All posts by Amanda Tower

Why EDU Needs More Storytellers


Good marketing is storytelling. Storytelling is good marketing. Either way you look at it, whether you’re selling a product or an experience, storytelling is the holy grail of relevancy. At its core, storytelling connects individuals to your brand. It speaks to their goals, challenges and motivations. When most effective, it inspires a “Hey, me too!” reaction. Like our counterparts in other transforming industries, EDU marketers must frequently ask, “How do we tell better stories?”

[Tweet “Whether you’re selling a product or an experience, storytelling is the holy grail of relevancy.”]

I recently attended a workshop, The Foundational Elements of Storytelling, geared toward aspiring authors. It provided a unique perspective on storytelling that had the marketing synapses in my brain firing like a gang of Western gunslingers.

Below I’ll share a few reasons why we should challenge ourselves to be better storytellers and ways we can lead the charge.

The Enrollment Funnel is Our Storytelling Arc

If you’ve ever taken a writing course, you’re probably familiar with the storytelling arc. It includes all the elements you need to hook your reader — exposition, conflict, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution.

As education marketers, we interact with the storytelling arc every day. We call it the enrollment funnel.


Awareness (Exposition): This is how the story begins. While casually browsing online one day, Megan stumbles across a display ad for your MBA program.

Interest (Conflict): Megan’s interest is piqued, but she gets distracted and makes herself a sandwich. The next day at work, Megan’s coworker, Jessica, is promoted to manager of their department. Megan says to herself: “I’d really like to move into management someday. Maybe I should think about earning an MBA. But I bet it’s expensive, and where will I find the time?”

Consideration (Rising Action): A few weeks later, Megan mentions her idea to her husband at dinner. “Hmm…” Jeff says, his mouth full of lasagna. “I like the idea. I’m just wondering how we’ll pay for it and if it’s worth it. Will Denise give you a promotion?” Megan and Jeff decide to give the idea more consideration. As Megan scrolls through Facebook that night during The Bachelor, she sees another ad for your MBA program in her news feed.

Intent (Climax): It’s been a few months since Megan and Jeff tossed around the idea of Megan pursuing her MBA. Yesterday, another one of Megan’s coworkers got promoted. With renewed interest, Megan goes to Google to search for MBA programs. There she finds a search ad for your MBA program. “An online option? Megan reads. “I like the sound of that.”

Inquire (Falling Action): Megan clicks on your ad and finds herself on your landing page. She scrolls down the page to the form, hovering her mouse over the form fields. “Should I request information?” Megan asks herself. She decides to fill out the form and submit her information. Within 24 hours, an admissions rep reaches out with the program details.

Enroll (Resolution): In the coming months, Megan attends a webinar, shares a brochure on the ROI of an MBA with Jeff and talks to her boss about changing her schedule to accommodate her course load. All the pieces are finally coming together. Megan applies online and a few days later, receives her acceptance email. The next day, she officially enrolls in your MBA program.

See what I did there?

Your Story Needs GMC

Not to be confused with the auto manufacturer, GMC stands for Goal, Motivation, Conflict. We typically think about GMC like this:

Goal: What does the character want to achieve or avoid?

Motivation: Why does the character want this goal?

Conflict: What’s standing in the character’s way?

[Tweet “Storytelling speaks to goals, motivations and conflicts. It inspires a “Hey, me too!” reaction.”]

Your prospects’ lives revolve around GMC — they have goals they want to achieve, motivation driving them to succeed and obstacles they must overcome to reach their goals. GMC is the lens through which we should view every strategy we develop and every piece of content we create. Unless you know your characters inside and out, it’s difficult to tell your story without it.

Give Your Characters a Purpose

Prospective students are characters in your story — so are current students, alumni, faculty, deans, provosts, directors and presidents. With such a large cast of characters, your story can start to resemble an episode of Game of Thrones. If those experiencing your story constantly ask, “Who is this person, and what value do they add to the story?”, it might be worth simplifying.

Take recruitment videos, for example. Mary is a prospective student. While browsing your website, she finds a video about the student experience at your school. This is what Mary has been looking for — she knows that you offer the program she wants and how much it costs, but she can’t tell what campus life is like for a non-traditional undergraduate student.

Mary hits play. Beautiful images flash across her screen. “Wow, the campus looks amazing!” Mary says. She sees students playing Ultimate Frisbee in a park, a professor leading a discussion, your school’s mascot dancing during the homecoming parade and a group of smiling students studying in the library. Mary can practically envision herself on your campus.

Then the upbeat music slows. For the next three minutes, the president of your school tells Mary how excited he is that she’s considering your school. From behind his desk, he tells her about the school’s mission, history and faculty accomplishments. Then the provost talks about the quality of academics and the outstanding student experience Mary will receive. When the video ends five minutes later, Mary realizes something: she didn’t hear from a single student.

It goes without saying that every character plays an important role, from your president to the administrative assistant in your admissions office. However, depending who’s listening to your story, you might need to tell it a little differently. It’s okay if the story you tell a prospective student differs from the story you tell a prospective faculty member.

Rough Drafts Lead to Finished Stories

Every well-formed story begins with a blank sheet of paper, and it’s impossible to refine a story that hasn’t yet been developed. We work with many institutions that are still working to identify their characters and craft a story that resonates across audiences. If your institution is among them, you’re in good company.


  • Think about the enrollment funnel as your storytelling arc. Each element is essential — would you read a story without a resolution?
  • GMC helps you better understand the characters in your story. When you can speak to their goals, motivations and challenges, you’ll be one step closer to telling a story people want to hear.
  • When casting the characters in your story, make sure they have a purpose. Depending on your audience, you might need to alter how the story is told.
  • Don’t be intimidated by work in progress. Every great story begins with a rough draft.

[Tweet “#HigherEd marketers must frequently ask, “How do we tell better stories?””]

Do you consider yourself a storyteller for your brand? Give us your take on storytelling best practices in EDU. Comment below or reach out to start the discussion.

4 Touchpoints to Reengage Inquiries Who Fall Out of the Funnel

If an inquiry falls out of the funnel and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? That depends.


Colleges and universities lose inquiries at multiple points in the funnel. This happens for various reasons – maybe an inquiry was actively considering a list of institutions or simply not ready to enroll for the upcoming semester.

However, institutions with formalized communication workflows can gauge exactly where and why those inquiries dropped off and develop strategies to reengage them. And that makes an incredibly loud impact.


Make these four touchpoints a part of your communications workflow.

[Tweet “Make these four touchpoints a part of your communications workflow.”]

Are You Still Interested?

After an inquiry fills out a form on your website, you send an email with additional information on their program or college of interest. No response. You follow it up with great information on career outcomes and a testimonial from a successful alum. Still nothing. Finally, you send a detailed checklist for submitting an application. Crickets.

Before you throw in the towel…

Are inquiries intimidated by challenges they’re facing (financial, personal, etc.)? Did they receive too many emails, phone calls or text messages too quickly? Did your message arrive at a bad time?

{Insert Stressed Student}

Use this touchpoint to determine where inquiries are in their decision-making process. Acknowledge their busy schedule. Empathize with potential concerns. Reaffirm the value of your institution and provide the name, phone number and email address of a person they can contact as a resource. Most importantly, encourage them to take action, whether that means getting in touch with an admissions counselor, attending an event or submitting an application.

Sign Up for an Event

Inviting an inquiry to an event can rekindle the conversation about your institution. On-campus and virtual events including information sessions, meet and greets and webinars give prospects the chance to explore a program or college, meet with faculty and ask questions they might have about the application process.

Focus on the value of attending.

The details are important – time, date, location, appetizers. But what will an attendee really take away from the event? In this touchpoint, transparency is key. If I’m a prospective student, I want value – and that doesn’t mean hearing the same recycled information I can find on the program website. I want to be able to ask questions and get straight answers. I want to see that there’s a clear path to reaching my goals and learn how your institution will help me get there.

Don’t Miss the Deadline

Say that an inquiry expressed interest in enrolling for the fall semester. But since becoming an inquiry, they haven’t responded to your communications.

As application deadlines approach, send inquiries a quick text message or email. Remind them that the next semester is just around the corner, and if they want to be considered, they’ll need to submit an application before the deadline.

This creates a sense of urgency for inquiries who have been distant.


We all get busy. Sometimes it’s nice to receive a friendly reminder. Don’t forget to call out any advantages of applying early – maybe a waived application fee or priority consideration for scholarships.

It’s Been a While

Okay, still no response from your inquiry. You’re convinced they’re hiding under a rock in a Wi-Fi free zone. It’s definitely time to give up, right?


In the words of William Edward Hickson, place them in a new workflow and try, try again. This touchpoint should look something like this:

“Hey Inquiry, you said you were interested in our institution, but we haven’t heard from you in a while. Is now a better time to talk about how we can help you do X, Y and Z?”

The purpose of this communication is twofold – reaffirm the value of your institution and reengage the prospect.

[Tweet “Institutions with communication flows can see where & why inquiries drop off & how to reengage them.”]

Even if it’s been months since they’ve interacted with your institution, it’s worth reaching out to see if they’re ready to continue the conversation. You might find out that they’ve chosen to apply to another institution or put their education on hold for now. But you could also get them moving along in their enrollment journey again.

Ready to put your communication plan in action? We can help. Read up on content strategy or send us a message.

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Pokémon GO and How Colleges Are Getting in the Game

Right now, there could be a Charizard lurking on your campus. That popular campus landmark? It just became a PokéStop.

[Tweet “There could be a Charizard on your campus. That campus landmark? Just became a PokéStop.”]

When students return to campus in less than a month, you’re bound to see packs of them wandering around, heads down and phones in hand. No need to call Rick Grimes – your students didn’t turn into zombies over the summer. But many of them have become Pokémon Trainers, inspired by the newest mobile game craze, Pokémon GO.

Pokémon GO 101  

In case you haven’t heard about the gaming app that’s been blamed for car accidents, dead body sightings and luring Canadians into the U.S., Pokémon GO is a new augmented reality game in which players (or Trainers) search for virtual Pokémon in the real world. Trainers explore their cities and towns looking for PokéStops where they can capture these tiny monsters on their smartphones’ touch screens. Then they hit the Gym to battle rival teams.

Pokémon GO has become the biggest mobile game in history since it launched on July 6, and it now has more active users than Twitter. And you probably guessed it – advertisers are jumping all over the new game hoping to scoop up ad space if and when it becomes available.

Do You See the Poké-tential?

Imagine if your school could leverage Pokémon GO’s mobile location data to serve targeted ads to prospective students. How might this impact your lead pool?

[Tweet “Imagine if your school could leverage Pokémon GO. How might this impact your lead pool?”]

Many schools aren’t waiting to gauge the game’s marketing potential – they’re simply joining in on the fun. Duke University discovered several Pokémon in its Lemur Center. Fortunately, Weedle was captured and no lemurs were harmed.

Duke Lemur Center

Other schools like American University are giving students maps of all the PokéStops on campus. In a news release, AU provides screen shots of recent Pokémon sightings, including some of the hottest Gyms and PokéStops students might pass on their way to class. Rumor has it that Goldeen and Paras like to hang out on the Quad.

AU Poke Gym

On the Binghamton University blog, student Paige Miller details her Pokémon hunting expedition across the Binghamton U campus. She shares tips and tricks for catching the notoriously elusive creatures and discovers it’s not just students who are hooked on the game – even the assistant director for university union operations is a level 17 Pokémon GO master.

bu pokemon2


It’s GO Time (Well, Almost)

Though the game’s advertising future is unclear, we do know one thing: Pokémon GO could become a marketing goldmine. In fact, Pokémon GO’s developer recently announced that the game will soon accept sponsored partnerships to make certain locations show up more prominently. That’s right – you may have just discovered a new way to get more prospective students to visit your campus.

For now, we wait. And I know of a game you could download to pass the time.

[Tweet “Leads are like Pokémon – you’ve gotta catch ‘em all.”]

Leads are like Pokémon – you’ve gotta catch ‘em all. Here are some other articles to help guide your chase: Digital Advertising: Increasing Your Lead to Enrollment Rate, 5 Emails You Should Be Sending to Nurture Inquiries and An Introduction to Snapchat Sponsored Ad Opportunities.

5 Emails You Should Be Sending to Nurture Inquiries

What am I, chopped liver?

That was my reaction after I requested more information on a master’s program and heard nothing back. I carved time out of my day to fill out the fields (it was only five fields, but still…) and tell this school about myself. They didn’t even send me an automated confirmation email. Harsh.

I’m not taking this school’s lack of response personally. But that’s only because I’m familiar with the inner workings of higher ed. We’ve worked with various clients who simply lack the resources to create and implement a sustainable communications workflow to nurture leads.

In any case, an ignored lead is a lost lead, and if you’re catching fish with a hole in your net, you’re probably losing a lot of good fish.

Here are five emails you should be sending to keep leads in your net.

Hello, I’m Your PersonYou Are Not Alone

The purpose of this email is to introduce your new inquiry to their contact person. Give them a living, breathing human they can reach out to with questions. Thank them for their interest in your program and invite them to continue engaging with you.

Suggested Calls to Action:

  • Download our viewbook
  • RSVP for an information session
  • Register for a webinar


Meet a Subject Matter ExpertStudent Studying


Introduce a current student, alumnus or faculty member who can speak to the value of your program and institution. Go beyond the canned testimonial. Give the lead an insider’s perspective on your academic environment, faculty expertise and the career preparation you provide.

Suggested Calls to Action:

  • Attend a class
  • Get to know a current student
  • Explore our program page

Here’s How You Apply


Walk the lead through the steps they’ll need to follow to apply. Give an overview of program requirements and share a profile of your ideal candidate so potential candidates know how they measure up. This is a great opportunity for the contact person you identified in your first email to again offer to field questions.

Suggested Calls to Action:

  • Schedule an appointment with an advisor
  • Start your application


What’s Holding You Back?


Address any barriers that might be holding leads back from applying (time, cost, etc.). Empathize with their concerns and demonstrate how your institution will help them overcome those barriers.

Suggested Call to Action:

  • Finish your application


Still Interested?

Interested Cat

Even if a lead hasn’t converted, you still have a chance to pique their interest. This email should be sent to all leads who complete the post-inquiry workflow, but still don’t apply. Keep the conversation going by readdressing barriers that might be preventing them from applying.

Suggested Calls to Action:

  • Get in touch
  • Submit your application

Want to learn more about converting your digital leads to enrolled students? Check out this blog post Hayley Warack wrote, Digital Advertising: Increasing Your Lead to Enrollment Rate.

6 Components of Landing Pages that Convert

While there isn’t a secret formula for creating an effective landing page, having the right components on your page can dramatically improve your success rate. Check out these landing page tips below.

[Tweet “Add these 6 components and dramatically improve your success rate! #HigherEd”]



Final Note: Not sure if you’re using the right CTA? Wondering if you’ve created a powerful enough headline? Split testing or A/B testing is a great way to isolate a specific variable on your landing page (like a headline or CTA) and find out which option performs. Test, test, test!

[Tweet “Test, test, test!”]

Looking for more landing page best practices? Check out our Digital Advertising: Ask Us Anything webinar.

4 Content Buzzwords You Should Know


snack-a-ble con-tent


1. Content made for easy, on-the-go consumption; similar to applesauce squeeze pouches and chocolate covered raisins

“My audience is hungry for snackable content”

Looking for a way to combat information overload? Create bite-sized pieces of content your audience can easily chew on and digest –Vines, snaps, infographics, memes, Instagrams and Tweets are just a few examples of snackable content.


Bite Size





1. A unique and compelling way to own your small classes, engaging faculty and hands-on learning experiences; campfire optional

Oberlin College does a great job of storytelling on their website.”

Great stories are relatable. To tell a great story, you need to know your audiences and what they care about. User personas are a great tool for uncovering this information and crafting a story your audience actually wants to hear. Dig deep into what makes you unique.





nat-ive con-tent


1. A pay-to-play form of advertising that matches the platform on which it’s displayed like a stealthy chameleon

“Though native content gets 10 times more engagement, 54 percent of readers don’t trust sponsored content.”

According to Business Insider, marketers will spend $7.9 billion on native advertising by 2018. Despite consumers’ mixed feelings on the topic, advertisers agree that successful native content must be relevant to its surrounding content. If you want to execute a successful native ad campaign, make sure you’re creating relevant content for your users.





con-tent am-pli-fi-ca-tion


1. A way to help your content reach more users; includes paid media, owned media and earned media

“Ever heard of the tree that fell in the forest with no one around to hear it? That’s your content without a content amplification strategy.”

Content doesn’t promote itself. Even institutions with a massive following of users need a content amplification strategy to make sure their content is reaching the right eyeballs. Start out by identifying your KPIs – do you want more engagement? More qualified applicants? Then begin outlining your strategy.





Now that you’ve added some content buzzwords to your vocabulary, what’s next? We’d love to help you create great content. Check out our content strategy page or send me a note and let me know how we can help.

3 Web Design Trends You’ll See in 2016: Higher Ed Edition

Website design is a lot like fashion. What’s in one minute can be on its way out in a matter of months. Like the acid wash jeans in your closet dying to make a comeback, some web design trends just aren’t meant to become permanent best practices – and for good reason. Your website should be all about your user. If your user ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

Last year, I posted about 3 Web Design Trends of 2015. It’s no surprise that web design trends have once again evolved. Here are three of the trends you’ll see in 2016.


Hamburger Menus

Sadly I’m not talking about the juicy patties smothered in cheese and sandwiched inside sesame seed buns. If you browse the web on a mobile device, you’ve probably seen a hamburger menu – it’s the hamburger-like menu box that appears in the top corner of your screen.

What’s so great about hamburger menus? Simplicity. Website navigation is hidden until the user clicks it. This is great for users browsing your site on a mobile device. By not distracting your users with too many links and options, you can focus their attention on your key value propositions.


The Atlantic Hamburger



What’s not so great? Your users can’t click what they don’t see. And as we already know, users who don’t find what they’re looking for fast won’t stick around. Since many institutions already struggle to simplify pages of content and endless links, this can be one of the downfalls of the hamburger menu.


Cinemagraphs and Video Backgrounds

This is my favorite design trend and one I hope to see many colleges and universities implement. Cinemagraphs combine high-quality photography and looping video. They take the place of the static hero image and can give users a multi-sensory brand experience.

Drexel University made a series of cinemagraph-style videos to inspire and recruit potential students with its Get Going campaign.


Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 5.36.20 PM



In 2011, the University of Stirling in the UK was among the first universities to use cinemagraphs to increase user engagement on its site.

What’s so great about cinemagraphs and moving backgrounds? They can tell one heck of a story. Imagine capturing the spirit of your campus in a beautiful image and bringing it to life with subtle motion.

What’s not so great? Any moving image or video can be distracting to your user. And there’s always the issue of capturing the right images or videos that communicate your brand. But if you can create effective cinemagraphs, they can grab and hold your audience’s attention.


Split-Screen Layouts


When creating a website, many institutions struggle with catering to multiple audiences. Maybe your college is known for undergraduate education, but you also want to call out the programs you offer for adult learners. Split-screen layouts allow your audience to ‘choose their own adventure’ and navigate to the section of your website with the information most relevant to their goals.

What’s so great about split screens? They’re functional. Instead of casting a wide net to catch all users, you can tailor your content to attract individual users, decreasing the chance that they’ll get lost along their journey.


Peugeot Split Screen



What’s not so great? Some users might not know where they fit in and decide not to click at all. And what if you can’t narrow it down? You have so many great programs and want to give your audience choices, but it is possible to offer too many choices. Erasmus University, Rotterdam discovered that when users were offered more choices, their satisfaction increased, but when they were offered too many choices, satisfaction dropped dramatically.


So Which Trends Should We Implement?

A key indicator of a good website that never goes out of style is user experience. Your user should always be top of mind when your institution considers updating its website. The short answer to this question is to make changes that will benefit the user – they don’t have to be flashy. Sometimes simplicity is king when your goal is converting more users on your website.


Looking for more on 2016 web trends? Sign up for our free webinar, Where Do You C(MS) Yourself in a Year.


Image Credits:

Understand Your Strengths, Maximize Your Team’s Efficiency

posted by on November 03, 2015 in Converge Blog

Understand Your Strengths, Maximize Your Team’s Efficiency

Let’s face it: we all work differently. Some of us spend our days in deadline mode. Others take due dates with a grain of salt. Some of us make decisions based on logic. Others make decisions driven by empathy.

Despite our differences, it is possible for us to work together peacefully. But before we can work well together, we must first understand ourselves. This was the goal of Isabel DiSciullo’s pre-conference session at Converge 2015 – to help attendees learn more about themselves and their teams.

Here are my key takeaways from Issa’s session:

You can’t fix the team.

But you can figure out what makes everyone tick. If your team is out of tune, it doesn’t mean you need a new team. It just means you need to better understand your own strengths and weaknesses and the strengths and weaknesses of every member of your team.

So Bob isn’t great with deadlines. But maybe he excels at empathizing with his team and making those around him feel valued. Knowing individual strengths and weaknesses can restore harmony to your team.

Your Myers Briggs Type isn’t a label – it’s a spectrum.

Ever tried writing with your non-dominant hand? I have. My left hand writes like a kindergartner.

But forget legibility for a minute. Are you capable of writing with your other hand? Of course!

Your Myers Briggs Type is similar to hand dominance. While everyone has a dominant type, it doesn’t mean they can’t do things outside their type. Some things are just more comfortable and automatic.

Your type is a journey.

And it’s a long and winding road. Just because you’re an ENTP today doesn’t mean you’ll be an ENTP in a few years. We grow, take on new roles and learn more about the things we’re capable of every day.

Don’t worry if you take the Myers Briggs again down the road and get a completely different result. But to the same effect, don’t worry if your result stays the same. The goal isn’t to aspire to one type over another – it’s to learn more about ourselves along the way.

Did we miss you at Converge 2015? Good news! It’s not too early to register forConverge 2017 in Palm Springs.


5 Things CMWorld Taught Me

posted by on October 20, 2015 in Converge Blog

5 Things CMWorld Taught Me

#1: My closet needs more orange. Just kidding – but seriously, I’ve never seen so much orange in one place. Orange ties, orange tablecloths, orange soda…

From the inspirational sessions to the rockin’ Barenaked Ladies concert, Content Marketing World was a blast. The opening night reception was held at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and for a music lover like me, it doesn’t get much cooler than that. I stood inches away from John Lennon’s acoustic guitar and Ringo Starr’s first drum kit – my life is complete.

And of course, there was content, the star of the show. I met people from around the world who share my nerd-like passion for connecting audiences through great content. I also met content gurus like Ann Handley and Kristina Halvorson.

Now that I’m home, I have pages of notes and a reading list that will occupy every rainy day for the rest of eternity.

Here’s your condensed SparkNotes version of the top five things I learned this year at #CMWorld:

5. Bolder is better.

Think of a college or university with a powerful brand. Now think about why that brand is so powerful. Chances are, the college or university you have in mind goes beyond promoting their small class sizes, skilled faculty and state-of-the-art facilities – if not, they’re probably tossing quarters into the higher-ed swear jar.

The biggest missed opportunity in content is playing it too safe, according to Ann Handley. The best brands out there are the ones telling bolder, braver stories, not spinning the same tale everyone has heard before.

When you tell a bold story about your brand, you give your brand context. You align your institution with the things your audience values. You become authentic.

Think of it like this: if the label fell off your institution, would your audience be able to identify your brand?

4. Mom knows best.

I’m a terrible liar, and no one knows this better than my mom. If I tried to exaggerate the truth as a kid, my mom knew before it even left my mouth.

But my mom could also sense authenticity. She knew when I felt really passionately about something and wholeheartedly believed in what I was doing.

Our audiences are the same way. They can sniff out authenticity like a flock of moms. That’s why Jay Baer says we should put all the content we make to the Mom Test.Everyone is a content creator nowadays, which means standing out isn’t so easy anymore. But the one thing that can set you and your institution apart is passion – Moms can sense it, and so can your prospective students.

Next time you create content, determine if it passes the Mom Test. Ask yourself whether you’re just making content or making a difference.

3. Content marketing is like a first date.

Imagine you’re on a first date. You’re at a nice restaurant and the mood is perfect. Your date even brought flowers. Everything seems to be going great – only your date can’t stop talking about himself the entire time.

“Content marketing is like a first date,” says David Beebe, VP of Global Creative and Content Marketing at Marriott. “If all you do is talk about yourself, there won’t be a second one.”

As marketers, it can’t always be about us. Our relationship with our audience isn’t one-sided. We have to create content that entertains, informs and solves their problems or we become ‘undatable.’

Say our prospective student is looking for an MBA program. We automatically share the benefits and outcomes of our program, but shouldn’t we also engage our prospect and ask what she thinks is most important? Absolutely.

Part of great content marketing is becoming what our audience is interested in.

2. The Snowbabies have to go.

During the final day of the conference, I attended the Higher Education Industry Lab. One of the presenters kicked off the session with a story about when she was redecorating her home.

She found some styles she liked online and hired an interior decorator to bring her vision to life. The interior decorator came in, took a look around her house and spotted the presenter’s giant collection of Snowbabies.

The interior decorator’s first recommendation: the Snowbabies have to go.

The presenter was torn. How could she get rid of her precious collection of Snowbabies?

This is a conundrum many of us face. Our Snowbabies are the stories we’ve been sharing about our brand for years – even though we know they could use a new twist. They’re the pages we can’t imagine parting with during a website redesign.

Everyone has Snowbabies. But if we want to achieve new goals and take our institution to new levels, we have to be willing to part ways.

1. Airport delays are the bane of my existence.

Okay, so no one enjoys hurrying to the airport only to discover the flight has been delayed. And it’s even worse when you have a connecting flight.

Lesson learned: if you buy books during a conference, don’t carry on your luggage. When you’re racing through an airport trying to catch a connecting flight, you look ridiculous dragging a bulging suitcase behind you. It’s like dragging along an uncooperative deadweight toddler during a temper tantrum. Impossible.

Did I see you at #CMWorld? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Vertical Video on Mobile: Why Marketers Aren’t Flipping

posted by on August 25, 2015 in Converge Blog

Vertical Video on Mobile

Do you suffer from Vertical Video Syndrome? According to Glove and Boots, puppets with their own web series, symptoms include holding your phone the wrong way and treating the videos you shoot like pictures. Sound familiar?

If you’re a marketer, the prognosis is good. Brands like Snapchat, Meerkat, and Periscope are changing the negative perception of vertical video. They’re even finding that mobile users respond better to it. Snapchat learned that compared to horizontal mobile video, vertical videos had up to nine times the completion rate.

Big-name platforms like YouTube are expected to implement vertical videos to appeal to mobile users. And vertical-centric platforms like Vervid just might give vertical non-adopters a run for their money (and viewers). Once laughable, vertical video is now becoming a tall, narrow force to be reckoned with.

Wondering what this means for our industry? To understand the impact vertical video will have (and already has had) on higher education, consider mobile usage. Adults spend more time browsing the web on a mobile device than on desktop and other connected devices combined.

And while they spend 71 percent of their time on horizontal screens, they’re connecting with vertical screens 29 percent of the day.

We’re long past the mobile tipping point. Rather than asking if mobile is an important vehicle for connecting with prospects (it is), we should be asking how we can best use mobile so we don’t get left behind.

So what’s so hard about flipping your screen 90 degrees? The short answer is that mobile users prefer screens in their natural, upright position.

Mary Meeker, an American venture capitalist who studies new technologies, says we now spend 30 percent of our screen time with devices that are best held vertically. Vertical videos look better and perform better on smartphones and tablets. Not to mention what brands like Snapchat already know – vertical videos see more engagement and higher completion rates. And 100 million daily users don’t lie.

Users want to have the best possible experience on your website. And since many of your visitors are viewing your site on a mobile device, all of your content, including videos, should be mobile friendly.

Our eyes are horizontal. So are TV screens and movie theatres. But if we want our mobile users to stick around, we might need to retire horizontal video for its taller, skinnier rival.

Join the conversation! What’s your take on vertical videos?

If you need help optimizing your website for mobile, check out our website redesignpage. We’d love to help make your site more mobile friendly.

Who Are You? 3 Tips for Creating User Personas

posted by on July 02, 2015 in Converge Blog

Who Are You? 3 Tips for Creating User Personas

If you’re a CSI fan like me, you’ve probably found yourself singing along to the show’s theme song a time or two – who are you? Who who, who who?

When we think about our target audiences as marketers, we should be asking the same question. Who are you? User personas are a great tool for helping us answer that question. They help us make sense of the customers we’re trying to target, whether they’re browsing our website, reading an email we’ve sent, or leafing through one of our brochures.

Our attention spans are fleeting. We pay attention to topics only when we’re motivated to do so. That’s why marketers need a game plan. Enter the user persona.By discovering our audience’s interests, behaviors, habits, goals, and challenges, we can identify the message that will resonate best. One that will capture the attention of even your most distracted prospects.

Now the million-dollar question: how do I create a user persona?

Here are 3 tips to get you started:

1. Give the backstory.

Say your prospect is Layla the Linguist. A mediocre persona tells you Layla is a female interested in graduate programs. A good persona tells you Layla is fluent in 6 languages, dreams of teaching a foreign language at the collegiate level, and is looking for a graduate program in linguistics to fulfill her dream.

See the difference? One thing to keep in mind is that while the persona you develop should be fictional, the characterization of that person should be based on real data and research. If you don’t understand your audience, your marketing will never graduate from aimless chatter to calculated communication.

2. Know the pain points.

It’s important to understand your prospects’ backstory. But it’s equally important to empathize with the challenges they face. Going back to Layla, we know her goal is to teach a college foreign language class. But maybe Layla is raising a child while working full time. Maybe she already struggles to find the time to practice her foreign language skills, let alone continue her education.

One of the greatest mistakes marketers make is failing to identify and understand their prospects’ pain points. The way you get through to your audience is by demonstrating that you acknowledge their struggles and can offer solutions to help alleviate them.

3. Change it up.

People change, and so should your personas. Keep an eye on the market research – if you learn something new about your target audience that throws off your personas, go back to the drawing board. User personas should be living documents. When the market evolves and your personas become obsolete, use the opportunity to evolve your personas and make sure they’re on target.

If you’re looking for more tips to enhance your marketing efforts, check out our upcoming webinar, Beyond Google Analytics: How to Pick the Best Metrics for Your Project.

And don’t forget to reserve your spot at Converge 2015!


4 Ways to Get Your Emails Read

posted by on April 17, 2015 in Converge Blog

I’ll admit — I have a secret email identity. I can’t tell you what it is without blowing my cover. But I will say that the cashier at Lowe’s has no idea. Neither do the owners of the website where I filled out the required form last week to get a free eBook and bumper sticker (I have a thing for bumper stickers).

People set up accounts specifically for junk mail all the time. Even when email is solicited, there’s no guarantee it won’t go straight to the trash. It’s one of the reasons many marketers, including higher education markers, have been forced to ask this important question: how do we craft messages people actually want to read?

If you want eyeballs on your emails, you have to make it through the clutter of your user’s inbox. Here are 4 tips to get your emails read.


Think of your subject line like an elevator pitch — in a very crowded elevator. If your subject line isn’t short and interesting, you’ll turn away prospects. According toConvince & Convert, 35% of email recipients open email based on the subject line alone. That’s huge.


So what makes a good subject line? Speak to users and address their needs like you would in the body of the email. If you know your prospective student is interested in Creative Writing, don’t send him an email that vaguely mentions academics in the subject line. Also, try to aim for no more than 50 characters or 6-10 words — you’ll get the highest open rates.

Mobile devices muddy the waters a little. Say your subject line is 50 characters long. Users who view your email on an iPhone might only see 35 characters. That’s why many marketers are writing subject lines between 20 and 40 characters. Short and sweet is the real deal, especially with a mobile audience.



When I hear the phrase, ‘above the fold,’ it takes me back to j-school. However, the fold is no longer exclusive to newspapers. In an email, ‘above the fold’ is everything your user can see without scrolling or taking further action. If your prospective student is pressed for time or disengaged with your message, he or she probably won’t make it past the fold.


Users commonly read an email from left to right and spend the most time at the top of the page. The Nielsen Norman Group found that people spend 80 percent of their time looking at information above the page fold and only direct 20 percent of their attention below the fold.


See how the top half of the page gets all the love?

When writing an email, include your most important information first, and avoid burying your call to action. What are your users’ goals? If you want them to learn more about financial aid options, consider putting a button at the top of your email — something straightforward like ‘Explore Financial Aid.’ You might also consider including links to your social media pages, blogs, or relevant web pages.


Our brains love pictures. They process visuals 60,000 times faster than text, and 90 percent of the information transmitted to our brains is visual. If you’re not using images in your emails, you’re missing an opportunity to engage your users’ brains and make the greatest impact.


Here are a few tips for using images in your emails:

  • Keep your images small. Large files can delay load times and prevent images from displaying correctly. If you want your email to be desktop- and mobile-friendly, go for a pixel width of 450 to 500.
  • JPEG and GIF are your safest bets. Almost all email clients support these image formats.
  • Avoid using too many images. A 60/40 text to image ratio is usually best.
  • Use alt tags. Alt tags are snippets of text that describe images in an email. If your user can’t view the images, you still want them to get a general idea of what your message is about.



Split testing or A/B testing is a great way to affect open rates. Maybe the emails you’re sending out on Monday mornings aren’t getting read, but Tuesday open rates are soaring. Or maybe your ‘Apply Now’ button got more clicks than ‘Complete Your Application.’ Testing emails is the best way to learn what’s working (and what isn’t) — subject lines, image selection and placement, calls to action, links, etc.


Proofread your email before hitting send. Heartbreak is sending the email you’ve spent hours working on, only to realize it has typos, incorrect links, and images that don’t display. A quick tip? Send the email to yourself first — you’ll see exactly what your recipients see.


What are some of the tricks you use to boost email open rates? Give us your take in the comments.