Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

November 2012 Archives

Student Recruitment Email... the impact of Hurricane Sandy

In my last entry to this series, I noted that too many emails had arrived to cover all of them in a single blog post (26 to be exact). The first 13 were reviewed in that last entry, with a promise to add the next 13 "ASAP." The ASAP date has arrived... here are the final 13 received between October 17 to November 1. Note that three of these were prompted by Hurricane Sandy and the need to extend early admissions deadlines.

The October 17 to November 1 emails are from 5 of our 6 schools. The "public honors college in New York" (the least frequent email communicator since June) is absent from this series.

Two special note: (1) nothing has yet arrived from any of our schools about academic program interest that was a required part of most inquiry forms completed in June and (2) Hurricane Sandy emails arrived from our "private university in Connecticut," the first email since July.

Here are the details:
  • October 17: Back with a final "Reminder" to register for the October 20 Open House is our "private university in Massachusetts." I've seen the large photo of students sitting on the steps in front of a building with tall pillars before. Time for a change? (If I can't get to the Open House there is a visible link to register for a "regularly scheduled campus visit.")
  • October 18: A November 4 Open House invite from the "private college in upstate NY" to join the president and director of admissions to learn about internship programs that give a "distinct career advantage" and the "education of a life time."
  • October 19: The "private university in Massachusetts" uses the subject line to tell me that the school "can open doors" for me. The email highlights a 2012 graduate employed in a field far removed from my academic interest area. The photo is a live link that leads not to more about the profile person but to a video where several other students talk about their experience at the university. Other links connect to social media, the admissions application, and tomorrow's October 20 Open House. Needed here: more on opening those doors as promised in the subject line.
  • October 22: The "private college in upstate NY" again reminds me in the subject line that I'm "clear to apply with NO fee." The email includes the advantages mentioned in earlier email. New is a P.S. to tell me that costs here are 17% lower than the schools "top 10 private competitors." If I apply I'll learn more.
  • October 22: From the "private college in Rhode Island" comes a final invitation to the October 27 Open House, with a note that both an athletic and a fine arts event are available for people staying the weekend. Once again, no use of my name and no name at the end of the email.
  • October 23: The admissions director at the "private college in upstate NY" is writing to say that she's noticed I have not yet registered for the November 4 Open House where I'll be able to meet "professors from your academic area" and learn about internships. 
  • October 25: Three days have passed and it is time for the "private college in upstate NY" to remind me that they are "most excited to review" my "Fast Forward" application before by a November 15 deadline. Reminders of advantages are included: no essay, no fee, automatic scholarship consideration.
  • October 26: The "private university in Connecticut" is back after no contact since July 13 using the subject line to alert me that the early action admissions deadline has been extended due to "inclement weather." That's code for Hurricane Sandy. The email includes my name as well as the dean of enrollment and a hope that my family and I will "weather this storm safely."
  • October 28: A second storm-related email from the "private university in Connecticut" to tell me of two days the school will close and to remind me of the "early action" extension.
  • October 29: The "most selective university" in our group returns at 11:13 AM today to tell me of a chat session at 7 PM tonight. Advice: put white space between the paragraphs here to make things much easier to read. If I can't make the chat I can follow the link to the admissions Facebook page and ask questions there. (When I visited, at least two people had done that.)
  • October 29: Hurricane Sandy again: The "private college in Rhode Island" writes to tell me of an extension to the Early Action admissions deadline.
  • October 31: Hurricane Sandy another time: the "private university in Connecticut" sends notice of a further extension of the Early Action deadline.
  • November 1: Was the machine that churns out "Fast Forward" application reminders for the "private college in upstate NY" aware of Hurricane Sandy when it sent this reminder of the November 15 deadline? Many of the applicants to this school are in areas impacted by the storm.
Expect another update the week after Thanksgiving reporting on at least 7 more emails received after November 1.

That's all for now.

Join me on Twitter at

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

Hello in November... and congratulations to everyone who had to struggle back to normal operations after Hurricane Sandy.

Gerry McGovern is giving a free webinar on November 7 on how Top Task Management can improve your website. Put more marketing power in your website. Register at If you cannot make the webinar, see slides from my August presentation on Top Task Design for higher education at

Website Management Principles: Gerry also has a survey in progress to learn your thoughts about the most important principles for successful website management at Take the survey and you will get a copy of the results.

Email for student recruitment: My secret shopper saga continues in a new blog post detailing 13 emails received from 5 colleges and universities since my last September update at

Less than a week from now many of us will be in New Orleans for the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education. I am looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones. You still have time to register at for my Sunday afternoon Digital Marketing Strategy tutorial.

And now, here are your marketing news and notes for November.
World University Rankings: 2012-2013

New world university rankings are out from Times Higher Education, using "13 carefully calibrated performance indicators."

California Institute of Technology wins first place. Specific ranking order is given for the first 200 institutions, followed by 200 more in alpha order. The alpha group ends with University of Wyoming.

See if your university is listed among the 400 when you scroll the list at
Surprising? Many Senior Administrators Say Higher Education Is Not Worth the Cost

Just over 40 percent of high ranking college and university administrators in the U.S. believe that students are not receiving an education worth the price of what they are paying, according to poll results released by Time Magazine.

The poll also shows that public opinion by a wide margin (73 percent) supports tuition price caps from the Federal Government because there is little faith in the ability of higher education to control cost increases.

That is an interesting combination that may also reflect why majorities of both senior administrators and the public believe there is either a "crisis" or a "severe crisis" in higher education today.

Read more details at
Online Inquiry Forms: 6 Short & Simple Honor Role Examples

The shorter you make an online inquiry form the more people will complete it. The best approach: let people see the entire form when the inquiry page opens so they know right away that it will not take long to complete.

Honor Role examples from 6 colleges and universities that get it right for both graduate and undergraduate recruitment are at
Retrenchment in the For-Profit Sector

Nothing lasts forever, including enrollment growth in the for-profit sector. By now you have likely heard that University of Phoenix is closing nearly half of on-site campuses across the country. Phoenix enrollment has dropped from a high of 476,500 in May of 2010 to 328,400 in August of 2012.

The reasons are varied, from not-so-good publicity about degree completion and student debt to skepticism about the value of the investment, to increased competition from the not-for-profit sector for online students. And enrollment increases are happening at some for-profit schools.

The Wall Street Journal has a good overview of what's happening in the churn at
UCLA TV Campaign for Online Students

One reason the for-profit sector has enrollment challenges is a more aggressive effort from schools like UCLA to enroll online students. Here in Michigan, for instance, we have seen television ads for the past few weeks from the venerable UCLA Extension program, with a special focus on certificate programs in specific career areas.

Start your review of the UCLA effort by watching a TV ad on YouTube at
Facebook and Mobile Advertising

If you are thinking about advertising on Facebook (and you should at least be thinking about it) then you will want to read the AdAge update on the progress FB is making in the mobile sector. The nutshell: advertising on smartphones is more restricted than on regular computers but the ROI for FB has been higher from mobile since the effort began in March.

Mobile advertising remains a challenge. But expect strong investment over the next 12 months by FB and others to explore how to make it work. For now, update yourself in the AdAge article at and plan to pay close attention to what happens as 2013 opens.
Website Conversion Rates by Industry: Education Average is 8 Percent

Marketing Sherpa is out with a chart on website conversion rates divided among 10 industry clusters. Education here is mixed with Healthcare.

Note the caveat that appears with the chart: conversion is measured in different ways in different industries (and even within a single industry.) Spend a minute or two to scan conversion rates that start with 10 percent for Financial and Professional Services at
Email Newsletters: Responsive Design Brings Benefits

Not long ago Jakob Nielsen was chastised by responsive design advocates for suggesting that responsive design might not be the right approach for every website in the mobile environment.

Nielsen is back in October with a new review of email newsletter effectiveness for smartphones. And in this case, he recommends a responsive design approach for the relatively small number of people who read newsletters on their phones rather than on desktop or laptop computers.

Email newsletters still have a role in marketing communications. For more on how to make yours more effective, visit the Nielsen Alertbox report at
QR Codes: 5 Successful Marketing Examples

Back in the beginning too many people jumped on QR codes because it was the cool thing to do and often were disappointed when results did not meet expectations.

Failure often was the result of using QR codes in the wrong place, using them to send people to regular website pages that didn't work on a smartphone, or just bad landing pages. Now, you can easily find people who have dismissed QR codes as lacking any usefulness at all. That is as silly as chasing after the latest shiny object when it first bounces in front of you.

Read about successful QR campaigns at
Pinterest: Why a Marketing VP is Bored

Speaking of chasing shiny objects, Pinterest just might fall into that category.

Rachel Weiss is the VP for Digital Marketing and Strategy at L'Oreal and she has been watching and learning about Pinterest since what she calls the "Pinterest craze" started early in the year. Right now she does not think it is a very good platform for brand building.

Learn about why Rachel is bored with Pinterest (and what she thinks of Facebook, Google, Google+, and Foursquare) at
University of Antarctica: Laugh or Cry?

Decide whether to laugh or cry for higher education marketing after you visit the University of Antarctica website at and explore "Big Opportunities" on the "Big Continent."

Yes, this is not a real university. But it will make you wonder about what is possible and what is not when the marketing impulse takes website content creation a bit over the top.

Some of what you find will make you laugh. And sometimes you might think you are looking at your school in a mirror.
Most Popular Topic in the October Newsletter: Email Student Recruitment Responses

The most visited item in the October newsletter was my blog post updating the ongoing review of how 6 colleges and universities are using email in response to an online inquiry. Check notes on 17 responses received in August and September at
My Last Conference in 2012

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.
That's All for Now

Be a marketing champion on your campus.

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

Student Recruitment Email... October was a very busy month

October was the month that made a single impression: if you inquire online to very many schools, your email inbox is going to be quite full. 

Most, but not all, of our 6 colleges and universities in New York and New England were busier this month than in August or September. With 26 emails in hand, I won't try to get them all into a single blog post. You'll see the first 13 here, with the next 13 to follow as soon as possible.

If you are following the series, you may note that my "private university in Connecticut" has been missing since July 13.

In October: Attention to Applications and Visits

Here are the details on individual emails sent over the past few weeks:

  • September 27: Our "private college in upstate NY" makes a mistake this time. The email subject line that says "Welcome to your Fast-Forward Application" then thanks me for using it. That's a bit premature as I haven't completed any applications yet. I'm asked to finish my application "before the deadline" but the deadline isn't mentioned.
  • September 28: Things are getting confused at the "private college in upstate NY." This email tells me how I'll benefit from the Fast-Forward application, urges me to complete it today for a fast response, and includes a username and password. The impression I have for a while now: emails from here come from two different places.
  • September 29: Our "private university in Massachusetts" sends a well-timed email to make sure I remember there is an Open House scheduled for October 20. The reservation link is well positioned. And if I can't make it, there is a note that I can come when convenient and spend a personal day with a student.
  • October 2: The "public honors college in New York" is back for the first time since July 13, urging me to visit on one of four upcoming weekends from into November. The link to register does't go to a form page but to a more general one on visit sessions and campus tours, including special info for transfer students. If I'm ready to visit, that's a mistake. A link to an online campus tour again makes me wonder how everything on a campus can get filmed without showing a single person anywhere. Feels eerie.
  • October 2: Our frequency leader, the "private college in upstate NY" wants me to "Turn My Passion into a Profession" with an invitation to visit the admissions website where students will share their experiences. I arrive to find 48 choices, most of whom indeed are students. Is that maybe a tad too many? Not every choice relates to the main message.
  • October 3: Yes, the "private college in upstate NY" is back again with another email repeating earlier message about the benefits of the "Fast-Forward" application. Added today is news that I'll be eligible for a $9,000 merit scholarship. Three links to the application and another to news about community service opportunities in a "P.S."
  • October 7: The "most selective university" reminds me in the subject line that I have the "potential to succeed here" and encourages me to get going with application. Included today is a link to news of successful alumni, a rare example of outcomes content. Simple, clean, nicely done.
  • October 8: An invitation to visit campus on November 4 for an Open House arrives from the "private college in upstate NY." Options to call or register online, but why do I need a user identity and password to register? And am I happy to hear that I'll meet with 200 students during the visit? Seems a rather long receiving line.
  • October 8: The second email today from the "private college in upstate NY" again urges completion of that "Fast-Forward" application so I'll get priority attention when decisions are made in the next week. No mention of the scholarship, but a reminder that no essay is required.
  • October 8: A busy email day continues when the "public honors college in New York" sends an opportunity to apply for Early Admission by November 15 and receive a decision a month later if I'm ready to commit. An "Early Decision" link gives a pretty clear description of what's involved and what happens if I'm not admitted in December.
  • October 9: The "private university in Massachusetts" tells me that "It's not just learning, it's a launch pad" to success. Three paragraphs crammed together with no space between them try to show me how internships lead to jobs after graduation. But where is the link to info about internships in various majors? Send me there and include an application or visit link from that page.
  • October 10: From the "private university in Rhode Island" comes a campus visit invitation that is their first email to address me by name and add the name of a real person at the end. The text-only email stretches a bit too far across the page. Included is a link to the day's agenda that's easy to scan and quickly tells me what to expect on visit day.
  • October 15: The "most selective university" returns with another application effort, including outcomes info about salary potential and a reminder that 100% of my "demonstrated financial need" will be met. Presentation is very easy to read.
Quick notes on this collection:
  • My "private college in upstate New York" is sending emails from two different places on campus and they don't seem connected. More coordination is needed.
  • The "most selective university" does a fine job with content presentation when the email opens: an easy-to-scan single column with key points in bold. If the devil is in the execution, these folk have exorcised it.
That's all for now.

Join me on Twitter at

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

Digital Marketing Strategy Workshop: Join me Sunday afternoon at the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education, November 11-14.

Bob Johnson
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