Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

July 2012 Archives

Email responses to an online inquiry... slow recruiting steps continue

OK, time to revisit the email that have been arriving since I first made my secret shopper visits to 6 college and university websites the evening of June 20 and the morning of June 21. If you read the second entry in this series, you know that the first email response (after two immediate ones on June 21) arrived on June 26. Rapid response is not in vogue.

What's been happening since June 26?

June 26: The second email from my university in Connecticut arrives, using my first name and "campus visit schedule" in the subject line. The email itself includes upcoming visit dates without having to visit the website.

June 28: A second email from a private college in upstate New York that says "Thank you for your interest" in the subject line and includes strong prompts to schedule a campus visit.

July 11: A third email from my update New York private college, with a subject line that asks me to "Get a head start on the education of a life time." Curiously, the return address now does not include the name of the school but only "Admission." Without opening it, I have no idea who sent it. That risks a "this is spam" reaction.

July 13: The first response arrived from my public honors college. The subject line is the name of the school. And the email is prompting a campus visit.

July 16: The first response from my private college in Massachusetts is here. Like the others, the push here is to get me to visit the campus. Unlike the others, the visit link from the email leads immediately to a video to show me the campus I might want to see in person. Nice touch, delivered a bit late.

July 17: The first response from my "most selective of the group" private university arrives at 3:03 PM. And this one isn't prompting me to visit campus. This is an invitation to an online chat event that night starting at 7 PM. While a late afternoon reminder is good practice, even better practice is sending a first notice a wee bit earlier than this.

Does email marketing work?

Well, not so well if you don't use it better than what's happening here. The emails themselves have not been bad and some have tried unusual elements. But as a direct marketer, I'd be concerned that the relative long times to first response decrease the impact.

Next: responses by regular mail show the view book lives

So far we have responses from 5 of the 6 schools receiving my online inquiry. One private college in New England hasn't responded at all by email, although I have received their printed view book. Look for an update soon on what's been arriving by mail.

That's all for now.

Subscribe to "Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter" and "Link of the Week" selections at
Video & News Content to Engage Professional School Visitors: Boston University School of Public Health

Today's Link of the Week selection replaces the common top-of-the-page rotating collection of photo or video presentations with introductory images of 2 video and 4 news options when the page opens. Run your cursor over each one for a short summary of what's behind each image and pick your favorite to watch.

Using the rotating image approach has always seemed like a bit of a crap shoot to me. Yes, a new visitor might see something of interest. On the other hand, maybe not. That's a risky game to play for such an important first impression opportunity.

This alternative passes the critical 5-second scan rule. You'll see each image in less than 5 seconds and it won't take you much longer than that to see what each one is about if you don't go immediately to a single selection.

The presentation behind the links might be better. One video is more than 6 minutes long. A news story would benefit from subheads to scan when the page opens. 

For an unusual opening to a professional school home page, visit the Boston University School of Public Health.

Bob Johnson

P.S. This Link of the Week is on the blog rather than the usual website page. Connections to edit my website have been broken for over a week and I've yet to have a response from the firm that operates my web editing software. Less than impressive service, for sure.

Inquiry forms for student recruitment... Brief is Best

Not long ago I asked subscribers to "Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter" to send me links to inquiry forms that were quick and simple to complete as part of my ongoing series on how colleges and universities use inquiry forms and respond to those who complete them.

People at several schools were kind enough to send links to forms that deserve close scrutiny by anyone who wants to increase the number of people who make an online inquiry. Never forget... the longer the form, the fewer the people who will complete it. And so in addition to a short form, best to let people see the entire form when the inquiry page opens so that they will know immediately that it won't take long to complete.

With no further ado, here are links to forms worth a visit.

Regis University... Career Advancement in Accounting

Cedarville University... Request Information on the Admissions entry page

The City University of New York, School of Professional Studies... Connect with SPS 

Here is another that I just found this morning at Gannon University while doing a final review for my ACT EPC conference presentation this morning.

Gannon University... Request for Information for an Online MBA

You'll notice of course that most of these are for graduate or continuing education offerings. The Cedarville University form right on the admissions entry page (you can't get much more visible than that) is an exception as is the Creighton University form included in the first post in this series.

That's all for now.

Subscribe to "Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter" and "Link of the Week" selections at

July greetings to everyone in this summer of unusual heat. My weather app tells me it is now 101 degrees here in Marshall. It is a good time to say inside and finish your newsletter.

Minneapolis is in my future this month, with a visit to present web review results at the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota and to hold a Writing Right for the Web workshop at the University of St. Thomas. It is always exciting to visit new campuses and meet new people.

Tomorrow I head for Chicago and the ACT Enrollment Planners Conference. Hope to have a fine time sharing ideas and experiences on Wednesday with the 31 people in my digital marketing strategy workshop.

Limited registration for eduWeb12 in Boston remains. I will do the digital strategy workshop there on Monday, as well as a Tuesday session on top task website design. Check the program and register this week for the July 30-August 1 conference at

Mark your calendar for the 2012 AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education in November. Visit the conference website at and attend my digital marketing strategy tutorial.

Follow my new secret shopper series that examines website inquiry forms at 6 colleges and universities and reports on responses received to an online inquiry. Two installments are done. The first is on my blog at and new ones will appear in the Student Recruitment category.

And now here are your marketing news and notes for July.
Non-Profit Tagline Awards Contest is Open Now

Do you have a tagline that makes you proud? If so, the annual competition run by Nancy Schwartz is open now.

A special treat for me this year: I will be one of the judges. The more entries we have from higher education the better so join the competition soon. Enter your tagline at
Cornell University Revises Loan-Free Financial Aid Packaging

You can feel the direction the wind is blowing. Cornell University is another elite institution reducing financial aid awards to control rising financial aid costs.

In this case, Cornell is raising the amount of loans packaged for students with family incomes above $60,000 per year. In the future, if your annual family income is above $60,000 you will have loans that start at $2,500. The loan amount increases to a maximum of $7,500 per year for families with annual incomes above $120,000.

Cornell expects the change to "slow" but not halt growth in the financial aid budget. This follows the end of "need blind" admissions at Wesleyan University announced in May. Look for more changes like these, especially from schools where strong brand strength will limit enrollment impact.

More details in the story at
Top 10 Mobile Ad Campaigns

OK, none of these are from higher education. And results were not included when Mobile Marketer selected these Q2 top campaigns. What did count was creative, level of engagement, and successful execution. The 10 selected are listed in alpha order, starting with Boar's Head and ending with Universal Pictures.

Read these for tips and features that definitely apply to higher education. One noted for Boar's Head at the start: do not (repeat: do not) take people from a mobile ad to a page that is not optimized for mobile viewing. Another from Subway: video ads work but keep them to 30 seconds.

Scan the campaign reviews when you visit
Is Branding Only for Cattle?

This is not the first time around for this discussion, but it makes sense every once in a while to think carefully about what a "re-branding" effort can actually accomplish. If you are about to start that process, take time to read Austin McGhie on "Drop the Word Brand from Your Vocabulary."

Austin argues for emphasis on Positioning rather than Branding, or how to best benefit from the brand reality you already have. Makes sense to me. His AdAge article is at
Landing Pages: 6 Steps to Improve Conversion

You might have the best online advertising on the planet, but if your landing page behind the ad is not done right, the time and money you spent is wasted.

To improve your conversion rate, read "6 Steps to Building the Perfect Landing Page" by Rio Longacre. My favorite is the first and most important: Keep it Simple.

Find 5 more tips to help your advertising campaigns succeed at
Twitter: Not a Mass Marketing Tool

Twitter remains a mixed element in marketing communications plans. Many organizations want to be there, but the reality is that even among the highest use group (adults 18-29), only 26 percent of Internet users were on Twitter as of February 2012. That research was released by the Pew Internet and American Life Project in May.

That does not mean not paying attention to Twitter, but it does mean controlling expectations. If you think Twitter is an essential part of mass marketing, you are wrong. If you think Twitter might be right for a more focused marketing effort you might be right. The Pew research will help you decide.

The highest percent user group: urban African Americans 18-29 years old with annual income less than $30,000 who have not graduated from high school.

See the details for age, education, income, urban vs. rural, and ethnicity at
Mobile Marketing: The Value of SMS Communications

Is text messaging a part of your recruitment communication cycle? If not, this article from Mobile Marketer is a good place to start. You will find a review of the tech challenges in getting started as well as an outline of the benefits you can expect to receive. The article is at

Add a texting address to your inquiry form with a caveat: when you get one from a prospect, start using it.
Enrollment Management: Degree and Certification Opportunities

If a formal credential in enrollment management might help advance your career, be sure to check the excellent summary of what is available put together by the folks at InsideHigherEd, prompted by a new online certificate program started at University of Southern California.

Review your options at
Press Releases in a Mobile World

Brevity rules in PR today. That is the essence of the message from Vanessa Horwell in "Public Relations in a Mobile World" where the average online attention span is 5 minutes and likely falling.

That means the old style press releases still used on almost every higher education website have to change if we expect people to pay attention to them. That is going to be a wrenching experience for anyone who likes to write long news stories.

For more on how to change press releases for the mobile world to "bullets, an economy of words, and simplicity for use with mobile search" visit
Most Popular Topic in the June Newsletter: ROI from Higher Education

Most popular June topic: the entry on "What is the ROI on a Degree from Your School?" Missed it? Check for your ROI among 800+ 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S. at
Conferences and Webinars in 2012

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

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 strategy workshop and regular session presentation on Top Task Website Design. Conference website is at

November 11-14, New Orleans: AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education. The Symposium website is at

Expand the marketing skills of people on your campus. Host a campus workshop on any of the conference topics listed here or "Writing Right for The Web."

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
Partner, Customer Carewords Ltd
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

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