Wow, it’s 2011. My Co-Founder, Shane Sparks, and I have been at this marketing game a long time. It seems we’ve seen every scam, new-fangled idea and so-called “marketing innovation” come and go several times over. Today, the core fundamentals established in the early 20th century are largely the same, except for four crucial elements…
- Today’s consumer is much more stressed and sophisticated.
- The proliferation of interruption advertising has destroyed (or, perhaps worded in a more genteel fashion), altered media advertising forever.
- The Internet, in particular the advent of Blogs and Social Media, has altered the power dynamic around who owns information in our society. Information is power and the power is now in the hands of the masses, thanks to the Internet.
- Government and Accrediting bodies have successfully socialized private post-secondary education in only one year, with the repercussions quickly on route. (If you work in private post-secondary education, this last point is huge.)
Marketing has Changed for Good
Assuming you buy into the above notions, here are a few core ideas you might seriously consider when preparing for 2011:
1. Nothing can wreck a mediocre school like a great marketing campaign
Whaaat? Because schools will now have to deliver key performance metrics to prospective students early on, these figures will, more than ever, dictate the success or failure of your school. Run an anonymous “Refer-ability” survey. Ask your ‘customers’ if they would refer their friends to your school. Brace yourself for the response. If you’re not at a refer rate of 80% positive, ask yourself “why?” Referrals and testimonials perpetuate growth and signal to you if folks are happy with their experience.
Do you see big Starbucks ad campaigns? You are only as strong as the quality of your offering and referrals and reorders are the key performance indicator.
Ok, here’s a key point you need to understand fully. Soon, you will need to post prominently on your promotional material your tuition, completion rates, placement rates and average grad earnings. If these numbers are wanting, your lead flow will contract significantly. This year, ensure your offering is top notch or you’ll be called out, by the Federal and State Governments and their buddies, the Accrediting bodies.
Flight to quality is key.
2. Use advertising to interrupt people, but only once
Invite prospective students into permission based marketing arrangements. Take 10-20% of what you’d normally sell and “give it away” over the course of time to interested people.
3. What you say is more important than where you say it
Most business folk seem to want to ask us about where to advertise, and they’re typically surprised when we say it doesn’t really matter. Ninety percent of an ad’s effectiveness equation is all about what you put in the ad, not where it is run.
Stated another way, an excellent media buy will fail if the content running inside the ad does not inspire people to pick up the phone. Conversely, well-written direct response ads will generate sales, even if there are some less than optimum media choices, ugly graphics etc. If you are confident your ads are tested and working well, call a Media Buyer.
This is a super important notion to wrap your head around. As mentioned, you will soon have to post all the key success metrics of your school programs on your website, portal pages, view books etc. Given this new operating constraint, top drawer copy writing will be crucial to justify and speak to pricing, completion and retention stats. In the old days this information was held back with the Admissions department, now it’s the first information showing for a prospective student and corresponding value must be communicated in a compelling manner.
4. Sell with Advertising, Brand with PR
If you actually tried to imprint consumers with your Brand logo, along the lines of cows and ranch hands, it would hurt like hell and folks would be lobbing eggs at your school in anger. Terms like Branding are right up there with phrases like “we’re all drinking the Kool-Aid” and “Right Sizing.” If you buy ads, be sure to use media ads to sell, complete with a personal detailed description of the consumer’s plight, a solution and a strong – hopefully track-able – call to action. Brands are built naturally through third-party blessings from influential channel partners (Employers) and editorial. Sell with ads, brand with PR.
5. Admissions Research will be Key
When the IRS calls, you show them your books. This will also be necessary with new regulatory requirements. Within the new negotiated rules, Admissions Reps who imply guaranteed employment post graduation or officers offering sloppy financial aid application advice will face very harsh penalties.
Enrollment Resources now offers a four phase Admissions Research/ Reputation Protection program that will allow you to flag inappropriate behaviour and even identify opportunities to improve conversion performance.
If you have any questions or comments, e-mail me or call at 250-391-9494 (Pacific) and I’ll be pleased to clarify things.
Use the link below to tune into a Q&A we held. Get some great insights on traditional vs. online leads. The call is 57 minutes and chock full of opinions and ideas on the topic. If you are interested in this free workshop, just click on the link below or paste the url into an Internet browser and enjoy the call!