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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!

Positive results by the GPO - positive sign for industry?

There was important news released yesterday buy the U.S. Government Printing Office and it was pretty positive considering the state of our economy. The GPO has yet again reported another year with positive earnings; that's seven years in a row with positive earnings.  The financials show GPO completed the year with a net operating income of $7.9 million on total revenues of $928 million.

The GPO is the federal government’s primary centralized resource for gathering, cataloging,
producing, providing, authenticating, and preserving published U.S. government information in all its forms.

"As GPO begins to celebrate our 150th anniversary, I am proud to announce we have completed a seventh consecutive year of positive results due to the hard work and dedication of our employees," said Public Printer Bob Tapella. "GPO has re-engineered itself many times since 1861 to remain relevant and viable for the future.  It is through the efforts of our family of employees that GPO has transformed itself into a 21st century printing, digital media and secure credentialing facility."

This is great news for the print and full service fulfillment industries. The economy has taken it's toll on many organizations but this seems so be a step in the right direction.

Source: GPO - NewsRelease

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Does it Take More than Good Information to Enroll Students?

Admissions officials for both traditional and nontraditional programs have often heard that the fit between institution and student is most important factor in admissions. Getting good information out to prospective students has been seen as a primary tool for recruiting them. But in this difficult economy, institutions that would achieve success must do much more than just inform prospective students of the programs available to them.

College and university marketing departments often do an excellent job of disseminating information about their academic and extracurricular offerings. Marketing communication strategies follow a predictable pattern: Advertising by mass media, personalized direct mail or email often drives prospective students to the college’s website where they can get detailed information on the program of their choice. This can help traditional and nontraditional students who know they want to go to college find out the information they need to make an informed decision. 

Unfortunately, what it rarely does is persuade anyone to actually enroll. Researchers Herbert Hyman and Paul Sheatsley of the American Association for Public Opinion Research discovered years ago that information campaigns often fail to effectively impart ideas, much less inspire action. In fact, according to Stanford Graduate of Business Professor Chip Heath and his coauthor, information designed to persuade the intellect can actually deter prospects from taking action.

Detailed factual information can actually inhibit action

The authors described a controlled study. College students were paid five $1 bills for completing a task. Inside the envelope containing the money was a donation request from the Save the Children foundation. The study was designed to measure what kind of message would best move college students to action – in this case by donating some of the money they had just been paid. One letter outlined convincing facts and figures that showed the critical need to prevent malnutrition among African children. The other message was designed to appeal to the emotions. It described the serious problems facing one African child, Rokia, with a request to help her and others like her.  

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How to stop a harsh critic in his tracks

In "Defeating "Digs" and Personal Attacks" we spoke how critics will sometimes use subtle "digs" or verbally attack our work or character in order to make themselves look better by making us look worse.

The key, then, to defeating this behavior is to use your detractor’s need for a positive self-image to make him stop his verbal aggression.  According to Dr. Aronson and coauthor Carol Tavris, PhD in Mistakes Were Made (but not by me), “When you do anything that harms someone else – get them in trouble, verbally abuse them or punch them out – a powerful new factor comes into play:  the need to justify what you did.”

So, the one making an oral onslaught (however small or large) has to justify it in order to continue to feel good about himself. If he* cannot justify his behavior, he may experience significant cognitive dissonance (a form of emotional uneasiness).   And according to Dr. Aronson and his coauthors, “Dissonance produces mental discomfort, ranging from minor pangs to deep anguish; people don’t rest easy until they find a way to reduce it.” 

That’s another reason why retaliating doesn’t work. If you respond with a cutting remark or point out his flaws, your adversary will ignore his own unkind words and focus completely on what you said.  Your reply will give him the justification he seeks.  You will have let him off the emotional hook. He may, in fact, come to feel that you deserved his attack and will be more inclined towards another verbal assault in the future.

You can avoid all this by making it difficult or impossible for your opponent to justify what he did.  How can you prevent a critic from justifying his negative words?  A great way to do that was revealed by wise King Solomon, who wrote:

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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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