Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ideas from a Graduate Admissions Marketing Conference

I recently attended the Stamats Graduate Admissions Marketing Conference as one of their Corporate Sponsors. This was an enlightening conference that was filled with tips, techniques and ideas for targeting, reaching and communicating with graduate program prospects. Some of the most important ideas that I heard revolved around Web Analytics and the need for better, consistent tracking of your website, e-mails and social media.

HiPPO's - What are they and how do you deal with them?

One of the first items that struck me was the term HiPPO. NO, not a African animal, but a HiPPO is defined as the Highest Paid Person's Opinion. What this means is that when putting marketing plans together, the HiPPO will wield their power, not from knowledge but from their position of power. Whether it be the President, a Board member, a Dean, all of these people will influence your marketing decisions based on their perceptions, not based on fact. The most effective way to deflect a HiPPO is to develop quality analytics. Facts ALWAYS will take the power away from any detractor or power pusher since your facts trump anyone's opinion.

Hits - No, not the Soprano's or Elton John

This was an interesting topic. We always hear about how many "hits" your website has. Yet, most of us don't realize just what a "hit" is. Basically, if you have a home page with 14 graphics and text in it, when a visitor arrives, each picture will download. Suddenly you have 14 hits, yet, only one visitor. If 5 people visit you will then have 70 "hits". Not exactly what you wanted to know. You think your doing great, but, only had, in reality 5 visitors.

When tracking website performance look at VISITORS, not hits. How many visitors did you have, how long did they stay on your website? What pages did they navigate to or did they abandon the site immediately. These are the telling statistics that you need to understand in order to build a case against your resident HiPPO's.

Lifetime Value of a Student

This was an interesting topic. I have used Lifetime Value of a Customer for many years with my retail and non-profit clients. Whenever I attempted to apply this idea to higher education I arrived at the conclusion that the lifetime value was while they are in school. Once they graduate, there is no value to a student. Boy, was I wrong! In reality while your student is attending your school, they have a great deal of value. But on graduation, that value changes from active student to Alumni. They join as an alumni, contribute to annual campaigns (I do this myself to the University of Minnesota), they create bequests and corporate giving programs. All events that can be quantified, evaluated and used to determine the true lifetime value of a student.

Google Analytics

There is nothing more powerful than being able to see results as they happen on the web. You send out an e-mail campaign, you will see a jump in web results. Send out Direct Mail, see a spike in visitors. You will see where people are coming from, or where they are going. You can determine if people are spending time on your website, only to abandon it when something isn't there or doesn't work. We have a local Community College with many broken links. My wife has been looking into this school, yet, whenever she tries to find more information she tends to find a broken link. Analytics can help you identify these problems but they require you to actively look at what is going on with your site.

Remember, knowledge is power. The more facts you can bring to the table, the more effective you will be in deflecting your HiPPO's and that Dean who feels his course with 5 students should be on the home page. Google Analytics has become easier to use, and much more effective in what it tracks. Take a few minutes to learn how to make it work. I know I will be doing that for MY firm.

I have other thoughts and they will follow shortly. These are some of the key ideas that I observed over the 2 day conference. If you have any questions or need any information about how Market Mapping plus can help you effectively reach YOUR target audience, just let me know.

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