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How to Market an Online Graduate Program: Year Three Marketing Strategies for a New Online Graduate Program
[00:00:00] Zach Busekrus: Welcome to How To Market an Online Graduate program, a special four-part podcast series brought to you by Enroll and our friends at Archer Education. Over the course of this series, we'll unpack everything you need to know to properly design a go-to-market strategy for your new online grad program, and we'll also talk about what the first few years of marketing and growing your program should look like.
[00:00:22] We'll dive deep into where, when, and how to use paid search and paid social effectively. How you should think through appropriately balancing paid and organic efforts in years one and two versus years three and four. We'll talk about what positioning strategies you should test out. We'll also talk about how to properly leverage the personal brands of your faculty and staff members, and so much more.
[00:00:43] This series is made possible. Thanks to our friends at Archer. Archer is an education technology company dedicated to personalizing student recruitment. If you wanna learn more about how Archer might be able to help your institution get more bang for your marketing and admissions buck, head on over to archer edu.com [00:01:00] and tell them that your friends.
[00:01:01] And RFI sent you their way. Without further ado, welcome to this special series, how to Market an Online Grad Program.
[00:01:19] In episode three of how to market an online graduate program, you'll meet Caroline Coilly, vice President of Creative Services and John Van Fleet, chief Marketing Officer at. Archer Education. In this episode, Caroline, John and I discuss the key metrics and indicators schools should use in year three to determine how to make data-driven improvements based on the performance of their marketing program in years one and two, how schools should evaluate their marketing strategy in relation to current market trends and competition.
[00:01:46] And how schools can incorporate user generated content to enhance social proof and credibility in their marketing efforts. For more information on this series and on Archer Education, be sure to check out the show notes below. But [00:02:00] without further ado, welcome to episode three of How to Market an Online Graduate Program.
[00:02:10] All right, John and Caroline, we are, we are live with this third episode in this wonderful special podcast series that we're producing here at Enroll Fify with our friends at Archer on how to think through how to build and how to market the future of. Online grad program. So what's been really fun about this series is we've gotten to take like a, a deep dive right into how to think through the constructing and the creation of an online grad program to what that first year of marketing it should look like to what that second year should look like.
[00:02:45] And what we wanna talk about today is once you've got a couple recruitment cycles down and you've figured out a, a thing or two about. What audiences respond best to your program, how the content, uh, delivery and modalities are working out. How do you think about scale [00:03:00] and growth of this new online grad program that you've just launched?
[00:03:02] So, Caroline and John, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy days to join me for this, for this discussion. Well, thanks
[00:03:10] John Van Fleet: for having us, Zach. We, we've had a little bit of time to kind of think about what things might look like as you kind of, you know, imagine what year three might represent in the, the.
[00:03:21] The, the short answer to a very complicated question is there's a thousand different possibilities depending upon what's actually happened and what you've learned over the course of those first couple of years. The, the bad news in general is that you've probably plucked almost all the low hanging fruit that's going to be available to you.
[00:03:39] The, the very good news is, You've got a lot of data in-house. You've generated thousands most likely of leads, hundreds of applications and, and hopefully enrollments. And the ability to then take that information and take that data to inform not only what your strategy is from. Kind of a, a traffic [00:04:00] acquisition standpoint, but certainly from a creative standpoint, certainly from an admission standpoint, that can give you a leg up on what the appropriate next steps might be.
[00:04:08] Zach Busekrus: Yeah. Uh, absolutely couldn't, couldn't agree more there. And what I wanted to start with, and, and Caroline, I'll, I'll kick this first question over to you and, and then John, feel free to, to riff on it as, as well. But in, in the first couple years of standing up a, a new program, I think. You know, depending on your institutional context, folks are at least a little patient, right?
[00:04:27] They understand that a, you know, results to an extent take some time, right? And most, most folks will give you a year or, or a couple years. But at that third year mark, right? Uh, people start, people start looking around and, and, and wondering, Hey, is this working? Like, or what, you know, what is working and, and what's not.
[00:04:44] And that's really where leadership, if they're not already quite involved in this process, where, where they start asking good questions. So what, what I wanna get a better sense of is, How do you guys think through the KPIs and, and really, you know, questions, folks should be asking what, what data and or [00:05:00] answers should folks have as they step into and really craft marketing strategies for that third year.
[00:05:07] So Caroline, why don't, why don't we just start with you here. As you think about kind of third year of marketing a, a new online grad program, what are some things that we should know and, and what are some things that we should be taking into account as we craft our next year's marketing strategy? Well, I think we should understand
[00:05:23] Caroline Khalili: where the general trends are going.
[00:05:25] Right At that point, we have enough data. Are things trending upward downward? Are they staying stable? I think we should have a good sense of what kind of the enrollment funnel looks like. Where are people maybe getting stuck? How can we overcome those obstacles and kind of engage with them and push them through the funnel more effectively?
[00:05:44] I think we should have a much better idea of who our audiences are and what they care about. Early on. Like John said, we're kind of plucking that low hanging fruit or maybe not being as customized as personalized in our strategy and our messaging. And [00:06:00] so I think this point, we should really be crafting much more tailored messages to those key audiences across all touchpoints and channels to ensure that we're really engaging them in the best way
[00:06:12] Zach Busekrus: possible.
[00:06:14] John, what would you add to that?
[00:06:16] John Van Fleet: I guess I, I kind of think of almost a shift as you get kind of later into a partnership, particularly kind of thinking through the, the, the view of, you know, year three where I. You go from being kind of much more heavy and aggressive on the paid media acquisition front to now, are we bringing kind of better balance in terms of the leads and applications and enrollments that we're generating organically, right?
[00:06:43] Those things can take a while to gain traction and, and to gain momentum. Um, but if you wanna keep your acquisition cost, In check and you want to continuously achieve scale, you've gotta be attacking from both angles. And so as I think of year three in particular, I really kind of think, [00:07:00] and maybe balance of power isn't necessarily the right way to, to look at it, but I do think kind of the balance of effort and, and maybe pressure.
[00:07:08] It's more heavily towards the, the, the folks involved in creative, again, in partnership, um, with the people that are acquiring traffic and certainly kind of trying to make sure that you're getting a, a higher percentage of traffic, a higher percentage of leads and abstine roles from those organic channels.
[00:07:25] While, while certainly that's not kind of free, There's a tremendous amount of time and effort and energy that goes into kind of building up traffic on that front. The quality there is always the best quality that you're gonna get in terms of student interest and the acquisition cost, therefore is much, much lower.
[00:07:42] So that's really where my attention goes is, is how can we keep that, that kind of ongoing growth mentality, knowing that particularly from a paid side, we're gonna be going into much more competitive areas. In other words, Relying less on kind of brand specific keywords or what we might refer to as demand [00:08:00] capture, moving toward demand creation and keeping kind of that balance across all the channels to to maintain an acceptable acquisition cost.
[00:08:08] And it's challenging. But again, like I kind of said earlier, you do now have the benefit of a tremendous amount of kind of incremental data. You've learned a lot about the students, you've learned a lot more about the programs, and that should allow you to kind of keep that balance in check to where you can still do things, continue to achieve scale, and continue to acquire students at a reasonable cost.
[00:08:28] Zach Busekrus: So well said and, and I actually wanna circle back on the traffic topic and in just a second and kind of where that traffic is coming from. But Caroline, something you said about like messaging right? Really jumped out at me. And in in year, in year three, maybe those first couple years, you're really trying to figure out like, who is our core audience or our audiences for this?
[00:08:46] For this new online grad program. Hopefully by your third recruitment cycle, you do understand at least who those core personas are, right? There might be you might they, they might still be growing and evolving, but you, you have at least a couple that you should feel [00:09:00] really confident in, right? And maybe that's what you spend more of your time in the first couple years doing.
[00:09:05] But at year three, right, it's really about, okay, you know who you're going after. Now it's really. Time to make sure that we're capturing their attention at the right times and in the right places. And I see sort of year three as the year where real creative testing can, can really begin to take place because you understand who your core audience is.
[00:09:25] So what do you think about that? And, and have you, do you have any sort of, uh, examples that you could give and or, and or just insight on? What creative testing might look like and whether or not creative testing at this juncture is, is super appropriate, or whether it's still sort of like too early from your perspective.
[00:09:42] Caroline Khalili: No, I absolutely don't think it's too early. I think you probably, at this point, you already should have been doing some of that testing, to be honest. I think in the beginning you're just trying to get your bearings right and a lot of the focus is just on getting things up and running again, capturing kind of that low hanging fruit on the paid side.
[00:09:59] You know, [00:10:00] typically very heavy on, on paid search. Getting kind of your organic strategies in place and getting that foundation laid so that at this point you are kind of reaping the benefits from that. But I think as you, you know, really personas are a hypothesis at first, and you're, you're testing those and I think typically we have a very, Strong sense, like we, we do a lot of upfront work with our partners to understand from their perspective, you know, who these audiences are as well as, you know, supplementing that with kind of our own research and tools.
[00:10:34] But if it's a brand new program, From their perspective, it's a hypothesis on their end as well. They don't know who these students are, so it's really about testing and learning. And sometimes we are very surprised around where we're seeing the most engagement and opportunity. And I think as you learn what those are, you should really be creating experiences that are much more tailored to them.
[00:10:56] That can be. Persona specific landing [00:11:00] pages that could be digital student experiences that are tailored with specific content to those audiences and the questions that they might, you know, be asking, um, that can be much more tailored, you know, kind of down funnel blog content that speaks to those audiences, their challenges, their goals.
[00:11:17] Obviously, you know, on the, the paid media side, crafting messages and building, you know, creative that really speaks to and resonates with those audiences. And then seeing how that resonates. So you're kind of not taking the, the one size fits all approach. We, we never try to take that. I think we from the beginning try to really.
[00:11:37] Incorporate persona driven strategies, but just given budget and, and other factors at the beginning. It's not always realistic, and this is where you can really start to experiment and have fun, see what's working.
[00:11:53] Zach Busekrus: If you work in student recruitment, you are in the market for eyeball time. You're not just competing with other institutions, you're competing with [00:12:00] every other brand that's in the market for views, clicks, and conversions from your target audience.
[00:12:05] Getting attention is hard enough, so once you have it, You've gotta do everything that you can to harness it and to keep it. And that's what our friends at Archer Education helped schools do so dang well. Archer is pioneering a new era in personalized student recruitment through its story driven and technology enabled approach that's designed to support the entire enrollment process.
[00:12:27] If you wanna learn more about how Archer might be able to help your institution get more bang for your marketing and admissions, Buck, head on over to archer edu.com and tell them that your friends at RFI sent you their way. Again, that's archer edu.com.
[00:12:48] Yeah, so, so well said. And one of the things that I've heard people say, Before that, uh, that at least resonates from my, my experiences in those first couple years. You're, you're testing for audience and you're testing and [00:13:00] you're testing channel, right? Like what, what are the channels that like your audience prefers to speak to you in and or to interact with you in?
[00:13:07] One, once you figure, and of course that's always evolving and you of course need sort of like, just because somebody interacts with you on Instagram doesn't mean that they'll never interact with you on Google search and, and vice versa, right? But understanding at least where the majority of your time and energy and budget should be spent in those first couple years around where your audience is and then where where they like to play is super, super crucial.
[00:13:28] So that at year three, in this particular moment that we find ourselves in, at least for the purposes of this conversation, You don't have to worry as much about testing for audiences and testing for channels. You're really trying to figure out, okay, how do we optimally deliver the right message at the right time to establish relationships with these folks earlier on in their journey to, to grad school?
[00:13:49] So I, I think that that's, that's super, super well said, John, in, in terms of traffic. One of the questions I just have is like, how do you balance from a percentage standpoint, and I know [00:14:00] that it, it totally varies based off of context, but any, any sort of like generalities or general framework you could bestow on us of how people should think about the relationship between paid and inorganic and.
[00:14:14] At year three, should that look 50 50, 40 60, 60 40, et, et cetera, like how, how do you generally think about advising schools on that shift that they, that they should see?
[00:14:25] John Van Fleet: I try and in increasingly, as of late, and, and, and let me say as of late in the last year or two, I've really kind of gotten out of the mentality that there is kind of an ideal ratio or an ideal mix, and again, it's just very, very dependent on, on what's actually happening in the market.
[00:14:42] Previously, if you would've asked me this five years ago, I would've said probably somewhere in the ballpark of 70%. Paid search, uh, 30% display channels, and then just do everything that you possibly can on kind of the organic side. Now again, it really does very, very much [00:15:00] depend on what's going on and what you're trying to accomplish.
[00:15:03] You know, there are certain situations where, Maybe in year two or year three, you're starting to bump up against kind of caps that the institution might have in terms of total enrollments they can accept, which might limit and, and, and have you redirect certain investment that maybe might be a, a bit less efficient in the now, but is really kind of, um, designated toward making sure that you're filling the pipeline in the future.
[00:15:27] Conversely, if you're in a situation where you're not necessarily hitting the numbers that you thought were possible, or, or, or that the institution is desiring, then that's gonna change what that investment strategy looks like. But as a general rule, what we wanna be continuously doing is making sure that we are aggressively investing on the search side.
[00:15:50] Again, kind of going back to that mentality of, of kind of demand creation versus demand capture. If somebody's looking for a specific institution or for a specific program, you know, [00:16:00] that's gonna be a high quality potential student that you want to interact with, and we don't wanna miss any opportunities there.
[00:16:05] And that's in terms of the paid side, that's where almost always you're going to see the lowest acquisition, the highest quality of lead, the lowest acquisition cost for an enrollment. But if that's all you're doing, Then eventually you're gonna kind of run that one dry. And that's why you have to kind of figure out what is the appropriate amount of dollars that should be going to those other channels.
[00:16:25] And I hesitate to call 'em secondary channels, but let's say channels that are reaching people that are maybe not yet in the consideration set or just getting started, that eventually could be somebody that comes through via paid search or organically down the road. So again, really just depends on, on what you're trying to accomplish at that particular time.
[00:16:43] We tend to kind of think of it from a perspective of. How, how much traffic are we generating? How many leads are we generating off of brand specific keywords? And if that's a healthy amount, let's say 25 to, you know, up to maybe 40% of the lead volume, then we're [00:17:00] probably in, in pretty good shape to continue to be very, very aggressive on kind of that non-brand investment in search and maybe not have to be as aggressive kind of on the display channel side.
[00:17:10] Conversely, if that number's dropping down to, let's say, 20% or less, We need to start building that thing back up. And the only way to be able to get the number of impressions and create the amount of awareness necessary to stay healthy is really through those display channels and even beyond, maybe it's connected tv, maybe it's traditional, it's not something that, that we have to get to often, but sometimes that can be of, of, of great value as well.
[00:17:33] Zach Busekrus: You said something that I, I thought was, uh, worth highlighting and, and I'd love for you to expand a a little bit more on this if you can. John, you talked about the difference between. Demand creation and demand capture, I think we can all understand what demand capture looks like in terms of demand creation.
[00:17:51] Can, can you expand a little bit on that? 'cause I don't need, I don't know that like, demand gen for instance, is a term that a lot of folks who are tuning into this particular [00:18:00] conversation that might be, might be familiar with. And I, I feel like marketing and and demand gen have become these hybrid terms and are, you know, you, you see people in senior marketing leadership roles and oftentimes they now have demand X or demand y a part of their actual title.
[00:18:16] And that's not accidental. So when you think about demand creation, What, what does that exactly mean? And, and why do you think at this, at the, kind of like third year of marketing a program, why that might be an appropriate time to invest more resources in, in demand creation? It's
[00:18:31] John Van Fleet: a great question and, and like just about anything on the marketing side, it's a complicated answer.
[00:18:37] I, I think of it as, as audience expansion. I think of it as channel expansion. Oftentimes it's also geographical expansion. A a lot of times you might have a great program, an outstanding grad program that just nobody's familiar with the institution that you're marketing. Once you go, let's say out of a hundred or a 200 mile radius, sometimes it could be smaller than that.
[00:18:57] Sometimes it could be broader than that. But in [00:19:00] any of those activities, I mean ultimately if you're not continuously building the brand, and it's taken me a long time to get here, I was direct response for the first two thirds of my career, which is getting longer and longer now. And you know, those tactics worked exceptionally well for a very, very long time.
[00:19:18] Eventually you realize that if you're, everything that you're doing is not intentional toward building that brand and creating that additional awareness and being there and, and being in somebody's considerations that whenever they're thinking about, Hey, maybe I do want to go get that next level of degree advancement.
[00:19:33] Um, if you're not doing those things, then ultimately you, you are gonna run the well dry sooner than later. So, you know, again, to, to kind of circle back. I think it's expanding the, the radius in in which you're marketing. I think it's dramatic kind of expansion in terms of the channels and going further up the funnel.
[00:19:51] Again, things that ultimately will lead to enrollments, but maybe they'll be a little bit harder to track because you might have to have multiple interactions with that potential student to ultimately [00:20:00] get them to that positive outcome or initial positive outcome, which is enroll. The most important positive outcome is have success and graduate.
[00:20:09] Caroline Khalili: I think that this is really where. The creative and branding and audience where it comes into play, you know, especially when it's a, a brand that's maybe lesser known, whether that be the institution itself, whether that be, you know, it's a brand new program that's not as known. The work that that we do to try and tell that story, to try and get that out in front of a larger audience that maybe wouldn't be searching for or isn't aware of it at the point.
[00:20:34] That's really where that storytelling component becomes such a differentiating factor. Um, and we're seeing, you know, the landscape just become more and more competitive, more expensive. Schools can't rely on, on the old school tactics that work, and they, they can't wait for students to come to them. They have to really build a, a narrative that people can get excited about, that people can relate to, and that speaks to what people are [00:21:00] going through today.
[00:21:01] You know, so I think. Circling back to like how we think about audiences and engaging with them. I think at this point, even if your program, you know, is performing well or or holding steady, you have to take stock continuously of what's happening, kind of environmentally, what's happening in the world. And how are those shifts impacting kind of interest or demand in your program?
[00:21:26] How is it shifting? Perceptions? You know, we've even seen in the last few years, and I think. Obviously covid shifted so much, but just how people think about education, how people think about, you know, obtaining education and what that looks like and what expectations are now around what they get out of that.
[00:21:45] And the r o I and short courses and bootcamps and these things that are much more consumable, that are much more easy to fit into their lives. Like understanding, you know, where the market is going and what. What students need today and what the [00:22:00] student learner looks like today, that's shifted dramatically, I think.
[00:22:04] So I think it's understanding those environmental factors that. You know, play a huge role. And I think if people get so stuck in their, in their academic tunnel and they kind of have that tunnel vision, they're not able to see the bigger picture of like the world is changing around them, their programs, their institution as a whole has to change as a result, evolve with those.
[00:22:25] Those new learners
[00:22:26] Zach Busekrus: and their needs. Yeah. Uh, so, so well said. And you know, Caroline, like the example that jumps out in my mind right now is everything, the entire conversation around AI and how it's revolutionizing industries across the spectrum and how, you know, the, the basis for a lot of generative AI are these natural language models, which came from.
[00:22:47] You know, colleges and universities like originally and faculty studying and, and creating these things. I was talking to artists Kadu from who's the c e o at Element 4 51 A C R M in the space, and, and they've done a lot of work in, [00:23:00] in trying to educate the community on, on generative ai, but I. If you're, if you have a program right now that has anything to do with engineering and, and math and, and compsci and if there's a way to sort of like pull out some of those modules and position your program in the language that the entire world, like people are seeing all these like buzzwords that they don't really understand popping up on their favorite, you know, network television shows all the way down to their Instagram ads.
[00:23:28] Right. And if you can fi find a way to leverage that in a way that makes. You know, since given the context of, of your programming, you should be doing that. Right. And, and I think that the reality is higher ed's just quite slow to figure out, hey, how do we, how do we hop on a trend, so to speak? And we can be skeptical of trends in, in, in higher education.
[00:23:47] And some of that is with good reason. But I think when it comes to positioning, right, which positioning is another thing that you should absolutely be testing in year three fi, finding ways to, as you're saying, leverage. The current state of [00:24:00] affairs is incredibly, incredibly important. I want to talk a little bit about automation, right?
[00:24:05] Because I, I think that that's something that. When folks get into, they got a couple years under their belt, they start realizing like, Hey, we can't just individually respond to every inquiry that is requesting more information about our program. Automation, I think, has this, it's this double-edged sword, especially right now.
[00:24:24] Like there's a lot that's over autotomized. You think about sort of like, All the sales messages that we all receive every day in our emails. Somebody offering us some new exclusive access to some new tool that they've just built. Right. And that they only need 17 minutes of our time or, or whatever it is.
[00:24:40] So I think that there, there are some folks that are, are kind of like. Done with this, right? Like it's like there are too many workflows out there. I'm enrolled in too many different like sales sequences. Get me out. I'm curious, Caroline, from your perspective, how do folks effectively leverage automation in a way that's still true and speaks personally and [00:25:00] individually?
[00:25:00] Two different segments in a way that doesn't feel run of the mill or doesn't feel sort of expected. Like how do you guys wrestle with creative testing and, and essentially incorporating great creative into communications to help nurture people in a personalized fashion. Mm-hmm.
[00:25:19] Caroline Khalili: I mean, the first thing that that comes to my mind is just our, our digital student engagement platform onward.
[00:25:26] And this really. I think it's kind of the best of both worlds because it incorporates it. It allows us to personalize experiences to the student post R F I and let them kind of go through their experience and journey in the way that best suits them. It allows them to under ask different questions, and if they wanna speak to an admissions rep, they can, but it gives them that option.
[00:25:49] And I think nowadays it's so important to. Automate it in, in a way that gives them, that has that information accessible to them. I think a lot of people, if you're putting too many [00:26:00] walls up and barriers to get information, even if it's like, you know, download a brochure, some people aren't at the point yet where they're ready to do that.
[00:26:09] So I think if you're able to. To give students the information that they need in the way that they want some, a lot of people don't wanna get calls nowadays, right? And so I think it's about meeting them where they are and giving them the option. I think that's the biggest thing is people want, I. The ability and the autonomy to go through their, you know, user experience in the way that best suits them and their life.
[00:26:35] And so I think that some of these experiences that we've kind of built on our end have that automation component. So it takes a lot of that pressure off of, I think, bandwidth and resource wise. A lot of institutions struggle with that struggle, keeping up with that. And we know it's all about speed and getting to, you know, leads as quickly as you can.
[00:26:57] And sometimes schools just don't have the capacity for that. [00:27:00] So this gives, I think, institutions an option to help augment their teams and their work while also giving. That prospective student, the option to, if they want to talk to a human, which some people still very much value, they can. But John, I'm sure that you have other thoughts here.
[00:27:20] Kind of onward is where my mind first goes. 'cause I think it really speaks to that problem. But I. Curious.
[00:27:26] John Van Fleet: I think of it from multiple directions and I think even just going down the thread of onward, to have the opportunity, you know, to have technology that can kind of nurture and support and guide and answer important questions for potential students without them having to kind of interact one-on-one with an admissions advisor, we think is of extreme value, right.
[00:27:44] The, the goal, the goal is to support them and to help them, and like Carolyn said, you know, kind of meet them where they are in that particular moment. Not to pressure 'em, not to annoy 'em. That's not the ultimate goal there, and it works both ways too. Some of that kind of automation in the way that [00:28:00] we're allowing potential students to interact with us kind of throughout the funnel can be really beneficial to the admissions team as well.
[00:28:06] Right? You, you might ultimately have somebody who's shown. A higher level of interest because of the way that they've interacted with certain kind of nurturing opportunities or somebody might opt out. It's not at all uncommon for different degree types for somebody to, to raise their hand and express interest, but they haven't hit the level before.
[00:28:24] You know, for example, an associate's prepared nurse, you know, applying for, let's say a master's level program. Well, there's a step there in the way, not uncommon to see somebody that hasn't finished their bachelor's degree. In a, in an B, a. Right. So ultimately we look at it as another tool to, you know, as Carolyn said, support.
[00:28:47] Human resources to be more effective and efficient in doing their jobs effectively and to support good decision making and make the process easier, kind of less salesy and, and pushy for the prospect
[00:28:59] Zach Busekrus: [00:29:00] itself. Yeah, I, I think a lot about, so sort of the first couple years being these foundational building years, you've got some sort of basic drip sequence that you might have in place, right?
[00:29:10] You are, are, you've got, maybe it's three emails, right? And that seems enough for, for getting off the ground, right? And then as you grow, as you learn more about who your, who your target audience really is, who are the students that are not just enrolling in the program but actually like succeeding in the program?
[00:29:24] All that intel, all that info should re reinforce sort of your, your tone, your style, how many touch points you need from inquiry to, to app, right? What, what channels you should be spending most of your dollars into, just. Raise general awareness about the offering, et cetera. The, I, I think of year three as sort of like the year you also get to kind of, you know, just play around a little bit more.
[00:29:46] And like you, you have at least a, a somewhat of a solid foundation that needs to be reinforced, but it also gives you the opportunity to, to test new things. And so, One of the questions that we get asked a lot here at Enroll I is, there are so many great tools out [00:30:00] there. Onwards is is one of them, right?
[00:30:02] Where you can personalize the experience pretty dramatically to the individual prospect or or, or student one. One of the challenges, right, is that a lot of the times these tools still require. Input, right? Like someone somewhere has gotta be like, alright, well I'm going to build out a special pathway for people that are interested in this particular business program and gonna build out a different pathway.
[00:30:23] For folks that are interested in nursing, how do you guys think through advising folks on like, yes, everyone agrees that personalization is important, and yes, we have the tools to make it possible, but how do you sort of decide where to focus your time and energy and creative effort? In personalizing when you, when you really can't make it one-to-one in, in the truest sense of the word, like where do you start if you are interested in further segmenting and further personalizing the student journey?
[00:30:53] I think
[00:30:54] John Van Fleet: probably first and foremost, the thing that I think of is as you enter into [00:31:00] kind of year three, again, we've talked about this earlier conversation. You know so much more now about the program, you know, so much more, or programs so much more about the students and those things should be informing absolutely everything that you're doing.
[00:31:15] Again, where you're acquiring traffic, the messaging that they're seeing, the visuals that they're seeing. But more importantly than anything, what are the problems that they're trying to solve? What are the questions that these potential students have? What are the obstacles that they're trying to overcome?
[00:31:30] And in year three, you're going to see broader trends. And, and to your point, Zach, you're not going to be able to solve every problem or answer every individual question or make it custom. But you're gonna know what are the broader themes here that are gonna be most applicable to the highest percentage of people that you're trying to recruit?
[00:31:48] That should be the thing that ultimately you're focused on, because you're right, you can get so buried into the weeds and trying to get so precise and so. So specific that you can [00:32:00] ultimately lose sight of kind of what's, what's most important here. And that's again, trying to, you know, support the institution and scaling their programs, trying to support the students and, and elevating kind of their academic achievement and, and being more successful in their careers.
[00:32:15] So that's, that's as cliche as it might sound. I think we think about it from an 80 20 perspective. You can get the vast majority of, of the value out of X amount of time. Y put in 10 x The amount of time to get that incremental, five or 10% lift, that's just probably not the best utilization. There's probably other things that you could be doing to continue to help everybody involved be successful.
[00:32:35] Times we see that a, a big missed opportunity for, you know, colleges and universities is kind of some sort of a wall between marketing and admissions. And, you know, the amount of valuable information that we can get really detailed information and direction from the, the individual admissions reps on what they're seeing and hearing and the conversations that they're having with potential students.
[00:32:59] Is [00:33:00] of tremendous value and can be extremely informative in terms of what we're doing with everything from kind of impression to enrollment in, in that funnel and, and, and, and driving kind of what we're doing from a marketing standpoint. And I just, I wanna kind of reiterate the importance of the ongoing communication and collaboration between the marketing unit and the admissions unit is of critical importance.
[00:33:23] And sometimes I think it just gets missed or skipped.
[00:33:27] Caroline Khalili: And we, I mean, we have like ongoing meetings where we set up conversations between those teams so that our audience team, our creative team can understand. What pain points are, are the students who you're speaking with, you know, running into how are their motivations shifting over time?
[00:33:46] And that's a really big input in terms of the feedback loop into, hey, maybe we need to update or rethink our personas. Like personas should be. A living, breathing thing that should never be stagnant. You don't establish personas and then [00:34:00] those are your personas forever. So I think it's thinking about how do you create that feedback loop with teams like the enrollment team to ensure that you're, you're feeding all of these other teams who are really handling, you know, the marketing with kind of the most up-to-date, most important information.
[00:34:16] 'cause they're really on the ground speaking to those students.
[00:34:19] John Van Fleet: Another, another really nice side note to all of that is whenever you have those units kind of collaborating in an effective way, it certainly makes for a much more enjoyable experience for everybody involved, because traditionally it would be, you know, you'd get into a bit of a finger pointing game, Hey, if, if the marketing team was bringing us better leads, we'd be hitting our numbers.
[00:34:37] Hey, if the admissions converting these leads in a more effective fashion, we'd be hitting our numbers. Ultimately, if you can keep that conversation going in a meaningful way and both sides are seeing the other side react to new information that can make everybody be collectively more successful, makes much more enjoyable experience.
[00:34:54] Zach Busekrus: Yeah, a hundred percent. I'm so glad you guys are touching on this 'cause it's just crucial. It's crucial always, but especially when you're [00:35:00] launching a new online grad program, right? I mean, you think about that as a, it's a new product offering, right? That your institution is. Presenting to the world and needing to be in step right with both the people that are creating the creative to, to let the world know that this thing now exists, and then also the people that are actually nurturing in a meaningful way.
[00:35:18] These relationships folks have to have to be lock in step when it comes to launching this, this, especially in 20 23, 20 20. For when like customers, your prospective students, like they just, they don't have the patience to have to go and talk to five different people to get a question answered, right? Or they don't, they, they don't want to go to three different portals and three different websites to kind of figure out what they need to do to in enroll in your respective program.
[00:35:43] And so finding ways for these teams to sync up is, is fundamentally important as we go into late this, this next sort of like year of, of recruitment. And then I just think from a, from a general trend standpoint, right? The smartest companies in the world are finding ways to make it easier than ever to deliver [00:36:00] content and to deliver value.
[00:36:01] And we as educators, as folks in, in higher ed need to do the same thing. Right. I do. I wanna talk a little bit about user generated content, uh, Caroline. 'cause you, you mentioned this, you talked about video and incorporating sort of like more dynamic content as you have student stories and as you've got faculty members who have figured out.
[00:36:17] And refined maybe the programming a little bit in the, in, in the course modules a little bit. At, at this kind of like year three point, how do you think about prioritizing what aspects of, of the program and or what kind of content to create when it comes to content creation, as you guys know, right? It's incredibly labor intensive and it can be very.
[00:36:36] So what are some things that folks should be focused on in year three with respect to not just kind of content themes, but content? Content formats? Like is year three an appropriate time to. Think about a, a, you know, a longer form kind of documentary video series about the program. Is that probably a little bit too early?
[00:36:56] Should folks to, to your point, be leveraging time to try to [00:37:00] get key faculty members on podcasts in, in that are like in sort of the industry or how do you think about sort of the appropriate content assets to leverage in year three?
[00:37:12] I think
[00:37:12] Caroline Khalili: ideally all of the above, like I think you be doing, uh, I think a lot of it comes down to the relationship that you have. Obviously, you know, this would be more of an agency setting, but you know, the relationship that you have to the institution or if you're in-house, you know, the relationships that you're able to establish with, again, like thinking about almost these brand ambassadors, and that can be faculty.
[00:37:37] That can be students. Like if you have people that are engaged and willing to give their time, leverage that and jump on that and. You know, for, for every channel and kind of asset that you can, I think that more storytelling through video, obviously people like to consume and engage with and [00:38:00] interact with content like video.
[00:38:02] I think that you wanna have a healthy mix though, across, across all of your different channels. So I think kind of doing a, a gap analysis and understanding, hey, like. Maybe we, we have a lot of educational videos or how toss, but we're really missing like the thought leadership component or vice versa. I think ensuring that you're hitting on all of those different areas so that you do have a healthy mix, are able to address a lot of questions or areas of interest, depending on the persona.
[00:38:33] I think typically when our team goes in, we try to see, yeah, where are those larger gaps and how can we fill them? And also what is that low hanging fruit like? I think ideally you wanna be touching on all of these different strategies and tactics, but there are some that are just gonna be a lot more difficult, like maybe organic social.
[00:38:53] You don't have the access or the information that you need to really build that up as a viable strategy and [00:39:00] community. I think it's also, you know, part of it is also being realistic about what do you have to work with and how can you make the best use of that? And not trying to force things that you're just gonna be hitting your head against a wall.
[00:39:14] I think focus your time and effort on the areas where you can really build the most momentum and get the most out of
[00:39:20] Zach Busekrus: those. Yeah. Yeah. That was super, super well said. John. I have, I have a question just around as, as we think about year three, what, what are some things that you really should know right, uh, at, at this particular juncture about the program?
[00:39:36] Whether it's metrics like, hey, you really need to know, like, Like you need to know your, your cost per your cost to enroll like the back of your hand, or you really need to understand, okay, when it comes to generating a qualified prospect, a qualified inquiry, we're spending an average of $500 on paid search for that, or whatever that number is.
[00:39:54] Like, what are some good metrics that if you were a leader at an institution and your [00:40:00] marketing person were to come to you and give you sort of a report on the health of the program, what are, what are some of those questions that you would ask? Again, understanding that there are. A good couple years of, of data, uh, that that should be accessible at this juncture.
[00:40:15] John Van Fleet: I could, I could probably spend an embarrassing amount of time talking about this, so I'm trying to figure out how to be concise. To me, the most important thing at this point in time is you have a very, very clear idea of what your cost per enrollment or cost per start, right? Different people use different nomenclature, but ultimately, I'm talking about a student who has started taking courses.
[00:40:37] What is that costing by channel? What is the conversion rate from Leader Inquiry to enrollment or start for each channel you're advertising in? The other thing that you want to have a very good sense of, and, and, and because this is, we're talking kind of more through the filter of a grad program, which to me simplifies it.
[00:40:56] You need to understand how long is it actually taking people to get [00:41:00] through their degree programs, right? You'll see a lot of things. In as little as 18 months or, or, or as little as 12, what have you. But that's not necessarily the, the way that people are, are kind of going through it. And so keeping an eye, particularly in year three on that initial group of students who started together, how far along are they?
[00:41:19] Are they graduating? Are we starting to see people drop out? What is your retention rate? Because ultimately the most important thing is that the institutions are graduating these students. You know, it's a lot of time, effort, energy, and cost to go into enrolling them, but the good stuff is whenever they successfully make it through to that, that final endpoint.
[00:41:38] So you better have a really clear understanding there, and hopefully you're starting to even identify. Are there certain courses or kind of segments that they're going through in the process of, of getting that next degree that are really tripping people up? And then maybe you can advise the institution in terms of academic coaching or, Hey, are there certain segments of an individual course that might need to be [00:42:00] adjusted?
[00:42:00] Not not to to lower the quality of the education, but to help people be able to successfully get through it. So I think all those things are, are of critical importance. And again, by that point in time, you should have. Enough information to have a very clear understanding on what is your target for cost per enrollment or cost per start for every single channel, and what is the realistic timeframe that that particular student is likely to get through.
[00:42:24] Zach Busekrus: Yeah. And what's, what's so great about, about that and, and I agree with you like that, that should be the case after you have a couple years of, of, of data under your belt is that should give you a real clear understanding or at least equip you with everything that you need for a great conversation with leadership about hey, Guys, this is what it costs to do this.
[00:42:43] I'm gonna need way more budget. You know, last year if we wanna hit our, our enrollment goals in, in, you know, the five year period that we had initially set, or whatever it might be, it allows you to have much more productive conversations around what additional resources might be required, and if there are no additional resources, [00:43:00] what you might need to change in terms of your recruitment strategy, in terms of where you're spending and how you're spending, and how that might, you know, Scale back your, your, your goals, right?
[00:43:09] And, and it's sort of like what, what enrollment goals are for your, for your particular program. I think the problem is a lot of folks don't do the work upfront to make sure that the systems are in place in order to effectively have this data, uh, and have, and, and be able to like meaningfully make sense of it.
[00:43:24] And so just to nod to kind of our, our earlier couple episodes where we talked a lot about the importance of setting up the right systems so that you can. At this particular juncture, have a great conversation and have a productive conversation with the powers that be. I think that that's incredibly important as you discuss the future of the program.
[00:43:41] 'cause I don't think anyone launches the grad program that they expect to just be around for three years. Like the hope is that this is going to be, this is going to be a fit and helpful to the market for, for a while. As we kind of close out here, Caroline, a any, any sort of like last, uh, words of wisdom or, or strong encouragement for folks as they [00:44:00] kind of wrap this third year?
[00:44:02] Marketing and online grad program and they look towards the next few years of, what are some things that you really hope, you know, maybe risks that people should be able to take now and or creative experiments that they should be able to run given kind of where they're at in this cycle of promoting the program?
[00:44:18] I think the biggest
[00:44:19] Caroline Khalili: thing is just avoiding, especially at this point, becoming complacent. Like even if things are working well enough, that doesn't mean in another few years, If you're not gonna see a dramatic dip or decrease or things are gonna shift. Right. So I think kind of trying to stay ahead of the curve as much as you can, consistently evaluating your competitors.
[00:44:43] Like are there new people that have entered this space? How are they positioning it? Are they making it easier to enter their program? Are they making it less expensive? Are, is there a curriculum more in tune with, with what students need? And kind of the demands of the workforce? I think. [00:45:00] For me, the big thing is like, how can you ensure that you are always looking out and looking around you at what's happening versus like, Hey, it's working.
[00:45:09] You know? Okay. We can kind of just keep this running and turn our attention to something else. I think it's just. Aware and in tune and, and like I said before, like having fun and experimenting. And I think this is again, where on the creative side you can really start to experiment with different messages and get a little bit more bold and see, hey, we, we, this is not maybe a traditional approach, but.
[00:45:37] This might resonate with our audience. Let's try it and test it and see and let the data, you know, tell us that story. I think it's just having fun, experimenting, and then again, making sure that you're actually tracking and properly recording all of this data so that you can actually take meaningful insights and learnings and carry those into the future.
[00:45:56] Because if you're doing all this stuff and it's just kind of, [00:46:00] you know, getting lost in the shuffle, then. That's obviously a missed opportunity and you're not taking those learnings, you know, into the future.
[00:46:09] Zach Busekrus: I love it. So, so, so much gold there. John, take us home here. What any, any final words of wisdom or or encouragement for folks as they kind of wrap up this third year and they think to the future?
[00:46:19] I. I think, I think
[00:46:21] John Van Fleet: Carolyn probably said that as, as well as as anybody could. I think a couple of things that are top of mind for me, just kind of going right back to what we had talked about related to data. At this point in time, I think it's mission critical that you not only stand, understand the numbers, but even a step.
[00:46:35] Before that align on kind of common sources of truth and kind of what are the critical numbers and performance indicators that are gonna drive our strategies? And for us, we happen to, to have a number of partnerships right now that are kind of in that same territory. You know, in year two, year three, year four.
[00:46:53] The message that that, that we've really been trying to stay the course with is, you know, be strategic in, in every [00:47:00] deci decision and stay curious. And, and that's what Carolyn was hitting on. If, if you're not continuously looking under new rocks or trying new channels or experimenting with AB testing and so on and so forth, then you're probably just setting yourself up to have a really, really frustrating time, whether that be in year four or five or what have you.
[00:47:20] So again, be strategic and stay curious, I think are the most important things. I
[00:47:25] Zach Busekrus: could not have wrapped this better myself. You guys are awesome. Thank you so much for, for your time and thank you for all the great work that Archer does for, for the community. If you are joining us for the first time, this is episode three in a special four part series that we are producing with the Archer team.
[00:47:40] You can find episodes one and two linked in the show notes. Below, and if you're listening to this well past the fall of 2023, you'll be able to access episode four in the show notes below as well. John Caroline, thank you so much for your time. Thanks for the work that you and your teams do. If you wanna learn more about the work that John and Caroline and [00:48:00] and the Archer team does, we'll have the links to their website and resources in the show notes below as well.
[00:48:04] Thank you both so much for your time.
[00:48:25] If you like this podcast, chances are you'll like other enroll high shows too. Our podcast network is growing by the month, and we've got a plethora of marketing admissions and higher ed technology shows that are jam packed with stories, ideas, and frameworks that are all designed to empower you to become a better higher ed professional.
[00:48:42] Our shows feature a selection of the industry's best as your hosts learn from Mickey baes, Jeremy Tears, Jamie Hunt, Corinne Myers, Jamie Gleason, and many, many more. You can learn more about the Enroll Fify podcast email@example.com. Our shows help higher ed marketers and admissions [00:49:00] professionals find their next big idea.
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About the Episode
The what's what...
Welcome to “How to Market an Online Graduate Program” a special 4-part podcast series brought to you by Enrollify and our friends at Archer Education.
Over the course of this series we’ll unpack everything you need to know to properly design a go-to-market strategy for your new online grad program and what the first few years of marketing and growing your program should look like.
We’ll dive deep into where, when, and how to use paid search and paid social effectively, how you should think through appropriately balancing paid and organic efforts in Years 1 and 2 vs Years 3 and 4 post-launch, what positioning strategies you should test, how to properly leverage the personal brands of faculty and staff members, and so much more.
This series is made possible thanks to our friends at Archer — Archer is an education technology company dedicated to personalizing student recruitment.
If you want to learn more about how Archer might be able to help your institution get more bang for your marketing and admission buck, head on over to ArcherEdu.com and tell them that your friends at Enrollify sent you their way.
Caroline, John and I discuss:
- What key metrics and indicators schools should focus on in year 3 and how to make data-driven improvements based on the performance of the marketing program in years 1 and 2
- How schools should evaluate their marketing strategy in relation to current market trends and competition
- How schools can incorporate user-generated content (UGC) to enhance social proof and credibility in their marketing efforts
- And loads more
About the Podcast
Zach is the Founder of Enrollify. He thoroughly enjoys building new brands, developing and executing content marketing strategies, and hosting podcasts. When he's not working on Enrollify, he enjoys discussing life's quandaries over coffee (or a good bourbon) with friends, building Sponstayneous (his travel brand side hustle), trying out new HIIT workouts, and adventuring across the globe with his wife!
John Van Fleet is the Chief Marketing Officer at Archer Education — an education technology company that helps colleges and universities recruit, enroll, and retain students.
We partner with the best, to provide the best information.
Archer Education is a leader in the higher education enrollment marketing, management, and technology space. Our mission is simple: help colleges and universities recruit, enroll, and retain the right students for their programs. We believe collaboratively partnering with schools, telling compelling stories, and employing cutting-edge engagement technology are the keys to inspiring action throughout the entire student journey.learn more
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