Spark451 Special Report: College Parents React to COVID-19


Spark451 Strategy TeamBy Spark451 Strategy Team|April 22, 2020

Last month, as the spread of COVID-19 forced colleges and universities across the nation to quickly close and transition to fully-online environments, Spark451 Research sent a brief survey to parents of current first-year college students. Our goal was to begin assessing the potential long-term enrollment-related effects of those changes.

In just a few days, more than 950 parents of first-year college students responded to our survey. To access all the results, download the full report today. You’ll gain valuable insights on topics such as:

How parents feel their children have adjusted to remote learning
Whether parents expect their children to return to the same institutions in the fall
If parents still feel they can afford to send their children back to school

Get the Report

If you’d like to discuss any of these topics further, feel free to reach out. We’d be honored to help you navigate any student search and enrollment challenges you may be facing as a result of COVID-19.

In the meantime, we hope that you, your loved ones, and your entire campus community are healthy and safe.

Watch the Webinar: The Art and Science of Data-Enhanced Graduate Student Recruitment


Spark451 Strategy TeamBy Spark451 Strategy Team|April 21, 2020

As the world continues to grapple with the economic fallout of COVID-19, now is the time to reconsider your approach to graduate recruitment. If history and the nation’s recent record-breaking unemployment numbers are any indication, we are likely to see a wave of recent graduates and mid-career professionals heading back to school as they wait out the volatile job market.

To help you prepare for this influx, we invite you to watch a recording of our recent webinar, “The Art and Science of Data-Enriched Graduate Student Recruitment.” During this session, Mike McGetrick, Spark451’s Principal, Creative & Interactive Services, and JC Bonilla, Element451’s Chief Analytics Officer, teamed up to discuss how you can use data to enhance your graduate recruitment efforts.

Watch the recording to discover how to:

  • Build a data-enhanced pipeline using data enrichment, behavioral analytics, and persona development
  • Create dynamic segments based on student behavior
  • Utilize enhanced data to reach students via targeted marketing and highly-personalized messaging

Watch the Webinar

Webinar: What Parents Are Saying About College Search


Spark451 Strategy TeamBy Spark451 Strategy Team|April 15, 2020

Admissions pros know that parents play a critical role in the college search process, but it isn’t always easy to know exactly what these key influencers are thinking. To help meet that need, Spark451 Research recently conducted an expansive survey of parents of Fall 2019 college freshmen.

In our recent webinar, enrollment strategy expert Pete Colbert released the findings of the 2019–2020 College-Bound Survey: Parent Edition, which features feedback from nearly 900 parents from 46 states. Some of the results will be eye-opening for even the most seasoned enrollment managers!

Watch the recording to gain insights about:

  • Parents’ perception of the value of print vs. digital communications
  • Which communication tactics resonate best with parents
  • Which application incentives resonate best with parents (and the potential impact of NACAC’s new rules)
  • Whether most parents would encourage a child to transfer if they received a better offer from a competing school
  • The timing of the search process and when parents helped their children commit to schools
  • Whether the Excelsior program was compelling to parents in New York
  • Plus: Hear emerging feedback about how the COVID-19 outbreak is impacting parents’ and students’ enrollment decisions beyond this spring

You’ll also have the opportunity to download the full report!

View the Webinar

Webinar: Making Your Class Amid COVID-19


Spark451 Strategy TeamBy Spark451 Strategy Team|March 20, 2020
View the Webinar

For the past several weeks, COVID-19 (a.k.a. “the Coronavirus”) has been top-of-mind on college campuses throughout the nation. Numerous enrollment managers are reevaluating spring yield events in an atmosphere where groups of people congregating are temporarily unwelcome.

In our recent webinar, enrollment and marketing experts Steve Kerge, Michael McGetrick, and Western New England University’s VP for Enrollment Management and Marketing, Bryan Gross, discussed smart strategies for keeping your team and your students safe while still building your class for the year ahead.

Though the live event already occurred, you can still watch a recording of the webinar to:

  • Get up to speed on how COVID-19 is impacting the admissions practices at colleges and universities
  • Anticipate how your prospective families are going to react, and how you can adjust accordingly
  • Determine how you should adopt and leverage remote events and presentations
  • Rethink counselor travel
  • Learn how to adapt a communication plan that is proactive, empathetic, and captures the spirit of your brand

View the Webinar

College Campuses and COVID-19 Interactive Map


Spark451 Strategy TeamBy Spark451 Strategy Team|March 11, 2020

The college community around the United States has created a crowd-sourced Google Sheet to track college campus closures and the replacement of in-person classes with online versions as a result of COVID-19 issues. This map represents a visualization of that data with with circle size representing the enrollment of each institution. You can roll-over for notes and use the zoom and pan tools in the top left. Please note that the vast majority of college campuses listed have no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in their campus community, and are pro-actively closing or moving online out of “an abundance of caution.”

Since the document has become too popular and repeatedly times out, we have created a snapshot of the data here, and will updated it at least once a day.

Welcome 2020: Plan for Success In the Year Ahead


Steve KergeBy Steve Kerge|January 24, 2020

By Bill Sliwa and Steve Kerge

Happy New Year, readers. As we enter the modern-day “roaring twenties,” we’d like to begin the year with two related topics:

  • Using lessons of the past to navigate the current and future landscape
  • How setting goals — not making resolutions — will make you a better enrollment manager

For a better future, learn from the past.

As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20 (OK, we couldn’t resist). Though the proverb is always true, we still think that the start of 2020 presents the ideal opportunity for admissions professionals like yourself to look back at the challenges of the past and collaborate with your team (and trusted strategic partners) to figure out some solutions that will help you avoid repeating your biggest enrollment management mishaps for the balance of the 2019–20 cycle and beyond.

Take a moment to reflect and consider the macro-forces that have positively and negatively impacted your new student enrollments over the last five years. Those factors may include:

  • The economy
  • Demographic shifts
  • Perception of college affordability
  • Institutional/internal roadblocks
  • New academic program(s)
  • Athletic teams
  • Perception that liberal arts programs may not be career focused
  • Fierce competition (waitlisting and repackaging)
  • Institutional brand/marketing

If any of these factors are preventing you from meeting your enrollment goals, now is the time to correct course by reevaluating your strategy, strengthening your programs, and updating your marketing materials. (If you could use a fresh perspective, feel free to reach out. We’d be happy to help you toss around some ideas.)

One guarantee we will make: If you continue to conduct the exact same activity year after year, you should not expect to see very different results.

Make Goals, Not Resolutions

While this certainly is the season for new year’s resolutions, we believe that too many people fail to achieve what they set out to accomplish because they are making resolutions instead of setting goals. A resolution is a firm decision to do or not do something moving forward, while a goal is a specific destination.

For example, it is so easy to say “I’m going to get in better shape this year” or “I’m going to eat better,” but what does that mean and how will you measure that? If you wish to get in “better” shape, you’ll need to ask yourself what that looks like, evaluate your baseline fitness, and determine where you want to be by December 31. Once you know those answers, you can set a goal, not make a resolution.

This distinction matters because once you set a goal, you can develop a realistic path to achieve your desired result. To continue with the fitness analogy: you can say “I am going to walk a minimum of 10 miles a week this year,” and then you can measure your progress and adjust course as needed throughout the year. You can also make a point to schedule time on your calendar to walk each day — when you schedule something, there’s a much better chance you’ll actually do it.

The same logic applies for colleges and universities that aren’t enrolling the number of students they wish to enroll. You’ll set yourself up for failure if you simply resolve to “enroll more students,” without establishing measurable metrics or scheduling plans to execute on it regularly.

We challenge you to be a stronger enrollment manager in 2020 by being consistently data-driven and taking a formulaic approach. If you are not sure how, feel free to reach out to us. We’ll be happy to show you some proven methods.

We will leave you with one closing thought: Those enrollment managers who commit to being data-driven will succeed at their jobs. Consider forming a data unit on your campus as part of your overall strategic enrollment planning team. You can likely tap into some already established resources — institutional effectiveness and research, the registrar, and perhaps some faculty from across mathematics and the sciences — to create measurable indicators of your goals and objectives that will help you get better at bringing in new classes and retaining those students. You have an incredibly rich data set you can harness. Make it a priority to do so in this new decade.

Guest Post: It’s Time For Colleges to Boost In-House Video Production Resources


Spark451 Media RelationsBy Spark451 Media Relations|January 9, 2020

A steady stream of fresh, engaging video content is critical for keeping prospective Gen Z students engaged with your college or university’s brand.

In a recent guest article for The Cutaway, a digital magazine for media and advertising production professionals, Spark451 Principal Mike McGetrick detailed why institutions must invest in in-house video production resources in order to meet that demand.

Check out the article for Mike’s insights on why high-quality video matters so much to today’s teens and to learn how you can deliver compelling personalized video content that will resonate with prospective students. Then, reach out to us so we can help you determine how to maximize your video marketing efforts.

Re-Recruitment is Born: What the NACAC Vote Means for the Admissions World


Ed FlahertyBy Ed Flaherty|October 23, 2019

We’ve all heard the news by now: the biggest update from the NACAC Annual Conference was “the vote.” In an effort to avoid accusations of antitrust law violations, delegates agreed to make several significant changes to the organization’s Code of Ethics and Professional Practices (CEPP). In all likelihood, these modifications will dramatically alter the college admissions recruitment landscape.

As higher education enrollment marketing consultants, it’s our job to help you get out in front of the changes. Here, I’ll provide a quick rundown of what happened at NACAC and the impact we expect it to have on the world of college admissions. I’ll also discuss some potential next steps you can take to adapt your recruitment tactics for this new era.

(For more details on the changes to CEPP, see NACAC’s Meeting Notes.)

What it Means for Colleges and Universities

Under pressure from the U.S. Department of Justice, our industry has collectively agreed to abandon several long-standing recruitment and marketing practices, which we expect will impact how college admissions offices operate year-round. For admissions and enrollment managers, there will be new challenges, and possibly new opportunities, but your outcomes will depend on how prepared you are to adapt to the changing landscape.

We anticipate:

  • Increased melt risk – We’ll likely see more competitive financial aid packages later in the cycle.
  • More competitive “poaching” practices – Expect to see competing communications post May 1st with incentives from schools who have missed their enrollment goals.
  • Aggressive early decision offers – Be on the lookout for incentivized early decision packages from schools attempting to lock in higher percentages of their incoming classes earlier in the cycle.
  • Higher volume of financial aid appeals – Early decision incentives and more competition will create the need for more competitive packages with higher discounts and increased average awards.

We Can Help

Spark451’s team of admissions and marketing professionals has resources to help you quickly adjust your marketing and communications plans for the year ahead. We can help you fully prepare to compete in the new more-aggressive-than-ever college admissions marketplace.

Spark451 is ready to assist with:

  • Purposeful student search marketing programs to build the top of your funnel
  • Personalized admitted yield campaigns to build brand affinity and cultivate an engaged admit pool
  • Robust anti-melt campaigns that deliver valuable engagement analytics
  • A revitalized approach to transfer recruitment and marketing. We can help you:
    • Identify students from your applicant pool who enrolled at other four-year schools
    • Create offers of admission that illustrate cost and time efficiencies
    • Grow brand awareness and ongoing transfer opportunities

We’d love to discuss your institution’s specific challenges and help you determine which strategies and tactics will best prepare you for next year’s cycle. Reach out so we can get started.

Navigating the Great Enrollment Shift


Spark451 Media RelationsBy Spark451 Media Relations|July 11, 2019

You’ve been watching the news. You know that the overall population of college graduates is dropping and the emerging pools of prospective students are, in many ways, unlike the ones we’ve seen in the past — in terms of their geographic locations as well as their cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.

These demographic shifts mean only one thing for proactive college and university admissions professionals like yourself: Now is the time to reassess your recruitment strategy and adjust your approach to ensure that you can continue hitting your enrollment goals for years to come.

In our latest white paper, “Navigating the Great Enrollment Shift,” Spark451 Client Development Strategist Megan Brammer and Digital Marketing Strategist Ann Levy review some of the trends that will have the greatest impact on the future of enrollment, and they introduce several tactics that will help you keep your institution positioned to attract the emerging pools of students.

Download the White Paper

If you’d like to discuss the specific enrollment challenges facing your institution, please reach out. We’ll be happy to help you pinpoint the tactics that will best support your enrollment goals.

Landing Pages That Convert


Nicole PieringBy Nicole Piering|June 28, 2018

It's a familiar story — you got lots of click-throughs on your well-planned, well-targeted, and reasonably well-budgeted digital media campaign. But nobody converted. What gives?

While there are many important elements of a successful digital media campaign, an effective landing page is often the deciding factor of a campaign’s success. It’s essential to have great targeting and compelling ad creative to drive desired clicks, but ultimately, your landing page can either make or break a campaign.

First, it’s important to understand what a landing page is. Put simply, it’s the webpage that a user “lands” on after clicking on an ad. However, it’s worth noting that a landing page is different than a normal web page in that it’s usually separate from a website’s navigation. It is typically a single page, with content that only relates to a specific campaign. Additionally, it should contain a few simple, yet specific elements, including a direct call to action and a form. A landing page is a page designed to achieve one goal — to generate leads.

To be effective, the content and offer on your landing page must match the content and offer on your ads. Think of it this way: You’re lost in the desert and are desperately craving water. You see a sign for water and follow where it leads. When you get there, there’s a giant chocolate cake, but there’s no water. Sure, you may like cake, but it’s not what you’re there for. As a result, you’re disappointed, you’re frustrated, and you no longer trust where other signs may lead you. An ad and landing page are just like that. Your ad is the sign, and your landing page can either be a desirable destination offering a satisfying outcome or a frustrating dead end.

While you never want to run the risk of frustrating or confusing your audience, there’s also another good reason to align your ad content with your landing page content — deliverability. Google will penalize you for not matching landing page content to your ads by lowering your ad rank and showing your ads less.

Image via FatCat

When it comes to higher education marketing, it’s absolutely essential that the landing page mirrors the ad. For example, if you have a campaign for graduate programs, you will need separate ad creative and individual landing pages for every program. It’s a lot more work, but it’s worth it.

So, what makes a good landing page?

1. A clear call to action

Is your goal lead acquisition? Invite visitors to submit their information.

2. An effective form

Don't ask too many questions, and make sure that only vital fields are mandatory. A user may not feel comfortable giving his or her full address at first touchpoint, so ask for something less personal, like an email address. Our research shows that conversion drops by 50% with each field over four. If you must have more fields, use a two-step form.

3. A compelling offer

No one wants to do something for nothing. Make submitting the landing page worth the effort by offering a free download or brochure.

4. A benefit-driven headline

Catch the visitor's eye and remind them what they came for. For example, a headline such as "Advance Your Career" may be more effective than a generic "Earn Your Degree" headline because of the clear benefit it offers to the user.

5. Credibility and consistency

Your landing page needs to reflect the messaging and imagery established in your ads, and both should be consistent with your established brand. If someone doesn't trust a landing page, they won't submit the form.

6. Audience-specific messaging

Make sure the landing page is written in a way that caters to your desired audience.

When it comes to your digital marketing strategy, it is essential to continually optimize your landing pages. As stated in a previous blog, once we realized that a campaign had received disappointing results, we changed our landing page strategy last year to improve results and saw conversions lift by over 1,000% in just a few weeks. In this example, we completely changed the page to which we were sending people, but it doesn’t have to be that extreme. Your refinements can be a simple change in the number of fields or the placement of the form, but it’s important to test and make changes to continue boosting your results.

Optimizing your campaigns and landing pages can be made easier by implementing a CMS or landing page builder, such as Element451’s landing page module, Page451. It can help you build lead-generating landing pages for all of your enrollment marketing needs. Page451 also gives you the tools to capture or confirm prospect details, or promote a new program or graduate program. With an easy drag-and-drop editor, tools for creating personalized content, and pre-filled follow-up forms, you can easily use Page451 to create the landing page of your dreams.

For more information on Element451 and Page451, check out the website!