Enrollment Management, Higher Education Marketing

Mortimer, We’re Back!

Those words of the infamous Randolph Duke expressed to Mortimer Duke in a scene of Coming to America came to mind this week as I reflected on the time of year and my blog. Today, students are arriving on the Doane College campus to begin orientation while all over Nebraska (and across the nation), high school students are crossing the classroom thresholds for the first time since last spring anticipating what will come of this new year. It’s an exciting time for many to be sure.

As many students look forward, enrollment professionals tend to first look back. While it’s true that we are anxious for the start of a new recruiting year, admission directors crunch data and survey the higher education landscape to understand what worked and what didn’t work over the last year. Whether we anticipate making our enrollment numbers or not, it doesn’t change the questions that we seek answers to because one thing is for sure; higher education enrollment management is not getting easier, particularly in the private sector.

Then again, as much as changed, there are still constants. Students must apply and be admitted in order to enroll. And, students generally will not enroll if they have not visited the campus. So, as we lament over the tactics that we deployed last year, our bottom line question is rather simple. How do we influence more students to apply and visit? This is why higher education has become so commercialized. In some cases, yield on the number of applicants can fluctuate a few percentage points but enrollment growth or even just enrollment stability is predicated on colleges being able to convince enough students to complete an application and visit the campus. And, because of the commercialization, there is a tremendous amount of “noise” for students and parents to filter through to make their decisions. Truth be told, even if a student applies to 15 colleges, how many can they realistically visit, particularly during the academic year? To that point, colleges must figure out a way to be one of 3-5 true options in a student’s senior year.

So, the onslaught of communication continues and even increases for high school juniors and seniors. Mailboxes (because print mail still matters!) and email accounts will be filled with college information. And, make no mistake, every private college has amazing professors, small student-to-faculty ratios, and will tout new facilities. Filtering through the noise is exactly what students need to do. Results matter. Outcomes can distinguish one school from another. And no doubt, fit continues to be important. At Doane College, we’ve taken the step of identifying what we believe makes us different; what sets us apart from the crowd that will also resonate with students and parents. Our communication material will reflect our identity which can be summed up with the following “elevator statement”.

 

Doane College is a world-class private college excelling at teaching tomorrow’s educators and conducting real-world scientific research. We provide guarantees to graduate in both three- and four-year programs with an inclusive community where students can fit in here and stand out after college.

 

Check out this short video.

Using this statement as a guide, we are making sure our messages within brochures, emails, and digital media are focused and speak to the issues that students and parents expect to be addressed by colleges.  Every college has something special about it.  Connecting students to that something special takes considerable efforts and resources in today’s market.

My blog took a short hiatus over the summer, but we are off and running again. We’re back!

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Higher Education

Why make the investment in a liberal arts college?

I had the pleasure of visiting with a father recently that is on the verge of sending his daughter to Doane College.  He shared with me that he had not attended college and has held many manual labor jobs over the course of his career.  While successful, he acknowledged that he had to scrape and claw most of his professional life in order to not only succeed but at times simply to make ends meet.  He confided in me his concern for his daughter.  He said, “She doesn’t really know what she wants to do.  I’m concerned about spending so much given that uncertainty.”

If I had a quarter for every time I’ve heard that concern.  He went on to share that what makes him more comfortable – although not completely comfortable – with her lack of career direction is the fact that she is choosing a liberal arts college.  While I was excited to hear this, I’ll admit that I don’t hear that as often as I would like from parents.  He admitted that this is his first (and only) child so the entire process is new to him, but he has paid particular attention to what colleges and universities have shared about the educational value that they offer.  He acknowledged that attending a private college is more expensive, but he desperately wants to believe in what we’ve put in our marketing material.  He wants to believe that our liberal arts education is the best investment in his daughter’s future.

First, what a great guy!  There is a great deal of discussion regarding the value of the liberal arts in higher education (and I think a misunderstanding of the word liberal altogether.  But, we’ll leave that for another day.)  For example, consider this great article on 5 reasons to attend a liberal arts college.  When I encounter this issue with students or parents, I typically share my personal experience.  I was like many high school students who have an interest but not necessarily true direction for a career.  Back in the early 1990’s when Apple was big in education I heard a lot about desktop publishing.  I was not an artist, but I did enjoy working with layout software on computers.  As a result, I did some work on the profession as a senior project.  Given that I had started down this path I felt to a degree obligated to continue forward.  So, my interest brought me to a small private college which was in the early stages of a graphic design degree program.  All this to share that while I obtained my BA degree with a major in graphic design, I ultimately decided that I did not have the necessary talent to earn a living doing that work.  Frankly, I just wasn’t creative enough.

I share this because what I learned – which had always been told to me – is that the sum of my liberal arts experience prepared me for much more than I could have imagined – more than any single class.  While it prepared me to be a graphic designer by trade if I chose to, it also opened my future options to a career and profession that I could not have imagined while in college.  I still remember not wanting to take the history course or the marriage & family course.  But now, I understand why those were important and why they provided me with a great foundation.  I didn’t particularly enjoy math and like most college students majoring in art, I often asked why I need a math course when I’m not going to use math in my career.  I was a stupid, smart kid!

I believe the liberal arts experience prepares a student for more than what they think they need to know to be successful.  But, possibly more important, it gives students the foundation for a long successful professional life which will likely take twists and turns that at the moment may seem absurd.  I believe that people hiring students out of college are looking for college experiences that show the person can think critically, communicate effectively, listen, and learn.  I recognize that the student’s major can and does matter but I believe there should be more to it.  After all, how does a graphic design major end up as a successful fundraiser and higher education enrollment manager?  And, oh by the way, while I’ve continued to utilize the skills I learned through my graphic design degree, I also use math a lot!  A college degree prepares you for a job.   A liberal arts degree prepares you for careers – particularly those that don’t exist today.  While it’s true that students can obtain a liberal arts-type experience at a large, public institution, they will have to work at it and seek it out.  At colleges like Doane, it’s interwoven into the entire experience.  It’s what we do and I believe we do it very well.

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Higher Education

In Higher Education, What Actions Represent a Commitment to Diversity – Inclusion?

I am a white, blond, blue-eyed male working at a rural Nebraska private, independent, liberal arts college.  I’m comfortable here – possibly too comfortable!  Hear me out.  I tend to believe the college educational environment should be created to challenge many of our beliefs in a safe environment.  This is one reason why I love the idea that students should travel abroad or experience an urban plunge.  We need to see how others live. I believe it’s healthy to be in uncomfortable (yet safe) environments to learn and reflect on experiences that may challenge our beliefs or personal expectations based on our own experiences.  When I consider skin color and student demographics, (as well as faculty and staff) there are many others “like me” on this campus.  Skin color is the same and like me, many students, faculty, and staff come from a small Midwest community.  And, like me, many have not been – let alone spent much time in – a metropolitan area (not sure Lincoln, NE applies here).

Recently, a gentleman conducted a workshop on our campus on diversity; Finding Common Ground.  He shared many things that stick with me but one activity in particular really got me thinking.  He was working us through our mission statement and strategic plan highlighting key words in the documents and engaging us in conversation about what these words meant to us.  Not the definition via Wikipedia, but the meanings in our minds.  There were many words we discussed but two that really hit home from our mission statement; “inclusive” and “commitment”.

What really struck me was the notion that both these words can mean slightly different things to different people.  I hadn’t thought of it that way.  I say them with relative ease and believe that they mean the same thing to most everyone.  That’s simply not true.  Put us all in a room and ask for each of us to interpret the meaning of “inclusive”.  There will be similarities no doubt but the speaker pointed out vividly an example in which context and culture impact the meaning of words to each of us.

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Reflect on this through-provoking example.  Consider the word “ethical”.  I believe that my understanding of what it means to be ethical is in line with most people.  But, picture for a moment a father with three children in a poverty stricken area where there is no food readily available.  He has no money to purchase food [Forget any argument that he should have a job or that he shouldn’t have had children if he can’t support them].  This man sees a food stand which in his opinion has plenty of food.  He makes the decision to take some food – not too much, but just enough – for his children to eat.  In fact, he doesn’t give himself any food.  He simply provides for his children.  In this man’s world, could he consider it to be ethical to steal in order to provide for a family?

I’m not condoning stealing nor is this an argument on ethics.  Rather, I’m pointing out the fact that what I tend to believe is a common understanding of a word or situation can be quite different from another person, particularly when you consider context.  So, when the topic of diversity is brought up, it is important to engage in a discussion in order to best understand what people think diversity means.  I believe there is a good chance that not everyone is thinking exactly the same way. 

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Back to my two words.  I believe in being inclusive.  But, to what extent do I believe in being inclusive?  Am I inclusive to the extent that I remain comfortable?  The fact that we at Doane College have a 13% minority population doesn’t make me uncomfortable.   I’m disappointed that our population isn’t more diverse as a college, but I’m certainly not uncomfortable.  So, it’s easy for me to say I want to be more inclusive.  In fact, is there a certain percent that would justify me saying we are inclusive?  What if 50% of our student body was Black, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, or Native American?  Is that now inclusive?  It’s much more inclusive no doubt.  At that level of diversity, would I still be comfortable?  And, if I’m uncomfortable do I still believe in being inclusive?  My point is that it’s easier to believe in inclusion because the antithesis may be frowned upon.  Who is going to say, “I don’t want to be inclusive?”  But do we truly believe?  Keep in mind my example is only related to skin color or ethnicity.  I don’t believe that the idea of inclusion is limited to our skin color.

Now, “commitment”.  Again, I believe most people understand the word commitment.  I wonder, however, if the level of commitment and the word commitment itself can be easily misleading.  At Doane we have a commitment to increasing diversity on our campus for students, faculty, and staff.  My question, what actions adequately represent commitment?  This diversity training workshop included 40 staff out of at least 200 potential attendees.  Does this workshop represent commitment?  To some it may.  We are moving forward with the appointment of a cabinet level position, Vice President for Access, Equity, and Diversity.  Will the appointment of a person in this position fulfill our commitment?  Or, is commitment ongoing regardless of what has been accomplished?

I bring this point up not to question our (Doane’s) commitment but to encourage people to reflect on a personal commitment to diversity and inclusion.  I’m working to reflect on my personal commitment and what I can do in my role to increase diversity and be more inclusive.  Thinking about it for 2 hours once every couple months may be one person’s definition of commitment because it represents movement forward beyond what was before.  To another, it may still not represent a true commitment.

I believe in the Doane College mission which embraces diversity.  I don’t say this as an expert or even someone who has experienced an environment with great diversity.  I want to be a man who embraces diversity personally and learns from my fellow man regardless of skin color or background.  I’m seeking to put myself in a position which may challenge my comforts and seek a greater appreciation and learning from those who have different experiences than me.  And, I believe higher education is the perfect environment to learn both as young adults and those of us old dogs that need to be taught new tricks.

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Doane College’s mission is to provide an exceptional liberal arts education in a creative, inclusive, and collaborative community where faculty and staff work closely with undergraduate and graduate students preparing them for lives rooted in intellectual inquiry, ethical values, and a commitment to engage as leaders and responsible citizens in the world.

 

The opinions expressed in this blog are that of Joel M. Weyand alone and do not reflect the position of Doane College.

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Higher Education Marketing

Successful Social Media Requires You To Fight Your Fear

(Jim Braunschweig, Account Executive for JD Gordon Creative Labs in Sioux City, Iowa, is a guest blogger this week providing his perspective on social media, specifically the hesitation of higher education marketing to embrace and jump into the social media frenzy)

‘Social’ and ‘Media’ – two simple words easily defined and understood when they stand-alone. But together, these words take on a whole new meaning which we’re still trying to fully comprehend. While a definition for ‘Social Media’ exists, it still remains one of the most misunderstood, controversial, and (from the perspective of a business owner) the most complicated and feared strategies to implement within an organization’s overall marketing plan.

Definitions:
Social: relating to or involving activities in which people spend time talking to each other or doing enjoyable things with each other

Media: a particular form or system of communication (such as newspapers, radio, or television)

Social Media: forms of electronic communication (as Web sites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (as videos)

Why do we fear ‘Social Media’? We fear it because it’s powerful. We fear it because we don’t understand it. But, most importantly, we fear it because as we’ve come to find out – we can’t control it, no matter how hard we try. Let’s be honest – the potential power which Social Media grants to any person who is able to ‘figure it out’ and ‘use it best’ intimidates us. No longer are the highest ranking individuals or most educated people in society able to decide the information that will be shared, control how it will be dispersed, or even whom it reaches. Ever since social media came along, the playing field has continued to level out so much so that nearly everyone has a chance to have their voice and opinion shared with the world, gain attention, inspire people to take action, and if it’s good enough, potentially make a global impact. When you think about it – how awesome is that?!?

But, now think about this… if all this is true (which it is, and there are plenty examples to back this up), then why aren’t more businesses, focusing more attention on how they can get the most out of their social media presence – rather than treating it as an afterthought – with little to no strategy or overall purpose for the content their creating, and the way in which they share it.

From my experience, the answer is simple: The business leaders and other professionals who have the authority to hire the talent, or allocate the funds necessary to implement a successful (not to mention measurable) social media strategy don’t fully understand what ‘Social Media’ is, and as I mentioned earlier – it’s just human nature to fear the unknown.

I apologize if that last statement came off condescending – I assure you I didn’t mean for it to come across that way. To be honest, I’m not sure if anyone ‘fully’ understands it, but what separates those who are successful (or will be successful) with Social Media and those who aren’t (or haven’t been) is the simple fact the ones we consider successful take action, experiment, and ‘play’ with social media – sometimes even making a few minor mistakes along the way, but they don’t let themselves be stricken with paralysis by analysis, nor do they stew on the bad things that could happen. Instead, they think about all the amazing ways in which these tools can help them connect, engage, and better understand their customers and clients, their wants and needs, so they can continually improve their product or service; which will lead to more raving fans, and ultimately, more business.

To be successful with Social Media requires organizations, specifically their leaders, to fight their fears – to be ok moving forward and learning as you go. For a great example of a Higher Ed Institution which has always been an early adopter to the new practices within social media and embraces the possibilities it has to offer I suggest you pay close attention to Texas A&M. Check out an innovative way they used Facebook, YouTube, Foursquare and Twitter together back in 2011 to increase real life engagement through a scavenger hunt (Twitter was fairly new at the time). – http://bit.ly/TAMU_SocialMedia.

I could go on and on, and with Joel’s permission would love to do further ‘guest posts’ that go more in depth about how to use various social media platforms, discuss the capabilities of each, and share best practices for engaging with your audience in those spaces. But, for now, I’d just like to end this post with a sincere thank you to Joel for allowing me to be a part of his blog, and say that I know for a fact, Doane College is lucky to have a leader who fits the description of the type needed to help bring about change and implement a successful social media strategy.

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Enrollment Management

[March Madness] Enrollment Management

Imagine, if you will, the high school senior that creates a tournament bracket similar to college basketball and seeds each of his potential college suitors in accordance with his interest.  Then, one by one he pits each school against one another using financial aid as the sole contributing factor to the decision on which college or university moves on to the next round.  (I saw something similar to this in our student affairs office last year when a college senior created a bracket during March representing his law school choices.)  As an enrollment management professional at a private, independent college and obviously not knowing explicitly who my institution is competing with, a process like this would make me cringe.

In the admission and financial aid office at Doane College, March 13th represents the date when we make our first official financial aid offers to prospective students.  We will mail over 400 financial aid awards representing over half of the total number of awards we will make this recruiting cycle.  And, when you consider that our first “wave” of financial aid awards accounts for roughly 60% of our anticipated class, it makes sense that this is a big deal.

March is maddening, particularly in this day and age in higher education and this would be true without college basketball!  I’ve discussed in previous posts the challenges of merit aid, price, cost, and tuition.  Financial aid is a beast and a blessing in enrollment management.  No two schools develop their financial aid policy and strategy the same.  As a result, all who want to make apples to apples comparisons with financial aid awards are easily frustrated.  A consequence of this process is an increasing demand for financial aid negotiations between potential students (or the parents) and the college.  At times it’s laughable because I often see those who have the greatest ability to pay for college lobbying for the greatest amount of aid.  But, then I ask myself, “Who could blame them?”  Just because people have wealth doesn’t mean they are any more interested in parting with it.  Nevertheless, I often hear more appeals for families with the financial resources than I do for those that do not.

Those in enrollment management understand that financial aid can be very complicated and therefore isn’t always the easiest to explain to families.  Even if you can articulate your institution’s philosophy and process, good luck helping a family understand why their Expected Family Contribution is $20,000 as defined by the FAFSA.  Who hasn’t heard the comment, “I don’t have $20,000 in the bank to pay for Junior’s college each year!”?  I suppose the saving grace is to share that the EFC is calculated the same for everyone and therefore each school is using the same information.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t provide families with much comfort.

So, how does an admission counselor navigate the March Madness bracket with a prospective student in the event they focus largely on the financial aid award?  As a private, independent college, how can we compete with the local community college on price?  If you draw that match-up do you simply throw in the towel?  How about if you draw the local state institution?  Maybe you have a chance if the student isn’t getting any aid from the state school.  But what if you draw another area competitor; similar college if you will?  Slam dunk, right?  Hmmm, not so fast.  In the end, we must to talk about value.  We cannot let it be only about cost even when we know that is a significant issue.

Let me share a brief story.  A father visits Doane College with his son.  During the visit they indicate that they have received an “offer” from another private, independent college in the state totaling more than our offer.  When asked for the details of the offer in order to determine if we could find a way to be more competitive, the father indicated that he doesn’t work that way.  He is a farmer and he likened his son’s college choice to a recent purchase of a tractor. He shared, “When I need a tractor, I go to two businesses and ask for the best price on a tractor.  Whoever gives me the best offer gets my business.”  I asked the father, “Sir, were both tractors John Deere?”  He indicated that both were Case to which I replied, “Sir, in your example, what if you were comparing Case to John Deere?  Would price be your only comparison point?”  I would bet that John Deere and Case reps would work hard to argue the differences in their tractors if given the chance.  That being said, if from the beginning this farmer knew that he wanted a Case, the fact that we are John Deere is irrelevant because it’s very possible that we don’t have what you want.  Comparing Doane College to another school based only on financial aid is shortsighted and assumes that everything else is equal.  A better financial offer from us may make your decision more difficult but it sounds like this farmer and his son had already decided what they wanted.

March Madness in higher education admissions seems to be all about financial aid and less the importance of fit and comfort in a college choice.  As colleges, we create financial aid awarding strategies in order to provide enough financial aid to make enrollment possible for a target amount of prospective students while also anticipating resulting revenue.  Ultimately, our awards will not be the best award for every student.  It doesn’t (and can’t!) work that way.  But, we want to be right for 350 first-year students for sure!

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Higher Education

What if you could start over?

One-course-at-a-time, gap-year, 2-year programs, and on-line programs!  Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all in higher education.  Today, higher education is challenging historical and traditional practices.  Parents want to know outcomes!  They want programs that translate into results.  They want to know what “works”.  Why does a bachelor’s degree take four years?  Why is college typically relegated to two semesters or three trimesters between September and May?  Who makes these rules and are we confident that there isn’t a better way?

Like a little kid, one of my favorite questions is “why”.  The questions above are great examples of questions I ask myself often.  And most recently, I asked if Doane College can graduate a student in less than four years.  The answer led me to try and impact our approach to AP tests and dual-credit coursework.  Although Doane College is a 4-year traditional college, we are taking steps to think differently.  Today, Doane College is rolling out a 3-year graduation program in which certain majors are backed by a 3-year graduation guarantee.

As a quick digression, Doane College has offered a 4-year graduation guarantee for many years.  We were one of the first to offer such a guarantee and the first in the state of Nebraska.  I believe the 4-year guarantee is a component of our culture and while the 4-year guarantee red-tape can be duplicated almost anywhere, I’m not certain that the culture can.  In that same vein, I look at the new 3-year program.  This is not rocket science.  The academic requirements for graduation have not changed.  Instead, we’ve packaged our academic programs with the understanding that a student may choose to accelerate their educational experience.  In the event they want to do that, we provide them the road map.  But make no mistake; this is not for the faint of heart.  Eighteen credits a semester and summer coursework wasn’t in my college plans, but it is for some students today, particularly those that have already taken over 24 college credits while in high school.  And by the way, we have a few Doane students graduating in three years without this program.

Now, before even the first faculty member says, “you can’t do that,” I say yes, we can and yes we are.  Today, high school students are taking more college level dual-credit courses and AP tests than ever before.  And I believe they are doing this because they believe there is a benefit to doing so.  They believe they are getting ahead.  Moreover, high schools are helping to facilitate programs to encourage more college coursework prior to graduation.  But, how many colleges and universities are acknowledging this openly and actually embracing this proactive approach to college?  If a first-year college student enrolls with 36 credits, doesn’t it stand to reason that they consider themselves at the sophomore level relative to credits earned?  And, furthermore, if that’s the case, wouldn’t it be logical to assume that they need only three more years to graduate in college.  If that’s not true, why are we talking about college being four years?  Shouldn’t we talk about it being four-and-a-half or five years?  (Truthfully, there are colleges that do speak to honest fact that it takes more than four years at their school).  Why would high schools encourage their students to do college coursework before high school graduation without some understanding of a benefit?

The four-year model is tried and true and a tough mold to break.  But, I believe colleges and universities should embrace the fact that there are quality students working hard in high school with expectations of getting ahead both academically and financially.  More importantly, colleges must get in the game and respond appropriately with packaged programming that helps a student to leverage pre-college credit toward an accelerated degree plan.  Obviously this assumes that the student wants this.  A student could also want to double or triple major.  They could want to study abroad.  They could want to stop out for a year.  All these options are acceptable and may prolong any accelerated program to four years or beyond.  That’s not the point.  The point is that there are students who want this and their current success in graduating in three years is often predicated on the strong collaboration with a faculty advisor who shepherds the student through any red tape.  I vote for making it easier for a student to see these opportunities.  Notice I didn’t say make it easier to graduate.  In fact, I think it goes without saying that graduating in three years is more rigorous than a four year plan.

A three-year program isn’t a game-changer in higher education.  In fact, changing higher education today is difficult and requires patience.  But, who doesn’t like to dream?  To that end, give some thought to this question.   What would you do if you could start your own college and take advantage of all the lessons learned over time?  Start fresh!  Would you use one-course-at-at-time?  Would you use a hybrid approach to online and classroom work?  Would your program encompass year-round programming?  Would you require an urban plunge or an international experience?  Would you require an internship?  Would you still require the liberal arts?  This all gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.  Part of me fears the pace of educational change is impacted more by the inability to insert new ideas into old structure.  So, what if you could start over?

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Higher Education Marketing

Five realizations of marketing in higher education

(Mike Lefler, Sr. Director of Strategic Communication at Doane College, is a guest blogger this week providing his personal experience with marketing in higher education)

I may be oversimplifying this, but as a marketer, your responsibility is to know your product, know your target audience and create a bridge between the two. But in higher education, that simple notion is compounded by speaking to several different audiences (traditional students, adult learners, parents, teachers, etc.) that are all looking for different things in a school that features many different selling points.

When I came to Doane College to strategically direct marketing and communications, I had backgrounds in athletic media relations and marketing in the non-profit and health care sectors. Fields that I felt had a fairly clear sales pitch and more defined audiences. The complex nature of college recruitment and selling a small college in an extremely competitive environment was an eye-opening experience to say the least. Below are the five things I have realized in the past six months about marketing in higher education:

Recognize that your school is not for everyone – The million-dollar question: What do students want? This is a question we should be asking ourselves each and every day. The trouble is there is no one thing that we can sell that will attract the number of students we’re looking for.  We’ve come to find that some students look for location or campus community, others for college size or academic reputation while many will refer to a parent, guidance counselor or teacher to lend them advice.  This creates a challenge for the college marketer.

Here at Doane, we recognize we are not going to be the exact fit for each person out there. We as marketers can’t change that. We also realize that, if prospects are given the appropriate information in a manner that stands out, we can be a fit for more people than are now enrolled at our school. What we can do is build our identity and tell our story – what we’re the best at, who can succeed here, what people say about their experiences – in as clear a way as possible to make sure that people are hearing it and giving us real consideration for what we have to offer.

Expand your avenues strategically – Gone are the days of purchasing one ad in the local newspaper and everyone in a 20-mile radius seeing it.  You need to consider things like mobile compatibility, search engine optimization, social media, inbound marketing, online advertising and email blasts.  Prospective students gather their information in numerous ways, so you need to be diverse and stand out in your approach.

The trouble is that big oak tree in the middle of campus isn’t a money tree.  You need to be strategic about which avenues you pursue because funds are limited in the world of small-college marketing. You’ve got to find innovative ways to reach your audiences with succinct messages while being as targeted as possible. Build a following through social media, promote your website until you’re blue in the face, utilize email to the fullest extent, capitalize on good PR and publish enough content through blogs and a news feed to get you noticed outside of your campus walls.  Most importantly, tell your strengths right up front and be as colorful as possible so you stand out from that stack of letters from colleges across the country.

It’s OUR brand – When we launched our new brand on Dec. 2, I had people approach me saying, “I love your new brand.”  I immediately correct them and let them know that this is our brand. This is not something that is just going to live through marketing endeavors. If we are to create a recognizable brand, this needs to be something that lives and breathes through each and every student, faculty member, staff person and alum. A brand is only as strong as the people that live it.  When you are a college, that brand needs to become who you are or it’s not perceived as believable by those on the outside looking in. And it’s everyone’s responsibility for marketing, not just the department that has that title outside its door.

Align your goals with other departments –When marketing a college or university, your ultimate goal is not only to have your brand seen by as many targeted people as possible, but also to help other departments accomplish their goals. Let’s take for example our admissions office. Here at Doane, if our admissions office is not hitting its enrollment goals, this will also be a reflection on how effective our marketing is. Yes, this puts our goals partly in the hands of other departments, but it also brings us together with others as one team and gets us all on the same page. We need to step back, take a look at the big picture of what is going to make us successful and align ourselves with others whom we support to gauge our successes or failures.

To academia, marketing is low-hanging fruit for criticism – Anyone who has worked in marketing for any length of time has stories of “Suzy in accounting who thinks that, because she saw a great commercial while watching The Bachelor last night, she is now an expert in advertising.” In academia, where faculty and students are taught to question everything, the notion is magnified. To them, marketing may seem like a gimmick or trivial in nature with no real science behind it. They want to see immediate proof that the billboard up in the middle of town is translating directly into students in our classrooms.

The answer to this is to justify everything. Make them feel like they are part of the process (which they are to some extent). Let them know what you’re doing every step of the way and why. You’ll get your share of resistance, but by trusting in your marketing experience, training and sticking to your strategy, you’ll get where you need to be.

(Thank you Mike for your guest post!  Joel)

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