The Future of Marketing in Education

On Marketing and the impacts to Education

The future of digital marketing is a space where personalized experiences exist within a multi-device landscape in real time. <- That is a lot of buzz words. Let me break this down.

Personalized experiences shouldn’t just be about predicting where we want people to click. We want to shift their desired experience from being driven by web strategists to an experience where their last click influences their next one.

While it is vital to use data to inform digital strategy, what has become increasingly important is allowing this process to happen in real time. Many Ecommerce enterprises are using these strategies already, allowing for algorithms to predict related purchases and increase cart values.

Education can use these tactics to offer relevant value points in a personalized digital experience. For example, offering a prospective students relevant to their IP address, their previous sections visited or connecting them to a live agent who can immediately help with their particular questions.

These personalized experiences can also be used internally to track trends, common questions and seasonally important items. Allowing business processes to be influenced by this business intelligence data can not only reduce call and email volume but also increase the responsiveness of institutions and better position their brand as student focused.

With increased competition, institutions must respond to students immediately. Social media has allowed for them to respond quickly on surface questions, this has increased the expectations of consumers on all levels of inquiry. This means allowing for that very specific admission question to be answered immediately (yes, immediately). This doesn’t necessarily state that a live agent must be able to answer questions at all hours, however, we can answer immediate questions via technology based on keywords and sentences.

The implementation of Salesforce-like business tools to rank prospects is something many administrators feel they need to implement, however have very little concept of what it could mean. Ranking prospects based on their tracked interactions with the institution can not only focus your efforts in responsiveness, but also help in understanding (and reacting to) the needs of highly ranked prospects. For example, if most of your 5-star prospects are asking the same questions, you can pre-emptively supply them with this information before they need it. This information will also help institutions find those 5-star prospects through social advertising and niche content marketing.

This personalized, real-time experience must also be device agnostic. The future of marketing will include many more devices over time and we shouldn’t dictate or leverage a certain platform. Learning management systems (LMS) are becoming device agnostic and the overall student experience should be reflective of this as well.

The trends in marketing as a sector are moving towards customized experiences that motivate consumers to share them in a social setting. Education needs to be a part of this.

The Future of Education

Barriers have long existed in education; proximity, access to resources, logistics, financial and social. Many of these barriers have been removed by forward-thinking institutions and individuals (that’s another conversation, but Sal Khan embodies it).  The truth is “the student” changes with time and so should the institutions; the key is the pace of that change. Often, we (speaking from the institutions’ point of view) wait for time to pass before adjusting to this change. This lead time is beginning to shrink as institutions are beginning to implement a more rapid pace of change in order to remain competitive.

In Ontario, institutions have increased their investment into marketing strategies over the last 10 years in order to compete outside of their traditional catchment areas and expand their reach. Furthermore, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities is now looking to institutions to create Strategic Mandate Agreements to focus their efforts and diversify the product offerings available in Ontario. Education is becoming less about geographic location and more about a desired product offering.

The worlds of business and education have collided; however, many organizations are still slow to react. Major change is on the horizon in Canada and it is being seen through the innovation around data driven business processes (from prospect management to alumni relations), predictive modelling and customized user experiences.

Technology is playing a major role in this change. The format of education has shifted from a “one to many” model towards a “many to many” model that increases lateral student interactions and decreases the reliance on professors to foster discussion. Predictive modelling can allow institutions to better predict student behaviours and needs.

Technology and business processes need to adapt accordingly in order to offer students seamless access to the information they desire, as well as customized products that build on their previous behaviours. Soon, educators will be able to rely on business processes to warn of potentially disengaged students through data driven analysis. For example, a student with higher risk factors (1st Generation, background or low grades) who visits your counselling services webpage may be afraid to send an email to book an appointment. However, these actions combined with their background may offer the institution the opportunity to allow that data to trigger an email to the student with information relevant to their needs.

In summary, education is shifting towards a more competitive landscape that can leverage technology to offer a better student experience. Creating these customized user experiences will separate the institutions that treat students like a number, versus those who treat them as individuals.

One Awesome campaign and why it succeeded.

In marketing,communications and IT, we’re often jumping from one campaign to the next aiming to reproduce and improve on successes of the past. Recently, we just capped off one of our most successful campaigns and I figured it was worth a post! In a nutshell, here’s what made this campaign successful!

Clear Goals: Our campaign had a goal of generating positive association with our University by incenting high school students to create videos telling us why their school is #Awesome. The prize: $10,000 towards their school prom. Internally, we had goals of generating 20 videos, 25,000 views on YouTube and generating an increase of positive mentions for our brand in social channels.

Organizational Support: This idea needed the support of Recruitment, Marketing, Communications and IT. Each played their respective roles in promoting the contest and achieving the results.

Distribution: High School students are a target market that consumes advertising faster than most demographics, we used our advantage – school visits. Our Liaison team intelligently positioned the contest to the students directly while in schools and solicited the support of the school administration.

Awareness: As the campaign grew, our highly targeted Facebook ads were served directly to students at schools that were likely to participate. These gentle reminders funneled traffic to our campaign website where they could view videos that other schools had submitted. Our #AwesomeLU hashtag on Twitter was used relatively often, however our account saw a very significant increase in followers, as did our Facebook page.

Summary: In the end, the campaign had clear goals, a clear target market and committed execution from multiple departments that led to an outcome we can all be proud of. This has most definitely influenced the decisions of students in choosing which post-secondary institution to attend next fall.



Presentation to University Student Association Managers on Social Media

This presentation was delivered in the fall of 2013 to student association managers and staff. The presentation has a focus on social media management, marketing and channels. The focus is excellence within Facebook, Twitter and other channels with a small budget. I wish I could share all of my presentations, but here’s a public one so please enjoy!

IT vs Marketing

This presentation was delivered at the Post Secondary Education Web Conference June 25th 2013 by JP Rains and Martin Laferriere (Chief Web Officer, Laurentian University).

Here’s the description: 

Ever hang up the phone saying “what is Marketing thinking?” or leave a meeting saying “IT just doesn’t get this”. This presentation, put on jointly by IT and Marketing, will make you feel at home whether you care more about WYSIWG or CMYK.

Sharing our lessons learned, success stories and failures, the talk will include topics that everyone can enjoy or loathe, including:
- Web Design and Launch
- Social Media
- Micro-sites

This presentation will add insight to your daily conversations with “the dark side”, from whichever perspective you share.



New Facebook News Feed – 3 Things for Page Managers

Uh oh. Facebook changed the News feed again. Sending Marketers in a panic everywhere, the changes to the Facebook News feed were released Thursday and they are, well, expected. This change isn’t drastic for users of tablet applications and mobile apps that have used the black left hand navigation bar for some time, replacing the somewhat cleaner but clunkier existing white navigation. Where the change is dramatic is decentralization, content and implications for the brand reach.



Facebook’s newest change allows users to navigate from a selection of options rather than one, busier News Feed. This will help the User experience in that they dictate the categories of information seen. This was their intent in some of the last News Feed modifications, however, users simply didn’t change their content settings or really make much use of the Close Friends option. The idea is for users to read the News Feed similarly to a News Paper. With the growth of their older demographics and negative growth of teenagers, this is in line with where Facebook is headed.

Here are the categories:

  • Top News (Major stories of each section)
  • All Friends 
  • Following (for pages)
  • Photos (see: Instagram)
  • Games, Music (two separate tabs but not worthy of their own bullets on my page)
  • Groups
  • Close Friends

For Page Managers, this means slightly less visibility overall. Where you can win is in the photo section. Friends usually have a lot of photos, but pages generally have even more, and they can dominate the Photo section.



With the added emphasis to photos and videos, its pretty clear where our focus as page mangers will have to be. Yes, the focus has always been on content, but this is even more crucial now. Many top brands are already embracing this, by providing content directly into photos, allowing for more clicks and eventually a higher Edge Rank.


Here we have the Lakers Facebook page, they are sharing a photo that most people can read the majority of the information but many people will click to expand to read the smaller font.

Albums have also been redesigned, rewarding pages who upload multiple pictures. This shouldn’t be a major change for some brands who often posted collage pictures in order to enhance media clicks. Having 5+ photos will likely be a good target for brands, engaging users and ultimately increasing their visibility.


Brand Reach

With these changes to a News Paper type experience, the All Friends section is likely to be a hit with users, much the same as the photo section (see: Why Facebook bought Instagram) however, where we may lose our traction as brands is in the Pages section. While I’d like to think that users love my brands (who doesn’t), the reality is, many of them only “Like” my brand (see what I did there?).

As Page Manager’s I see that there will be two choices, either invest more into visual content, or invest more into ads. Without one of these two mechanisms, I’d be willing to bet that your post views will decrease overall. Facebook is under increasing pressure to sell more ads, and these new changes force the brand’s hand in many cases to get in front of users by paying for it.

There is also a not-so-insignificant undertone in all of this, content is moving towards a more chronological approach, based on the early signs. Brands will need to be more conscious of when they are posting and less conscious of how often they are posting. Matching posts with Facebook’s peak times will be essential for maximum Edge Rank reach and achieving your goals.


In summary, what can you do to stay current with the changes?