Converge, the digital agency for education, and SimpsonScarborough, a higher education marketing firm, have partnered to host the fourth semiannual Converge 2019: The Digital Marketing Conference for Education conference next month in Atlanta. The three-day event brings together CMOs, deans, enrollment leaders, recruiters and digital marketers who are advancing the state of higher education marketing and enrollment.
Converge 2019 will be held February 19-21, 2019, at the Omni CNN Center Hotel in downtown Atlanta. The conference starts on Tuesday, February 19, with a Welcome Keynote, Higher Education Marketing 2029: Predictions from Today’s Top CMOs, featuring panelists from the University of Virginia, Middlebury College and Southern Methodist University.
“Whether you’re a digital marketing novice or expert, this conference is essential for higher ed marketers,” says Regina Moldovan, Associate Vice President of Marketing & Communications at Southern Methodist University. “I’m looking forward to sharing with and learning from fellow marketing leaders committed to being the best in market.”
Converge 2019 Workshop passholders are invited to morning and afternoon deep-dive sessions on February 19 focused on Digital Advertising, Data Analytics and Research & Creative Strategy. An elite group of leading higher education chief marketing officers will also convene for the Converge 2019 CMO Summit & Dinner, an experience designed exclusively for higher education leaders, hosted by SimpsonScarborough and Converge.
The second and third days of the conference, February 20 and 21, include a comprehensive lineup of today’s leading higher education professionals and digital marketers from brands like Emory University Goizueta Business School, Harvard University, Google, Georgia Tech, Northwestern Engineering, Penn State, Boston University, TrackMaven, FIT and more. With a focus on innovation in education and the latest mar-tech trends, Converge 2019 sessions spotlight hot button issues such as The Role of Universities in a World Where Students Never Graduate, Connecting with the Unreachables: The Next Frontier of Education Marketing with Google and How the Future Gets Written: Humanizing Data & Applying Artificial Intelligence to EDU Marketing.
In addition to a best-in-class speaker portfolio and program, industry-leading vendors from across the nation will be present in the Converge 2019 Exhibit Area for the duration of the conference. Platinum sponsors Blue Moon Consulting Group, IvyExec and Emsi have contributed to the Converge 2019 CMO Experience, Converge 2019 Workshops and a Converge 2019 Tailgate at the College Football Hall of Fame to create amazing professional development and networking opportunities for attendees.
“This is our second year sponsoring the Converge conference and we have always had a fantastic experience,” says Alex Baranpuria, Vice President of Business Development at IvyExec. “The program and audience is the only of its kind when it comes to intentionally digital-first content for our industry.”
We CONNECT the next generation of learners with best-fit institutions and programs using cutting-edge digital marketing practices. We’re DIGITAL NATIVES who are energized by data. Lifelong learners who believe in the mission (and evolution) of education. BOLD THINKERS who pioneer the New & Next in education. And we’re LASER-FOCUSED on ROI and helping you achieve your goals. Visit the website for more information.
An interview with Loretta Lawrence Keane, Vice President for Communications & External Relations at FIT.
Converge Consulting (CC): When you first started your career in Higher Education, what was your first “win” that made you feel confident you chose the right path?
Loretta Lawrence Keane (LLK): I knew I made the right choice to pursue a career in higher education as soon as I started to get to know some of the students. I was young—as young or younger than some of them—and to know that telling their stories was changing their lives and giving further reinforcement to the paths they had chosen was a “win” in itself.
(CC): What are three things you are most proud of in your career in higher education?
Having encouraged employees to advance their own careers in higher education
Being part of a field and an institution that helps transform lives
One is always the work I am currently focused on and, right now, it is executing a brand and image initiative that for the first time is built on FIT’s long-range strategy goals.
(CC): What sparked your interest to be a speaker at Converge 2019?
(LLK): The work we are doing now in Communications and External Relations is integrally tied to FIT’s strategic plan and, if successful, will change the reputation of the college over the next ten years. We believe that making the strategic and brand goals interdependent is key to that success and want to share the process by which we are engaging our community in that discussion and making those goals part of every unit’s operational objectives.
(CC): Why do you think Converge 2019 would be beneficial for not only guests but also for FIT?
(LLK): I really do believe that those of us who work in higher education are “super learners,” people who are fundamentally drawn to lifelong learning and sharing what they learn. At its core, Converge 2019 provides that two-way opportunity and it’s a win-win proposition.
(CC): What does New & Next mean to you, and how could those strategies benefit your institution?
(LLK): New and Next means identifying aspirational goals and assessing how to reach them. We should always be looking past the horizon and I encourage colleagues and employees to employ both near and far-term thinking in their work.
(CC): What are the key takeaways from the FIT case study you hope Converge 2019 attendees capture?
That strategic and brand goals must align
That such goals must resonate for the institution and be credible and authentic
That those goals can only be reached through the engagement and participation of the entire institutional community
(CC): Would you consider yourself a left or right brain thinker?
(LLK): I would say that I have evolved to be a 60/40 left/right brain thinker. I inherently start from a place of logic, reasoning, and analysis and have learned to rely on and enhance my creativity, intuition, and imagination in order to be a more holistic thinker and a better problem-solver.
Loretta will be co-presenting an EDU Track Session: Owning the Creative Economy with FIT on Day 3 at Converge 2019 in Atlanta. Register now so you can get the opportunity to engage with Loretta and learn more about the cool things she is doing.
East Asian educational marketing poses some unique challenges. Much of this is not only due to the language and culture, but the preferred channels and devices used for marketing. Marketing techniques and channels often have to be radically adapted, and the approach changed to better attract prospective students. With international students from East Asia coming in greater numbers, and students (especially from China) becoming common, it is important for educational institutions to gain a competitive edge.
Language Localization is Important
It is not uncommon for countries in East Asia to have populations that speak more than one language. In Malaysia, three languages are spoken: Malaysian, Chinese, and English. In China alone other than Mandarin Chinese,, there are multiple dialects in use, such as Cantonese, Min-Nan, or Shanghainese. It is absolutely essential that the right language is selected to the demographic.
It is important than to know the dominant language in the region, as well as the proper language format. An advertisement in simplified Chinese characters directed at a Chinese demographic, would not be as effective in Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Singapore. People from these areas would think that the ads are targeting Mainland Chinese, since it was not written in traditional characters, and might not pay attention. Likewise, a video advertisement in Mandarin Chinese would not be as effective as an advertisement in Cantonese in Hong Kong or Guangzhou.
Regional localization can make or break an advertising campaign in Asia. The closer you are to the language of the demographic, the more likely it is to build greater credibility for your educational marketing.
Appealing To Cultural Pillars
Financial stability, relationships, and familial prosperity play a key role in East Asian culture.
Education is seen as a way to ensure not individual achievement, but as a way to increase one’s social status, financial prosperity, and take care of one’s family or improve their social standing. For educational marketing this means several things:
Emphasize the group. In this case, educational marketing must be focused not on individual achievement, but rather on collective achievement. This means marketing must be focused how it affects the targeted individuals’ relationships, with their family or their work group. For example, an ad with graphic showing an individual at graduation shaking hands with the university president, with their parents by their side is very compelling. It emphasizes the benefit to their family, and emphasizes the relationship with a individual with status, the university president. In short, it displays the group relationship between the applicant, their family, and the status of the university.
Emphasize prosperity and status. Show the benefit of what the education will achieve, and emphasize the potential money or status they will gain from the degree. Ad copy should emphasize the future benefits of jobs, promotion, or salary increases. Ad copy should also emphasize the networking/relationship building opportunities from possessing the degree. Graphics in ads should also reflect this, by showing, for example, an individual in a new job as a boss with subordinates. The more direct the emphasis on status and prosperity, the greater the effectiveness.
Emphasize relationships. Does your university or college have connections to well known individuals, or have alumni that graduated from your school? Does the East Asian demographic you are targeting know them? If you can answer yes, then emphasize this connection in your advertising. Even if the alumni only graduated with a certificate from your institution or received an honorary degree, this relationship should be emphasized within ad copy and images.
In addition, emphasize community and group culture in ads. Show students from the targeted East Asian demographic in a group with other students from the same demographic. If diversity is emphasized, make sure that the majority of the students in a graphic are from the targeted demographic. East Asians are from a group culture, and like to find individuals from their own culture or country first before they find individuals from outside of their group.
Think “Mobile-First” to Marketing to East Asia
Much of Asia is mobile focused. When building campaigns and assets for Asia, always consider a mobile-first experience. Landing Pages and Thank You Pages must be optimized for a mobile experience. Much of advertising and websites by companies or educational institutions are focused on connecting with the customer through mobile first. This is usually done through messenger apps such as Line (Japan), Kakao Talk (Korea), and WeChat (China and Chinese Speaking Communities).
These apps often have profiles that function in much the same way as websites, and contain similar information. Unlike websites however, it allows an instant experience letting the user chat with a representative in real time. Many of the major educational institutions in China maintain profile accounts on apps such as WeChat to communicate blog articles, information on the institution, or important dates. Updates, reminders to register, and application deadlines appear as chat messages within the app. Similarly, many major Japanese institutions utilize their Twitter accounts in marketing, as well as familiar platforms such as GoogleAds, due to the mobile friendly format of the platform.
Build Relationships Outside of Traditional Marketing Channels
Marketing doesn’t end at just the digital campaigns towards East Asian students. It is important to keep them committed, and spread the word about the value your institution to their family and friends. Work on building a relationship to them, their family, and their group. Even later in life, family, parents, and social group play a major influence in buying decisions. Word of mouth is the strongest means of advertisement, if you can build a relationship or provide to them what they need. The stronger the attempt at relationship building, the more an educational institution is likely to be recommended. There are multiple ways of doing this.
One example is gift giving. Gift giving is an important part of East Asian culture. It’s a means by which to build, strength, or facilitate relationships When we go on trips, we often buy souvenirs for our family, friends, and coworkers back home. It is not uncommon to go on a trip with large luggages so we can fit all the items we need to carry back.
One educational institution in California (one of the UC schools) utilized this to build rapport with the students. During campus visits and during move in days, they bussed both students and parents to shopping areas in the Bay Area. This helped build not only a connection the applicant, but also the parents, who were key to making the decision to go to the school. This method solidified the decision of parents to go to the school, but also the students’ as well. It built social rapport to friends and relations back in their home country. By doing so, the university was associated with the gifts that were given. It also served as an opportunity for the parents and the students to tell people how the university went out of its way to build a relationship.
Many of these insights I learned through sheer trial and error, experience, and listening to conversations between my managers or seniors in late night informal meetings in karaoke rooms. Yes, karaoke is important to doing business out there. These lessons are few of the many lessons I learned about marketing while interning in China and Japan. They are, by no means, an exhaustive or complete list of educational marketing techniques for the East Asian market. My actual list of lessons from Asia is endless, but hopefully these tips can save you some wasted effort and misspent budgets.
An interview with Brooks Terry, Director of Enrollment Marketing at Teachers College, formerly an Account Supervisor at an NYC Advertising Agency.
Teachers College, Columbia University is a graduate school of education, health and psychology in the heart of New York City. Even with their name recognition, it is still crucial to market to their potential students. Cutting through the noise in a “buyer’s market” has its challenges. We chatted with TC’s Director of Enrollment Marketing, Brooks Terry, to learn more about how his agency experience impacts his decisions for marketing an Ivy League school. Having access to the data in real-time through a dashboard, allows for Brooks and Converge to make smart decisions sooner based on campaign performance that directly impacts enrollment.
Converge Consulting (CC): You’ve worked at agencies and universities over the course of your career. What keeps drawing you back to #highered?
Brooks Terry (BT): As a marketer, you’re not going to a find a more complex and curious environment than that of a college or university. Even when I was at an agency working with higher ed clients, my favorite part was always coming to campus. Like any industry, it has its ups and downs, but there are so many interesting stories to tell. You have faculty who are premier thought leaders in their fields. But you also have the students, who bring a real passion and energy into the mix, that go on to do things that are changing the world. No two days are the same and it really is the only place where you can feel young and old at the same time.
(CC): Tell us more about your perspective on the Teachers College brand, your work influencing its story and what people should know about it.
(BT): At the 50,000 foot view, TC has an obvious world class brand and, from an outsider’s perspective you might think, “do you even need to market?” You do. We live in a buyer’s market and prospective students are more savvy than ever when it comes to researching and evaluating one school over another. We’re not going to hide the fact we are in the Ivy League, but that’s not enough. We needed to talk more openly and deliberately about our truths and what makes us unique, so we went and had some really meaningful conversations with our students, faculty, and alumni. They put a personal touch on our our differentiators. It’s things like offering a true depth and breadth of academic offerings, access to resources, lifelong learning, connections to peers and mentors, and becoming a part of a legacy of leaders. Take all that and add New York City as a backdrop and there really is no comparison.
(CC): Talk to us about your vendors and agency partners. How have you mapped out roles, responsibilities and developed a “playbook” for your marketing strategy that crosses your internal and extended teams?
(BT): When I stepped into my role earlier this year, I inherited a bit of a “tabula rasa” in terms of marketing process, policy, and practice. On one hand it’s great when you’re handed the keys to the kingdom, so to speak, but it’s a huge responsibility when people are relying on you to build an operation that’s sustainable. You have to take it one day at a time but, during my first few weeks, I had to tackle three huge projects: launching a number of comprehensive digital campaigns, producing video assets, and updating the view book. Making things more complicated was the reality that we were partnering with three different external vendors, which meant the potential for inconsistent branding was a real concern. It required careful planning and a lot of gut checking, because there really wasn’t a playbook to speak of and we were basically building the plane while flying it. But, honestly, that’s why I like working with partners and vendors that question my logic. I might be the client, but I need to be surrounded with people who are brave enough to ask if my strategy is the best because it might not be. I can admit when I’m wrong or, at least, not entirely right.
(CC): Beyond vendors, 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?
(BT): The beauty of all of this data we’re collecting is that it allows for some very cool analysis. At any given time I can look at a Converge University dashboard and see how click-through conversions compare to view-through’s or how one campaign’s cost per lead might be different than another’s and make adjustments accordingly. It wasn’t long ago that we added a new media element to a number of our campaigns and the results were pretty dramatic. It was a great fit for some, but highly underwhelming and expensive for others. For the latter we were able to basically press pause and put that money back into paid search, where it was limited by budget. It wasn’t always so easy to get that macro view and take action.
But even better, we’re able to use campaign links to track inquiries directly into Slate, which is amazing. Now we’re able to tell which creative and which media are truly the winning combination and understand ROI much more clearly from program to program. It’s one thing to apply UTMs for tracking through analytics and see user behaviors on your website, but being able to see how campaigns can move the needle when it comes to inquiries is next level.
(CC): What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced coming from agency to higher ed? How are you combating these challenges with trainings/education, etc. for your team and internal constituents?
(BT): In general, higher education moves at a pace that is decidedly different from that of an agency. Working in Midtown Manhattan it’s “Go! Go! Go!” and at a university you have to be more open to getting feedback from internal key stakeholders on marketing and mindful of aligning campaigns with institutional initiatives, which can make the process move at a slower pace. I can’t say one approach is better than the other, but they are very different.
In this particular case, I found that some constituents on campus lacked a fundamental understanding of marketing, which meant there was a lot of educating that had to happen before we could launch some high stakes campaigns. There’s a lot of ground to cover, but we’re making gains one conversation at a time. We’re happy to share because we don’t want marketing to be a best-kept-secret and we want to manage expectations.
(CC): How has your partnership with Converge specifically helped your enrollment marketing efforts? In what areas of the funnel are you seeing the most impact? What strategies do you feel are performing best for Teachers College?
(BT): In general, having an agency partner that has a real depth of understanding, not just in digital strategies, but in higher education is really helpful. Based on our shared experiences, I think we were able to devise a strategy and move fairly quickly, which was very important for the college. Certainly, at the top of the funnel, we’re seeing activity we’ve haven’t typically experienced in the past and are able to report that activity in almost real time, which is great. We’ve also been able to stage some mid funnel interventions—re-engaging stalled apps and inquiries, for example—that have made a difference.
(CC): Your campaigns have officially been live 90 days. Yay! What results are you seeing in terms of Awareness (lead generation, enhanced website/marketing activity), Intent (advertising conversions from search and other strategies), Inquiry (qualified inquiries from digital advertising), Application (application starts and application completions) from the partnership across the funnel? Please provide specific details on each area of the funnel.
(BT): The word is out about TC in a new and sophisticated way and really, anything you can possibly measure is going in the right direction. In terms of awareness, traffic on admissions-related pages is significantly up year over year, as are the inquiries, which we can directly attributed to our campaigns. That’s really encouraging. We obviously have a long way to go until the start of the Fall ‘19 semester, but we’re feeling positive based on the early momentum.
(CC): In your opinion, what is the next big New & Next opportunity for Teachers College?
(BT): I think we’re going to continue to innovate our marketing beyond top-funnel initiatives. Even after prospective students are admitted, you have to continue to appeal to them throughout yield and melt because, again, prospective students have the freedom of choice. We’ve made gains in the last year, but we need to continue to think about the kinds of messaging that provide the highest impact and the channels that are the most appropriate so messages break through the clutter. There are a lot of choices and, in the absence of an unlimited budget, we need to very thoughtful and strategic there.
(CC): 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.
(BT): First concert: The Four Tops (I was very young and had no idea what was going on). Tie between Fargo and Kingpin (I’m a fan of quotable movies and both are loaded with them). Something unique? Zac Efron, Lee Harvey Oswald and I have the same birthday (that’s where the similarities end.)
Brooks will be participating in our marketing panel Converge 2019 in Atlanta. Register now so you can get the opportunity to engage with Brooks and learn more about enrollment marketing.
One of my favorite parts of working in Higher Education, is that I get to meet with incredible folks who are doing creative and unique things to impact their institution. During my most recent trips, I heard a few ideas that I felt were worth the philosophy of Copy and Share Everything! For what it is worth I was intrigued.
Undergraduate Campus Visit: Personalization Through Text
At the AMA Higher Education Marketing Consortium visit this week I had the opportunity to listen to a presentation on the power of the text messaging. I am a giant fan of text messaging and based on the presentation that Mongoose did, the data shows that students are as well. In my opinion, not only should every undergraduate, graduate, adult and online programs should be thinking about this as an option—based on the data, but we should be doing it in a very personalized way.
My favorite example during the presentation…”I was on a campus visit at SMU”…it was hotter than hot outside. I received a text message from my contact in admissions asking if I would like a bottle of water. After texting yes, no less than 10 minutes later a golf cart showed up to my campus visit location to share a bottle of water with me.”
Often times we overlook moments of personalization on an incredibly important conversion activity that could be the little action that makes all of the difference.
Sourcing of Partners: Procurement Gone Right!
Rutgers University has always been innovative in relation to the use of people time, resources and energy. Earlier this year we participated in a “qualifying RFI’ to see if we were a fit for the University. I am certain that they had hundreds of responses. We were absolutely delighted to be chosen as one of the pre-qualified vendors for work. One of the BEST things that I have seen a school do is to set up a Vendor Fair Day. What a great way for anyone at the University who might be interested in a partner to have a chance to see them all at once and not make dozens of individual inquiries. What an amazing chance for a vendor/partner to share the story of the current work that they are doing at the university with dozens of others—without pestering, and an inbound strategy to get much needed services and partnerships to be brought forward in a cost effective way.
Flipping the Corporate Recruitment Event:
During a wonderful conversation on corporate partnership this week with a client we were made aware of the ways in which a corporation was approaching a university and its students. Instead of just focusing on the “what’s in it for me,” Deloitte determined that only bringing alumni recruiters from that school to that school didn’t make sense. Instead they brought recruiters who had graduated from different schools (even competitors) to show the value of what they thought of the selected institution—and quite frankly cut through a bit of the bs. Another organization decided to engage at a deeper level and decided—not only am I going to entertain and attract prospective students through entertainment and events, but our corporate team is going to go and volunteer right alongside these students at a charitable organization so that they understand who we are, and our interest in the social good. Fantastic thinking and innovation.
There is no shortage of great ideas, and no better time to be creative in your approach to recruitment, partnerships with firms and connecting students to their futures.