Beth Keserauskis

Building relationships and making connections

Spray and pray

I read a very interesting blog post updating me on the new terminology describing unmeasured direct mail as a part of your overall marketing and advertising strategy.  It’s now called “Spray and Pray,” and defined by The Agitator in the context of fundraising: 

“…the thoughtless, non-strategic practice of tossing as many appeals and acquisition pieces as an organization can afford — regardless of long-term result…”

Let’s put this in the context of higher education student recruitment and fundraising.  The phrase is obviously referring to the way direct mail is handled: you spray pieces, cast a wide net to a not necessarily highly qualified audience, and you pray they take whatever action you’re asking of them in the direct mail, whether that be to contribute money to your alma mater, attend an event, request more info, or even enroll in classes.  The problem here is that you can only pray they do what you asked.

Another option is implementing tactics such as Google AdWords or other search engine marketing tactics; obviously Yahoo, MSN, and others have their own ad serving platforms.  Facebook even has an ad serving platform that is very similar to Google’s.

In those instances, you define who your target audience is, what is a qualified lead or prospect to you, and make sure that your ad is served only to those prospects. In addition, you’re serving ad copy that matches what they have searched for. For example, if someone is searching for St. Louis MBA programs, you’re not going to serve them ad copy that addresses the School of Education program’s offerings. You’re going to give them ad copy tailored to what they’re looking for, which is an MBA program. You’re also going to take them to a landing page on your website that also addresses specifically what they are looking for.

Now, I understand that there have been improvements in direct mail technology, such as print on demand, variable data fields and personalized URLs for tracking responses where you can really try to personalize a direct mail piece based on what you know of your customer and their preferences, but direct mail still is not as interactive, measurable and successful as a search engine marketing campaign.

So why then do colleges and universities still spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase names and ‘spray and pray’ with direct mail campaigns to prospective students and donors without even investigating the success of search engine marketing campaigns, such as Google AdWords? Even if you just do a test run, side-by-side to determine which one has a better return on your investment. I have asked countless groups of people I have presented to a series of four questions:

  1. When is the last time you went to the printed yellow pages, looked up a product or service and made a purchase?
  2. When is the last time you made a purchase based on a radio, TV or print ad you have seen?
  3. When is the last time you made a purchase based on a piece of unsolicited direct mail you receive?
  4. When is the last time you opened up your browser, went to Google or Yahoo, searched for a product or service, and ultimately made a purchase on line?

You can guess what the funnel of number of hands raised through each question. How many times do I have to ask the question before someone listens and sees value in SEM? Why is higher education different than any other information gathering sales process?


March 21, 2010 Posted by | higher education, marketing, sales | , , , | Leave a comment

The “Twintern”

The new buzz word in marketing is the “tw-intern.”  This is where you decide, as an organization, that you want to embark on a new social media technology like Twitter and you’re going to hire an intern for the job, hence the word “tw-intern.”  What I often ask as someone considers putting an intern in charge of their social media strategy is, if your local news affiliate is shows up at your door to do a story on your company for their evening news broadcast, would you put your intern in front of the camera to best represent your brand, company and key message?

twinternI would venture to guess that 9.5 times out of 10, the answer is, “Absolutely not!  Why would I put an intern in front of the news media?”

So then I say, “OK.  Let’s talk about the reach that your local news affiliate has, perhaps it’s 40-60 thousand people who may be watching the news and paying attention to the story.  On the other hand, tools like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, a blog – any of those technologies – have the potential to reach hundreds of thousands, if not millions or potential customers.”

So, if the news media was able to reach millions of people and you wouldn’t put your intern in front camera, why on earth would you consider putting an intern in front of something with a reach as potentially broad as a social media technology such as Twitter, Facebook, a blog, etc?

Now, I understand that most organizations face a substantial budget crisis and cash flow problem, especially higher education institutions (even more specifically, institutions within the state of Illinois).  However, it is time for us to rethink our overall marketing and advertising strategy and make it much more efficient to include important technologies that are appropriate for your target audience that have a much broader reach than perhaps a television interview, or a story on the front page of your local paper.

Much more to come on this subject!

February 21, 2010 Posted by | higher education, marketing, social media | , , , | Leave a comment

So much more than just a logo

A logo is really just a picture or letters. what is so much more important is whether your publics understand what the substance is behind the pretty picture. Do people know what your value proposition is? Do they know WII-FM (what’s in it for me)? What are the core values as an organization? Is any of this being communicated with your logo and promo materials tincluding your Web presence)?

I am encountering so many people and departments in higher education who think that all their success depends on their ability to have their own logo and graphic identity–specifically one that is separate and distinct from the university’s marks and identity. Putting a new pretty picture (logo) on coffee mugs, polos and memo pads is NOT going to cause your team to work in a cohesive fashion to serve customers. It is NOT going to magically welcome your target audience through your doors and want to use your services. It is NOT going to differentiate you and communicate your value proposition.

How are your working to build relationships? How are you engaging your audiences in meaningful conversations? Are you telling the stories of success often and everywhere? Are you findable in the communication spaces where your publics are spending time? Are you able to articulate your value proposition?

Jumbled LettersIf you can answer or address those questions, then jumping right to creating a logo and doing what people think is “branding” themselves will only serve to dilute the overall university brand and allow people to continue to ignore the important business questions.

I guess this happens because it’s easier to draw a pretty picture than tackle the tougher questions.

November 4, 2009 Posted by | higher education, marketing, reputation management | , , | Leave a comment