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Digital Skillscast

The Future of Higher Education Marketing

By Nate Riggs on Apr 30, 2017 11:56:05 PM |


Why is it that colleges and universities can't seem to keep up with the rapid change in technology? There is so much out there but universities can't seem to keep up with it or use it to their benefit. It seems that with social media, the school's website doesn't matter. Prospective students care more about what current students have to say and look to their social media. How can higher education embrace the ever-changing world of marketing and how should they best utilize it?  

A unique set of guests, father and daughter, Paul Muller and Britney Muller, come from the same world but currently reside in different regions. Britney lives in the world of digital marketing, working everyday to best utilize the technology available to create change for Moz's clients. Paul resides in higher education, where digital marketing is necessary but the focus is elsewhere - on the student. This world of digital marketing and higher education creates unique and underutilized potential for higher education to better reach prospective students through the way they prefer.  

About Our Guest - Britney Muller, SEO & Content Architect at Moz & Paul Muller, Director of Admissions at Bemidji State University

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Born and raised in northern Minnesota, Britney manages all on-site SEO, discovering digital opportunities and assisting with overall product strategy. Britney loves to get people excited about big data, Tensorflow, Data Science, technical SEO and working smarter not harder. She attended the University of Minnestoa, majoring in strategic communications and public relations. 

Paul specializes in strategic marketing that is rooted in data to optimize conversion rate. He is a driven leader who focuses on a unique combination of relationships and data to drive strategy and operations. According to Britney, Paul (her father) is the savviest higher ed digital marketer she knows and is doing some really cutting edge stuff like; heat tracking, A/B testing, live UX recording, etc. He says has a hard time executing things due to the many stakeholders that higher ed websites face.

Why Has It Been So Difficult For Higher Education To Keep Up With Technology?

According to Paul, it is virtually impossible for universities to keep up with technology. They can't compete with companies like Moz because their focus is elsewhere - on the students. Moz tries to provide their customers with a wide rangee of information that pertains to the search queries around their brand and they are able to do so now more than ever. This insight is critical into viewing how students are searching for colleges, what platforms they are using, and what terms they are using to search with. 

Where Does The Website Fall In Regards To The Social Media "Addiction" Of Gen Z?

Britney said that the website doens't fall as early as it should because perspective students are more apt to go to social media first to try and view the landscape through the perspective of currennt students. Additionally, everything has shifted towards visual and easy to consume. Though they do go to the websites, it's natural for prospective students to want to see actual students and what they are doing on campus.

Paul mentioned a plugin that allows you to see what users are doing on a website in real time (Lucky Orange), which is extremely telling when you see it happening. From the actions of users on the website and using heatmaps, serious changes were realized and continuous work is implemented because they now know what they have to do. 

How Can You Navigte The Complex Decision Making Process So Quickly?

Paul quickly puts himself on the line and mentions that in order to get this stuff done and done fast, he has to do as much as he can without including everyone.. This also includes gathering information, not just making changes. It's difficult to argue against the best user expeerience when you have the data to back it up. The primary stakeholders are the propsective students so one must keep them at the front of theirm mind. 

The homepage is a search tool for students and if they don't find what they need, they will leave. This makes people like Paul have to think differently and pivot. The old way of sitting in a meeting room, looking over charts and talking expectations is not affordable anymore.  

How Will Big Data Shape The Future Of Higher Education Marketing?

More information is available at the finger tips of prospective students. This allows them to create machine learning programs to do the heavy lifting for marketers. For instance, fraud protections allows a university to turn over applications to see if the applicant is a good fit.

Implications for digital marketing include more personalized campaigns and the use of Progressive Web Apps (PWA), which are in-browser-like app experiences. These produce big benefits, such as staying up to date, customer push notifications, and instant caching. Bascially, it comes down to three things: user experience, speed, and speaking the language of the prospective student.  

What Are The Hurdles For Other Universities To Overcome?

It is going to take a complete shift in thinking. It isn't about what they think that students want to hear anymore. It's about identifying what students want from them. It might take some exchange of money to make change happen, but not a huge amount. However, if you are using traditional marketing methods that aren't using calls to action or they are unmeasurable, you are simply wasting your money.   

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Nate Riggs

Written by Nate Riggs

Nate Riggs is the Founder and CEO of NR Media Group, a Certified HubSpot Partner and inbound consulting firm. He leads a team of experienced strategists, content marketers, creatives and technologists that help organizations deploy and use HubSpot’s marketing, sales, and service software to operate more efficiently and accelerate growth. Nate regularly presents keynotes and workshops at top industry conferences like INBOUND, Content Marketing World and Oracle’s Modern CX. In 2017, Nate was recognized by HubSpot for his contributions to the development of the HubSpot Education Partner Program. Nate regularly presents keynotes and workshops at top industry conferences like INBOUND, Content Marketing World and Oracle’s Modern CX. In 2017, Nate was recognized by HubSpot for his contributions to the development of the HubSpot Education Partner Program.