Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

April 2015 Archives

Higher Education Marketing News and Notes for April

Were you as surprised as I was at how many higher education "experts" at first refused to comment on the record last month on the Sweet Briar College closing? And at how many later fumbled around looking for reasons why the decision was incorrect and Sweet Briar just should have tried harder? 

For me, the bottom line at Sweet Briar was a steadily rising discount rate that passed 63 percent. That sends a message about brand strength in the marketplace, no matter the endowment dollars left. Trustees made a difficult but correct decision.

Join us in Houston June 1-3 for Improving Your Strategic Recruitment Communication Plan. I am looking forward to my sessions on "values messaging" and "affordability and financial aid." Details at 

The fifth Writing Write for the Web: Improving Your Online Content conference with Academic Impressions takes place in San Diego July 13-14. Check the agenda at

Early registration is open for eduWeb Digital Summit in Chicago in July. In honor of this 10th anniversary meeting, eduWeb is having a contest to award free registrations to 10 people who work at a college or university. Contest details are at 

The J.Boye Philadelphia 15 conference happens May 5-7. Register with the discount code HigherEdMarketing20 for a 20 percent discount. Speakers and topics are at 

Invite a friend or colleague to subscribe to this newsletter. Just 30 seconds at 

And now here are your marketing news and notes for April. 
Cartoon of the Month: Tech Fantasies and Marketing Success 

Are you infatuated each year with the latest tech marvel from SXSW? 

Our Cartoon selection this month reminds us to step back and try to puzzle out whether or not the latest tech wonder really fits with our marketing plans. See 
What Makes People Leave Your Website? 10 Possibilities to Review

If you want more people to love your website, do a mini-audit based on these 10 reasons from Wordtracker on what might be driving visitors away. The list starts with an area I'm convinced does not receive the attention it deserves: Slow Loading Speed, especially on mobile. 

Another favorite: "Simplify Purchase Forms" that for higher education translates to "Simplify Inquiry Forms." See those and 8 more at 
15 Great Landing Page Examples

Gina Soskey at HubSpot has gathered a great list of 15 landing pages, some long and some short, at 

Pay special attention to the sign-up forms and note how their creators have resisted the temptation to conduct demographic surveys and ask a "how did you hear about us" question. The longer the form the fewer people will complete it.
College Presidents: 600+ Respond to a Survey on Current Issues

Inside Higher Education commissioned this survey of college presidents on topics that included their financial models, proposed government ratings, race relations, and sexual assault on their campuses and others. 

Notable result: a major difference in confidence in their current financial models over the next 5 years and the next 10 years. The crystal ball is showing storm clouds although most think the financial impact of the 2008 recession is over. 

Start with a summary article and link to download the complete 24-page PDF at 
The End of College: An Atlantic Magazine Essay 

If you follow the higher education disruption literature you probably know that Kevin Carey has a new "technology will destroy college as we know it" book out. 

The president of Wesleyan University has an excellent essay in Atlantic Magazine on why Carey may be a little too deep into the disruption Kool-Aid. I say that as no special fan of traditional higher education. But if you are interested in the debate be sure to read this critique by Michael Roth at 
NY Times and Apple Watch: A New Brevity Alert

Predictions for sales of the new Apple Watch are high (maybe too high?) and marketers are scrambling to figure out how to take advantage of this tiny new mobile screen. One thing is certain: the need for skill at brief communications that use carewords to get attention will be higher than ever before.

The NY Times knows that. Special teams are at work to present news stories in one powerful sentence. Readers will be able to go from there to read more on iPhone and iPad. Can higher education press releases also play in this arena? That will take some new skill.

Start planning for the mini-screen world. Review the NY Times effort at 
University of Phoenix: More than 50 percent Enrollment Decrease

Yes, the for-profit sector is in trouble. At the University of Phoenix enrollment has decreased from 460,000 students 5 years ago to a present 213,000. Revenue has decreased from nearly $5 billion in 2010 to perhaps $2.7 billion this year. And of course stock prices have dipped more than a bit.

Is there good news? Tightened admission has contributed to lower loan default rates. But there is no doubt that Phoenix and the for-profit is no longer an investment darling. More from CNN Money at 
Content Strategy: Is Content Blindness in the Future?

Ad Age recently reported on a panel session of ad agency folk concerned about the rush to produce content as part of an in-bound marketing strategy. What is the problem? Resistance by those expected to consume the content to anything they think is overtly pushing a product or service. 

Can marketers resist the urge to embed old-style marketing in on-line content? More on the possibility of content blindness and how to avoid it at 
Email Marketing: Alive and Well

Here is a great infographic to send to any colleagues who do not believe attention to email marketing is important. Among other research reports: 77 percent of people, including Millennials, prefer to receive permission-based email and consider it a trustworthy source of information.

A critical factor: email must be relevant to the person receiving it. That is an important message for colleges and universities that send the same emails to everyone making an enrollment inquiry. When you ask people to name the academic programs that interest them and then ignore that information in response emails you make is less likely that people will continue to pay attention.

More on how to create and sustain a successful email communications stream 
Presenting a Value Proposition: 4 Mistakes to Avoid

If you are talking about adding "value" content to your marketing communication plan, be sure to check the advice from Website Magazine on "4 Value Propositions Worth Re-Thinking."

My favorite here: words are more important than video. Video plays a key support role, but present your case first in short, easy to read text. See more at 
A Higher Education Value Proposition at the Home Page: Augustana College

I have found only one higher education home page that opens with value content.

See it for yourself at the home page for Augustana College in South Dakota at
Most Popular Topic in March Newsletter: 4 Expert Tips for Landing Page Copy

Very pleased to see the high interest in this topic as there is no better way to kill advertising ROI than by sending people to a poor landing page. Check "4 Expert Tips..." at 
Be a marketing champion on your campus.

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

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