A Graduate and Adult Student Marketing Conference

Converge 2014

Converge Consulting

Reserve your spot. Register now!

October 13-15, 2014

at the Sheraton Hotel in Nashville, TN

- Keynote Address -


It’s nearly 2015, but when it comes to marketing to adult and graduate students, is your institution stuck in 2005? Plan to attend Converge 2014: A Higher Education Marketing Conference, October 13-15, 2014, at the beautiful Sheraton Nashville Downtown Hotel in Nashville, TN.

If you’re charged with growing your adult and graduate student population, this fresh new conference will give you innovative tools and insights into understanding, embracing and implementing what’s next and what’s new when it comes to marketing to this all-important demographic.

Downtown Nashville



Meet one-on-one with our marketing experts for 30-minute consultations that will give you both inspiration and direction to take your current marketing and recruitment efforts to the next level.


Learn from your peers who are succeeding at marketing to adult and graduate students using leading-edge approaches that don’t bust their budgets.


With the ever-changing, increasingly competitive higher education landscape, colleges and universities have to be proactive and progressive when it comes to their marketing efforts. Knowing exactly what to do, how to do it and how to engage others can be challenging and confusing.

At Converge 2014, you’ll learn to positively impact adult and graduate student recruitment through:

  1. Analytics—how visitors get to your website, how to set up measurable goals and how to create dashboards for actionable reporting and results
  2. Brand—creating/refreshing your brand and successfully communicating it across multiple mediums
  3. Digital—everything from SEO (organic search) and SEM (ads on search engines like Bing, Google and Yahoo) to content strategy and social media
  4. Inbound Marketing—developing adult and graduate learner personas, creating compelling blogs so people raise their hands and find your program
  5. Research—determining which academic programs to offer through sound research, effectively conducting focus groups and understanding image and perceptions of your target audience(s)
  6. Business Practices—implementing best business practices and developing partnerships with business and industry

- Speakers -

- Schedule -

Downloadable Conference Schedule (pdf)



Monday, October 13

2:30 – 5:00pm

Preconference Session A

Using Analytics to Drive Decision-Making

Becky Vardaman

Heard how important web analytics are to your overall strategy, but not sure where to start? Join us as we discuss set up, strategy and gaining actionable insights from Google Analytics. You'll leave knowing which data points to track and why.

Key takeaways:
  • How to track and engage visitors to your website
  • Set up measurable goals, event tracking and campaign tagging
  • Gain actionable answers through reporting

2:30 – 5:00pm

Preconference Session B

Delivering a Quality Online Experience

Dr. John Neal

As increasing numbers of higher education institutions offer online degrees, they quickly realize the unique challenges facing traditional colleges in a virtual world. A fully online experience requires integration of a wide variety of functional areas, but often without an understanding of the “Big Picture”--or a clear definition of success and/or quality for the program and the institution. This session provides practical advice in creating, operating, and promoting online programs in a highly competitive marketplace.

Key takeaways:
  • Better understanding of quality as a design feature and market differentiator
  • Deeper awareness of the role of structure in enhancing the online student experience
  • Practical advice for creating, operating, and promoting competitive online programs

2:30 – 5:00pm

Pre-Conference Session C

Telling Your Story: Producing Video with Quality, Strategy and Speed

Steve Bland

Marketing budgets are getting increasingly smaller, yet demand for high quality content grows. Video allows you to develop a deeper emotional connection with visitors and is a critical component to any content marketing plan. This session will teach you how to effectively tell the brand story of your intuition through video.

The proliferation of content creation technologies, from smart phones and social media to DSLRs and Adobe Creative Suite, has opened up less expensive, faster and better story telling opportunities for brands. Schools must take notice and learn to create excellent, timely video that is on strategy.

Key takeaways:
  • How to take your story from idea to script
  • How to align your video production with your content strategy
  • How to balance the the need for speed and the demand for quality


Tuesday, October 14

7:00 – 8:00am: Breakfast (Ballroom)

8:00 – 8:30am: Welcome (Ballroom)

8:30 – 10:00am: General Session 1 (Ballroom)

The Next Generation

Brenda Harms

The future of adult and graduate serving institutions may look very different than the past. From the types of education offered, the delivery mode, marketing strategies, and recruitment practices, everything seems to be up for discussion. The key question is where is your institutions opportunity and how will you capitalize on it? Are you doing enough now to build your success for the future? In this session, Converge Consulting will lay a foundation that outlines the opportunity that exists for schools that are willing to push outside of their own comfort and truly engage in what’s next.

Key Takeaways:
  • Clear understanding of the enrollment opportunity that exists for those schools willing to make a bold step
  • Insight into intentional discussions that must be had if your institution is planning to advance in serving this population
  • Key elements to consider in relation to marketing and recruitment in this highly competitive market

10:00 – 10:30am: Break (Legislative Terrace)

10:30 – 11:30am: Breakout Sessions 2

Breakout Session 2A (Ballroom)

Overthrowing Dead Culture, Chapter 11: The Fundamentals

Brian Wm. Niles

Just as the financial and housing markets have been rocked by change, higher education has joined the club. In preparation for the next chapter of his successful 2010 book, “Overthrowing Dead Culture”, Brian has spent the past few years exploring the issues and opportunities facing college and university enrollment. He's identified what's worked, what hasn't, who’s figured it out and who still needs to catch up. And he doesn’t hold back. Brian will discuss how higher education can avoid being the next "bubble” by embracing the customer, become more efficient and drive toward success. It’s about the fundamentals.

Key takeaways:
  • Attendees will learn about key challenges facing future enrollment in higher education.
  • Share examples of colleges changing the way they do business in order to be more effective in their engagement with key constituencies.
  • Attendees will be challenged to 1. identify the challenges facing their campus and 2. begin a plan of action to improve their client satisfaction and future success.
  • Learn about building their own fundamentals in their department or institution to help focus efforts toward team success.
Breakout Session 2B (Davidson)

Digital Analytics - Getting Leadership Buy-in

Shelby Thayer

Everyone knows that digital analytics can help optimize websites and show the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. To do this efficiently and effectively takes resources—time, money, and people—but, more often than not, we just can't seem to make the case to get those resources. So, how do we get leadership buy-in?

Key takeaways:
  • Know when to ask for resources
  • Tell stories with their data
  • Get leadership buy-in to get the resources they need

Lunch on your own (see resaurant guide (pdf))

1:00 – 2:00pm: General Session 3 (Ballroom)

Inbound Marketing - Stop Pushing and Start Pulling

Jay Kelly

Join Converge Consulting Principal, Jay Kelly who will take you through an evolutionary journey of how marketing and communications have changed from the outbound/push model days of buying ads and sending view books and postcards through the mail to the current model of engagement through data-driven, relevant, targeted and segmented communications (inbound/pull model).

Key takeaways:
  • Audience Segmentation - How to use data to get in front of the right segment with the right message at the right time. You will also learn by testing best practices so you are able to do more of what works and less of what doesn't and improve campaign results.
  • Audience Engagement - How to use best practices to increase engagement with audiences from prospect through alumni.
  • The Three Pillars of Inbound Marketing - Inbound marketing is about "earning your way in". We will explore ways to utilize the concepts in inbound marketing to harness the power of your faculty, students, and alumni to tell the story of your institution, improve enrollment trends, and build the power of your school’s brand.

2:00 – 2:15pm: Break (Legislative Terrace)

2:15 – 3:15pm: Breakout Sessions 4

Breakout Sessions 4A (Davidson)

What’s So Relational in Today’s Adult Relational Market?

Tammy Stewart

Higher Education marketing and recruitment has evolved dramatically over the last decade and competition for market share has become more difficult. Many institutions are finding that they can no longer expect adult students to just call and enroll based on reputation but must build relationships with prospective students. But how do you make this happen with limited resources? This session is a case study approach examining progressive relational marketing and recruitment tactics to engage adult students in a way that ultimately leads to enrollment.

Key takeaways:
  • Gain a clear understanding of how to use data in the enrollment funnel to manage your admissions team
  • Explore a sample communication plan that focuses on cultivating enrollment throughout the recruitment cycle
  • Review aligning recruitment efforts to institutional fit
Breakout Session 4B (Ballroom)

Web Strategy

Julie Campbell

Amidst the buzzwords and concepts of interactive marketing (content strategy, inbound marketing, search engine marketing,and google analytics to name a few), it's important to remember that your institutional web is one very important part of an integrated marketing strategy. As such, we must use the web to tell a cohesive and compelling brand story, and to move our audiences to action. In order to do so, there are questions and concepts to consider.

Key takeaways:
  • Do you know who your website is really serving?
  • Is your website telling your story, and telling it well? How do you know?
  • How do you define success with your interactive marketing efforts? Are you proactive about protecting your business goals on the website? Why or why not?

3:15 – 3:45pm: Break (Legislative Terrace)

3:45 – 4:45pm: General Session 5 (Ballroom)

Online College Students 2014: Implications for Marketing and Recruitment

Carol Aslanian & Scott Jeffe

Who goes to school online? Why? What do they want and need? Answering these questions could help you grow your online programs by better targeting your marketing and increasing conversions. This session will present key findings from a new national report, conducted by Aslanian Market Research and The Learning House, Inc.

Key takeaways:
  • What today’s “typical” online college students look like, and the major ways in which they are both different and similar to traditional students
  • What are the most powerful marketing messages to reach this audience
  • What are the most popular online subject areas and degree programs

5:30 – 6:30pm: Reception (Speakers Lounge)


Wednesday, October 15

7:00 - 8:00am: Breakfast (Ballroom)

7:30 - 8:15am: Table Talks (Ballroom)

Bring your coffee and join us for one of these round table discussions on higher education marketing topics.

8:30 - 10:00am: General Session 6 - Keynote Address (Ballroom)

Reaching Learners in a Digital World

Kristin Hall

Head of Industry Education at Google

Receive Google insights and research how prospective students engage with digital channels throughout their decision-making journey.

Key takeaways:
  • Information about the role of search as a proxy for demand trends
  • What prospective students expect in their research process
  • An understanding of the role of video and mobile for nontraditional students

10:00 – 10:30am: Break (Legislative Terrace)

10:30 – 11:30am: Breakout Sessions 7

Breakout Session 7A (Ballroom)

Using Data-Driven Decision Making to Inform Academic Program Development

Marie Power-Barnes

In the highly competitive adult and online higher education market, Thomas Edison State College has provided flexible, high quality, collegiate learning opportunities for self-directed adults for 40 years, and has grown to its current enrollment of 20,877 by attracting students through data driven marketing strategies. With more students aged 25+ enrolling in college than traditional 18 year old students and the cost of college under fire in the national discussion, colleges must respond to the competitive environment by offering programs adults see as rewarding - both in terms of personal enrichment and in providing them with a measurable return on their investment. Now more than ever, academic program research is a critical component in the strategic planning for academic programs. This session will discuss the process of analyzing the viability of potential new programs, including the internal shareholder process, data sources, analyzing current and potential market share, marketing considerations, and implementation of findings by your institution.

Key takeaways:
  • Make a case for and develop alliances to support academic program research
  • Determine how to obtain data, from internal options to outsourcing
  • Communicate results and support the work of academic leadership
Breakout Session 7B (Davidson)

Partnerships That Payback

Heather Sayre Jordan

Having businesses that partner with a specific institution and send their (hundreds of) employees there is believed to be there Holy Grail in partnerships. Realistically, these opportunities are few and far between. This session will highlight a specific strategy for entering a business, developing a relationship and the realistic outcomes for that relationship in 2014.

Key takeaways:
  • A clear approach to entering a business
  • Developing and nurturing the relationship over time
  • Realistic outcomes

11:30 – 1:00pm: Lunch on your own (see resaurant guide (pdf))

1:00 – 2:00pm: Breakout Sessions 8

Breakout Session 8A (Davidson)

Applying Best Practices to Marketing in Education

Regi Dennis

Higher education, marketing, and our consumers have changed dramatically over the last decade. These changes impact everything from institutional objectives to overall marketing strategy. In this interactive session participants will explore the impact of our shifting marketplace as it impacts various aspects of marketing in higher education.

Key takeaways:
  • Online Marketing Tactics
  • Traditional Marketing Efforts
  • Measurement
Breakout Session 8B (Ballroom)

Strike the Right Chord with Prospects: Lessons from Country Music

Barbara Coward and Kathy Hagens

Did you know that country music is a $2 billion-dollar industry? It all goes to show that tugging at the heartstrings of ordinary people about ordinary life is big business. While we're not suggesting that you incorporate messaging about heartache, pickup trucks, and on-stoplight towns in your marketing materials, there are a number of takeaways that can help you grow enrollments. For example, it's all about being authentic, a good storyteller, and developing an emotional connection with your candidates. We'll walk you through ways - and examples - to take your prospect messaging from gold to platinum!

If increasing enrollment is a mandate at your institution—step one is marketing, step two is recruitment. There is little point in doing one without the other. We hope you will join us for this workshop that focuses on putting the steps together!

Key takeaways:
  • Draw prospects closer to a Call to Action through messaging that shows that you understand their dreams and challenges.
  • Differentiate your program through personalized and targeted email campaigns.
  • Use analytics to measure the ROI of your marketing dollars.

2:00 – 2:15pm: Break (Legislative Terrace)

2:15 – 3:15pm: General Session 9

General Session 9 (Ballroom)

Best of the Best - What My Institution Does Next

Brenda Harms

Developing a plan for implementing what you’ve learned at the conference is the first step to ensuring that you actually do something with the great new ideas you have. After a brief review of the “best of the best” from the conference, participants will be led through an exercise that will help them to:

Key takeaways:
  • Identify the key take-aways that will most impact their institution
  • Prioritize the top three big ideas to implement
  • Develop an action plan to support action after the conference

3:15 – 3:45pm: Wrap-Up


Thursday, October 16

8:30am – 12:30pm

Taking the Next Step – Recruiting the Adult Student

Brenda Harms

Marketing and recruitment go hand-in-hand. Converge Consulting is pleased to offer the “next step” in the funnel to its conference attendees as a post-conference workshop. If you are interested in developing a more sophisticated, proactive, and process driven recruitment operation, stay with us for an intensive 4-hour training on best practices related to adult student recruitment. 

If increasing enrollment is a mandate at your institution—step one is marketing, step two is recruitment. There is little point in doing one without the other. We hope you will join us for this workshop that focuses on putting the steps together!

  • Look at the 16 school secret-shopper research projects that Converge conducted to better understand how various types of institutions are currently reaching out to this population
  • Develop an understanding of relational recruitment and how it will change the way you talk about program offerings
  • Create a recruitment process to initiate at your campus that will ensure you are current with industry standards
  • Explore barriers typical to the adult audience and learn to ask key questions that will provide insight into overcoming those obstacles as adult students are making their final decision

schedule top

Sheraton Nashville Downtown Hotel

Hotel Information

The conference will be held at the spectacular Sheraton Nashville Downtown Hotel, an atrium-style hotel that towers 28 stories above Music City. It’s close to the Nashville Convention Center, the historic 2nd Avenue Entertainment District, Printer’s Alley, the Country Music Hall of Fame, Frist Center for the Visual Arts, the Bridgestone Arena, and LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans.

Rooms at the Sheraton Nashville Downtown Hotel are limited. The Clarion Hotel Nashville Downtown - Stadium at 211 North 1st Street has openings, is about a mile away, provides a shuttle service and is newly renovated. Please call them at 615-254-1551 or visit their website to book a room.

- Partners -

Capital Education
Market Mapping Plus
Enrollment Strategies
Burning Glass