Book Review

Review: The Enrollment Growth Playbook

I recently had the opportunity to review the new book, The Enrollment Growth Playbook: How to Launch, Market, & Grow Successful Online & On-Campus Programs, by Helix Education. This book is chock-full of actionable insights that can help any institution make significant strides to increase their enrollment.

Gone is the day of being all things to all people. Most colleges and universities have realized they need to have a niche to be successful in today’s crowded higher education marketplace. This book talks through defining goals, the importance of market research to determine potential growth opportunity areas, how to leverage technology and data to impact strategic decision-making, developing sound marketing strategies, and more.

As I’ve been saying for years, it is critical to think about and set goals before jumping to tools and tactics. So many tools make it so easy to just jump right in and try a bunch of things out, but without strong goals and a sound strategy, it’s a lot like throwing spaghetti on the cabinets to see what sticks.

Helix talks about the importance of Institution-wide change starting with strong leadership at the top. Basing decisions on market research and available data to then inform an effective marketing strategy comes down to delivering the “right message to the right student on the right channel at the right time, for the right price.” Easy peasy, right? Not without a strong measurement program and effectively establishing one voice through an integrated marketing program.

photo of inside the bookThe book has helpful worksheets, such as the Marketing Channel Contribution – a way to determine your optimal marketing mix by mapping out your current marketing channels, inquiry volume, cost-per-inquiry, enroll rate and cost-per enroll. If you haven’t already guessed, a strong measurement program to be able to track this and more is also key to the success of any growth strategy.

They go on further to talk about testing the strength of your enrollment funnel to see which touchpoints really are most effective and to further streamline the enrollment operation.

Throughout the book they highlight key tidbits with little notes in orange, as though I took my own highlighter to make my own notes. The book is super readable in far under an hour and is a must-have for everyone in the enrollment management field in higher education. I highly recommend reaching out to Helix and getting your copy today.

 

Tackling digital overload: Simplify & standardize

Are you overwhelmed by one or more inboxes? Is your todo list a bunch of post-it notes all over your desk? Do you have a pretty good organizational system but could use some efficiency fine tuning? Go read Bit Literacy. (Big thanks to Karine Joly for turning me on to this Friday.) I’m only six chapters in, and I’m already applying the author’s advice and practices. (Side note: This is the first book I’m reading on my iPad, as well as my first Kindle app book. I’m a fan already.)

I’ve become digitally overwhelmed and overloaded. I’m completely in love with my new job, but we sure do use a lot of different systems there. I’m adapting to a new way of managing my calendars (personal+work), contacts (personal+work), and email (work). In addition to these systems, I’ve been trying to integrate my todo list manager, Remember The Milk (still failing on that for work, but active user for personal stuff). Throw in that mix the following that I now use:

  • One paper notebook full of notes & scattered action items
  • Paper files in a desk drawer and in my commuter tote
  • network drive for department file sharing
  • network drive for personal files
  • myHome (portal) community groups for some committees / working groups (files+discussions)
  • activeCollab for web and recruitment marketing projects (project management status, discussions, files)
  • FileMaker Pro for print projects
  • Google wiki as a repository for some documentation and notes
  • Google docs
  • Dropbox

To add to this digital overload, there’s also messages coming at me via social media on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and via SMS. And, I’ve just started using Evernote as a test to see if this might help me organize. The jury is still out on that one.

It’s too much! I can’t remember where virtually anything is saved. I need the Mac’s “Spotlight” feature in my brain! I’m on a mission to simplify and standardize. Reading Bit Literacy is just step three. (Step one was identifying all of these items, step two was ordering a label maker and new file folders for work. Hey, it’s a process.) Once I feel more in control and organized personally, I’m going to attempt to take on these systems at work and see if there’s any way we can simplify and standardize as a group.

Reading this book has also been effective in helping me realize I’m not a total disaster. I actually have some really good organizational practices in place – I just got hit with a whole lot of change at once, and it’s piled up to the point that I’m digitally overwhelmed. Time to take control of all those bits.

Today’s success: I had an email induction ceremony to achieve personal inbox emptiness. I have only one message in my personal inbox that requires me to make a decision on tonight. I’ve never seen my inbox this size. Step two – my work account. Tomorrow.

I think this could be an interesting process, and I’m going to try to keep up with documenting my personal progress with this effort here. I’m always on the lookout for new tools that will help me simplify and be more efficient. I’ve heard lots about GTD and Things. I’ve also read and watched a video about goodtodo.com, which was developed by the author of Bit Literacy. I’m actually not convinced to switch to that, as Remember the Milk has been working just fine for me — it’s integrating the work stuff and keeping track of who I delegate certain tasks too that I don’t have a good process for yet. (Delegation & having a “someday” list are two features I wish Remember the Milk would implement.)

How do you handle digital overload? What tools and processes do you have in place to not let the bits overwhelm you?

eBook Review: The eduStyle Guide to Usable Higher-Ed Homepage Design

As a team leader of an upcoming redesign project, The eduStyle Guide to Usable Higher-Ed Homepage Design was very useful to me. My favorite section: Recommendations. I got more take aways and ideas of what to do (and what not to do) from that one section of every university’s review than anything else in the entire book. I don’t necessarily agree with all of their recommendations – but was convinced of their perspective and credence established based on most other comments. (Cornell – “groundbreaking design?”)

photo of the edustyle bookIt’s clever to break down universities with their pertinent stats to give their page a bit of context — the size of their internal community, where they physically reside in the country, who their primary competitors may be, etc.

Pet peeve throughout the book: URLs that end in .com/.edu, etc. should not have a trailing slash at the end.
Wrong: www.doteduguru.com/
Right: www.doteduguru.com
edustylebook180x150

A wide variety of design implementations are thoroughly reviewed and explored. It gave me a great synopsis of the types of features I’d like to incorporate into our redesign, and visual ideas of how to accomplish them. I was convinced of design styles to stay away from (low contrast links with the background color behind them) and that RSS icons can and should be incorporated (along with the being able to subscribe to the feed within the browser location bar – not just the icons).

Can you get most of this info on the edustyle.net site? Mostly. But, it wouldn’t be as concise as a 95 page handy guide at your finger tips with an easy to read/reference format – especially the Positives & Recommendations section after each home page screen shot. (Ok, so the site does that too – but not all of the comments are written with such care and professionalism, and sometimes turn into a conversation/debate.)

If you’re going through an upcoming redesign/refresh, are new to higher ed, or are looking for ammunition to clean up your home page and/or add new features, buy it. Read it. It’s worth it.