Shifting Sands in Higher Ed Marketing: Interview with Paul Reddy

Paul Reddy is the President of Datamark, a full-service prospect generation and marketing services provider to higher education.

KCH: For certain institutions, the recession has bolstered enrollment demand. Will the (eventual) end of the US recession require changes to marketing strategy?

We have been predicting for some time that organic prospects (students who search for a specific school online and inquire via their website or phone number) will begin to contract as the labor market improves.  We’re already starting to see fewer prospects this quarter, on a broad scale – but it’s too early to tell how much of that is related to labor market recovery compared to the negative press that the private sector schools have received.

Since organic prospects are the least expensive (and often among the best converting) prospective students, school marketers are faced with three choices: spend more to reach prospects through other channels; do a better job driving enrollment and retention; or accept fewer enrollments. Few schools are willing to accept shrinking growth, so that leaves changes to marketing and enrollment strategy. We’re advising our clients to do both.

Strategies include:

1. Paying for inquiries based on their quality

2. Prioritizing inquiries based on their likelihood to convert

3. Contacting high-scoring inquiries within the first three minutes

4. Developing a text messaging contact strategy

5. Using online fulfillment packages and viewbooks

6. Carefully controlling dialog marketing strategies and cadence

7. Refining messaging based on economic conditions

8. Keeping enrolled student profiles updated

KCH: For-profit colleges have had a remarkable run; capturing a disproportionate share of the online market. Do you see any evidence of the non-profit sector responding to this challenge?

With a few notable exceptions, non-profit colleges serving adult/non-traditional students have generally responded conservatively to the rise of the for-profits.  Deans of these schools have many more stakeholders to satisfy and valuable brands to protect, so a certain amount of conservatism is to be expected.

Over the last two years, we have begun to see a rise in experimentation with more aggressive marketing and enrollment strategies.  We believe this has been driven by increased pressure on the adult/continuing education schools to financially support traditional undergraduate institutions under financial pressure, and new attention to the open-access mission that many selective colleges and universities are feeling anew in light of the recession.

We’re seeing more experimentation with marketing than enrollment.  Our view is that non-profit colleges and universities generally have much more “leveragable” brands than private sector schools.  We believe that non-profits can adopt many of the integrated marketing and enrollment practices of the private sector schools – and do so while protecting their brands and satisfying the concerns of faculty and alumni.  We have several clients who are doing this successfully.

KCH: How might the regulatory challenges faced by the proprietary school market impact the future of marketing and lead generation companies like Datamark?

For schools, the changing regulatory landscape puts a new premium on having a broader perspective, innovating and relying on good advice. It also creates new liability for schools that don’t evolve their marketing practices to comply with the misrepresentation and incentive compensation requirements mandated by the newly published rules.  Finally, clients are seeking to wrest more control of their marketing efforts from the interactive lead vendors.   We are seeing increased demand for support from current and prospective clients for all three reasons.

KCH: Many university presidents envision online learning as an opportunity to build a national brand, even international. To what extent is a national reach possible in the higher education market? Is it the right goal for schools to be pursuing?

As you know, national brands already exist in higher education – just look at the well-known academic research institutions that draw students from around the country, some even from around the world. When it comes to building a national or international brand, schools need to determine which programs they want to be known for, and which are best suited for online expansion to ideally meet the demand and needs of adult/non-traditional students.

University presidents have long had alumni programs in place and understand that reaching out provides additional, and often needed, income streams. Online education, and specifically online continuing education can do just that, whether degree or non-degree granting.  If curriculum and admissions standards are clear, then expanding regionally or nationally is something that can strengthen a school’s mission and brand, and something that is achievable when marketed and executed correctly.

Bio: Paul Reddy, President of Datamark

As President, Paul Reddy ensures that solution development, solution delivery, marketing, business development, client services and core analytic marketing capabilities all align to deliver unparalleled impact and value to Datamark’s clients. Prior to joining Datamark, Paul led the business development and client service teams at InsideTrack, the leading provider of student retention solutions to higher education. He was a co-founder of software-as-a-service provider Spoke Software, served as head of business/corporate development for PeoplePC, and was a Principal with management consultancy A.T. Kearney. Paul graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Political Science, and earned his MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

Posted in: Business Models

1 thought on “Shifting Sands in Higher Ed Marketing: Interview with Paul Reddy Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s