The Higher Ed Marketer
The Higher Ed Marketer

Episode · 1 year ago

Be Like Disney: Reimagining Campus Visits w/ Dr. Tony Turner


Disney is renowned for creating a magical experience for each and every guest. Institutions who focus on creating a unique VIP experience for individuals and families on campus visits will build a meaningful and lasting connection.

In this episode, we interview Dr. Tony Turner , Vice President of Enrollment and Marketing at Charleston Southern University , about creating a Disney experience for campus guests.

Tony talked with us about:

Treating families like people, not just one more deposit

Qualities of the Disney experience to emulate on campus visits

Building a scorecard for prospective students

Check out these related episodes:

Episode 1 w/ Ethan Braden at Purdue

Episode 2 w/ Jamie Hunt at University of Miami

Episode 22 w/ Phil Cook at Lee

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

Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for Higher Ed Marketer in your favorite podcast player.

You were 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, donor 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. I'm troy singer here with Bart Taylor, where we interview weekly High Ed marketers that we admire for the benefit and hopefully the betterment of the entire Higher Ed community. Usually we know the people that we are interviewing beforehand, but this next gentleman came to US recommended. His name is Dr Anthony Turner and he's currently the vice president of enrollment and marketing at Charleston Southern University. Bart, can you tell us a little bit about our guest today? Yeah, Tony came to US via James Steen on episode seventeen with Houston Baptist University. When we interviewed James he said, Hey, I think that I think this podcast is great, and here's some other folks that I think you ought to talk to and and Tony was one of them that he introduced us to, and Tony was in the midst of the transition. Every summer there's the musical chairs that starts in High Ed and you know, Tony grabbed his seat at southern Charleston Southern in South Carolina, and so we've had some pre interviews with him and one of the things I really like about Tony as he's very personable, he's down to Earth and I think a lot of what he's going to talk about. Not only is it practical and pragmatic that really anybody can do it any size of institution, but I really like the fact that he is just so authentic and and that really comes across in his personality, but it also comes across and how he leverages that authenticity for the marketing of of the institution. And so I think there's some really good points to take away from this particular podcast. Wonderful. Now let's bring into the conversation Dr Anthony Turner. Bart and I would like to welcome Dr Anthony Turner, Vice President of enrollment in marketing at Charleston Southern University, to the High Ed Marketer podcast and earlier Anthony told us that most of his friends refer to him ass Tony, and he gave me permission to do that too. So welcome to the PODCAST, Tony Hey, thanks for having me. Troy and bar thank you for having me here. I'm looking forward to our conversation together, as are we, and what we had talked about earlier I can't wait to share with our listeners. And if you would, Tony, give us a little bit about yourself and your role at Charleston southern. Sure. So, I recently transition to Charleston Southern and universe city, and so some people would say I'm wet behind the ears here at Charleston southern. So I'm still getting my bearings or whatnot. But when it comes to enrollment, I've been in the enrollment field for about twelve years. I've worked at two, actually three other institutions, and so one in Pennsylvania, one in Chicago, and actually worked at a for profit school, also in Chicago, and so there are distinct differences between working a for profit school and a nonprofit school, and that's for a different day and a different segment and time. But but I've been in the enrollment field ever since really early two thousands working as a missions counselor all the way to a vice president. So I feel like I've been in every single role and have a pretty good graphs of just enrollment in general. And then my educational background is least my doctorates in higher read, and so I guess you can say I have been bitten by the Higher Ed bug. In so it's my life and I thoroughly enjoy working in higher education. That's...

...great. Thanks, Tony, for kind of that introduction and I think that you know, we have, we always have a pre conversation with our guests and I know we talked earlier just about some of the things that you drive that passion that you have a high ed and I think one of them that really stuck out to troy and I was this idea of being authentic with your inner actions with your future students, and I think a lot of people would, you know, certainly you know not their head to that pretty quickly, but tell us a little bit about what you mean by that, because I think that sometimes that's not always the case, even in our best intentions. Yeah, yeah, I'd love to talk about that, and so I think you know all of us that work in enrollment. You know, we work with numbers all the time and I often tell my staff, you know, enrollment is one of those areas where on a college campus you feel like you live in a fish poll. Everybody knows your business. It could be, you know, the president or the janitor or whoever they say. They might come up to you say I hear enrollments down or you know, whatever you want to add to that. Everybody knows Your Business and so it's easy to get in this mode where you feel like, well, we've got to have so many students and you know and follow the math and the conversion rates and all those numbers, and so sometimes you get in this pattern of just one family after another and trying to get those deposits, which are important, but then you kind of lose kind of that uniqueness of each family. And so what I hope to accomplish with with my team is that each individual student matters and and what I mean by that is that each student is a person. I'm sure all of you can remember a time, or maybe you have multiple experiences where when you go to a business or restaurant or somewhere fun where someone took particular interest in you and how that made you feel. I'm sure all of us have been in a place where we just feel like we're just a number, but when someone takes that time and is really personable with you, that makes you feel really special and you remember that experience in many times. You talk about that for many, many years and I'm sure we all have those unique experiences, whether it's that special cheacher that you had in high school or college or some personal front or whatever it is, you remember those moments. And so when it comes to enrollment, you have families that are different, you know, sizes, have different backgrounds, have different experiences, particularly those that are first generation families who have never embarked on this journey of a college search. In these families are overwhelmed, particularly today when you have college costs that seemed to continue to rise. There's over fourzero institutions in the US, all different shapes and sizes, so it's easy to be lost in that. And so how to use an institution stand out, and I really do believe that institutions really stand out when they start looking at families as as really as special people, in treating them in such a way that they feel like they're partnering with you in the process where they feel value, that they know that you know, you really did my best interest at heart, and not just looking at them as what we need, one more deposit, and so going the extra mile and making them feel special, because I guarantee you, when they're at home and they've visited four five colleges and they're at the kitchen table looking at the different colleges they visit, they're going to go down a list and when they see your school, that made me. went the extra mile, made them feel special, they're going to remember you say, you know what, that was a great experience. They really treating me as a person and there's a likelihood they're going to want to go with you because you saw them past then just a number, and being real and authentic with them, I think entails with that, and that one of the comment with that. It's also being really open and honest with them, and not saying you wouldn't be, but when you sit down talk about finances and and really explain... them, look, this is what the cause is going to be. You know, you might have a tenzero dollar gap and we would love for you to be here. How can we work through this and you have to be okay and say you know what, with what you're telling me, it might be a stretch and that's okay. Families would really appreciate you being open and honest with them and working with them then saying you know what, we'll figure it out. And then they get here, they had a bad experience and then they're going to feel like that you really did a bang switch on them, and so that's all part of being authentic with with families as you work with them. Tony, I really like what you said there because I think that that authenticity is so critical. It reminds me of a conversation we had in episode twenty two with Phil Cook. He's the new neck up executive director and was at Lee University and he really talked about, you know, the idea of selling that for your experience to the the future of students and families and the importance of that experience, and he also kind of talked about authenticity and talked about the idea of really making sure that you are genuine with them, because, I mean, he invites every family after they do the campus tour into his office just to kind of have a conversation with them and get to know them. And I think you're right. I think sometimes it's so easy when we're looking at numbers or feeling the heat from being in that fish bowl and having everybody kind of say, hey, how's enrollment? Where are the numbers at? You know, every week, that gets to be a little all but but I think being intentional, to being authentic, I think is a really good thing. And and are there things that that, as a at your level, advice president level, that you try to really go out of your way to make sure that happens? I mean, I'm not sure. Are you inviting everybody into your office or are you just making sure that you're around on those visit days and things like that? Usually I try to. So here's a perfect example. This morning we had we had about five guests that were that came in for visit today. I'm had a bunch of I had bunch of business cards and went out to the lobby. I said Hey, thank you for being here at CSU and I gave every single one of them one of my business cards. I said if you have any proms or issues, please let me know. And so, just being that personal, I'm just asking questions where you from and and asking those questions, even down to if they have like a little kid with them. You know, one of my counselors went and grabbed we have these eye patches that we give too because we're the buccaneers, and so we have an eye patches. So Hey, giving the little kid those patches and so making everybody feel welcome because even though that that little child is not going to enroll in college for a very long time, but just taking notice even in them makes the family feel like wow, they really are taking interest in the entire family and not just my son or daughter who's looking to enroll. So yeah, those those days. I try to get out. I still go out and recruit still so I will be at a fair or two Fars. Do I have to do? No, but I love doing it for arriety reasons, and so I'm still out there and I'm still recruiting. And just yesterday, I'm another example. I was at a restaurant with another peer of mine, one of the VP's, and we're describing a burger and as talking to the waitress just kind of sharing her story with me, and she's going back home on Sunday to take a gap year and I said, well, what are you interested in? And just start talking. I say, you know what, before you go home, you really should come to our school for a visit. Here on my business cards. While I got back to the office, she had emailed me and said, Hey, I really want to take up in an offer, and she was here at ten o'clock in the morning and went on at campus to her and so it's just those things that I think we need to take notice to be conscious of that really make a big difference. Yeah, yeah, I love that and I love the fact that we talked to so many of our guests about the idea of personalization. Than that, especially, everybody wants to be known, I mean especially generation Z. I think they really have that that kind of hardwired into them, and when we take the chance to be authentic and and intentional with them, I think that really does really pay off in big ways. So I'll go ahead and think troy has another question. Yes, along the lines of what we've talked...

...about of being authentic. I also know that you like to create unique experiences when potential students come onto your campus for a visit, and you've even described it as creating a Disney experience. If you could described everyone what you mean by that. Yeah, it's great. So, you know, you hear the the saying that Disney is the most magical place on earth and you know, I think it is, until you're on the long lines waiting to get on a ride or something. Then you know, my opinion changes a little bit. But but you know, when you go there, everybody's smiling. You know, it doesn't matter what their job is, that there's this almost seems like a euphoria, almost, that they're all just really excited to be there. And kids, it doesn't matter what their ages are, they're just really excited to be there. And so Disney's done a really good job of just sharing with people, Hey, this is who we are, and when you go there you just feel the energy, in the excitement and that you just want to want to be there those magical moments. And I just remember my kids. You know, we're there, it's hot and kids start complaining. Then someone comes up to us, Hey, you guys, look like you could use some water. Just pass out bottle waters. Those little details to make our experience better. And so if you take that mindset of just you know how everyone is special and how can you look at your campus visits and those those events and make that unique experience for them? So I'm sure a lot of you have signs, you know, in your driveways, on your the parking lot, but if you don't, I mean that's something you can easily do, is like put a sign out when they get there that they know this is their spot and you're welcome to that and that's really easy to do. Many of US already have that. But even just maybe, just as are coming into campus, you know, having science saying hey, we really really appreciate you, we welcome you to campus, so they know that they are the VIP's coming to campus, and that's really what you want to create tow when they walk in. You know you might have something ready for them, but just so that they know that you're going above and beyond and that they just feel that that warmth and that's really that's really important. And I don't, and you might not be a fuzzy person, but everybody likes that, that type of feeling special, and so there's those small things that you can do, getting that information beforehand as much as you can, and it isn't to be intrusive, but just you know, small things such as, you know, are there certain colors you like? You know, and so or is there like even is there certain candy bars that you like, or things like that? So when they when they show up, you have maybe their favorite color shirt and you have a favorite candy bar or things like that, favorite drink, those things the really personalized the experience for them and those details will smaller details. They seem like a lot of work, but in the long run the yield is a lot higher because those families see that you are actually real and that you're going all out to make them feel feel welcome. Yeah, I think that's a great point and I remember taking my family to Disney for the first time, you know, ten years ago, and my daughter was, I guess she would have been four or five at the time, and so she had her princess bell dress on and we were going to the breakfast with the princesses in Epcot. And part of the strategy that Disney does, and I don't think we necessarily have to do this as as college is because when we have visitors, visiting families on campus, it's pretty easy to see the difference between a visiting family and regular students. But at Disney they gave us all these first visit buttons to wear with our lanyards and everything, and so it was very clear to just anybody that was a Disney cast member to be able to say that family, this is their first time visiting, so let's make sure we go out of our way to do even more. And so I remember walking across Epcott. You know, early in the morning nobody's there. You know a lot of the gardeners are outtending the gardens, and the one woman stopped and she just stood up and...

...said, well, look at you, Princess, you are just gorgeous this morning and just kind of laid all these compliments on my daughter and she's blushing and and wants to spend for her and show her dress off. But that that gardener. It was not her job necessarily to do that. But I think that Disney has done such a good job of recognizing that everybody plays into that magical experience and I've heard a lot of people. I know Tim Fuller's one that often speaks to you know, it takes a campus to recruit a student and I think that you know, even if you have somebody, if it's a faculty member or if it's a if it's a gardener or a groundskeeper out on the on the tour route, who takes the time to just welcome them on campus and thank them for coming. That does say a lot and I think it gives that it gives that magical experience to to that people go home and they talk about and I think that that that idea of being authentic and creating those experiences for the families. I think it does make a difference and it doesn't take a lot of resources, but I think, to your point, it just takes some some thought and it takes some intentionality and it takes just being authentic and I think that. I think that most of the schools that are listening to this that's well within their reach. Something that I would like to add is on a project that Bart and I are working on, there's a mechanism where we do get information from the potential students, like what their favorite color is, what their favorite music to study two is and what their favorite snack to have when they are studying and all different types of things. We get that so we could put it in our outreach. What a good idea to utilize some of that information, like you said, for when they're coming into campus, having some of those things available, maybe having country music in a background. Again personalizing it. Bart and I do it from a outreached perspective. Yeah, but that's certainly information that can be utilized during those campus visits. So I think you've probably given Bart and I and nugget that we're going to take away from this. Speaking of Tony, as we come to a close, would love to ask you if there was another nugget or a tidbit, something that someone listening could take an implement right away and actuable item idea that you have. Yeah, so something that I've been working on for last couple of years. It's not a hundred percent perfect, but it's pretty close. Is All of us, you know, have hundreds and sometimes thousands of prospects and inquiries and you know the whole drill and you know it's easy to get all those names, work them all and and call and that takes up a lot of time. And haven't been in a missions counselor I remember those days and in the office making semi five a hundred calls a day and try to call through and getting a lot of nose and how did you get my name and all those different things, and so you know you're burning up a lot of time. And one of the things that I've done at my first institution, I started, implemented my second institution and here that I will be working on is is this idea of scoring. And so oftentimes maybe in your crum solution, whatever you use, you can start scoring your inquiries based upon their behavior. And so you know, for example, you maybe you sign an you sign a number to a person who turns an application. Maybe they come and visit, they click on four or five emails or and you would establish those parameters and based on their their interaction with your school, that pretty much tells me at they're really engaged person that they would want to move the funnel. They want to move further in the funnel. And so what I would I do is I put all those metrics at the beginning of the funnel and so once they hit a certain number that I established, and let's just say for the sake of our conversation it's ten. They...

...hit that ten number, well then now I know that person is a qualified inquiry or qualified applicant and I move them along the process, and so am my interaction with them is a little bit more intentional because I know they're highly engaged versus someone maybe they click on one out of seven emails and maybe they submit their fast fun I'm still going to, you know, put them in a nurturing campaign, but I might not spend as much time with them right now because they're not showing that great deal of interest. And so it's a great way to do that to help not only your counselors prioritize who's really engage, but also it's a great way to really truncate your funnel and work with those who are highly engage and so you'll increase your yield, your yield rate. Why? Because you're working with people who are really interested. So it's kind of like the idea of if I need a hundred students ten roll, I could knock on tenzero doors and find a hundred students, or would you rather go to the street and say, you know what, all the students on this particular street are going to say? Yes, I'd rather do that and then work at Tenzero. And that's the whole idea of that scoring model is so each campus can identify what are those trigger points, things that you would score and certain activities might score a little bit higher than others, like a campus visit versus open up an email. But whatever that is, you telly that up and you would determine what that score is and that you would pass them on as a qualified in quire how do you want to qualify them? And that will lead to a higher yield rate because you're working with engaged people versus working with a bunch of people and you're not really sure who's engaging who's not engage. Thank you, Tony, and I think that's something that any emissions counselor or admissions department could implement based on their particular parameters, their experience, what happens at their school. We appreciate you sharing your time and your wisdom with us today. If someone would like to reach out to you, what would the best way for them to do so be? Yeah, you know, they can always email me. So my email address is a turner. So at you are, any are at CSU and I the EEDU, and so that's the best way to get ahold of me. I'm always checking emails and most like all enrolling people, morning, afternoon and night. You're checking emails. So more than like I'll get back to you a lot quicker on email that I wore over the phone, so that's really the best way to get a hold of me. Thank you, Dr Turner. Bar Do you have any partying words for us? Yeah, I just wanted to kind of just kind of point out a few things, and I kind of point this out because I think that we have heard this and on many of the episodes. I mean we've gotten nearly twenty five, twenty six episodes in now and but what we're hearing over and over and over again, whether it's Ethan Braden at produe, Jamie Hudd at University of Miami, you know, Phil Cook at Lee, or even today with with Tony Turner at Charleston Southern, this idea of being intentional on the way that we engage with prospective students and families, the fact that we need to be personalized, we need to be humans. I think that, even to the scoring conversation here at the very end, it's so important for us to understand that. You know, there are things that the computers do really well, automation, being able to do nurturing campaigns, follow up, keep people engaged. Those of the tasks and the and the tools that computers and automation are really, really well made for. But when we start getting into that smaller end of the funnel, when we're talking about the hundreds rather than the thousands or the tens of thousands, that's when we can really start to roll out that individualized, authentic engagement that's really going to make the difference with people and I think those are the...

...things that especially a lot of the listening schools that are smaller or midsize, very similar to Charleston Southern, those are the different things it's going to set you apart from the other schools that are bigger, maybe the maybe the state or or community colleges that just cannot afford to be able to do that personalized touch, as well as, most of the time it's going to reflect who you already are, whether you're a faith based school or a private institution, most of the characteristics of those types of schools are already extremely personal and so really be able to leverage the computers and the automation to be able to do a lot of the things that are overwhelming for your admissions team, but then really sorting and parsing out the things that only people can do and the people do best, and so I think that a lot of what Tony's talked about today, from the scoring to the the authenticity and the way that the engages with their families to just the Disney experience, it's so important to kind of remember that only you and your people can do that. You can't rely on any programs or systems to do that. So that would be my takeaway. Try Well said, Bart and thank you. That brings us to the end of our podcast and I encourage you to reach out to any of us if you have a question or would just like to connect. Each week we are brought to you by two companies. Barts team at Klo solutions and they are a marketing and branding agency dealing a lot with strategy and, I think, patented. We are a marketing, execution, printing and mailing provider of Higher Ed Solutions. On behalf of Bart and I thank you so much for joining the podcast. 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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