Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter… February 2019

February. And yes, winter will change to spring. Believe.

First step to a better website? Read Gerry McGovern’s new book: Top Tasks – a How-to Guide before you set content priorities. The first chapter is here.

Updating your website in 2019? Find out what potential students like and dislike about your current site before making changes. Feedback in 5 days on 13 quality points with Gerry McGovern’s unique Customer Centric Index (CCI) survey approach. Visit “How it works” at

Ready for a break from the usual array of higher education conferences? Add Janus Boye’s “Digital Leadership” conference to your possibilities for new insights from a strong array of keynoters and speakers. Janus flies from Denmark to Brooklyn for this May 7-9 meeting.

Take your new ideas from Brooklyn to share with friends and colleagues in Philadelphia for the eduWeb Digital Summit, July 29-31.

Forward this newsletter to a friend. Only email required here to subscribe.

Join 690+ higher education professionals on the Top Tasks: Higher Education Website Content group at LinkedIn. Request membership and scroll for stories of universities with a Top Task approach, starting with University of Dundee.

7,350+ people get my daily marketing updates on Twitter at

And now here are your marketing news and notes for February.
Cartoon of the Month: “Marketing Predictions for 2019”

Tom Fishburne casts a humorous eye on 8 shiny objects new and old that might capture special attention from marketers this year, starting with “A.I” and ending with “V.R.” Don’t miss the silly soul who asks “Shouldn’t we talk about our strategy first?”

How are you doing with “nano influencers”? Cast your eyes on “Marketing Predictions.”
You Must Read: Interview with the student who received 2,374 college emails

If you haven’t already heard about the high school student (very top-level academics) who wrote on Reddit about his experience with college emails then you have to read this interview with him by Joel Anderson.

You’ll find general notes and specific comments on many different schools. Some good, some not so good.

Pay special attention to conflicting impressions between website and email. Note this comment re RPI: “The image I get of RPI on their website is that of a world-class research institute with cutting-edge facilities and innovative, motivated students, but the image I get from RPI’s emails is, again, that of a college desperate for more applications.”

For anyone using a large agency to send email: “We all know that admissions offices send emails by the thousand. Any illusion of personal connection is broken as soon as we receive the exact same email from a different college.”

Much more at “An Interview with the Student Who Analyzed 2,374 College Emails on Reddit.”
Crafting a New University Logo: Cost and Reaction

University of South Carolina is the latest school to venture into a “brand refresh” with the usual mixed reaction to the first change that went public: a new logo to create separation with University of Southern California.

The logo cost about $25,000 as part of a $238,000 project with an external agency.

More about the campus reaction, views of new and old logos, and insight from J.C. Huggins, direct of brand strategy at South Carolina, in “The University of South Carolina has a new logo. Reactions are mixed.”
Landing Page from Online Ad: Self-confidence Abounds

How confident are you that people who click on your online ad are ready to complete an admissions application with no further persuasion? The folks at UMass Amherst Isenberg School of Management are very confident indeed.

An ad for an MS in Accounting tells viewers that “You’re ready for career growth. Why hold back?” People who take the path to the landing page arrive at “How to Apply.” OK if you’re ready to do that. Not so OK if you’re not quite at that stage. Agree? The landing page is here.

Drexel University believes they have to work at conversion. See the landing page for the Drexel online MBA program.
Website Speed: The 2019 Page Speed Report

Do you need ammunition to help convince more people on your campus that not investing in website speed is hurting enrollment and annual fund efforts?

Start by circulating the results of a late 2018 survey of 750 consumers and 395 marketers that show, among other points, that more than half of web visitors will leave a page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. Most higher education home pages (and other key pages) are much slower than that.

The report from Unbounce: “Think Fast: The 2019 Page Speed Report Stats & Trends for Marketers.”
Really Fast Mobile Speed: 3 seconds for the “Colgate at 200” Website

Colgate University, working with idfive in Baltimore, has created a special website for a 200th anniversary celebration. For sure, somebody was paying attention to the “need for speed” to connect with visitors using a smartphone to view the site.

The Colgate venture scored an “excellent” 3 second rating from Google Test My site. At that level, Google doesn’t bother to estimate visitor loss from impatient people. And the site even uses an aerial video.

See what’s possible to achieve when you value the importance of mobile speed for marketing success at “Colgate at 200.”

Test your important pages and get a free report on how to increase speed via “Think with Google.”
Cutting Tuition: A Private Sector Summary

The stubborn resistance of people who can’t get past the “sticker price” of attending a private sector college or university has pushed 23 colleges to “reset” tuition to a lower level since 2016.

Despite a continuing belief that high price conveys the impression of high quality, the reality is that only a handful of elite schools can enroll many students whose families will pay the full price for tuition, room, and board.

Will price cuts work? Reported results to date are mixed. Overall, it is likely too early to say. For college financial sustainability, net revenue after the cut is the critical element.

The Washington Post provides a summary of reduction amounts and explanations from several different schools at “Attention, college shoppers. These schools are slashing their prices.”
Hampshire College: Transparency re Marketing Position

Safe to say, the news last month that Hampshire College might close in the near future unless it found a “partner” institution came as a shock within higher education.

What is remarkable is the openness with which the college has discussed current problems and the challenge of finding future solutions. Prominent among the challenges: “intense competition to attract and enroll students, including through merit aid incentives.”

A “comparatively small” endowment of $52 million provides little help with annual expenses.

To review an unusual public relations approach start with the January 21 “Update from President Nelson.”
Usability Testing: A Simple Guide to Boost Marketing Success

Top scale professional usability testing is expensive. And few colleges & universities have the internal staff or the funds to reach those heights. And so regular usability testing usually is not a priority.

Paul Boag thinks that a major mistake. He makes the case that less than perfect usability testing still yields valuable results and outlines several steps to get that done. Three key points: “You don’t need perfect participants” and “You don’t need to test lots of people and “You don’t need perfect facilities.”

Usability testing can lead to website improvements that increase marketing success. Starting monthly tests on your campus after you visit “How to Get Started With Usability Testing.”
Most Popular Topic in January Newsletter: IPEDS 2017 Admissions Data

IPEDS admissions data for 2017 was released last fall. Jon Boeckenstedt at De Paul University has made it easy to compare your data with that of up to 10 real or aspirational competitors. Collect and compare data at “2017 Admissions Data: First Look.”
Be a marketing champion on your campus.

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

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