Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

Detailed Transylvania "Affordability" Page Combats Sticker Price Shock

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Higher education analysts often decry the "sticker price shock" that many people have when they start their college selection journey and compare degree costs at public and private universities. Why don't people understand that at private colleges and universities the "sticker price" is not what most people pay?

One reason is that few colleges and universities directly attack the sticker price problem on their websites with detailed "affordability" content. Today's Link of the Week selection is a rare exception.

The "Affordability" page link receives prime placement on the home page, directly under the opening image with a large "Quality + Affordability" heading. Follow that path and you'll arrive at a page that gets right to the point: potential students likely are "worried about paying for college."

Easy-to-scan graphics

The content directly attacks the sticker price problem with a series of graphics that include:
  • The family incomes of people attending.
  • The sticker cost compared to other "top 100" liberal arts schools.
  • The progressive cutting of that sticker price with merit awards, grants, and loans.
  • A lower-than-average debt load of about $27,000 at graduation.
  • A low loan default rate of just 2.4 percent.
  • A much higher 4-year graduation rate than at public universities,
If the page is successful in reducing cost fears for people who make this their first stop from the home page, there are links to either complete an application or review available academic programs at the end of the page.

On Mobile

Alas, the page does not fare well on mobile, where a lower than usual 39/100 for Speed combines with a 91/100 "User Experience" rating from Google PageSpeed Insights after the page loads.

Follow the Link of the Week

Start your review of how one private-sector university is making a serious effort to fight sticker shock when you visit the Transylvania University "Affordability" page from the home page link.

Original Link of the Week Page
 
Regular readers will notice that we are again posting a Link of the Week selection within the blog. I've decided to continue posting new Link selections here. Each week's description is available to future visitors and the blog, unlike the website, is searchable.

To review earlier selections for 2016 and previous years, visit the this Link of the Week page.



Skipping the "Reset" Euphemism, A College Announces a "Tuition Reduction"

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Throughout the United States over the past few years a small number of private-sector colleges and universities have decided to withdraw from the tuition discount race to lower actual net cost to students in favor of a substantial reduction in the tuition list price.

Most schools doing this have been reluctant, perhaps even afraid, of describing this move in public as "cutting" or "reducing" tuition. Often the change is called a "reset" to a lower level.

Today's Link of the Week selection caught my attention because of the big and bold announcement of the change on the home page as "We're Reducing Tuition" with a link you cannot miss to a page that explains the details, including a video from the president of the college and an ad featuring students.

The college does make clear that enrollment is not a problem, with full-time enrollment as high as it has ever been. I have not had a chance to seek out the tuition discount rate before the change and that is not mentioned on the website.

Many higher education professionals complain that too many people do not understand that the official sticker price is not what they will have to pay at most private colleges and universities. Too many of those same schools fail to provide strong "affordability" content that lets potential students know just what the net price might be.

In that context, lowering tuition makes great good sense for many schools. The College of Saint Mary deserves special praise for describing the change as clear as possible right from the start... "We're Reducing Tuition".

On Mobile

Alas, the College of Saint Mary home page scores a low 43/100 for Speed on Google PageSpeed Insight and a lower than normal 90/100 for User Experience. 

Once the home page does download, the tuition reduction message is prominent but not as bold as when viewed from a large screen device.

Follow the Link of the Week

To see how one college announces a tuition reduction, start at the College of St. Mary home page.

Original Link of the Week Page

Regular readers will notice that we are again posting a Link of the Week selection within the blog. I've decided to continue posting new Link selections here. Each week's description is available to future visitors and the blog, unlike the website, is searchable.

To review earlier selections for 2016 and previous years, visit the this Link of the Week page

6 Task Links + Search Dominate the Home Page

One of the latest fads in higher education web design is the use of video views where a static hero image once went at the top of the page. Most of the ones I've seen show similar scenes that do little to differentiate one school from another. The result is a distraction from the primary reason people visit a home page: to leave it as quickly as possible to complete a task.

Bellarmine University indeed has a similar video display on the home page. But I barely noticed it because imposed over the campus scenes in large "you will see this in 5 seconds or less" text are 6 key links important to potential students:
  • Apply Now
  • Schedule a Visit
  • Net Price
  • Virtual Tour
  • Majors & Programs
  • Watch Video
If you don't think those links will take you on the right path to task completion, just below them is a large "Search for programs, events, and more" search box. This feature reminded me of another Link of the Week pick this year, the home page at Xavier University

On Mobile

The Bellarmine home page scores a respectable 66/100 on Google PageSpeed Insights for Speed and a strong 96/100 for User Experience.

While I was not able to show the mobile home page here, be sure to visit on your smartphone. You can't miss the 6 task links as the page first opens, an excellent use of the power of words to help potential student visitors move along to relevant sections of the site. 

Follow the Link of the Week

To see how one university dares to be different, visit the Bellarmine University home page.

Original Link of the Week Page

Regular readers will notice that we are again posting a Link of the Week selection within the blog. I've decided to continue posting new Link selections here. Each week's description is available to future visitors and the blog, unlike the website, is searchable.

To review earlier selections for 2016 and previous years, visit the this Link of the Week page


Making Website Life Easier for Faculty & Staff and Students

Faculty and staff are more dissatisfied with college and university websites than any other group using them. Current students are not far behind.

That's been the result of every CCI (Customer Centric Index) satisfaction survey that we've done with faculty over the past 10 years. The primary reason has always been the same: confusing menus and links make it difficult for people to find and complete their top tasks on a website. 

William & Mary may have the solution in the highly visible link paths that start on the "myWM" page. Just below entry points to Banner and Blackboard are 12 links that likely are of use to both faculty and students. 

Just to the right of those 12 links are large "you can't miss this" boxes leading to "Faculty & Staff Links" and "Student Links."

High Visibility for Key Link Collections

Faculty and staff can follow their path to a page with links grouped under 7 headings:
  • Academics & Research
  • Working at W&M
  • Technology
  • Campus Services
  • Professional Organizations
  • Wellness & Safety
  • News & Events
Current students have 9 headings. Some duplicate those for faculty & staff, some are unique. All promise an easier pathway to task completion. 

If you were doing a top task research project, most of the links you'll find here would be included in the survey to sort out the top 3 to 5 that always exist from the rest. Those could appear at the top of the faculty & staff and student pages, above the rest for even faster access. Meantime, this is a fine alternative.

On Mobile

On Google PageSpeed Insights, the page receives a relatively high 71/100 for Speed and a strong 98/100 for User Experience. The mobile site skips the rotating photos that open the large screen version. Those images contribute to an unusually low 63/100 "Desktop" score. Removing them would position the key links even higher on the page.

Follow the Link of the Week

To review a strong presentation of the links that make website life easier for faculty & staff and current students, visit the William & Mary "myWM" page at http://my.wm.edu/

Original Link of the Week Page

Regular readers will notice that we are again posting a Link of the Week selection within the blog. I've decided to continue posting new Link selections here. Each week's description is available to future visitors and the blog, unlike the website, is searchable.

To review earlier selections for 2016 and previous years, visit the this Link of the Week page.


November greetings. Hoping to see many of you at the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education in December in Orlando just a few weeks from now.

Our Top Tasks: Higher Education Website Content group on LinkedIn continues to grow, with over 40 new members since the October newsletter bringing the total to 267. If you are on LinkedIn and work at a college or university, join us by requesting membership at bit.ly/2cyyLs5 

New to "top tasks" strategy that will increase the marketing strength of your website? My workshop presentation from the eduWeb Digital Summit in August, Top Task Content & Design: A Strategy for Website Marketing Success, is at bit.ly/2aDS5BV 

How well do future students, current students, faculty and staff, and alumni like your website? Now you can do our basic Customer Centric Index survey at no cost. Details at bit.ly/2f2g5VF 
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Conference Event in December

December 4-7, Orlando: Digital Marketing Strategy: Surviving and Prospering in a Changing World, pre-conference Tutorial E at the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education. The tutorial description is at bit.ly/2buWkQM Early registration discount is open until November 6.

Join 7,300+ followers on Twitter at twitter.com/HighEdMarketing for daily marketing updates.

And now here are your November marketing news and notes.
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Cartoon of the Month: How Much Content Marketing is Just "Crap"?

Not long ago Mark Pritchard, chief brand officer at Procter & Gamble, referred to a "content crap trap" created by a huge increase in "content marketing" production that overwhelmed the people receiving the deluge of resulting messages. 

Tom Fishburne took inspiration from Pritchard's comment (and research reporting that a 35 percent increase in brand content happened in the same year as a 17 percent decrease in brand engagement) in a new cartoon at bit.ly/2f9JucT 
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Gen Z and the Future of Marketing: 5-Minute Video with Wunderman CMO

Gen Z, including college-bound folk under 18 years of age, is a key focus of an interview with Jamie Gutfreund, CMO at the Wunderman agency, about new challenges that marketers can expect. Anyone recruiting traditional students should invest 5 minutes to watch the video.

Key points: Gen Z is very marketing-savvy, very practical, and very much in search of transparency from brands that interest them. Find more to help improve your recruitment communications and website content at bit.ly/2f4L80Z 
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Promoting Early FAFSA Benefits: Moravian College

Here is a rare example of gaining marketing advantage from creating new content around the benefits that potential students might expect to receive from the early FAFSA opportunity that started this fall.

On a page that makes strong use of headings and an easy-to-read text size, the college explains why early FAFSA "makes things easier for students and their parents."

Moravian noted that students who file early will receive financial aid award letters in November or "three months earlier than in past years."

For more on an unusually strong effort to take marketing advantage from early FAFSA visit bit.ly/2dUQGd2 
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Branding with Substance: Furman University

New branding efforts often fall primarily into the "promotion" part of the 4 marketing Ps and less often on major change in product.

Furman University offers a different example. A new "Furman Advantage" program, fueled by a $20+ million-dollar donation, will create an elaborate array of mentors, internships, and research opportunities to strengthen the connection between a liberal arts degree and career success.

For more on how one liberal arts university seeks to strengthen brand position and increase first-year enrollment despite a less than ideal geographic location visit bit.ly/2fxF9Em 
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Ranking Canadian Universities: The 2017 Maclean's Magazine Report

The top "comprehensive" university this year is Simon Fraser, followed in the Top 5 by Waterloo, Victoria, Guelph, and Carleton. Sort schools by student satisfaction and reputation ratings as well when you visit bit.ly/2farKhq 
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Virtual Reality: Explore a New Shiny Object

If you are talking on campus about how to add virtual reality to your tactical marketing mix, add this Adweek Brand Share infographic article to your reading list. Spoiler: VR developers think this is a very good idea. If you are not a VR developer, move with caution as you explore.

My favorite point: "A lot of companies that are eager to dive into VR still have islands on Second Life they no longer use." You do remember Second Life, yes?

Explore more in "For Brands, Virtual Reality is All About Genuine Connection" at bit.ly/2esjyJC 
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Web Design: Top 10 Enduring Mistakes from the Nielsen-Norman Group

Some design mistakes persist through each new generation of creativity and so the visitor experience does not improve. And so, it is always good to check your web site performance against the warnings you will find here. 

My favorites are #5, "Hidden Fees and Prices," and #7, "Poor Search Results." See the other 8 mistakes that endure at bit.ly/2fwJh7A
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Digital Marketing Glossary: Quiz Yourself on 18 Terms

How expert do you want to be on marketing in the digital era? Test yourself on 18 terms from AdAge starting with Attribution and ending with Trading Desk at bit.ly/2fxBab2 
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Writing Right for the Web: A to Z Guide to Effective Language 

Making the words on your website as quick to read as possible should be an important content marketing goal. Alas, too often we cannot escape phrases that our bureaucracies seem to love but real people do not often use. 

To explore how well your website content, emails, and blogs use "real people" language, scan the A to Z list of "Simple Words and Phrases" at bit.ly/2efBCsB 
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Football Coach Salaries: 72 at $1 Million or Higher

How does the compensation of your head football coach compare with the top 119 reported by USA Today? 

University of Michigan leads the pack at nearly $10 million. See the rest at usat.ly/2erCGXW 
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Most Popular Topic in October Newsletter: Strong Graphic on College Ranking Press Release

Higher education folks often dismiss and disdain college rankings. Unless, of course, a college or university does especially well. 

Centre College created a strong graphic image to introduce a press release reporting how well the college did on a new ranking system from the Wall Street Journal. Check the image at bit.ly/2dopyWg 
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Be a marketing champion on your campus.

Bob Johnson, Ph.D. 
President
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC
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Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Increase your marketing success with one or more of these 5 services. Contact me for details at bob@bobjohnsonconsulting.com 

Top Task Website Design Research with Gerry McGovern
Communication Audits
Expert Marketing Communications Website Reviews
Writing Right for the Web: Webinars, Conferences, and Campus Workshops
Competitive Website Reviews and Secret Shopping




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