Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter… February 2021

February greetings… and a special welcome to new January subscribers as the newsletter enters the 26th year.

Enrollment marketing as we knew it pre-2020 is dead. Not every element but the mix of techniques to recruit students used in the 1990s and well past 2010 is done. That’s been happening for a few years now, but slowly. COVID has accelerated the change. The marketing imperative of increasing inquiries to fill a funnel is dead. Focusing instead on maximum conversion from a smaller, better inquiry pool will be the new key to success. Especially in primary market areas.

Follow the movement of colleges and universities into and out of an online learning mode with Robert Kelchen, associate professor of higher education at Seton Hall University. Kelchen, who writes regularly on the economics of higher education, is on Twitter here.

Join 864+ higher education professionals on the members-only Top Tasks: Higher Education Website Content group at LinkedIn. Request membership at

Gerry McGovern is offering a new online Top Tasks master class, limited to 12 participants and divided into four 2-hour sessions. Starting date is 8 February. Details are at “An Introduction to Top Tasks.”

eduWeb is offering an online “Spring Innovation Showcase 2021” on March 16-17. Find more on schedule and registration here.

Follow along with 7,200+ people for my daily marketing updates on Twitter.

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

And now, your news and notes for February.
Cartoon of the Month: Digital Marketing after the Death of Cookies

Google Chrome has pledged the end of cookies by 2022. And so, its time to get ready for the likely replacement, “contextual advertising.”

Start your planning for digital marketing change by circulating to your marketing team Tom Fishburne’s “marketing beyond cookies” cartoon and comments.
Tuition Discount Rates & Net Revenue: Compare Yourself to Your Competitors

Jon Boeckenstedt takes a detailed look at what’s been happening with tuition discount rates with data from 2010, 2014, and 2018. While I don’t agree with Jon that “discount is pretty much irrelevant” he is quite correct that what matters more is net revenue. Increases in the former often but not always correspond to decreases in the latter.

Jon has again presented complex data in a masterful way. From a marketing perspective what you may find most useful is the data for individual schools so that you can learn what’s been happening at your primary competitors. Enter the name of an individual college and you’ll see application levels, admission rates and yield to enrollment along with “Key Financial Aid Ratios” and “Key Financial Aid Numbers.”

Improve your wisdom for discount discussions on your campus at “Private College & University Tuition Discount Rates, 2010, 2014, and 2018.”
Admissions for 2021: Focus on “The Full Story”

Admissions reporting in the last few weeks has focused on a handful of schools with very large application increases (Colgate University, for instance, at 100 percent+).

Scott Jaschik’s Inside Higher Ed article takes a more comprehensive look at a picture that shows that most schools are continuing to struggle in an undergrad recruitment environment for high school graduates. Scott sums it like this: “It’s not desperation. But rather a spirit of looking for positive news amid the chaos.”
An application decline is not always a reason for despair. SUNY New Paltz, for instance, is reporting a 14 percent application drop but a 4.1 percent increase in admits and a 5 percent increase in deposits.

For a review of college admissions that focuses on more than a small number of “elite” schools read “The Full Story on Admissions.”
Social Media Marketing: A 364 Page Guide to “Social Listening”

Not every freebie from an agency seeking new clients is worth downloading and reading. This one is.

The agency is Campus Sonar and the 364-page book is “Fundamentals of Social Media Strategy: A Guide for College Campuses.”

You’ll find 4 major sections: (1) Building and Articulating Your Core Strategy, (2) Content Foundations, (3) Core Concepts of Social Media Management, and (4) What Keeps Social Media Managers Up at Night.”

Get your copy today from Liz Gross at Campus Sonar.
Texting in Student Recruitment: What Students Want & How Often They Want It

About 80 percent of high school students in a national survey said they were open t receiving text messages from colleges and universities That should not be a surprise.

What is important is getting the content and frequency right for maximum marketing results. Tudor Collegiate Strategies is reporting 10 areas where students said texts were fine. Scan these to see what you might add (or delete?) from your current contacts.

One important point is rapid response: “If you send text messages via your CRM or another platform, be sure that the person who appears to be sending the text is prepared to respond in a matter of minutes and not hours or days.”

More, including text frequency, at “Texting Advice Straight from Students.”
MyInTuition: Public Universities Offering Rapid 3-Minute Cost Estimator

The MyInTuition cost estimating alternative to cumbersome FAFSA-like aid estimators was adopted by selective private colleges and universities after originating at Wellesley College.

Now the easy-to-complete utility is available at four University of Massachusetts campuses: Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, and Lowell. See how it works for public sector schools at a central entry point when you visit “Calculate Your Estimated Cost to Attend UMass.”

For the full range of schools offering this service visit MyInTuition.
Marketing Research Report: “Higher Education and Digital Marketing”

The 2020 edition of TerminalFour’s “Higher Education Web and Digital Marketing Survey Report” is out for your required reading list to start the year. As you might expect this year, there is special attention to the COVID-19 impact on digital marketing operations.

Wondering how results have changed since the annual survey started? Visit the 2020 report and others since 2014 at “Annual Higher Education Surveys
Video Advertising: Advice for People with Small Budgets

Matt Johnston at Social Media Examiner gives guidelines for people who can’t afford to hire an agency to create video ads as part of their social media marketing. You can watch a video or read the text. Or both.

The focus here is on “text on screen” video. The right words are as powerful in a video as elsewhere. There are also tips on how to adapt the same ad for different social media channels.

Text and video are at “How to Make Low-Cost Video Ads that Convert.”
CMS Systems 2021: Top 10 in Public and Private Sectors

What CMS systems are most used in higher education. A new survey based on 3,300+ home pages shows that Word Press remains most in use although the margin if far larger in the private sector than among publics.

Overall, the Top Ten have 90 percent of the market, with Drupal in second place. See the other 8 and the market percent for each at “US University and College Content Management Systems 2021.”
Most Popular in January Newsletter: Creating Personas

Tom Fishburne offers insights into personas “at their best” and “at their worst” with comments from an article on “Marketing Malpractices.” Read and ponder before investing scarce resources in persona creation as part of a new marketing plan.

Too often, Tom notes, personas “say more about the team that created them than about the customers or users they’re supposed to represent. More at “Creating Personas.” 
Be a marketing champion on your campus.

Bob Johnson, Ph.D.

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