Education Market Research Tips for Programs in Higher Ed and K-12

What is Program Market Research?

The goal of program market research is to understand the competition, demand, and trends for specific programs or courses within a university or K-12 environment. Program market research can also provide insight into how a program or course should be designed based on current and future demand, in addition to how it should be positioned from a creative standpoint within the larger education market. This type of analysis can provide much more confidence to an organization that a program will be successful once launched.

Why is Higher Education Market Research and Program Feasibility Important?

The world of education has only gotten more competitive over the last ten years. With the rise of for-profit education, in addition to the adoption of online learning and MOOC’s, education has become both more accessible and more competitive. Prior to launching a new degree program or course, schools must complete a stringent market research analysis in order to ensure success.

Why is K-12 Market Research Important?

Completing market research for K-12 environments is important as it can shine light onto not only what is in demand from a course perspective, but also how it should be delivered. Classrooms continue to advance in regards to what medium subjects are delivered to students in, and keeping up with trends around how information is consumed by adolescents can be demanding. Market research for K-12 can ensure that the right programs and courses are created, which will in turn deliver education in a mode that is successful.

What is the Market Research Process?

The market research process can generally be broken down into three core sections, with each focusing on the three core principles of competition, demand, and trends.

1. Primary Research

Through a combination of qualitative strategies (focus groups and stakeholder interviews) and quantitative research, information is gathered around education drivers as well as large data sets upon which to formulate and execute plans. We follow a research trajectory that begins with qualitative findings that, in turn, inform cogent, useful surveys. We partner with an Ivy League university’s Survey Research Center to manage data-gathering efforts from hundreds or thousands of stakeholders to provide quick, efficient, and illuminating data with which to make decisions about online programs. Primary research tools include:

  • Surveys
  • Focus Groups
  • On ground program data

2. Competitive Analysis

Understanding the competition is an extremely important step in determining program viability. While understanding program demand is important, many times the barriers to entry and the cost to compete are too high to warrant an investment. Benchmarks are generally used to determine how a program or course stacks up compared to others, and can be a good way to determine ROI. Competitive research tools include:

  • Google trends data
  • Google keyword planner data
  • Keyword Spy (analyze competitors paid advertising strategies

3. Secondary Research

Looking to outside resources for insights into program demand can help ensure success. Compiling and analyzing data from existing resources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Department of Labor, local/state/regional agencies, IPEDS, job search web sites, and accrediting bodies can determine benchmarks and requirements, as well as short and long term labor market demands.

What Are the Best Market Research Tools?

There are a wide array of free and low-cost tools that are available to individuals looking to complete market research around a program. The following are just a handful of what is available:

  1. https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/ – Insight into consumers via surveys, trends over time in search queries, and benchmarks for display related efforts.
  2. https://adwords.google.com/home/tools/keyword-planner/ – Understand the cost-per-click and search volume around core keywords that your potential audience might be searching.
  3. http://fedstats.sites.usa.gov/ – Centralized location for federal government data including insights into career and education data.
  4. https://www.surveymonkey.com/ – Complete surveys of core stakeholders and faculty.
  5. http://www.pewresearch.org/download-datasets/ – Large data sets to help provide insight into potential program target markets.

How Can Market Research Inform What to Introduce?

The insights acquired from program market research can shine light onto what programs to introduce based on demand and current competition. Insights from BLS data and other job related data can help to determine what types of degree programs are going to be, or are currently, in demand based on career data. Google trends and keyword data can inform how saturated a market is and can also illustrate how much it will cost from a marketing perspective to enroll a student.

How Can Market Research Be Used to Define Marketing Strategy?

The competitive analysis that is performed during program market research will also focus on the brands of the competition. With education continuing to get more competitive, having a brand that is unique in the market can help to attract students and lead to more organic PR. Insights from this analysis and internal stakeholder interviews will provide insight into what the creative messaging should be for the programs in addition to  what markets to enter and which demographics to target.

By completing a thorough program market research initiative, universities and schools will enter the program creation process more informed about what should be introduced and how it should be positioned within the market. This type of information will help to ensure program success and will also provide upfront insight into costs and metrics, which can prove to be instrumental during the planning and budgeting phase of a new launch.

 

Robert LeeRobert offers a decade of demonstrated digital marketing expertise, and he has provided results to clients both within and outside of higher education while working as an analyst, team lead, and director. He has planned and implemented digital marketing campaigns for a number of large universities throughout the United States, and he leads Circa on all aspects of client strategy. Before founding Circa Interactive, Robert led digital marketing teams at the higher education organization Embanet.

Higher Education Marketing: Why Chatbots are the Future of Communication

Higher Education Marketing experts are projecting chatbots to be the future of communication between schools and potential students. For many universities, improving communication with students has been a key focus. As any applicant knows, the process of researching university programs can be a complicated one. Whether it’s speaking with various individuals and departments, browsing through program pages or finding out the right information for financial aid, the amount of research required to find the right university can be daunting. But what if, instead of having to spend hours researching, all of the information could be presented to you via instant messages?

With emerging chatbot technology, universities delivering information to potential students could be the future of how universities communicate and market to future students. To help explain this developing trend, below I’ll highlight what chatbots are, why they are projected to be the premier form of communication and how chatbots could provide more effective communication between universities and potential students.

What Are Chatbots?

If you’re active on Facebook, you probably have interacted with early forms of chatbots. For those that haven’t, here is a quick overview.

Chatbots are computer programs designed to provide a service to individuals that interact with it via instant messaging. Typically found in social platforms like Facebook or Slack, chatbots have been used to help with a variety of tasks, ranging from ordering pizza, getting a weather report and even offering therapy.

Communicating with chatbots is no different than messaging with humans. In fact, some have found that services provided by chatbots are often more effective and efficient. Because of this, chatbots are projected to have a major impact on the ways that humans communicate with businesses, universities and other service providers.

Why Chatbots?

Chatbots are a fairly simple concept and forms of communicating with robots have been around as long as 2001 with Smarterchild for MSN and AIM. So why is there sudden hype surrounding chatbots?

There are a number of reasons for this, yet the major factor is that messaging apps now have more active users than social media platforms, with messaging apps attracting just over 3,500 million users while social media barely passes over the 3,000 million users mark. What is most interesting about this increase is that users are not just using messaging apps to communicate with friends, they are also looking to connect with brands, share media and even shop.

Almost all higher education universities have social media accounts, yet few have utilized chatbots to connect with students. This means that chatbots provide higher education marketers with a major opportunity to get ahead of the competition.

How Chatbots Can Provide More Effective Communication Between Universities & Students

A recent Gallup study found that messaging is the preferred method of communication for the younger generations, with 68% of Millennials saying that digital messaging had been their primary source of communication. This shift towards texting has resulted in a major decrease in phone calls amongst the younger generation. In fact, many millennials consider phone calls invasive and uncomfortable, especially when they are speaking with someone unfamiliar.

For many higher education marketing departments, phone calls or emails are the primary source of contact with potential students. By using now antiquated forms of communication, universities are missing out on building quality relationships with potential students and developing insights on what younger generations are looking for in a school.

For instance, consider the ease of messaging back and forth with a chatbot whenever and wherever you choose compared with being stuck on the phone with someone you don’t know, asking you semi-personal questions regarding a major life decision. Wouldn’t you be more comfortable sharing accurate and insightful information when you had time to think and weren’t feeling pressured to answer right away?

Another benefit of chatbots that higher education marketers should consider is the relief of financial and organizational pressure. For example, Georgia State University implemented a chatbot strategy to improve communication with students. Having never tried chatbots before, the university was unsure of how quickly students would adapt to the new technology. Yet after only 4 months, 63% of students had used the chatbot platform on a regular basis, resulting in approximately 200,000 messages. Without chatbots, responding to questions would have required a full-time staff of an estimated 10 members. That’s an annual savings of at least $200,000.

With improved communication and the ability to offer schools major financial savings, chatbots may soon be the future of how universities communicate with students. Keep in mind that, as with most advancements, the most benefit will come from leveraging chatbots before they are standard communication protocol. For higher education marketers looking to improve communication and increase enrollment, testing and utilizing chatbots should be under strong consideration, with potential plans in place for upcoming recruitment drives.

Tyler Putz of Circa Interactive Tyler is a retired division two college basketball player and a recent graduate from the University of Iowa. His creativity, as well as passion for entrepreneurship and the expansion of technology and communication, helps Circa to continue to stay on the cusp of new technologies and trends influencing future generations of students.

3 Creative Ways to Attract Prospective Students to Your College

Higher Education Marketing Challenges

Today in the United States there are approximately 5,300 colleges and universities. With such a large number of schools, todays higher education market has become as competitive and  challenging to navigate as ever.  Traditional marketing techniques are no longer sufficient to attract new students. It is now crucial for colleges and universities to understand and market the importance of innovation, social responsibility, and new technologies to attract the current college-bound generation.

Who is a prospective student?

To effectively attract new students, it’s important to first identify prospective students. There are two types of prospective students– those who are aware of your school and those who are not. Initially the goal is for both types to choose your college/university. And even if the goal is the same, the approach should be slightly different.

What are prospective students looking for?

1. Students aware of your institution most likely have a list of schools and programs they are interested in. The first place they will seek more information is the school’s website. To remain effective, Higher Education website should be:

  • Mobile friendly – most of the times the first interactions with the website happens from mobile devices. Having an easy to navigate mobile friendly website is a key not only for a user, but also for search engines.
  • Easy to navigate – colleges and universities websites usually are quite large and complex. By making sure the website has a clear navigation system with the most important pages no further than 3 clicks away from the home page a search box, and a request form on the homepage provides an easier flow through the website and a better user experience.
  • Informative – when creating content, schools should not forget who they are trying to reach. The content should focus on the reader and provide insightful information, tips, and best practice guides, news and other. In other words, always consider what a student wants to know rather than what an institution wants to inform a student.

2. The next group of students to consider are those who haven’t decided on their top 10 schools and still are looking around. To increase brand and program awareness there are a few things colleges and universities should do.

  • It’s not a secret that Pay-per-click (PPC) is a great channel to use in order to introduce new prospective students with schools and their programs. It works exactly the same way when new brands and businesses want to be found by customers. Google Adwords, Bing, Linkedin, Facebook and Instagram are main channels to go for. By creating a strategic lead generating PPC campaign, universities can increase the number of students signing up for programs or seeking more information.The only drawback of using these channels is the cost.
  • Higher education institutions should also make sure their websites are optimized for on-page SEO.

New ways to attract prospective students

There are many ways to reach future students. Traditional methods such as high schools visits, educational fairs and print material are still very useful way to market colleges and universities.  However, these methods might not be enough to make a university stand out among competitors. To reach prospective students where it will make an impact requires a tailored approach to the incoming students media habits.

  • Snapchat –  not merely a popular social app, Millennials are now using Snapchat as a form of news or following beloved brands. According to Lendedu, an online student loan marketplace, 58% of college students are checking Snapchat first, Instagram second and Facebook last. Snapchat reached a high interest and popularity not only among  users, but also brands and colleges. For example, in July 2017, The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay sent the acceptance announcement to the student via Snapchat with animated video confetti.

Schools can create their own geofilter that allows students to use it when they are on the campus or at specific events. These type of filters appear on the user’s display allowing them to get a closer look at the real life of that school. It promotes brand awareness, as well as serves as a great advertising for school. Snapchat opens a door to promote the schools the best way possible. It can show the unique personality of the school and create a connection with current students, as well as help them keep in touch with alumni.

  • Live Videos –  Blogs and other written content are still relevant and very important for digital marketing. Schools should use as many ways to interact and connect with millennials. Live videos are a great way to do so. It allows viewers immediately engage with current events. A lot of higher education institutions already publish various content to Youtube, but live streaming that functions similar as Snapchat could support the interaction with potential students and alumni right here and right now by showing schools’ events, lectures and other creative content.
  • Influencers – From the recent study millennials rely on word of mouth more than other adults when researching consumer goods. This study could identify millennials trusting only honest and true opinions by the people they respect and look up to.Today there are so many influencers in various areas starting from entrepreneurs to style blogs. Higher education institutions should keep relationships with alumni and try to follow their journey after the graduation. By keeping close relationships with influencers is a way to attract their followers to the school. Schools should organize panel style meetings with influencers where they could share their experiences with audience and answer their questions. This type of relationship would promote different school programs and brand awareness.

Millennials tend to choose brands that have a clear voice, character and are creative. With today’s technologies, social media platforms and apps there are endless ways colleges and universities could promote their school and program, as well as show their personality to prospective students.

 

Martyna's headshotMartyna is a graduate from Vilnius University in Vilnius, Lithuania. With 2 years experience in digital marketing industry, Martyna adds in-depth understanding of on-page and local SEO to the Circa team. Her passion and continual education in SEO initiatives help contribute to Circa’s expanding higher education digital marketing presence.

15+ Essential Apps and Websites for College Students

Educational Websites for College Students

Google Drive

Google drive is a great place to store all your documents, spreadsheets and presentations. The ease of access means that a file can be saved at home and easily accessed from a college computer or even a mobile phone. Because this is a cloud based system you do not have to worry about losing documents or files either!

Slack

Slack is a communication tool that can be greatly beneficial to students as well as businesses. Communicating and collaborating with those people in your study group can become a lot simpler with Slack.

Grammarly

Grammarly is an english writing tool that can improve your grammar and writing quality when crafting essays and reports. There is both a grammar and plagiarism check within the site which will ensure your work adheres to over 250 grammar rules. Simply add it as an extension to your browser and you’ll be able to easily check the quality and accuracy of your work.

Dictionary.com

Not only can this site provide you with a quick check for misspellings and allow you to expand your vocabulary, but the addition of the mobile site means you can quickly look up those complicated words your articulate professor is saying.

Dragon Dictation

Typing essay after essay can become tiring and is often very time consuming. Dragon Dictation recognizes and transcribes your words with great accuracy and speed. This is also an app that can be used on the go to save you even more time.

Research Websites for College Students

Rate My Professor

When planning your college classes for the upcoming semester, check out the Rate My Professor website.  The site provides student reviews on professors, based on criteria including class difficulty, textbook usage and grades received. This could help you get a feel for which professors will suit your learning style and how to structure your classes.

Pocket

With Pocket, students can save articles and come back to them later. Simply save the article and come back to it later when looking to pinpoint the finer details of a piece. Save articles directly from your browser or from apps like Twitter and Flipboard.

Flipboard

Flipboard is a way to create your very own personalized magazine. You simply select seven of your interests (or class topics) and the app will provide you with news content that is related to the pre selected criteria. This is a great way to surround yourself with real world information that can be used in your college work.

TED Talks

These speeches are extremely motivational and also provide valuable information. This can be a great resource when looking to come up with an original project idea.

Bibme

This app will allow you to quickly generate bibliographies and citations. The easy to use site has an auto-fill concept that quickly recognizes the source you have used or are searching for.

Genius Scan

A scanner in your pocket! This phone app allows you to easily digitize documents on your phone. You can also download extensions that enable you to sign and  fax documents or research projects.

Study Websites for College Students

Self Control

We all know that Facebook and Twitter can prove to be extremely distracting when trying to study. The Self Control app lets you block your own access to distracting websites that might get you off track. You can select the amount of time that the sites are blocked for, and even if you restart your computer or delete the app, you will not be able toaccess the blocked sites.

Audible

Audible allows you to listen to your assigned class reading when you are on the go. Not only can this save you time, but it can also come as a welcome relief from staring at a textbook for hours on end. It can also be particularly beneficial for students who commute to school. There is a monthly fee attached, but you can get a 30 day free trial and test out this handy application.

Quizlet

Quizlet is home to over 153,303,000 study sets and counting. These ready to use flashcards and study guides created by teachers and other students can be a great resource when looking to understand the key points from a particular class. You can also create your own flashcards, meaning you can access your study notes anywhere anytime.

Hemingway App  

Another proofreading tool here, but a great one nonetheless. The Hemingway editor highlights the errors that occur within your writing and will pick up on:

  • Complex words or phrases
  • Extra-long sentences
  • Long sentences
  • Too many adverbs
  • Too many instances of passive voice

Additionally, Each error is specifically color coded so they can be addressed individually.

Valore Books

Using Valore Books, students can make some money back on those expensive text books purchased for various college classes. The easy to use site allows for student to student sales meaning that purchasing books here can also save you some cash.

Scholarship Websites for College Students

Fastweb

Fastweb is one of the leading online resources when it comes to finding a school scholarship that works for you. There is access to over 1.5 million scholarships on the site.

Math Websites for College Students

RealCalc

This app is a downloadable scientific calculator that could save you some money while enabling you to solve complicated equations in class and at home.

Math TV

Math TV is home to a great number of math resources and videos that help with breaking down complicated equations. The site also offers insight into what a college student can expect from their math class.

Fun Websites for College Students

Roomsurf

The thought of looking for a new roommate can be a daunting and unappealing one. Roomsurf allows you to search for a new roommate using various criteria, thus enabling you to find a roomie with similar interests to yours!

Reddit

Reddit is certainly a fun and interesting way to get your news and offers considerably more than your traditional news sources. This is also a platform to use during study breaks to gather some interesting stories that you will most probably be sharing with your friends later that day.

Twitter

There is more to Twitter than meets the eye. Not only is it a place to connect with friends and stalk your favorite celebs during study breaks, but students can also utilize the site to keep up to date the date with the day’s breaking news.

Alarmy

If you have trouble getting up in the morning for class then make it a priority to download this app. Once you do, you will be forced to get up a take a photo of an item related to the picture that Alarmy shows on your screen. Good luck!

Job Websites for College Students

Career Rookie

Looking for your first job out of college? Want to find some work while you are still in school? Well, Career Rookie specializes in this and is a great place to start looking for your first dream job.

LinkedIn

Another place to start when looking for that first job post college is of course LinkedIn. Use this social platform to connect with influencers and highlight your expertise/experience. Many employers will check out your LinkedIn page during their interview and hiring process.

Psychology Websites for College Students

Psychology Today

An absolute must for an Psychology Student! This said, Psychology Today is more than just your average psychology based news site. Thousands of academics from across the world use this platform to blog about their interests and expertise. This can range from psychology (obviously) to business. You may even find that a couple of your professors are writing for Psychology Today.

If you have any more suggestions on websites for college students then be sure to leave them in the comments!

George has recentGeorgely joined the Circa team in California following the completion of his master’s in marketing management and strategy degree, where he graduated with distinction from Plymouth University in England. George is a PR and digital marketing specialist who is passionate about creating high level opportunities for professors within national publications. 

Using Online Calendars to Boost Recruitment

Higher education marketers often balance a number of responsibilities and objectives as they aim to continually attract more students to apply and attend their university. Despite the new technologies that can enhance their work, some marketers continue to spend precious time and resources on old school recruiting efforts, leaving them little time to experiment with new tactics. One of the easiest ways to boost your recruitment efforts is through online calendars. We don’t mean your traditional Outlook calendar that shows you a monthly view and makes you click on each day to see what events are taking place. We’re talking interactive event calendars, with a standalone page dedicated to each event, that incorporate lively event content, social sharing capabilities and deep analytics with little effort.

Your online event calendar

Event calendars are a great way to share a representative sample of the activity happening on campus. For current students wanting to know what’s happening on campus, they can simply check the online events calendar for times, dates and details. A well created event calendar will also allow them to leave comments, upload images of an event and interact on social media with fellow students, lending to the collaborative community feel that’s essential to campus life.

Prospective students will find a wealth of information at their fingertips when accessing a school’s online event calendar – they’ll be able to get a sense of on-campus activities, such as academic lectures, social and athletic life, volunteer opportunities and everything in between. Prospective students can see the events that have taken place throughout the year and pinpoint particular events that may pique their interest during their time at university. This holistic view showcases what is unique about the campus.

Why are calendars so useful for higher ed marketers?

These calendars highlight the events on campus and allow for both current and prospective students to look online and find information on upcoming events.

An efficient online calendar is filled with rich content, which can play a major role in SEO efforts. For instance, a 30-day grid view — which lists simple event information such as name, date and place — is meant to remind you when and where the event is taking place, not to sell you on the actual event itself.  An interactive calendar allows a school to showcase their brand and their investment in students by offering both overall event snapshots and individual event landing pages. This allows for more event content that visitors can click on for more information, providing the opportunity for a larger number of keywords and page views. Better visibility creates more, engaged visitors,  and thus increases the time visitors spend on your school’s website. The amount of time a visitor spends on a site plays a factor in how search engines use their ranking algorithms – so the longer students are engaging with your events and event content, the better it will be for your SEO.

When there is a considerable amount of social engagement around your events, search engines infer that your website offers valuable information because it’s popular and engaging with users online. Utilizing online calendar software that can provide immediate metric reports, specifically on the social media activity around a particular event, and having access to the real-time knowledge of this data will allow you to optimize your event marketing efforts, ultimately benefiting your SEO.

The access to data is also a benefit to marketers, since online calendar technology allows them to collect back-end analytics on their master calendar, including attendee geography, trends and social media activity. From decision-making (looking at trends to understand which types of events, times and locations work best for your school) to audience insights, collecting data on how your audience views and acts on an event listing can help you make smarter event decisions. Many calendars will integrate with your current marketing tools – like CRM and registration platforms — allowing you to get a better snapshot of your overall marketing ROI.

What about an online event calendar makes an impact on your school?

Event content – it’s the information that accompanies an event listing. This includes everything from the date and time to the event image, metadata and RSVPs. In the case of colleges and universities marketing themselves to prospective students, event content can showcase things like faculty, campus scenery and landmarks, famous alumni and student research.

Online event calendars promote university events to a wider student audience, attract additional traffic to the site and ultimately expand the reach of your recruitment marketing to anyone with online access – and that’s a win for both students and higher education marketers.

Myke-for-HEMJ

 

 

Mykel Nahorniak is the co-founder and CEO of Localist, an event technology company. In this role, Myke defines the vision and growth of the business and Localist products. Myke serves as a mentor at 1776, a DC-based incubator, is an angel investor with K Street Capital, and is an executive coach.

7 Higher Education Marketing Conferences in 2017

With the online marketing landscape evolving quicker than most can keep up, successful digital marketing professionals work to stay on the cutting edge of technology and trends. Even in the past year, we’ve seen significant updates and changes to marketing and social platforms across the web such as new features on Instagram and Snapchat, as well as marketing platform updates on Facebook and Adwords.

The Higher Ed Marketing Journal has shed light on a handful of these changes and trends during 2017 through valuable insights, including:

Additional trends to watch out for in 2017 include the boom of online video in social platforms, continued growth of smartphone users in emerging markets, and the evolving power of Facebook advertising.

To better understand where marketing is heading in the field of higher education and to realize opportunities for synergy through networking, a number of higher education marketing conferences are in place for 2017.


The 2017 Carnegie Conference

This student recruitment focused conference comes to Orlando in early 2017 and is designed for marketing professionals and staff at all levels of an education institution. Aside from valuable insight from industry experts and carefully crafted presentations, the 2017 Carnegie Conference is taking place at Walt Disney World and includes exclusive access to backstage events.

When
: Feb 1-2, 2017

Where: Orlando, Florida

Website: http://www.carnegiecomm.com/resources/the-carnegie-conference/


Converge 2017

Converge 2017 is an annual higher education recruitment and inbound marketing conference that hosts a number of interactive workshops and handpicked presenters from institutions such as Harvard, UNC Chapel Hill, and Temple. The venue of this conference is the sunny Omni Ranch Las Palmas Resort & Spa located in sunny Rancho Mirage.

When: Feb 21-24, 2017

Where: Rancho Mirage, California

Website: http://convergeconsulting.org/converge2017/


2017 CASE Social Media Conference 

To stay up to date on the latest trends in social media, higher education professionals are attending this valuable conference in Spring 2017. This conference is appropriately named Social Media and Community and offers insight into strategic storytelling and social engagement in the realm of higher education. Hosted at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel, this conference is designed for enrollment professionals, alumni engagement professionals, administration, and more. 

When: March 13-15

Where: Los Angeles, CA

Website: http://www.case.org/Conferences_and_Training/SMC17.html


HACU 12th International Conference

This annual conference by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities focuses on innovation, trends, and research in international education. As universities continue to open their doors to international students, understanding model programs and funding prospects for the internationalization of higher education institutions is priceless. This conference is hosted at the Real InterContinental San José Costa Rica Hotel.

When: March 29-31, 2017

Where: San José, Costa Rica

Website: http://www.hacu.net/hacu/Call_for_Presentations_%28IC%292.asp


SMX London

Digital marketers continue to hone their skills in search marketing and search engine optimization and the SMX London conference in 2017 is a power tool for further their education. Created by Search Engine Land, this international conference is sure to impress with a variety of workshops, expos and cutting edge presentations. SMX London is located at 155 Bishopsgate on Liverpool Street in London.

When: May 23-24, 2017

Where: London, England

Website: http://marketinglandevents.com/smx/london/


2017 eduWeb Digital Summit  

In Summer 2017 comes the annual eduWeb Digital Summit which offers tracks for any type of higher education professional. These tracks range from email marketing to data analytics, to mobile design and strategy. A variety of valuable workshops and networking events are offered to attendees to this innovative conference located at the Westin Copley Plaza in Boston, Massachusetts.

When: August 7-9, 2017

Where: Boston, Massachusetts

Websitehttp://www.eduwebdigitalsummit.com/


HighEdWeb 

In Connecticut this fall, higher education professionals can attend the HighEdWeb Annual Conference with keynotes from Tatjana Dzambazova and Felicia Day. The four day conferences is chalk full of creative workshops and well planned track sessions including Here There be Dragons: Navigating the Faculty/Staff Divide and Shattering Silos: Sharing Science on Social. Don’t miss out!

When: Octover 8-11, 2017

Where: Hartford, Connecticut

Website: https://2017.highedweb.org/


AMA Higher Education Conference 2017

Late 2017 promises to deliver the annual AMA Higher Education Conference which brings together a large group of higher education professionals and exceptional keynote speakers. This yearly conference offers a host of valuable networking opportunities with like-minded professionals. 2016 brought impressive presentations from leadership at Emory University, Edelman, and more.

When: November 12-15 2017

Where: Atlanta

Website (2016): https://www.ama.org/events-training/Conferences/Pages/2016-Symposium-for-the-Marketing-of-Higher-Education.aspx?tab=home

 

Who is Circa Interactive and how can we help? 

Circa Interactive is the premier digital marketing agency in higher education. Since opening in 2011, Circa Interactive has helped more than 75 degree programs increase lead flowbuild brand awareness, and generate more students. Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions through our one-of-a-kind
Contact Us form.

 

FreddieFrederic has five years experience in higher education content marketing and search engine optimization. Working with Circa Interactive, he has gained valuable experience in paid search, analytics, SEO strategy, and client management. Frederic excels in process optimization, strategic content marketing, and management and implementation of daily witty jokes. Follow him on twitter @FredHigherEd

Need More Student Inquiries? Start Building Relationships

Relationships in digital marketing are rooted in effective communication and trust. Developing long-term relationships with university stakeholders, students and alumni, and a slew of media contacts are key to continued success in higher education internet marketing. By looking past individuals as clients or potential leads and taking the time to listen, explain, and ask questions, it’s possible to better understand hesitations and establish mutually beneficial goals. This post will highlight a few relationships to maintain for success:

1. Develop Strong Relationships with University Stakeholders

As a marketing company looking to push an institution’s brand into the spotlight in its best light, we often have detailed meetings with stakeholders. Stakeholders at universities can include presidents and vice presidents, communication and marketing directors, and program directors and faculty.

It must be apparent in kickoff meetings that our team understands a university and program brand, voice, target audiences, and more. By demonstrating that we have done the research, it is easy to clearly layout goals of the marketing efforts and begin asset creation.

How does this influence lead generation?

Our goals are to produce the best results for our clients in the most efficient way possible. By building relationships rooted in trust with academic partners, we are often given the freedom to create the wide variety of content needed to be successful in higher education digital marketing. Without trust, stakeholders may scrutinize and nitpick every step of the marketing process, which is an uphill battle that’s hard to endure.

Example: Stakeholders

At the start, a program director for a master’s in computer science program was hesitant to approve content to be shared on their website that didn’t mimic graduate level scholarly articles. We carefully explained our marketing goals, target audiences, and knowledge of the program, university brand, and industry.

By sharing the potential of engaging content in the digital sphere, the program director gained a better understanding of the content’s goals and allowed for more creative approaches to content creation. This trust lead to multiple videos, infographics, and blogs generating social shares, building backlinks, and an increase of the program’s online brand and SERP rankings.

2. Student Relationships are Key

As an arm of the university’s marketing department, developing relationships with students and alumni can be crucial to overall success. A team of well organized and knowledgeable admissions advisors work to inform and build relationships with potential students. This team also works to retain students for the duration of the program by periodically checking up on them to make sure they are succeeding in their program.

On the other hand, by working closely with current students and alumni to share their experience and success, during and after a degree program, marketers can build lasting relationships. Student success can be highlighted in videos, quotes, social media posts, and other forms of content creation.

How does this influence student inquiries?

The primary marketing goal for programs is to generate as many student inquiries and students as possible that remain in the program for its duration. Admissions counselors that are passionate about the program and university brand are able to develop relationships with potential students.

Admissions counselors can work through the various levels of friction and anxiety a potential student may have about an online degree program. Students who find success in your degree programs present the perfect opportunity for your marketing team to create high-quality content. This content, including testimonials and alumni features, will provide your marketing team with powerful tools to stimulate social validation and influence lead flow.

Example: Students

After receiving a prospect’s information, an enrollment advisor for an MBA program reached out to learn more about the prospective student and uncover their true ambitions. Leveraging a consultative approach, the enrollment advisor worked through the student’s hesitations and learned her true goal was to make her family proud through an MBA degree. The advisor built a relationship by taking the time to learn about the individual student’s goals and working to alleviate her doubts. Because of this, the student applied and found success through the degree program and offered a testimonial for the marketing team use in lead generation efforts.

3. Get to Know Journalists and Media in your Niche

Whether it is announcing university events, sending out press releases, or sharing program content with the digital world, carefully crafted relationships with the media are crucial. To run a productive, geo-specific marketing campaign for a university, a positive relationship with local beat reporters can go a long way.

For larger content marketing and digital PR campaigns, fruitful relationships can be built with editors, bloggers, website owners, thought leaders, and a variety of other influential individuals. Carefully crafted pitches are sent to relevant media contacts in order to build long-term relationships. These pitches often share infographics and videos or offer exclusive professor quotes and bylines opportunities. By understanding the goals of the media contact and their website, long-term mutually beneficial relationships can be created.

How does this influence lead generation?

Our goal of student generation is possible with the help of search engine optimization, social media, and branded marketing campaigns. Without strategic media contacts throughout the industry, running digital PR and SEO campaigns is terribly difficult. Establishing industry-specific relationships with the media allow for us to land consistent placements on some of the top digital publications. Mutually beneficial relationships with editors, bloggers, and website owners allow us to help guide strategic university messaging in the news, while offering the media an array of valuable content to share with their visitors.

Example: Media

As part of a digital PR strategy for a computer science program, we interviewed a professor that focuses in the security and infrastructure of the Internet of Things. As technology news broke, we pitched opportunities to large publications to quote or receive a byline from said professor. In doing so a relationship was created with a technology editor at Forbes.com.

This relationship initially helped the professor share their expertise, helped the editor build a compelling story, and assisted with our marketing efforts through a strong backlink and increase in program visibility. By leveraging the relationship with the Forbes editor, we were able to share more program content on the influential publication as well as build opportunities for professors across other programs.

All in All

As digital marketers with the (almost) infinite internet at our fingertips, it can be difficult to take the time to develop favorable relationships with bloggers, journalists, and editors that goes beyond a few emails. It’s also possible to fall into a situation of poorly communicating marketing strategies to stakeholders and treating students as leads instead of unique individuals. In order to succeed, relationship creation is crucial. Effective marketers take the time to listen and respect other individuals they work with in order to develop long-term mutually beneficial relationships.

Freddie

 Frederic has five years experience in higher education content marketing and search engine optimization. Working with Circa Interactive, he has gained valuable experience in paid search, analytics, SEO strategy, and client management. Frederic excels in process optimization, strategic content marketing, and management of Circa Interactive’s successful internship program. Follow him on twitter @FredHigherEd

 

Why a Multi-Channel Digital Marketing Approach is Crucial to Student Generation

In the current competitive climate of higher education, having a cohesive, comprehensive, and diversified marketing approach is essential in digital marketing. While each marketing avenue or strategy has its own unique method of accomplishing client end-goals of student enrollment, brand awareness, lead generation, and market research, it’s the combined effort of all of them working together that fosters the most effective and all-encompassing solution. It is therefore imperative that those involved in higher education marketing understand how all of these components work together and independently to capture prospective students at every stage of the decision making process. Here at Circa Interactive, the overarching divisions of our company that help to accomplish our clients’ goals include Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay-per-click (PPC), and Social Media.

 

How Do They Work Independently? 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is a crucial piece of the marketing puzzle, considering that 75% of prospective students start their research on a search engine. With so many competing programs and schools, it’s incredibly important to rank organically for relevant keywords in order to be visible to prospective students who are actively searching for related programs. There are several functions of our company that contribute to our SEO end-goals. The main off-page ones, which I will highlight here, are Digital PR and infographic creation and distribution.

Our goal in digital PR is to establish thought leadership, expand brand awareness, define program differentiators, and build quality backlinks for SEO that influence search rankings. We accomplish this by leveraging the expertise of faculty members and getting them and their respective programs placed in internationally recognized publications as well as in industry-specific verticals. On the other hand, infographics largely contribute to our SEO end-goals by generating backlinks through the creation and distribution of sharable content, which tells important stories within the larger narratives in the media.

Digital PR and infographics aid our SEO and brand recognition efforts by creating trustworthy and reputable backlinks to the programs that we represent, which in turn helps with organic rankings. These media placements also position our programs and professors as thought leaders in the industry, which is critical when trying to grow a brand and program. While PR links tend to be higher in quality, there is a tradeoff for this, which is quantity of links. While having our professors and programs included in nationally recognized publications is extremely valuable on a number of levels, more of our backlinks come through infographic distribution, where we have a broader reach due to our inclusion of smaller media outlets and blogs. Both strategies lend themselves to the same goals but accomplish them in different ways, which is why having both strategies in place is essential to achieving our larger SEO goals.

Pay-per-click (PPC)

Pay-per-click (PPC) can be an effective strategy for quickly driving targeted traffic to a website or landing page. This can be accomplished through keyword-based search advertising, display advertising in the Google and Bing Display networks, social media advertising (e.g. Facebook and LinkedIn), and remarketing, where you target prospective students who have already visited your website but have yet to convert. It’s also the most effective method for measuring return-on-investment (ROI). Since it’s easy to analyze and monitor results as you go with PPC, it has the added benefit of being able to adjust strategies according to the success of various channels. While SEO can be a more long-term and involved process, paid search has the ability to immediately get in front of prospective students and begin to generate leads. It’s crucial to have accurate and appealing messaging for PPC, because it could be the first encounter that a prospective student has with a brand or program.

Social Media

Social media is an important tool for higher education marketing considering that 57% of students will use social media to research universities. Although it’s very difficult to measure ROI on social media marketing, it’s a channel that should be integrated into every marketing strategy in order to have a well-rounded and consistent online presence. It’s also a great place to foster a sense of community and keep current, former, and prospective students engaged and up-to-date on university news.

How Do They Work Together? 

While I’ve explained how each of these digital marketing strategies operates independently, it’s just as important to understand how they intersect and why being visible and consistent across all potential touchpoints is essential to converting prospective students and amplifying brand awareness. A prospective student can encounter a brand in many different ways, but marketers will often only focus on the final campaign, search, or ad that the user interacted with to convert. However, as the multi-channel funnels reports in Google Analytics shows, there are typically many other interactions and touchpoints that the prospective student encountered in the process before converting. This further exemplifies the importance of having a diversified marketing approach that allows for interactions and cohesiveness across all potential channels.
One beneficial intersection between strategies is between PPC and digital PR. Since most people are aware when they are being targeted with an ad, PPC can come off as being disingenuous or less credible than organic results, which is why digital PR can be beneficial in adding another layer of credibility to a program. For students who are actively researching a program, seeing a program featured in various reputable publications can be important and, ultimately, help push them along in the admissions funnel.

Social media also plays an important role in building a credible online community for a brand. Since most students will research a program on social media sites like Facebook, having an established community of engaged and interested participants on social media platforms is important in getting prospective students excited and interested about a program. Additionally, there is often a link on Facebook paid ads that will be directed to the program’s Facebook page, so it’s important to have a strong social media presence built up when sending prospective students that way. Social media also has a mutually beneficial relationship with digital PR and infographic distribution because it provides another platform to feature this content on. This not only expands the reach of this content, further positioning the program as a thought leader and content creator, but also provides relevant and interesting content to the audience on social media.

As I’ve illustrated here, ensuring that a program or university is visible to prospective students throughout all possible channels and touchpoints that they may encounter is essential to a comprehensive and optimized marketing strategy. As we have seen, there are many ways that prospective students can search for or come in contact with a brand. A diversified approach accomplishes both short and long term marketing goals while more effectively reaching prospective students throughout various stages in the decision making process.

Caroline-Black-and-White-tan-3-4

Caroline brings a wealth of knowledge in communications, marketing, and account management to the Circa Interactive team. Graduating with honors in Business Administration and Marketing from the University of Oregon in 2011, Caroline now plays a key role in Circa Interactive’s digital PR strategy by building long term relationships with internationally recognized media outlets on behalf of our clients.

Five Reasons Why Retargeting Is Essential for Your Higher Ed Marketing Strategy

Here is a scenario most higher education marketing professionals know too well: A prospective student visits your website or landing page, fails to convert into a lead for your admissions team and goes on their way. You’ve invested valuable budget dollars in SEO and PPC campaigns to attract quality prospects, only for them to leave you with nothing. You know they were interested in your degree program at some point, so we as marketers need to make it our mission to get in front of them again and covert them into leads for our admissions teams. So what’s the most effective way to do so? At Circa Interactive we’ve seen this frustration from many of our university partners and have a solution that is highly effective: retargeting.

Considering that 95% of website visitors don’t convert on their first visit (for stand-alone landing pages it’s closer to 80-90%), I always find it surprising to see the majority of institutions and degree programs we work with not taking advantage of this highly effective marketing tool. Retargeting can be the key to exceeding enrollment goals and decreasing your blended cost-per-lead. Yet many programs are unaware it even exists or simply fail to implement it correctly. As a result, they are missing a huge opportunity to reengage with those individuals and turn them into quality inquiries.

 

95__dont_convert

The challenge in higher education marketing is that it’s not realistic to expect prospective students to convert on their first interaction with your degree program. Our sales cycle in higher education can be a long one, and rightfully so. It’s a large, costly decision, and we want prospects to give this process its due diligence. This fact, however, is what makes our job as higher education marketers challenging. We must expose our degree program and messaging to a prospect several times before they’ll make the decision to submit their information, and that’s where retargeting shines. Setting up a retargeting campaign should be a staple in any higher education marketing campaign, and here’s why:

  1. 95% of website visitors don’t convert on their first visit (85-90% on a landing page)

I can’t stress this enough.  Despite your best efforts to generate as much traffic as cost-effectively as possible for your degree program, there is still a large majority of your visitors that won’t convert into an inquiry. Through your SEO, PPC, email and social media efforts, you’re spending valuable budget dollars to drive visitors to your web assets. Retargeting will help you maximize the effectiveness of those dollars and ensure you’re not leaving anything on the table.

  1. Retargeting can produce leads that are easier to work through the admissions funnel.

Despite the frustration felt by higher education marketers and enrollment managers, the inquiries who need to be exposed to the brand several times before converting are generally much easier to move through the admissions process. As a former admissions manager, I can speak to this firsthand. These inquiries have done their research on your program and have made a calculated decision to submit their information to start the process. Through retargeting, you’ve stayed fresh in their mind and successfully reinforced your value propositions, so when they do engage with your admissions reps, they’re quick to apply and are much easier to work with when completing an admissions file. You’re admissions reps will thank you for these quality leads!

  1. Retargeting is cost-effective

If you could pay 1/4th of what you normally pay per click to reengage with past website visitors, would you take advantage of it? You’ve already paid for the first visit, so it’s worth paying the minimal cost to reengage with them on a second.  Whether your budget is $1,000 per month or $100,000, I highly recommend retargeting as a cost-effective solution to generating an increase in leads.

  1. The ability to create audience-specific messaging and offers.

Retargeting can be filtered and customized to specific audiences to allow for higher ed marketers to retarget to very specific groups based on where they were in the admissions funnel.  For example, a prospective student filled out page one of your online application but failed to complete pages two or three.  Through retargeting, we have the ability to serve highly targeted ads to that individual with copy that will entice them to reengage. A few things to consider in this situation when creating ad and landing page copy: Why did they bounce in the first place? Is the application too long?  Did they get distracted?  Were they missing the information that the application asked for and needed time to search for it? It’s important to have an understanding of this and design your retargeting segments and ad copy accordingly.

  1. Leverage retargeting to engage with accepted or current students

Retention is vital in higher education, and with retargeting, you can engage with your top prospects. Leveraging CRM retargeting, you can upload a list of email addresses and serve those individuals display ads across the web. This can be especially powerful for those degree programs with long enrollment periods that require enrollment advisors to maintain constant contact to ensure they stick through the start of the program or for reengaging top candidates who you haven’t heard back from and would like to subtly reengage without calling them daily.

So are you taking advantage of retargeting and have any unique ideas you’d like to share? Please do so in the comments below.

Key Takeaways:

  • 95% of website visitors don’t convert on their first visit
  • Retargeting is cost-effective
  • Visitors are already familiar with your brand and degree program – higher chance they’ll convert later
  • Ability to deliver audience-specific ad copy or ad copy to reengage prospective students at various parts of the admissions funnel
  • Ideal solution for maintaining engagement with accepted students during extended enrollment periods

About the Author:

DSC_0048 reduced 2Clayton Dean is an enrollment management, digital marketing, and business operations expert, leading Circa Interactive’s growth, development, and day-to-day operations. Clayton has successfully assisted dozens of institutions in developing, marketing, and launching degree programs from the ground up. Connect with Clayton on Twitter @circaclayton.

How to generate quality Higher Education leads using quizzes

Note: This article was contributed by Josh Haynam, co-founder of Interact.

In marketing there is a constant disconnect between the content we produce and the actual qualified leads that come in. It’s incredibly difficult to reconcile the two and still create a stream of really awesome material.

As a partial solution to this dilemma, I introduce the humble quiz, lauded by NewsWhip as the most shared type of content, which is constantly plastered on your Facebook wall by friends describing the kind of cat they are, and now… a tool for generating leads.

How in the world does a quiz normally associated with cats turn into a lead generation machine for higher education? I’ll do my best to show you how below. There are five steps to the perfect quiz for lead generation. Each is a precise science specifically tailored to Higher Ed. Here we go.

The formula for a perfect lead generation quiz.

  1. Solve a problem with the quiz. When thinking about lead generation, there is always a give-and-take. You are “taking” the person’s contact information and “giving” them a valuable insight about themselves. In order to give something of value, you must solve a real problem for potential students. Based on looking at what’s worked, here are three quiz ideas that can be adapted to fit virtually any education institution:

“Which career should I have?” Every student has thought about their career choices (or at least been asked about them by their mom) many times. There is good reason to ask this complicated question (the subject of what to do with the rest of your life after college is a big one) because the problem of discovering what occupation to pursue is a perfect fit for quizzes.

“Which school should I go to?” Whether you’re talking about different schools within your system or just schools in general, the decision of where to go to school is almost as important as what to do with your career.

“What major should I have?” Along the same lines as what career you should have is the decision of what to major in. Many students struggle for years to figure this one out, and a well constructed quiz on the subject can truly strike a nerve (in a good way).

The pattern in the above questions is that a good quiz can help marketers discover problems people have in their decisions when pursuing higher education. Give people help with a question and they’ll be happy to respond by giving you their contact info.

image1post

  1. Build trust by asking questions. The principle reason quizzes work as a lead generation tool is because there’s a certain level of trust built within a quiz, which warms the prospect up to handing over their information. There are a few methods for building this trust that can be the difference between an effective lead tool and an ineffective one. Here’s what to do:

Speak like a human. Quiz questions should mimic conversations that a counselor might have with a student about life and school. Take a personal approach to writing them and don’t worry about sounding to “smart.”

Be thorough. One big difference between the silly celebrity quizzes you see on Facebook and a proper higher education quiz is the accuracy of the results. If you’re recommending careers or majors, then quiz takers will take it seriously and you should, too.

Stay on topic. You can have fun with your questions but keep them relevant. Don’t ask for their favorite colors.

image2post

  1. Be honest on your lead generation ask. The stage has been set. You have created a quiz that captures attention by promising to answer a pressing question, and then you built a relationship with the quiz taker in a short amount of time and successfully established trust. Now it’s time for the quiz taker to reciprocate and give you permission to follow up. This is a touchy moment. Here is how to successfully navigate it:

Only ask for what you need. If you don’t ever call your customers, then don’t ask for a phone number. If you don’t need to know their location, then don’t ask for a zip code. You get the idea.

Explain what you’ll do with the information. It’s better to say, “We’ll call you to see if our product is a good fit,” and it’s best to avoid saying, “Sign up for great advice!” Remember, if this person does become a good customer, then you’ll want them to trust you long-term, so don’t start off on the wrong foot.

image3post

  1. Deliver on your promise in the quiz results.

Remember at the beginning of this post when we talked about quizzes solving a problem for people? The quiz results are where that problem solving comes to fruition.

Play to the emotions. The best and most-shared quizzes have an emotional aspect. For education, the best route is to stay positive. Even if you recommend a less highly valued major or a lower-level school, focus on the positive aspects rather than the negatives. For example, you could say, “You prefer to pursue activities outside of school and maintain a well-rounded life” instead of “You don’t like school that much.”

Keep it real. The temptation with the emotional response is to just tell people nice things and not worry about the outcome, but the problem is your quiz takers will see right through phony wording. The easiest way to stay positive and also nice is to just focus on the facts. If you are recommending a lower-ranked school, then the student will have more time to focus on extracurricular activities. Make that the focal point of your result.

Over-deliver. Go above and beyond for your quiz takers. The example below from EiCollege is excellent; they provide a detailed description of the major they recommend, as well as contact information and easy ways to follow up.

image4post

  1. Follow-up after capturing a lead. Now that someone has given you their contact information, it’s time to begin the journey down the funnel to create a happy student who will rave about your school to their friends. Here’s what to do (and not do) with those new contacts.

Use what you know. If you are recommending a major or school, then the prospect is going to be curious. If you call the prospect, talk about that major; if you email them, lead with the recommendation.

Continue the conversation. Never, ever, just add your new quiz prospects to a general list. You should continue the conversation that you started within the quiz with your follow up. That means setting up a drip campaign for quiz takers, or calling them and talking about the quiz. Do not abruptly change the subject and just start sending your newsletter: a sure-fire way to ruin the relationship.

That’s it: five simple steps to create the perfect lead generation quiz for higher education. It’s not overly complicated, but it can be extremely effective.

So how’d I do? Can you see how the humble quiz can generate meaningful leads? I’d love to hear your thoughts either way in the comments below.

 

1eb47d5Josh Haynam is the co-founder of Interact, a place for creating beautiful and engaging quizzes that generate email leads. He writes about new ways to connect with customers and build trust with them.

Linkedin: Josh Haynam

Twitter: @jhaynam