The Higher Ed Marketer
The Higher Ed Marketer

Episode 6 · 1 year ago

Building Stronger Relationships Using Data w/ JP Spagnolo


Marketing revolves around relationships. And the best way to strengthen those relationships and connect with prospects on a deeper level is through data.

In this episode, JP Spagnolo, VP of Strategic Enrollment Management and Marketing at Capital University, joins the podcast to share how building relationships through data helps craft clear, compelling, and resonant marketing messages.

Some topics that were covered:

- 2 core elements of marketing

- The importance of data to any marketing strategy

- Being more precise when communicating needs to third-party vendors

Want to reach out to JP Spagnolo?

- Send him an email

- Reach out on LinkedIn

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 are listening to the Higher Ed Marketer, a podcast geared towards marketing professionals in higher education. This show will tackle all sorts of questions related to student recruitment, don't a relations, marketing trends, new technologies and so much more. If you are looking for conversations centered around where the industry is going, this podcast is for you. Let's get into the show. Welcome to the High Ed Marketer podcast, where we explore insights and ideas by high reed marketers for Higher Ed Marketers. My name is Troye singer and I'm here with my cohost, Bart Kaylor. And Bart, we are five episodes in. What are your thoughts? You know, it's been quite a ride and it's been a blessing to be able to just learn so much from all the different guests we've had. I mean, it's a it's been a journey and I'm excited that we're going to continue that journey and, you know, I think it's all the more important that we recognize it. You know, as Higher Ed marketers what we're not in it alone and we have so much to learn from one another. So true from the very beginning, one of our goals was to put higher ed marketers and highlight them, highlight relatable things that they are doing so others can learn from them. And you have some history with our guests today. So who are we chatting with? What we're going to be talking with? JP SPAGNALO. He is the vice president of enrollment and marketing at capital Universe in Columbus Ohio, and he and I've worked together before and some of his past places at University of St Francis and and Fort Wayne and I've gotten a no JP very well and he's a great guy. He has a lot of interesting stories to tell and it's interesting that he's kind of started off in the you know, the missions department as as an admissions counselor and then to grow see him grow along the way, and I was I was around when he was working on his doctor to kind of arrive at being the vice president for enrollment in marketing. It's a great story. He's got some some really fascinating aspects to tell us about. Great and with that said, let's bring him in. I'm excited to welcome JP speck no loo, vice president is strategic and rollment management in marketing at Kapital University, to the High Ed Marketer podcast. Thank you for joining us to day, JP. Oh, you're welcome. I'm very happy to be here, JP. We're going to get into a lot of your journey going from dated professional to a marketing professional and high and now how you marry those together to half the success you have at capital. But before you do that, can you give us some little bit of your personal life, maybe one or two aspects that people might not know about you and cannot see in your linkedin profile? Sure, I mean it's probably not a big shocker, but I'm a family guy, so you know I've got a wife and three children. They mean the world to me and anytime I'm not doing with this work related stuff, we do everything we can to make sure we're connect and having a great time as a family and going out and doing the things we enjoy together. That's great. Thanks. JP. It's great to have you on the podcast and our listeners should know that you're not known each other for several years now and have done some work together, and so one of the things that as I was thinking about guests on this podcast, I remember our conversation you and I had when you were in the midst of your Doctor Program and I'm just curious about the growth of your career. I mean I've been around for part of that, and just tell me a little bit about how you get started in your path to becoming the vice president of enrollment, of marketing at a capital. Didn't start out there where, so tell me Atle bit about that. Sure. So I think for me my path started actually clear back when I was in my undergraduate experience right at my Alma Mater and in my undergraduate program I had a different path that I thought I was going to do. I thought I was going to be a child point therapist and as I got towards the end of my senior year, I recognize that it wasn't the right thing for me. But you know, I also had been involved as a student leader and gotten wellknown across campus as being somebody that cared about the institution and was very committed to it, and I got an opportunity to start off in a program there at the university as a coordinator for a mentoring program. So after I graduated...

I started in this role of being a coordinator for a mentor program that really helped first year students connect to the campus through having junior and senior mentors paired with faculty members to help teach their first year experience course. I think you know that's that's where I started. I started off in this student services type path within higher education, trying to be, you know, connected to students and along the path there, and we've talked about this and telling the story that, you know, one point in time the institution decided that orientation, you know, something that such a relational type of thing, was better served online. And this is queer back in the two thousand range. So you got to imagine, you what an orientation in two thousand online was like. You know, that's leading web pages that are just loaded, bitter static. You know, there wasn't really a lot of video placement and you know, it just didn't connect well with people. And then after that took place, it was the first year at this institution in a number of years that they didn't have growth when they switched over to this online orientation and you know, they just couldn't quite figure out what when wrong. And the Dina Students, he kind of had this feeling that it really had to do with that relationship and that connecting and I think you hear that a lot, probably throughout our podcast to day, that I really do believe marketing is so relational. Everything that we do is relational. And as that was taking place, and that took place, he asked who would be willing to reset this orientation? Let's get back to doing a traditional orientation, and I think for whatever reason my hand got raised and or I was a volunt old and not quite sure how to express that, but I decided to look at this orientation stuff and the first thing I did is I start asking how do we communicate with people? And that was really, quite frankly, what moved me on this path, I think, and asking that question, I started asking what is it that we're doing to let students know about orientation, and so I started asking about the data behind it and I start asking questions about how many people are opening up our emails and how many people are connecting communicating with us, and essentially that really read to this point where no one had really paid attention to those data points. So I was able to start looking at it and say, you know, not only can we create a new orientation, but we really can get people excited to come and be a part of this relationship and really enjoy the campus community. And as I did that, it kind of expanded from there. Wasn't just about getting people the orientation, which we were able to next year have another growth here at the institution. The yield went right back up again once we put a good orientation into place. But they started recognizing that I was asking all these questions about communication and connecting with students and that really led to my next role within the institution, which became the director of enrollment marketing at that institution. And so at that point in time I started to kind of shift and change my balance and started working with the recruitment side of the House, obviously as a director of enrollment marketing, and really worked with the recruiters, but I didn't work with the rest of the admissions areas. So at the same time I wasn't in charge of marketing for the institution, but I was a steward over marketing for, you know, the enrollment management and everything that was going on there. And from there I kind of you know, had opportunities that were presented to me. I'd came the director of admissions at the University of St Francis and Port Wayne, Indiana, and during my tenure there, I had some opportunities for growth and essentially became the associate vice president for enrollment management. And during those time frames there were moments where I was kind of helping to stewardship marketing and there were times where I was, you know, being a partner with others who were leading the marketing elements of that institution. And then after my time at St Francis, I came to Capital University and when I first game to Capital University I came in the role of Vice President for strategic and Roman management, and then, after I'd been doing that for a number of years, they had a central marketing department with a different vice president, but they had made the determination that it was time to consolidate those two things together. So now I have that opportunity to directly work with both the inrollment management and the marketing elements of the campus community. So that's kind of my background. It's kind of come full circle. I mean the whole idea that, you know, why you didn't necessarily have a marketing degree or what some people would kind of consider, you know, the path to marketing of creative or business design or other things like that. I think it's fascinating to me that just by asking the questions, asking the questions, how are we communicating? How are we doing this? Why are we doing it this way? That's such a big assence of what marketing is all about and I think that's pretty fascinating in your story, and... know it's what's it been like, I guess, to kind of move it to that position now that you have the ultimate responsibility for all the marketing work? I mean you had different roles of responsibility at different institutions, but but now it's kind of like all that rolls up underneath you. I what does that look like, because I know a lot of times peers, especially sitting at the cabinet level position, sometimes peers, I think, often see marketing is a little bit more subjective than maybe objective. How does that how does that work, and how do you navigate some of that? You know, and I kind of alluded to this a little bit earlier, but you know, I truly believe marketing starts in a couple of core things. One is understanding your messages right, but the messages are all about building relationships, right. The intent is to be able to strengthen the relationships with the perspective students, if that's the target market you're working with. In my role, you know, I serve both the prospective student audience as well as the other elements of marketing on campus, and in every one of those places it's about making sure that you have strong relationships and being able to help people understand and to learn from other people what it is that we're trying to do to create the right messages right and so I think that's really important. I'd say another part of it is recognizing where your strengths are and also knowing where you need to have partners and have other people take the weight and, you know, make sure that they are able to express, you know, what it is that they bring the table, and so, you know, I would say in the role that I have, a lot of it is that ability to really recognize what the needs are and make sure that we're organizing in a way that we're using the strengths of those around us to be able to craft our message in a clear and concise manner to the different audiences that we're trying to do that with. So we've talked about this a lot of times. I think to bark both you and I over the years that that does mean in a role like this, sometimes you need to outsource some of those elements. You need to work with partners that are outside of your institution to be able to bring in the expertise to make sure that the message that you're creating really resonates with the audience that you're trying to build that relationship with. And that goes the same for internally within a campus community as well. So you know, when you're working with other members of a cabinet or if you're working with faculty members and different departments, at the end of the day, being able to build a relationship with them, understand their needs and make sure that you get the right expert teas to help support you know what it is they're trying to accomplish. You'll find a lot of success in doing it that way. And listening to you, I hear a lot of you talk about strings to talk about communication, you talk about engaging different people that are working with you and working beneath you. Can you give us a couple of examples of how that has benefited you and helped you on your journey? Absolutely, you know, there are so many different times throughout my career where it's been sitting down with a conversation and somebody else and then, through that connecting and having that conversation, were able to really, you know, move something forward. That's that's important. I'm trying to come up with a quick, specific example, but but there's not one that's jumping right into my mind right off the bat here. But having said that, you know, I do know that these moments that we have connecting with each other make a big difference in our ability to, you know, make things happen within an organization. That's great. I know that, JP, when we did some work together at University of St Francis, I know that. You know, you mentioned that you were kind of the director of admissions at that time and you were working as part of a team that I would have been asked to come in as a part of through various means. I know when we kind of talked prior to the the podcast, you know you kind of kind of notice some things when you came into the university that that from from a marketing perspective, that needed to change. And it might be the case for a lot of our schools that are listening where they might not be aware of maybe some of the things that need to be changed because they're so focused on brand or so focused on the way that trying to keep a consistency. Tell us a little bit about what that story was like and how that impacted the enrollment. Yeah, so when I first came to the University of St Francis, one of the challenges they had is that they really weren't clear on how they wanted to execute marketing for the whole institution. They had for a number of years been working with a third party company as the marketing team for the entire institution. There wasn't anybody on campus as a point person for marketing. Instead, the different department heads,...

...chairs, deans, the enrollment management team, we all would work through this third party company. That helped to kind of make sure that we were staying on brand and to support us in our marketing needs. And you know, I think there were reasons that they were doing it when I came to the institution, but over time it wasn't really lining up with the institutions needs to really move to the next level. And a real specific example in the admission side of things. When I came there they were doing everything other than the view book itself in just one color print, it was all blue. Everything was blue with shades of blue, but they didn't have, you know, for color pieces of material that we're going out there, and I think some of that was to save some money, but I think some of that was just that there wasn't quite a connection, a deep enough connection, between that Third Party Company and the institution. There were some gaps in the communication about what was necessary in the needs and I would say that one of the things that happened in that process is that, coming into that role, I really wanted to make sure that we did the best we could within the way we are structured, and so I immediately kind of spent some time with that company and one of the things we did is we talked about it from beginning and said we really need to make this brand come up into, you know, today's type of style and market. We need to get this really at a different level. And the way we did that as we've actually had this really productive meeting where we came together and before the meeting I actually went around and found a whole bunch of, I would just say, natural design assets from other types of companies that were out there that we're hitting our youth in the target market we're trying to accomplish. So I'd gone to the mall and I picked up a few different catalogs from places like Ambercrombie and Fitch was popular at the time, the buckle. There are a couple other ones that were popular, and I brought him in there and said, if this is the market we're trying to get to, we can't be like these blue smurf pieces of paper any longer. We really need to get ourselves to a place that really communicates and connects with them and we need to take some design elements from what's happening right now and what they're experiencing in the things that are important to them. And in that moment it was almost like it was a relief, because I think the agency that we were working with, they also work feeling kind of frustrated in the way that our brand in design had been and the communication was what was lacking back and forth. But then being able to build those relationships, I go back that so many times, and being able to communicate clearly on what the needs are and then, I think in that moment, even giving some visual examples of what we were trying to envision really change things around and we were able to get a whole new brand and fill look for the institution and it made us really get to a different place. And then, as that kind of progressed over time, we ended up, as an institution, determining that was best for us to have an internal marketing department and in my role I got to be very close and work with the vice president from marketing there and we had those type of same conversations on a regular basis. So that would be one of those times where, you know, I was kind of next to the main marketing team, not directly, you know, in charge of a marketing team. But the important part in all of it was a communication. An important part in all of it was really making sure that we were, you know, working towards the same goals and that we were able to open up our minds of communication in the way that we were very productive and the things that we're making as a the outcomes of the work that we're working on. Thank you for sharing that story, JP and I think that's a story that a lot of higher ed marketers probably have some commonalities with, since we know that Higher Ed Marketing it's known for beings being slower to innovation, and one of the reasons that attracted us to you and wanted to have you on the podcast is around your data background. So we'd like to get back to your roots and ask you how do you see data impacting marketing and enrollment going forward? Yeah, so that's a really great question. And now, and I think the data is really one of the more important aspects of marketing. You know, if you don't have any way to assess what you're doing, it's not really helping you in any way of being able to improve the work from where you're at to where you want to go. And so, you know, we talked about data and almost everything that we do and in enrollment management, the reality is everything we do is based on data, even if it's just that basic funnel data. But if you want to really expound upon that, it gives you an opportunity to be much more efficient in the way that you communicate with others. And when you think about it in terms of marketing, there are so many different data points...

...that can help you to be more successful in the type of marketing you know, plans that you create and the way that you actually utilize the different types of ways to communicate with outside audiences, and so whether that's understanding how your social media is connecting with the audiences out there, what things seem to be working, what things are not working in terms of looking at the relevant data to it, or whether you're looking at other things like finding a way to communicate your scholarships, there's data that can help support that and one thing, you know, I'd like to share with you as a good example of utilizing data kind of ties some of the enrollment management theory into the marketing. And when I first came to Capital University, we recognize that one of our points of challenge in our recruitment, in our enrollment funnel was attracting the student body or the people that we wanted to come to campus that weren't Pale eligible. You know, that they were at a point where they didn't receive any additional resources from the federal government or the state and they also weren't at a point where they were wealthy enough that they could just write a check to come to college. And so as we're looking at our scholarshipping in our models, we were saying, what's the best way for us to really support this group and the data actually made us kind of really recognize which proportion of our audience we needed to connect with and in looking at that data we thought it about what do we do well at capital that would also be able to help them under stand that there are scholarships available to them that work with them. We came up with this great concept. It was called the good guarantee, and the good guarantee is essentially if a student whose parent works in a nonprofit or a public service type of a role chooses to come to capital university, they will never pay more than fifty percent in tuition, which is a pretty simple message. But it was data informed. It was built out of our own data and then, as we started thinking about that, we took it another step. It wasn't just about a scholarship, but the reason we called it a good guarantee is because it was about the institution and our old history in our mission has always been about preparing people to help them to go out into the world and to get a better place, and if you look at some of our earliest mission statements there are references to this idea of for the greater good and helping people to prepare for the betterment of society, and this greater good concept really came together for us. And so when we actually put this all together from a marketing perspective, really what we talked about was a mission identity thing, even though it was an intentionally built out of a data informed decision, and it really resonated with that audience. We had students that came to us that next year specifically in that area, where we hadn't had them come in the past. They hadn't yielded in the past at the same level, and I think a lot of that came from the very fact that that wasn't just a scholarship, but it was a scholarship, and even that was a scholarship that was very helpful to them. It helped them understand the value of the institution and who we are and it was very mission oriented and that was all tied together in some really good marketing elements that we put together and being able to express what the good guarantee was all about and having that clear marketing message tied to something that was data informed. I think is a great example of where, you know, marketing can really be lifted when you're thinking about things from a data perspective. So I'd say that's one example of it. Another example of it is really making sure that your systems are working in a way that you can actually leverage them to communicate and to be better. I know that you every person, you've probably talked to him these podcasts. There's some level where it gets to a point of talking about the crm right and how are you having that relationship management system? It's helping people to connect and to be able to, you know, work through the process of getting to know a university. And the reality is, if you really build your CR in the right way, then it really does provide so many additional advantages to being able to craft and create the right messages and, again, to know who's listening, who's responding, who's looking at them, and get them engaged again. And I think you know that's really the points where data really can be very consistent. And so knowing how to do that, choosing a system that's the right type of system, setting it up in a way that you can extract that data and then using that data to develop the messages moving forward really or very powerful ways to connect with your audience and to really make a marketing team go from, you know, a functional team to a highly functional... right and changing it to another level. And then, if you're working with outside partners and vendors, you can actually talk to them about what your needs are and what your gaps are. So you're not just going out there and saying we have a problem fixed our marketing, but you actually can go and talk about here's what we're challenged in the marketing here's the areas that we need to have a little more help and strength. Can you help us to figure out why we can't get our social media where we need to go, for example, or can you help us in some other former manner and making sure that this particular message that we've been developing has more interest and people look at it and really connect it back to the institution? So I know, when I think about the date of thing, I think it's so important and there's so many different ways. I could tell other stories about it, but I think those are some good examples of really sharing how data really can help lift and help support a person that's really trying to make sure their marketing messages resume. And it does tie back to the very beginning story. I mean the reality, I got down this path because looking at those data points and I didn't know how we're communicating and when I was looking at and back then, what I didn't really share earlier in the podcast is that the open rate on it was so businally low on the way that we're communicating the students at that time frame. But that's why I felt like we had to change the messages to get them even interested to coming to orientation. So there's a connection in my entire career that comes around this data question, for sure. Well, I certainly could talk about urns and data all the time and you never have to apologize for speaking about it. Yes, we talked about crns and we talk about data with other guests, but the way you articulated it, with the passion and the expertise, that was a wonderful story and that's probably reason why you've been so successful in your career. Also wanted to touch on the good guarantee. I think that was an exemplary example of how you position data and position things that were at capital university and put a great spin on it and went to the community with it with much success. I think this next question, which I usually end with, is probably selfish caause you gave me two great examples. But we always like to end by asking if there is one thought, one specific thing that you could leave before we close that other marketers can take right away, either an idea or an insight, something that's applicable. Yeah, what would that be? So that's a great question and I think the very first part of this he always have to be looking at at what's happening and how people are consuming information and really try to be cutting edge. I mean you have to take risks, we have to try a few things sometimes and not all of them are going to work. But one example I'd give that we've done in recent past to capital university is we developed a cap chat podcast. So not on like what you're doing right here right. I mean you're connecting with your audience through this medium of podcasts, and we did the same thing. It was called the cap chat podcast and the design of it and intent of it was really to help with both the student and the parents in that yielding processes they're making that final decision to come to campus and really opening up the campus in a way where they could have more experiences through the storytelling of our current students of our faculty, Our staff are coaches and athletics, and so we created a two series, a two season series of podcasts. In the first season we kind of hit up some of the initial things that you normally would expect to hit from an enrollment management we talked about financial aid and understanding financial aid better. We talked about athletics and what it's like to be a d three athlete because we're dthree campus. We talked about some other really good topics or pertinent to our audience, but really helping him see that next layer and really connect with people that are living that with us. And then when we went from there into the next season, we started realizing all the other types of things that we could really help to connect the community that were sometimes hard to get out in short messages, right and emails and other things that we were utilizing to connect with our audiences. It's not the same medium and so you know, I think in using that cap chat podcast it allowed for our institution to connect with a different way with our audience and it did help us. I think at the end of the day, the day to reflects that we had good conversion Yo grads of that came out of those two years of building that we've continued to see improvement in that particular air of an our enrollment funnel. I don't think it's the...

...sole thing that's helped us get there, but I do think that it definitely was one factor that was a driving variable or driving force that helped us to get there. So, you know, I would say take risks, be innovative, think about what's happening in the world, pay attention. The example that I gave right now is, you know, if you can get the right group of people together and do something like a podcast, it gives a whole different Lens and Larry a way for you to tell your story, and so that's one that I share with you for today. Thank you, dynamic response. TP. If someone wanted to reach you, how would they best do that? Sure the easiest way to reach me is we just connect to me through my capital communication channels, my emails, JP SPAGNOLO at capital Edu. That's probably the easiest way to reach me. You could go to the website and search me within the directory. I'd be right there and you know, I welcome it. You know, I do believe that that's the seven a few times thround. It relationship building makes us successful. So if there's anybody out there listening that would feel like it would be beneficial to have a conversation about anything we talked about today, you know I'm open and I'd love to be, you know, able to build that network with you. So thanks for asking about that for sure. Well again. Thank you, JP and for everyone else. That ends another higher end marketing podcast which is sponsored by Kabo Solutions and Education Marketing Brandy Agency and by think patent did a marketing execution, printing and mailing provider of highate solutions. On behalf of my cohost Bart Taylor, I'm Troye singer. Thank you for joining us. You've been listening to the Higher Ed Marketer. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you're listening with apple PODCASTS, we'd love for you to leave a quick rating of the show. Simply tap the number of stars you think the podcast deserves. Until next time,.

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