Recently released enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse indicates that overall enrollment declined again for the 8th year in Fall 2018. However, NCES projects modest enrollment increases over the next decade among all students, students 25+ years of age, graduate students and (most profoundly) online learners of all ages. Meanwhile, more than 35 million adults in the US have some college experience but no degree. So, what is the challenge for colleges and universities? More than ever, institutions are vying to attract these nontraditional student populations. The colleges and universities that will benefit from these increases will be those that have a data-driven strategy to meet these students “where they are” and understand their demands and preferences.
To that end, Converge and RNL have put together a set of sessions for the RNL National Conference in Nashville, July 24 – 26, that will provide attendees with insights into the demands and preferences of these unique student populations and real-world examples of how colleges and universities can succeed by taking a data-driven approach to marketing, cultivation and program development.
Our speakers have nearly 100 years of accumulated experience in ensuring that nontraditional undergraduate and graduate students of all types can have the educational experience they need.
Scott Jeffe has spent 20 years helping colleges underpin strategic change with hard data and is the Senior Director for Market Insights at Converge. He will walk attendees through a cost-effective way to ensure that strategic decisions related to programming – the launching of new programs, the ordering of programs and accompanying resources, or the sun setting of programs – are underpinned by market data.Using Market Data to Inform New Program Decisions
Scott Jeffe, Senior Director of Market Insights, Converge Consulting
Colleges and universities see launching new programs as a route to enrollment growth. But what programs, and how should various proposals be screened in an objective and quantitative way? Hard data can be used to determine new programs – or to reposition struggling existing programs – without “breaking the bank.” In this session we will explore the resources that are available, where to find them, and how to use them in a manner that can infuse programming decisions with market data. We will explore what the most important demand and supply indicators are for your institution – and these may be different than for another institution. More specifically, we will evaluate: the number of existing programs; number of degrees produced; density of graduates by program; number of jobs and annual openings in the region; average salaries; and, typical skills hard and soft skills required for jobs in field.
Ann Oleson and Sarah Coen have both spent more than a decade assisting colleges and universities make strategic decisions to grow enrollment and are Senior Vice Presidents at RNL. Ann has focused on advancing digital marketing as an essential way to connect with graduate and undergraduate adult students – both online and in the classroom, while Sarah has focused on enrollment management consulting to ensure that institutions develop plans and strategies that result in enrollment growth. Ann and Sarah will be joined by Scott Jeffe in leading a session on the fundamentals needed to successfully get into or grow service to non-traditional student populations. The session will present underpinning market data on undergraduate adult students, degree completers, graduate students and online learners at all levels. Then, they will move on to the most important structures, services, policies and programs institutions need to have in place in order to meet the demands of these unique student populations.How to Get Into the Adult/Online/Graduate Market
Sarah Coen, Senior Vice President of Consulting, RNL; Ann Oleson, Converge Consulting; Scott Jeffe, Senior Director of Market Insights, Converge Consulting
As demographics continue to pose challenges to growing traditional undergraduate classes, more and more institutions are seeking to start – or reinvigorate – programs focused on adult undergraduates, working professional graduate students, and subsets of these populations seeking online study. In the 1980’s this was a matter of offering some programs on evening and weekends, in the early 2000’s this was offering some high demand programs. Today, successful institutions must offer high demand programs, in formats and schedules that work for their students, and with services that they need. Institutions must also successfully recruit in an era with unprecedented competition and little growth in the student population. In this session, we will walk participants through a “scorecard” approach to understanding what you need to do – and what you need to have in place – in order to successfully attract and retain these nontraditional student populations. Among the topics that we will discuss are: 1) What organization structure works best? 2) How to select programs that balance institutional mission/expertise with market demand? 3) What formats and schedules do they need? 4) Marketing 101. We are not in the “build it and they will come” era anymore, so how do you reach these students? 5) What cultivation? Today’s non-trads need to be cultivated throughout their experience. How do you ensure that once you recruit them, they enroll?
Nereida Quiles-Wasserman recently completed her doctoral dissertation focused on adult student persistence and is the Director of Compliance and Title IX at Concordia College of New York. Her session will focus on how adult students enrolled in accelerated degree programs define persistence, how they define success, how they deal with the barriers that institutions and life often put in their way.Determined to Graduate: How Adult Undergraduate Students Define Persistence and Success in Accelerated Degree Completion Programs
Nereida Quiles-Wasserman, Director of Compliance and Title IX, Concordia College of New York
This session presents unique and engaging findings from a recent study of adult undergraduate students enrolled in accelerated degree completion programs. These adult students defined what they think of as persistence and success in an accelerated program, shared their experiences of the program and how the programs addressed the barriers nontraditional students often encounter in college study. Participants will engage in a discussion about how degree completion programs can proactively foster an environment in which persistence and success are fostered. Additionally, participants will learn the attributes of a successful accelerated degree completion program from the students’ perspective.
Lisa Braverman is a life-long adult student advocate and Dean of Fairleigh Dickinson’s adult-focused Petrocelli College. She will lead two sessions: one on how to reinvigorate industry partnerships that serve both working adult students and the communities in which colleges and universities operate, and one on how to navigate the complicated process of considering working with an OPM.Adult Learning: Vital Industry Partnerships that Fuel the Nontraditional Student Pipeline
Dr. Lisa Braverman, Dean Petrocelli College of Continuing Studies, Fairleigh Dickinson University
As the traditional high school student market declines and universities increasingly look to recruiting adult learners, more and more colleges are seeking to partner with employers to yield solid enrollments and revenue. Employees within companies and corporations represent a rich target market for colleges and universities that, when recruited skillfully, can provide a boost to institutional enrollments. In this session, participants will discuss how industry partnerships yield students, extend the reach of the university into the business sector, and advance business-university relations in a way that can yield significant rewards for both the institution and the regional economy for years to come.
Do’s and Dont’s for Partnering with OPMs
Dr. Lisa Braverman, Dean Petrocelli College of Continuing Studies, Fairleigh Dickinson University
Over the last several years, partnering with OPMs has been a very strong trend among colleges and universities seeking to get into the online education space with limited resources, and low levels of appetite for “risk.” More recently institutions of higher ed have begun to reconsider whether or not building their own internal capacity to mount online programs – everything from instructional design to digital marketing – makes more strategic sense in the long run than the wholesale outsourcing of these functions. In this session, attendees will discuss best practices in making these strategic decisions, what to look out for when considering this type of partnership, and how to work with OPMs in a way that best supports the long-term strategy of your institution.
Marie Power-Barnes passionately believes that marketing needs to be underpinned with data and is the Director of Marketing Research at Thomas Edison State University. She will lead a session that works through how you can take a data-driven approach to marketing to adult/online students that takes into account their perceptions, expectations, behaviors and demographics and faces the reality of limited institutional resources.Marketing to the Adult Online Market – Competition, Resource Challenges, and A Changing Landscape – Where DO You Start?
Marie Power-Barnes, Director, Marketing Research and Assessment, Thomas Edison State University
The landscape of the adult and online higher education market has changed dramatically over the past decade, as have the perceptions, expectations, behaviors and demographics of the adult student. Who is this person? How do you know who your competition is in the online space, how do you define your target markets within that space, and how do you compete with limited resources in a market where odds are you are outspent before you begin? Understanding this audience and its specific nuances as they relate to YOUR institution is key to building your marketing and recruitment strategy. Learn about how Thomas Edison State University has evolved its data driven marketing strategy to respond to this changing environment; why utilization of data is critical, especially when resources are limited; sources you can utilize at your institution; and garner an understanding of the complexities of this exploding market.
By and large, millennials are a generation that cares about the environment. According to a 2014 Nielsen study, 73% of global millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable goods. Furthermore, in an unaffiliated 2017 study, about 78% of millennials said they were willing to change their lifestyle to protect the environment. As both millennials and post-millennials grow their amount of expendable income over the next couple of decades, it is essential for businesses to pay attention to these consumer trends and preferences.
So, what does this mean for the world of higher education? There are certainly major investments that schools can make to promote a greener presence, such as installing solar panels, implementing efforts to reduce carbon emissions, and offering environmental degree programs. But there are smaller, easily manageable green practices that schools can enact in an effort to reduce their environmental impact – and attract conscientious students while they’re at it.
1. Alternative Transportation
Providing alternative transportation options is a great way to help students at your university to reduce use of their personal vehicles. A good place to start is making sure that walking paths are both accessible and safe by keeping the surfaces well maintained, having security officers patrolling, and ensuring that walkways are well-lit. Bikes are another popular alternative transportation option among students, so be sure to provide adequate bike rack space in front of buildings so that students can secure their bikes while in class or in their dorms. Also becoming more popular are bike rental stations, where students can pay an hourly rate to check out a communal bike. Finally, larger campuses often find that having a free bus system that runs on and around campus is tremendously beneficial to students, especially in areas where the city does not offer adequate public transportation.
2. Plastic Straw Ban
According to the National Park Service, Americans alone use about 500 million straws every single day. While there is an abundance of other disposable plastic products used regularly, removing plastic straws from daily use is a small, manageable change that most people find easy to make. There are a growing number of plastic straw alternatives available for use in your dining facilities, including paper and bamboo. Just be sure to keep plastic straws available for students and faculty with disabilities for whom these other options might not work as well.
3. Gardening/Farming Programs
Local produce is a far more sustainable food option than fruits and vegetables that come from afar and are brought in by trucks contributing to greenhouse gases. Promoting farm and garden programs on campus is a great way to reduce your school’s carbon footprint and can be a helpful addition to your school’s horticulture or culinary degree programs. Offering a farm or garden on campus is also a wonderful draw for students who enjoy spending time in nature.
4. Recycling Program
While many campuses have standard recycling options, there are a lot of great ways to elevate your school’s recycling program. Break out your recycling options from one “recycling” container to separate “glass” and “aluminum” containers. You can even add an option for paper recycling (according to a 2004 Rutgers study, an average university with a campus population of ten thousand students uses more than a million sheets of paper each month). Many school dining halls have even implemented composting bins for food waste. There are an endless number of recycling options for institutions are large as universities.
5. Green Student Organizations
For socially responsible students, clubs like green student organizations can be a tremendous draw. Not only does it show them that their school cares, it also gives them an avenue through which to make a difference. These organizations are a huge benefit to the university as well, as they can help to implement some of the programs mentioned above.
“Going green” is hugely beneficial to both universities and the students that they enroll. As climate issues continue to mount, it is important that schools pay attention to student concerns about their environmental impact. In doing so, they will not only attract socially conscious students, but will do their part to preserve our world as well.
The Paul Merage School of Business at The University Of California Irvine offers three dynamic MBA programs, plus specialty master’s programs in Accounting, Business Analytics, Finance, and Innovation and Entrepreneurship. While the Merage School is relatively young, it has quickly grown to consistently rank among the top 5% of all AACSB-accredited programs through exceptional student recruitment, world-class faculty, a strong alumni network and close relationships with both individual business executives and global corporations.
We talked to Kathy Drake, the previous Executive Director of Marketing & Communications at the Merage School to get her take on higher education marketing in the ever-changing digital landscape, and how she made sure the school’s brand stayed relevant.
Converge (C): You’ve been in #highered marketing for more than twelve years. What attracted you to this profession?
Kathy Drake (KD): I am passionate about the mission; it is a privilege to help open the door to the possibilities and opportunities that higher education provides students. An education is something that can never be taken away or “lost” and it can always be leveraged to change your life and the lives of others.
(C): Tell us more about the Merage School brand story. What are you doing to shape that narrative?
(KD): The Merage School relaunched its brand in 2017 and worked with the Converge team to do some primary research with our constituents. “Leadership for a Digitally Driven World” aligned our unique strengths with what is required for success in today’s continually disrupted economy. My team and I have infused that message throughout our communications bringing the brand to life with examples of the impact our alumni, students and faculty are having in the digital economy. That message is also being infused in our physical space, how we recruit and engage prospects, and in how we deliver course content and community programs.
(C): You are in a competitive market in Southern California. How do you make the Merage School brand stand out?
(KD): Competitive indeed! We have very strong brands locally, and other national brands have established weekend programs in our area. Add to that the number of top programs available online, and it can be exhausting! The good news is that we have a unique space with our brand. We are the only business school to have embraced the brand so holistically. We also provide high personalization in a very collaborative environment, meeting the needs of our students while providing opportunities that are highly valued by employers.
(C): How are you using the marketing tools and technology (like Slate and the Converge University dashboards) at your disposal to analyze performance through the funnel?
(KD): The dashboard that Converge created is invaluable. We have all of the data at our fingertips and can adjust campaigns as needed to optimize our results. We can also share this information with our internal partners/clients so they understand the campaigns better and see the ROI for their marketing investment.
(C): You have a background in both the corporate and non-profit sectors, before moving into higher ed. What are the differences you’ve encountered? How are you addressing these differences?
(KD): The biggest challenges I’ve encountered between corporate marketing and higher ed/non-profit marketing are the increased bureaucracy and the constricted budgets. The bureaucracy slows down the speed with which you can bring new products (programs) to market or enhance your offerings. The budget issue, however, actually makes you even better at what you do because you can’t afford to make big mistakes. That’s where working with Converge has been especially valuable. We can draw upon their experience with other (non-competitive) clients to better inform our decision-making about campaigns, mediums, etc. We test, measure, analyze and revise just like when I was in corporate marketing, we just do it with smaller budgets.
(C): How has your partnership with Converge specifically helped your enrollment marketing efforts? What strategies do you feel are performing best for UCI and The Merage School?
(KD): Converge has been a great partner; we’ve called upon their expertise with redesigning our website, relaunching our brand and now with our enrollment marketing campaigns. Working with one partner, like Converge, ensures there is synergy across our efforts so that we present a consistent experience for our prospective and current students, and our partners in the business community.
(C): In your opinion, what is the next big New & Next opportunity for UC Irvine and the Merage School?
(KD): UC Irvine is a campus on the move; it is only 54 years old and already the No. 7 Public University as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. The Merage School is rising in the rankings and is one of the few business schools ranked by all five major ranking entities. This is a dynamic environment shaped by the entrepreneurial and innovative culture of Orange County, California. What’s Next? Stay tuned; something you’d never expect…!
(C): At Converge, we ask all new team members to introduce themselves and answer three key questions. Tell us your first concert, favorite movie and something unique that we wouldn’t guess about you.
(KD): I believe my first concert was Elton John; one of my favorite movies is Sliding Doors (Gwyneth Paltrow & John Hannah). Fun facts? Few know that I’ve been an entrepreneur, a homecoming queen, hitch-hiked across Europe and am always eager to learn new things and tackle the next opportunity.
Starting a new internship can be an interesting time. Getting a taste of what your career may be can be exciting, but often times when entering a new internship you don’t know what to expect. While every internship is a bit different from the others, there are a few things you can expect going into one.
1. Be Prepared to Listen/Information Overload
In your first week in any new position, there will be a lot of information coming your way. From the intricate tasks you’ll perform to locating the coffee maker, you will be brought up to speed on how the office operates and how you will fit into that organization. Consequently, you can run into information overload. Make sure you take good notes as you absorb as much information as you can, and if there is something that you can’t remember, reach out to your team members. They want to see you succeed at this internship just as much as you would like to succeed. One technique I use is taking “micro-breaks” between information-heavy meetings. When you are able to get a few minutes between your busy first week schedule, walk around the office, try and locate some of the key locations shown to you during your initial building tour, or even locate every bathroom in the building. By getting up and walking around for a few minutes it can help your mind stay sharper by allowing for more blood flow to the brain, keeping you more alert for the next few meetings and allowing you to retain more information coming during the rest of the day.
2. You Don’t Know Everything/Be Prepared to Learn
Let me know if this sounds familiar. You have the “best resume we’ve ever seen from someone at this point in their career,” “amazing qualifications,” and that you could be “a quality asset for the team.” Despite a lot of the praise that can come around the time of being told that you got the internship, once you get into the position, you are often faced with the realities of your situation. It is usually around this stage that you begin to learn that despite your “flawless” resume, there may be some tasks associated with the position that you may not have the skills to complete.
This isn’t any fault of your own. The people who hired you read the resume you carefully crafted and very likely spoke with you about the skills you possess. They know that you may not explicitly have learned every part of the position prior to being hired. What they do know you possess is an ability to learn, to take in new information, and most importantly, they know you have the ability to Google things. This is often how people work many times in the real world. If they don’t know how to complete a particular task, just search for the solution. We live in the 21st century, and perhaps the most important skill of the 21st century workplace is knowing how to ask the right questions, and that includes using online searching to help you better complete tasks that help you complete your internship.
3. Things Can (and will) Go Wrong/Be Flexible
As you begin your internship not everything may smoothly. It takes time to adapt, and there may be uncontrolled circumstances that cause disruption. From computers not being ready by your start date or your desk being whatever chair is free in the office, to a laptop that refuses to acknowledge the concept of wi-fi exists for a day and a half (a true story for another time), these issues can and will come up. The best thing you can do as a new intern is to be as flexible as possible and make do until a solution is figured out. As rough as working through these issues can be, showing your new employer that you are adaptable will make a good first impression and can get you started on the right foot with those you will be working with.
4. Your Team is Here to Help
This may be obvious, but it’s also easy to overlook this last point: your team is here to help. Starting a new internship can be scary. A team of people who have often been working together for months or years prior to your arrival have chosen you to join their team and you don’t want to disappoint them. But despite the pressure that you may be putting on yourself, at the end of the day you are all working towards the same goal. Your new colleagues were likely in a similar position to where you were when they started and are familiar with the struggles you may be going through. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your teammates if your struggling with something, chances are they’ve been there before.
Overall, if you’re just starting an internship or about to, focus on the excitement of a new experience and what you will learn rather than worrying about how you will do. You earned the internship for a reason and now is your chance to get a taste of the working world, learn some new skills, and maybe make some friends along the way. It’s a new beginning in the middle of normalcy, take advantage of the opportunity and see what mountains you can move!
For years, Google heralded the “year of mobile” without seeing results that supported that claim, until mobile traffic share surpassed desktop share for the first time in October of 2016, consequently changing the digital marketing landscape forever. A similar wave is fast approaching the digital advertising world, if not already crashing to the shore: video advertising. However, unlike with mobile, there’s been little communication from Google about the rise of video advertising on YouTube, despite that fact that YouTube has almost 2 billion users, making up a third of the entire internet, who watch over a billion hours of video daily — more than Facebook and Netflix combined. Only recently has Google started to tout its video advertising options as the “next big thing.” Many advertisers, wary of Google’s claims of the latest and greatest and overwhelmed with the expanse of existing targeting options, have not yet jumped onto the video advertising train.
I’m here to tell you that this is not a strategy of which you want to be a late adopter.
Read on to get answers to the most commonly asked questions surrounding YouTube advertising and to jumpstart your YouTube advertising career!
WHY should I advertise on YouTube?
Besides the user statistics outlined above, YouTube offers the ability to target that mass of users in an incredibly low cost and deeply engaging manner.
On average, interactions with video ads cost less than half of those with display ads, and about a tenth of what is costs for search ads.
As attention spans of users get shorter, it becomes harder to grab hold of and maintain user engagement. Video utilizes not only visual, but auditory elements to grab the users attention on a medium where they are already prepared to engage with content in that manner. Studies show that users that both see and hear an ad, experience 2.9x the brand consideration than they do for solely visual ads.
WHERE do these ads even show?
Advertising on the YouTube platform can be easily managed through Google Ads, by linking your YouTube channel with a Google Ads account. From there, depending on the ad format you select, your ad can show on:
YouTube.com: before/during/after a playing video, the search results, alongside a playing video, or the mobile homepage
Video Partner Sites and Apps on the GDN: before/during/after embedded videos or as standalone videos on apps and mobile sites
WHO sees these ads?
If you’re targeting a specific audience (retargeting or prospecting), a user in that audience will view your ad when they view any video on YouTube or visit a page where there is a video where the ad can show.
If you’re utilizing contextual targeting, a user will view your ad when they are viewing content that matches the targeting criteria you’ve specified.
WHAT videos should I use for my ads?
This will obviously vary depending on your industry, your target audience, and other factors unique to your business and there’s no shortage of information available on how to create compelling videos for advertising purposes. I’ll leave video content tips to those experts, but I will share a few video advertising specific tips:
For in-stream ads (the most commonly used ad type), they should be at least 12 seconds and ideally no longer than 3 minutes. If the video is longer, you can still use it and even see strong results but keep in mind that YouTube advertising is designed for bite sized engagement, so the shorter the better.
Remember that users have the option to skip the ad after 5 seconds so put top priority content, such as your brand information, early in the video to take advantage of free brand awareness!
If you take nothing else away from this article, please remember that video campaigns experience significant latency, meaning that the majority of conversions will not populate on the day that the user viewed the ad. Conversions are attributed to video campaigns if a user watches at least 30 seconds of a video, then converts through organic or direct within thirty days. Through previous performance, we’ve found that the majority of conversions tend to roll in after 14 days, so we’d suggest that you allow 14 days between the data you’re evaluating and the date you’re evaluating data. At the low end, I’d allow at least a 7 day gap, and at the high end, you won’t need longer than a 30 day gap for all conversions to roll in.
I hope that you are now thoroughly convinced to integrate video advertising through Google Ads into your digital marketing mix, and that your biggest questions have been answered. If not, don’t hesitate to reach out with any additional questions — I’m happy to help!
As I spend more time in higher ed, it seems like more and more conferences are popping up each year, with dozens happening across the world. That being said, it can be tricky in this industry to decide where to put your time and money when it comes to professional development and industry networking. Whether you’re working in leadership at an institution, or working on partnerships with institutions, the decision can sometimes be crippling. It can help to know beforehand how to make the best use of your time, and which events can be the most fruitful for your situation.
So what will make a good conference choice/experience for you? Here are some things to consider:
1. Does the conference have a history of valuable, actionable content?
Do the research on any conference that you’re interested in. Ask around to industry peers and see if they’ve attended before. Did the presentations have a focus? Were the presenters focused on teaching and creating thought provoking discussions, or were they focused on trying to sell something proprietary?
2. Does the conference’s expected audience align with my situation/program/role?
As the number of conferences becomes more segmented, that segmentation will become more important as you choose where to spend your time and money. You want to make sure the audience and content are going to make sense for your situation, but don’t get caught in the chase of hedging yourself into a corner. If you spend your conference time in an echo chamber, with the same people in the same situation talking about the same topics, your professional growth is going to stagnate.
3. What is my professional development goal this year?
Are you interested in making more professional connections? I would advise that you go to widely attended conferences that align closely with your current role. Are you looking for new vendor partners? You should look for conferences with industry/service alignment that have an exhibit hall.
This might sound like a no-brainer, but entire offices easily get caught in a rut of going to a specific set of conferences each year, and don’t think about the purpose behind the trip. Write a list of goals, and pick conferences that align with those objectives.
4. What will the off-site event be?
Seriously, you are there to have fun too! No one wants to go to the conference with the lame bus ride to a Journey Cover Band. Avoid those.
With these tips in mind, next week RNL + Converge will be presenting at the annual GMAC conference in Denver. If you work at a business program, I hope to see you there. I’m incredibly excited about the Data Analytics presentation we’re bringing with our partners at Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management, and in general I think that GMAC is a fantastic conference for the graduate business program space. It’s a very well attended conference, and this year they are expecting over 800 attendees. It’s a prime event for industry networking, and the content selection for presentations is top notch (if I do say so myself).
At the annual GMAC conference, you can expect data driven keynote presentations, in depth market research that’s aimed specifically at the graduate business school space, and compelling discussions about the reality of the enrollment/marketing drop the industry is currently facing. I have always come away from the GMAC conference with a bevy of relevant information, exciting new relationships and new insights to consider.
If GMAC 2019 checks all the boxes that I spoke about earlier, then I hope i’ll see you there next week.
Are you a higher education marketing leader? Are the deans and provosts of your schools and programs asking you for visibility into return on ad spend (ROAS) or marketing spend? Is it a challenge connecting your ad spend to prospective student engagement and to inquiries, applications and enrollments? You are not alone.
Whether your monthly digital ad spend is in the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions, you deserve to know the engagement and results that come from that spend. A lot of the times, the digital agency will only provide you with high level monthly roll-ups in a presentation. Some may even provide a dashboard with performances by campaign. Very few connect the dots and provide you with the impact of applications and the platforms and channels that leads to a prospective students inquiring.
We have developed a solution that enables our clients to see the benefit of full funnel reporting. From marketing spend and website engagement down to applications in their CRM, this capability helps our clients gain insights across the user journey, enables end-to-end tracking and measurement, and provides further insight into marketing performance of the channels/ tactics, campaigns, creative/messaging and other dimensions. By tying the applicants to prior touchpoints and web sessions, we are able to understand the activity of those individuals prior to application and analyze what differentiates them from the non-applicants. We are able to analyze their path, determine the drop-offs, improve our website, messaging and other marketing components to create a more engaged and relevant experience.
We helped one of our clients analyze the lead-to-app rates for the various digital campaigns and were able to identify the ones that performed the best. The performance was based on applications with a “lower funnel metric,” which is a far cry from impressions, or cost-per-impression, which are typically provided. With this information, the marketing leaders in the institution can make better decisions as to which channels to utilize, and which pages on their site are the most engaging. Now wouldn’t that be great?
There are requirements, constraints, and recommendations when deploying a Full-Funnel Solution which we’ll discuss in a future blog. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to send me an email at email@example.com.
As businesses and individuals are moving towards storing their data and information “in the cloud”, so too are higher education institutions and the agencies that service them. At Converge we have successfully built a data warehouse on the Google Cloud Platform. Let’s talk through why you might need a data warehouse, if it is right for higher education, and the architecture of our Converge data warehouse.
Why do we need a Data Warehouse?
The concept of a data warehouse is to create a permanent storage space for the data needed to support reporting, analysis, and other business intelligence (BI) functions. While it may seem wasteful to store data in multiple places (source systems and the data warehouse,) the many advantages of doing this more than justify the effort and expense. The overarching goal is to be able to connect and integrate all of the data from various sources for a client and create a comprehensive dashboard while pulling advanced analytics.
Is it Right for Higher Education?
Our clients consistently ask for additional insight into the student journey. For example, which students enrolled after interacting with a campaign or how prospective students are interacting with client web pages. Some of these questions can only be answered if we combine and report on data from various sources – campaign data to CRM data (where applicant data is recorded). To be able to make any significant analysis, we need to gather and store historical data; hence, the need for a data warehouse.
So why did Converge choose the Google Cloud Platform?
Ease of implementation
Less costly due to no physical hardware
Ease of scaling up/down
Pay per use
Also, Google Cloud comes with a low cost trial. Initially, this helps you play around with some of the cloud applications before committing to a contract. The Google Cloud console provides an easy-to-use interface, where you can view various applications available on the cloud to launch and use.
BigQuery is the built-in data warehouse set up on the Google Cloud Platform. BigQuery allows users to upload data files directly from a local device, cloud storage, Google drive, or even put live streaming data to BigQuery tables.
These files are usually uploaded in JSON or CSV format. If a file is directly uploaded as CSV, the system automatically detects the data type of each field. At the same time, users can edit the schema if they do not want the system generated schema. Once the table is created, only a limited amount of changes can be done to edit the model. Also, the interface allows users to preview and run queries on the tables where query results can be exported into a CSV or Google Sheet. Users can directly pull tables or queries into Google Data Studio to build different reports and dashboards.
BigQuery enforces us to maintain the tables in the structure as Project -> Datasets -> Tables. We keep separate datasets for CRM, campaign, Google Analytics data. With each dataset we keep a different table for each entity such as applicants and inquiries in a CRM dataset.
Converge Data Warehouse Architecture
In our current architecture, we are receiving data from the client’s CRM, Google Analytics, and campaign data from various platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Ads. The client is exporting their CRM data daily in CSV format and keeping them on their file server. We created a custom script to connect to the client’s FTP (file transfer platform) for pulling these files into our cloud storage. The client’s campaign data is pulled into Google Sheets, utilizing a third party tool that is integrated with various advertising platforms. Using a custom shell script with gsutil & unix commands we pull the data from Google Sheets to the cloud storage. Both the shell scripts are deployed on virtual machine server, in other words, set up on Google Cloud. These scripts are scheduled to run at specific time daily. This server is also used for keeping our backup and log files. Once the files are in cloud storage, “data prep” flows pull and transform the files. Dataprep is a third party tool that’s integrated with Google Cloud which makes the ETL (extract, transform & load) process easy and interactive. Below is a sample screenshot of Dataprep.
For getting real-time live streaming Google Analytics data to BigQuery, we deployed an application on Google Cloud using a custom script reference.
Data warehouses on the cloud might be an excellent business solution to be considered if your institute has data stored in various source systems and have difficulty sharing data and reporting from these multiple data sources. It is simple and affordable to implement as a solution.
There was a time when websites could be designed and forgotten, at least for a couple of years. That is no longer the case. Today, visitors expect to find current and relevant information on your site — and if they don’t, they’ll move onto another website altogether.
This means that website management should be a daily to-do on your communications checklist. If you are already feeling overwhelmed by all you have to do, there are a few steps you can take to plan and streamline website management so that your website stays continually fresh.
Based on the success of other colleges and universities that have gone through a recent website redesign, the following tips can help you save time, money, resources and headaches:
Capitalize on your existing website’s strengths – and strengthen its weaknesses.
Define and design the flow of information.
Invest in the tools you need to do the job well.
1. Capitalize on your existing website’s strengths – and strengthen its weaknesses.
This is an obvious starting point, but you’d be surprised by how many schools jump in to a redesign project without being strategic in their initial assessment of what works and what doesn’t. Consider the following:
Do you have strong content that can be reused or repurposed on your redesigned site?
Does your current website reflect your school’s branding and messaging accurately?
Is your school’s mission implied throughout your website? For example, is it clear that you focus on technology or liberal arts?
What pages are the most popular on your current website and why?
What features and forms are effective, and how do you know?
Do you have the human resources you need to maintain the redesigned website that you want?
How does your website compare to your competitors?
Questions like these uncover both the strengths and weaknesses of your website and give you a starting point for a redesign.
Hope College in Holland, Michigan, realized that their existing website was lacking in several key areas. Rather than piecemeal quick fixes, their web development team decided to conduct a major overhaul of their website. They enlisted feedback to discover what worked and what didn’t, then devised a strategic plan for their website redesign project. This included revising content, refreshing the design for better functionality, implementing new processes to clarify roles and workflows, and creating structure and organization for optimal information flow.
Hope College implemented a new content management system and redesigned their website simultaneously to address ongoing issues with their digital presence.
2. Define and design the flow of information.
More than ever, the way information is presented determines whether your audience will read, stay on your website, and ultimately follow through to action. If you are a business, then that action would be purchasing a product. If you are a college or university, that action could be requesting a tour or applying to your school.
If you are taking the time to think through a redesign, you will soon discover why it’s imperative that you define and design your flow of information. Some of the most compelling reasons include the following:
Ease of Use
Prospective students – and their parents – live online, so it’s essential for you to incorporate features into your redesign that make the time they spend on your website easy and informative. Think about your own web surfing habits: If a website has too many steps, has confusing graphics or images, makes simple information hard to find, and doesn’t give you the answers you need, are you going to stay on that website for any length of time? No.
The truth is, ease of use gives you a competitive advantage. Think about how Amazon communicates with customers. Using their gazillion-dollar success process as a guide, your strategy would look something like this:
Drive people to the information they want as quickly as possible. Engage quickly.
Make sure the homepage has a clearly defined and distinct value proposition.
Optimize the “shopping process” for your academic program offerings.
Highlight “product features.” Showcase specifics with effective program pages.
Personalize the experience so different audiences can self-identify their journey.
Offer “cross-shopping” by including paths to related programs.
Offer opportunities to engage further. These include information requests, campus tour sign ups, and emails.
Build trust with quotes and testimonials.
Always include a call to action on every page.
Be intentional with SEO strategy.
Capitalize on strong imagery.
A beautiful website invites your audience to linger and explore. When redesigning your website, don’t fall victim to the idea that you have to be flashy with graphics and images. Many of the most effective website designs have a simple color palette and use variations on just a few templates. This approach streamlines your design and produces a clean, polished website.
Rather than reinvent the wheel, use some of the same design principles that your competitors feature on their sites, including impactful images, engaging videos, and an up-to-date interactive calendar. For example, unique typography, minimal text, and beautiful images and videos are only a few of the design elements that Queens University of Charlotte employed to capture the interest of their various audiences.
Queens College in Charlotte customizes the engagement experience with an attractive, polished website that caters to the different audiences they serve.
3. Invest in the tools you need to do the job well.
College football coaches invest in facilities and expertise to enhance their recruitment efforts: Why wouldn’t you do the same? Often college and university administrators and admissions officers think that by tasking the IT department with developing and maintaining a website will save them money. What they are not factoring into the equation is the lost opportunity costs. These folks already have a full-time job, so pulling them away to complete a website redesign only delays completion of work at their “everyday” job.
Furthermore, the students you are trying to recruit are more tech-savvy than you will ever be, and they can easily recognize a patched together website. Accustomed to instant answers found in one click, these students give you no more than eight seconds to engage them. How many of them will you lose by not investing in the tools you need upfront to do a website redesign project well?
The most essential tool needed for your website redesign is a quality content management system (CMS). A CMS is literally the backbone of your website. It’s what makes your forms display and process accurately. It provides a framework for presenting information in a cohesive way. It affects performance and responsiveness.
In fact, your redesigned website will be only as good as the framework it’s built upon. With 25 years of experience redesigning college websites, Elliance has found that systems architecture, customization, domain architecture, and a CMS are vital in ensuring your website’s success.
Consider these guidelines when evaluating content management systems:
Don’t be cheap—be smart when it comes to budgeting for your site. The cost of web design or a web content management system (CMS) can vary widely depending on your goals, time frame, and resources, and the least expensive is not always the most affordable in the long term.
Choose a CMS specializing in higher ed so that the tools built into the system are designed specifically for marketing, communications, and web professionals who work in higher education.
Include customer support and automatic updates on your “must have” list. If you don’t have a large staff to manage your redesigned website, you’ll want the backing of a support team who can answer your questions and help you resolve issues. The same goes with updating your software. Do you have the time to add constant plug-ins? If not, it’s well worth the cost to invest in a CMS that does this automatically.
4. Boost your user experience.
Take this test: Put your sunglasses on and read the following:
Accessibility compliance has become an all-encompassing definition for an optimal user experience for all website visitors.
Everything clear? Or did you have trouble reading certain lines? When text and its background color have a low contrast, the readability of your content decreases drastically. It’s hard to read if you have no visual impairments; just think how hard it is for those who do. This is one of the many reasons why you want your website to be inclusive and accessible to all.
Accessibility has long been a concern for higher education, but the trend is now shifting to encompass a better user experience for everyone in your audience. According to eCampus News, 11 percent of post-secondary students report having a disability. Consider this — if thousands of students visit your site, hundreds may interact with your website via keyboard, screen readers, or other tools to help find the content of interest. How does their experience with your website fare? When you take the time to create a better experience for impaired users, you make the experience better for everyone.
To make sure every aspect of your site adheres to ADA and web standards, build it correctly from the ground up with the right architecture, CMS, and compliance checks. Most people aren’t accessibility specialists, so the following resources can also help you maximize your website’s user experience for all:
Are you able to tab through the navigation of your website in the expected order of items? Can you discover and access every option as if you are using a mouse? Is this process consistent across all pages of your site?
Keyboard navigation exposes navigation and discoverability issues on your site. These two major components contribute to a great user experience, and by resolving any issues about them quickly, you will improve your site’s overall usability.
Navigate your site using a screen reader.
A screen reader bypasses design to ensure that your website can be understood by someone who has impaired sight. Think about it: Images usually are used to grab a reader’s attention, but they don’t have the same effect on users with impaired sight. This is where your code and content become important factors. Provide quality alt descriptions, check for misspelled words, and check that forms have labels and aria-attributes. This article by WebAIM provides a primer on screen readers and their importance.
Updating your existing website is a project that once complete, contributes to more effective communication, increased enrollment, and even donor contributions. By thinking through the steps before embarking on the process, you’ll finish with an intentional, intuitive website redesign that both looks and performs effectively and efficiently.
Over the past few weeks I have had the opportunity to evaluate several marketing organizational structures across industries. My review of research included functional marketing areas, and what the marketing structure of the future could look like.
The current higher education marketplace is as complex as it gets with university wide, program specific marketing goals and budgets spread across the institution. Most marketers either have a point of view in which they are monitoring activity across different parts of the funnel or ROI on major initiatives. Without goals, tools and an organizational structure that solves for duality of strategy focused on short term growth and long term innovation, attribution is difficult to set up and measure. This specific blog focuses on how we can start to solve both short and long term organizational structure.
Below is my favorite organizational structure for marketers that I would encourage you to review. This is Hubspot’s marketing organizational structure and is called TOFU which stands for Top of the Funnel.
So what do we love about this structure?
Focuses on providing a buyer-driven inbound experience
Adds value through content and contextual marketing
Is steeped in buyer personas and delivering experiences
Organizes content as a dedicated function in the organization
Most modern college marketing organizational structures address the brand and buzz function very well. The product specific and demand generation piece tends to be very decentralized based on who the audience is: undergraduate, graduate, online, adult, continuing education, etc.
The key takeaways from this marketing organizational chart and key areas of interest that you may want to consider further are:
Search Engine Optimization (generating traffic to your website that you can capitalize on and turn into inquiries), with a specific content function this model plays off of what colleges are best at, creating amazing content that people are interested in and getting prospective audiences to opt into your funnel.
Product Specific Expertise (individuals who own the specific program or major and are experts in that area), with a specific nod to who the persona is, and how we engage that specific prospective student in a major or area with custom and personalized content.
Demand Gen Expertise & Sales Enablement (perhaps the area most college’s outsource or handle through inbound inquiries and admissions) as the ability to proactively communicate what your unique value proposition is to the consumer with a specific interest.
As we evaluate and review many different iterations of organizational structures, we realize that many of these functions are covered in one way or another within an organization. However, to truly move to a top of the funnel organization focused on bringing in the right prospective audience, there are a few pieces that could be thought about or organized in a different way.
For more conversations related to marketing organizational charts and how higher education can evolve their structures to better realize today’s enrollment and marketing goals, shoot me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org