Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

October 2010 Archives

Mobile marketing websites: commit to task completion priority

This is a week to "think mobile" as I work to update my mobile marketing tutorial presentation for the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education on November 7. Should be a rapid 3.5 hours and I'm really looking forward to meeting the people who are signed up for it.

A University Web Developers discussion last Thursday and Friday gave fresh insight into the technical challenges of building a mobile website in response to two questions from Karole Schroeder at Tarleton State University:

  • How are you detecting a mobile device and directing the user to a mobile version?
  • What (technical) standard are you using for your mobile version?

Information, advice, and opinion came along from 10 people. As you'd expect, the technical approach varies among campuses and depends very much on the system already in use.

From a marketing communications perspective, two elements stood out to me:

Mobile sites: start at the regular home page or a mobile-friendly page?

  • First, there are different opinions as to whether or not a person accessing a mobile site should arrive first at the regular home page with an option to go to the mobile version or should be sent directly to the mobile version (with an option to visit the regular site).
  • I agree with those who believe it is best to send people directly to the mobile version. The reason is simple: if you are aiming for a strong first impression, that is not likely to come from squinting at a traditional home page on an iPhone or Android screen. Create a new, simple mobile-friendly home page and get people to it as quickly as possible.

The most important element: reducing content for easier task completion

  • Second was a point mentioned by Frank Adelle at Emory University: "A key to doing this (creating a mobile site) successfully seems to be focusing on only the content users will need." Amen!

Adelle hit on a seldom mentioned but key point in creating a mobile site: the opportunity to leave behind the massive amount of content that is seldom or never visited. Focus instead on the key tasks that your primary audiences will want to do on the site. If content isn't needed to get those tasks done, why waste time and dollars adapting it to a mobile.

Excessive content makes quick, clear navigation for easy task completion more difficult to achieve. A combination of inertia, scarce resources, and politics makes eliminating web content a special challenge. Creators of mobile-friendly sites should leverage the scarce resource element to leave behind mission statements, messages from presidents and deans, and pages that speak of the dedication to student service of the offices that created them.

Important for student recruitment: home page link to academic majors

If you have responsibility for student recruitment, remember the most important task for most potential students visiting your site for the first time: finding out what majors you offer. Don't give up until you get a direct link from the mobile home page to your list of academic majors.

Three places that get this right:

· College of Charleston at "Academic" is 2nd of 8 primary links.

· University of Evansville at "Areas of Study" is 4th of 9 links.

· University of Chicago at "Academics" is 3rd of 13 menu links. 

That's all for now 

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Web Writing: Examples of web content done "right for the web"

Something marvelous happened yesterday on the University Web Developers listserv.

Daniel Manson asked for this advice: "Anyone got a great digital version of your magazine online and wouldn't mind sharing what you used to create it? I'm looking for a solution that would be role based with editors, designers and so forth."

The result? Recommendations for the university magazines listed here. What's marvelous? Nobody sent an example of a magazine placed online as a PDF or using some form of "flip" technology.

4 Reader-Friendly Online Magazines

Here are the magazines recommended by listserv members:

Everyone will have their favorites here. But each of these is done "right for the web" and far easier to read than "flip tech" or PDF versions.

Regular readers and anyone who has every attended one of my on-campus, webinar, or conference presentations of "Writing Right for the Web" will know that I've been crusading to eradicate PDF and flip tech as a vehicle for getting publications online. It really was a pleasure to open each response and find these examples.

For more on the topic check my earlier examples of magazines done with WordPress and compare 5 examples of "flip" publications with 6 "web friendly" examples from July 2009.

Civilization is indeed advancing.

Web Writing Webinars in November and December

If making your web visitors happier with their experience on your website, register for my upcoming webinars with Academic Impressions on November 18 and December 9. The first webinar covers traditional websites, the second moves to social media and mobile sites.

Check the outline for "Writing Right for the Web: Social Media, Mobile, and Traditional Sites."

 That's all for now 


The first fall day arrived in Michigan today, with a chill and a glorious sunshine, but the red leaves to photograph were only a minor distraction from writing this October newsletter.

Back from the TargetX iThink event at NACAC where more than 100 enrollment and admissions professionals shared thoughts on how to differentiate one college from another, increase retention, meet financial aid demands, and adopt mobile communications for recruitment. The takeaway: Enrollment challenges are intense and insight and intelligence to meet them is strong.

Website management was the key topic at our Customer Carewords partners meeting in Dublin last month. I've summarized 5 key points from our discussions at

If you live or work in Canada near Ottawa or Halifax, do not miss the upcoming Masterclass with Gerry McGovern on Task Management: A New Model of Management for Websites in November. Early registration discount until October 15 at

If you are attending the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education in November, add my Sunday afternoon tutorial on Mobile in the Marketing Mix to your plans. Register at

Plan now for expanded Writing Right for the Web webinars with Academic Impressions at

And now here is your marketing news and notes for October.
Dead Culture in Admissions: Download a Free Chapter

Just how dead is the traditional culture behind many higher education admissions programs? Brian Niles, CEO at TargetX, has no doubt. If traditional admissions operations are not yet dead, they are living on borrowed time.

His new book Overthrowing Dead Culture is just out. People who attended the iThink event at NACAC received a copy. Download a free chapter when you visit
3 Caveats for Mobile Marketing in Higher Education

Colleges and universities had best be making serious preparations to build mobile marketing into their student recruitment strategy. But in a time of scarce resources, it is all too easy to try to do more than is necessary.

My 3 mobile caveats will help get your planning off to the right start. The first: use web analytics to identify the content on your present website that almost nobody ever visits and do not worry about converting it to a mobile format.

The other caveats are in the Academic Impressions article at
Elite Online Programs: Dartmouth Starting New Trend?

The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth University is launching an 18-month online master's program in Healthcare Service Delivery.

Enrollment is limited to 50 students, with a tuition charge of $85,000. Yes, scholarships exist.

Will we see more focused, expensive, limited enrollment programs in the online marketplace?

More on the program and positioning at _______________________________________
Test Your Landing Page Marketing Skill

Small differences in text and design on website landing pages create significant differences in conversion rates.

Test your skill and help yourself craft strong landing pages when you pick the best landing pages presented from real-world A vs. B versions.

Take the current Test of the Week at
5 Major Trends: Facebook as Marketing Tool

Major brands like Ford and Nike and Nike are impressed enough with the marketing power of Facebook to make it rather than traditional media the priority place for new product launches.

That is the first of 5 major Facebook marketing trends reported by Mashable at
$$$ for Public Sector Universities: Public Service Corporations?

How to finance public universities as state tax funds shrink and tuition reaches upper limits?

InsideHigherEd writes in support of a new definition "public service corporations" to allow considerable financial independence while maintaining public oversight and aspects of traditional academic governance.

Might the model restore a stronger market position for the public sector? Explore the details at
Life after Football: Northeastern University Alive and Well

At Northeastern University the sky has not fallen since football was dropped from the Division I sports roster last year. For 2010, both admission applications and individual donors increased.

Northeastern dropped a program that cost about $3.5 million each year and was watched by an average of 1,600 people per game. Of 125 similarly classed institutions, only 2 do not run a deficit on football.

Northeastern still has 16 varsity sports for men and women.

Read more on when football cancellation is possible and when it is not at
3-Year Bachelor's Programs Starting at UMass - Amherst

Taking a cautious first step on the road to reducing net costs with shorter degree programs, my alma mater at UMass - Amherst has announced it plans to experiment with majors in economics, music, and sociology.

Eventually the university may offer three year programs in about one-third of the majors offered.

More on market positioning through cost reduction at
Mobile Marketing: How Strong is the Emerging "App Culture"?

The folks at the Pew Internet and American Life Project were out in September with a research report on the pervasiveness of an "app culture" among mobile phone users.

The general finding: 35 percent of adults have cell phones with apps; one-third of those never use them. Use is higher among people who are younger, better education, and more affluent. Playing games is the number one task for app users. Among people 18-29 years old, 44 percent were apps users when the survey was taken.

You'll find much more when you visit The Rise of Apps Culture at
International Student Recruitment: National Brands

How do international students decide what country to enroll in?

People pick different countries for a variety of reasons, from the rigor of the education to the opportunity to work while studying. A new Student Decision Making Survey from the UK reports the main reasons for Australia, Canada, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. at
Web Design: Text is More Important than Video

Your website marketing strength suffers when video (and photos) make text less immediately visible when people visit your website.

Gerry McGovern explains more about the most important design element on a web page at
Effective Online Magazines: No Flip-Tech or PDFs

For the unbelievers, here is another entry in the "writing right for the web" online publication sweepstakes.

The University of Wisconsin - Madison gets it right for fall 2010 at
My Upcoming Conferences and Webinars in 2010

Attend an upcoming conference to share questions and answers with people like you who are building a competitive edge in higher education marketing. Join me at these events.

October 28-29, Education Dynamics - Carol Aslanian Marketing Online Programs Conference: "Integrating Social Media and Online Marketing" and "Best Practice Websites for Online Programs." Conference program and registration at

November 7-10, American Marketing Association, Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education: Pre-conference tutorial, "Mobile in the Marketing Mix: Crafting a New Recruitment Communication Strategy." Follow the program at

November 18, December 9 webinars: Academic Impressions, "Writing Right for the Web: Social Media, Mobile and Traditional Sites." Dec 9 is advanced session for creating and editing content for social media and mobile sites. Details at

Increase ROI from your online marketing. Expand the writing, editing, and search marketing skills of people on your campus. Host a campus workshop on online marketing.

Contact me at
That's All for Now

Be a marketing champion on your campus.

Bob Johnson, Ph.D. (
President and Senior Consultant
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

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• Customer Carewords Research with Gerry McGovern
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