Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter… March 2014

March greetings to everyone. And best wishes for success to everyone who is heading into the deposit collection recruitment stretch for your new freshman class in March and April. 

Today I expect to finish the new recruitment focused edition of my two-day conference on Writing Right for the Web, set for March 27-28 in Denver. Check the agenda at 

The Call for Papers for eduWeb14 is extended until March 21. Visit to submit your session for review.

How effective is your online marketing? My April 1 Master Class will help you answer that question. From the first impression you create on your website to your ongoing electronic communications will impact conversion success at each stage of the recruitment cycle. Register to join us 

And now here are your marketing news and notes for March.
Net Price Calculators: How Results Differ Among 16 Schools

Inspired by an inquiring mind, an enterprising VP for enrollment completed 16 Net Price Calculators to see how his school compared to both private and public sector competitors. Four different financial and academic profiles were used.

The experience and the results, as you might expect, varied greatly. Check the results and the reasons and plan a similar competitive intelligence study of your own. Visit 
Email Subject Lines: The Best and the Worst in the 2013-2014 Recruitment Cycle

Everyone in higher education marketing should read the report by Jens Larson about his secret shopping experiences during the current recruitment cycle.

Jens gives plaudits to Bates College, Oklahoma State University and the universities of Chicago and Oregon for doing an excellent job. He has reviewed hundreds of emails to bring you a selection of what he thinks works well and what does not work nearly so well at 
“Honest University Commercial”: 3 Million+ People Have Watched This

You will lose track of how many things in this nearly 3 minute video parody of higher education advertising will drive you mad. But 3 million people and climbing have at least clicked on the YouTube link since it was first posted. Add 125,000 likes and 9,374 comments as I type this.

This is another piece in the negative PR world that has a lesson for higher education marketing efforts. Watch the video at 
MBA Marketing: New Approaches to Product, Price, and Place

Repeat the four Ps of marketing as often as you want but attention to Product, Price, and Place often ranks much lower than attention to Promotion. And that is why it is good to see three MBA programs at three very different types of universities adopting innovative approaches to better fit the interests (and schedules) of potential students.

Changes at Benedictine, Cornell, and Villanova universities are reviewed in an in-depth article by Inside Higher Education at
Pew Research Center: Yes, Attending College is Worthwhile

This new survey report from the Pew Research Center will give heart to anyone who can use statistical reinforcement of the value of a higher education degree, particularly from the perspective of recently graduated Millennials. 

A key variable: graduates in some majors are more convinced of the value of their time and money than are others. Engineering and science majors are the most satisfied.

See a summary of 6 key findings at and move from there to a copy of the full report.
2014 Mobile Behavior Report: Smartphones vs. Tablets and More

Strengthen your online communication strategy with an in-depth knowledge of how and when people actually use their mobile devices.

The top activity on both phones and tables: accessing email. People are much more likely to visit Twitter from a tablet than a smartphone. The reverse is true for Pinterest. On mobile, people prefer to use Facebook on a mobile app. The reverse is true for Twitter. Overall, mobile apps are popular in comparison to mobile-ready websites.

For more, including age, gender, and income information download the 35-page report 
Text Messaging and Student Recruitment: New Approach at Drexel Online

Drexel Online, a place with strong marketing savvy, has recently adopted an approach to text messaging that I have not seen elsewhere: in order to submit an online inquiry form, you must agree to receive text messages along with phone contacts.

Drexel tells me people can opt out after receiving the first message. This is a new effort and results on how many people are opting out are not available. See the inquiry form at

Simplifying Financial Aid: New College Board Reports Recommends Process Changes

The College Board has just published a “Back to Basics” report that focuses on reducing or changing the data needed to complete the FAFSA and still arrive at a reasonable measure for need-based aid. One key point in the recommendations: get realistic information on college costs in the hands of first-generation families, especially likely Pell Grant recipients, as soon as possible.

Will these recommendations find favor at your school? Answer that question after reading the Chronicle article at 
Website Readability Test Tool: Check Your Site Today

On the web, simple is most often better. The University of Cambridge university research site home page is written at a 10th grade level.

Will your site do as well? Use the free Readability Test Tool and find out at 
Viral Marketing: Examples from Oberlin College and McMaster University

Can you make viral marketing a fruitful part of your marketing toolkit?

Cameron Pegg thinks you can and writes about that in a CASE article that includes examples of successful Oberlin College and McMaster University efforts. Pay special attention to the infographic on how to create a “viral marketing culture” when you visit 
LinkedIn for Student Recruitment

Graham Edwards has written an interesting piece on how to use LinkedIn for student recruitment. Not advertising, but how to best take advantage of the new LinkedIn university page feature as you build your presence there.

My personal best bet: use this to show parents of traditional age students how your alumni are doing out and about the world after graduation. Graham has more ideas at 
For-Profit Sector: 22 State Suits Focus on Improper Marketing

Suits are in progress in 22 states against 10 for-profit schools. Four Federal Government divisions have also filed suits. Just four schools are attracting most of the attention, often based on loan practices and claims about employability and earnings after graduation. 

Even marketers who do not work in the for-profit sector should pay attention. Will anyone ask universities to prove their claims to “academic excellence” anytime soon? The winds on what is acceptable and what is not are changing.

See who is attracting the most attention when you scan the chart at 
Most Popular Topic in February Newsletter: 8 Web Design Elements You No Longer Need

The runaway top topic last month from UX magazine discusses website features you can safely dispense with starts with drop-down menus and carousels and adds six more elements to review at 
Conference and Master Class Presentations in March and April

March 27-28, Denver: “Writing Right for the Web: Focusing on Student Recruitment” sponsored by Academic Impressions. Agenda and registration at 

April 1, Philadelphia: “Critical Online Steps to Boost Enrollment: Speed, Simplicity, and Top Task Completion,” an eduWeb Master Class. Review the program and register at 

Plan a custom presentation on your campus. Host a workshop on any of my conference topics. Review the 2013 list at and contact me at or 248.766.6425.
Be a marketing champion on your campus.

Bob Johnson, Ph.D. 
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

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