Episode 89: No More CROCKPOT Strategies & Increasing Enrollment Growth by 41% with Kathleen Stockham

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Blog Recap:

Unlocking Enrollment Growth: The Interplay of Marketing Innovation and Higher Education

Introduction:
Ep.89 of the Higher Ed Demand Gen podcast, featuring Kathleen Stockham, delves into the transformative strategies that are reshaping enrollment growth in higher education. As a seasoned marketing maven from South College, Kathleen shares invaluable insights on how marrying retail marketing acumen with higher ed demand generation can result in significant enrollment increases. In this episode, we dissect the key takeaways and explore how these novel approaches can benefit academic institutions.

Subheader: Beyond Traditional Boundaries – Embracing Third-Party Audiences

Section 1: Navigating New Demographic Waters
Third-party audiences have become Kathleen’s investigative compass in charting new student territories. This targeted strategy cuts through irrelevant noise, connecting institutions like South College with specific demographics poised for educational advancement. Kathleen’s tactics are emblematic of a digital ecosystem that requires constant testing and adaptability to discover untapped potential among diverse student cohorts.

Section 2: The Consumer-Centric Approach in Higher Education
The retail sector has long understood the power of a consumerized experience. Kathleen’s approach applies this principle to educational program pages, where a consolidated reservoir of information allows prospective students to make informed, expeditious decisions. This paradigm shift reflects a need for higher education marketing to evolve, presenting information in a manner similar to consumer brands that focus on clarity and accessibility.

Section 3: Responsive Programs for a Diverse Student Body
South College stands as a testament to academic agility, swiftly adapting its program offerings to the shifting demands of the workforce. Their diverse array of courses, including an innovative competency-based DBA program, caters to a range of students, from career professionals to first-timers in higher education. The school’s commuter-friendly campuses underscore this commitment to flexibility, ensuring education is attainable regardless of one’s life stage.

Section 4: Agile Marketing in the Quest for Outstanding UX and UI
Achieving excellence in user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) is a cornerstone of contemporary higher education marketing, driving the need for agile methodology integration. Stockham’s experience in retail highlights the urgency to create digital platforms that not only inform but entice users towards immediate conversion—a principle she’s brought to the world of higher education.

Section 5: Breaking Down the Silos in Higher Education Marketing
The podcast unfolds the significance of collaboration within academic institutions. Stockham emphasized that marketing cannot operate in a vacuum; instead, it should be a woven tapestry of efforts across departments. Her “evangelism tour” showcases the efficacy of interdepartmental education on the nuances of digital marketing strategies, resulting in a unified approach towards student acquisition and retention.

Section 6: Marketing as an Investment in Education’s Future
A prevailing theme throughout the conversation is the view of marketing as an investment rather than a mere cost. Kathleen’s expertise in driving ROI in retail translates seamlessly to the educational sector, where long-term engagement strategies foster a continuum of brand exposure. It’s about seeing marketing as a growth engine that propels institutions forward, not simply as a line item on a balance sheet.

Conclusion: Leveraging the Lessons of Retail for Higher Ed Wins
Kathleen Stockham’s journey from the hustle of the retail marketing space to the halls of academia at South College exemplifies the boundless opportunities for growth and innovation in leveraging various marketing channels. By disbanding outdated “crockpot strategies” in favor of dynamic, responsive tactics, Kathleen and her team have set a precedent for enrollment growth that is both impactful and sustainable. As we wrap up this episode of Higher Ed Demand Gen, we’re reminded that the heart of demand generation lies in its ability to constantly learn, adapt, and ultimately, to connect learners with the education that will shape their futures.

Listeners are invited to dive into the full conversation by exploring Ep.89 of the Higher Ed Demand Gen podcast, and to connect with Kathleen Stockham for a deeper exploration of these transformative marketing strategies.

Read the transcription

Shiro:
Welcome to the Higher Ed Demand Gen podcast hosted by Concept3d. If you like our content, please follow and subscribe to us on Spotify, Apple, Google, wherever you listen to us. And if you’re on Apple, please drop us a comment. I’d love to know what you think about the show. My name is Shiro Hatori and I will be your host today. And I’m really looking forward to talking about bringing in CMO number 1 and increasing enrollment growth by 41%. And for the conversation, I’m excited to have Kathleen Stockham join us today. She is the chief marketing officer at South College.

Shiro:
Welcome to the show, Kathleen.

Kathleen Stockham:
Oh, thank you so much. Thanks for having me. I’m excited to geek out a little bit and, talk about, all the things that we’ve been up to here at South College.

Shiro:
That’s fantastic. And I do ask all my all my guests this question. Please tell me what you love about higher ed.

Kathleen Stockham:
I think what I really love most about it is that you’re somewhere in the journey of impacting a life change for someone else. You know, unlike buying a sweater or something else, I mean, you’re really somewhere in the pathway and in the decision path of someone who is looking to make a change, whether it’s an extra degree or first degree, or or more importantly, someone that’s looking to make a wholesale change and make an entirely different career direction change.

Shiro:
Yeah. I completely agree. Thank you so much for sharing that. And related as well, can you tell us a little bit more about, you know, your career and how you got here today?

Kathleen Stockham:
Sure. I started out a long time ago in television news. That’s where I began my career, and I sort of backed into a dotcom career in the mid nineties. And, I started out at American Online, of all places. And then back in the mid nineties, for those of you old enough to remember, AOL was the place to be. And I, ended up working on the very first shopping channel, which, if you’re going back that far, that was really the birth of ecommerce and how people discovered you could buy things online. So I was part of that very first team and I stayed at AOL several years on the shopping channel team. And this is about the time that brands began building their online presence and in building websites.

Kathleen Stockham:
And, they were also signing these multimillion dollar AOL keyword deals. And, Office Depot reached out and said, hey, we’ve signed one of these deals and we would sure love to have somebody on our team who understands the space. And if you remember at that time, nobody had any commerce experience. I mean, it was 99. It was 2,000. Nobody had that kind of experience. So, I became office depot very first director of online advertising, which was a really cool place to be. It’s a wonderful team, learned a lot.

Kathleen Stockham:
I stayed there several years. I went to Best Buy. I was at Best Buy in a similar role, for a couple of years. And then, I moved into mobile. I’ve worked on the agency side a couple of years, then I’ve gone back to retail. So I would say probably 95% of my experience has been in the ecommerce, digital marketing, retail sector, for a long, long time. And if you’re doing the math, you can figure out how old I am. But, but I’ve only been in the EDU space, actually, 2 years.

Kathleen Stockham:
So, I joined South College, in April of 2022, with no EDU experience. I was very clear about that in my interview that I was coming to this purely as a marketer. But most importantly, you know, bringing in a a a lot of experience, really understanding customer path, customer journey, customer experience, all of those things. So the EDU, part of my, part of my experience the last 2 years, has been really interesting to find the parallels. In some cases, it’s nothing like retail. But in many cases, rather unexpectedly, it’s very similar to retail. And that’s been kind of the fun, for the last 2 years for sure.

Shiro:
That’s great. I know as any marketer knows this who’s been, you know, in a marketing career for a few years is you take bits and pieces from, you know, other industries, other types of business, and you try and figure out where it fits into your new position or new role. And so, you know, I I think this is a change I’m seeing a lot in higher ed where we’re bringing in people. People are also leaving higher ed and bringing higher ed perspectives, new industries. And so it’s it’s fantastic to see that it’s not, you know, just higher ed for life anymore and that we’re seeing, you know, people come in from other industries. This is great. And AOL is a is a big flashback. I still I can still hear the the tone of a an AIM message I would get, AOL Instant Messenger.

Shiro:
Like, right when you said that I heard a thing.

Kathleen Stockham:
Well, a quick funny story for you. At that time, I was living in Dallas, Virginia. I had been married about 10 minutes. And so and my husband and I would go we were yeah. We didn’t have kids yet. We would go to, you know, part dinner parties or other things with people, that we got to know

Shiro:
in Northern Virginia.

Kathleen Stockham:
You know, telling somebody you work for AOL was like telling someone you were a dentist. They either wanted to sit there and tell you all about their problems or they just kind of backed away slowly and didn’t wanna talk to you at all. So that was kinda my experience, during those 4 or 5 years, during the outage, the busy signals, the incredible growth. But I will tell you this, it was a cool time to be in online when you knew there were a 1,000 people standing outside the door that would kill for your job. We had a long running joke. You could look in the parking lot at AOL corporate, which has now been torn down by the way. It doesn’t exist anymore. These big beautiful buildings.

Kathleen Stockham:
But you can go in the parking lot and look at the cars and go, bested, bested, not bested, not bested, bested.

Shiro:
Oh, that’s great. Okay. Oh, that’s awesome. Well, let’s let’s talk a little bit about South College. Right? I actually, you know, hadn’t heard about this institution prior to it, but, you know, as I did a little research before speaking to you in our introduction call and after speaking to you, like, it’s a very unique institution. Right? Can you tell us a little bit more about what makes it unique and, you know, how it spans several states and such and anymore?

Kathleen Stockham:
Sure. So it’s it’s really been an interesting journey to get to know it myself because, I had, the past, one of the campuses here in Knoxville, Tennessee where I am, several times and, you know, just didn’t think much about it. I I’m a parent of 2 college students that that have attended a large university in another state. And, you know, I saw the signs, but I didn’t really pay it that much mind as I, of course, was interviewed, took the job, and have sort sort of taken the helm of the marketing. It’s an incredible place. We span, 6 states. So it’s a lot to manage across, 6 different states that have different regulatory rules. But we’re also, you know, 8 campuses strong, plus online, plus competency based education.

Kathleen Stockham:
We are growing, growing, growing. And, largely based in the southeast, but we have campuses in, Pittsburgh and, Indianapolis and Asheville, Atlanta, Nashville, Knoxville, and then I’m forgetting one, Orlando. And it’s just it’s amazing. And, they’re run by these incredible people that sit at the, the top of each campus. As a president, all of our, degrees and programs and certificates are in areas where there’s need. Healthcare is a really, really big one for us. So that’s your nurses, your LPNs, your, diagnostic medical sonographers, radiography, you know, medical assistants, nurse assistants. I mean, every facet of health care, there’s such a need, there’s such a cry from the entire country that we need more nurses.

Kathleen Stockham:
And so, it’s a huge program for us, and we’re very proud of our program and our faculty, and of course, the amazing students that we turn out each year, that become new RNs. But, we also have a large focus on business and technology, obviously, in education, in legal studies. We’re we’re growing in a lot of ways trying to follow the trends of business. One of our most popular programs right now is a doctor of business administration, a DBA, which I’ll be honest with you, I was not familiar with. I, you certainly understand the MBA track, but it did not have a lot of knowledge about DBA. But our DBA program is actually done through what’s called competency based education or CBE, which is you go at an individualized pace. You work 1 to 1 with a faculty member. And it’s this really unique subscription model where you go 6 months and you go as far as you can in that 6 months.

Kathleen Stockham:
You have to achieve mastery level before you’re able to proceed to the next class. And again, working 1 on 1 with that faculty member, plus you have a mentor, I mean, you’re really kind of pacing at yourself. And the great thing is it fits in the lifestyle of the student. So if you are working, if you’re an executive full time during the day or you’re working in another role, you know, you can work on it at night or on weekends. There’s not like a scheduled class or a scheduled test. I mean, you really are self paced and self managed. So for the individual who, is self driven and wants to get there faster, you know, CBE is the way to go. And again, this is new for me coming for retail, but I am loving the fact that you’ve got something.

Kathleen Stockham:
We also have an executive MBA program as well that also sits in CVs. So that’s attractive to someone like me who is, you know, you know, 8 to 8 to 6 really is my hours and it’s busy busy busy. But if there’s time on the weekends, or, you know, I I there we have students that are full time students. They’re getting their doctoral degree usually in about, about 18 to 24 months, which is pretty quick if you think about it. But, you know, watching that grow and watching the response of, of potential students that are interested. And keep in mind that most of our students are not just the 18, 19, and 20 year olds. They’re the 45 year olds. They’re the 15 year olds.

Kathleen Stockham:
They’re the 55 year olds that are looking to either make a major change, and get a more advanced degree to help propel them, in in their life and in their future, or in some cases, they’re first time college students, and they’re just looking for something wholesale different. And it’s it’s a wonderful way to look at it from a non traditional standpoint, that the people that walk through our doors are there for different reasons. We see tours going on all the time at this campus and our other campus here in Knoxville that’s about 7 miles down the road. And sometimes, you see the 18 year olds with both parents walking the campus. Or Mhmm. You actually see the mom with, you know, a couple of younger kids with her walking and taking a tour and speaking with admissions. And I mean, it’s kinda neat that it’s not that traditional college experience. You know, when I dropped both of my kids off their freshman year at their dorm with all their stuff, the cries, the hugs.

Kathleen Stockham:
You know, this is different. We’re a commuter campus. And again, it’s it works so well for you know, and it kinda goes back to that retail mentality that you’re putting an opportunity and a service in front of the right person at the right time when they really need it. And that’s Mhmm. Really the approach that, that I’ve taken since joining. But, but it’s been incredible, and we’ve been growing and, you know, let’s just keep going.

Shiro:
That’s great. Yeah. I I remember one thing you you said that stuck out was each campus molds themselves to the needs of the communities that they are in, whether that’s business, nursing facilities and facilities and equipment for training. And so I thought that was amazing how quickly shifting to, you know, fit fit the needs of the community, which is something, you know, I personally think is the huge need for Higher Ed to do is to to move faster and support their community. So that’s great. I know you talked a a little bit about, age demographics. Are you seeing in terms of going back to our hook around, you know, 41% enrollment growth, which we’ll get into a little bit more, are those, growth in age demographics to specific groups? Like, I’m I’m just thinking, like, I know, at least with community colleges in in California, there’s been a huge growth in that. I think it was, like, 40 plus age demographic group.

Shiro:
And I’m wondering if if you’re noticing specific age demographics, grow because there’s an increase in nontraditional students.

Kathleen Stockham:
We’ve actually seen a, a a vast increase in male students, particularly for health care.

Shiro:
Oh, interesting. Start with, you know,

Kathleen Stockham:
I study, I study our our GA 4 metrics, pretty religiously. I’m kinda hanging around like a raccoon but that’s one of the big notable

Shiro:
takeaways is the fact that I’ve seen

Kathleen Stockham:
our enrollments and even our lead gen shift, from being primarily female, like, you know, let’s be honest, you have 75 73, 75 percent female, to now it’s more like 55% female. So we’ve had a really nice pushover, where our, our male population, our male applicants, our male students are really picking up. And again, it’s not just business and technology, but it’s also health care, which has been a more, female predominant environment, particularly for nursing and for graduate school nursing as well. Mhmm.

Shiro:
All

Kathleen Stockham:
of our graduate, nursing programs, most of them are online. So again, that’s also very attractive, to students. But, you know, we have, physician’s assistant, which is a huge, huge program. And these are turning out, these incredible individuals that go out into the medical world, they work side by side with MDs. You see physician assistants more and more. They treat you in an in an emergency room or in a walk in clinic. So we we have, but we also have, nurse anesthesia, which is another huge growing field where they, again, they serve at the right hand of the anesthesiologist. It’s an incredibly important role, and it requires, obviously, a lot of education.

Kathleen Stockham:
And again, you see more and more, males, that are applying and that are in the program. So, I mean, I think that’s not so much the age piece, because I think because as a commuter school, we are gonna get, you know, all age ranges. Because again, it’s either, you know, matriculating on campus or hybrid or online. But the fact that we’ve seen a sharp shift, that there are more and more men out there that are, you know, that are either coming to health care or enhancing, their current education path, in health care. It’s it’s really cool to watch.

Shiro:
That’s a very interesting observation. I I think, yeah, maybe, like, access to you like you said, right, the different times of day has has opened it up more for someone who’s looking for career change, and maybe that’s, you know, a male. And so, that’s that’s that’s very interesting. Well, getting a little bit more into our topic, I know in our previous, intro coffee conversation, I I we talked a little bit about your take, right, coming in a little bit from non higher ed space, right, more with a lot of ecommerce background. I liked your take on the job to be done about what higher ed marketing’s role is within the student journey and what they’re selling. Right? I don’t like use using the word selling too much in higher ed, but, you know, if we relate it to ecommerce, what are you selling? And you you talked a lot about you’re really at the point of consideration and, marketing is help helping there to support that. Can you tell us a little bit more about your, your perspective on that?

Kathleen Stockham:
Similar to retail in a lot of ways, you know, for a consumer, you want what you want. You you’re going to, you know, research what you’re looking to. You know, where a lot of people, including myself as a consumer, I wanna go and read reviews. I wanna understand a little bit more before I make a purchase. The consideration funnel, obviously, for buying, you know, a consumable item like a sweater or pair of shoes is incredibly different from someone who is in a consideration path that I wanna go to school. Either I wanna return to school or this is my first foray, into higher education. You know, our job as marketers, from the EDU space is to provide as much information And obviously, as much, you know, surrounding information about admissions. How can I apply? What are the admission requirements? What are my financial aid options? Do I qualify for financial aid? How, you know, how long will it take me? You know, all of those things.

Kathleen Stockham:
So if you think about it, again, similar to retail, you know, when you look at a data feed for a retail product, it’s size, color, dimension. So, I mean, EDU’s kind of the same way. It’s how long will it take me? How much could it does it cost? Do I qualify for scholarships? You know, what kind of roles may be out there for me if I go in this path? You know, and all of those things. So when you look at it from a consideration funnel, it’s it’s probably a longer funnel, which it should be. This is a major decision, but it’s not, it’s not any wider, if you will, when you think about it across criteria, the way people think about these decisions. It’s similar to when you, you’re buying a a, you know, a large ticket item like a home or a car. You go in with a mindset and a punch list of these are the these are the criteria that must be answered for me to make a decision. But higher education is a 100% the same way.

Kathleen Stockham:
For a lot of our students, particularly for our campus level, for all 8 of our physical campuses, plus online, you know, that’s something to take into consideration. How far away is it? Can I get there? Can I get to class on time? Will I still be able to go to work? You know, is there a library available? Yes. Is there a bookstore? Yes. You know, all of those things, are again part of that consideration funnel. So from that’s a That’s a lot of information to communicate to an individual in in a very crowded space. I mean, again, you know, this is a pretty densely packed space. There’s a lot of competitors out there. And so you have to find cool creative ways to stand out, ways to get attention.

Kathleen Stockham:
But most importantly, because it’s obviously a heavily compliant regulated space, you also have to convey information, that is legally compliant, that is, exactly what needs to be said. There are no blurry lines that have to be delivered, you know, a certain way. So we’re the fun, kind of, marketing fluff that happens at the retail space. You know, in the EDU space, you can’t be as freewheeling, if you will, with copy and information. We have a chief compliance officer, our vice chancellor, who we work with very closely, and we love her because I personally have learned so much from her. Because it’s not just like dealing with a lawyer who’s gonna say, oh, we can’t say this. You know, when you’re looking at a privacy policy. She’s really looking at it from a compliance point of view that there are regulating bodies depending on the program and depending on the licensure by state.

Kathleen Stockham:
And there is very particular language. And I have learned so much from her in really, understanding kind of the guardrails, that we live around in this space. But again, if you think about it from a marketing perspective, it’s just a matter of kind of changing clothes in terms of the way that you think about these, programs and certificates. They’re products to a degree, and you just have to figure out the best way to present the product to the consumer in a way that they can understand. Whether it’s mobile or it’s desktop, whether they’re they’re only looking at social media, they’re only looking to research, you know, on Google or on Bing. You know, your job as a marketer is to be there. Be there in a way that they can understand you. And that’s all about understanding who the consumer is themselves.

Kathleen Stockham:
That’s a whole other that’s a whole other podcast.

Shiro:
Yeah. Audience. Right? I know you mentioned GA 4 earlier, and I didn’t ask about it because, like, the we can I can nerd out about that too? But, yeah, audience is is huge and it sounds like you have a good grasp of that. And so that has led you and your team to be able to deliver the right information at which a student, you know, an interested student may be thinking of wanting in terms of, like, considering South College and, you know, what benefits it has, what programs it has. Does it meet my requirements? And so that’s fantastic. And I like the way you’ve broke it broken it down and relate it to things that we can all, think about in our daily lives, like going on Amazon, looking at reviews, and looking at the specs. Right? Like, being like, okay. Is this gonna fit in this spot in my house? Or, like, you’re very, like, understandable.

Shiro:
I think

Kathleen Stockham:
Well, it’s funny.

Shiro:
Distractions. Right? Yeah.

Kathleen Stockham:
But when I first came to South College, you know, they had, varying degrees of of marketing leadership that had been in place, but they they they came from the EDU space. And again, I came at it from a purely tactical point of view of what I know worked, you know, in other verticals. And, you know, the one thing that stood out to me right away is that we needed to get the right partners in place. The right partners who really understand the EDU space. And so, I went through probably my first 5 to 6 months. We RFPed our agency. We got a different agency that specializes in EDU. That made a huge difference.

Kathleen Stockham:
We brought in the right technical partners, the right Martech stack, to bring it together so that it it all worked together, you know, in a really nice hand in glove way. Instead of having competing pieces of tech that was bolted on the back end that they were kinda fighting each other. And so, you know, bringing in just that fresh perspective and that fresh set of eyeballs and also bringing in, you know, 20 oh, Lord. Here we go again. You know, 28 years of experience doing this. You kinda know, hey, this works. This doesn’t work. But they never really thought about the marketing piece as being about the right time and the right place.

Kathleen Stockham:
It was just put it out there, put it out there, put it out there.

Shiro:
Yeah.

Kathleen Stockham:
And so bringing in the right partners and then the right kind of methodology, if you will, that, you know, good digital marketing, you know, there’s an argument of whether it’s agile methodology or waterfall methodology. And I say it’s all methodology. I mean, it really has to be both because, again, some consumers are gonna follow that very waterfall, I need to drill down, I need to learn more. Some are gonna be very agile. They’re gonna be looking at financial aid, but they’re still thinking about the kind of program, but they’re still thinking about, do I wanna do this online? Or do I wanna be on a campus? Do I wanna go to school at all? I mean and again, that’s your job as a marketer is to kind of anticipate, you know, where those decision points are gonna be. And, you know, it’s also a bit of a gamble too, to be honest with you, because as you are trying to put programs and information out there to a consumer, what you may not realize at the time is that the timing may not be right. But they’re going to remember you, which is all about getting back to what I’ve tried to really try to educate some of my colleagues about is multi touch marketing and about multi touch attribution. They drive past the building that we have big old sites out here.

Kathleen Stockham:
They drive past the building a 1000 times, doesn’t resonate. They see a TV commercial. Oh, wait. I know where that’s located. But they may not be in the market. But you know what? 8 months from now, when they’re like, you know what? I kinda feel like I need more education. Oh, wait a minute. And then they’re gonna go look it up on Google, and then they’re gonna get an email, and then, you know, so again, it’s getting getting everyone kind of, rallied around the same point.

Kathleen Stockham:
That it’s not just, I spent a dollar, I, you know, I should get a lead or, you know, we they they clicked a search ad once and, you know, in miracle of miracles, that become a student. It’s just not that simple. Consumers are used to being marketed to over a long period of time. And if you think about when you’ve made a purchase, even something as simple as an airline ticket, and guess what? That retargeting ad follows you around for weeks, and that’s done deliberately. And so if you think about it from the the point of view of being a consumer yourself, you’ll understand a little bit more about why that marketing journey is so important. And then, again, from the point of the consumer, they’re gonna need you when they need you. And when they don’t need you, there’s really not much you can do other than be patient because they will be back.

Shiro:
That’s great. Yep. And I know we talked about a a Yeti mug. Right? Like, even buying this simple mug, I’m showing my mug right now in front of the video camera screen. Even my decision to purchasing that wasn’t as simple as, you know, one click in a lead and I was purchase Right? I probably got saw a friend with it. Right? It the idea of having one entered my brain and maybe went to their website, got an ad on Instagram, went to their website, got retargeted, and then I finally made a purchase after maybe 5 or 6 touch points. Right? And so, you know, I like your point about multi attribution. Like, I mean, this was, this is all the decision making that went into buying a mug.

Shiro:
Right? Like making a decision in in going to a higher institution is is much bigger than major. And so, like you said, right, takes a lot of touch points. It takes a lot of

Kathleen Stockham:
market. Kind of consumer. So Yeah. I’ll just go pick on the 18 year olds for a minute. So, you know, some kids wanna get as far away from the family, wanna move, they wanna go to a big, you know, big d one or d two school out of state, you know. That’s awesome. But you know what? There are some, some students that you know what? They’re not sure, and they wanna stay close to home for the 1st year, or there are other family financial considerations in place. And they don’t wanna go far away, or it’s it’s more, out of necessity that they need to be a little closer to home where a commuter school, is more appealing or it’s more affordable.

Kathleen Stockham:
You know, a lot of considerations are obviously intact. So again, it’s all about the needs of the consumer. Where, you know, there is obviously a lot of things that go into that that whole consideration window and decision tree of whether or not this is the right decision for them. But it also goes back to the multi touch piece. It may not be the right decision for them now, but 12 months from now, it might be a completely different story. My job is to continue to put the brand out there where it makes sense. So that is that re recall. Oh, I remember those guys.

Kathleen Stockham:
And there you are.

Shiro:
Yeah. That’s fantastic. And another great point you made earlier around, you know, around getting everyone involved and bringing in together, I follow Jamie Hunt who hosts the confections of a a higher ed CMO, I think it’s called. Yep. Confessions of a higher ed CMO.

Kathleen Stockham:
Well, I’m gonna have to listen to that one.

Shiro:
Yeah. She’s great. And she act I just read her post, like, literally before this recording that she ends every episode on her podcast with the phrase, let’s go bust some silos because we know that this is a problem, especially as a higher end marketer. To do your job right, you need to go bust silos and bring departments together so you can do things like find out your audience. Right? Right? Because if you come into a marketing job and who’s the best person to go to to tell you about who you’re targeting, right, that’s probably not gonna be you. Right? You’re gonna have to go to other teams. And so, like, just having that conversation and bringing people together, I think, is so important. And I think you hit the nail on the

Kathleen Stockham:
head there. Evangelism. I it’s really what I’ve had to do because, you know, admittedly, when I started, this was not a digital environment. My fellow executives are great in the areas that they work in. Digital was not native. I work directly for the chancellor and he, of course, self admittedly is loves marketing, but he calls himself an old school marketer. You know, with yellow pages and things like that. So, I mean, it’s been really fun, to be an evangelist.

Kathleen Stockham:
And, and I wanna bring them closer to my world because I think it just it helps. And so, it’s been fun to watch the light bulb go off over their head when they, like, when they get it the first time, like, oh, I get this now. You know, having a conversation about 3rd party audiences, and now we’re gonna talk about that in a moment. But, you know, really explaining to them, you know, what targeted audiences are, what custom audiences are, and how we could take our first party data, and how we can use third party data. And it was just like, you know, and it was great. And it was great because, you know, again, the closer I get them to my world, it makes the difference between someone giving me, you know, a fast no rather than a slow yes because they’re starting to understand it. And it just and it helps. And it’s not easy work.

Kathleen Stockham:
Evangelism is hard. You are just PT Barnum out there in the frontier by yourself, and nobody understands what you’re talking about. Yep. I told my spouse one day, sometimes it feels like I am in a foreign country, and they do not understand anything that I’m saying. But, you know, once you start to get the, oh, okay. And you get the buy in, and then you get the excitement, and then you get the enthusiasm, It it’s awesome. We have this really amazing attribute based email platform that I brought in because it was important for us to be able to email based upon attributes. And when I explained to one of the campus presidents just how granular I can get with the attribute based email to send triggers and things like that, He was like, you could do that? I’m like, well, yeah.

Kathleen Stockham:
Wow. This this and but that those are the moments that you live for as a marketer because, you know, I know that for some marketing people, when I’ve worked with a few that, you know, they like kind of being the, you know, behind the curtain, don’t pay any attention to that man behind the curtain thing. I’m the opposite. I wanna bring them in. I want them to understand it. I want them to be invested in it and to be excited about it because it just makes the day easier. It just makes budgeting easier. You’re not looked at as a cost center anymore.

Kathleen Stockham:
I mean, let’s just get into the psychology of that. And it just it makes things better. And again, you’re not gonna win every heart and mind. You’re not gonna win every other executive who, you know, may not believe in any of it. That happens. That’s okay. Mhmm. But, you know, along the way, if you can find a few converts, you know, it just makes it better.

Shiro:
Yeah. And and to the whole marketing world, any person who works in marketing, like, let’s never use it as a cost center initiative. Like, let’s just label marketing as an investment for everyone’s sake. Yeah. Please. Percent. Do

Kathleen Stockham:
not be more dead on about that. Any company that’s so marketing as a cost center, you’re doing it wrong.

Shiro:
Yeah. 100%. Well well, great. I know you talked a little bit about, you know, entering the role and having to communicate and educate your colleagues on what you’re doing. Can you tell us a little bit more about, like, the first couple things you did in in your 2 years with South College that has gotten you where you are today?

Kathleen Stockham:
Oh, yeah. Well, first things first, you know, I had to learn a whole new new lexicon, because everything is acronyms in the EDU space. There there you go. EDU is one of them. So I had to, like, recalibrate my thinking. Because when I hear MSN, I’m thinking, oh, Microsoft network. No. Master of Science in Nursing.

Kathleen Stockham:
Oh, okay. So learning a whole new lexicon, one of the first things I found, as I mentioned earlier, we really needed new partners. We really needed, to change up our our, third our parties, partners that we had in different areas. It was important. We weren’t serving each other well, and, so I may I started making those changes. We needed a new website very badly. The website hadn’t been updated in 7 years, and it looked, it looked dated. It operated in a very dated fashion.

Kathleen Stockham:
So I received, a great deal of enthusiasm, from the chancellor and from, several folks in the executive team. Yes, please do this. So I hired a very capable, third party who designed a beautiful site, really made it user friendly. We employed parametric search and a more intuitive design. It looks so good. I hired an incredible creative director who completely changed our look and feel and colors, our branding, our branding scheme, and it looks great. I stole him from my previous employer because I knew he was fantastic. But, but made all of these major changes.

Kathleen Stockham:
But most importantly, I really set out on an evangelism tour. Because I think email wasn’t being used properly. Direct mail was definitely not being used properly. And, you know, to the defense of the entire faculty, you know, no one had ever spent 5 minutes with any of them to explain all of the things that we could do in marketing. And I brought in, connected TV and, you know, and I I’m I love, connected TV itself. I think it’s an incredible platform, to reach a completely different demographic. And, brought in a particular platform and really was able to explain and hone in that, you know, I can get a very surgically selected audience to show certain messages to at certain times. Plus, I had the ability to retarget.

Kathleen Stockham:
They had not been doing a lot of that. And then, you know, really trying to kind of get my arms around, really understanding the life cycle of a student. So again, as I mentioned earlier, it’s not just I saw an ad, I clicked, I raised my hand to, to generate a lead form. I mean, it’s a much longer window. So I really had to dive in and understand the seasonality, of course. Had to understand their motivations, their reasons, their their kind of their path, if you will, of how they go from becoming a lead to enrolling. Really trying to get in and understand, you know, financial aid windows, which is really, really important, of course, in the higher ed space, but also kind of learning the pluses and minuses of that stream, of helping consumers understand. So I knew that the website also needed to play a much better, bigger role into, you know, helping people kind of self resolve questions they have, but also make it accessible.

Kathleen Stockham:
Click to call, click to map, thinking about the mobile user. I talk about this all the time, but this is probably one of the the best, but also one of the most dangerous things in the world right now, is that everything has to be put into, you know, a a containment that mobile can consume. And our previous website was not set for mobile and it was an awful experience. But when 70% of your site traffic is coming through mobile, you know, that’s not a great place to be. So the mobile experience was also incredibly important. So we worked with all of our partners, through website design, build, construction, launch, our digital agency. You know, we all sort of came together and worked really hard, and it was a hard 14 months. It took 14 months to get this site built and get it launched, and make sure all of the in interior plumbing was working correctly.

Kathleen Stockham:
Leads were flowing correctly. And I really tip my cap to my colleagues, to all of our partners, our faculty especially, that gave great insight, gave a lot of really great opinions. And, you know, and it’s it’s been a hard 2 years. But, you know, the good news is the numbers reflect, all of that work and it’s a lot of change. And when you put an environment like this, of this size, through so much change, where I mean, everything changed. Brand, colors, website, email, all of these new tactics, and all of these new things that are different and new and sometimes uncomfortable, you know, it’s a lot. There’s really great hair in here. I can show it to you.

Kathleen Stockham:
It’s a lot. But but on the other hand, you know, to get on the other side of it is also really rewarding. And I think it’s, you know, as dramatic as it sounds, I mean, you know, it it’s we really don’t take a step back, I I don’t think, to go, wow. That’s that’s a lot. So

Shiro:
That’s incredible. There’s so much here. I mean, I had a question follow-up just specifically around the website. Like, I’m on your I have your website open on another screen to my right. I’m looking at it. It’s beautiful. Right? It goes straight to the point. I wonder, with the new website, I’m sure there’s increased SEO, but do you think you’re able to just do a lot more with the traffic you were already getting just by increasing conversion rates because you made things more accessible, easier to find.

Shiro:
I see that you have a program finder as your first CTA, like, all these things. Right?

Kathleen Stockham:
Actually, the the metric I’m probably most proud of, and this is this is gonna sound really nerdy, but, site load. I’m extremely proud of raising that site speed score to it’s double digits. I’m not gonna say what it is because it was really bad. But, but I am probably more excited about cycload improvement than and parametric search than I am anything else. You know, those were 2 things that you know, my team runs social media. And one of the biggest complaints we got in social media is that on the, the previous web site, you couldn’t find tuition. You go into site search, type in tuition, it says, sorry, we can’t find that. I’m like, what? I mean, that that’s, you know, again, as a parent of college students, I’m like, what

Shiro:
do you mean you

Kathleen Stockham:
can’t find tuition?

Shiro:
Yeah.

Kathleen Stockham:
So I spent a lot of time making sure that the site search, and I call it stop the search bar, that parametric is working so that it’s not just tuition, it’s tuition for some of our other programs, our doctoral degrees, etcetera. Basically, anything that you need to look for is findable. That the site loads quickly, efficiently. We have videos, we have photos, we have, you know, it’s a lot more interactive than our previous site was because, you know, we’ve looked at a lot of things. We looked at competitors. We’ve looked at things that we’ve liked. And, you know, I again, I brought in from the retail piece, you know, user experience, kind of that UX, UI point of view that, you know, in retail, you wanna do whatever it takes to get them to hit, you know, buy. You want them to hit that buy button.

Kathleen Stockham:
So whatever you need to do to get them to hit buy button is the goal of UX and UI to give them as much information in a consolidated way that they feel informed, but they’re gonna make a fast decision to to convert. Well, higher ed is not quite that simple, but with that same UXUI mindset, you wanna give them a we deliberately put as much information as we can on the program page. So that’s your Bureau of Labor, in statistics link, that’s your tuition link, that’s here all the campus it’s located at. Here’s a video that it tells you about what this program does. Here’s some content that explains to you why this this program or this certificate may be of interest to you. We really tried to consumerize a lot of the information to make it super easy so that someone goes, oh my gosh. That looks great. This is what I wanna do.

Kathleen Stockham:
So a lot of those things were taken into consideration. Now, that doesn’t mean that there were a few skirmishes here, you know. We wanted this. I have that. You know, why can’t we do this here? And it’s like, mobile experience. And but it’s important. But the nice thing is, I’ve created all these little mobile experience people all around the company. Like, oh, we gotta do a thing about mobile.

Kathleen Stockham:
And that’s awesome. Experience people all around the company. Like, oh, we gotta be thinking about mobile. And that’s awesome because that means that they have learned something. They’re, you know, they’re listening, and that’s that’s awesome. That means evangelism is working, because they’re thinking about the layout of the site, and they want to add a page or add video or I I get a request from somewhere, we want to add these things. And when I say mobile experience, oh, okay. Yeah.

Kathleen Stockham:
That’s a good point. That’s a win. So it’s good.

Shiro:
That’s a win. I love it. And I know we we talked a little bit about this earlier. You’re we talked about 3rd party marketing. Right? Can you tell us a little bit about what it is and why you think we should be investing in it right now?

Kathleen Stockham:
Yeah. 3rd party audiences, it’s been around for a while. It’s not necessarily new, but it’s a lot more sophisticated than it used to be. But it’s a way to take, coagulant data of users. So, I’ll just pick on myself because I’m an easy demographic. I’m obviously of a certain age. And I have, you know, kids. One’s out of college in graduate school, the other one is a senior in college.

Kathleen Stockham:
So, you know, you kind of understand that. So I sit in a certain demographic, I live in a certain part of the country. I have purchase patterns, I have web user behavior patterns. You know, you can append that data with credit card information. So I send in a concentric of data that’s about me and people just like me. So if I’m a marketer and I wanna find somebody like me, you know, I’m gonna go and and bite on that concentric to say, yes, I want this audience of women that have kids in college that are, you know, professionals that, you know, this is what kinda what’s going on in their life. These are the people I wanna get my message in front of. 3rd party audiences are great because it cuts out a lot of noise for people that just aren’t your audience.

Kathleen Stockham:
No no knock on anybody. They’re just not your audience. I came from a, from a shopping a home shopping network, before I came to South College selling jewelry. And, you know, our demographic was 65 and older. Mostly retired, mostly living in retirement centric areas. So you’re cutting out a huge part of the country, and you’re cutting out, males, and you’re cutting out younger females. So the demographic was actually very narrow. So buying third party audiences for that particular market was, very easy to do Mhmm.

Kathleen Stockham:
Because you knew exactly it’s just this and none of that. And when the company wanted to make a pivot to go younger, so we looked at third party audiences of younger consumers, you know, 36 to 45, you know, they really weren’t home shopping people. That’s not who they were, that’s not their habit,

Shiro:
that’s not

Kathleen Stockham:
their viewing habit, that’s certainly not their web habits, And that was hard to do. In the higher ed space, again, I have this nice wide demographic of basically 18 to 60, which is enormous. Mhmm. But I’m also, you know, looking for people that are, you know, fitting certain consumer buckets. They’re looking for, you know, a master’s degree, a doctoral degree. They’re looking to enhance their current education. Or it’s someone who’s making a complete job change, a complete career change, and they’re looking to do something different, or they’re looking to change their income level. I mean, there’s a lot of variations that are in there.

Kathleen Stockham:
So it makes 3rd party audience, targeting a lot of fun. It’s kind of like fact finding. If you really like and enjoy, you know, kind of mysteries and kind of putting clues together, that’s kind of the cool part about third party audiences. Because you’re kind of taking bits and pieces of different people in different directions, and kind of putting them together to see how it works. The best part about 3rd party audience targeting for most platforms is if you get it wrong and you’re not getting a lot of activity, you just dump that audience and go find another one. And that’s the other thing. That’s the awesome thing about digital. Unlike print, unlike TV, unlike anything that is permanent, for digital, if you, you know, go x instead of y, you can go, oh, no.

Kathleen Stockham:
Let me let me flip flop that. Let me fix that. Mhmm. And you can make those changes, and that makes it great. The other thing I really honestly love about third party audience targeting, is that it tells you a lot about the audiences that, maybe you didn’t think about. So, you know, you have the ability on certain platforms to go grab, you know, certain financial information, certain demographics, certain, you know, states that they live in, locations, geotargeting, all of those things. But, you know, you may not realize that, you know, your target audience is also really interested in crime solving dramas on podcast. So interesting story.

Kathleen Stockham:
I was looking at something I don’t know. It was probably 6 months ago. And for some reason, we’re skewing really hard for people that listen to crime solving and crime and murder mysteries on podcast. And I was kinda like, And I realized what we were targeting and what we were looking for for a particular degree, and I was like, oh, that makes total sense. But it’s something that I would never have thought of, you know, just looking at it from a purely marker for saying, okay, I want this, this, this, and this. You know, it’s like putting something in your shopping cart at the grocery store that you’re not really sure about, but you bring it home and you’re like, oh, this is great. It’s it’s kind of the same thing. But again, your your willingness to experiment is what makes it rewarding.

Kathleen Stockham:
If you’re just playing it safe and only getting just the audiences you know will work, that’s no fun. Get out there. And I tell every marketer this that I have the opportunity to get out there and play with the audiences because I would say probably 75% of the time, you’re gonna get surprised at the kind of demographic that you never thought of that is actually part of your mix. And if you’re smart, you’re gonna go and kinda test the waters. I always describe it as kinda like if you’ve ever been on a boat and they’ve got that little, computer that tells where the fish are.

Shiro:
Yeah. You

Kathleen Stockham:
just go there, that’s where the fish are. You know, that’s the fun part about it. The fish are over there, so stop what you’re doing. You go over there and you go fish out over in that area. So, you know, it’s it’s just one way that’s how I always explain third party audiences to someone who doesn’t know what it means. It’s It’s I’m like, you should

Shiro:
have

Kathleen Stockham:
my own artificial fish.

Shiro:
Right. You’re treating it as more of like an like you to go to the investigative mystery route, like an investigative tool to maybe new audiences you weren’t thinking about or you weren’t considering in your in your audience. And so that’s that’s very interesting. We I definitely haven’t really used it like that because I’ve been told, here’s your audience. Like, go get them right. But it’s a great way to experiment.

Kathleen Stockham:
Get rid of them? Well, the 3rd party audiences change and deprecate all the time. So if you’re on some kind of crockpot strategy, set it and forget it, you’re doing it wrong. Yep. 3rd party audiences is Because audiences deprecate, and if you’re not paying attention, you’re Because audiences deprecate, and if you’re not paying attention, you’re gonna have a dead audience running that you don’t you’re not even aware is completely deprecated and not working. So, yeah, if you’re gonna it’s like social media. It’s great to have a page. Woo hoo. But when it becomes tumbleweeds in 6 months because nobody’s done anything with it, that’s even worse than not doing it at all.

Kathleen Stockham:
There you go. There there’s your there’s your mom advice for the day.

Shiro:
I think I wanna give the title of this episode, no more crockpot strategies or something like that. I’ll change the change the title. Well, this has been an amazing conversation, probably one of my favorite conversations I’ve had on this on this show. I’m wondering, where our guests and listeners can reach out to you to learn a little bit more about what you’re up to.

Kathleen Stockham:
Sure. Well, 1st and foremost, you can find us online at south.edu. So if you’re, wanna go and take a look at the beautiful brand new website that’s been live about a month, that’s at www.south.edu. You can certainly find me on LinkedIn. Can’t miss this hair. But if you wanna reach out personally, I’m at kstockham@south.edu. And, you know, just keep track of us, watch us. We have a pretty active social media presence and, grow it and everything’s good.

Shiro:
Yeah. I’m on their website right now, south.edu and it’s, it’s very nice. And so definitely go visit it. And for those of you listening in, her hair does look beautiful. So try and try and find the micro clip from this. So it’ll be great. Awesome. Well, thanks everyone for joining again, and please catch us on the next episode.

Shiro:
Kathleen, it was amazing to have you. Thanks so much. Thank you.

We want Rice to be a welcoming destination for art, music, lectures, food, athletic events, lectures – a great place to visit just to enjoy the beauty of our campus. [The Concept3D] mapping system will help people find those amenities and explore those opportunities.

Linda Thrane, Vice President of Public Affairs, Rice University

The biggest challenge for [Claremont Graduate University] was lack of a centralized map system entirely. Roughly 30 different maps existed on our website pre-[Concept3D], created by various departments to meet their own needs.

Claremont Graduate University
The CMS makes integrating our data feeds a simple, easy process. We can update our content feed once and it updates within the CMS and our map simultaneously.
Robby Sietz, Webmaster, Ole Miss
Concept3D’s photospheres really allow us to show rather than tell what separates our studios from others.
Corepower Yoga
Our residents are getting more savvy with technology and they will certainly appreciate a tool that guides them from location to location on our campus. Concept3D’s wayfinding capability was the immediate draw for us, but the map and interactive media have been valuable for depicting a bird’s eye view in print materials, or when scheduling an onsite visit. Residents, visitors and even staff find a lot of utility and functionality in Concept3d, and we often hear compliments about our beautiful map.
Mike Haber, Digital Media Manager, Shell Point
We saw the potential of Concept3D’s platform right away, and it was amazing to see our space come to life in a fully interactive 3D map. We know the platform will improve the overall guest and attendee experience, and we’re excited for all the ways that we can use it for both internal and external needs moving forward.
John Adams, General Manager, Colorado Convention Center
Vantage is committed to exceptional customer service, and the technology developed by Concept3D helps us work closely with potential clients, give them an incredible preview of the data center and offer a compelling way for them to explore the critical details of our facilities.
Steven Lim, Marketing Vice President, Vantage Data Centers

The new virtual campus map is particularly helpful to showcase our campus to prospective students and families who are not quite ready or able to physically visit campus. International students are a great example of a group who typically do not visit our campus before enrolling, but really value getting a birds-eye view of the place they’re considering calling home.

Admissions Director at Boise State

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