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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A Social Media Storm

Many watched the progress of Hurricane Sandy and reports of the devastation it caused.  Nicknamed “The Perfect Storm” and “Frakenstorm,” the images of destruction were shocking.  I hope you and your family survived the event safely and with minimal damage.  I’m very thankful that my family did, including those directly in the path.

This isn’t the first major storm where social media played an important role in reporting the news.  However, I did find it interesting that so many media outlets encouraged viewers/readers to engage them via social media to get current news.  Rather than wait for the next news cycle, which could be hours away, people were encouraged to follow on Twitter, friend on Facebook, pin to Pinterest, download weather apps, etc., etc.  It makes me wonder how many new followers/friends/app users these media outlets gained as a result of this natural disaster.

While social media is a great resource for current news as it unfolds, you do need to be cautious of what’s posted in terms of accuracy.  I had several friends share pictures to social media that were allegedly taken during the storm.  Virtually all turned out to be a hoax – either doctored using Photoshop or taken from a disaster movie.

With smart phones becoming the dominant type of cell phone and tablets increasing in usage, people could stay connected with friends, family and media – even if their home lost power.  In America, we’ve come a long way from candles and transistor radios.  Several friends who lost power could still post messages to Facebook letting friends and family know their situation.

Having grown up in New Jersey, I have several friends and family in that area who were significantly impacted.  My thoughts and prayers are with them and I hope their recovery is quick and smooth.

How did you use social media during Hurricane Sandy?

Biannual Apps Audit

Can you believe the year is half-over already?  Now is as good a time as any to review the social media apps you’ve granted permission to and see if you still want/need them accessing your data.  I’m sure some of you reading this post won’t even know what the previous sentence refers to.  So, let’s start from the beginning.

As you interact in social media, certain applications request permission to access your account in order for the interaction to occur.  One quick example of a good time to revoke an application permission could be when you enter a contest on Facebook and the contest has ended.   Another example could be an application that allows you to share content to your twitter account, or one that even analyzes social media stats.

Changing the access permissions of social media applications in Facebook and Twitter is easy to do.  In fact, it’s just 3 quick steps for each!

On Facebook, here’s where you can find the applications you’ve granted access to and how to discontinue their access should you desire.  There are actually two ways to get there, but this is one of them:

1)  In the upper right corner of your Facebook toolbar, click on the downward arrow and select Account Settings:

2)  Select “Apps” in the left-hand toolbar, which will bring up a list of apps you’ve granted access to:

3)  For each app you want to check/change, select the “Edit” link in the far right column of the list.  It will open a gray-shaded sub-menu that will allow you to remove the app or alter the privacy settings of the app:

On Twitter, here’s where you can find the applications you’ve granted access to and how to discontinue their access should you desire.

1)  Click on the person icon toward the right in the upper toolbar and select “Settings:”

2)  Select “Apps” in the left-hand toolbar:

3)  A list of applications will appear, with a description and the date you granted the app access to your Twitter account.  If you’d like to remove the app, click the “Revoke Access” button:

I try to make a habit of reviewing my settings twice a year.  Like tending to a garden, it’s easier to stay on top of things if you weed more frequently.  This time around my “Social Media Audit Scorecard” was 5 Facebook apps and 7 Twitter apps that I revoked access to.

As privacy continues to be a big concern for many using social media, it’s important to monitor apps’ access your information.  So how many apps did you change permissions for or delete entirely?

Big Lessons From A Mini Contest

This past weekend I was selected as the second winner of Dorschel Automotive’s #winsmall contest.  I won a free weekend-long test drive of a Mini Cooper and now have a 1-in-12 chance to win a free 2-year lease of a Mini.  It was a great experience to trade in my Mini Van for a Mini Cooper, even if just for 3 days.

Their contest had 3 great components which could be applied to many marketing campaigns.  Learn more about them in my first video blog!