The Higher Ed Marketer
The Higher Ed Marketer

Episode 5 · 8 months ago

Enrollment Marketing: How to Leverage a Mascot Program


Butler University has a unique target audience for one of their marketing campaigns — the pets of prospective students.

Kristi Lafree, Director of Enrollment Marketing at Butler University, joins the podcast to talk about how the marketing team is finding innovative ways to use Blue, Butler’s very own 65-lb English Bulldog mascot, to drive enrollment and awareness, including sending personalized direct mail to cats and dogs.

She also talks about:

- A two-fold approach for marketing to parents

- The importance of personalization within student recruitment

- How Gen Z is approaching decision-making

Have any questions for Kristi?

- Email her at

- Find her on Twitter @kristilafree

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,recratment, 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 episode five of the HigherEd Marketer Podcast, I'm troy singer with my partner in creation, the cohostBart, Cayler, hello, Bart, hey troy! How are you today? It's going well withme. I'm really excited to to have this conversation today. I'm excited- and Ijust want to remind you in case you'v Forgotten and let everyone else knowthat our one year anniversaries coming up from the time that we first met andstarted working together. I did not know that whel happy anniversary, Troy,Happy University to you to, and yes, I am the one in this dynamic duo thatremembered so I don't know if that's a great sege, but please tell us abouttoday's guest since I now know that there is a personal connection for youyeah, so Christe Lafre is the director of enroment marketing at ButlerUniversity and she and I met several years ago. I have a student at Butler, my oldestson, Benjamin, is a juior studying journalism and photo journalism atButlar University, and so there's been some some aspects of this conversation.That impacted me both as a marketer, a professional hirered marketer, as wellas just a parent, and how I received that marketing. So it'll be a goodconversation. It will be so without further ado. Let's bring Phristian. We are so looking forward to ourconversation with Christi La Fri, director of enrollment marketing atButler University to the Higher Ed Marketing Podcast, which, if I betanything there might be some subjects around dynamic dogs and dynamic cats.Today, hello, Christi, Hi, try. Thank you both for having mehere. I cleciate it and yes, I do have some dog and cat stories to share and I want to make sure we get into theat the appropriate time, but if you would tell us about your role at Butlersure, I'm happy to so. Like you said I am director of enrollment marketing atButler University in Indianapolis. I have been a part of the butlarcommunity for almost eight years now I actually began a Butler in the opposifeAcmission, my team and I have since transition to the central Markbeancommunications office, but we also operate in really close partnershipwith our partners in enrolmant management. So in many ways were partof those teams, and we found that that partnership is is very successful. Forus, my premary rule is to oversee the development of marketing strategies forperspective students at both the undergraduate and graduate level and orapproach is really full funnel. So we handle everything from student searchefforts to application generation to yield to Nelt prevenption campaigns.The funnal goes on and on and on right as wereas were all owwar and like mostin Roman marketing teams are we're really full service, so we handleeverything from direct mail and publications to crm and email marketing,strategy to Weban, digital to social, etc, etc, etc, and really our primaryeffort is to make sure that what we are doing on the marketing side and whatwe're putting in front of perspective. Students is really complimenting whatadmission is doing on the recruitment side of the house. So W are alwaystrying to making sure that that what we're doing is INSINC and helping usmeet our inrorlment goals and being in the central marketing office, becausethat's the added Denabit of being really close and really involved withinstitutional brand efforts. So there's some terrific centergy there as well.That's Great Christi appreciate you kind of doing that introduction and Ithink you and I met probably three...

...years ago when I was on campus and Ihad been working with Butler over the over the years and different projects,but I think some of the work that the reason I got introduced to Yu is. I wascommenting with one of my contexts about just the the personal aspect ofbeing a parent of a student who had decided to attend Butler, and so yourwork personally affected my family, and so I got a chance to introduce. Youknow be introduced to you and talk a little bit about that. So tell me alittle bit more about what went into the the parent flow, the conflowstrategy, that kind of affected me and my wife in how we helped Oursonnavigate his college choices and just so the audience knows, and fulltransparency he's a junior, aboutla university, studying journalism andloves it and just about to say he's real happy, isn'the's really happy yeah.So I got to put that again so, but I do know that a lot of the ways tha youguys communicated directly with parents and with me and my wife, made adifference. So tell me little bit about you know what that strategy was and howthat played out an and why you saw that as a need sure happy to so perspective.Students are, of course, our primary audience, but we have spent a lot oftime in the last few years, really thinking about and developingstrategies for our secondary audiences other people who are involved in thecollege search and the decision making process and, of course, like inyourpase bar that that most often includes parents. So our goal with howwe engage our parents is really too full. First, we always aim to keepparents aware of their students admission process, aware of wherethey're at in their application process upcoming denlight reminders. Next Steps,all of that kind of transactional stuff. We know that parents are often the onesreminding their kids about upcoming deadlines and getting yourtranscription and all that good stuff. So this is a pretty easy strategy forus to execute. We just include parents in the majority of our transactional.Communications are oftentimes on the CC line, and it's it's really simple, andI wish it maybe was a bit more strategic than that that we have justfound that looping them in and keeping them in. The now has proven to bereally really helpful, and I know a lot of parents just appreciate having thatability to get reminders, etc. At the same time as their students, I wasgonna say that was so important to us so yeah. In addition to that, we also know thatparents are often deeply involved in the college choice and in the decisionmaking process. So we know that as marketers, we need to be spending justas much time promoting our institution and sharing what makes Butler a specialplays with parents, as we do with their students, and we do that in a fewdifferent ways. We really have kind of a blend of an and foran or approach. Iwould say in many of our campaigns: We will send communications to bothstudents and their parents. You know any time we are working on, you knowour viewbook series or a new email campaign or website. We make sure thatwe are keeping all audiences in mind when we do that piece. We assume MOM ORDAD OR GRANDMA R, GRANDPA or likely the ones getting the mail. I'm not sure.That's ass, accurate now in the in the ELEARNING COVID era. But prior to thatyou know, we knew that they were often the first ones seeing seeinginformation, fror us and we again just really try to Keek all audiences inmind as we're working on those pieces as we go further down in our rollmentfinal. That's where we start at time segmenting. So this is where we getinto kind of the or part of our approach. So there may be times wherewe send different different campaigns and different materials to parents.FERSO students. Parents, of course, are curious about the return on investmentof a Butler degree and how their student will be prepared Post College.But students may want more information about what it's like to live on campusor ability to participate in quizzes and polls and things along that alongthat nature. So we do at times kind of divide and create those different paths.I think that's really interesting and and even like. I will testify to thefact that yes, parents are the ones...

...seeing the email, because so fewcolleges were including us on the comflow I mean Butler out of the sevencolleges as he applied to Butler was the only one that was actuallyincluding us on any CONFLUENC. So naturally, we were looking at our emailevery day as professionals wed bring it up in the evening. Say: Hey, did yousee the visit day? Did you see this coming up the TRANSACTIONL, as well asjust having a good sense of what was going on, and so I can certainly saythat that was. That was a very effective campaign, but I think onething I wanted to just kind of point out and and mention- and you canrespond to this, but I think that you can only do what you can with the datathat you can collect, and so we've done some campaigns for different differentschools. Where we've done you know some Le Generation type things and we mighthave purchaseless R or they might just be coming in from the web, but we'lloften ask as an optional question. Please include your parents. Emailaddress. I've always always always been shocked at how many students willactually just volunteer that pretty quickly. But you can't do that kind ofparent communication without having their email, and so I mean. Would youagree that you've got to ask for those things if you're going to actually tryto do something? Absolutely yeah? So that's a really good point. You know t that parent strategy I justtalked about is only as effective as the data that we have in our system andyieuld. You know, of course, the application is that primary Dt, acollection point where you do get a lot of that so when yield it does become abit easier, but that focus has been there for us. You know, even just inthe last twelve months. Two years is: How do we begin getting more aparentcontact information earlier in the funnel and wee tried a couple,different approaches with that, but we're really thoughtful with everythingfrom our inquiry foorms to visit registrations, what seems to be fairlycommon, as we have seen that students will most often volunteer one parentscontact information which for us of course one is better than nothing, butwe've also begun. Thinking about you know if we have mom's email or dad'semail, how do we provide then the opportunity to add another parent oranother family member to the mix as well? So definitely an important piece toconsider, as you do more in the parents days Christie, I have to deliver on mypromise from the beginning of our interview. Please tell us about blue,because many of our listeners may not be familiar with him. Yes, yes, sobutler, blue, the fourth or Ho we call blue for short. Is Our university'slive mascot? He is a sixty five pound English bulldog. He is the onlycoworker whos weight. I know- and I have permission to share externally. He he's a huge part of what we do atButler. So our live maskot program, a butler, has a really rich tradition.Blue is beforth about their blue dog that we've had. He was actuallyintroduced around this time last year as a little tiny puppy and our formermascab but Wublou. The third who I know many indie folks that are familiar with.We called him trip hes since retired thut blue. He lives on campus with amember of our marketing team. Before covid he came to the same office. I didevery day e Buetler our marketing and our admission teams or housed in thesame building, which is super super convenient blue, has a huge following on socialmedia, as you know, especially from the athletics crowd, but really is hisreaches nationwide these days and the Maskhat we have found is often thefirst thing people do know about Butler or when I share where I work withsomeone. That's immediately the first thing they ask questions about so bluesgreat huge, huge part of what we do and I wee to part of our success. That'sgreat, I think I think blue is a a great asset. I mean living here in InnoIndianapolis. Obviously, I've been aware of him, but I think he kind ofmade national attention. Obviously, when he came on the scene in the twothousand and ten and two thousand and eleven kind of that Sinderella story,where Butler made it to the final foreign men's basketball in the INCFAtournament. So but he's so much more than just a sports mask. Gon I meantell tell us how he helps out with some inrollment. Definitely blue is isreally like having another ft on our enrolment marketing team. I mean hejust see his reach and his impact with perspective. Students just continues togrow and we continue to think of new...

...ways to integrate him into what we'redoing with agmission and with perspective students. We began reallydoing that about five or six years ago we decided to send, I believe it wastrip at the time we sent triph to the home of a perspective applicant, and hesurprised that student with their letter of admission right on theirdoorstep kind of like the publisher, clearinghouse style delivery. Almostand we've continued that effort ever since we call that our Butler Bouncampaign we have delivered now. I believe, almost four hundred offers ofadmission that way over the last five to six years, really fun campaign, oneof my favorite things to do withbout, where we have done surprises at homesat schools prior to covid. We did. We did a surprise in a locker room duringa high school basketball. Half Time trip came running in and surprise thestudent we've gone to kids work. It's really! It's a really fun effort. We dothem nationally to so. I think that there is kind of an assumption thatmost of these visits are done locally, but we've actually done visits intwenty five states. Now so again, pre covid, the mascot would often travelwith our basketball team and, as he went to those other markets, we usethat opportunity to find applicans in MHE area and find students who werewaiting on their news. That's great the masket program, social reach is hugefor us to, and this is where I consider myself really lucky, because in manyways it's almost like we have two institutional accounts at Butler, andwe know that perspective students are probably more often following blue oninstagram or tip tack before they're going to follow Butler you and, andwe're really okay with that, we have leaned into that, and we have thoughtabout creative ways for blue to introduce brand messaging on hisplatforms. For that audience, the other thing that we have egen Don doing moreof and Bard. If I have my math right, I'm thinking that your pets may havereceived US yeah. We have ber done really leveraging blue and priortiveblude trip in our enrolment materials, so direct mail, sometimes we'll sendemail from his email address. We use the voice of blue to communicate withperspective students and, and the best example of that would be what what wecall our pet comflow and baron. I right that your pets were recipients yeah andI have to tell you I mean that I just have to tell that story to everyone,because I tell that story every where I go, but you know my son like tr, yeahand, and so so ben was you know. Butler was a flyer for him. He was going to dophoto journalism and and applied to all the schools around the nation that werekind of top top listed in that, and we were at a college, fair and he saidWhan Don' go talk to Butler. I I want to see what they have to say and theysaid Yeah. We could put something together and all this and stuff so hewent ahead and plied and we were kind of in the middle, I think of February,and he had been accepted and therehad been some other things going on on aSaturday. We came home and he was not there, but the rest of the family camehome and there were two letters on the counter one addressed to tigger our dogand want toddress the stormy, our cat from Butler University, and they wereyou, know, kind of note, Card sized and very unique had little sketch of thingson it and we were just dying to know what was in it because it was like thisis strange. Our cat or dog never get mail, and so did you think it was aBeta vet notice. Like Hey, you got appointment coming at Ye yeah, and soso when, when Ben got home, everyone was like Ben There's got mail in therefor Tigering stormynd you've got to go, look at it and all this stuff, and soso he opened it up, and you know there's a great letter from blue to ourdog. Tigger, that was, you, know, kind of a dog dog type of conversation. Youknow he was congratulating tigger for that. His humanw had been acceptedabout university and he was going to protect him just like he would, if etwas his own human and just a real kind of brother to brother dog. The dogconversation and the envelope also had Abandana for the dog to were with theButler logo, on it with blue and then for the cat. It was a little bit moretepid. It was a little bit: Hey Youre, your your human has been been accepted,but I know I'm a dog, your cat, let's...

...respect each other and it was justbrilliant, brilliant, copywriting and just another smaller Bandanna for thecat, and that was harder to get on the cat than it was the dog. But my son wasjust so thrilled with that his smite as he was reading it. He was just smileacross his face, took the time to put put him on his cat and his dog and takepictures, and I really believe- and I've told several people. That was themoment. He decided to go to B Butler University. I think that that was thethat was the tipping point it was. It was personalized. It was something thatthey respected his passion, which was his pets, and they kind of you know youguys entered into Ha that part of his world that no one else did, and so Ithink that was a brilliant thing and I just and I've told you before ChristiBravo. I think that was something that I'd love to hear how many students thatthat's the tipping point, but it was just such a such a great memory for meand my family. Well, thank you. Thank you for your kind of words. It's so funhearing the other side of it, because you know those of us on the marketingteam. We clean up the list and send them out and there's always a few dayst at will they like it, etc every year, NY matter how many times we do it. Soit's great to hear that it's as effective as we hoped it would be A. Ithink. You told me that when you pitch that idea to your to your vicepresident or whoever I weren't sure about it, yeah and I can't blame her v Os concep of what we wanted to do andthere really wasn't a way to explain it without sounding like I was a littlebit off my rocker, but she went for it and we tried it, and I think this willbe, I hope, there's no students who are waiting awaiting this package, becauseI want to surprise them. But I think this will be the fifth year that we'vedone this campaign and we call it our pet comflow and it's exactly what itsounds like. We send direct mail to the dogs and cats of admitted students witha a little piece of Boutler gear, and that note history asshuring them thatblue is going to look after their human and have their humans back and be therefor anything. They may need at Butler and there's so many things about thiscampaign that I love. You know, of course everyone loves getting uttheirgear and the personalization factor is really fun. But I think that I thinkthe piece that makes it most successful is that message Ou the message thatwe're kind of subtly sending in that piece that we've got their back andthey're going to find a family, a Butler and that community a that highschoolers are often looking for right and we have just found it that reallyresonates with the Butler way N and resonates with who we are as aninstitution. The real gold in this campaign to, I think, is the awarenesspiece, so the yield part of it great, fantastic. The Awareness Tho is thepiece that's a little bit harder to measure, but we have found is that forevery family who receives the piece they tell their friends their neighbors,their coworkers, etc and they're often posting to their own social accounts,so that piece we've been really pleased with to Justnalian that were able toget the Butler brand in front of a whole bunch of eye balls but yeah thefirst time I pitched it rightfully. So there were some questions about. Whatdo you want to do and how are we going to do that? We have a lot of fun withit and it's by far one of our favorite, our favorite campaigns to execute itsounds wonderful and obviously it takes some thinking and planning around datato pull that off. Could you talk about your thoughts on of the importance ofpersonalization within student recruitment, sure sure? So we do. Wedid quite a bit of what I would call data mining, aboutler and datacollection and looking at data that we have available to us at our fingertipsand we have both an admission and an IT and marketing. We have a terrific slaketeam, a tific SRN team and a lot of really talented people that are willingto think outside of the box, and this is a a great example of that. We often,I think, challenge ourselves to to work backwards at times. So we will spendtime looking at our applications at our...

...forms, probably more time than some ofmy partners, and I te wish we did but Wut we spend time thinking about thedata that we already do have and we think backwords about. How could we beusing this creatively? Are Their opportunities here and what we're doingon the marketing side to further personalize things and for data that wedon't have that that we think would be valuable, Wev started just asking it,and students will tell you they will wll they're eager to tell you thingsabout themselves that you can use that information to deliver them, contentthat they're looking for and content that they're most interested in. Sothat's something I honestly continue to be surprised with is, like you saidBart, how eager they are to tell you things about themselves to ensure theirstory yeah. I think that's so true and I think I think the whole idea of justthat they want to be known and they want to be. They want personalrelationships. I mean a lot of what I've heard about generation Z. Theydesire those close relationships, they desire. You know one of one of my sons.You know had a chance to see some of his friends a couple weeks ago and kindof a covid bubble, type of thing and and the next day he was on social mediaall day, and it's like well it's because he had that feeling that I beenmissing this. I want this Rrh, and so I think that personalization allows acollege or university who might be unpersonal to them, to start to bepersonal and and get into the road a little bit. So is that kind of what youthink? Where do you think all that's going with generations ze and how doyou think that affects their decision? Making? Yeah. That's a great question.I think what we're doing on the parent communication side in many ways isalready a bit of a delicate balance, we're very careful. We never want totake the student out of the driver's seat. We never want to make studentsfeel like we're going around them to mom or dad or we're communicatingcertain things to their parents that were not also communicating to them andwhat we know about Genz. One of the things we know is that they tend to befairly independent, even more independent than the generation beforethem millennials and as a Millennium Myself, I feel like I'm allowed toknock on us a little bit thatof course. We have that reputation for being alittle bit todependent on parents, and you know helicopter parents and allthat stuff. So with Genzy, it's tough to say that I think we may need toreally revisit you know, even in a few years, how we are communicating withparents to make sure that we are respecting a students, decision makingpower and just thinking about how that may come across the students who dowish to be fully in charge of e R of their future. So we will see where things go. Christie,one of our biggest goals is to share into explore insights and ideasthat other marketers can gleam that can apply and can learn from. I certainlythink that you've delivered today. So thank you very much, but I do want tomention that in our conversation preparing for today, you had mentionedthe side hustle that you're engaged with. So if you would, if you couldtell us about that and how it helps you keep sharp sure, so my dad and I wekind of accidentally started a business a few years ago and he had recently retired and he had somerecycled pallate wood in his garage. I couldn't tell you where he got it fromand me being the needy daughter said: Hey. Could you cut that into the SHAPEOF INDIANA? For me you know that would look so cool it, my house, and he didand rather than hanging it up in my house, I decided to see if I could sellit online, which I did very quickly and since then we have started makingdozens of varieties of these signs and most states even dog breathes. We do alot of dog signs for people and we've been we've been selling them online. Sowhen I'm not doing marketing for Butler during business hours, I'm doingmarketing for kind of our home grown geing on the side, learning how to useetsy learning. What digital marketing looks like in that on my retail space,so oftentimes, occasionally digging splinters out of my hands a little bitless clamorous than what you may think, but yeah it does. It does help us irhelps me stay sharp on the job as well. Thank you very much and before we leavewe delivered on the dog. We need to...

DDELIVER on that information. Yes, yes,pretty much! Everybody on my team, a Butler ar huge don people. Of course,you kind of have to be to work an butler. There are a few of us who arecat lovers and I am probably the most I'm embarrassed to be sitting this on apodcast, but I am by far of the most like cat. Lady ran so far. I lovehearing that you like the catpiece, because that was the copywriting that Isaid. I've got this and Michael Calton mark who was really at the beginning ofour masktat program, wrote the dog side. So you know we want to make sure thatall pets, all pets have that opportunity for engagement, and thiswas a really fun way to make that happen. That is wonderful and again Iappreciate your time and appreciate all the valuable information that youshared. If someone has a question or just wanted to connect with you, howwould the best way for them to do that? Be Emails, probably the best way to getin touch with me when I'm happy to take questions. My email address is k: lafriL, a Fr ee at Butler DDU, I'm not Nelly as active as I probably should be ontwitter, but you can also find me there at Christi Lifrey, perfect thanks againChristie into everyone else. All of our listeners, the highered Marketefpodcast, is sponsored by calor solutions and education, marketing andbranding agency and by thing patented, a marketing execution, printing andmailing provider of higerid solutions. On behalf F, my co host Bard Kayler,I'm troy singer. Thank you for joinings. 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.

In-Stream Audio Search


Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (36)