"What works is good, integrated design that fills a need—carefully thought out, well executed, and tested." ― Steve Krug, Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability Colleges and universities continue to evolve with digital transformation. I had the privilege to be a presenter (Anatomy of an Effective Website Redesign, Nine Elements for Success) at the recent eduWeb Digital Summit in Chicago. I was also able to sit in on the keynote with Mark Greenfield and some great presentations by other speakers as well. It is always enlightening to discuss advancements and challenges in higher education with leaders in the industry. Throughout the conference a multitude of topics were raised which suggest most organizations are on a path of continuous evolution with insinuating “digital” into their overall plans, some more quickly than others. The following are three themes that emerged from my conference experience and perspective: 1 DIGITAL ENABLEMENTIt’s 2015. Time to be digitally enabled. As many higher education organizations understand, digital marketing is integral part of the overall enrollment marketing strategy---after all, their target audience is a generation that grew up with the internet and use an average of five screens a day. Gone are the days of relying on traditional methods – college fairs, referrals and direct mail campaigns. And while many organizations have ‘adapted’ by building new websites and employing social media & email campaigns, the message was clear at this year’s eduWeb Digital Summit that there is an absolute need for higher education institutions to embrace digital at an organizational level-- and tie all of digital channels together. It’s time to think about a more omni-channel approach. Digital is a platform that can be used for all aspects of enrollment marketing and management to drive the message home while capturing MEASURABLE data. It is the hub for all communications. But a key piece to this puzzle is making sure that your digital strategy isn’t all about single-approach tactics. As Mark Greenfield so perfectly stated in his presentation “You can’t go through a web design and then set and forget.” At Primacy, we often work with clients who have been focused on one piece of the puzzle (i.e. their website) without thinking about the broader strategy. Our focus is helping higher education organizations deliver measurable results and meaningful impact through our own mix of digital strategy. We map out tactical roadmaps and use a combination of digital marketing, user experience design, online & offline advertising, branding and more to reach your target audiences and get the most impact. If reading this makes your head spin and you are not sure where to start with your digital strategy, then consider reaching out to us. The digitalization of marketing is happening and it’s time your organization gets on board. 2 STORYTELLING & THE POWER OF GOOD CONTENT Having a digitally integrated marketing strategy isn’t the end of the journey. Another highly touted theme at the conference was the power of storytelling and the development of strong content strategies which align with the journey of the prospective student across all online and offline channels. Higher education marketers know the competition for their key audiences’ time and attention is fierce and as their communication habits change rapidly, it can be hard to keep up. An effective way to stand out from the crowd and engage audiences is by delivering a user experience that fits with their prospective student’s fast paced, always-connected life cycle. So, instead of taking an internal approach and telling the ‘story’ from an insider point of view, institutions must personalize the experience. What are these students looking for? What do they care about? Share your message through their eyes. Understand how to present relevant information and guide users through desired calls-to-action to help streamline their experience. The reason they are visiting your digital channels is to consume, experience and interact with the content that is there. I touch upon some of this in my presentation. 3 MEASURABILITY & ANALYTICS“Throw it at a wall and see if it sticks” is an expression we’ve all heard. Many believe this is the ‘science’ behind marketing—creative, but without real measurable results. The truth is a great marketing strategy is never thrown at the wall; it knows exactly where to aim. And thanks to analytics and measurability we are getting more honed on this tactic. If eduWeb 2015 told us anything, it was that the future of education marketing is data driven— More than ever, marketers in higher education need to account for the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns. This involves setting defined metrics and goals for each project from the beginning, not looking at them after the campaign has been put ended. Data is no longer for geeks, its critical knowledge for all marketers. Using data to build successful pay-per-click campaigns will only increase the success of your search place. Tracking campaign results, such as impression clicks and conversation rates against measurable goals will highlight areas of improvement and influence future campaigns. And continuous monitoring of your website performance and user flow will identify pain points and key areas in the journey that need to be optimized further. So start learning those important numbers and use them to drive your marketing budgets. As we approach the homestretch months of 2015 I look forward to several more conferences (NACAC, UPCEA, AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education). Please be sure to stop by and visit our team at these conferences; I welcome the opportunity to speak with you about the future of digital.