Preparing for the Career College Association Convention

It’s that time of the year again – the CCA convention is just around the corner where hundreds of career colleges and the companies that support their operations will meet and collaborate on the markets trends, challenges and opportunities we all face.

The convention is a great opportunity to for all of us at TopSchool to engage with schools at every level. From the users of our system talking to our product team about specific ways to manage and report on data, to career college CEOs who want to talk about the direction of their programs, we look forward to discussing new ways we can help them deliver a better student experience.

We’ve got several things lined up that will keep attendees both in the know right now and thinking about what lies ahead:

Participate in our roundtable discussions:
We are hosting “How To Make Informed Decisions Based On Successful Student Profiles,” where participants will learn how to better leverage data to provide a complete picture of each student so they can determine when, where and how students can be most successful. Our first session is already full, so please visit our registration site soon if you would like to participate.

Leverage our white paper:
Improving the Student Experience to Increase Career College Revenue shares insight into the ways career colleges can more efficiently and effectively access, manage and report on information in order to deliver an improved student experience and drive increased revenue growth.

See us on the floor:
We will be located in booth #504/506 on the exhibit floor – please stop by! See you in Vegas!


Building Successful Student Profiles

I recently presented at the Distance Education and Training Council Annual Conference, and there was quite a bit of talk about student profiles.  So, I ask you this…

1)     How important are student profiles in helping schools meet learner demands? 

2)     And if you believe these profiles can contribute to both student and institutional success, how do you even go about building them?

I believe there are both a tremendous need and an exciting opportunity to better understand your students.  How are they changing?  How can you create models that meet their needs?  And how can you communicate with them based on their needs? 

I happen to be one that believes student profiles are of absolute importance when it comes to providing your students a unique and productive experience.  And the most effective profiles are those that include information from across the student lifecycle.  Schools that not only build, but more importantly use these student profiles will be able to 1) recruit the right kinds of students, 2) quickly launch new programs, and 3) tailor offerings and delivery modes. 

Student profiles can encompass demographic, behavioral and psychological information.  For example, how old is the average student, how ready are they to enroll, what risk factors to they have, what programs are they most interested in, and what are their career goals?

I propose three steps that will help you gather the necessary data in order to build your successful student profiles:

  • Report on student activity from prospect to placement
  • Monitor student inflection points
  • Deliver education where and when students want it

Student profiles can be critical in analyzing where, when and how students can be most successful at your school.  By building a complete picture of each unique student, your school can best meet a particular student’s needs and the student can maximize the education experience.

Webinar Re-cap: Fight for Your Budget: How to Track and Justify Your Admissions Marketing Efforts

TopSchool co-hosted our first webinar this week with Fight for Your Budget: How to Track and Justify Your Admissions Marketing Efforts.

Derek Kraus, the former director of operations for Westwood College and Justin Sloan, the former senior director of admissions for the College of Wooster, both of TopSchool, were our presenters.

If you weren’t able to attend, a copy of the presentation can be found here.

In short, here are seven easy steps to track and analyze your admissions marketing efforts so you can fight for and secure the appropriate budget:

  1. Identify your student profile: Know who your students are. Brainstorm with groups to provide one word adjectives that describe your students. Be clear in describing your students and displaying your knowledge of your campus.
  2. Determine costs (CPL, CPA, CPS): Know what all of your expenses are within each measuring category of CPL (Cost per Lead), CPA (Cost per Application) and CPS (Cost per Start).
  3. Set metric goals: Set your goals for each metric identified, plus you may have additional ones, such as the number of student leads you will need each week or month, to help reach your enrollment goals.
  4. Find your students: Which websites do your students visit? Which vendors can help you find your student profile? Identify these websites and vendors and have a clear plan of how you’re going to work with them.
  5. Diversify your vendor list: Always diversify the list of vendors you utilize. This will help you  not only access a broader prospective student base, but also diversify the resulting student population.
  6. Create data tracking: Make sure you have the right tools in place for tracking all the necessary information such as the number of student leads, applications, starts and all related costs.
  7. Standardize measurements and reports: Lastly, standardize all of your measurements and reports. Consistency allows for greater understanding and transparency of what’s going on in your processes and the ability to clearly and easily indicate how your changes are effectively improving costs, revenue, employee morale and the overall experience of your students.

Following these seven steps will lead you to increased enrollment and operational efficiencies.

Are you already addressing each of these steps in your admissions process?

Fight for Your Budget: How to Track and Justify Your Admissions Marketing Efforts

From what I’ve witnessed during the progression of career colleges over the last decade, never have they been more important in providing access to quality higher education as evident by current sky rocketing enrollments.  At the same time, competition among career colleges to attract and retain these students is fierce.  Career colleges are facing challenges when it comes to dedicating money and resources to their admissions marketing initiatives in order to increase efficiencies and improve conversions.  Yet, more than ever, they need to continue to drive even higher, and more importantly, the right kind of enrollments. 

I see these trends taking shape at career colleges around the country – and consequently, they are at the core of our upcoming webinar hosted by Derek Kraus and Justin Sloan, both whom have been on the front lines of career college admissions.  They will tackle the challenges career colleges face in tracking admissions marketing efforts and measuring performance in order to justify budgets and produce better results. 

Derek and Justin are ready to dig in and give participants the tools and information necessary to defend and maximize shrinking budgets.   They’ll cover everything from calculating the true cost of your admissions tactics to using tracking systems effectively,  achieving buy-in from your admissions staff, and finally, securing upper management support.  

Fight for Your Budget: How to Track and Justify Your Admissions Marketing Efforts

Date: Tuesday, April 6th, 2010
Time: 3:00 pm Eastern Standard Time

Register Now

I hope you will be able to join us.  In the interim, I would like to hear your thoughts and marketing admissions success stories. How are you measuring performance and aligning it with your admissions budgets?

Insights from the CAPPS Conference

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the CAPPS (California Association of Private Post Secondary Schools) Conference in Los Angeles this week.  This year the conference had a record number of attendees for various reasons.  One of the primary reasons was that many of the Private Post Secondary schools were looking for answers on how the recently passed California Private Postsecondary Education Act of 2009 would affect them.  A summary of this bill and details of the act can be found at the following link:

Of the many interesting sessions being conducted at the conference I was able to sit in on the Internet Leads Panel discussion.  This discussion offered best practices from experts on ways to create more effective internet lead acquisition strategies and how to best convert those leads.  The session included guidance from Fred Carini, an industry veteran and  well regarded Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Milan Institute which operates 16 schools in four states, Craig O’Neil who is VP of Product Management of one of the nation’s largest wholesale lead generators and TopSchool’s very own Justin McMorrow, SVP of Sales and Marketing.

The panelists discussed how the use of Internet leads providers and aggregators can be an extremely effective mechanism for increasing starts.  For some higher education institutions,  over 70% of starts can be attributed to internet leads.  In summary, the key takeaways from the session from the three different perspectives were as follows:

  • From the School’s Perspective
    • Make sure Admissions Staff are trained and have the right tools to follow up with Internet leads
    • Share all of the lead information success/failure rates frequently with your lead providers to give them insight into which leads are converting and which ones are not
    • Immediacy – Admissions staff must follow up with leads quickly and effectively, especially given the nature of how internet leads are generated
  • Lead Provider’s Perspective
    • Schools must understand the different channels of internet leads, such as:
      • Web searches, email campaigns, social networking, call center, banner ads, hosted affiliate websites and institutional website
    • Schools must clearly understand how each of these different channels behave and have realistic expectations on how lead performance varies based on channel
    • Importance of providing transparency to the school by providing metrics to the schools on campaign, lead source and channel
  • Educating the schools on the inherent issues associated with working with internet leads
    • Web Amnesia – when students forgot that they submitted an inquiry form or opted in
    • Duplicate Lead information
    • Offered Incentives (ipods, electronics, etc) which create interest, for the  wrong product/brand
    • Shared Marketing data – the case where a student opts in to receive marketing information for multiple sectors not just higher education
    • Promise of Scholarships or Financial Assistance – another form of incentivizing prospective students which is very deceiving but does happen
  • From the Student Lifecycle Management System Perspective
    • Speed to first touch is important (Immediacy)
    • Ensure lead distribution rules are mapped effectively during business and off hours to ensure complete coverage
    • Establish business processes to support technology and ensure proper training and understanding around that process

The feedback from other attendees was very positive and the session overall was very informative.  Everyone appreciated the opportunity to gain insights from three different perspectives of working with internet leads – not just from the school’s vantage point.

 It is clear that the challenges of working with internet leads are multi-faceted and can be extremely complicated but employing the key strategies mentioned above can be effective in increasing the conversion of these leads.

 What measures have you employed to help increase lead effectiveness at your institution when working with internet leads?  How do you track internet leads that actually heard about your brand via word of mouth, t.v., radio or billboard ads?

TopSchool one of Colorado’s most promising startups

In early June I represented TopSchool at the APEX awards. This event is the “academy awards” for the software and IT industry in Colorado and is put together by the Colorado Software Industry Association. It is a big gala event and is attended by the software and IT industry, investors and the media I estimated about 500 attendees at the event. Colorado has emerged as one of the richest software startup and IT ecosystems in the country.

2009 APEX Awards

TopSchool was nominated for an award by two different firms. We were nominated for “Rookie of the Year”, the award given to the most promising software startup in Colorado.

Drum roll please….. TopSchool was selected by the judges as one of the TOP THREE startups in Colorado. There were 100 companies vying for six awards. There were many startups included in this 100. Judging criteria included innovativeness, early successes, and the ability to make a significant impact on the marketplace in the future.

It was impressive to see TopSchool’s logo up on the wall with many large and well known brands. Our new logo looked great and fit right in when displayed with all the others. But, when the MC said “and the finalists are…” BAM… there was the new TopSchool logo up on the big screen as one of the top three startups in the state, as judged by other software company CEO’s, investors and other IT industry leaders.

Even in our first year, TopSchool has made a big impression on the software community in CO and on the higher education software market.

The best part of this award was the fact that our peers in the industry have judged us as one of the most promising and very best.