Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter… January 2015

Happy New Year to everyone as we begin 2015. As many of you are likely doing just now, I am busy catching up this week after an extended break. There are many emails to review, including an interesting collection that arrived over the holidays from my most recent cluster of secret shopping schools.

You will see as you scan the items below that I have assembled a collection of items built around the inevitable predictions of what might and might not happen in 2015, from websites to college ratings. 

It is no small measure of our times that the January issue of Money Magazine included an article advising parents on how to best take advantage of merit awards to reduce costs. I expect affordability and tuition discounting to continue as top marketing issues this year. For private sector schools, the challenges are large and the solutions difficult.

The Call for Papers for the eduWeb Digital Summit in July is open until January 30. More about the conference and the paper submission process is at 

And now here are your marketing news and notes for January.
Website Magazine: What Your Website Needs for 2015

Start off 2015 by reviewing 6 elements of website design that might or might not work well for your website. 

Note that two of the headings refer to “stunning images” as a new imperative for successful sites. That’s scary. Stunning images that do not relate to tasks that people want to do on your site will not improve your chances for marketing success. Words still count, even if this article downplays their importance.

But do take note of the admonition that responsive design is best done by taking a mobile-first approach. Responsive design that tries to convert an existing large-screen site to the mobile world without first making difficult content reduction choices is not especially effective.

Start a 2015 conversation after everyone reads the website design article at 
College Ratings Systems in 2015: Public vs. Private Sectors

Kevin Carey explores the various elements of the college rating system announced by the Department of Education last month, with attention to the different views of private and public sector schools and lobbyists. Expect dismay and debate on this to increase in 2015.

Three elements are important: affordability, access, and outcomes. It is not yet clear just what will be used to measure each. And it is not yet clear what the relative weightings will be. According to Carey, the private sector is more concerned than the public sector with the impact of the DOE system, a fact that he believes shows why the DOE plan is a “worthy effort.”

See “Sizing Up the College Ratings System” at 
Future of Email Marketing: Scan 11 Articles for 2015 and Beyond

By now most people will agree that email marketing is not dead. That prediction has been made too many times in the past decade and email continues to thrive as an important part of a marketing communications program.

But email marketing always is changing. To review what industry experts are predicting and planning, scan the titles and short synopses of 11 “future” email marketing articles 
20 Generous Merit Aid Colleges: Money Magazine Highlights

Money Magazine started off 2015 with an article in the January issue briefing parents on “How to Find a Generous College.” Money notes that while selective schools are usually not high on the generosity list many less selective schools do indeed have high academic profiles as measured by test scores. 

Six of the 20 most generous schools give average awards of more than 50 percent of tuition: Dordt College (67 percent), Millsaps College (60 percent), University of Tulsa (52 percent), Illinois Institute of Technology (51 percent), Ohio Wesleyan University (51 percent), Southwestern University (50 percent.) Many others are in the 40 percent range. 

The least generous among this group: St. Mary’s College (38 percent), Furman University (38 percent), Denison University (39 percent.)

Find the percent of students who receive merit aid, the average award amount, and the complete list of the percent of tuition covered at 
Important Google Change: Designation of Mobile Friendly Sites

Is your website mobile-friendly according to new Google criteria that likely will soon be used to rank websites?

Google is giving priority to responsive design sites over sites although RD sites almost always take longer to load. But other points will count as well. Expect to suffer if your site requires horizontal scrolling on a smartphone or if the text is too small to read when it first opens. “Don’t make them squint,” a phrase I often use in web writing workshops, is alive and well.

For more on what makes a site mobile-friendly for Google see the Mobile Marketer article by Chantal Tode at 
Advertising Online: A Future for Wearables?

Will people accept advertising on smartwatches? Yes, it is far too early to consider this in a practical sense but that is not stopping early speculation about the possibilities. An important first point: ads will have to be more closely related to the interests of the person receiving them than just about anywhere else. Direct marketing principles w
ill drive whatever is done. This is likely not a place for brand awareness activity.

Right now relatively few people even say they might buy a smartwatch in 2015. The near-term adoption rate is low enough that advertisers at this point are not paying much attention. Smartphones remain enough of a challenge.

But if you want to be first among your friends and colleagues as a person who can talk wisely about the possibilities and limitations, start with “Will Advertising Work on Wearables,” an article by Greg Sterling on Marketing Land at 
Killing the Carousel: A Poem from Terminal Four

While “stunning images” gain in popularity, the plague of web carousels finally is shrinking.

If you need extra ammunition on your campus to eliminate a carousel, direct people to the “The web content merry-go-round,” a poem by Terminal Four blogger Vincent O’Malley 

Prediction for the end of 2015: we will go after “stunning images” that completely fill a home page when it first opens. 
Mergers and Acquisitions: Enrollment Marketing in Higher Education

Did you know that Hobson’s generates about 3 percent of the revenue of the company that owns it, Daily Mail and General Trust in the U.K.? 

The folks at International Education Advantage plan a series of articles on mergers and acquisitions among companies providing marketing services to higher education. Hobson’s is the first of these. Other upcoming possibilities include Chegg, Blackboard, and Princeton Review. 

The Hobson’s review is at
Gerry McGovern on Content Priorities: A Short Video Interview

Can you set website content priorities without data on what tasks people using the website want to complete?

Data is best, but in this just under 3 minute interview Gerry suggests alternatives when decisions must be made without data. Check 
Most Popular Topic in December Newsletter: Northeastern University Teen Survey

What do teens think about higher education and a host of other topics? If you recruit teens for college, review this report where “affordability” and “job placement rate and/or average graduate salary” rank highest among choice factors. See 
Be a marketing champion on your campus.

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

Increase the success of your digital marketing strategy. Contact me for details at 

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