The Higher Ed Marketer
The Higher Ed Marketer

Episode 58 · 7 months ago

Diversify Classrooms Through Authentic Messaging


Finding your perfect prospective student will increase your enrollment numbers. 

How do you find your perfect student? 

In this episode, Tim Bohling, Chief Marketing and Graduate Enrollment Officer at University of Notre Dame - Mendoza College of Business, joins the show to talk about how an authentic brand narrative paired with data-driven marketing will increase your chances of connecting with your perfect fit prospective students.  

We discuss:

  • Building a brand narrative to find your prospective students
  • Being authentic and distinctive in your messaging
  • The importance of the enrollment journey 

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

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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, 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 Higher Ed Marker podcast. I'm troy singer here with my cohost, Bart Taylor, and every week we interview high reed marketers that we admire for the benefit and hopefully the betterment of the entire Higher Ed community. Today we have a very dynamic guest. It's Dr Tim Bowling, who is the chief marketing and graduate enrollment officer and also a teaching professor at the Mendoza School of Business and marketing at Notre Dame. He brings it with his presentation today. He really does. He's got such a dynamic presentation. You can tell that he really knows what he's talking about. He's developed what he calls the smart marketing playbook out of his years and years of experience and industry. He's one of those individuals, like many of the guests that we've had and and people that I know in highed marketing who have made the transition out of, you know, traditional business into the ranks of high reed marketers and really passionate about what he's doing and you can tell that and everything and he says there's a lot packed into this episode and so I really encourage you to listen to that. And I also just make a note that Tim is the second guest that we've had on who has won the American Marketing Association Higher Ed Marketer of the year. He won it for night if for a two thousand and twenty, one Ethan Braden from Perdue, one a in two thousand and twenty. And so you know the caliber of these guests and the wisdom that they can bring. pull out your notebook because there's a lot of really good things to walk away with. You can see the common thread in both of them through that passion, through that expertise and how they deliver it so easily. Yeah, very articulate, yes, very much so. Here's our interview with Dr Tim Bowling. Please help me welcome Tim Bowling, chief marketing and graduate enrollment officer and teaching professor of marketing at the University of Notre Dame to the high reed marketer podcast. And before we get into the topic, which is how Notre Dame uses this wonderful smarter marketing and enrollment playbook for massive success, if you would tell us a little bit about the school that you are over, Tim, and I mean we all know about Notre Dame, but I believe that you are with the business school that's right to troy, and thank you for that welcome introduction. Delighted to be here with both you and Bart Tim Bowling, chief marketing graduate, Rollman Officer at the Mendoza College of business, of course, which is part of the University of Notre Dame. We're business school, a steeped in tradition a hundred years. We just celebrated our centennial and I've been at Notre Dame since January two thousand and nineteen and it's been just a great, great journey and we're just getting started. That's wonderful. And we are going to talk about this wonderful tool that you utilize. It's the smart marketing and enrollment playbook and in our earlier conversation you mentioned that this actually came out of the private sector and through your journey of going into Higher Ed, you are able to bring it in, adapt it and it's still deliver success. Can you tell us a little bit about that? Sure happy to so. After spending twenty five years in industry, always having one foot planet in academia, I decided to put two feet firmly in academia and return to my Alma Mater I received my doctorate, and that was Georgia State University. At the twenty plus years and industry, I had the opportunity to test, refine, Bild deploy best practice is from a customer engagement perspective, and this particular playbook we... the smarter marketing and recruitment playbook in higher education, akin to a smarter marketing and sales playbook in the commercial sector. And you know really those key tenants that work very effectively in industry or commercial space also work in higher education, that the playbook really is grounded on a couple of key tenants. Certainly you know knowing thy customer very deeply here from a data driven perspective, with a key depth of understanding of who the target audience is, and higher education that would be perspective. Students, we then ensure that we deliver a meaningfully unique and distinct value proposition, a brand narrative, if you will, that makes a case for why, and you know, delighted here at Notre Dame we have embarked on ellucinating a new brand narrative, driving a smarter marketing and recruitment playbook that has been very well received, very well received. Frankly, when I moved into academia I wasn't sure if it was going to work because it works so effectively in industry and you know, everyone talks about the differences between Higher Ed and Industry, but this framework is industry agnostic and is, you know, really elevating the brand reputation, the the brand equity of Notre Dame. Similarly for Georgia's state before I decided to come here to Notre Dame, and I would assert is effective path forward for all institutions, universities, colleges, state schools, private, you know, and so forth. I have not yet seen a situation where it doesn't work, which is pretty exciting. That's great and I really like, you know, some of the premise that you started out and we're going to kind of peel this back a little bit and talk a little bit more about this, but I think that the idea of data driven. You know, you and I both, and all three of us have been in the industries for four years as I think that we are living in a little bit of a unique time frame where twenty, five, thirty years ago we didn't have access to the kind of data that we have today, and I'm sure that you guys are really utilizing that and that's a big part of the playbook. Tell us a little bit about some of the data that you're pulling and utilizing for your messaging and how you're doing things. Great question barked from a day of perspective. Data is the heartbeat of modern marketing. It's the the heartbeat of our smarter marketing recruitment playbook. What data do we look at in leverage? Frankly, on a daily basis. Let me share with you a couple of real examples. So to determine what our brand narrative is, we went through a journey, a journey to really understand what makes no tre dame Mendoza College of business meaningfully distinct, and we leverage a number of traditional data sources, right surveys, focus groups, really you know, had a chance, frankly, to read the founding documents of our our college, really looking to understand what makes us us and makes us meaningfully different to, you know, everyone else. Right, a lot of sea of sameness going on across higher education if you look at the messages that we communicates. Therefore, we want to cut through the clutter make sure we connect in a very foundational, emotional and transformational level with those right fit students. So, you know, we embarked upon this journey and landed on grow the good, and that is our imperative from a the Doza College of business. In fact, I have it right behind me here. Throw the good in business. So that's one way in which we determine our brand narrative, those key messages. But let me add to it what is so, so important. The data driven orientation from a digital first model perspective enables us to understand what works and doesn't work. We hear at at Notre Dame Medosa College of business, have put in market a couple thousand ads. May sound... a lot, but let me share with you how you get to that. All of them, you know, on message, all the lattering to our brand narrative, which speaks to a community mutual advancement, speaks to INTRIGRA leadership development, speaks to, you know, this notion of experiential learning that we believe as uniquely at Notre Dame. But from a messaging standpoint, across a digital ECO system, everything is instrumented, every single touch point is instrumented, interconnected across an integrated marketing communication plan and spins off intelligence. So the three eyes, if you will. You know there's nose, an instrumented, interconnected, intelligent we can, in real time, understand what messages are being completely ignored and, more importantly, what messages are being engaged with, such that we double down on what works and we change or stop what doesn't. Often when I find in across many industry you made a great strategy, but often we employ, not here at Notre Dame, but often schools grapple with this what I call a set and forget strategy. Build an incredible strategy and then put it market and wait and see and wait and see, and then you know, surprisingly, it may not work. So what we do is we call sense and respond. Every day we are measuring the degree of engagement with all of our messages, and let me share the notion of it's not one message. It's a personalized message based on data back to the persona that is the right fit student. So the message is we deliver, help us shape the class profiles, enhance the diversity, enhance the women in business where business school. So you, women in business and so forth, were very target in these key segments that, you know, we believe can just continue to elevate the brand equity of Notre Dame Mendoza College of business and certainly, of course, the programs of themselves. That's great and I know you kind of mentioned those three eyes and I know in our pre conversation we talked a little bit about the what the smart marketing playbook is built on. What those what those tenants are? Are Those three eyes the tenants of the of the playbook or is there something different that you kind of are using as the tenants of the playbook? Yeah, so you look at the smarter marketing playbook, it is absolute data driven. That's central to it. It really really is. I did on top of it this notion of having a compelling value proposition. So you know really what is your unique value proposition and you use data to you deliver that from a digital first perspective. So digital is key. And then, you know, frankly, talent is everything. It really really is. So I would just you know, share also, I'm so, you know, proud of the team that they are just delivering with excellence, seeing very focused every day, living the values of Notre Dame and and, you know, being a force for good in the world, if you will, helping those, you know leaders of today and tomorrow right become the best versions of themselves and so forth. So that, I think, those are some of the the key pillars has helped us deliver on what I call the QUINTFECTA. So you know from a Quin fact if I made show, I pivot to that now or do you have a different so quin FECTA. One day I was sitting in my office and we've got these key metrics on my white board, you know, key metrics that I would assert every school, big school, small school, public, private, etc. Should be thinking about right, and that is, you know, the interest, the reputation of your institution could be measured, should be measured, at least to some extent, in terms of, you know, the applications right, what types of applicants are are being, you know, interested in your institution. And let me share what the quint fact is across the enrollment journey, and this enrollment journey is really, really important. The notion of applications submitted. That's one of the five Quinfecta elements. We've seen a surgeon interest from a application...

...standpoint, and it's not just applications, although we love to see that increase. It's the type of applicants that are actually applying. Hence that we're able to increase our selectivity. What does that mean? We've got student bet you know, like an elevation, and you know, best fit, right fit students. In addition to that, the matriculated students have increased. So the first three of the five Quin fact application submitted increased, selectivity increased, matriculated students increased. In addition to that, I'm very pleased to say the academic quality, academic readiness has improved as well. So we're business school, graduate school. Will talk about that here. What does that mean? That needs a gmat scores, gre scores, undergraduate GPA's average work experience. And the fifth component of the quint fact that I'm actually most proud of is the diversity we have elevated, the diversity within our classrooms with women in business, under represented minorities, is just a fantastic five, four five that you know. I'm optimistic. Actually we're going to go back to back with the five four fives, with where we are right now in our enrollment cycle. Some of our programs already at over a hundred percent increase your to year and applications, after seeing significant your your increases the last two years since we've deployed the smarter marketing playbook here at Notre Day. That's great. Would you be able to share some of the outcomes, positive outcomes that you have realized? Sure, happy to so. I'll go back to a point I mentioned a moment ago which I'd encourage everyone listening that's in the higher it space to think about, and that is this notion of enrollment journey. It's really important to understand who those right fit perspective students are and their journey to your institutions, knowing of course they're potentially likely applying to multiple schools. Right. So we look at from a enrollment journey standpoint is across all of our programs, how are we showing up at that in query stage when somebody across a digital ECO system, you know, shares their name, their email address, their phone number perhaps, reaches out and wants to talk to an emissions leader the notion of in query stage. Then we look at created APPS, we look at submitted APPS, we look at admits and then, ultimately enrollment and matriculation. And at each of those stages in I'll call the enrollment journey, we have key metrics that we look at program by program and then collectively. Let me give you a couple of data points here, as you ask. So from a data point perspective we've delivered a forty percent increase in queries, a twenty five percent increase in created APPS, twenty nine percent increase in submitted APPS, twenty six percent increase in admits and thirty percent increase in enrollment. So I look at this on an ongoing basis those key parameters. And when everything's green, green is good. We like Green. That I especially you're at notes. Youre Dame right go I wish green. So those are all green right now and looking very positive going forward. So those are the specific metrics and of course we do this at all program level. And then also programmed by program our MBA program versus are specialized masters, versus are executive programs and so forth. That's great. So you kind of talked a little bit about you touched on those three different programs that you're kind of utilizing the playbook in. How is that collaboratively working? I mean, obviously you're doing personas for each of the different programs. You're developing that enrollment journey and measuring those different programs, but talk to me a little bit about how those different aspects of the different programs collaborate underneath all of this. Sure, sure, Bart, so it is very much a collaborative, transparent process. Frankly, let me share with you the dashboard, the dashboard that I have on my computer that I, you know, look at every day, actually is the same dashboard that's on the Dean's computer as well. Frankly, he doesn't look at it, but if...

...he wanted to, he certainly can write. And in addition to that, of course, there's academic program directors, there's marketeers, there's admissions, you know, and so forth. So we've got, you know, the single source of the truth, as how I refer to it. That right, everybody's opinions are welcomed. You know, everyone's entitled to their opinion. I welcome at all, but they're not entitled to their own set of data. Right. So we have one single source of the truth. That's then, you know, a real time dashboard, which has been great, drives tremendous Trans parency and accountability and team or right, it's a very collaborative it's a team sport. It really really is. And you know, that's not just for a dashboard. That's also from a persona perspective. The personas are built with marketeers, admissions team member, student services, Career Services, academic program directors, students, as well as those individuals who have applied to Notre Dame middle of the college in Business and for whatever reason, chose to go somewhere else. Right. So it's a very kind of wide inputs here from a data perspective and collaboration on the Personas, on the message, called message hierarchies or the message maps. We've got personas and message maps built for each of our programs such that we can deald our personalized messages based on that program and the right fit students for the program are. NBA students are different than our fifth year. You know specialized masters. They're different than the executive NBA. So we've got clarity on who those perspective students are that we would like to continue to cultivate and see in our classrooms. And you know what messages resonate and what message don't resonate. Right. So that's how we look at it from a collaboration standpoint. That's great, and I'm sure even down to the modality of the delivery of the messaging. I'm sure that you know the way that you're going to be talking to an executive education prospect and you know corporus. You See ceio or CFO or CEO is going to be different. Then you know the modality that you might do. For a moment. You know an older generation Z who's getting ready to go into their NBA program tell me a little bit about that. I mean, are there ways that you're doing that differently? Yeah, so, so you're exactly right, and you know each program is unique. Each program has their own priorities, if you will. Even you know, domestic versus international, stand based versus non stand based. Right, undergraduates who are liberal arts versus undergraduates or business students. So we look at all of those characteristic being very cognizant of where we are today and and where we want to be tomorrow, the notion of really shaping our classrooms going going forward. And I'd also suggest that it's not just about enrollment. Of course that's what I have responsibility for from a graduate enrollment is part of my cheap marketing graduate rollment perspective, but if you talk about marketing in general, it represents the entire school and all of our stakeholders. From a curriculum development standpoint, I talked about it in regards to the brand integrity index or the promise to performance metric. So those brand promises that we're making, are we delivering on them from a performance standpoint? Right? Are we INSYNC from an integrity standpoint? And that's helped transform a number of things, frankly, from curriculum development an example. So you know, one of those key pillars under that supports our brand imparative to grow the good business is Integra leadership development. Another is experiential learning on the front lines that how, from a curriculum perspective, are we delivering on those promises? That's really important and we've seen some great progress there as we go forward. So the data informs much more than just graduate enrollment. Just wanted to kind of share that point as well. That's great. It seems it's evident that this playbook delivers huge success. But let me ask you, how confident would you be to say we wanted to double the enrollment and not today? Yeah, so I would say...

...we could actually do it. In fact, we don't intend to do that for the right reasons. Right what are classrooms? Only so large and but importantly, we focus on quality. Quality, is that the most important thing here? Obviously it's, you know, quality and quantity. Given the curriculum parameters that we have at play, a number of faculty, size of classrooms and so forth. We're very purposeful to, you know, be thoughtful in our growth approaches. This playbook can accelerate tremendous growth, and it has, but it's thoughtful, discipline growth in those key areas. I'll also add we have not increased the budget. This is not a matter of increasing budgets. It's just better use of existing budgets. That's really, really important for a lot of the listeners. I'm sure they're they're wondering, you know, how do you get these tremendous results. It's not by increasing the budget, although that is nice, of course. It's about smaller usage of existing budgets and, importantly, quantifying the return on investment from said budget, so you can improve budget based on looking at, you know, return investment metrics. I could as certain literally the dollar amount that will be required to double our enrollment, because everything's instrument. We have cost per in query, costper created APP and it's different bites program all the way through the funnel, of course, to cost per enrollment from an investment. I actually prefer the word investment to expense and in cost. Well, that's very exciting. So my next question if you're not going to use it to double the enrollment at nor to dame, is this available to other schools, other leaders or's? This is something that's exclusive to you. Appreciate that that question. I share a couple of comments. One, I'd be happy to have conversations with your listeners in terms of sharing the path rawn and have in fact spent a number of speaking sessions conveying this this, you know, framework approach that we have underway. Secondly, there will be a peer review paper coming out here in the next month or so. That speaks to this, you know, brand narrative, elevation of brand equity. So look for that coming out and you know. Thirdly, if you're interested, I actually run a bowling consulting business. My wife actually is one who runs the business. Does a tremendous, you know, performance there in helping higher education institutions and you know, other industries as well, deploy brand strategy and smarter marketing and enrollment or or sales at ativity. So happy that to help. Very good will. We will give you an opportunity to give your information so people can contact you, but before we do we're going to make you give one piece of advice for free. We always ask our guest if there is one takeaway that you could give that someone could implement today or Monday that could have some impact. What would that piece of advice be? Sure, so let me give one piece of free advice and maybe a second as well. So I really, you know, would encourage everybody to think about the enrollment journey. Think about this not, as you know, one moment, but the notion of journeys. That really is is essential. It really really does. So I'd encourage you to think about that. Encourage your teams to really think through those activities that take place. You know, before someone shows up on your website, before they show up in your your classroom, that that journey is really, really important. And then the second you know, as I may I add another we've talked about this already. It's data right. Data, digital first, is the key here. Right. The world, how we live, work interacting by has fundamentally changed before the pandemic and even more so, you know, as we continue to find ourselves working our way out of this pandemic. Right, this no shit. Digital First, data matters a lot. There's still a lot of traditional techniques that are taking place across the higher education landscape, and I'd encourage you to think about digital first and shifting some of your investment accordingly to connect...

...across that journey. It will, it will yield tremendous success. That would be my guidance here. Wonderful Tim thank you so much. This is very exciting. Now would love to give you an opportunity to give our listeners how they can contact you if they're interested in the playbook, if they're interested in the peer review or just to simply connect with you. Sure. So, couple ways. One, I'm on Linkedin. Certainly look for me. They're on Linkedin. Secondly, tim at Bowling Consultingcom, you can get me there, or t bowling at indie dotted. You again, happy to you know, engage to help. You know, really this is such a tremendous profession. Having, you know, relatively recently moved into higher at after twenty plus years and industry. I feel it's on us to help your shepherd the next generation of marketeers and the you know, what a purposeful industry right. So, anyway I can help, just feel free to reach out. Happy to have the conversation and see where it goes. Thank you, Tim, and I do want to make note that bowling is Boh l I g. you've been a wonderful guest and I look forward to following you. I look forward to the peer review and to learn more about the playbook. Thank you so much. As pleasure spending time with you. Bart. What are your last minute takeaways or thoughts that you can share before we wind up our episode? Yeah, I just want to point out a few things that Tim had said and certainly I encourage you to go back and listen to some of the other details but a few things Tim's done an excellent job of articulating, I think, what I would call some basic blocking and tackling from marketing. We're talking about being authentic and distinctive in your messaging. We're talking about personas, taking the time to develop those personas per audience and per program within those audiences. I mean you can't just say, oh, the personas graduate, you know, students, know it's it's either MBA students or it's, you know, it's executive NBA. There's a lot of and even within their tim kind of hinted at that. There's even segments within each of those. So there's women in business, there's minorities, there's different ways of looking at that. So the blocking and tackling of authenticity, of distinctiveness of Personas, and especially this idea of customer journeys be one of the things that we hear a lot about US customer journeys or enrollment journeys and the mapping of that and taking the time, just like you would with personas, of actually documenting all of that down so that you have an idea of what are the questions that your perspective, students are asking at this part of their journey and how can you create that messaging in that content that's going to answer those kinds of questions, and so I think that's really important just to kind of go back and listen to some of those points again. And then finally, I just want to really focus on the data. I Love Tim's quote about you know, data equals truth. You know that is it doesn't matter if you're a big school like Notre Dame or purdue or University of Kentucky, or you're really tiny school. You have access to data. You might have to figure it out how to get to it. You might not be able to have a real fancy dashboard, you might just be doing it out of excel or Google sheets, but you have access to day to drive that data. Use that day to look at that data. Use that data that you've got access to, the funnel data. You can figure out how many apps you have. You can figure out how many you know what the quality of those apps. You know how many people have matriculated. You can put that quinfect it's together for yourself and that's going to give you a lot more. It's gonna give you vision on what's going on. And it's only when you have that vision and that clarity that you can make those good decisions, and so I think that goes back to a lot of what Tim said. And there at the end just the idea of being smarter with what you have. I hear so to too many schools, especially small schools at Beman, about the fact that, Oh, if we just had a bigger budget, if we were a notre dame boy, we could do that. No, it's more about the matter of using what you have and being smarter with it, using the data and apply it accordingly. So really appreciate your time to day, Tim. It's been a it's been a wonderful lesson. Thank you so much. It's been a pleasure being with you. I wish you everyone the best. The High Ed Marker podcast the sponsored by Kaylor solutions and education, marking and branding agency and by Think, patented, a marketing execution company combining print, data and personalization for campaign...

...success. On behalf of my cohost Bart Kaylor, I'm troy 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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