Being Asked to Innovate? Please Fail.
Innovation is a term thrown around a lot. I'm not sure everyone truly understands what it means and what is involved. Kind of like the misunderstanding around the term “entrepreneurial."
Typically, when these terms are used by senior administrators, the conversation includes the concept of “doing more with less” and “finding a new way.” Have these conversations happened in your office? You might want to share this post...
So, here’s the thing: If there is a clear path forward, then innovation and entrepreneurialism don’t apply. By definition, these terms involve risk and charting a course through the unknown. And when you chart such a course, you will make mistakes. You will spend money on things that don’t work. That's ok. That's actually how you succeed. The real failure in these situations comes of not learning from those forays, from your mistakes.
And here’s the other important element of innovation, especially in our field of admissions marketing where funds are extremely limited: fail cheap.
Testing different opportunities in digital marketing is important. Which region of the world finds your offerings attractive? Which find your academic rigor, your pricing, your student life really aligns with their way of thinking? How will you let the target audience know? Answer these questions by testing digital marketing channels with small funds and tracking the results carefully. Learn from every activity, every campaign. Warning: effective tracking takes time, talent and effort.
So here’s a link to another post to give you perspective (you might want to share it with your boss): how-to-recruit-international-students. It was one of our top three most popular posts last year. How do we know? Because we track everything. We know that 993 of your colleagues in this field have read this post to-date. Better than that, we know that 21 of your colleagues reached out to us after they read it. Are you able to track your digital marketing in that way? Are you managing your international student leads with that level of insight?
The blog post I'm referencing is a memo to your president letting him/her know what you, as an international student admissions director, are being asked to accomplish and what is involved. I’m sharing it now because many of the discussions we had at the recent #Nafsa 2015 conference in Boston addressed just this challenge - getting those with budgetary control to understand the nature and value of your work . If you've not read that one, trust me, you will find yourself nodding your head as you read.
Colleagues in our field of international student recruitment are being asked to innovate and do a heck of a lot with very little. And you need the power to push back and educate your peers about what is involved. It is a great time to innovate in the digital marketing space. Many new tools and opportunities are arising every year. If you are being asked to innovate, you need an innovation budget that allows you to test one social media marketing tool over another, in different regions.
Many of our colleagues at a variety of institutions tell us they use content from our blogs and reports to plan their activities and support their budget requests. We couldn't be happier with that result. We spend time researching and writing for a reason. Take our data, please.
Returing to the concept of innovation...If you are being asked to innovate, you need to be prepared to lose those funds with little more to show for it than having learned how to do it better next year. Folks who want you to “innovate” often don’t understand that last part - the value of the lessons learned. Use your experience and our research to help you explain where the global opportunities are, the digital marketing tools available, and how to test them for your institution. Have you looked at our Intead Index to help you plan? For goodness sake, downlaod that document. We've done a ton of research for you!
At the Nafsa 2015 conference, we gave 3 presentations. The slides are now available on slide share here:
- Mystery Shopper Insights: Fantastic insight into how your peers are succeeding (or not) with their use of digital marketing (email and social media campaigns) and travel as their primary recruiting tools. We presented our mystery shopper results along with the University of Cincinnati, University of Otago Language Centre and Thompson Rivers University. (Presented Wed. morning 5/27/15).
- Student Motivations: Really exciting, groundbreaking new research we are conducting with FPP EDUMedia about student motivations to study abroad. Presented along with global perspectives from University Cattolica Sacro Cuore and American University. (Presented Wed. afternoon 5/27/15).
- Challenges of Implementation: Experience from the field with Fresno State, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Admission Table explaining the challenges of implementing digital marketing and international student engagement. How every campaign gives us new knowledge to make improvements every step of the way. (Presented Fri. morning, 5/29/15).
These decks only tell part of the story and we are happy to tell you the rest of it if you were not able to attend our sessions. There are digital marketing opportunities out there to target and reach specific, segmented international students, e.g., Thai students interested in computer science or Brazilian students interested in agro-business.
We hope you will make use of the many free resources on our website. They will help you explain the opportunities to your colleagues and, we hope, justify a budget that can help you innovate and succeed. As they say in Silicon Valley: fail cheap and fast on your way to success.
Which digital marketing tools have you used with success? What have you learned? We are looking forward to hearing your innovation stories!