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The Allied Group is New England's leading provider of Printing, Kitting, Mailing and Fulfillment services. Our blog authors have backgrounds in Sales, Marketing, IT, Production and Operations and post useful tips, trends, news and opinions in our industry and beyond. We know you'll find something you enjoy. Most of all, be sure to jump into the conversation!

New Rules Affecting Adult Enrollment – How Will Your Institution be Affected?

The University of Phoenix’s parent company expects adult enrollments to drop as much as 40% this year, Bloomberg Businessweek reported this week in ”Apollo, Educations Shares Slide on Bleak Enrollment Outlook.” This expected drop, due to proposed new government regulations tying federal financial aid dollars to outcomes, will present new opportunities and dangers to private and public colleges alike.

New Opportunities

While the marketing communication strategies of many for-profits are no doubt above-board, the predatory practices of other institutions are now under the watchful eye of Congress and the national media.  For instance, earlier this year a Time Magazine article asked, “For-Profit Colleges – Educators or Predators?”  Adverse publicity may cause prospective students to look more closely at nonprofit public and private institutions. This could increase enrollments in both graduate and continuing education programs.

Dangers to Nonprofits

Nonprofit colleges and universities cannot afford to sit back and wait for an influx of students into their institutions. It may not happen. As unemployment continues to hover around 10%, students realize that even with their chosen degree there’s no guarantee they’ll get the job they seek. As a result, a number of institutions no longer have the number of inquiries and applications they saw just a year or two ago.

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Marketing collateral - as important as ever

Here at The Allied Group we know how important effective marketing collateral can be to our clients so it was interesting when I came across a recent survey published by a west coast media firm.

Eccolo Media has been conducting an annual survey of U.S. business technology purchasers to better understand how they perceive and use marketing collateral in the sales cycle. The 2010 survey was recently completed and included responses from senior business executives as well as managers and specialists. While the survey was limited to technology buyers, the findings definitely provide valuable insights into the practices of buyers who purchase complex products and services, regardless of what they may be.

The findings are intriguing...

White papers seem to have the greatest influence on purchasing decisions among executives. White papers took the top spot with 39% of buyers stating they were the most influential of marketing collateral.

Case studies, brochures, and white papers are still the most frequently used types of marketing collateral with 83% of respondents saying they had used brochures, 76% using white papers, and 67% using case studies within the past six months to evaluate vendors.

The most important place for marketing collateral is the company website. Potential buyers are going directly to the company website to find valuable information on products and services.

These marketing materials are being gathered early in the buying process. Most potential buyers are gathering marketing collateral before they even initiate or take calls from vendors.

The bottom line is that marketing material is still very important to potential buyers as well as to your marketing communication strategies. Please contact us if you would like to discuss our corporate marketing services and how they may fit into your lead generation methods.

To read the full report click here.

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Is your Marketing Actually Helping Competing Institutions?

The present economic climate has put a number of graduate and continuing education programs in a difficult situation. The tight economy has caused both public and private institutions to put equally tight leashes on marketing expenditures. But while available budgets are shrinking, the need of marketing for higher education is growing. The pool of students who can afford to return to college to pursue a new degree or sharpen their skills is shrinking. More now than ever programs for nontraditional students need effective lead generation methods to find real prospects. How can Vice Presidents, Deans and Directors provide their programs with the outreach they need and still avoid wasting precious marketing funds?

Does your marketing actually help your competitors more?

Of the available marketing communication strategies, the one most often used is to promote the college through advertising, using radio, newspapers and the Internet. But these efforts may actually end up helping competing institutions as much or more than they help your own. The research habits of many prospective students virtually guarantee it.

Prospective students are often very busy and they face a wide array of choices. There are many online institutions competing for their attention. A number of these have sophisticated marketing programs and admissions counselors who are ready to pounce on telephone or online inquiries day or night. In addition there are often several well established colleges and universities within driving distance of the prospect’s home or work location. Realistically, at how many institutions with the desired program will the average adult prospect look – two or three? Four? Which college is sure to receive his or her inquiry? The last one they visited that fit their criteria.

An example close to home

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Gaining an Edge in College Admissions Yield – Part Two

In Part One we discussed how several institutions including the University of Hartford and Southern New Hampshire University achieved substantial increases in their yield rates with One to One communication by sending accepted students a customized yield publication. These publications showed students the aspects of the institution that were most important to them. 

New Results from a 2010 Study

Research conducted by Southern New Hampshire University this spring showed that sending a customized yield publication with the right creative design is one of the marketing communication strategies that continue to work even in this difficult economic climate. SNHU, which had previously sent a personalized yield piece to each accepted student now divided their accepted students into two groups: an experimental group that would continue to receive this customized direct mail and a control group that would get everything the university normally sent except that piece. Here are the results: 

  • Total Accepted Students – 3,443

  • Experimental Group receiving the customized yield piece – 3105

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Getting your College Noticed in Student Search

Admissions officers and higher education marketing firms know that it’s very hard to encourage a student to inquire or apply if he/she won’t even read your Search letter or email. Student Search is one of the most critical aspects of higher education marketing.   As the recession pushes down admissions yield rates, having a sufficient number of inquiries and applications becomes even more important.  

Searching Overburdened Students

Marketing to prospective college students is becoming ever more challenging. As Strauss and Howe’s research revealed, the Millennial generation is one of the most stressed-out generations in history. Students feel understandable pressure to get good grades and take part in a myriad of extracurricular activities. When the Search season begins, most prospective college students will be buried under an avalanche of Search letters. Many will look very similar. And the student’s electronic inbox will resemble their mailbox; it will be totally clogged with admissions Search email messages. Which messages will they read and what will encourage them to respond? 

This will be no problem for institutions with a great brand. A Search letter from Harvard, Princeton or Yale will certainly by opened – it may be framed. But there are many high quality but less famous institutions that could be a perfect fit for individual students. Due to time pressures, many of their letters and emails will go unopened by both students and parents. What’s an admissions marketing staff to do? 

Research to the Rescue

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The Psychology Behind Interactive Websites in Higher Education Marketing

The Internet is one of the most powerful persuasion tools ever devised.  It is especially valuable in higher education marketing.  This tool excels in both informing and marketing to college students.  Millennial prospects live on the web and often make stealth investigations of colleges that pique their interest. To engage them, institutions may employ websites that allow students to get a customized electronic brochure or to personalize their online experience and see exactly what they want to see.  That strategy is a sound one.  The Journal of College Admission (Summer, 2010) pointed out, “Millennial students often do not express interest in information that is not directly related to what matters to them, nor are they willing to give a second chance at a first impression (Howe and Strauss 2007)”.

 Showing Millennials What Interests Them the Most

Showing students the things that matter most to them will certainly hold their interest.  It can also increase an institution’s attractiveness if the college presents those subjects of interest in a way that stimulates students’ imaginations.  Author Alvin Burns writes in The Journal of Advertising, “Several consumer researchers have shown that imagery-eliciting strategies can significantly affect attitudes…That is, imagery-eliciting stimuli resulted in more positive attitudes than stimuli not attempting to elicit imagery.” In one such study in the early days of cable television, persuasion expert Robert Cialdini, PhD and his colleagues found that homeowners who were asked to envision themselves enjoying the benefits of cable TV were more than twice as likely to subscribe as those who were just told about those benefits.  This same phenomenon is also seen in higher education marketing. Recent experience at a number of campuses has shown that students who can picture themselves on your campus are considerably more likely to enroll at your institution.

Well designed customized Stealth Programs, as well as websites and eBrochure programs used to convert inquiries can help your prospects visualize what life would be like at your institution.  Colleges have used them to transform stealth website visitors into qualified inquiries.  They have a proven track record for increasing applications and enrollment.  But is their ability to stimulate prospective students’ imaginations their only pulling power?  Look for the answer in "The Psychology Behind Interactive Websites in Higher Education Marketing-Part Two."

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What's Trending?

What's Trending?

Well, according to Yahoo as of right now -- you've got a range from American Idol, to Chelsea Clinton, to Iran, to bear attacks of all things.

But in the world of strategic marketing consultancy services and top 3pl companies, we've got to do a little better than just what's hot right now! Or do we? As much as we need to stick to the basics and practice what's tried and true...we get the most questions about what's hot and how we can best hitch on to that wagon. And, come to think of it, that's probably to be expected. What's HOT for us right now? How about direct mail design? Maybe data appending? A few bulk printing options...and some promotional product ideas.

They might sound as disjointed as Chelsea Clinton is to bear attacks, but the bottom line is that's what our best prospects are looking for. And, basically, it's what The Allied Group is good at.

As a marketing communications company that also offers total fulfillment outsourcing, we've got our best clients covered from marketing strategy to supply chain management strategies. If you need to attract, acquire or retain more of the right customers AND contain, reduce and remove operational costs, we should talk!

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"Ideal" vs. "Real"

"Ideal" vs. "Real"

Ideally, I'd be sitting on the beach, pushing sand between my toes, drinking a Corona, and watching my kids splash around and have fun.

But really, I'm sitting at my desk, trying to get comfortable, wishing I hadn't had such a big lunch and wondering why it is so warm in here. I could get up and adjust the temperature, but the thermostat affects more people than just me. So I guess I'll just be uncomfortable a little while longer. But that's enough of that...let me get to my point.

How about sports? Are any of you sports fans? You probably all know who Michael Vick is. I'm a sports fan and, I confess, I listen to a lot of sports radio. And normally I find it fun, and funny and all those things that cause you to wonder why you are listening—but mostly enjoying it at the same time. I can't think of a time when I've actually changed the channel, so it must do something for me. But there have been two topics that have hit a nerve with me and have caused me to yell at the radio, want to call in and made me WANT to change the channel. Steroids in professional baseball and Michael Vick. I don't really feel like getting into the steroids thing...so, we'll stick to Michael Vick.

For those of you who don't know (and I'm no lawyer and I haven't "studied" the case...I know what I know from being a sports fan, being exposed to it on the radio and what I've read) Michael Vick was a quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons. He was a very popular football player and, at one point, one of the highest paid if not the highest paid player in the league (NFL).

He was caught, prosecuted and found guilty of running, funding and participating in an illegal dogfighting ring. Throughout the case, a lot of very graphic and disturbing allegations (that proved to be true) came to light including the torturing and killing of pit bulls as well as the theft of dogs to be used as fodder for training purposes. The penalty was 23 months in jail, as well as fines and opportunity loss for Vick totaling somewhere between $90 and $100 million dollars. The harshest penalty he could have received under the law.

We fast forward to Spring, 2009 and Michael Vick was released from prison after serving 18 months in Leavenworth Prison...to serve the remaining 5-months under house arrest. Now the fun starts. You see, he's only 29 years old and is pretty much in the prime of his life physically to be a professional athlete.

Now let's get one thing straight and perfectly clear—I don't condone, agree-with, support or have any desire to be involved in torturing, killing or fighting dogs. Ideally, Michael Vick would have enough common sense and/or people around him helping him to stay clear of this kind of activity...certainly considering his very public profile and celebrity. But in reality, he didn't.

But now this is over and done with. He has served his time, paid his price and now, under our judicial system, he is entitled to a 2nd chance! Why? Because that's what we do. There are so many people coming out of the woodwork now all fired up and opposed to him getting a second chance in the NFL. Calling him a murderer...saying that "if he were a school teacher, he wouldn't get a 2nd chance". Well, just to clarify a few things: He's not a murderer...he's a killer of dogs, a dog fighter and a thief. And, thank god, he's not a school teacher. And, probably the biggest one of all...HE'S NOT A ROLE MODEL! He was in an ideal position to be one, but, in reality he has chosen not to be. That's his choice. The two are not mutually exclusive.

In our society and in the business community specifically, we all have our ideals. And, ideally, things would always blend, coincide and not conflict with them. But most times, they don't. Often times reality clashes with our ideals. But the beauty of ideals is that they are very personal. And while some are very commonly shared, many are not. It really isn't up to us to judge. Successfully developing an integrated marketing communications plan or developing and implementing multi-channel lead generation methods comes from truly understanding your client's ideals, comparing and contrasting them to reality and coming up with a realistic solution to accomplish a set business goal. Ideally, both sides are realistically satisfied!

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Catch a Tiger Driving a...

Catch a Tiger Driving a...

Fresh off the Masters and the escapades of the past 5-6 months…maybe Tiger has been on my mind. But probably not for the reason you might all be thinking. For me, it all comes down to one, simple, tell-the-world-once-and-for-all question…after all of this; does anyone actually, truly, honestly, undoubtedly believe that Tiger drives a Buick?

This is it. After the past 5-6 months, we have a little window into what he likes to do in his down time. And even though I don’t know exactly what Tiger Woods makes or what he’s worth, for illustration purposes, it’s probably not a stretch to say he’s a billionaire. Fair? So it would be accurate to say that Tiger Woods is a 33 year-old, fun-lovin’ billionaire.

Now let’s say that Tiger Woods is in the market for a new car. Being a 33 year-old, fun-lovin’ billionaire, he’s got a lot of choices. More so than you or I. But just what do you think he would be in the market for? Maybe a Mercedes, a Bentley, a Maybach, or maybe something faster and sporty, like a Ferrari or a Lamborghini. Then again, I could see something that could give him some performance and luxury like a BMW M5? If it weren’t for his contractual obligation and his sponsorship commitments, do you think a Buick would be on his list? Now that’s not to take anything away from the Buick brand. Actually, I’m kind of a car guy myself and I think Buick has done a nice job with some new models this year. But Tiger Woods driving a Buick LaCrosse? Or maybe even a Regal? Forget about an Enclave or a Lucerne…I’m just left with a concern. Is anyone believing this?

To me, for an integrated marketing communications plan to be effective, it has to be believable. Or maybe a fantasy of some sort would due. But I don’t believe that Tiger would actually choose a Buick and I don’t think anyone out there is fantasizing about Tiger driving a Buick. The problem when direct marketing isn’t believable is that it actually hurts rather than helps. Some people would just ignore it. Others would actually find it as a reason to like it less! Buick doesn’t make overt claims that they are “world-class” because, in the auto market, they aren’t. So why would they make the claim even more outrageous and insult all of our intelligence by implying they are?

As strategic marketing services provider, I have learned that if Tiger is anything, he is unpredictable. But I predict this, the next time Elin picks up a 5 iron and takes a swing at his car—she has no chance of hitting a Buick emblem. And here's a tip: For your lead generation methods to be effective, they MUST be believable.

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