Higher education marketing: when marketers are a problem, not a solution
Just back on Wednesday from our fifth annual Customer Carewords partners meeting in Dublin, with Gerry McGovern and partners from Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Germany, United Kingdom and of course, Ireland. Always a special two days.
The focus this year was on the growing importance of “top task” completion on websites, especially in the mobile era, and the barriers that can keep organizations from moving more quickly in that direction.
One partner reported that marketing departments are often a barrier to building effective websites. At first, that was a surprise. But after a bit of reflection, it isn’t hard to understand why. An “effective website” is one where people entering a site can quickly complete the top tasks they want to complete. The focus is on learning what people want to do and helping them do it.
Traditional marketing content: “We are a perfect place and exist only to serve you”
Few people visit a website to read traditional marketing content. Too many higher education websites still attempt to make a university appear as the higher education equivalent of Disney World. Every faculty and staff person exists only for the success of students and every student is smiling from start to end of the day. That’s just not real. Most people dismiss messages like that.
Most important first task for potential students: find the academic programs available
Smart online marketers know that what’s most important to build brand strength on a website is delivering a strong visitor experience so that people leave happy and look forward to returning. Consider the top task of more potential students when first visiting a higher education website than any other: learning what academic programs are offered.
Academic programs: one click from the home page
On your website, can people find your academic programs in one click from the home page?
Not just a link buried among a sea of other links, but in a highly visible location that visitors will see in a 5 to 8 second scan of the page when they arrive?
Visit the Devry University home page
. Note that right across the bottom of the page, large enough that can’t miss them, are the titles of the 6 major academic divisions of the university. Run your cursor over each one and the academic programs within each division drop right down. See a program that interests you? One click will bring you to the program.
Marketing as a solution: 8 to 10 most important home page links
Marketers will be especially challenged by the requirements of mobile websites for great simplicity.
How, for instance, will marketers decide what 8 to 10 links deserve priority placement on the home page of a mobile site to boost student recruitment success? And if those links deserve prominence on a mobile home page, why are the same 8 to 10 links not also most prominent on the “regular” home page?
Marketers must be on the “solution side” of the answer to those questions.
Brand strength begins by identifying the 8 to 10 links that lead to completion of the top tasks that potential students visit the website to do and giving those links “can’t miss” prominence from the home page. That’s effective website marketing.
Brand strength is not built with pictures of campus buildings and smiling students, expressions of commitment to “academic excellence,” or welcome messages from presidents and deans.
Presentations on Top Task Design for Marketing Impact
That’s all for now.