Scott Jeffe: Hello, my name is Scott Jeffe. I’m senior director of Aslanian Market Research here at EducationDynamics. I’d like to thank you for joining me for another spotlight session, where I introduce you to speakers from the Conference on Adult Learner Enrollment Management, CALEM 2017, which will take place in Denver on April 5th through 7th. Joining me today is Shannon Snow, head of industry for education at Google. This year, Shannon’s session at CALEM titled “Win Hearts, Minds, and Enrollments with Digital” will explore the latest trends from Google’s education team and how you can use digital marketing to help the right prospective students choose you. Thank you so much for joining me today, Shannon. I know it’s early out there, so I appreciate it.
Shannon Snow: Thanks for having me, Scott. As the saying goes, “If you win the morning, you win the day.” But I’ll have to admit, coffee helps.
Scott Jeffe: Very good. Coffee, coffee, coffee. Alright, well let’s jump right in. I’m sure our viewers want to learn more about this fascinating session at CALEM, so here’s my first question: Why do you feel it’s such an important topic to discuss digital marketing at CALEM?
Shannon Snow: Well, the average American spends a day and a half out of every week on digital media, so just thinking about that. We search the web, we connect with family and friends, we watch our favorite videos. In a lot of ways, we’re living our lives online. So, for schools, I think it’s really more important than ever to make digital the center of our marketing strategy if you really want to make sure you’re reaching, connecting, and enrolling the right students.
Scott Jeffe: So excellently true. Okay, what is the biggest change you are seeing at Google in the digital behavior of prospective students in recent times?
Shannon Snow: A couple things, actually. So, one of the biggest trends we’re seeing is that students are relying so heavily on digital resources to make informed decisions about going to school, so our latest Google research study found that 86 percent of prospective students said digital resources played an important role in their education research process. So, that’s double the number that said admissions counselors were important and almost triple the number of family and friends. So, when these students do reach out to admissions or show up on campus, they’re more informed than ever before. The other big shift that we’re seeing is what students are actually searching for. So, in 2006, the top question regarding education when it was typed into Google was “what to bring to college.” If we fast-forward to 2016, the top question is “how to pay for college.” We’re also seeing an increase in searches for specific programs and degrees versus college names. So, how you answer those questions and your online presence can make a really big difference in getting a potential student to consider and choose your school.
Scott Jeffe: That is pretty amazing. I may have mentioned to you in a conversation: in our most recent research of 2016 Online Students that have actually enrolled, we found—it seemed astounding to me—somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 percent of online students indicated that not only they did some of their search on mobile, but they’ve completed some of their work on a mobile device. Isn’t that something?
Shannon Snow: Absolutely, and we’re seeing that as well, really this end-to-end of research, enroll, apply, and potentially even do coursework on mobile. It’s really amazing.
Scott Jeffe: Exactly. So, anyway, back to the script. Are there any digital channels that seem to be more effective than others?
Shannon Snow: Yeah, I mean it’s a great question. Honestly, I think it’s less about which digital channel is most effective, and more about what digital channel is effective for your specific goals. So, for example, if you want to build awareness for a new degree program, you might think about online video, which is seeing explosive growth right now, but, speaking of mobiles, if you’re looking to drive consideration as students compare your programs with competitors, it might be important to look at your mobile strategy as students are often researching and comparing on the go. For driving leads and enrollments from prospective students ready to take that next step, search continues to be a powerful and really efficient tool.
Scott Jeffe: Absolutely. So my last question for you: What do you believe are some untapped digital opportunities for institutions to capture the hearts and minds and enrollments of prospective students?
Shannon Snow: Well, Scott, I think it all comes back to how we started the interview, which is “be early.” The average prospective student is considering four schools or less, and that consideration set is determined very early in their decision-making process. Seventy-five percent of students actually never consider options beyond their initial set, so when I talk to schools about their marketing mix, I find a lot of times they’re paying a lot of attention to how they capture the existing interest for their school and less attention on how they educate students on program offerings so they can get into that consideration set. I think there’s a lot of opportunity to be had for schools that think critically about how to engage early, build a relationship with students through their decision-making journey, and, ultimately, win that enrollment.
Scott Jeffe: That’s great. Well, look, I thank you for taking the time out today to answer some questions this morning, Shannon. And I am really looking forward to the entire presentation at CALEM. For everybody out there, I will remind you again, CALEM will take place in Denver, Colorado, on April 5th through 7th. We look forward to seeing you there. If you’d like more information on the program, please check out our website, which is www.calemconference.org. You will find a list of our 28 speakers and information on almost all of the sessions that will be taking place. Again, Shannon, thanks so much, and we’ll see you in Denver.
Shannon Snow: Thanks, Scott.