Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

October 2012 Archives

Student recruitment success: Short, simple online inquiry forms work best

Online inquiries are not easy to get. Would you like more of them?

Direct marketers have known for decades this simple truth: the longer you make an inquiry form, the fewer people will complete it. Keep things short enough so that a person can see the entire form as soon as the page opens. The first impression you're after: this won't take long to complete.

Even if the form is brief, asking for sensitive personal information as a relationship is about to begin is a good way to guarantee that it never starts. Not long ago I saw a form asking for gender preference in relationships. Bad idea. You don't need to know ethnic identity or a high school code or previous universities attended either.

Marketers Don't Let Databases Design Inquiry Forms

Fight database tyranny. Once I was asked to review an online inquiry form that very few people completed. It started by asking for the social security number. The excuse? "We need that for our database." Bad answer.

Long inquiry forms are OK if you want to limit the online inquiries you receive. If that's not the case, follow the links below to take a look at the online inquiry forms in this Honor Roll. If you know of any similar to these, send me a link to them.

The Original Honor Role of 6 Online Inquiry Forms

Here are six forms used for various types of students that set a standard few can match:
If you want to increase the number of online inquiries you receive, take inspiration for reform from these schools that dare to be different and make life easier for the person completing the form.

November 16: A New Honor Roll Addition
November 29: Great Inquiry Form after a Google Search
  • Drexel University... people who search for "online graduate engineering and technology program" are rewarded with this 4-line inquiry form to "Request More Information."
February 6: For musicians, only name, email, graduation date
February 15: A model for Continuing Education
  • University of British Columbia... You'll see the entire beautifully simple inquiry form as soon as the page opens. Email is easiest but you can call or fax or use regular mail to contact UBC Continuing Studies.
February 22: A short form that might be even shorter

That's all for now.

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October greetings to everyone on a beautiful fall day here in Michigan. And best wishes for a fine conference experience to everyone headed for NACAC in Denver this week. Be sure to visit with my TargetX friends who deliver this newsletter every month at booth 518.

Looking for a great marketing conference to attend in November? That, of course, would be the Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education, the leading higher education marketing experience for more than 20 years now. If you go, plan to attend my digital marketing strategy workshop on Sunday afternoon. Conference details are at

Writing Right for the Web is still critical for effective online communications. Sharpen the skills of your web content team for traditional websites, social media, and mobile. Join my webinar October 30 and November 1. Check the outline at

If you know someone who might like a personal copy of my newsletter, send them along to to subscribe in just 60 seconds.

And now here are your marketing news and notes for October.
College Rankings: Top 177 Schools Rated by Alumni

Here is a new rating system created by a former partner at McKinsey & Company to win monthly $5.95 subscriptions from college-bound students and their parents by helping them "measure higher education return on investment" as reported by alumni.

When you visit for the state-by-state rankings of 177 universities already reviewed and the free sample of detailed information about Xavier University, you will find an emphasis on outcomes information based on facts (how many alumni reported they were worth more than $1 million?) to opinion (was the value of the degree worth the cost?).

Initial reactions on Facebook to the idea of rankings based on what alumni think from a still small number of folk is positive. More about The Alumni Factor approach, including the methodology, is at
Secret Shopper Update: Review of 19 Recruitment Emails since August 24

Email marketing is alive and well at some of the six colleges and universities I have been secret shopping since late June. And it is barely breathing at others.

One uniform mistake that everyone is making: not a single email since July has made use of the academic major of interest collected at the time of my online inquiries. Everyone asks for this at the start (some require it to make an inquiry at all) but so far there has not been a single reference to this important marketing element. Strange.

For more on what does get talked about in email recruitment contacts visit
MBA Applications for Full-Time Programs: Worldwide Decline Continues

If your MBA program depends on applications for two-year, full-time programs the GMAT news is not good. Applications worldwide fell for the fourth year in a row. The 22 percent decline in 2012 followed a 10 percent decline in 2011.

In the U.S. declines were reported by 62 percent of MBA programs. Applications at specialized programs such as management and accounting, on the other hand, increased at 75 percent of schools.

For more on the trends visit
Google Research on Demand for Higher Education

Google is presenting a report on demand for higher education based on analysis of click stream data.

Opportunity exists: 90 percent of people searching for higher education online have not decided where to enroll when they begin their search.

Mobile is important, but regular computers still dominate. Search is the second most important tool in the initial selection of schools to consider. Few people search by brand names at the start. And yes, YouTube importance continues to grow. Use this report to help convince any doubters left on your campus.

Brand is more important as selection narrows. Do not miss slide 33 that reports the relative importance of 8 brand factors. Most important: affordability. Least important: a strong alumni network.

For more on an intriguing report, check the 38 slide Google education report at
Facebook Marketing Strategy: Brands are not People

What do you expect your Facebook marketing strategy to achieve?

Corey Mull presents a persuasive case that most people do not want to create close relationships with brands even when they like the brand. Why do they visit a social media site run by an institution rather than a person? To get special offers, find facts, and learn what other people think of the brand.

Few people think of a relationship with a brand the same as they think of a relationship with another human being. Factor this into your social media expectations. For more on why you should not try to make your brand "more responsive, engaging, and human" on Facebook visit
Website Readability: Use this Tool Today

As I always say in my Writing Right for the Web sessions, websites are not a place for great literature. And the requirements of the mobile world make simplicity in writing more valuable than ever.

Check the readability of your website site for grade level and points like "percent of complex words" when you enter a URL at

Lower is better. I did my home page: 9th grade reading level and complex word percent of 18.2 percent.
Credits for Competence: A New Approach

Credits for competence have been a low visibility offering at many colleges and universities for a long time. Now Southern New Hampshire University is pioneering a new approach it hopes will win approval for financial aid support from the Federal Government as well as accreditation agencies.

The plan will help SNHU and others to continue to increase adult student enrollments while reducing the time and money cost to earn a degree. If your school depends on adults for enrollment revenue, start tracking this now. See the details at
College of St. Benedict: Accepting Decreased Enrollment

Just how do you control the tuition discount rate when your goal is to maintain enrollment?

The College of St. Benedict is braving a different course and accepting a lower enrollment to maintain a strong academic profile at a reasonable discounting cost. Enrollment has decreased from 2,090 in 2008 to 2,027 while net tuition revenue per student has increased each year.

That's the path that more liberal arts institutions are faced with over the next few years. St. Benedict expect enrollment to decrease further. That's also a more sustainable financial model in the face of the changed economic environment since 2008.

More details of a new way forward at
Social Media Research: Demographics on Who Uses What

The Pew Internet and American Life project brings us back to reality with a new report on how many people are using various social media sites. For people age 18-29, Pinterest at 16 percent of Internet users lags far behind Facebook at 83 percent.

The marketing lesson: beware of shiny new objects unless the niche they are in is of special interest. If you want to enroll more women, for instance, the value of Pinterest increases. Nearly four times more women use Pinterest than men.

More for your social media marketing plans at
How to Sabotage Your Website: Gerry McGovern on Dirty Magnets

A "dirty magnet" is a link that entices people to follow it on your website but takes them to a place that does not meet the expectations created by the link in the first place.

Dirty magnets are as bad as broken links. I find them often when reviewing higher education websites.

How to use your visitors' top tasks to uncover dirty links on your website? Read Gerry McGovern on Avoiding the Dirty Magnet in Website Design at
Most Popular Topic in the September Newsletter: Why Quit Social Media Now

The most visited item in the September newsletter was a blog post by Erik Sass titled "9 Reasons to Quit Social Media Now." See what you agree with and what you do not at
Need a Laugh Today?

For a fun break today courtesy of AdAge, take 31 seconds to watch this 1989 Radio Shack TV ad for a $799 "complete transportable phone system," complete with a battery pack to hang from your shoulder. Use at weddings, Boy Scout meetings, in speedboats and more.

Laugh along at
My 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.

October 30, November 1: "Writing Right for the Web" webinar with Academic Impressions. Review the program outline and register at

November 11-14, New Orleans: AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education. The Symposium website is at Register for my "Digital Marketing Strategy" tutorial on Sunday.

Expand the marketing skills of people on your campus. Host a campus workshop on any of my conference presentation topics or "Writing Right for The Web." Scan the presentation topics at

Contact me at or call me at 248.766.6425 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting FREE 248.766.6425 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

Bob Johnson
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