Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter… April 2019

April. Rumor in Michigan is that spring has arrived. Still a bit of snow. Patience. The flowers are twitching. And the marketing continues.

The cliché is true: you only have one chance to make a first impression. Introduce your colleagues to the benefits and techniques of “top task research” to create the best possible experience for potential students when they first visit your website. Quick & easy task completion. Attend Gerry McGovern’s “Top Task Overview” webinar on April 18 at 11 AM. The no-cost registration is open now.

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

Bring your new ideas from Brooklyn to share with friends and colleagues in Philadelphia at the eduWeb Digital Summit July 29-31. Register after you scan the strong array of workshops and presentations.

Improving 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

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

Join 700+ higher education professionals on the Top Tasks: Higher Education Website Content group at LinkedIn. Request membership at 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, your marketing news and notes for April.
Cartoon of the Month: “8 types of annoying ads”

Online advertising is important. But if you do it wrong, it can be poison. Tom Fishburne illustrates the types and techniques that are most likely to annoy the potential students you hope to recruit.

Start with “pop-ups” and end with “retargeting” at “8 types of annoying ads.”
March Madness: “The 2019 Net Price Madness Tournament”

Since 2013 Robert Kelchen, assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, has created a March Madness 68 team bracket that advances the teams with the lowest net cost of attendance.

For a different take on March Madness (and a different Final Four?), see “The 2019 Net Price Madness Tournament”.
Social Media Marketing: 20 YouTube Channels at MIT

If you’re wondering how to expand your use of YouTube to taka advantage of video popularity, visit the YouTube channels page at MIT. You’ll find 20 easy-to-scan listings, including 7 that highlight individual academic areas.

Check the full array at the MIT “Featured channels” display.
15 Steps to Improve Landing Page Speed

Web visitors, including those responding to online ads, are incredibly impatient. The faster your landing page opens, the more conversions will result. Simple.

How can you create a faster landing page? Check the 15 steps from Unbounce to see where you might improve. The 15 are presented in 3 categories: Easy (5), Intermediate, (5), and Hard (2).

See the full list at “Increase Your Landing Page Speed (By Stealing Our Homework).”

A curiosity note: While 81% of marketers believe speed impacts conversions, only 39% have run a speed test. If you’re in the small group, try the new version of Google’s Test My Site.
Digital Advertising: Delusional or Not?

For years now, direct marketers have adopted Facebook and Google ads as important tools to reach small, targeted numbers of potential students to generate new inquiries. I’ve been in that camp. And still am if the targeting is aimed at people who match the profile of those who already enroll.

Not everyone agrees. For an opposite view (with references to several marketing experts) that suggests you “Ditch Direct Response” and instead expand reach for greater brand awareness, see Christopher Huebner’s “The Digital Delusion and What to Do About It.”

You can, of course, do both brand and direct marketing in the digital format if the budget permits. Move with caution. The “reach” word can be dangerous if you don’t control the urge to use a brand effort “to reach as much of your audience as often as you can” and drop all of your “direct” contacts.
Tuition Discounting: Get Data on Your Competitors

If tuition discounting is a topic for discussion with your president, trustees, or anyone else on your campus you will appreciate another marvelous data compilation from Jon Boeckenstedt at DePaul University.

Start with “individual colleges” and the first 20 schools with discount rates over 70 percent for the freshman class in 2016. You’ll also see net tuition per freshman. Sort in several ways, including region and type of school.

Be better prepared for cabinet and trustee meeting after you mine the tuition discount data at “Higher Ed Data Stories.”
Website Design: Key Data for Teens

If you recruit high school students, you must read this new research from Nielsen Norman Group. Really.

Start near the bottom with the chart that summarizes website use differences between “Children” and “Teens” and “College Students” and “Adults.”

Pay special attention to the type of sites that most challenge teens: “large sites with dense content and poor navigation schemes. Government, nonprofit, and school sites were the biggest culprits of poor usability.” Note a universal problem: “A slow-loading website is a deal-breaker.”

Detailed research results and recommendations are at “Teenager’s UX: Designing for Teens.”
Competition for Online Students: How Many Can Make the Mountaintop?

University of Maryland plans to add a new national emphasis to its existing overseas market. A new name (University of Maryland Global Campus) and a new marketing budget ($500 million over 6 years) will support the venture to reach 100,000 students by 2020 from a present 90,000 enrollment.

The field of national aspirants is getting crowded. We already have Arizona State OnlinePenn State World CampusPurdue University GlobalSouthern New Hampshire, and Western Governors University. The University of Massachusetts has also announced ambitious national growth plans.

To put marketing costs in perspective. SNHU spent $132 million in 2017, well over the Maryland budget.

More on the University of Maryland plan and the overall competitive environment at “UMC 2.0”.
New Inquiry Form Requirement: “Sex at Birth” at Davidson College

Here’s one I’ve not seen before: A requirement to pick from “Male” or “Female” to answer “Sex at Birth.” There’s an optional opportunity to “share more about your gender identity below.”

This is the usual overly long undergraduate inquiry form, complete with CEEB request. Compare the Davidson College form with yours.
Most Popular Topic in March Newsletter: “7 types of marketing personas”

Rather than creating unrealistic, misleading 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.

Examples of 7 typical personas from “The Composite” to “The Useless Trivia” at “7 types of marketing personas.”
Be a marketing champion on your campus.

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

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