The Higher Ed Marketer
The Higher Ed Marketer

Episode 6 · 6 months 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 were listening to the Higher EdMarketer, a podcast geared towards marketing professionals in highereducation. This show will tackle all sorts of questions related to student,recraitment, donut relations, marketing, trans new technologies and so much more.If you are looking for conversations centered around where the industry isgoing, this podcast is for you, let's get into the show, welcome to a highred marketer podcast,where we explore insights and ideas by high red marketers for higeridmarketers. My name is troyc singer and I'm here with my cohost Bard, Kaylorand Bart. We are five episodes in what are your thoughts. You know it's beenquite a ride and it's been a blessing to be able to just learn so much fromall the different guests. We've had I mean it's, it's been a journey and I'mexcited that we're going to continue that journey and you know I think it'sall the more important that we recognize that you know as high redmarketers whanot we're not in it alone, and we have so much to learn from oneanother. So true from the very beginning, one of our goals was to puthigher Ed, marketers and highlike them highlight relatable things that theyare doing so others can learn from them, and you have some history with ourguests today. So who are we chatting with what we're going to be talkingwith JP SPAGNALO? He is the vice president of enrolment and marketing atCapital University in Columbus, Ohio, and he and I h've, worked togetherbefore and some of his past places at the University of snt, Francis in FortWayne and I've gotten to knowjp very well and he's a great guy. He has a lotof interesting stories to tell and it's interesting that he's kind of startedoff in the you know in the missions department, as as an emissionscounselor and then to grow, see him grow along the way, and I was I wasaround when he was working on his doctorate to kind of arrive at beingthe vice president for in Roman and marking. It's a great story and he'sgot some some really fascinating aspects to tell us about great, andwith that said, let's bring him in. I'm excited to welcome JP SPACNOLO.Vice President is strategic, an Rorol with management in marketing thatCapital University to the highred marketer podcast. Thank you for joingus to DAYJP. Oh Wou're. Welcome, I'm very happy to be here JP we're going toget into a lot of your journey, going from a dated professional to amarketing professional hiered. Now how you marry those together to have thesuccess you have at capital, but before you do that, can you give us ome littlebit of your personal life, maybe one or two aspects that people might not knowabout you and cannot see in your lengthd in profile. Sure I mean it'sprobably not a big shocker, but I'm a family guy. So you know I've got a wifeand three children. They mean the world to me and anytime, I'm not dealing withthis work related stuff. We do everything we can to make sure we'reconnecting having a great time as a family and going out and doing ththings we enjoy together. That's great thanks, JP, it's great to have you onthe podcast and our listeners should know that younote known each other forseveral years now and have done some work together, and so one of the thingsthat, as I was thinking about guests on this podcast, I remember ourconversation you and I had when you were in the midst of your DoctorProgram and I'm just curious about the growth of your career. I mean I've beenaround R for part of that, and just tell me a little bit about how you gotstarted on your path to becoming vice president in Roman and marketingcapital didn't start out. There were soon tell me littl bit about that sure.So I think for me my path started actually quearback. When I was in myundergraduate experience right at my Homa moder and in my undergraduateprogram I had a different path that I thought I was going to do. I thought Iwas going to be a childplaye therapist and, as I got towards the end of mysenior year, I recognized that it wasn't the right thing for me, but youknow I also had been involved as a student leader and had gotten wellknown across Campusas, being somebody that cared about the institution andwas very committed to it, and I got an opportunity to start off in a programthere at the university as a coordinator for a mentoring program. Soafter I graduated, I started in this...

...role of being a cordinator for mentraprogram that really helped. First year, students connect to the campus throughhaving junior and senior mentors para it faculty members to help teach theirfirst year. Experience course, I think you know th t, that's where I started.I started off in the student services type path within higher educationtrying to be. You know, connected to students and along the path there. Nd Nwe've talked about this and telling the story that you know at one point intime the institution decided that orientation. You know something thatsuch a relational type of thing was better served online, and this is queerback in the two thousand range. So you got to imagine you wout an orientationin two thousand online was like you know, that's lead webpages that arejust moaded that are static. You know there wasn't really a lot of videopacement and you know it just didn't connect well with people, and thenafter that took place. It was the first year at this institution in a number ofyears that they didn't have growth when they switched over to this onmineorientation, and you know they just couldn't quite figure out what wentwrong and the Dita students he kind of had this feeling that it really had todo with that relationship in that connecting- and I think you' hear thata lot, probably throughout our podcast today- that I really do believemarketing is so relational. Everything that we do is relational and N as thatwas taking place and that took pace he asked who would be willing to resetthis orientation. Let's get back to doing a a traditional orientation and Ithink, for whatever reason, my hand got raised N or I was a voluntold- I'm notquite sure how to express that. But I decided to look at this orientationstuff and the first thing I did is I started asking: How do we communicatewith people, and that was really quite frankly, what moved me on this path? Ithink and asking that question I started asking: What is it that we'redoing to let students know about orientation, and so I started askingabout the data behind it, and I started asking questions about how many peopleare opening up our emails and how many people are connecting ind communicatingwith us and essentially that really read to this point, where no one hadreally paid attention to those data points. So I was able to start lookingat it and say you know: not only can we create a new orientation, but we reallycan get people excited to come and be a part of this relationship and reallyenjoy the campus community and, as I did, that it kind of expanded fromthere. It wasn't just about getting people. The orientation which we wereable to next year have another growth here at the institution, the yieldWoeln't right back up again, once we put a good orientation into place, butthey started recognizing that I was asking all these questions aboutcommunication and connecting with students and that really led to my nextrolel within the institution which became the director of an molmentmarketing at that institution. And so at that point in time I started to kindof shift and change my balance and started working with the recruitmentside of the House, obviously as a director on Rollan marketing and reallyworked with the recruiters, but I didn't work with the rest of theadmissions area. So at the same time, I wasn't in charge of marketing for theinstitution, but I was the steward over marketing, for you know the enrolmantmanagement and everything that was going on there and from there I kind ofyou know, had opportunities that were presented to me. I became the directorof admissions at the University of St Francis and Port Wayn Indiana andduring my tenear there I had some opportunities for growth andessentially became the associate vice president for Romant Management andduring those time frames there were moments where I was kind of helping tosteward ship marketing, and there were times where I was you know, being apartner with others who were leading the marketing elements of thatinstitution. And then, after my time at St Francis, I came to capitaluniversity. Then when I first came to capital Uiversity, it came in the roleof Vice President for strategicand Roman management and then after I'vbeen doing that for a number of years they had a central marketing departmentwith a different vice president, but they d made the determination that itwas time to consolidate those two things together. So now I have thatopportunity to directly work with both the Imal Management and the marketingelements of the campus community. So that's kind of my background. It's Kointof come full circle. I mean n the whole idea at you know why you didn'tnecessarily have a marketing degree or what some people would kind of consider.You know the path to marketing, O cregative or business design, or otherthings like that. I think it's fascinating to me that, just by askingthe questions asking the questions, how are we communicating? How are we doingthis? Why are we doing it this way? That's such a big essence of whatmarketing is all about, and I think...

...that's pretty fascinating in your story,and you know it's what's it been like, I guess, to kind of move into thatposition now that you have the ultimate responsibility for all the marketingwork, I mean you had different roles of responsibility at differentinstitutions, but, but now it's kind of like all that rolls up underneath you. What does that look like, because Iknow a lot of times peerrs, especially sitting at the the cabinet levelposition. Sometimes peers, I think often see marketing is a little bitmore subjective than maybe objective we. How does that? How does that work? Andhow do you navigate? Some of that? You know- and I kind of alluded to this alittle bit earlier, but you know I truly believe marketing starts in acouple of core things. One is understanding your messages right, butthe messages are all about building relationships right. The intent is tobe able to streighthen the relationships with the PUSS perspectivestudents, if that's the target market or working with in my role. You know Isuserved both the perspective student audience as well as the other elementsof marketing on campus and in every one of those places. It's about making surethat you have strong relationships and being able to help people understandand to learn from other people what it is that we're trying to do to createthe right messages right, and so I think, that's really important. I'd sayanother part of it is recognizing where your strengkhs are and also knowingwhere you need to have partners and have other people take the weight, andyou know make sure that they are able to express. You know what it is t theybring the table, and so you know I would say in the role that I have a lotof it is that ability to really recognize what the needs are and makesure that we're organizing in a way that we're using the strikes of thosearound 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 talkedabout this a lot of times, I think, to Bartn both you and I over the year, sot that that does mean in a role like this. Sometimes you need to outsourcesome of those elements. You need to work with partners that are outside ofyour institution to be able to bring in the expertise to make sure that themessage that you're creating really resonates with the audience that you'retrying to build that relationship with, and that goes the same for internallywithin a campus community as well. So you know when you're working with othermembers of a cabinet or if you're, working with faculty members indifferent departments at the end of the day, being able to build a relationshipwith them, understand their needs and make sure that you get the rightexpertise to help support. You know what it is they're trying to accomplishyou'll find a lot of success in doing it. That way. In listening to you, Ihear a lot of you talk about strength. You talk about communication. You talkabout engaging different people that are working with you and workingbeneath you. Can you give us a couple of examples of how that has benefitedyou and helped you on your journey? Absolutely. You know there are so manydifferent times throughout my career, where it's been sitting down with aconversation that somebody else and then through that connecting and havingthat conversation were able to really, you know, move something forward that sthat's important, I'm trying to come up with a quick specific example of it,but there's not one. That's jumping right into my mind, right off the bathere, but having said that, you know, I do know that that these moments that wehave of connecting with each other make a big difference in our ability to youknow make things happen within an organization. That's great. I know thatJP when we did some work together at University of St Francis. I know thatyou know you mentioned that you were kind of the director of admissions atthat time and you were working as part of a team that I would had been askedto come in as a part of through through various means. I know when we kind oftalked prior to th, the PODCAST. You know you kind of kind of notice, somethings when you came into the university that, from from a marketingperspective, that needed to change and Itd might be the case for a lot of ourschools that are listening where they might not be aware of maybe some of thethings that need to be changed because they're so focused on brand or sofocused on the way that trying to keep a consistency. Tell us a little bitabout what that story was like and how that impacted, the enrollment yeah. Sowhen I first came to the University of St Francis, one of the challenges theyhad is that they really weren't clear on how they wanted to execute marketingfor the whole institution. They had for a number of years been working with athird party company as the marketing team for the entire institution. Therewasn't anybody on campus as a point person for marketing. Instead of thedifferent department, heads chairs,...

...deans of the enrolme management team,we all would work through this third party company that helped to kind ofmake sure that we were staying on brand and to support us in our marketingneeds, and you know I think there were reasons that they were doing it when Icame to the institution, but over time it wasn't really lining up with theinstitutions needs to really move to the next level and a real specificexample. In the admission side of things, when I came there, they weredoing everything other than the vewbook itself in just one color print. It wasall blue. Everything was blue with shades of blue, but they didn't have.You know four color pieces of material that were going out there and I thinksome 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 ThirdParty Company and the institution. There were some gaps in thecommunication about what was necessary in the needs, and I would say that oneof 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 wewere structured, and so I imimmediately kind of spent some time with thatcompany and one of the things we did is we talked about it from the beginning.Ond said we really need to make this brand come up into. You know today'stype of style on market. We need to get this really at a different level andthe way we did that is. We actually had this really productive meeting where we cametogether and before the meeting I actually went around and found a wholebunch of, I would just say, natural design assets from other types ofcompanies that were out there that were hitting our youth in the target market.We're trying to accomplish so I'd gone to the mall, and I picked up a fewdifferent catalogs from places like Amber Crombeind, fitches popuwar. Atthe time the buckle there are a couple other ones that were popular, and Ibrought him in there and said. If this is the market we're trying to get to.We can't be like these blue smirth pieces of paper any longer. We reallyneed to get ourselves to a place that really communicates and connects withthem, and we need to take some design elements from what's happening rightnow and what they're experiencing in the things that are importn to them,and in that moment it was almost like. It was a relief because I think theagency that we were working with they also were feeling kind of frustrated inthe way that our brand in design had been, and the communication was whatwas back to back and forth, but then being able to build those relationships.Ind Go back that so many times and being able to communicate clearly onwhat the needs are, and then I think in that moment, even giving some visualexamples of what we were trying to envision really change things aroundand we were able to get a hold new brand and fill look for the institutionand it made us really get to a different place and then, as that kindof progressor over time, we ended up as an institution determining that wasbest for us to have an internal marketing department. And in my role Igot to be very close in working with the vice presient from marketing there,and we had those type of same conversations on a regular basis. Sothat would be one of those times where you know I was kind of next to the mainmarketing team, not directly. You know in charge of a marketing team, but theimportant part in all of it was the communication. An important part in allof it was really making sure that we were, you know, working towards thesame goals and that we were able to open up our lines, a communication inthe way that we were very productive in the things that were making as theoutcomes of the work that we're working on. Thank you for sharing that story JPand I think that's a story that a lot of higher ed marketers probably havesome commonalities with, since we know that higher red marketing is known frombeing Bein slower to innovation, and one of the reasons that attracted us toyou and wanted to have you on the podcast is around your databackground.So we like to get back to your roots and ask you: How do you see dataimpacting marketing and enrolment going forward yeah? So that's a really greatquestion and know, and I think that data is really one of the moreimportant aspects of parketing. You know if you don't have any way toassess what you're doing it's. Not really helping you in any way of beingable to improve the work from where you're at to where you want to go, andso you know we talk about Gata and almost everything that we do andenromant management. The reality is everything we do is based on data, evenif it's just that basic funnel data. But if you want to really expand uponthat, it gives you an opportunity to be much more efficient in the way that youcommunicate 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 successfulin the type of marketing. You know plans that you create an the way thatyou actually utilize the different types of ways to communicate withoutside audiences, so, whether that's understanding how your social media isconnecting with the audiences out there, what things seem to be working, whatthings are not working in terms of looking at the relevant data to it orwhether you're looking at other things like finding a way to communicate yourscholarships. There's data that can help support that, and one thing youknow I'd like to share with you, is a good example of utalizing data kind ofties, some of the enromant management theory into the marketing, and when Ifirst came to Capital University, we recognize that one of our points ofchallenge in our recruitment in our enrolment funnel was attracting thestudent body or the people that we wanted to come to campus, that weren'tpell eligible. You know that they were at a point where they didn't receiveany additional resources from the federal government or the state, andthey also weren't at a point where they were wealthy enough, that they couldjust write a check to come to college, and so, as we ere looking at ourschoarshipping in our models, we are saying what's the best way for us toreally support this group and the data actually made us kind of reallyrecognize which parkportion of our audience we needed to connect with, andthen looking at that data we thought e about what do we do well at capital?That would also be able to help them understand that there are scholarshipsavailable to them that work with them. We came up with this great concept. Itwas called the good guarantee and the good guarantee is essentially if astudent whose parent works in a nonprofit or a public service type ofthe role chooses to come to capital university. They will never pay morethan fifty percent intuition, which is a pretty simple message, but it wasdata andformed. It was built out of our own data and then, as we startedthinking about that, we took it another step. It wasn't just about ascholarship, but the reason we called it a good guarantee is because it wasabout the institution and our old history in our mission has always beenabout preparing people to help them to go out into the world and to make it abetter place. And if you look at some earliest mission statements, there arereferences to this idea of for the greater good and helping people toprepare for the betterment of society, and this greater good concept reallycame together for us, and so when we actually put this all together from amarketing perspective. Really what we talked about was a mission identitything, even though it was an intentionally built out of a datainformed decision, and it really resonated with that audience. We hadstudents that came to us that next year, specifically in that area where wehadn't had them come in the past, they hadn't yielded in the past at the samelevel, and I think a lot of that came from the very fact that it wasn't justa scholarship. But it was a schoarship, and even that was a scholarship thatwas very helpful to him. It helped Hem, understand the value of the institutionand who we are, and I was very mission oriented, and that was all tiedtogether in some really good marketing elements that we put together and beingable to express what the good guarantee was all about and having that clearmarketing message tied to something that was data informed, I think, is agreat example of where you know: Marketing can really lifted when you'rethinking about things from a data perspective. So I say that's oneexample of it. Another example of it is really making sure that your systemsare working in a way that you can actually leverage them to communicateand to be better. I know that you, every person you've probably talked toon these podcast, there's some level where it gets to a point of talkingabout the crm right and how are you having that relationship managementsystem? It's helping people to connect and to be able to you know, workthrough the process of getting to know university and the reality is. If youreally build your Crin the right way, then it really does provide so manyadditional advantages to being able to craft and create the right messages andagain to know who's listening who's, responding, who's, looking at them andget them engaged again, and I think you know that's really the points wheredata really can be very consistent and so knowing how to do that. Choosing asystem. That's the right type of system, setting it up in a way that you canextract that Nata and then using that data to develop the messages. Movingforward really are very powerful ways to connect with your audience and toreally make a marketing cteam go from.

You know a functional team to a highlyfunctional team right and changing it to another level, and then, if you're,working with outside partners and vendors, you can actually talk to Hemabout what your needs are and what your gaps are. So you're, not just going outthere and saying we have a problem fix our marketing, but you actually can goand talk about here's. What we're challenged in the marketing. Here's t earea is that we need to have a little more help and strength. Can you help usto figure out why we can't get our social media where we need to go forexample, or can you help us in some other former manner and making surethat this particular message that we've been developing has more interest andpeople look at it and really connect it back to the institution? So I ou knowwhen I think about the state of thing. I think it's so important and there'sso many different ways. I could tell other stories about it, but I thinkthose are some good examples of really sharing how data really can help liftand help support a person. That's really trying to make sure theirmarketing mesages resonate, and it does tie back to the very beginning story. Imean the reality. I got down this path because I was looking at those datapoints and I didn't know how we're communicating and when I was looking athim back then. What I didn't really share, ro here in the podcast, is thatthe open rate on it was so busily low on the way that we're communicating thestudents at that time frame. But that's why I felt like we had to change themessages to get them even interested to come into orientation. So there's aconnection in my entire career that comes around this data question forsure. Well, I certainly could talk about yourens and data all the time andyou never have to apologize for speaking about it. Yes, we talk aboutcrns and we talk about data with other guests, but the way you articulated itwith the passion and the expertise. That was a wonderful story and that'sprobably a reason why you've been so successful in your career also wantedto touch on the good guarantee. I think that was an exemplary example of howyou positioned data and position, things that were at caval universityand put a great spin on it and went to the community with it with much success.I think this next question, which I usually in with, is probably selfish cause. Yougave me two great examples, but we always like to end by asking: If thereis one thought one specific thing that you could leave before, we close thatother marketers can take right away, either an idea or an insight, somethingthat's applicable yeah. What would that be? So that's a great question and Ithink the very first part of it is, you always have to be looking out at what'shappening and how people are consuming information and really try to becutting edge. I mean you have to take risks. WEU have to try a few thingssometimes, and not all of them are going to work, but one example I'd givethat we've done in the recent past to capital university as we developed acapchat podcast. So none of them like what you're doing right here right. Imean you're connecting with your audience through this medium of Podcast,and we did the same thing. It was called the cap chat, podcast and thedesign of an intent of it was really to help with both the student and theparents in that yielding process is theyre. Making that final decision tocome to campus and really opening up the campus in a way where they couldhave more experiences through the storytelling of our current students ofour factity, our staff or coaches and athletics, and so we created a twoserie or two season series of podcast in the first season. We kind of hit upsome of the initial things that you normally would expect to hit from. In amoment management, we talked about financial aid and understandingfinancial aid better. We talked about athletics and what it's like to be adthree affhe week, because we're a dthree campus. We talked about someother. Really good topics were portinent to our audience, but ereallyhelping him to see that next layer and really connect with people that areliving 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 reallyhelp to connect the community. There were sometimes hard to get out in shortmessages right and emails and other things that we were ugalizing toconnect with our audiences. It's not the same medium, and so you know Ithink, in using that cat chat, podcast AD allowed for our institution toconnect with a different way of our audience, and it did help us. I think,the end of the day. The data reflects that we had good conversion, Yod grates,that came out of those two years of building that we've continued to seeimprovement in that particular Ara of...

Anar enrolment, funnel. I don't thinkit's the sole thing thatself to skit there, but I do think that itdefinitely was one factor that was a driving variable or driving force tohelped 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 Igave right now is you know if you can get the right group of people togetherand do something like a podcast. It gives a whole different Lens and LarryWay for you to tell your story, and so that's one that I care with you fortoday. Thank you, dynamic response, JP. If someone wanted to reach you, howwould they best? Do that sure the easiest way to reach me is probablyjust connect to me through my capital communication channels, my emails, JP,Pagnoo and capital Dot Edu. That's probably the easiest way to reach me.You go to the website and search me within the directory. I'd be rightthere and you know I welcome it. You know. I do believe that that's theseven a few times Orout it relationship building, makes us successful. So ifthere's any bout, they're listening that would feel like it would bebeneficial to have a conversation about anything we talked about today. Youknow I'm open and I'd love to be. You know able to build that network withyou, so that, thanks for asking about that for sure. Well again, thank you JP.If, for everyone else that ends another higher end marketing podcast, which issponsored by Cabo solutions and education, Marketing Brandy Agency andby thing pattent ID a marketing, execution, printing and mailingprovider of Hig red solutions. On behalf of my cohost Barcaler, I'm troysinger, 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 ere listening withauple podcast we'dlove for you to leave a quick rating of the show, simply tap the number ofstars. You think the PODCAST deserves until next time.

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