Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter... February 2013

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Is it February already? If you are like me, 2013 is moving rapidly along and I trust good things are happening as your marketing plans move forward this year.

The January update in my secret shopping series on email response to an website inquiry is online now. Visit and follow the ongoing tale of the ever-changing Fast-Forward Application deadline. 14 emails are reviewed at

The Call for Papers for eduWeb2013 is open until February 15. Details at

Gerry McGovern will host a free webinar on February 7 to review results from over 1,000 web professionals on what they believe are the most important web management principles. Register at

My first conference presentations this year are at the J.Boye Web and Intranet Conference in Philadelphia in May, stating with a tutorial on building web management consensus among developers, marketers, content specialists, and managers. More on the tutorial and the entire conference at

Our 2-day conference on Writing Write for the Web is in Boston this year, May 30-31. Details will be online later this month.

And now here are your higher education marketing news and notes for February.
Endowments Flat in 2012: See Results from 833 Schools

Last year was not a good one for most higher education endowments. And that will add to the financial pressure felt by colleges and universities fighting in the tuition discount wars to maintain enrollments and academic profiles. Above the $1 billion mark are 71 schools. Just 145 schools are above the $500 million mark.

Endowment income, in other words, is not going to provide serious budget support to very many colleges and universities. Check to see how your endowment compares to those of your competitors among the 833 colleges and universities at
Responsive Design Websites: Pros and Cons

Responsive design websites can help make your web content work better as the number of people visiting on smartphones continues to increase. But responsive design is not a magic cure for whatever ails your site, particularly if your site suffers from great quantities of little-used content.

To help set realistic expectations, read "The pros and cons of responsive Web design" from Mobile Commerce Daily at
Advertising Landing Pages: CUNY Does it Right

If you spend money on advertising to bring people to a website, the landing page should repeat and reinforce the message in the ad that motivated the move to the website. Sounds simple, but too many ads still drop people on a regular website page. That is guaranteed to reduce conversion. In other words, guaranteed to waste money.

City University of New York ran a centerfold ad in the February 3 NTY Education Life supplement that does not make that mistake. Visit the landing page at where you can also download a PDF copy of the ad.
Gates Foundation Report: Major Overhaul of Financial Aid System

If people on your campus still do not think that the wind is blowing higher education toward dramatic changes, add a new report sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to their reading list.

Changes in Pell Grant duration and the amount that students and parents can borrow are just two of the areas to read about in the report from InsideHigherEd at

If you want to plunge right into the full "Rebalancing Resources and Incentives in Federal Student Aid" report at you can download a 41-page PDF at the same location.
Advertising Online: A New Opportunity from Facebook?

A new "Custom Audiences" feature from Facebook will let organizations upload their CRM database and deliver ads directly to anyone in the database with a Facebook account.

While the devil always lurks in the details, including costs and privacy, this is a promising feature that would let colleges and universities focus advertising efforts directly to people in their inquiry pool who had not yet become applicants.

The service is not operational yet. Read more about it from AdAge at
Direct Marketing Follies: The PSAT January Contact Season

How far has direct marketing advanced in higher education?

Not all that far if the deluge of email arriving these last few weeks to the son of a friend in the direct marketing business is any indication. Read his comments and my own about the 60 or so emails received from schools the son has never heard of, nearly all using very similar marketing messages, at
Recruiting Geography: How Far From Your Location?

If you are a regional public university or a private sector college with limited brand recognition far from your campus in an area where demographics do not work in your favor, you will not like results from the latest annual survey of new college freshmen from UCLA.

Simply put, most of today's freshmen are little more inclined to travel far to attend college now than in 1972 or at any time since then. Many want to stay within 50 miles of home and for many others 100 miles is the limit. Unless you have a strong brand reputation and attract more affluent students the 30 percent willing to travel over 500 miles are not likely coming to your campus.

For more on changes over time, check the chart at
Net Price Calculators: More Complex than Necessary?

Publicity for net price calculators increased when the New York Times ran a January story highlighting the challenges people face in using them: a wide variety of forms requiring different information producing different results. The impact: many people start the forms without finishing them and others do not trust the net cost received.

The article mentions in passing another major drawback: many net price calculators are hidden away where they likely will not be found. I still suspect that is the desired result at some colleges and universities. The NYT article is at

The Institute for College Access and Success reported last fall on a random study of 50 net price calculators, with questions numbering from 8 to 70. Two, at Grinnell College and Milliken University, were cited as especially easy to find. Only one, at University of Tulsa, received praise for featuring the true net price as the most visible number on the results page.

Download the Institute report at and see how your calculator compares.
Law School Applications: 20 Percent Decrease from 2012

All but a handful of law schools around the country are expecting a second year of serious application decreases. Expensive tuition combined with poor job prospects and high student debt are fueling an ongoing decline that is expected to shrink students, faculty and staff at many schools and close some.

The New York Times reports the University of Illinois law school is discounting tuition to maintain enrollment. More details in the NYT story at
Jakob Nielsen Alertbox: The Perils of Auto-Rotating Images

Jakob Nielsen is out with a new Alertbox report warning of the dangers of auto-rotating images on the home page. Nielsen recommends putting visitors in control by letting them view a single image as long as they want.

Nielsen details the negative impact of auto-rotation at
Most Popular Topic Last Month: Video Introducing New UCal Logo

Introducing a new logo is always a challenge and this video did not help. Most popular topic last month was a University of California video dismissively brushing aside the old image at
Conferences and Webinars in 2013

Look for presentation details in the February newsletter.

May 7-9, Philadelphia: "5 Top Web Management Principles: Achieving Consensus within Your Organization" and "Winning Friends at Your Website: Use Top Task Design for a Great Experience," J.Boye Web and Intranet conference. Program and registration starts at

May 30-31, Boston: "Writing Right for the Web: Improving Your Institution's Web Content," Academic Impressions Conference. Details will be online soon.

June 25, Webinar: "Recruiting Adult Students: Top Website Features to Increase Enrollment," Academic Impressions. Description and registration will be available later in February.

Also plan to attend one or more of my favorites... ACT Enrollment Planners Conference in July, and/or eduWeb Conference also in July.

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 248.766.6425 FREE 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

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