Marketing and the College Tour

In March I wrote a post about the value of first impressions.  That post was inspired by the different marketing and promotional approaches of colleges and universities at a local college fair I attended with my daughter.  Fast forward four months and some of the booths that grabbed our attention that day were visited recently.

Since I tend to view many things with a marketer’s eye, the college tour experience was viewed with the same scrutiny I applied to the college fair in March.  It’s safe to say that some excelled and others failed miserably.  After visiting/looking at 7 schools in 3 states, here’s what stood out:

  1. Photo editing is a marketer’s best friend.  One school that looked great on the web and in their brochures was the exact opposite in person.  Situated in a very poor part of town, there was no dedicated campus and the buildings were quite run-down in person.  This is exactly why you must visit schools and not believe everything you see in a marketing brochure.
  2. Hospitality goes a long way.  Most schools offered visitors something to drink (bottled water, coffee, tea).  Some even offered cookies.  One offered nothing and pointed to vending machines in the lobby.  You certainly wouldn’t apply to a school based on whether or not the Admissions Department offered cookies.  But, which experience leaves a better taste in your mouth (pun intended)?
  3. Personalization makes a great impression.  Most schools followed-up on our visits with a “canned” thank you note and additional marketing materials.  Thank you notes are important, but they need to be authentic.  We received a hand-written thank you note from the student tour guide at one of the schools (in addition to one from admissions).  That simple gesture made a great and lasting impression!
  4. You need to walk the walk.  If you’re going to tout how state-of-the-art your campus is when it comes to technology, then your admissions presentation should reflect that.  A simple PowerPoint isn’t going to cut it.  The schools that invested in a higher quality multimedia presentation reinforced their claim of incorporating cutting edge technology.
  5. Finding common ground.  A few of the schools had large groups of students/parents for the campus tour.  Most simply split the groups randomly.  However, one university split the groups by the prospective students’ potential major/school.  Additionally, they matched that group with a student tour guide from that same school.  Rather than having a theater major attempting to answer questions about a business major, you had a business major answering questions from prospective business school students.
  6. Kids like swag.  Just like point #2 above, whether or not you receive a coffee mug or t-shirt from the school should have no bearing on whether or not you choose to apply to that school.  But, kids like free stuff!  The schools which made a small investment in a promotional budget sent visiting students home with a positive impression (and created a walking advertisement in the process).

The above marketing observations are certainly not limited to higher education.  These same examples and principles apply to small businesses too.  Think about the impression your action (or inaction) is leaving on customers and potential customers.  Quite often, just a simple shift can make a big difference!

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The $209,200 Question

Ithaca College, IC, Ithaca, Communications, Park School of Communications

Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College (via http://www.ithaca.edu)

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a conference call with current students at Ithaca College, who are interning at the Office of Career Services.  Our chat centered around marketing, social media and the lessons I’ve learned in “the real world” since graduating from Ithaca College and leaving South Hill for Rochester, NY.  I enjoy giving back to my alma matter in this fashion, so when asked if I could spare 15-20 minutes on a Wednesday afternoon I didn’t hesitate to accept.

My favorite question that was asked by a student was, “What is the skill a graduating senior would need most in order to secure employment?”  Since I didn’t know the questions in advance, my mind raced with possible answers. . . .

Communications:  I majored in Communications, so this was an easy answer to give.  Virtually all jobs require good communication skills!  I dismissed that answer as something that should be a given.

Marketing:  These are marketing interns, so a broad-based marketing skill set would be valuable.  After all, marketing applies to all job seekers because they’re ultimately marketing themselves to prospective employers.  So, I dismissed that answer too, since it should also be a given.

Networking:  As a job seeker, it’s not just what you know.  It’s also not just who you know.  It’s who knows about you which is equally important.  What’s the best way to make sure recruiters, employers and hiring managers know about you?  Networking!  I had my answer!

Whether in-person or via social media, networking is truly an important skill set that graduating seniors should possess.  It’s also a skill that won’t be taught in most classrooms.  Some colleges do, however, teach networking to their students (along with personal branding).  I have first-hand experience that Ithaca College currently does this.

I was able to stress to these students that their networking efforts should begin immediately with fellow students, professors and other professionals.  Two other important points about networking, especially for students who are likely to be new to networking:

  1. Make sure you practice a “give to get” philosophy.  Seek out ways to help the person you’re networking with and/or what you can bring to your professional relationship.  Effective networking is a two-way street.
  2. Emphasize quality over quantity when it comes to your network.  It’s better to have a network that’s half the size but twice as effective.

If you were faced with that same question, what would be your advice to a graduating senior?

As to the title of this post?  That refers to the current 4-year total of tuition/room/board at Ithaca College.  🙂

“Dads and Grads” – Brilliant or Lazy?

It’s that time of year again . . . June brings us both Father’s Day and graduations.    You’ve probably heard some clever advertiser jump on the “dads and grads” marketing bandwagon to grab your attention.

Honestly, this is a big pet peeve of mine when it comes to marketing.  Aside from a rhyme, how smart is it to lump the two groups together?  Effective marketing is supposed to be targeted.  You’ve researched your customers and/or target audience, you’ve analyzed the demographics and sociographics, and you’ve somehow concluded that dads = grads and it’s smart to market to both simultaneously.  Really?!?

I’m a dad, but I doubt I have a ton in common with the class of 2012 when it comes to demographics and sociographics.  You don’t need to be a market research guru to come to that conclusion.

Most college graduations occur in May, but you don’t see marketers lumping them with Mother’s Day.  Why not?   June is an extremely popular month for weddings, but you don’t see marketers lumping brides or grooms with dads.  Why not?

It’s a safe assumption that there’s a demographic/sociographic discrepancy between each of the aforementioned groups.  Therefore, I can assume the reason dads and grads are linked is simply because they rhyme.  How pathetic is that?!

Don’t you think recent graduates want their own moment in the spotlight after years of hard work?  As a dad, I’m a little insulted that the significance of Father’s Day is muted by the inclusion of graduates.  Aren’t we deserving of sole attention from marketers?  And while I’m on my marketing pet peeve soap box, not all dads are bumbling, clueless and lazy.  Come on marketers, you’re better than that!  “Dads and grads” is not creative, original or effective; it’s lazy.

I’d especially like to hear from fellow dads out there.  Am I off-base with this or do you feel similarly?  What’s your biggest complaint with how dads are portrayed in advertising?