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Recruiting Intelligence

Where marketers shift their spending

Increasing the effectiveness of marketing spending is a constant challenge for all marketing departments. Your team is constantly evaluating how to make your limited marketing budget work to your advantage as marketing channels continue to shift.

Today we are looking at the high-level macro trends in the US in terms of where marketing dollars are going. We reviewed two reports, an Aquent/American Marketing Association (AMA) survey and the annual report from Noel-Levitz, and we consider how they inform marketing higher education. We will highlight two important take-aways about the marketing channels we believe are increasingly valuable in this industry.

Nearly 1 in 3 marketers plan to decrease their organization’s focus on newspapers this year, per resultsfrom the Aquent/AMA survey. In fact, traditional media occupied the top 6 areas slated for a decline in focus this year by respondents. Beyond newspapers, a significant proportion of marketers plan to shift their attention away from consumer magazines (28%), radio (24%), trade magazines (22%), and TV (21%). See Chart 1 below.

Not surprisingly, it's all about digital. Marketers are looking more at various digital channels this year. Topping the list is mobile media, with 82% of respondents saying they’ll increase their organization’s focus toward mobile. That aligns with other recent research we've been reading that says marketers perceive mobile as the year’s most disruptive media and marketing trend. Recent survey results from Econsultancy also revealed that mobile is the most exciting opportunity for digital marketers this year. Meanwhile, many respondents to the Aquent/AMA survey also will increase their focus on social media (76%) and marketing automation (75%).

This only makes sense as mobile access to the Internet has exploded with the advances in smart phones and tablets. As of 2011, mobile penetration achieved 100% for our target audience--those with enough disposable income to afford college. Yes, EVERYONE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD with plans to go to college has a mobile internet connection. And in 2012, China alone had more than 1 billion mobile subscribers. If you look at all of Asia, there are more than 3 billion mobile subscribers.

Take-Away #1: How does your website appear on mobile devices (smart phones and tablets)? What efforts are you making to push messaging and content out in ways that are visually appealing on a phone or tablet? If you haven't been thinking along these lines, it is time to start. If a 17 year old mentions your school in a group conversation, you can bet that someone in that group will be on a mobile device looking you up in less time than it takes to swipe a screen.

Chart 1

Top Areas in Which Marketers Expect to Decrease Focus

Given their increased focus on digital marketing, it’s not surprising that marketers believe that the most in-demand career opportunities this year will be related to the digital space. Asked the top 3 positions they think will be most in demand, respondents pointed to social media marketing (25%) first, followed by online content (21%). Interestingly, mobile marketing was further down the list, cited by just 12% of respondents. But, mobile marketing skills will be hotter in 2-3 years, according to the respondents.

It is valuable to identify these kinds of trends and it often takes a few years for a trend to take hold and truly transform the marketplace. Consider that the first iPad launched in 2010. It is just now that Microsoft has launched the Surface tablet. A much broader segment of consumers are now making significantly different decisions about the type of computer hardware they will purchase and use for the next few years.

Only you know the mix of your marketing spend that is right for your institution. Looking at our second report, we understand more about how students research schools. Noel-Levitz publishes an annual report on E-Recruiting Trends (requires registration). From their report, Chart 2 below highlights the different channels prospective students expect to use to find information about schools. Websites and print collateral still hold considerable sway and students want those information sources. Yet targeted landing pages and live chat are welcome additions for students while schools are slow to provide information via those channels (see red highlight below).

Take-Away #2: We notice a compelling opportunity to deploy more live chat and webinar events as well as creating targeted landing pages for search engines as opposed to directing students to the general university website. As we all look for marketing efforts that will help us stand out from the crowd, this is one of them. And if your brand says, "We produce innovators and entrepreneurs," this marketing channel is a good way to put your marketing money where your brand is. Best of all, the overall investment in creating good content and disseminating it in this format is not that significant compared to other advertising options. Hence the marketing industry's shift from traditional to digital media.

In our work focused on international student recruitment, we see similar opportunities. International students rely much more heavily on digital channels than domestic students. International students rarely have the opportunity to visit campus and have, with few exceptions, less access to knowledgeable high school councilors.

Bottom Line: Creating online and mobile accessible connections between prospective students and your campus full of engaged faculty and enrolled students will build your brand and strengthen word of mouth marketing. Remember that "share" button? It's awfully easy to press.

Oh, and we would be remiss if we did not repeat our mantra about how analytics can be built into all your digital marketing efforts allowing you to track, refine and repeat for even greater success each year. Does your traditional media allow for that? Answer: Not nearly as well.

Chart 2

Noel-Levitz E-Expectations of Prospective Students

Source: Noel-Levitz: E-Recruiting Trends
Topics: Insights