Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter… March 2019

March. Some of you are waiting for winter. The rest of us know that spring is coming. Sometime.

Website speed, especially on mobile, is a key element in successful marketing. For examples of 8 truly rapid sites (and 3 quite slow ones) taken from 45 of my Link of the Week selections visit “8 Winners: Top Mobile Speed Downloads for Higher Education Websites.”

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.”

Take 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 the 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 695+ higher education professionals on the Top Tasks: Higher Education Website Content group at LinkedIn. Request membership here and scroll for stories of universities with a Top Task approach, starting with University of Dundee.

7,300+ people get my daily marketing updates on Twitter at

And now here are your marketing news and notes for March.
Cartoon of the Month: “7 types of marketing personas”

Rather than creating personas “out of sight in the ivory towers of marketing,” Tom Fishburne gives this advice: invite people from many different parts of an organization to sit in on interviews with a great variety of customers.

More on Tom’s approach with examples of 7 typical personas from “The Composite” to “The Useless Trivia” at “7 types of marketing personas.”
Higher Education Future: 7 Predictions for 2029

What will higher education look like in 10 years?

The 7 predictions for higher education you’ll find in an Inside Higher Education article by Stephen Mintz see more than reasonable. Some people will take comfort. Others will not.

Here’s one prediction: “Name brand institutions will increasingly dominate the key growth markets, for online master’s and certificate programs, lifelong learning, and continuing education credits.”

The other 6 predictions and a rationale for each are at “A Worrisome Glimpse Through a Spyglass.”
Competition Research: How colleges spend money

ACTA (American Council of Trustees and Alumni) gives us an easy-to-use guide to how colleges and universities spend their money (from 2009 to 2016). Categories include administrative cost per student, instructional cost per student, and administrative/instructional cost ratio. You’ll also see tuition levels and 4-year graduation rates over those years.

Check an individual school on the home page. You can easily go on to use the “Comparison Builder” tool to research your major competitors or to sort schools by state, region, or classification type.

Start at “How Colleges Spend Money.”
MBA Programs: Life at the “Magnificent 7” and elsewhere

MBA programs overall are suffering and the top 7 “magnificent” programs are not completely immune. Each school had an application decrease in the 2017- 2018 year, from 8.2% at Chicago’s Booth School to 2.6% at Columbia. Wharton, Stanford, Harvard, MIT, and Northwestern were in between.

Despite the application declines, enrollments were up at each school except Wharton, where there was a -1 decline. More details at “New M7 Data, Familiar Magnificence.”

Two reasons stand out among reasons given by “admissions officials” at 150 surveyed programs for application decreases almost everywhere: the impact of “current political climate” on international students (31 percent) and the “strong job market” (30 percent). See “Understanding the Decline in MBA Applications.”
New Test Optional University: Creighton University

The “test optional” admissions policy continues a slow increase throughout higher education. Individual schools will want to explain the change to potential students and their parents.
Creighton University recently announced it had adopted a test-optional policy for admission and scholarship decisions for most decisions. Test scores are still required for nursing program applicants and home-schooled students.

What questions does Creighton think potential students might have about the change? Creighton answers 7 questions at “Application Review that Focuses on You.”
Tuition “Resets”: The language the public hears in the media

Within higher education, most schools reducing their sticker price tuition level refer to the action as a “tuition reset.”

The Washington Post, on the other hand, refers to “resets” in language that most schools would rather not hear: “a marketing tactic associated more with selling airline tickets or flat-screen televisions than higher education: a price cut.” “Slash” gets right to the heart of what’s happening. “Reset,” not so much.

The Post reviews the practice and the size of the cuts at several different private sector schools in “Attention college shoppers. These schools are slashing their prices.”

Higher education writer Jeff Selingo isn’t convinced about this “flavor of the month.” Higher education, he wrote on Twitter, needs “a new pricing model, but this isn’t it. Eventually prices go back up and folks still expect a discount.”
Online Advertising: Don’t make this ROI killing mistake

Do you advertise online? Have you checked each stop along your website path that a person responding to your ad might take? Is everything mobile-friendly?

Don’t make the mistake you’ll see at “Online advertising… how your website can help kill ROI for mobile visitors.”
“Signature Stories”: 6 “common mistakes” to avoid from Prophet’s David Aaker

In higher education, a signature story should be an important part of the communications mix for colleges and universities, particularly to introduce from a student perspective the academic programs offered.

“Story-telling’ is indeed hot right now. But like any other marketing element, success depends on how well it is done. David Aaker gives us 6-steps to use to compare the strength of current efforts. For David, a signature story is “a narrative that jumps out of the clutter, communicates externally and internally, and is worth sharing.”

Review 6 mistakes (and how to avoid them) that include “no pop” and “bad presentation” at “6 Signature Story Mistakes that Brands Make.”
Website Design for Marketers: Key Elements in the End-of-Page “Footer”

The usability folks at Nielsen-Norman have put together a detailed review of why marketers should pay close attention to content in the “footer” at the bottom of web pages, particularly the home page. Many people do scroll down and they have expectations re what they will find there.

Key points include contact information (address, phone number, email) and social media links. Find more elements under “Doormat Navigation” and “Secondary Links” at “Footers 101: Design Patterns and When to Use Each.”

Let me add a personal favorite: Obey the “don’t make them squint” principle for the font size.
Most Popular Topic in February Newsletter: Interviewing a Student re 2,374 College Emails

“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.”

You’ll find general notes and specific comments on many different schools. Some good. Some not so good at “An Interview with the Student Who Analyzed 2,374 College Emails on Reddit.”
Be a marketing champion on your campus.

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

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