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Archive for the ‘Higher Education’ Category

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GMAC Releases 2014 Survey of Prospective MBA Students

By | April 17, 2014

Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the group that administers the GMAT Exam and determines eligibility for MBA programs, just released their annual survey of prospective students for 2014, based on data collected in 2013.

Each year, this survey covers the entire prospective student pool from the previous year, including some 12,000 students for 2013. It highlights trends from this population broken down among age, gender, location, intent to study, and more.

Below are some highlights from the study, per the GMAC Research team:

  • Interest in specialized master’s degree types continues to increase. [Tweet this]
  • Interest in MBA has declined slightly, as has combined interest in MBA and other degree types.
  • Men are still significantly expressing more interest in the MBA than women.
  • Women are significantly more interested in specialized degree types.
  • Job opportunity, business knowledge, and salary potential are common attractors of prospective students.
  • The profile of prospective students varies widely based on the geographic region of the student.
  • The top 10 study destinations prospective students identified include (in rank order): the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, India, Hong Kong, Germany, Singapore, Australia, and the Netherlands.

GMAC Director of Survey Research and lead author of the report Gregg Schoenfeld remarks, “Despite the diversity of candidates, demographically, geographically, and in their program orientation, prospects tend to seek quality education to improve their career prospects.”

Get additional information about the survey.

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Using Social Data to Improve Student Recruitment Online

By | April 8, 2014

With a shrinking pool of applicants, colleges are forced to get creative in attracting prospective students –a reality that enrollment managers know all too well. While traditional advertising mediums such as outdoor billboards, radio and direct mail are still helpful for reaching parents and even adult students, reaching high school students requires a heavier investment in digital marketing channels. But with all the options, which channels are best and how do you get students’ attention?

Social data can be extremely useful when brainstorming new student recruitment ideas and strategies. While there is no secret formula to defining a digital marketing strategy that will increase your leads and enrollments, these social data mining tips will help you make smarter decisions when recruiting students online.

Which Channels? Look at Data within Social Advertising

If you’ve never set up an ad on a social network before, then you may not be aware of the wonderful data that resides here. Without spending any money, you can set up an ad on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or LinkedIn. When you select different targeting options for your ad you will see estimates for the size of that audience within that particular social channel. Knowing your approximate audience size on a given channel should really help you make some decisions about where to put your money and efforts, now.

Using social data from Twitter for student recruitment

You can also upload your own database of applicant or prospective student emails to find similar people on those channels. You can do this on both Twitter (Tailored Audiences) and Facebook (Custom and Lookalike Audiences). Now, you don’t get to see the people, but you do learn approximately how many of them exist on a given social network. The advantage here is that you get data that is specific to your known audience on these channels.

Using Facebook custom audiences data for student recruitment

New and emerging social channels don’t typically have advertising data for you to cop, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. Social media often has a first-mover advantage, so being an early adopter of a new network can really make you the center of attention. Don’t be afraid to try something new! Collect your own data by surveying incoming freshmen about their favorite social sites or apps. You can find good evidence there for adding a new network to your digital marketing mix.

Get Their Attention: Use Data to Guide Your Social Content

Countless tools exist to help extract social data, so this process can be easily overwhelming. Here are a few ways to gather social data that will make your content more appealing to prospective students.

  • Analyze Google Analytics demographic data on your website. This data needs to be turned on with some code on your website, but once you have it there is a lot to be learned from the people already visiting your school’s website. Look at the last 6 months of data and really dig into the “interests” of your site’s visitors. The “other interests” category can often tell you a lot about the content your audience wants to see.
  •  Collect data about your followers from existing social accounts.  Many social networks have analytics built in that tell you about who is following you. Twitter, specifically, allows you to see interest categories of your followers, for when demographic data alone isn’t enough.
  •  Enter competing colleges into SimilarWeb. SimilarWeb has free and paid features, and it gives you some pretty cool information with just the free version! If you jump to the Audience Interests section, you will find categories and topics that should help you better define content for your audience.

Using similar web to collect audience data for online student recruitment

Once you’ve collected your data, you can use it to create results-driven digital marketing strategy and content that’s relevant to your target audience. And never forget: Aim and fire to get more leads and enrollments online – don’t spray and pray!

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The Story of Your Students

By | March 31, 2014

One thing I love about working with universities is that what they offer is more than a service. They offer a foundation, a lifestyle, a background, an identity and even a home for many of their students. Students aren’t just deciding where they want to learn – they’re deciding who they want to be. And not just where they want to go, but where they want to come from.

So how, as a marketer, can we help you help students make that decision? We know that content is at the foundation of communicating your school’s identity. You have information about academics, tuition, housing, campus life and more. All of this is critical content but how do you tie it together? How do you tell students your story? More importantly, how do you make students see how you fit into their story?

college student

Here are five things you can do to be sure that you’re not just marketing to students, but rather connecting in a meaningful way:

1. Tell the stories of your current students.  Use real student stories to convey how others fit in. Central Michigan University does an excellent job of sending this message with the Discover Central section of their site.  They highlight profiles of students expressing their passions, future opportunities, and ways CMU supports their goals. Put the students first on a very personal level.

2. Highlight alumni as people, not just former students. It’s easy to find an alumni section on a university site, but does it tell the stories of the alumni? Alumni stories of their lives while in school and now can have send a meaningful yet realistic vision of the future to prospective students. Why not let them explain when they got married? Do they have kids? What do they do in their spare time? These are people, not just alumni, and prospective students are interested in big picture futures, not just their future careers.

3. Guide each student’s first step. How have other students started? Taking action can scare a 17 year-old high school student. Let them know what will happen after they apply, after they are accepted and after they begin. You likely do a good job of this at each stage along the way, but let them know upfront. Make them feel comfortable. Make them feel at home.

4. Don’t forget about extracurricular activities. Many students may be traveling far from home. Nothing will make them feel more at ease than participating in fun activities that they are passionate about. This can be particularly important if you’re attracting a lot of international students. A sense of community is a major factor in keeping students with you for four or more years.

5. Give students the tools they need to transition. Make sure you give students tools to help them navigate this new, and sometimes terrifying, territory. University of Washington offers a “Preparing for College” online tutorial that helps students by offering tips and tools for how to take full advantage of what schools can offer and additional resources for cost benefit analysis of universities. This is great because it’s not self-promotional and is a great way to demonstrate that you have their best interests at heart.

Be sure that when you tell your story, you don’t forget to tell the stories of those who’ve made your school what it is. This approach, genuine and authentic, will naturally gain enthusiasm and respect from future students. And having this foundation will tie all of the pieces together remarkably well.

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How to Choose the Right Higher-Education Consultant

By | March 27, 2014

Choosing the right higher education consulting partner is a tough decision. Not only is your financial investment at stake but so is the face and brand of your university. higher-education-consulting-partnerThe research process can be daunting, but considering the following questions will help you find your perfect agency partner:

  • What is the agency’s average program return on investment? It’s important to ensure you get as much as possible for every marketing dollar you invest. Decide what your target ROI is, and partner with an agency capable of delivering on that goal.
  • How is the agency structured, and does it have a specialized education vertical? Odds are that an agency will be better education consultants if they have a team focused solely on the unique needs, and opportunities, afforded by the industry.
  • How would it handle your specific pain points? You know what makes your department and university tick (rigid brand values, grueling approval processes, frequent communication lapses, etc.). You need to know – up front – that a marketing company is going to meet your needs in a way that makes sense for your organization.
  • Can it provide client reviews? It may seem obvious, but if an agency isn’t able, or willing, to provide references from clients in the education market, you should see a big red flag!
  • Does the agency practice what it preaches? All education marketing companies will explain a multitude of digital marketing strategies and the value of each solution, but not all of them will prove their own advice. A digital marketing agency that loves its industry and understands the effectiveness of its capabilities will be successful in marketing its own brand. If you see an agency not creating meaningful content, maintaining active social profiles or appearing in Google paid and organic search results, it won’t be as passionate or successful in driving results for your university.

Take the first step towards forming your marketing partnership:  reach out to your short-list of prospective agencies. Armed with these considerations you’ll gain valuable insights into the value each potential relationship could drive.

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EDU Digital Trends to Consider for Fiscal Year 2015

By | March 26, 2014

Most Business Officers at colleges and universities are wading through budgeting and compliance discussions for next year’s incoming class. If marketing budgets are top of mind at your higher-ed institution, review the big trends featured in our 2014 EDU Standard for the latest industry updates.

Hummingbirds, Pandas and Penguins

According to Google, there were 15% more searches for higher-education-related queries than in the previous year. While it’s no surprise that more of the college selection process is happening on digital channels, what is surprising is how much the nature of the search experience has changed in the last 12 months.

According to Danny Sullivan, Founding Editor of Search Engine Land, on Google’s latest algorithm update dubbed “Hummingbird” by Google Engineers, “Google struggled to recall when any type of major change like this last happened….Google search Chief Amit Singhal told me that perhaps 2001, when he first joined the company, was the last time the algorithm was so dramatically rewritten.”

The Hummingbird release happens on the heels of three other significant changes, the so-called “Panda,” “Penguin” and “Secure Search” updates – resulting in a series of changes that have flipped many universities’ Web marketing strategies upside down. Nathan Safran , Director of Research at Conductor, offers, “With the recent launch of Hummingbird, now is a good time for search marketers to revisit whether they’re sufficiently in sync with the way Google evaluates search results.”

What does this mean for business officers? Expect budget requests for search engine optimization (SEO) and Web presence management tools and services. Higher-education consulting services and tools can help navigate the change in this increasingly important channel. While it’s too early to assess the impact of these changes on student recruitment, universities who start budgeting for SEO now will be the ones putting together case studies next spring.

Online Advertising Investment Increasing

Karine Joly, contributor at, explains the way many universities think about Online Advertising:

“In the minds of some non-profit marketers in higher education, online advertising has been perceived for a very long time as a piece of the ‘for-profit’ exclusive branding territory—for better or for worse. Fortunately, perceptions about online advertising have finally shifted in many not-for-profit circles…”

Karine’s comments are consistent with last year’s trends amongst Fathom’s higher-education clients, who saw as many as 50% of students expressing interest in a university through online paid search advertisements.

The increase in advertising budgets for online advertising tie directly to the easily quantifiable ROI of the channel, in addition to some exciting, you guessed it, updates from major search engines, including Google and Bing. Google unveiled enhanced campaigns which features an improved search interface and a new approach for placing ads to mobile/tablet users, while Bing gained incremental market share, continuing to slowly eat into Google’s dominant market position.

Aggressive institutions are testing and expanding strategic online advertising efforts. Due to the ease of tracking success, building a business case for investing in this rapidly growing channel has never been easier.

Budgeting and Web Governance Considerations

Search engines play an increasingly important role in the decision making process for prospective students – making it an increasingly important channel for higher education. The dramatic changes driven by search engines should give universities cause to revisit marketing budget allocation in this critical area. Even more importantly than proper budgeting, is ensuring congruency of the process and policies the institution uses to govern the Web strategy, optimization and creation of Web assets.

To get the full scoop on this past quarter’s digital trends, get your copy of the 2014 EDU Standard.

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