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

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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

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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

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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

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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!


A One-Size-Fits-All Approach Doesn’t Fit Digital Marketing

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Nicole PieringBy Nicole Piering|February 1, 2018

When it comes to creating a digital campaign for enrollment marketing, it’s easy to assume that all tactics are created equal. In a previous blog post, we told you why digital media was a crucial element of your higher education marketing strategy, but now we have some bad news: Not all digital media is comparable.

Since we use digital media at all stages of the enrollment funnel and at all levels of education, it’s essential that each digital program takes a tailored approach. The digital tactics that may appeal to an incoming college freshman are very different than what may appeal to a mid-level executive looking to enroll in an MBA program.

Image via WordStream

According to Spark451’s 2017 College-Bound Student Survey of high school seniors, Instagram was the most influential social media platform in making a college decision, followed closely by Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube. According to a 2015 survey by WeRSM, 61% of LinkedIn users are between the ages of 30 and 64, so while Instagram may be the top influencer for a high school senior, a potential MBA candidate or graduate student is more likely to be influenced by compelling LinkedIn content.

When it comes to forming a digital media strategy, the most important thing to consider is your audience. Where do they hang out online? What social media platforms do they use? Are they on desktop or mobile? What keywords are they searching? These are all questions that Spark451’s digital media team members ask themselves on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to digital media. In fact, if something fit last year, it may not even fit this year. This was something the Spark451 team experienced this past fall, when we ran supplemental senior search campaigns driving students directly to apply. Despite this being something we had done in the past, our results were…depressing.

In an attempt to combat these underwhelming results, we looked at what we were expecting potential students to do. We were counting on high school seniors to click an ad and begin a college application. Talk about a huge ask.

We then shifted our approach, driving students to a simple landing page. If they filled out the form, they’d be redirected to the application. Additionally, if they completed the form, we could market to them in other ways, such as retargeting and e-communications.

Lo and behold, in comparing the number of conversions from a month before this change to a month after, our conversions increased over 1,000%.

Image via SAS

The most successful digital marketing campaigns are those that are fluid and agile. When we’re mired down in our ideas of what should work or what has worked, we may be missing out on testing what will work.

That’s where Spark451 comes in. With our experienced account services and dedicated digital media teams, we can craft a digital media campaign tailored to your needs and get the results you want.


Why Use Digital Marketing in Enrollment Marketing?

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Nicole PieringBy Nicole Piering|July 12, 2016

While all of these are still crucial to the implementation of a successful campaign, there’s a new kid in town that’s here to stay. Meet (or re-introduce yourself to) digital media.

Considering that the target market of most colleges and universities is the 16-25 age group, it’s safe to assume that nearly 100 percent of that population regularly uses the internet. Digital media allows colleges and universities to easily reach their intended audiences, from parents to prospective students, where they already are.

Due to its youth and ever-changing nature, digital media is often treated like a misunderstood child. Yet, rather than write it off as too difficult or impossible to control, it should be embraced and studied. As mentioned above, digital media allows an advertiser to reach prospective students wherever they already are. You can use digital media to grab a user’s attention on their favorite website, through a Google search, on their Facebook newsfeed, or even in their email inbox.

As we implement various digital media strategies across our clients’ campaigns, we are continually amazed by their performance. We are regularly experiencing results from digital media that surpass those of our email campaigns. For example, by using a multi-channel digital media campaign, one of our clients recently saw record attendance at an open house that exceeded their previous high by more than 25 percent. Curious as to what drives the performance of digital media?

The answer is simple: targeting.

Digital media allows you to target prospects based on a wide array of characteristics. The specifics depend on the publisher, but such factors typically include geographic location, age, level of education, major, and more.

Love it or hate it, we live in a world that is overflowing with data, and it’s important to utilize that available information in order to strengthen a campaign. Such data may be self-disclosed on a site like Facebook; it may be obtained from a user visiting a website; or it may simply be a name found on a mailing list. For example, Spark451’s “audience building” digital media campaigns have become a staple of a successful search campaign, using such list data to further reinforce a message to an existing list of suspects or prospects.

Taking it a step further, while a print piece may be piled on a desk somewhere and an email lost in the abyss of a user’s spam folder, digital media is the cape-wearing superhero, swooping in to save the day. A digital media ad can subtly, or not-so-subtly, remind a student of your school. A non-intrusive ad may show up in their Instagram newsfeed, while a website banner on weather.com may remind them of that otherwise forgotten print piece. Just as an email campaign should be used to complement a printed piece, digital media should serve as yet another piece of the marketing puzzle.

In this age of social media and the internet, it’s not enough to simply rest on the laurels of what’s worked best in the past. The most successful campaigns are those that use various marketing components to reach students across all devices, platforms, and mediums in a complementary union. If you were to look at enrollment marketing as a tool belt, you already have print and email tucked safely inside like a hammer and wrench. Now, it’s time to add digital media like a fancy new electric drill.