With claims of “connecting with purpose”  and “building stronger relationships”, what higher education enrollment manager or marketer wouldn’t be interested in software magic to grow, shape, or retain students.

History and experience tell a different story for constituent, customer, student, social … or whatever label vendors add in front of relationship management software. Strategy, people, processes, and technology issues tend to derail projects before the first vendor training.

Next Tuesday, August 20, I will be presenting a webinar for UPCEA on Defining Your CRM Game Plan. I will discuss recent research we conducted and share ideas for a path forward. This presentation is relevant for those who have already invested in CRM and for those considering a project.

The webinar is free to UPCEA members.


Whether you have implemented, or you are considering investing in, “CRM”, learn actionable strategies

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Posted by John Copeland on August 16th, 2013

conversation plan for enrollment recruitment

Webster’s dictionary defines the word flow as “to issue or move in a stream.”

Over the last 30 years, the go-to action recommended by enrollment management consultants is the prospective student communication flow. This recommendation typically follows a static template of what I call “letter, letter, email.” In other words, the student inquires, they receive a viewbook and then a rote application of messages including a campus visit invitation, the so-called academic quality message, the financial aid message, and then various and continuous pleas to apply and visit.


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Posted by John Copeland on April 23rd, 2013

I saw the following headline through Twitter this morning …

Digitally Savvy Students Play Hide-and-Seek With Campus Messages
While e-mail remains the official method of communication on most campuses, colleges are expanding their presence in the virtual world, trying to reach students where they hang out.

My question is why are students hiding out in the first place? And why do we have to keep chasing students into an increasing set of digital channels?

Maybe it is related to what colleges and universities are communicating.

In our recent report, Best (And Worst) Recruitment Communication Practices 2012, we outline over 1200 email and direct mail messages we received over a three-month period. In all, 40 of these messages – yes, 40 out of 1,200 – spoke to information we provided in the inquiry process.

Here’s an idea – let’s stop chasing students into new digital channels by volume, and instead ACTUALLY use technology to become more targeted, personal, and relevant.



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Posted by John Copeland on September 17th, 2012

While digital communication is at the center of many recruitment planning discussions, the focus should be on student preferences and actual online participation behaviors. When considering eight potential interactive marketing channels, high school students overwhelmingly prefer direct mail, email, and search engines as sources of information.

In a survey of more than 1,000 high school students nationwide, DemandEngine found that 73 percent of respondents use text messaging, while 66 percent check email, daily. In contrast, 61 percent rarely or never read blogs, while another 40 percent report the same inactivity with chat or instant messaging. Despite regular use of social media — 62 percent are on social networking sites at least daily — students are largely unreceptive to informational contact through this medium, with only nine percent stating they definitely would use the sites this way. We also found what behaviors students engage in most often online and what devices they use to get there.

In our newest research report, The Interactive Marketing Profile Of  High School Students — 2012, our findings include:

  • Inquirers prefer direct mail, email, and search engines as information channels
  • Communication preferences increase as the relationship grows
  • Students prefer channels they can control
  • While students associate with college Facebook groups or pages, most activity is spectator-based
  • Other online behaviors do not measure up to the hype
  • Laptops and desktops still matter

College and university admission professionals seeking to earn the ‘strategic’ in the strategic enrollment management moniker should take a more calculated to their recruitment marketing efforts by:

Understanding the online participation profile and preferences of their students

By viewing high school students through a different lens — their behavior and preferences —making marketing and technology investments becomes evidence-based, rather than opinion-, or worse yet, hype-based.

Matching interactive marketing channels to support the student decision cycle

Search engine marketing works best to identify students who are actively looking for educational opportunities, while social media, texting, and phone calls are better suited to applicants — when a more definitive relationship exists. Direct mail search is still a winner to engage standardized test takers early in their decision process.

Developing a content plan

A content plan moves recruitment communications from the typical stream of visit, apply, or deposit messages to a dialogue that helps students evaluate their options and make decisions.

Open interactive channels when they can be scaled

Discuss the internal implications of each channel initiative to ensure your team, department, and institution can deliver a positive student experience.

Build a foundation first

Consider your own internal production process for a print publication versus creating and sending a promotional email. In most cases, an admission professional would never dream of printing or mailing a brochure using the same approaches that many use for email today.

The report is currently available for download.


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Posted by John Copeland on July 24th, 2012

Earlier this fall, Hotmail declared war on graymail with a new set of filtering features and enrollment marketers need to take notice.

What Hotmail is categorizing as graymail are the messages that technically recipients have subscribed to (think Facebook alerts, Groupon notices, etc), but aren’t engaging with. Perhaps the message content isn’t compelling or their inboxes are being flooded. Whatever the reason, the reality is that they are not engaging with the message.

Earlier this fall, Dick Craddick, Hotmail group program manager, shared that a startlingly low 14% of email messages are actually person-to-person messages that we highly value. The rest? The gray area…containing all of those messages that we “requested” at some point, but may or may not value now.

What Hotmail Is Doing

According to Mike Hotz at ClickZ, there are several new features Hotmail has rolled out that will help users address the graymail issue:

1. Schedule Cleanup – Users will be able to set up batch deletions (automatic, everything other than the most recent newsletter, messages over a week old, and the like).

2. Advanced folder organization – users can automate the movement of messages from a sender en masse to a specified folder.

3. Flagging the top contenders – Messages can be flagged as important and will stay at the top of the inbox.

This is just one more step in the direction the ISPs began taking last fall with Gmail and Yahoo’s automatic sorting features.

What’s an Enrollment Marketer to Do?

According to new adult learner communication preferences research to be released at the 2011 UPCEA Marketing Seminar by DemandEngine, adult learners continue to prefer email as the top communication channel to learn about colleges and universities they are considering.

So, they want to receive email. How do we keep ours from falling into that non-engaged-with graymail category? Keep the following in mind:

Build a relationship – Email marketing success lies in the relationships you build, not just the feature set of your sending platform. Marketers that work to understand their prospective students and then deliver segmented, highly-relevant content to them are going to win the relationship race in the long run.

What works? For adult learners, consider content that updates them on the industry in which you know they either currently work or want to work. What’s the job market like? How can they prepare themselves to advance their careers?

For example, a private university in the Midwest marketing online healthcare programs has used a career guide for healthcare professionals to initiate and then cultivate relationships with prospective students. The email series focuses on the value of additional credentials in select healthcare careers, the reality that many healthcare systems either are or will be requiring this in the near future, and what salary projections look like post-credential.

Blatantly remind them why they are hearing from you – More and more, savvy email marketers are using the space above their messages to overtly remind the recipient why they are receiving their message. And many are also using that space to allow recipients to either manage their preferences or completely unsubscribe.

If they are receiving your message because they previously enrolled in part of your certificate program, tell them. If they are someone who recently expressed interest in your program and this is part of your follow up, tell them. Simple statements like, “You’re receiving this message because you recently expressed interest in our Project Management Certificate program,” can go a long way at capturing their attention, reminding them why you are contacting them, and increasing the likelihood they engage with your message.

Monitor engagement… and act on it– Use your email analytics to understand who is (and who is not) engaging with your messages.

Often, marketers focus only on those that are engaging and just keep sending the same content to those that are not in the hopes that they’ll come back around. Instead of hoping, take a more proactive approach.

What can you do? For starters, identify contacts who have not opened anything you’ve sent in the past six months. Email them and ask if they want to continue receiving emails from you. Give them an opportunity manage their preferences (i.e. alter frequency of your message or even unsubscribe). If they don’t engage at that point, consider removing them from your list.

The Take Away

At the end of the day, marketers must focus on valuable interactions that build relationship. Too often, the focus is on the latest technology or a cool feature that’s available. Quality relationships will trump quantity of pushed-out-messages any day.



Posted in Email Marketing, Enrollment marketing strategy, Interactive Marketing | 0 Comments
Posted by demandengine on November 4th, 2011

Is your institution fully leveraging communications with prospective students? Answer three simple questions about your institution’s marketing communication practices:

  1. When a prospective student inquires for the first time, we send them an application or an email with a link to “Apply Now” or “Register Now” Yes or No
  2. We use postal mail to send catalogs to prospective students and wait for them to apply or register. Yes or No
  3. When a prospective student completes a web form requesting more information, we add them to a list and from that point forward, they receive mailings, emails, and phone calls from us about all of our programs. Yes or No

If you answered yes to one or more of the above, we need to talk. Better yet, you need to start talking to your prospective students (and listening to them).

Enrollment is a Considered Decision

First, applying or enrolling is a considered decision. That means you don’t go from first date to marriage.

And how we respond to individuals faced with an enrollment decision can be the difference between a registration and a lost student.

A prospective student inquiring for the first time may not be ready to “apply now” or “register now”. As enrollment marketers, we need to be prepared to listen to their needs and assist them in their decision process. Depending on the individual, that process might take months or even years. Daunting? Yes, but the more we recognize the gravity of the decision process, the better we become at providing prospective students with the information and the resources they need in order to arrive at the decision to choose our institution above the competition.

No one but the stereotypical used car salesman enjoys a high-pressure approach.  Email marketing is a powerful communication medium that is underutilized for its real capabilities. Many of us use it, just not well. Instead of an email blast, think of an email as a small conversation, with an exchange of ideas including an opportunity to continue the dialogue.

Sending the right message at the right time can encourage a decision rather than frightening individuals away with the expectation of an immediate response they’re simply not ready to make.

Integrate Online and Offline Enrollment Marketing

Second, catalogs and brochures are great information pieces. But did you know that according to the Direct Marketing Association’s 2010 Response Rate Trend Report, the average response rate to a direct mail piece alone is less than 4% to a house list and less than 2% to a prospect list?

What might happen if you include direct mail as part of an overall communication plan that also includes email? Put yourself in the shoes of a prospective student for a moment. Think of how powerful it could be to receive a catalog about an institution of interest and then receive a personal follow-up email a few days later referencing the catalog and offering to assist you and answer your specific questions. Suddenly, you’ve moved from a passive catalog mailing to the start of a real conversation, demonstrating that your institution understands that enrollment is a decision, not an impulse buy, and you’re here to help.

Qualify Prospective Student Interest

Third, examine your web forms and be sure you are proactively asking students how they want to hear from you and what information they wish to receive. Are you asking the student which programs or subject areas are of interest? Are you asking them about their enrollment timeframe?

Capturing that information and using it to build your communications with that prospective student demonstrates that you are listening and sending information the student actually wants, rather than bombarding them with info about every program you offer.  Never assume that they want to receive all forms of communication just because your form required them to provide a mailing address, email address, and a phone number. By asking how they prefer to be contacted, you have immediately demonstrated that you care about their preferences. And when you ask for their communication preference, be sure you actually follow it!

A research study conducted by DemandEngine demonstrates that email is a preferred communication method for prospective students ranging from undergraduates to adult learners. Email works best when it is treated as a foundation for conversation; initiated based upon student needs, time horizons, and expectations; and paired with other channels.

Regardless of the channel, providing personalized content relevant to the recipient’s interests provides value and builds a long-term foundation for the relationship.


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Posted by Lesley Snyder on October 11th, 2011

I enjoyed reading a recent piece from Rebecca Ruiz, entitled The Medium is the Message: Should a College Call, Text or Tweet? According to Ruiz, members of the millennial generation may be stereotyped as rabid text messagers, but a group of nearly 10 high school seniors and college freshmen agreed on Saturday that they would most like to hear from a college they are interested in by phone. The group of students, all from the New Orleans area, spoke during a session called “Technology in the College Process: The Student Perspective,” held as the curtain came down on the annual conference of the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

In one exchange, a bewildered counselor asked, “You don’t want us to text you?”

A 12th grader replied, “If you’re going to use the phone, taking the time to call is a lot better, a lot more personal.”

Another revelation for counselors came when the students expressed little interest in connecting with colleges on Facebook, suggesting that a university’s presence on their news feeds was invasive.

“Colleges say, ‘Like us on Facebook’ — but that’s my personal time, I’d rather not,” one high school senior said. “I’d like to find a time in my day where I don’t think about the college process,” she said to soft applause from a few sympathetic audience members.

And I say, finally.

Over the last few years, we’ve researched and reported on the communication preferences of high school and adult students. At the same time we’ve spoken to a number of enrollment professionals who are incredulous when they see the results.

For example, students prefer using search engines, receiving direct mail and email messages to learning about your institution through Twitter and Facebook.

High School Communication Preferences

But, how can this be? Students live on Facebook, they don’t use email anymore, and as other vendors have told us in years past, they spend their time blogging and listening to podcasts. No, not if you compare their online behavior:

What high school students do online

We’ve updated this research for high school students and we will be releasing the results this fall.

What I can tell you is the trends are the same. Focus on connecting with students and building relationships. Stop letting technology lead the conversation.


Posted in Email Marketing, Interactive Marketing, Social Strategy | 0 Comments
Posted by John Copeland on September 27th, 2011

This week, we announced our 2011 Summer Release, marking DemandMarketer’s transition from an email marketing software to an online marketing platform, geared specifically toward the needs of higher education marketing and enrollment professionals.

From our work with colleges and universities across the country, enrollment managers and higher education marketers have to juggle their student information and CRM systems, Twitter, and Facebook accounts to communicate with prospective students. The new release of DemandMarketer provides the ability to integrate email message and social technology touchpoints, integrates direct response capabilities, provides automated workflow communications, optimizes send time based on contact behavior, and increases reporting and analysis capabilities for email, social, and web metrics – all in one online platform. Here are the key points:

Workflows With Integration Of Email, Facebook, And Twitter Enrollment Messaging
DemandMarketer now provides you with the opportunity to fully automate a multi-channel communication flow. Using a combination of triggers, filters, and actions, you have the ability to target prospective students based on their behavior, specific dates, and personal information. The intuitive drag and drop interface allows you to create a message flow which automates not only email messages, but also Facebook and Twitter communications.

Turn Direct Mail Into Direct Response
With Quick Response (QR) code management, create QR codes to include with direct mail pieces. Link your codes to web forms for inquiry capture and communication workflows to begin immediately engaging prospective students.

Deliver Emails When Your Students Want Them
Instead of sending emails at random times of the day you suppose are best for your target audience, enabling DemandMarketer’s send time optimization feature uses each contact’s history to determine the day and/or the time of day a prospective student is most likely to open and engage with your message. While you still have the capability to choose the date and send time, this feature lets you further optimize your campaigns and increase contact engagement.

Real-Time ROI Reporting To Adapt Your Enrollment Marketing Strategies
DemandMarketer includes a wide range of reporting capabilities which allow you to see exactly how, when, and where your contacts are engaging with your messages. With DemandMarketer’s updated Open Reporting, you can view opens by time of day, geographic location, and email client. DemandMarketer’s updated reporting capabilities also include the ability to automatically calculate and report the number of “likes” and comments on Facebook and retweets through Twitter.

We will be rolling out new functionality between now and July 1 in preparation for your summer and fall campaign planning, as well as offering support sessions to introduce the new capabilities. In the meantime, if you have specific questions, contact your account strategist.

And if you are not a client, call us too!


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Posted by demandengine on June 3rd, 2011

Adult learners use search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, or Bing to find educational opportunities. With specific educational needs, they bypass portals, directories, and even your web site and instead use key phrases and terms to find college and university information that is relevant to them.

So the question is, “Can your prospective adult learners find you online?”

In this OCHEA 2011 presentation, learn how to secure your online real estate by developing a search engine marketing plan. Discover recent research results on how continuing education web sites are performing. We will discuss the planning essentials to master search engine optimization and paid search advertising in ways that support enrollment goals.

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Posted by John Copeland on March 29th, 2011

Outside of specific technologies, what behaviors do high school students engage in online?

Click on the chart  below for a full sized view.

Posted in Interactive Marketing | 0 Comments
Posted by demandengine on February 21st, 2011