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Recruiting Intelligence

Companionship Transforms


Let’s talk about student recruitment without the data for a change. Let’s talk about the underpinnings of this human experience of recruitment. Stay with me here.

Why are we doing this work in the first place?

The cynical among us point to the economics: we recruit students to get their tuition dollars. Ok, this is true. Faculty must be paid to get them to deliver education services. They actually get pretty adamant about this. And administrators need to get paid to keep the operation going.

Bigger thinkers among us believe education fosters cultural understanding. And global education fosters cross-cultural understanding. All this education helps build stronger economies (think jobs) and more peaceful times. 

Personal growth and communal growth.

And how in the world will this blog intro bring us to our favorite topic: student recruitment? Trust me and read on...

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How Our International Audiences View Us Now

If you’ve been following our blog and our market research, you were reading today’s headlines three years ago.

Intead has been conducting primary research on student and parent interests and influencers for a very long time. And we’ve been publishing our results for you. And we’ve been incorporating our findings into our clients’ marketing activities.

More than three years ago, we reported on international student concerns about the news coming out of the US. At that time, presidential candidate Donald Trump shared his views on Mexicans and a host of other things using headline grabbing terminology that continues to this day.

Research we've conducted, both primary and secondary, found that the parents of international students are staying on top of news coming out of the US. And we noted both students and parents increasingly raising safety as a top-level concern as opposed to a passing thought. We also identified visa processing issues as a concern to international admissions operations. And we identified the growth in international students attending US-based private high schools and the value of, and best practices, for recruiting those students.

All that, and more, was part of our conference presentations, publishing and client support in 2016.

Many sources of academic news tell you about the trends. Our goal, and we hope you know we deliver on this, is to answer the question, “So what?”

A favorite question of our friend and colleague, Harry Lane, professor of international business and strategy at the D’Amore-McKim school of business at Northeastern University. He will always push his students to consider this point: data and information are only as valuable as your ability to determine what actions you should take.

We get trend data and reams of other information all the time. So what?

This is where Intead shines. We’re all about the strategic decisions and tactical execution that emerge from the data we gather.

In fact, we have three new global marketing reports based on new research that we will release this fall and present at all your favorite conferences. (AIRC and ICEF Miami, anyone?). Oh, and not for nothin’, but a subscription to Intead Plus might be worth a look.

Getting the answer to “So What?” three years ahead of your peers, that’s gotta be valuable.

Read on for a few observations and action-oriented tips based on what we are seeing now…

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Micro-Innovations: Opportunities Speak Loudest to Those Who...

I met Jenny on a sunny July day at the corner of H and 22nd Streets in DC -- in the center of George Washington University’s campus.

Jenny’s been running this hot dog stand at this corner for 22 years.

Originally from Vietnam, she has two children currently attending the University of Virginia. With all these university ties, GWU, UVa, you’d think she works in our field of academia. And in a way, she does.

Take a closer look at that stand behind her. See the signs? Jenny is an entrepreneur and a micro-innovator. She recognizes opportunities and she goes after them. And she succeeds.

As Jenny and I talked, she shared that she sees a small boost in revenue at the end of each semester (in May and December) with her cash for books deal, in addition to the hot dog and soda sales. Her location gives her an opportunity that another hot dog vendor, at say the corner of H and 14th Streets, does not have. Her micro-innovation has proven a consistent, small incremental value to her overall operation.

It is the start of a new school year and we have so many ideas to share with you. This is no time to sit on your hands, or wring your hands. It is time to put those hands to work, get them dirty.

Read on for ideas about how thinking about micro-innovations might be just the thing that can energize your team and add up to significant growth for your recruitment funnel.

Read on...

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Going out of Business: Many Institutions are Struggling. Notice Any Red Flags?


If you follow the trends of higher education, you’ve no doubt heard the prediction that 50 percent of the country’s colleges will be bankrupt in 10 to 15 years. And that perspective has been touted for the past 20+ years, so…we need to take it with some salt.

Still, we have seen an uptick in closures and mergers of late. This is worth looking at because, there is some truth to this prediction and we’d be fools to simply say, “Never gonna happen.”

There are plenty of industries that have gone through these kinds of retrenching or refocusing. In the world of Mergers and Acquisitions, any business is broken down on paper for its assets and liabilities. Assets are considered for liquidation – the idea of “selling off the parts.” This is happening in academia as well. Harsh but true: profitable departments or schools within an institution are being “adopted” by other stronger institutions while the rest of the weaker institution is shut down.

Before we all consider our college diplomas to be rare antiques, is there any way to safeguard against this trend?

Below, we share some perspective on different options being considered and some resources you may want to access for a deeper dive. Here’s one of them: Our non-traditional student recruitment ebook: Quality. Cost. Convenience. The extended edition on Intead Plus gives you marketing planning insights, sample personas along with case studies from nine very different institutions.

Next week we'll be talking about long-term vision and growth. But before we get there, we need to understand a bit more about where we are now.

Do you want the good news or the bad news first?

(Read on)

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Competition In Edtech Is Off the Charts

Every time we turn around there is another set of edtech companies showing off their wares. At NACAC, NAFSA and the American Marketing Association’s Higher Ed Group, everyone has a tech solution.

We’ve been watching the rise of edtech and loving the growth and the disruption. From offering new ways of delivering educational content to how we confirm that students are absorbing that content, there are beautiful things happening. And the data being collected is going to help us all improve our education outcomes.


There are more than 15,000 companies in some form of edtech position. And by some estimates more than $50B (likely more) has been invested in making them grow. Some of the names are familiar to you and some are new to all of us.

But everything is not rosy here. All too often, the marketing for these companies shout out “Artificial Intelligence” and “Predictive Modeling,” when they are anything but “intelligent” or “predictive.” If you scratch the surface when you meet them at a conference, you’ll find that their “predictive modeling” is simply filtering their list purchases in sophisticated ways. We're thinking their marketing pitch might be better termed “Artificial Modeling.” To wit, they are selling stuff with no substance.

Intead will be doing a series of posts and webinars with industry leaders addressing edtech in the coming year. We’re excited to shine a light on those that are doing incredible things. As always, our Intead Plus members will get the best stuff from us.

Please read on for a nice summary of the wonderful ways edtech will transform the classroom, our employees, and our lives in the years to come.

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Think Positive: Differentiation is Powerful

Last week, we touched briefly on the importance of differentiating your institution in the minds of international students. You may be seeing ever more doom-and-gloom sentiment among your peers on campus and colleagues in the field. The uplifting confidence that comes from a deep understanding of your differentiators is essential to your success.

This approach applies to your institution's success as much as it applies to your personal success. For this blog, we'll stick to your institution's approach and leave the rest to you.

So, your institution is not ranked in the top 50, right? And your access to a major city? How about your brand recognition in your target countries?

The reality is, most schools are in the same boat here. Not all international students are looking for the same things. There is a niche that will find your attributes just right. All international students are not all looking for the same things. But they DO need to become aware of what you have that other's don't. YOU need to help them assess and select.

International marketing is not an easy thing to do. It may seem overwhelming, confusing and, at times, impossible. It's easy for your colleagues on campus to fall into the trap of thinking, "Why would any international student want to come here?"

It's time to flip the question.

Why wouldn't they want to come to your school? You have so much to offer. Your doors wouldn't be open if you didn't. The question is: "What can your institution offer international students that no other institution can?"

Bottom Line: Creatively communicating your differentiators is essential to helping students know about and then grasp the opportunities you offer. 

Let's get into this a bit deeper...

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Developing Essential Skills Within Your Recruitment Team

This week, Ben at Patricia are in Miami at the AIRC conference, where they will be hosting a digital marketing workshop alongside Angel Ahmed, CEO of GNET, and Hillary Dostal, Director, Global Initiatives at Northeastern University. This expert team and comprehensive workshop will help international recruitment leaders develop strategic communications plans that differentiate their unique institutions. And, they will be talking about the skills needed throughout the process to achieve success. 

Plans are only as good as the team executing them. Seems obvious, right?

Is your team aligned on your strategic enrollment plan? Do you have a comprehensive marketing plan to work from? Are there gaps in the skill sets? We bet there are at least a few areas that could use improvement, right?

This week we want to walk you through our strategic marketing workshop format and a series of corresponding worksheets available via Intead Plus to guide your marketing and enrollment teams. Ready? Let's check it out. 

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Selecting a Marketing Agency: What Makes an Effective Team?

You know your organization needs to do a better job of recruiting in key markets, but how do you find the "right" marketing team? This is a complex question, but from our experience, there is one clear answer. 

Exploring an array of works by strategic thought-leaders including Brene Brown, Jocko Willink, Reid Hoffman, Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey, comparing and contrasting a range of theories and approaches, strategic and tactical advice about creating effective teams – a pattern begins to emerge.

The answer: When you are evaluating vendors, consider team culture carefully. With global marketing, there’s a lot that can go sideways quickly, and you want the right group of people by your side to launch effectively and adjust when needed.

Will your agency adapt to change with grace and thoughtful expertise, and still deliver results given the new reality on the ground? Will they have the global network that identifies the need to change and share it with you on the spot? Or will it become apparent later, after the campaign funds are long gone?

The "right" team is hard to find. We know that truth from experience. Read on for a bit of wisdom from one of our clients about choosing the team that will move your institution forward. 

But before you click on: Last Chance for a free pass to today's Intead Plus webinar, "What's A Muslim Student to Think?" with my guest, Wajahat Ali, Journalist, CNN Talking Head, NYT Op Ed Contributor and all around thoughtful, analytical, humorous guy. Starts at 11AM DST. You won't be disappointed.

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Leading Enrollment Planning, Leading Change

How’s enrollment going these days? Are your numbers where they should be? Is the trend on the right track?

For so many enrollment administrators, these questions prompt a level of anxiety because the trend is down and the storm clouds on the horizon bode more of the same.

There are steps you can take. And it is time to stand tall and act. Our advice: Never waste a good crisis.

Regardless of the field you work in as a leader, there is the perpetual challenge of launching new initiatives. The ideas and business plans are one thing – coming up with them is actually quite manageable. The world is full of opportunities that absolutely can and will succeed with the right team and resources behind them.

So here’s the question: Are you doing the assessments necessary to find the best path forward?

Market research looking outward can tell you where the opportunities are. Couple that with a deep internal assessment that identifies what is working well and where your investment of staff time and resources is doing the greatest good (and where it is not).

Learning Opportunities

One common element of this work is typically our digital audit to understand your online presence, web traffic and email performance. The results of this audit provide both market receptivity metrics as well as internal performance metrics.

You can access our experience and chart your path forward. At the AIRC annual conference this December, we will deliver a full-day workshop on global digital marketing and enrollment planning. This could be the low-cost opportunity that helps you jump start your enrollment plan overhaul. We hope you’ll take advantage of this opportunity.

Of course there is also our deep recruitment research and instructional library available to Intead Plus members (have you signed up for our can’t miss Intead Plus Webinar with Wajahat Ali: What’s a Muslim Student to Think?)

Read on to learn a bit more about what we look for as we develop customized enrollment plans for our clients…

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A Second Look at Higher Ed Rankings

Rankings can be addictive. Ask any student who has ever clamored for that valedictorian spot, every salesperson who has tried to outgun her colleagues to be the month’s top seller, every parent who beams at their kid’s position on the Little League batting lineup.  

While you’re at it, ask an enrollment professional, too.

University rankings—think U.S. News and World Report, The Times Higher Education (our far and away favorite in the field if we had to choose), QS, or the Shanghai Jiaotong Academic Ranking of World Universities, and now the Wall Street Journal — affect so much. Students place a lot of weight on ranking lists, and so do parents, alumni, research funders, and governments around the world.

A great ranking can be like an institutional lucky charm, nearly guaranteeing ongoing success. Working at such an institution can feel like taking a perpetual victory lap, waving to crowds of adoring fans as applicants and endowment funds come rolling in.

But a poor ranking can feel like an institutional curse, dooming an institution to mediocrity. Working in enrollment at an “average” institution can sometimes feel like an exhausted, uphill scramble for applications and dollars. This shouldn’t be the case—and it doesn’t have to be.

Rankings matter a lot. Should they? And what can you do about it? Read to the end to find out! 

A couple of opportunities to learn more before we dive into today's topic:

  1. Bite-size data points: Intead Insights is re-launching on Twitter! We're sharing quick stats that, in  15-20 seconds, can teach you something new about enrollment marketing. Fun, informative, surprising, and all the cool kids are doing it (as if). Follow us on Twitter: @Intead 
  2. Digital marketing full-day workshop at AIRC: On Dec., 5, 2018, Intead and our talented colleagues, Angel Ahmed, GNET, and Hillary Dostal, Northeastern University, will be giving a full-day workshop as part of the AIRC conference in Westin, FL. If you have not yet registered, now is the perfect time! Register here

Now, what's a mid-ranked or low-ranked institution to do? Let's review the concerns and provide some advice...

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