Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter... May 2012

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May greetings to everyone. As you read this I am on my way to Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta, my second visit to a most energetic and enterprising university.

This is also my week to finish details for my digital marketing strategy tutorial at the J.Boye Web and Intranet Conference ( next week as well as the material for my 2-day "Writing Right for the Web Conference" May 24-24 ( The early registration discount for web writing is open until May 4.

And now here are your marketing news and notes for May.
Do Loans Count as Financial Aid?

This is not a new question, but it is receiving increased attention in today's economic climate where people are more concerned about assuming debt of any sort.

Bloomberg added to what is a growing public relations challenge by calling out four universities in an article titled "Colleges Confuse Students with Letters Offering Aid That's Debt." A subhead in the story refers to the financial aid award letters reviewed as "Manipulative and Deceptive."

How do your award letters compare with those sent by Drexel, Bradley, and Butler universities and the Missouri University of Science and Technology? Start with the April 24 Bloomberg article at
Mobile Marketing: 10 Tips for Effective Email in the Mobile World

Once again, let us make this point: email is far from dead. Indeed, it is thriving. But effective email today is not what it was 5 or 10 years ago.

The direct marketing experts at Target Marketing offer 10 best practices for email design that will bring higher open rates from people reading them on a mobile device. The very specific advice includes maximum pixel width, recommended fonts, best font size for headlines and text, and where to place the call to action.

But my favorite was included at the end: be sure to bring people to a mobile-friendly web page. If you do not do that, your conversion rate will suffer. Read more on "10 Email Design Best Practices for a Mobile World" at
Mobile Marketing: Cannot believe I read this department

An exec at some sort of mobile marketing place said in a Mobile Marketer article that while having a mobile-friendly web presence in support of a mobile campaign might be nice, it was not necessary as forcing a person to "scroll around the campaign to get the message" might increase engagement.

Perhaps. I have also heard rumors about pigs that fly. To get both sides of the story, see "Why are marketers forgetting to optimize their mobile campaigns" at
How Quickly Do You Call a Potential Student?

At for-profit higher education schools, 69.7 percent call a potential student within one hour of receiving the lead information. Just over 20 percent call in less than 5 minutes. Rapid response times like that indeed give competitive advantage with people interested in more than one school.

How does your response time compare? If you ask for and receive a phone number or email address, many if not most people expect you to use it. And the faster you use it, the better.

You can find more response time data and similar information on recruiting at for-profit institutions on the ForProfitEdu website at
Differential Tuition: Interest Grows to Enhance Revenue

How to make more money from tuition is a topic at colleges and universities throughout the land these days. Successes and failures with several models are reviewed in an InsideHigherEd article, "Tuition Model Quietly Spreading" at both universities and community colleges. Visit

Interest may increase faster as people study results at Western Michigan University.

WMU is charging undergraduate Fine Arts students and junior and senior year business students higher tuition per course, whatever the individual course. Yes, if you are a Fine Arts student you will pay more to take a course in American History than a history major. What was the result in the first year? For the College of Fine Arts, tuition revenue increased $1.4 million. For the Haworth College of Business, tuition income increased $2 million. Read more from WMU at
Web Management: Centralize or Decentralize Content Creation?

Higher education began to adopt Content Management Systems not long ago with an expectation that individual units throughout the university would take responsibility for content creation. More often than not, those expectations have not been met.

If this is an issue on your campus, read my interview with Nancy Boudreau, director of web content management at Sacred Heart University, on their experience from the introduction of a new CMS over the past 7 years. While Nancy notes "some success," she also notes why there is now a move back to more centralization: the need to "ensure the quality of content."

Nancy shares more about what worked and what did not over the past 7 years in her interview at
E-book Reading: Rise in Popularity Continues

New research from the Pew Internet and American Life Project reports a continuing rise in the popularity of reading books and magazines electronic versions. E-book users also read publications in print and have clear preferences for when one format is better than another. For instance, 69 percent prefer print to share a publication with someone else and 83 percent prefer an electronic version when they want to get something quickly.

Both of those states have implications for the communication plans of higher education marketers with potential students of any age. For more on the changing world of electronic reading, see the Pew Internet report on "The rise of e-book reading" at
Social Media Metrics for Marketing Decisions

Where should you spend your social media time and money? An article in 1to1 Media recounts the varied experiences over the past few years by Carnival Cruises, American Airlines, and Cirque du Soleil. While this is not the higher education sector, there are lessons to learn here.

The most significant lesson: despite the apparent popularity of a particular form of social media, that popularity does not mean every organization should invest in it. In the cases here, for instance, Carnival eliminated Twitter. Cirque du Soleil abandoned FourSquare after initial efforts did not meet expectations but has increased investment in YouTube.

For more on media metrics deemed important, check "The Most Actionable Social Media Metrics" at
Google Advertising Change

If you advertise on Google, a new "Near Match" feature now in beta testing may increase your cost-per-click by giving you exposure to people who search for content that is close to, but not quite the same as, what you are offering. What does Google suggest you might expect? A 6.5 percent increase in clicks and a 9.8 percent increase in impressions.

AdAge explains what is happening in "The Next Shift at Google Could Have Big Impact on Advertisers" at
How Students Search for Online Education Content

Students are wiser users of online learning sources than we might recognize. A recent conference presentation reports strong use of free resources from MIT and Stanford University, for instance. Pre-med and health science students favor the Mayo Clinic as a resource.

The caveat for traditional higher education: students often use these resources due to "dissatisfaction with their own professors."

Read more about how the authority of traditional higher education is crumbling in 'Free Range Learners' at
Most Popular Topic in the April Newsletter

The most popular topic was the entry on "10 Useful Findings on How People View Websites." If you missed it, you can read it now at
Conferences in 2012

Attend a conference in 2012 to share questions and answers with people who are building a competitive advantage in higher education marketing.

May 8-10, Philadelphia: J.BoyePhiladelphia12 Web and Intranet Conference. Tutorial presentation: "Digital Marketing Strategy: 2015 and Beyond" and a regular session: "Top Task Website Design: Lessons from University Research." Check the program and register at

May 24-25, Atlanta: Academic Impressions Conference: "Writing Right for the Web: Improving Your Content." Program details and registration at

July 11-13, Chicago: ACT Enrollment Planners Conference. Pre-conferences workshop on "Digital Marketing Strategy: Planning for Present and Future Success" and regular session on "Increasing Online Inquiries: Key Steps to Improve Search Optimization for Academic Programs." Visit the conference website at

July 30-August 1, Boston: eduWeb2012. Pre-conference digital marketing workshop and regular session presentation on top task website design. Conference website is at

Expand the marketing skills of people on your campus. Host a campus workshop on any of the conference topics listed here.

Contact me at or call me at 248.766.6425.
That's All for Now

Be a marketing champion on your campus.

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

Increase your online marketing success with these 5 services.
• Top Task Website Design Research with Gerry McGovern
• Writing Right for the Web: Webinars, Conferences, Campus Workshops
• Expert Marketing Communications Website Reviews
• Competitive Website Reviews
• Search Engine Optimization Reviews 

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