All posts by Megan Bys

Converge Consulting Lands on Inc. 5000 for Two Consecutive Years

Converge Lands on Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies List for Second Straight Year

Inc. 5000 just announced its 2017 Fastest Growing Companies and Converge Consulting made the list. Ranking 2037 out of 5000, the agency lands among the top 50 percent of recognized companies. This is the second time Converge has landed on the list, putting it among an elite population—one in three companies—to rank for two consecutive years.

In 2016, Converge was 378 among the prestigious Inc. 500 and the #1 Fastest Growing Company in Iowa. Rapid growth from its headquarters in both Cedar Rapids and Philadelphia, along with partnerships at colleges and universities across the country, has fueled brand momentum and increased marketplace visibility for the agency.

“Our goals for growth are designed to match the evolution of our industry,” said Jay Kelly, President & Co-Founder of Converge Consulting. “We are excited to see what the future holds as our partners lead the next era of education innovation.”

2017 has proven to be another successful year for Converge on all fronts. The agency received three Educational Advertising Awards this spring for its work with Brescia University College, Canada’s Only Women’s University, in London, Ontario. Converge also ranked for a second year in a row among the Corridor Business Journal’s Fastest Growing Companies in the Cedar Rapids – Iowa City Corridor.

“These entrepreneurial endeavors, and the wealth that they create, are important lessons for our region to hear, so that their successes can be replicated and nurtured,” said John Lohman, CEO & Publisher at Corridor Business Journal.

Converge recently launched a new website, expanded service lines and landed among Harvard Business Review, Verizon and CBS International as a finalist in Digiday’s WorkLife Awards. These advancements and recognitions solidify the company’s standing as a leading digital agency for education.

ABOUT THE COMPANY 
Converge Consulting is the digital agency for education with offices in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Visit the company’s website for more information.

What EDU Brands Can Learn from Fashion

What Education Brands Can Learn from Fashion Brands

I’m a big fan of Glossy. Have you heard of it? Our CEO wrote an article earlier this summer on must-read publications for EDU marketers, and Glossy made the list. Their daily newsletter shares quick updates on big things happening in fashion technology, giving readers a glimpse into stories from some of the most loved brands in the world.

So where am I going with this? What do education brands and fashion brands have in common? It might be surprising, but education has a lot to learn from fashion brands. Why, you ask?

  • Behind-the-scenes fashion publication Coveteur has 1.1 million Instagram followers.
  • Harvard University only has 463K Instagram followers.
  • Popular online retailer Modcloth has 1.5 million Facebook likes.
  • University of Michigan (the golden child of social media engagement for EDU) only has 768K Facebook likes.
  • Kylie Jenner has 30 million Snapchat followers… and higher ed is just getting around to using the platform.

At the end of the day, education is a commodityjust like fashion. The fashion brands that win are bold, embracing their point of view and brand personality to build connections with their followers. Keep reading for examples of what fashion brands do really well that I believe education brands can use to evolve their positioning, stay competitive and get results.

Listen to consumers and don’t hesitate to adapt.

Fashion brands are unafraid to ask for feedback and pivot accordingly. They stay ahead of the curve when it comes to consumer behavior, and they act on their findings. OVS, an Italian clothing retailer, saw an opportunity to enhance the digital shopping experience for its customers. They used Google Enterprise to develop a cutting-edge technology allowing a multi-sensory experience both in-store and online.

Digital natives are one of the most talked about generations in history. Research from Measuring the Information Society, an annual report on information and communication technologies, shows that digital natives consume information differently than any other generation:

“They [digital natives] are characterized as being impatient with slower, systematic means of acquiring information and knowledge, and expect instant response and gratification or rewards from technologies they use.”

Excerpt from Chapter 4 of Measuring the Information Society (2013).

Hats off to Columbia College Chicago Online who is leading the education industry into a new era with a retail course model designed for the next generation of students.

Create digital experiences that feel good.

Fashion brands are pros at designing digital experiences that feel personal and real. They invest precious dollars, time and resources into curating the perfect customer experience. I mentioned Coveteur earlier, they recently announced Coveteur Creative, an in-house content studio testing innovative campaigns to connect with their followers. 

What EDU Brands Can Learn from Fashion Brands

Georgia State University put some thought into the ideal digital user experience and magic happened. They designed an admitted student app that reduced summer melt by 21.4% and generated a 3.9% increase in enrollment

Embrace your personality and point of view.

Cause marketing is a beautiful thing that fashion brands embrace head on. Amazon is exploring opportunities to get into editorial and craft a point of view for their brand. H&M used Instagram to generate buzz and build momentum for its latest sub-brand before it even hit stores. This excerpt from the aforementioned H&M article perfectly summarizes the evolving function of social media in cultivating brand loyalty:  

“The influence and reach of Instagram and other social channels has prompted a shift in how brands see social, from pure brand awareness to channels that can also be used for commerce,” he said. “Smart brands will increasingly use social media to introduce their followers to products they never knew existed, as well as to tell a broader narrative about the brand.”

Most education brands have social media accounts, but few venture outside of fail-safe content like program spotlights, student life, athletics promos and campus beauty shots. Grinnell College is among the bold few to stand out with a unique brand personality. Their tone is direct with a bit of dark humor that resonates with Grinnellians (their community). They’re unafraid to be bold and true to their brand, and that’s pretty impressive.

Building brand loyalty in education.

If education brands want to hit the 1M follower mark, there are many things to be learned from other industriesespecially fashion and retail. These brands have loyal followers and social media advocates in spades.

What brand loyalty initiatives are you implementing to engage your audiences? Have feedback on any of the ideas referenced in this post? Tweet me @megancendrowski. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the evolution of education brands and how colleges and universities can take inspiration from other verticals to standout in a crowded marketplace.

 

Converge Expands Service Lines, Launches Website to Partner with Evolving EDU Marketplace

Converge Consulting, a leading digital agency for education, has evolved its brand positioning and launched a new website that inspires innovation in education. The company’s vision is to provide new and next thinking in the education space, focusing heavily on the power of digital strategy in enrollment marketing. The company’s rapid growth over the past six years and evolving marketplace needs have paved the way for expanded service offerings.

 

The new website launch includes a video series showing the impact of Converge’s partnerships with some of the nation’s top universities including Tulane, Emory and Northwestern. Its brand refresh enables the company to better convey its growth story with new and next service areas including digital, content and web design, as well as data analytics.

 

“Our new positioning has evolved by listening to the marketplace and the feedback we hear from our partners on a daily basis,” said Ann Oleson, CEO & Founder. “This website is the next iteration of our company, which allows us to expand our offerings to associations, the K-12 market, Ed Tech companies and other non-profits through the power of new and next thinking.”

 

A new focus on Converge’s conceptual capabilities–bold thinking, expert listening and digital momentum–gives clients a clear picture of the value they receive from the partnership. Converge works with institutions across the world including: business schools, engineering programs, large public universities and small private colleges.  

 

The company’s focus on attracting the right audience segment and connecting with them via the best channels through compelling messages is a core strength. Brescia University College in London, Ontario, has partnered with Converge for the past eight years to evolve their brand including award-winning recruitment collateral, messaging and stunning advertising campaigns focused on empowering women to accomplish great feats.

 

“The Converge team is amazing to work with, we are constantly surprised and delighted by their level of creativity and insight,” said Marianne Simm, Vice Principal of Students at Brescia University College, Canada’s only all-women’s university.

 

Converge’s journey as a leading digital agency for education began six years ago. The agency has since been named to the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies and the Corridor Business Journal for two consecutive years. Founders Ann Oleson and Jay Kelly have recently fueled more growth by adding a number of new digital strategists and innovative business development consultants to their team, which now totals over 30 members.

 

About the Company

Converge Consulting is the digital agency for education. We develop sound digital strategy and translate it into campaigns that deliver ROI in a crowded marketplace. Visit the agency’s new website for more resources and information.

Converge Consulting Fosters Rapid Growth and Expands Cedar Rapids Office

Converge Consulting, the digital agency for education, incorporated in 2011 with two employees. In the past five years, the company has grown to 27 team members in its offices in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Converge landed in the top 10 on the Corridor Business Journal’s List of Fastest Growing Companies for two consecutive years and was named the number one fastest-growing company in Iowa, ranking number nine among education companies nationwide, on the Inc. 5000 list.

The agency’s rapid growth and development began with a move to the Geonetric Building in Cedar Rapids three years ago. Housed in the New Bohemia neighborhood, the location is known for cultivating innovation and growing local businesses.

When Geonetric broke ground for the project in 2012, Converge was one of the first companies to move in. The building is now home to local entrepreneurs in shared coworking space, the Iowa Startup Accelerator and the New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative.

 

“415 is a home for innovation and passion-driven businesses in the Corridor,” said Eric Engelmann, Founder & Board Chairman of Geonetric and Executive Director of NewBoCo. “Converge is an ideal fit for our culture and community.”

With brand momentum and demand in the education market, Converge is projected to grow consistently for the next three years. As the organization embarks on a three-year growth plan, the Geonetric Building was its first choice for expansion.

 

 

Converge will be relocating its Cedar Rapids office late this summer. Renovations to the new 4,500 square-foot space are planned in the Geonetric Building. The blueprint includes space for 50 team members, four conference rooms, a resident artist and velocity space.

“When selecting an office space, we knew we wanted to stay in Newbo,” said Ann Oleson, CEO & Founder of Converge. “The talent, energy and ideas created here allow tremendous opportunity for professional development, business growth and community impact.”

 

The agency’s current space on the first floor of the Geonetric Building is available for lease. For more information on the office or to schedule a tour, please contact Eric Engelmann.

About the Company

Converge is an Inc. 500 digital agency for education with offices in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Visit the company’s website for more information. 

 

Digital Audits, Data Viz and 360 Video Insights from University of San Francisco

An interview with Anneliese Mauch, AVP of Marketing at University of San Francisco on all things digital.

 

The University of San Francisco is a Jesuit Catholic university located in San Francisco, California. If you’ve ever visited the Bay Area, you know San Francisco is not your average college town. The city’s namesake university has infused its brand with that vibrant, effortless San Francisco cool. Even Business Insider agrees, quoting Niche.com and naming USF the college with the best location.

USF reflects the different cultures, lifestyles and beliefs in San Francisco and the wider world, making it one of the most diverse campuses in the country. The city is the perfect incubator for learning and fresh ideas. We sat down with University of San Francisco’s Assistant Vice President of Marketing, Anneliese Mauch, to discuss a few of her team’s recent initiatives, including a campus-wide digital audit, data visualization and more.

 

 

CC: Tell us a little about yourself to get things started. What brought you to USF?
AM: Both of my parents are professors, but I actually don’t come from a professional background in higher education. Before joining the University of San Francisco, I worked in analytics and research, and gradually transitioned into marketing. My last job prior to this role was with Travelocity. I was looking for something equally stimulating as promoting travel, but maybe a little more meaningful. I wanted to be in an organization that was about San Francisco and embrace that through my work.

 

CC: When we met at the CASE Leadership event, you mentioned a campus-wide digital audit during your first few years on the job. How did you make that happen?
AM: I joined the university right when this office started. Coming from a marketing analytics background, I was used to all things digital. I came in asking, “What are we doing when it comes to paid search?” and heard, “We don’t know, but everyone does what they do on their own individual payment processing, and they might not be experts in digital.”

We decided to hire a firm in San Francisco to conduct a digital audit. We didn’t know who had paid search accounts, so we went to our business and finance department and had them run credit card reports to search for line item, Google. From there, we worked backwards to perform the audit. These insights showed us how much departments across the university were spending and allowed us to take a deeper dive to analyze bid strategy. In total, the audit took about three months.

 

CC: Smart thinking to come in through the back door with the finance department. Your investigative skills are top-notch. What action items came from the auditing process?
AM: My assumption before the audit was that individual units were bidding against each other all the time, but it honestly wasn’t a huge problem. The bigger issue was that we had people who were not experts bidding on keywords that were irrelevant. The audit revealed the need for a strategic approach to bid placement and comprehensive keyword strategy across the university. We learned a lot from the process and ended up hiring a digital advertising expert to support our university partners with media buying.

 

CC: Your stories (newsroom) and social media content is very robust. What is your approach to content strategy and how do you manage everything?

AM: My team works very closely with the group that manages our stories. I am particularly excited about our Changemaker Series featuring students, faculty and alumni who are making an impact around the world.

A few years ago, after a very energizing session at the AMA Symposium, we put Story Pitch Meetings in place. Anyone on campus can attend these meetings and pitch a story. Our ideas and leads stem from these discussions. Every other week, a group of us meet to decide which stories we’ll pursue, and we use a digital tool to track who’s doing what. We typically see around 20 leads a month for stories, which is great for our content calendar.

 

CC: Data visualization is a rising trend for reporting in higher education. Is USF using a tool like Tableau or Google Data Studio for visualized reporting?
AM: Our team started with Data Studio and ended up switching to Tableau, which the university had invested in for our research team. We now use it for all of our digital marketing reporting and have employed students to help set up various reports for clients. It’s allowed us to see, in real-time, what’s happening with all of the departmental budgets.

We look forward to expanding this for more reporting within our office. It’s one of our big initiatives for next year. Everyone loves infographics, and our design group is constantly creating infographics and dashboards for various departments. Tableau enables us to create attractive messaging that is meaningful, up to the minute and much easier to update and push out.

 

 

CC: Education marketers are implementing some pretty exciting digital tools. What apps and tech trends are you and your team most excited to test?

AM: 360’ video is exciting to work on. It’s been really fascinating to see companies change in real time to accommodate this new technology. For instance, as recently as February, Vimeo (where we host all our videos) did not support this type of video, and as of March, they had implemented 360’ videos into their viewing software. We’re observing these industry shifts as they happen and know that we are active contributors.

The 360′ video is a great way to highlight our campus for prospective students. It is more effective than the standard virtual tour and is a powerful tool for our younger audience to experience our school. We mainly utilize 360′ on Facebook and on Snapchat via Snapchat Spectacles.

 

Summer break is here and a new fiscal year is about to begin. Are you testing any of the tools and strategies featured here? What’s your next big idea to promote your institution? Let us know in the comments below!

Disruption in Education Leading to Innovative Marketing and Recruitment

Major disruptions are happening in education. According to the American Bar Association Journal, the number of LSAT test takers are up, but applications are down. Foreign students are outpacing domestic students for STEM graduate degrees while four in 10 institutions are seeing a drop in international applications. Georgetown University Law Center now offers programming classes.

In this state of affairs, colleges and universities are depending on their enrollment management professionals to employ innovative means to connect with prospective students—at home and abroad.

Converge Consulting, a digital agency for education, is addressing today’s challenges to breathe new and next thinking into recruitment strategies, digital marketing and enrollment models. In response to these rapid shifts in the marketplace, the company has hired two senior consultants with extensive experience in the world of higher education.

Issa DiSciullo brings over 20 years of admissions and enrollment management expertise to her new role. Prior to joining Converge, she served as Assistant Dean of Admissions at Thomas R. Kline School of Law, Drexel University.

“Law school applications have reached an all-time low in a time where we are all competing for the same students,” said DiSciullo. “Declining numbers means that law schools need to think creatively about new programs to offset revenue loss.”

DiSciullo will focus her time on consulting with law schools. She will also apply her knowledge of diversity and inclusion in education to share thought leadership with the marketplace.

Julie Zimmerman began her career at the US-UK Fulbright Commission in London at the Educational Advisory Service. Since then, she has managed internship programs at the Washington Center and the Science & Technology Policy Fellowships at the American Association for the Advancement of Science and assisted in launching a STEM graduate program at NYU where she oversaw admissions and student services.

“US institutions are addressing the interest and needs of developing more STEM-based programs—especially at the graduate level—that provide students an opportunity to gain skills, and allows them to be competitive in the job market,” said Zimmerman. “The challenge now for many schools is marketing to qualified prospective applicants, and maintaining engagement as the education market grows and becomes more saturated.”

As senior consultants, DiSciullo and Zimmerman will apply their expertise to help colleges and universities navigate disruption and recruit best-fit students to meet their enrollment goals. These new team members reinforce the company’s commitment to channeling disruption to achieve ROI in a very competitive marketplace.

About the Company

Converge is an Inc. 500 digital agency for education with offices in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Visit the company’s website for more information. 

Higher Ed Technology: Web Content Personalization with New Ed

NewEd_Twitter_Feature-image

 

We live in an era of smart content. Ads follow us through search and social channels. Tokens enable personalized web and email experiences. Our content is more relationship-driven than ever before, and yet many EDU websites remain static. How do we create more personalized content experiences for our students?

There are countless tools on the market, but few are tailored for higher education. New Ed is a great example of smart content designed to work for our industry. It’s a cloud-based set of interactive modules making education exploration interactive, personalized and easy to navigate.

 

New Ed – Digital Listening from Craig Maslowsky on Vimeo.

018fe6_901b24eae2aa4a46b70acc9dd13ca404~mv2.png_srz_146_150_85_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_png_srz

 

We sat down with the company’s CEO and founder, Craig Maslowsky, to learn more about New Ed and get his thoughts on the need for content personalization in higher education.

 

CC: Give us your elevator pitch to start things off.

CM: New Ed offers a SaaS platform which makes exploration of degree and training programs simple, personalized and informative while generating rich analytics. We provide interactive exploration for either a single institution or a group of institutions programs as they relate to career paths, transfer credit, location and cost. Our platform “listens” to users interactions and inputs as they navigate, capturing an extensive prospective student profile which feeds into an institutions CRM and can be leveraged for follow up communications and ongoing marketing and enrollment strategies. New Ed can be installed with minimal technical resources and little time required from our customers. We provide a snippet of code to be placed on an institutions website, which pulls in the interactive modules through our API.

 

CC: What inspired your venture with New Ed?

CM: New Ed came from my experience navigating enrollment technology as an enrollment marketer for 13 years. I realized that although we had powerful communication engines with our CRM and marketing automation systems, we lacked the fuel to leverage them, which I saw as points of information about our prospective students.

I had a vision to gather information by facilitating digital conversations through interactive technologies that were tailored to what we knew students cared about—career relevance, cost, time and transfer. By “conversation,” I mean we ask the site visitor for information, they provide it, we use that to return something personalized, then we ask something else based on their initial input and so on. As we do that, we digitally listen and document input and interactions. Anyway, I was convinced this was needed and wanted to provide it broadly. So I raised some money and made it happen.

 

CC: With the cost of tuition and fees rising faster than ever before, how does personalization help students make informed decisions?

CM: Considering an education is a such a significant investment. It’s critical students come in feeling comfortable that they’re making an informed decision. Success in initial classes has proven to be an indicator of success to completion. It’s also clear that career alignment is increasingly important to traditional and post-traditional students because it’s critical to estimating the potential return on investment. Because career goals vary by student, and prior learning and alternative sources of credit have become an increasingly important consideration with so many options available, the only way to present useful cost and outcome information is by first considering, in a personalized way, what a student brings to the table and where they want to go.

 

CC: Why do you think higher education needs personalization?

CM: The array of options are increasing for students, and student expectations and approaches to exploring education are evolving. They expect to have information available online that can inform where they will apply and what they will pursue. With our platform, the student more efficiently receives detailed information about their options, and the institution receives more specific information and insight into the needs and goals of their future and current students. It’s a win on both sides of the conversation.

Additionally, institutions likely know they want to deliver the kind of experience our technology delivers, but with so many important initiatives consuming technical resources, it’s really difficult to pull off with existing budgets and staff. We solve that by delivering a resource that can fit into existing web properties and is implemented with minimal technical resources required from the institution.

 

CC: Your current offerings include Program, Career and Transfer modules. How did you decide where to begin the personalized experience?

CM: We chose Program, Career and Transfer after exploring an array of reports available about what students cared about as they explored their options for education. We also met with dozens of VPs of Enrollment and Marketing to find out what they needed and wanted in a resource like ours. We built a platform that included all of the engagement functionality in one tool, then unbundled it into “modules” that could be implemented separately or together.

We’ve worked with institutions to modify and optimize each tool to make sure each provided value both separately and combined. So far our initial results show the greatest engagement with the transfer exploration tool. This was for a post-traditional audience, so that makes sense. Transfer seems to be an increasingly important consideration for students across categories. They are looking for at least some information up front to know how their transfer credits may impact their time and cost to completion.

 

CC: Any examples to share of schools who are doing a fantastic job with personalized content experiences?

CM: I often see features I like as I explore various websites and could list examples all day, but I’m especially impressed with Franklin University’s Transfer Credit Tool. They put a lot of effort into creating a really sharp tool and learning the story of the collaboration between their IT and EM departments was inspiring and impressive. I also love how Colorado State University-Global Campus creates a way for users to select an entry point that will be relevant to their needs. Both are very much user focused.

 

CC: We see changes in how education is consumed at the collegiate level everyday. What are your thoughts on the future of our industry?

CM: For the past few years, there has been significant discussion about drastic shifts in higher ed. When the hype about MOOCs was at its peak, I thought a lot about the importance of bridging the traditional with emerging models rather than picking which would win. The rapid addition of online offerings at public institutions, and the growing acceptance of alternative sources of credit like Straighterline, are a great example of how change is occurring.

As institutions feel the competitive impact of similar institutions embracing these models, there is an increasing urgency to change. With demographic shifts elevating the importance of revenue from post-traditional students to fill the gap from declining traditional enrollments, it seems clear the unbundling of offerings and packaging of various credit courses will continue to grow. This will certainly make clarity and personalization in the exploration process a priority, since the path to a credential will look so different for each individual student.

 

Interested in learning more about content personalization?

Craig will be joining us for Converge 2017 in Palm Springs next month. Stop by his booth in the exhibit hall to learn more. If you haven’t registered yet, get signed up with code NEWANDNEXT by February 15 to save $100 on your individual conference pass.

Best-Selling Author and TED Speaker to Keynote Converge 2017 Conference

jiang_twitter_feature-image

Converge 2017 is a digital marketing and recruitment conference for higher education hosted by Converge Consulting. The event will be held February 21-23, 2017 at the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa in Palm Springs, California.

Jia Jiang, founder and CEO of Wuju Learning, will deliver a morning keynote and master class on Thursday, February 23, 2017. Entrepreneur, best-selling author and renowned speaker are just a few of the many accomplishments under Jiang’s belt. His conference keynote and master class will help Converge 2017 attendees start their a journey to gain authentic confidence.

“I’m excited to engage Converge 2017 attendees in conversations that will help them transform rejection into empowerment and encourage them to dream bigger, achieve higher and do more,” said Jiang.

After years of speaking at independent TEDx events across the country, Jiang recently earned his own TED Talk. His lessons in overcoming fear and leading a rejection-proof life will be applied in the context of student recruitment, job preparation for graduating students and empowerment for authenticity in higher education marketing.

Jiang has presented on college and university campuses around the world. His talks have been coveted by the likes of Duke, Yale and The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He is currently working to develop a rejection therapy program with business schools.

His advice for Converge 2017 attendees? “Just ask. The biggest obstacle between us and our goals is ourselves.” Visit the conference website to view the full schedule, and register by February 1, 2017 to save $100 on your conference pass with code NEWANDNEXT.

UNC Kenan-Flagler CMO to Keynote Converge 2017 Conference

schinelli_twitter_feature-image

Michael Schinelli, CMO at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, will deliver the opening keynote at Converge 2017, a digital marketing conference for higher education.

Schinelli has led strategic branding initiatives, digital marketing and public relations functions for more than 15 years. Before transitioning into higher education, Schinelli worked as a communications and creative operations director at Macy’s. Forbes CMO Network recently featured Schinelli in an article on the top marketing predictions for 2017.

In his keynote, University Marketing and Communications in the Age of Digital Disruption, he will share tips on surviving and thriving in the dynamic digital ecosystem.

“Surviving in the digital age requires us to challenge ourselves to not only adapt to change, but to lead it,” said Schinelli. “I look forward to sharing my insights and strategies for staying afloat in the digital deluge at Converge 2017.”

Converge 2017 conversations center on some of the most complex and exciting issues higher education marketers face today. Other keynote speakers from Harvard University, University of Michigan, Kent State University, Mount Holyoke College and Tulane University will join Schinelli to headline the event. The conference welcomes sponsors and speakers from Moz, Google, OmniUpdate, TargetX, Hannon Hill and other industry-leading companies.

The conference will take place on February 21-24, 2017 at the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa in Palm Springs, California. Visit the website to view the full schedule, and register by December 31 to save $100 on your conference pass with code NEWANDNEXT.

One-on-One with Deb Stockman of Friends University: Digital Advertising

Friends University is a private non-denominational Christian university in Wichita, Kansas. Deb Stockman, associate vice president of marketing and communications at Friends, partnered with our team to market two undergraduate programs, two graduate programs and two adult undergraduate programs online.

qa-friends_twitter_feature-image

Deb has always worked in marketing and spent the last seven and a half years in higher education. She works closely with Michelle, one of our digital account managers, to market the following programs:

  • Accounting
  • MBA
  • Business Administration
  • Cyber Security
  • Zoo Science
  • General Undergraduate

We sat down with Deb to get her perspective on the evolving role that digital advertising plays in recruitment and discuss what is new and next in higher education marketing.

CC: What was your goal for this partnership?

DS: Before coming to Friends two years ago, I worked with an SEM partner in my previous position with Southwestern College. This partner did a great job for us, so I knew what success looked like when it came to search engine marketing.

Friends had worked with a local ad agency in the past, but they weren’t strictly working with higher education clients. The company did good work, but we were not getting what we needed for the university in terms of generating qualified leads. We started looking for a digital partner with an understanding of how to work leads through the funnel, using digital advertising to recruit students. Our partnership with Converge began in January, and I’ve been very impressed with our results.

CC: Beyond inquiries, what other KPIs are you using to gauge success?

DS: We are still doing print advertising, radio and marketing in other traditional venues. We also have our own organic social media efforts where we track engagement, likes and followers. The beauty of digital advertising is that you can iterate. You can test what’s working and continue to improve your efforts. For the Converge programs, it’s all about leads and apps for us.

CC: What is your follow-up process for nurturing digital leads?

DS: We just launched SalesForce this summer and have a communications stream setup through Pardot. It’s still very new for us—we are learning how to fully use all of the capabilities. As can be expected with any new CRM, when we launched in July, there were some glitches. Michelle has been great as a consultant throughout this process. She works directly with our senior director of admissions and is very proactive in telling us what is and isn’t working. Her insights have been incredibly helpful in that transition process with the new system.

CC: What are the quality of leads like from digital advertising? Do you have any lead-to-enrollment insights to share?

DS: Converge is able to track leads through to application. I received the first SalesForce report from my internal team showing application-to-enrollment data this week. Web applications and web inquiries are two of our top five referral sources for enrolled students. I’m not surprised how high these are, but this solidifies why we continue to do what we’re doing with digital—because it’s huge and we’re getting results.

CC: What percentage of your overall marketing budget do you dedicate to digital?

DS: Since our partnership began, this has already shifted. It started when I came to Friends, and the shift to digital continued with our new president. As we continue to see success, we reallocate more to digital. When we set our budget for this fiscal year in July, we added two more programs, increased the amount of spend for digital marketing and have come back yet again to adjust our budget for the adult market. This is a testament to the success we’ve seen and the confidence we’re building in our relationship with Converge.

CC: What do you think about the Converge discovery process? Are you using tools like the personas in other marketing efforts?

DS: Yes. They helped us crystallize our understanding of who we’re targeting with our marketing and recruitment efforts. Just taking the time to do the exercise was great. You get in such a hurry, sitting in a marketing team at a university. If you’re going to launch a program or new marketing campaign, sometime you just launch it. You don’t always ask the pertinent questions up front. Creating personas with Converge was incredibly important, and now we can go back to them as we’re launching new campaigns.

CC: How has our partnership impacted your marketing goals? What have you learned from working with the team?

DS: Michelle is amazing. She is like an extension of our team. We have one team here doing marketing communications for the entire university—that includes recruitment, retention and alumni engagement. It’s a big job. Having someone asking us things we might forget like, “Are there any events coming up that we should promote with digital?” is just really helpful. Michelle looks at things with a fresh lens and makes recommendations when we don’t have time to go and look at the numbers. She looks out for us and recommends better opportunities when she sees them. That’s priceless.

Get your daily dose of strategy, one post at a time. Join the Converge mailing list to stay up to date on what’s new and next in higher education marketing.


Subscribe

Converge Appoints COO and Hires Certified Project Manager

Converge Consulting announces the promotion of Josh Irons to chief operating officer. Irons joined the company in January 2016 as vice president of strategy and development.

company-growth_linkedin-image

“Josh will play a key role in positioning Converge for continued success,” said Jay Kelly, President. “He brings a diverse set of leadership skills, extensive operational and tactical expertise in sales and marketing and a successful track record that we will leverage across the entire company.”

Under Irons’ leadership, Converge has, as of October 2016, exceeded its FY16 revenue goals. He opened an office in Philadelphia that currently has six employees and helped add multiple universities to the company’s client roster.

In his new role, Irons will put his expertise in sales enablement, operations and account management to work to establish scalable processes and pursue growth opportunities for Converge and its clients. Irons has more than 15 years of digital marketing expertise and has spent the majority of the last 10 years working in higher education marketing.

“Converge’s growth depends on drawing on the extraordinary talents of our team to achieve our clients’ goals,” said Irons. “My focus will be to ensure that we have the right structure and resources in place so that our clients and business continue to thrive, and our culture promotes collaboration and career development.”

In addition to appointing a COO, the company recently added a certified project manager to its team of digital marketing experts. As digital project manager, Justin Taylor will lead company-wide project management efforts to implement efficiencies in account management. He is a certified scrum master with more than ten years of experience in web development and project management.

“I’m excited to leverage my experience in managing web initiatives in a space that I’m passionate about,” said Taylor. “The dedication, commitment and enthusiasm that Converge pours into higher education is unmatched. Joining the team on this journey is a real honor.”

In 2016, Converge was named to the Inc. 500 Fastest Growing Companies list and earned status as a Google Premier Partner. The addition of strategic roles at both the executive and account level will propel the company into a successful start for FY17.

ABOUT THE COMPANY

Converge Consulting is an Inc. 500 digital agency for higher education with offices in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Converge uses what is new and next in digital marketing to positively impact student recruitment and alumni engagement for colleges and universities around the world.

Converge Launches Exclusive Webinar Series for Higher Education Innovators

Converge Consulting announces New & Next, an exclusive webinar series for higher education. These discussions push the envelope for innovation, bringing cutting-edge ideas to the table.

newandnext

“New & Next is designed for marketing evangelists unafraid to reach across the aisle and gain momentum from cross-industry thought leadership,” said Ann Oleson, CEO and Founder.

The fall 2016 series welcomes speakers from content marketing, real estate development and executive coaching companies.

Kicking off the discussions is Jay Sharman, CEO and founder of TeamWorks Media. On Thursday, October 20, Sharman will give a 60-minute presentation, The Modern Campus: How to Differentiate through Brand Storytelling in Facilities.

The series continues on November 17 with a presentation from Craig Cassell, Global Leader for the Education Practice Group at Cushman & Wakefield. The Education Practice Group is a full-service, integrated advisory team focused on real estate solutions for the education sector. Cassell will share case studies of how colleges and universities around the world have increased space occupancy and financed innovative spaces on campus.

New & Next concludes on December 14 with a presentation on Unbiasing by Julie Staggs, associate client partner at Korn Ferry. Unconscious bias has been a topic of discussion at Google for many years—Staggs’ session focuses on practical applications of these lessons for higher education.

“Understanding how decisions are made at work will help campus leaders and decision-makers cultivate talent and an inclusive organizational culture,” said Staggs.

The complimentary webinars begin in late October and run monthly through December. Visit the New & Next website to register and read more about the sessions.

ABOUT THE COMPANY

Converge Consulting is an Inc. 500 digital agency for higher education with offices in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Converge uses what is new and next in digital marketing to positively impact student recruitment and alumni engagement for colleges and universities around the world.

Join the Converge mailing list for more information on what is new and next in higher education marketing.