William & Mary Athletics’ Social Campaign Draws Record Attendance

The College of William & Mary sought assistance with ticket sales for their basketball season. With a layered targeting approach, Advance 360 used lat/long targeted (also known as geo-fencing) to target students on campus, with messages specific to student ticket pricing. List-matching and social media targeting was used to find alums within a specific radius of campus, and those viewers were encouraged to engage with the purchase of season or single tickets. Additional audiences with an interest in basketball, special events or sports were also targeted and delivered messages around the affordability of tickets, and specific athletic events and dates.

Overall, this campaign achieved record attendance for the University, tripling the men’s basketball audience and quadrupling the women’s audience YOY.

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Recruiting International Students

According to the Institute of International Education, more than one million college students studying in the U.S. are international students, and 47% of those are from China or India. Due to limited funding, more than half of these students elect not to make a campus visit before starting classes. The US has always been the destination of choice for international students, making your digital marketing strategy around an international audience even more necessary.

We’ve outlined some strategies below to help universities marketing to prospective international students:

SEO/SEM

If you were an international student, how would you go about searching for universities in the United States? You would probably search for something like: “programs for international students in the United States” or other similar phrases. Having your university’s web page appear on the first page of that search’s results will enable you to be visible to international students. If you are a very small university it may be hard to compete with larger ones through organic search results, which is where paid search can help. 

Digital Content

Digital content is all about knowing who your audience is and writing for them. Use relevant and useful content to attract prospective international students, like rates specific to international students, as well as information, and answers to frequently asked questions to help make their decision easier. By providing as much relevant information as possible, you will be a step forward ahead of your competition. Remember, your content strategy will elevate your SEO rankings, too.

Mobile

study by UVersity.com showed that international students use their mobile device to visit websites, download university apps, take a virtual campus tour, and view university social media. Having a mobile-friendly website that is engaging and has a fast response rate will allow you to make a good impression on international students. But before you have prospective international students looking at your website university, you need to get noticed. Mobile marketing will allow you to reach the audience you have intended while getting your university’s name out there for prospective international students to notice and research.

Social Media and Other Grassroots Strategies

International students want to communicate with admissions counselors, international services, and students during the admissions process.

  • Use your international alumni to intrigue prospective international students. Create testimonials that you can quote and refer to on your social media accounts. You can also use your international alumni to create a page on LinkedIn. Invite current and former international students to join the page so that perspectives can view it and find someone to connect with that went to college abroad and can give them valuable advice.
  • Use your social media account to promote materials that are important to international students. You can promote materials about the number of international students there are on campus if they are relatively high, or you can promote materials about clubs/organizations that are on campus to help international students feel acclimated on campus.
  • A picture is worth a thousand words. Using Instagram is second nature for current teens which is why utilizing your university’s Instagram and advertising on the platform will help increase your university’s brand presence with international students. Posting pictures of campus and students will give international students a feel for campus life without physically being there. Keep in mind that generic photos of campus are no good, make sure the pictures capture candid moments.

How Do You Engage Students Who Don’t Always Apply During the Traditional Periods?

With factors like value, influencers, available information, and well-timed communications, any university can make an impact at the end of the decision-making journey. For higher education marketers, this means that the last few weeks before deadlines are a critical time that some universities may be missing out on.

Read more about the last-minute student recruitment measures, outlined by our friends at Advance Ohio.

Accelerate Intent for Prospective Students

Imagine the Admissions Department of a four year college that can name their desired admissions yield.

Picture an online MBA course that fills to the desired capacity, semester after semester. Envision an ongoing education department that attracts business leaders and keeps them in the pipeline long enough to engage them in returning to school an finishing their degree. With Intent Acceleration, these become reality for the Education industry.

Intent Acceleration is the process of guiding your audience from initial awareness to decision with speed and accuracy.

It’s the process we deploy, the art of combining relevant media, marketing and financial principles to create the most effective and cost-efficient solutions for your marketing team and stakeholders. We integrate science by conducting extensive audience exploration across multiple media and data sources to know your audience from an emotional and logical perspective.

Intent Acceleration blends compelling content, creative design and 360 degree media exposure with effective frequency to influence decision.

 This effort:

  • Pinpoints a consumers exact location within the decision journey
  • Serves the precise creative message at the appropriate time
  • Delivers the optimal call to action to advance the consumer in their journey
  • Clearly convinces consumers to take action in their decision
  • Functions progressively (iterates to adjust) in an ever forward fashion

Reducing the Cost Per Acquisition in the Education Space

In 2015, private four year institutions spent $2,000 per new student acquisition. Two year public institutions used fewer staff for their recruitment and admissions operations, using a ratio of 225 students to 1 full time equivalent. With the rising costs of tuition increasingly in the public eye, and colleges insisting on more return for less spend, goals tied to admissions are under more pressure than ever. What can be done to shrink the cost of marketing dollars while simultaneously increasing yield of those already in your CRM? One area to take a closer look is the user experience or UX.

Perform a  User Experience (UX) Audit

The best audits are highly detailed, with more than one user studying the performance and usability of a site. Consider using a group of individuals with complementary strengths: one who is a “visual learner,” another data-driven. One male, one female, one a traditional student, one non-traditional. However you choose to mix the users, let diversity do what it does best – informing you about the perspectives of different types of people. Translate their feedback to guide improvements for your UX.

Areas To Examine

How does the user enter the eco-system? Regardless of entry point, a clear path to finding more information or applying online should be visible. This means an established hierarchy of visuals that includes type size, colors, button shapes and sizes, and other graphic visuals.  If the user is on a mobile device, especially a smartphone, are they able to reach those areas upon entry, and within each scrollable area of the page?

Clear and useful should be the goal for every user interaction. Special attention should be paid to areas that attract the highest traffic, and also those that you wish to be your conversion points on the site.

Begin by determining your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). A question to ask yourself: what interactions can I measure? Perhaps the metric is signups for campus visits, a request for more information, or a gated download. The path to conversion for a first time student is 9 months or more, so remember that these measurements should be made as the student progresses through the system, not upon entry. Google Analytics offers custom dashboards and reports, and can track visitor behaviors for you, making gathering data for your decision even easier.

If you have access to heatmaps or other materials that describe page interactions, there’s even more insights at your disposal! What images are most compelling to your visitors, where does the cursor absentmindedly hover? There are so many ways to measure engagement and each can tell you something more about your audience.

In the education space, the goal is and will always be finding the right-fit student, and enticing them to apply and ultimately enroll. How you interact with them and on what device they can access your information will dramatically impact the conversions on your website and the ultimate yield your institution experiences.

With the rising costs of tuition increasingly in the public eye, and colleges insisting on more return for less spend, marketers with goals tied to admissions are under more pressure than ever. 

Profiling Gen Z In the Education Space

The big buzzword is Millennial, these days. But let’s not avoid the up and coming Generation Z! These are the students our educators are looking to recruit, and know nothing of “life before internet.”

The Basics
Born between 1998 and today, 69 million strong — they fill nearly a quarter of the U.S. Population.(1)

Fully Digital
The first generation with no knowledge of LBI — life before the internet, they average 3+ hours per day staring in to a screen.(2)

Practical
79% want internships and professional experience in college; 85% want skills such as financial planning.(3)

Frustrated by Obstacles
82% say finding the best college for them is an obstacle; 63% cite the application process.(4)

Entrepreneurial
63% say entrepreneurship should be part of the college curriculum; 72% say students should be allowed to design their own majors.(5)

Sources: 1. “What if I told you…’Gen Z’ will be larger and more influential than Millennials” http://www.goldmansachs.com/our-thinking/pages/macroeconomic-insights-folder/what-if-i-told-you/report.pdf 2. “Everything You Need to Know About Generation Z,”http://www.businessinsider.com/afp-generationz-born-in-the-digital-age-2015-2 3. Northeastern University Portrait of Generation Z survey, 2014.http://www.northeastern.edu/innovationsurvey/pdfs/Innovation_Summit_GenZ_Topline_Report.pdf 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid.

Developing Healthcare Strategies

Every day, hospital and healthcare clients are running dozens of parallel tracks with their marketing strategies, each with its own purpose, but feeding the overall goals of the institution. At Advance 360, we understand that these plans need to be integrated and in sync to deliver results for our clients.

As such, we segment our strategy and campaign to mirror these parallel tracks within the organization — each with their own key performance indicators that dictate performance success;  from positioning the institution’s expertise to customizing the message, targeting different geographies and audiences.

Learn how we’ve crafted successful campaigns for our healthcare partners.

PRACTICUM: AN ILLUSTRATION ON HOW STRATEGIES ARE BUILT

Client: Community Hospital 

Statement of Need, Provided by Client: The hospital, employing 1100 staffers, was suffering from years of disjointed marketing, high turnover among the c-suite staff and vanishing public trust; all of which was punctuated by the lowest employee engagement scores that the institution had experienced, creating poor morale. Not surprising, market share was slipping and profits dropping.

Research and Analysis: We performed a scientific sentiment analysis to understand public perception and trust for the brand and also identify their top competitors for consumer mindshare. We also implemented web, social media and SEO audits, along with an intensive review of creative. Analysis was performed
on employee communications including email open rates, engagement numbers were researched extensively and we analyzed trends over the past five years. Workflow in the Human Resources Department and Marketing Department were reviewed and the onboarding of new physicians was studied. We built a market share analyzation tool to show dips in performance and emerging trends in real time. Six branding workshops with all levels of hospital staff were performed, and sentiment collected. Analysis of influence-able areas (noted from market share tool) was scrubbed against population data to identify priority service areas. Material researched by third party firms over the last 12 years was studied and cataloged.

Findings: The hospital had hundreds upon hundreds of incredibly talented front line staff that were all present for the right reasons. But, long-term unrest around an unstable leadership team had taken its toll on morale and the vast majority were disenfranchised. Service lines that were found to be a priority by the board were confirmed by Advance 360 as those that would create the lift required: neurology, oncology, orthopedics, general surgery. Physician on boarding contained numerous disconnects between new and old staff. An understanding of the “why” of the people inside the hospital and the hospital itself was established. Sagging recruitment had to be revitalized. The website experience contained unfriendly user experience, and the SEO tactics employed fell short of best practices. Paid search was nonexistent. In short, every piece of the hospital’s work was in need of refreshing. Our work needed to be precise and swift, and generate a lift of 7% revenue growth overall (a number determined by the board of directors.)

Action Plan:

  • Advance 360 developed a strategy and campaign for three key segments: internal (staff), external (public) and recruitment (public / conquest) including:

Internal

  • New templates for employee communications and emails.
  • Agenda flow, and production of the annual all staff meeting.
  • Internal staff interviewed and featured in social media, the staff section of the website, and publicly in front of peers.
  • The “speak up” program was revitalized.
  • Infographics and other creative elements were generated to tell the story of the hospital’s community engagements.
  • Employees were pixeled using communications and contesting, and remessaged all of the above information with a purposeful frequency.

Recruitment

  • Website was built to accommodate new traffic.
  • Landing pages established by posted job.
  • Job postings retooled and new placements made.
  • Other community hospitals of similar size were targeted with display campaigns as “feeder locations” for staff.
  • Creative established, using diverse imagery and positions, and placed appropriately to the audiences. In nearly all cases, “high tech” images as well as “emotion/staff subject matter” were A/B tested to maximize impact.
  • Materials were developed for the on boarding process to create the necessary lift.

External

Each service line was assessed and materials developed to achieve the desired lift, for a blended revenue gain of 7%. These included, but were not limited to, infographics, video, whitepapers, sponsored content, articles, blog entries, social media vignettes and photo galleries. Doctors were featured. Overlap with the staff videos from internal campaign were reused in a public sense, based on the service line for which the staff person was employed. Display campaigns were developed with emotion, credibility and logic touch points in mind, and A/B testing was deployed in nearly every instance. Nothing short of a “collection of goods” describing the assets of the hospital, the talents of the staff, procedures that could be provided, and each and every piece pixeled, placed and analyzed.

Researching a College: The Search Process

Education reporter Betsy Hammond of the Oregonian Media Group has seen colleges in her region get better at marketing qualities that make them special. For example, Whitman College, a small, liberal arts school in Walla Walla, Washington, stresses the breadth of its programs, close working relationships with professors, and a year-long “Encounters” program offering freshman a deep dive into the ongoing value of a liberal arts education. Western Oregon University, which stresses accessibility, recently announced affordability grants to help students meet rising costs.

Yet as the parent of a 16-year-old son, Hammond is learning how challenging the search process can be. Rankings often “read as though they were written by someone sitting in an office crunching numbers,” she says. “People feel overwhelmed.”

Are you overwhelmed developing an effective plan to marketing your University?

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