identification tools), to Shoestring Strategies, a budgeting app created by Harvard undergraduates.  Ever the overachievers!  

…And there are many more.  It’s worth a quick search to find if your current academic home or alma mater offers an app of its own. 



6 Tips for Email Marketing

Yes, we’re perfectly aware of the irony of writing about the efficacy of email marketing via a marketing email. But, that aside, here are 5 ways you can improve your email blasts:

 

1. Subject Lines Are Everything
An old rule, yet one that still holds fast and true. And if you’re reading this, chances are it worked.

 

2. Keep It Hyper-Niche
Even though you’re sending this email to a lot of recipients, it’s important to make sure you’re covering something that hasn’t been covered ad nauseam. So make it specific. Make it unique. And make it quick before it becomes irrelevant.

 

3. Keep It Short
“When browsing the web, the average adult has a shorter attention span than a goldfish.” –Statistic Brain

Attention spans are getting shorter. And if you don’t hook someone into your content within the first few seconds, you’re toast. So don’t write dauntingly long-winded pieces that require your audience to work. You’re supposed to be giving something to them… so make it easy.

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4. Use Visuals
Any visuals. Gifs, memes, video clips, icons or plain old pictures are what draws the eye and gets attention. Treat an email blast as if it were a children’s book. If you would not read it in a jam, then no one will, even Sam-I-Am.

 

 

5. Make it Mobile Friendly
According to the latest US Consumer Device Preference Report from MovableInk, 66% of emails are opened on a mobile device. And that number is only going to go up. So it’s important to not only make sure the email is formatted properly for mobile, but also if there are any external links (to a blog or a website), make sure that those are mobile-friendly as well.

 

 

6. Be Persistent
Even if you follow all of these tips, chances are approximately 80% of recipients won’t open your email anyway (and that’s on a good day). The idea is to continually provide valuable content to the people you’re trying to reach. Think of it like free samples at the mall, once people know what the Bourbon Chicken tastes like, they’ll be back for more… that is, if it’s good.

IN STORE VERSUS ONLINE – WHO REALLY HAS THE MOST CUSTOMERS?

No one can deny that online shopping has grown faster than Justin Bieber’s social media following. So what does the future hold for brick-and-mortar retailers? And has online shopping reached a plateau? Research conducted by various sources* tells us that, finally, online versus in-store purchases are beginning to balance each other out.   

STANDING IN-LINE VS. SHOPPING ONLINE

First things first: What are people buying online? Tied for the highest percentage of online commerce are the electronics and music/video industries, both at about 74%.  The latter comes as no surprise, with songs and movies so easily downloadable from companies like iTunes and Amazon. There is little chance that this arm of the entertainment industry will ever return to the brick and mortar marketplace. Sorry Sam Goody.

Following these are office supplies (68%), clothing (63%), furniture (66%), toys and games (60 %) and books and magazines (58%).


With discounts as well as free and fast shipping options, companies going online for purchases is a simple option that brings their needs right to their door.

Clothing retailers often have shipping discounts, or no shipping fees policies, after you spend a certain amount. But, if the clothes don’t fit right it can be a somewhat tedious process to return/reorder a better size, etc.

Amazon carries almost everything, and they have put retailers, specifically bookstores, in danger (and even some out of business).  Toys and Games as well as Books and Magazines having a larger percentage of sales online is no surprise considering how large Amazon has become.  Simply put, Amazon offers almost everything at rock bottom prices – so it’s becoming increasingly difficult to compete. 

 WHAT’S THE MOST POPULAR IN-STORE INDUSTRY?

The most overwhelming preference for in store shopping is Drugs and Health Aids, at 91.2%.  This has the highest preference out of any category, making online purchases scarce in this industry.  Maybe it’s the fear of identity theft when insurance is involved, or health products or too personal for the Internet.  Whatever it is, there seems to be no threat to brick and mortar operations in this industry.

INDUSTRIES THAT ARE TOO CLOSE TO CALL

With the emergence of online grocery stores and services, some are beginning to wonder if traditional supermarkets will soon be in danger.  However, many consumers have reported that they won’t buy any fresh products from online services (such as meat, produce, dairy and fish).

When it comes to Computer Hardware and Software 52% tend to shop in store.

Online and in-store shopping both have unique aspects that neither can replace.  What drives a consumer in-store or online depends on the product, the person and the need.  While they each have their own benefits and disadvantages, for now they’re both here to stay. 

* US Census Bureau, Marketing Daily, CSA 

4 Ways to Reach Prospective Grad Students

A smiling, polite High School scholar brandishing a diploma and flanked by Mom and Dad may be the ideal target audience for undergrad admissions marketing, but creating a clear picture of the prospective grad student is more challenging.  While plenty of graduate applicants are still fresh-faced twenty-somethings, many are seeking a second career, juggling children at home, or pursuing a passion that they’d previously shelved.  Here are key points universities would be wise to consider when creating marketing content to attract the amorphous grad student audience: 

 1)    Know thyself:

 

With an understanding of a university’s strengths and weaknesses, you can better allocate money in the budget to bolster certain programs.  A Harvard MBA sells itself, but often schools continue to mail out literature about their most famous programs at the neglect of their unsung academic heroes. 

Cross-promoting less illustrious programs at the same university could attract a greater number of applicants.  For example, if the Iowa MFA webpage provided links to information about the school’s PhD in English Lit, applicants would be enticed to apply to both. 

 2)    Clearly shape the conversation about finances:

Prospective grad students have been consumers longer than undergrads, and further, they are much more likely to be spending their own money rather than their parents’. 

 Give premier real estate in web content and advertising to the most promising scholarships and fellowships the program has to offer.  Offer to assign prospective students individual financial counselors for further questions.  If the program in question isn’t well-funded, have confident answers at the ready and the data to back them up. “Yes, while the program costs $30,000 a year, the average graduate of our program lands a job making $60,000 their first year out, so any loans could reasonably be paid off in a couple of years.”  Avoiding financial conversations makes savvy consumers wary.  

3)    Consider target audiences:

 

Whether it’s a specific field that is particularly prone to having turnover—like publishing, for example—or a specific demographic ripe for considering higher ed—like recent veterans—do your homework on not just who may be a good fit for your programs, but how they might finance it.  While the new GI Bill is often used for undergraduate education, it is also applicable to grad school doing the research for specific prospective student groups makes them all the more likely to apply.

4)    Promote your University’s lifestyle:

Certainly, adding flavor and color to the landscape of the university does great work to woo undergrads and grad students alike.  For example, some undergrads are drawn to Tulane University for their emphasis on New Orleans itself: the restaurants, the music scene, the surrounding regional charm. 

Grad students are more likely to ask questions like: Is the university in an area with good public schools for children?  Is grad student housing available for couples and families?  Is this a program that can largely be completed at night, or remotely?  Could I feasibly finish the coursework while working full time? 

Consider the myriad lifestyle concerns that will impact the choice of prospective students when drafting marketing content.  The program may be ranked impressively by the Princeton Review or have a celebrity visiting professor, but certain applicants will be better swayed by the campus fitness facility and the flexible hours. 

Marketing Tips for Winning With Millennials

We recently came across an article that might be of interest. It lays out principles retailers should know about engaging with Millennial shoppers.

From the article:

The millennial influence on the market is so dramatic that it has altered the language that brands use when discussing target audiences...Millennials want to be consumer partners — not a target audience — with their favorite brands, and because of that, franchise professionals must shift their thinking to engage this influential group.

Why Digital Marketing Has Become the Health-Care Industry's Rx for Revenue

We recently came across an article on Ad Age that takes a look at why more and more healthcare organizations are going digital to fulfill their marketing needs.

From the article:

Admissions are falling as higher insurance rates prompt patients to seek more affordable care outside of hospitals and crimp the demand for elective procedures...Many are turning to search, mobile and social for cost-effective marketing that reaches the growing number of consumers who look online for health-care information. Paired with advice from referring physicians, the internet is helping patients make more informed hospital choices.

4 Tips for Higher Ed Content Marketing to Millennials

The problem of marketing to a younger generation isn’t a new one.  While millennials only make up about 10% of general consumers, they (and their parents) are the primary market for Higher Ed marketing.  So, how and where do we reach them?

 1)    Strategy across social media platforms:

While everyone is familiar with Facebook, millennials actually have been leaving it for other, newer, mediums: Instagram and Snapchat, among others.  Facebook can still be useful marketing tool, but a stagnant university “fan” page and typical ad content isn’t going to do the same work as a more personal approach.  (Native content is a buzzworthy phrase for a reason.)

 Also consider how product placement can benefit your brand, whether in traditional outlets like television, or in the form of viral videos or web shows.  Studies show that millennials are especially susceptible to product placement, because they are so used to its ubiquity.  So, while there’s a 98% chance somebody paid a celebrity to wear that Yale hoodie in their music video, millennials are likely to simply take in the image, rather than question its authenticity.  

 2)    Don’t try too hard:

 Learn from missteps made by others: young people have a curated concept of “cool” and will call out brands that are phony.  When McDonald’s tried to coax an indie band to play free under their banner at SXSW, they were blasted on social media and lost a lot of millennial customers. The same holds for schools: if partying is your “thing” (I’m looking at you, LSU), then by all means, make that clear to your prospective students.  But if your institution is better known for excellence in the arts, don’t try to sell millennials on its “coolness”: you’d fare better being straightforward and true to your culture.

3)    Money talks:  

Millennials, and of course, their parents, are more aware of the danger of the student loan crisis than any previous generations.  Devote valuable content space to explaining scholarships and fellowships available, built-in benefits, and plans for students to finance their degree.  (Initiate and control the conversation about finances so that prospective students and their parents realize their options when they look up your university’s tuition.)

4)    Diversify your strategy:

Focus on reaching millennials where they live: on the internet.  Social media, TV, and non-traditional media outlets are all necessary to reach prospective undergrads.  But if their parents are footing the bill, it may make sense to additionally mail traditional promos to homes, knowing it is more likely to reach the parents than the students.  The same remains true for outlets like NPR and newspapers.  If the message of your university is carefully planted in the minds of students and parents alike, your university won’t only have an enthusiastic upcoming freshman, but a mom and dad who are happy to foot the bill.     

4 Reasons to Consider Newsfeed Advertising

Social media has become part of most people’s daily routine. Wake up, check Facebook and Snapchat; make coffee, scroll through Instagram. Time to cook dinner? Time for Pinterest. Want to vent, head to Twitter. Going to bed – why not stay up for 2 gratuitous hours going from link to link on YouTube. Seeing how dependent we’ve become on social media, it’s unlikely for someone to go more than a few hours (and in many cases, minutes) without checking one of the many, if not all. 

With social media addictions comes a more distracted audience. Commercial breaks turn into phone breaks.  Advertising, and selling, on consumers favorite social sites may be the best way to reach distracted eyes. With a more targeted approach, brands shouldn’t just be heading online – they should be heading directly for the newsfeed.  Here’s why:

 

1. Buy Buttons: Within the last year, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest have added buy and shop buttons to their interface. Mobile shopping has rapidly increased and around 1/3 of online shopping now occurs on mobile. With the new buy buttons implemented on suggested and branded posts, it makes it much easier for a consumer to turn a “like” into a purchase.

 2. We live on our phones: In a day and age where some of us are on our phones more than we sleep, and when we do sleep it’s next to our phones, it makes sense to move to mobile.  College students spend almost 8 hours a day on their phones, meaning that while they’re awake you can likely reach them on mobile.  Almost 80% of internet traffic now occurs on mobile, taking the lead from desktops and laptops.  Online browsing on phones has become a filler for when we’re commuting, waiting for our morning coffee, or just plain uncomfortable.  Smartphones are with us wherever we go, and it’s the place where most people are reading their feeds.

 3. Visually Appealing: Most social media is set up as a visual platform, which is an ideal format for displaying retail advertising. An interesting product image will catch the consumer’s eye, and stand out against the everyday status updates.  Creating branded and relatable posts on social media will make the ads less “ad like” and more like a cool story on their newsfeed. Relating to consumers on the interface they understand may help ads be noticed rather than avoided. 

 4. It’s Native: Reach them where they’re already going. 74% of those online have and use social media, and nearly 3 hours a day is spent on all of the different sites or apps.  Each site can also provide insight on the users likes and interests, clicks, searches, etc.  With this information, advertisers can create a more targeted approach and hopefully a more relatable one as well. 

 

Radio: The Undercover Hero of Advertising

Technology is everywhere and any source of information can be accessed by the quick click of a button. Today, advertising spans across so many new media platforms. But even with the advent of all this new technology, one form of veteran advertising media is still the undercover hero of advertising – radio. Who knew?

Radio is the only medium that truly is everywhere – in homes, cars, restaurants, stores and at work. According to Arbitron, nearly 93% of the US population listens to radio and more than 188 million people hear multiple radio commercials in an average week.

According to the University of Florida, 95 percent of people in their cars listen to the radio and the average American spends 15 hours per week driving, and this makes radio a valuable medium. And radio also has a larger audience than television from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm every day and often hosts the last advertising message the consumer hears before reaching their point of purchase.

Radio is highly targetable. Not only does radio have the ability to reach a wide range of attentive listeners, but radio listeners are loyal to their station, making it easy to target a station for a particular demographic or listener profile. It’s is also an effective direct response medium and advertisers can track the number of listeners on any station at any given time.

Radio is quick to produce and is cost-efficient. Unlike television, radio can be produced in as little as 24 to 48 hours with production costs usually much lower than other mediums. Radio’s low cost per thousand can increase the frequency, reach and longevity of ad campaigns and can therefore increase the company’s return on investment (ROI). In fact, according to a recent Nielsen-Catalina study, when advertising on the radio, on average, there is a $6 ROI for every $1 spent.

So when it comes to choosing your next media strategy, consider including a classic media and let radio be the hero of your message.