The Higher Ed Marketer
The Higher Ed Marketer

Episode 15 · 4 months ago

Dog Tours & Tik-Tok Sessions: Getting Creative with College Tours

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

COVID has hit higher education recruiting hard. People have spent so much time on Zoom calls that colleges and universities are having to get far more creative than just hosting a Zoom webinar in place of a college tour.

Pair that with the reduced travel for recruitment, ACT and SAT cancellations, and hesitancy to travel to institutions, it’s made building that admissions funnel incredibly difficult.

Which is why our conversation on this episode of The Higher Ed Marketer was so much fun. Collin Palmer is the Direct of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Toledo, and our conversation centered all around:

- How they’ve gotten creative around campus tours, instituting nighttime and dog-specific tours

- How they’ve kept the community involved in the admissions process

- Why they’re relying to behavioral data from more than traditional freshmen

- The different ways they’ve had to think outside of the box to maintain that admissions funnel

Know of a higher education marketing change agent you’d like to hear on the show? Does your university have an interesting story to be featured?

Connect with Bart Caylor or Troy Singer. If you’re not on LinkedIn, check out Caylor Solutions or Think Patented.

To hear more interviews like this one, subscribe to The Higher Ed Marketer on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your preferred podcast platform.
 

You were listening to the Higher EdMarketer, a podcast geared towards marketing professionals in highereducation. This show will tackle all sorts of questions related to studentrecruitment, donut relations, Marketing Trans new technologies and so much more.If you are looking for conversation centered around where the industry isgoing, this podcast is for you, let's get into the show, welcome to the High Red MarketerPodcast, where we highlight higher ed leaders that we admire and hopefullythen sharing their ideas, best practices and something inspiring.That's actionable that others can benefit from I'm troy singer and, asusual, with my co host Bart Cayler and together we're interviewing ColinPalmer today from the University of Toledo, I'm excited to welcome Colin Palmer,the director of Undergrad Durat mission at the University of Toledo, to theshow welcome Colin. Thank you, troy. Thank you bar Colin Palmer, director ofundergraduate admission at the University of Toledo, where I'mresponsible for the domestic recruitment of all undergraduatestudents, those in high school transfer, students, adults, online and military,very cool thanks thanks. So Much Colin, it's great to have you here. I knowthat when we talked kind of in our pre interview, you were doing you'retelling us about some of the very unique things that you universityToledo and we want to make sure we kind of highlight a couple of those thingsat because I think it'd be really beneficial for all the audience thatlistens. Tell me a little bit more about the story you shared with usabout the twilight tours that you're conducting yeah absolutely so next week.We're kicking off our first of three twilight. Tours twilight, meeting thatthey're held from six thirty to pm on our campus. What we're really hoping todo and what the idea spawn from was a conversation that we had had with somelocal school counsellors about how to encourage their students to visit theUniversity of Toledo's campus, because...

...many of those students think they knowwhat they need to know about the institution. I think many of us inhigher education run into that same problem with students in our own backyard, so we thought well, how do we make it different? How do we keep themengaged? How do we Pique their interest? And so we thought? Well, you know a lotof students are interested and taking the best photo that they can at theperfect time of day, whether it's for their snatch et, and they want to saythe difference on Step Shad, whether it's a tick tock, video, whatever itmight be. So we thought oh well golden hour, twilight hours, so we're doingthat and we're really just going behind the scenes. So, rather than a typicaladmissions presentation and a campus tour led by one of our current students,we decided to actually meet and begin the program at the parking lot right infront of our football stadium. We're going to have some food trucks we'regoing to take students into the Glass Bowl, which is the football stadium atthe University of Toledo, up to the roof of the press box, actually, whichwere very excited about to the fifth floor at the library to the hallways ofour university hall and just spaces around campus that were definitely nothitting on a on a typical tour, but also not spaces on campus, where theirparents, older, siblings, cousins and friends, might have checked out ontheir time on campus. That's really cool a couple things that I really likeabout what you're doing Colin is the idea that one you're kind of meetingthe students needs where they are. Certainly, I think, with Covin andeverything else I mean people are tired of being on zoom. A lot of studentshaven't been in school, necessarily but kind of changing things up a little bitto make it more interesting and and really like. You said, I think thattwilight time of the the instar perfect photo or whatever those might be,taking advantage of that and I'm sure to making it a little bit more. Like adestination party, as opposed to just oh I'm, going to go, do my college tourtoday? I think that's, I think that's a great idea and I love the fact that youguys are taking them kind of behind the...

...scenes. I mean I'm sure some of themthat I'm wondering I mean have you had anybody. That's said: Well, I'vealready done the regular tour, but can I come back for the track? Twilighttour we have actually, yes and- and we have school counselors interested inattending the visits as well, because we really wanted to use their abilityto connect with students to help advertise the events and so they'revery interested, and I think an added benefit of this to is it's beensomething different and unique for the staff in our office and it's really reenergize them in the work that they are doing to just kind of express theircreativity. Think outside of the box and, like you said earlier, not justanother zoom Weben ar that's. You know a quick overview of the University ofToledo, so we we're very energized, my colleague, who's actually kind of spearheading. All of this even referred to next week as our party week, that'sreally kind of how we, how we're viewing it in the office that's greatand I'm guessing that you've probably marketed a little bit differently thanyou would from your typical calm flow on hey virtual tork, or you now sign upfor the tour. Absolutely absolutely we've been far more active on socialmedia and and advertising. These tours were very fortunate at the Universityof Toledo to be right across the street from a residential neighborhood, and sowe've really urged the community to visit our campus and kind of see thebehind the scenes as well, because we know that how how the community feelsabout the institution directly affects our ability to engage and recruitrespective students, and so we want them to be involved in the process andlearn about Toledo and be ambassadors for the university. So the way thatwe've thought about who we want to attend and how we're going to encourageattendants as much different than a typical admission of ten, it's greattry. I think you had another question. Yes, that wasn't the only unique eventthat you're having. I think we also talked about a dog tour. So could youshare with us a little bit more about that? Yes, absolutely so, if you checkout the University of PETO's...

...undergraduate admission face book orand Sagram account about an hour before the recording, we posted our first dogin front of our university hall in one of the Bandanas that we purchased, itsays honorary admissions ambassador, and so what we're doing is invitingperspective students and again members of the community, to bring their dogsto campus, to do a lawn tour of the University of Toledo. So we'll stopoutside of the Student Union University Hall. The Glass Bell, as I mentionedearlier, the admissions building in Libby Hall and we're going to havecookies for humans and cookies for dogs. So we're very excited about that andagain just a fun and unique way to do something a little bit different, butalso bring people on campus and see the University of Toledo in a different waythan what they probably experienced in the past and because we're it's a longtour. You know also very ovid safe because we aren't going to need toenter any of the campus buildings or anything like that. So we're veryexcited about it. I think it's interesting, I mean you're, the youhave the second guest on our on our podcast. That has talked aboututilizing dogs, Butler University. I mean they have a. They have a pet comflow, but I think what's interesting- and we talked about this when we talkedto Christi Butler that students and families are you know, pets arecertainly a big part of their family and the fact that you guys arerecognizing that and including those members of the family in participatingin this decision to attend college. I think it strikes and strikes a chordthat people understand that you guys get them, and I don't know if you've, Idon't know, even even as you guys start to promote the dog tour, and I meanwhat kind of feedback are you getting from these perspective students, my mycolleague, who's, really spear heading. That effort is a passionate dogma and alot of the credit for really all of the credit for everything that we've donearound this idea goes to her and she also supervises our admissionambassadors right. So we're always...

...talking to them about ways to stayuniquely engaged with perspective students and pink outside of the box,and we're very empowered at Toledo and encouraged to not just stick with thestatus quo or do things that we've always always been doing, and if I wereto take a proposal to my boss or to the president and say hey, you know wethink we're just going to do the same thing that we did last year. That wouldnot be acceptable. That would not go overwell, and so we have to think about. What's new, what's unique and what'sdifferent, and how is that going to Pique the interest of a perspectivestudent and, as I mentioned earlier, you know, the University of Toledo is aregional institution with a national. You know recognition, but a lot of ourstudents come from Ohio and Michigan, but again they think many of them thatthey know a little bit more about to Leto than what they think with them,what they really do, and so we've thought about how do we prove otherwise,while also empowering them and teaching them about the institution? I love thefact that you guys are recognizing that there's there's an issue. You know acouple things. I don't, I think a lot of times. Schools might recognize it.You know we got a problem with that. But oh well, that's that's. That's ourlot in life type of thing, but I like the fact that you guys are saying. Well,we have a problem with that. What can we do about it to make it different?And you guys are being creative about that, and I probably helps a lot thatyou have administration. That is not risk adverse because I mean I'msure a lot of a lot of our listeners would be like man. I would love to beable to have the administrators say you know. No, we don't want you to do thesame thing. It did last year because a lot of administrator, I think, wouldsay well that's what I'm comfortable with and that's what I know, and so sothat's great. I'm really glad that that's working out and it's glad thatyou guys are taking advantage of that. So another question I have for you istell us a little bit about this behavioral data that we talked a littlebit about earlier. You know the idea of really being able to kind of look at data and look and seehow people are behaving, and then you know what me some of the idea of whatyour opinions and experiences and...

...really being able to utilize that foryour outreach for your admissions, especially the Undergrad d missions.Absolutely absolutely- and you know I think, when from an admissions directorperspective, we are concerned about the ability to generate inquiries, forexample, for our upcoming classes, because we've been severely inhibitedin our recruitment travel over the past Bennie months. There have ourchallenges created with building the top of your funnel due to the act andsat cancellations. So we're like well, we can still find names, we can stillgo out and search for names, and you know I think many of us are probablypartnering with more also partners. Venders use your wordinterchangeably than what we ever have before, but it's also very easy fromour perspective to be overwhelmed and not know, who's really doing what orwhat's different. And so what we're trying to do is build our funnel, butalso use our resources very strategically, as we think about youknow, re targeting paper, Click, advertising, direct mail advertising,gifts to admitted students, which is something that this year that we've nottypically done before and were using Behar engagement data to inform thestudents that should receive those. I think we all recognize- or we allprobably know on the higher inside that and even on the school counseling side,that encouraging a response is futile attimes you know receiving a response is, it seems to be less and less common,and so what we, what we really want to do and what the goal is to providerelevant and timely information to a student when they need it. That'sreally what we want to do that that's the goal, and so we're using behavioralengagement data to do that. We partner with capture at the University ofToledo, we've been long term capture partners. It's been a great opportunityfor us to learn from them and vice...

...versa, and really build some prettyadvanced models to show who are the students that benefit mostfrom our information sharing. How do we encourage students to invest in a visitto the University of Toledo? You know we have an a beautiful campus. Thereare thousands of beautiful campuses out there. I would put the University ofToledos up to any of those, but we need to get students here right,we're uniquely positioned an our south of Detroit but two hours from ClevelandColumbus, three hours from Cincinnati, and so it's it's kind of a convergencein north west, Ohio that we need to occur and we're using behavioralengagement data to really align our resources to encourage that great, andis that something that you are looking to expand? Because I mean one of thequestions I would have is that you know certainly some of the behavioral dataon the students I mean if you have behavior data on the families on theparents. On I mean. Certainly, we all know that MOM's cone of the big biggestinfluencer in decisions like this is that something you guys are looking athow to expand that behavioral data, because it seems like they're so muchcould be really gleaned from really understanding how students and familyare behaving around your brand yeah. I think one way we're looking to expandis just tracking and reviewing and utilizingbehavioral data for populations outside of the traditional freshman.Traditional freshmen are a little bit easier. You know they're morepredictable, but what we're interested in learning more about our onlinestudents. You know we're seeing a lot of peaked interest in one hundredpercent online degree programs at Toledo, which is probably not toosurprising, but we're also thinking about transfer students and we'veinvested heavily in the last year and a half in and in regional enrollmentmodel. So we have five regional Roman managers as opposed to zero. Eighteenmonths ago, and how do we engage more meaningfully with community collegestudents or...

...others in those communities to make theUniversity of Toledo and a viable option for them? Parents areinteresting. You know, I think all of us would love to know the the secretformula to collecting and utilizing parent data and what parents want tohear. I hear. Sometimes parents don't want to hear the sales bitch. They justwant to know about the next steps, but then I got sometimes Tommy Candyopposite right. You know you need to get the pair on board early on in orderto see or other important influences. So we're always thinking criticallyabout that and what those communication needs are. That's great, that's great,WE'LL! Try Now you've got our our typical question for Colin that we liketo finale and follow up with Yes, Colin, although you've been sogenerous, giving us the information that you have, we do ask one thing thateither something that's very intriguing that you've done or heard about thatyou think is worth sharing that others my benefit from if thereis, somethingthat fits that category. If you could share it now sure I'm trying to thinkof something outside of the twilight tours and the and the dog tour, becausefor us that's been one of the more I m out of the box initiatives that we'vehad. I have an idea, so one of the things when we were thinkingabout what our spring yield plan was going to be. You know we weren't goingto go with the traditional hotel ball room. You know, we didn't think that aDaven, buster's kind of thing was really going to be an opportunitybecause it was indoors. So what we did is we actually partnered with theUniversity of Toledo, Athletic Department and wrapped a tour of us. Sowe took a big charter bus and put an awesome wrap on it and we actually wentto Dayton, Cincinnati Columbus, Cleveland and here locally in Toledo,and we took a staff of people from admissions current students, residents,life and student involvement. We showed up at high schools solely for the factof celebrating their students. You know we encourage their counselors to reallyan opportunity for us to engage with...

...our admitted and confirmed students,but we wanted to talk to juniors. We wanted to say: Hey, you've done anamazing job. You know we would park in their parking lot for thirty minutesand we played corn hole. We had giant Jenga just to take a casual approach and acelebratory approach rather than a transactional approach, which is suchan easy thing to fall into during yield, because you're really looking forstudents to take a series of next steps, and so that bus was was great. It wasvery popular. We we also hosted evening programming at some outdoor shoppingcenters, so in Ohio, if you're familiar with Crocker Park and West Lake orAustin landing and Middletown polar shopping center in Columbus. That'sreally where we were we're, hoping to be and go to the communities, but alsothe communities to us in a way that was save and meaningful for students intheir and their influences. I love that, and it reminds me of a quote that I'mI'm a big fan of j bar and he wrote a book a couple years ago, called utilityand he really talks about being a resource for your audience rather thanyou know something else, and so one of the quotes in there is it's the peoplewho have success or the ones who inform people or engage with them rather thanthose who promote, and I love the fact that what you just described was youweren't on a bus tour to promote university to lead o necessarily, youwere out there to engage with your community to you know, celebrate thesuccess of the students to be present and B B in the communitiesin the shopping malls, and I think that's a little bit at the heart ofmaybe some of the ideas that you're talking about there and whether whetherit's a tour bus I mean some schools might say w L. I can't afford to rap Ito our bus. Well, it's not about wrapping a tour bus, it's about beingthere and being present with your audience and in your communities. Youknow I don't care if it's a tour bus, if you're you know utilizing an R V andyou're just out there, you know helping out. I think it's being engaged inbeing involved, so o Kudos to University of Toledo for for what youguys are doing, and it's been really...

...exciting to have you. Thank you verymuch. I appreciate it great thanks again Colin. If someonehad a question or wanted to contact you, what would be the best way for them todo so sure I tried to remain active andinterested in Linkin, so you can find me on Linkin and email or phone isperfectly fine as well, so all of that can be found on the University of tweedoffice of undergraduate admissions website. Thank you calling. You are definitelydoing amazing things at the University of Toledo bare. Are there any lastthoughts before we wrap this up? I think the only thing that I would kindof you know. Sometimes I like to point out some of the obvious, which isprobably not helpful, but you know it is what it is. I really think that alot of what Colin has talked about today is is kind of being willing tothink outside the box being willing to really focus on your audience andengage with them the way that they want to be engaged. You know I from thetwilight tourist to thinking the fact that you know students like to havetwilight time of being able to take those Selfis, those instar post, thosereally cool pictures. They are interested in. What's behind the sceneskind of what? What else can I get that? Maybe I can't get in a normal way,really try and then the whole idea of the dog tours and and understanding thebehavior of people in adapting yourself to them for the behavior and then eventhis idea of of being able to go on these tours with these with this raptbus? It's about the student, it's not about your school and I think that theuniversity toledos really kind of demonstrating that and living that out,and I think that's where success comes and that's where their success iscoming from is that you know it's not about drumming the beat of you know.You know beating the drum about your own school and you know making the caseand trying to make the argument of why you should go to university to Lidorather than X, Y Z, it's about being who you are and being present with themand building those relationships that Yourstrang people to you. So I againapplaud everything you guys are doing...

Colin, and I think that you know if Iwere to summarize the entire conversation that we've had up it'sbeing selfless and really being able to focus on the others, I think is wheresuccess is going to be Ed Bard. Thank you. The HIRAD MARKETERPODCAST is sponsored by calor solutions and education, marketing and brandingagency and by thing patented, a marketing execution, printing andmailing provider of high red solutions. On behalf of my co host Barkal, I'mtroy singer, thank you for joining us. You've been listening to the Higher EdMarketer to ensure that you never miss an episode subscribe to the show inyour favorite podcast player. If you were listening with ouplepodcast we'd love for you to leave a quick rating of the show, simply tapthe number of stars. You think the podcast deserves until next time. I.

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