RHB https://www.rhb.com We are a marketing and design consultancy serving higher education. Tue, 19 Jun 2018 17:32:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.6 https://www.rhb.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/cropped-rhb-favicon-32x32.png RHB https://www.rhb.com 32 32 How To Train Your Recruitment Team https://www.rhb.com/recruitment-team-training/ https://www.rhb.com/recruitment-team-training/#respond Mon, 18 Jun 2018 11:15:56 +0000 https://www.rhb.com/?p=2782 I have been involved in a number of recruitment trainings, primarily on the marketing/messaging side, with a smattering of sales when the team doesn’t know the distinction. My intent in this piece isn’t to prescribe training or offer a training service. Rather, I intend to outline a few key tactics that, in my 15 years of experience, have produced the greatest successes; in particular, I focus on parameters for training that have a significant positive effect upon recruitment...Read more

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This summer, offices of enrollment across the country will develop and execute training and motivational sessions for their teams as they endeavor to successfully enter a new recruitment cycle. Previously determined as the optimal time to schedule training, this season is now filled with anti-melt activities, perpetual student search, conferences and tech implementation. Nevertheless, because recruiters are generally closer to home during these months, and the campus is less crowded, summer remains the prime season for training.

I have been involved in a number of recruitment trainings, primarily on the marketing/messaging side, with a smattering of sales when the team doesn’t know the distinction. My intent in this piece isn’t to prescribe training or offer a training service. Rather, I intend to outline a few key tactics that, in my 15 years of experience, have produced the greatest successes; in particular, I focus on parameters for training that have a significant positive effect upon recruitment.

As you plan your next retreat, workshop or seminar, you might want to keep the following strategies in mind. You should also keep in mind that a single training session or professional development retreat is never enough. That is, a truly effective recruitment team is one that has continuous opportunities to deepen their institutional knowledge and improve their process:

Clarify the difference between sales, marketing and counseling.

Although they are related, there is a distinct difference between the three activities. Indeed, it takes all three (and more) to bring in the class, but knowing the differences will allow you to allocate resources in the correct way. Learn more about the differences between marketing and sales in higher education by clicking here.

Clear up semantics with operational terms such as suspect, prospect, inquiry, applicant, admitted, deposited and enrolled.

You probably know that this language varies from campus to campus, but you may be surprised to know that most teams (even good ones) don’t carry a universal operational language. Part of this is compounded because CRM has brought its own lexicon to the table, but it is paramount to have a shared internal vernacular. Without it, accurate communication and consistent reporting cannot occur. 

Contextualize goals.

Goals take many forms. You have inquiry, application, headcount, demographic, academic, revenue, per-counselor, weekly calling and a myriad of other goals. I’ve observed that teams need context for those goals. More to the point, recruiters need to know how their efforts to recruit students affect the university ecosystem. Granular goals, like calls per week, are mostly punitive and disconnected from the net influence an enrolled student has upon an institution. Furthermore, those involved in recruiting need to understand what the qualities and characteristics of each enrolled student means for the health the institution, financially and otherwise.

Hone communication.

Typically, enrollment offices develop elevator speeches or a prescribed set of sentences to describe the institution to prospective students and families. However, in my experience, elevator speeches function as crutches for those unwilling to learn as much about an institution as possible. At the very best, an elevator speech should start a conversation, but if it’s not supported by a deep knowledge about programs and offerings, you’ve lost your audience. Instead of relying on the myth of elevator speeches, focus on collecting detailed information about the institution that can be shared amongst recruiters.

Solidify and share the communication flow.

Communication flow plans are often relegated to the files (digital and analog) of persons put in charge of creating them. As a result, the flow is, at best, never fully solidified and, at worst, never actually used. Not only should the comm flow be firmed up before the academic year begins, it should also be visibly displayed and shared within the office. This provides those doing the recruiting with an explicit awareness of what occurs around individual counseling efforts.

RHB can help your institution build and implement a solid communication flow plan. Contact us to discuss pricing.

Ultimately, the best recruitment training extends beyond any single workshop or seminar. It includes those, but also entails building a culture of transparency and best practices, one that aims to continuously improve processes and strengthen communication amongst members of the team—and, by extension, their communication with prospective students and families.

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CRM as Technology and Strategy: A Core Value of Student Success https://www.rhb.com/crm-student-success/ https://www.rhb.com/crm-student-success/#respond Mon, 11 Jun 2018 11:15:38 +0000 https://www.rhb.com/?p=2765 A few months ago, the Chronicle highlighted recent efforts by the University of Maine to centralize its processes and programs through an initiative called “One University.” This initiative not only creates system-wide efficiencies, but also breaks down barriers to student success. As Lee Gardner wrote in the piece, “bringing more students into a traditional ecosystem…Read more

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A few months ago, the Chronicle highlighted recent efforts by the University of Maine to centralize its processes and programs through an initiative called “One University.” This initiative not only creates system-wide efficiencies, but also breaks down barriers to student success. As Lee Gardner wrote in the piece, “bringing more students into a traditional ecosystem of individual state universities that duplicate the same sorts of programs and resources,” might tentatively improve enrollment, but it could never fix systemic issues relating to student recruitment, persistence and overall satisfaction. “One University” represents an effort to merge disparate operations in a way that ultimately benefits students. Before, “every campus in the [University of Maine] system used the same software to manage their student databases, but they had all implemented it differently, making it difficult to share data,” however, “over the past two years, the system has worked to [make] it easier to cross-list courses, transfer credit and budget across institutions.” In other words, the concept of “One University” functions by constructing a seamless customer experience across multiple modalities.

As my esteemed colleague, Sam Waterson, argued in a previous post, the customers of today set the expectations that will govern their interactions with providers of various products and services. That is, contemporary relations of exchange are customer-centered. One of the primary goals of companies and institutions that facilitate exchange is (or should be) creating seamless and flexible ways for customers to engage with their products or services. Put differently, the reciprocity of the exchange between customer and industry is a kind of relationship that needs to be adequately sustained and nurtured for both parties to benefit from the exchange. This is the basis for CRM (Customer Relationship Management), both as a technology and as a strategy.


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How To Shop for Professional Services in Higher Ed https://www.rhb.com/service-shopping/ https://www.rhb.com/service-shopping/#respond Mon, 04 Jun 2018 11:15:11 +0000 https://www.rhb.com/?p=2758 I cringe when someone refers to me as a “vendor” and especially when clients refer to me as “their vendor.” The word conjures up a picture of someone on the street with a dancing monkey on a leash. It’s true that RHB sells professional services. I’m good with that; in fact, I love what we do and I’m proud to bring our expertise to the higher ed market. But, we do not have much that can fit readily into a shopping cart, whether on wheels or online. I admit that it may be difficult or even confusing to “shop” with us. And, for colleges and universities who are seeking marketing and design counsel, the big question is, inevitably, “Where do I start?” And that question is shaped by elements like cost, needs, insecurities about your challenges and current circumstances—maybe even fear of exposure. All of those feelings and concerns are highly reasonable to us. But none of those should stand in the way of finding a great solution to your challenges, nor should they prevent you from engaging in a conversation about your interests. This post is intended to make it easier to shop at RHB (or at any of our competitors, for that matter). Here are five considerations that will help you do a better job of finding the right services and confidently securing the solutions you need for your specific circumstances...Read more

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I cringe when someone refers to me as a “vendor” and especially when clients refer to me as “their vendor.” The word conjures up a picture of someone on the street with a dancing monkey on a leash. I Googled the word and found that that perception was fairly accurate. The first definition included “a trader in the street” and referenced an ice cream vendor as the example. No wonder the word horrifies me.

It’s true that RHB sells professional services. I’m good with that; in fact, I love what we do and I’m proud to bring our expertise to the higher ed market. But, we do not have much that can fit readily into a shopping cart, whether on wheels or online. I admit that it may be difficult or even confusing to “shop” with us.

The big question for colleges and universities who are seeking marketing and design counsel is, inevitably, “Where do I start?” And that question is shaped by elements like cost, needs, insecurities about your challenges and current circumstances—maybe even fear of exposure. All of those feelings and concerns are highly reasonable to us. But none of those should stand in the way of finding a great solution to your challenges, nor should they prevent you from engaging in a conversation about your interests. This post is intended to make it easier to shop at RHB (or at any of our competitors, for that matter).

Here are five considerations that will help you do a better job of finding the right services and confidently securing the solutions you need for your specific circumstances:

Start a conversation.

It never hurts to talk. A good heart-to-heart with a potential consultant serves both you and the provider well. Your fear may be that you don’t want to ignite a fire of follow-up sales calls. That’s understandable. But a good consultant wants to solve your problem, not necessarily sell you stuff. Have a conversation with the consultant, not the sales rep.

Most of the time, your initial call is free, so take advantage of that. The consultant knows how far to take the conversation and will usually let you know if you are crossing the line into billable time with your questions. Speaking of billable time, be aware that your consultant is paid by the hour in the same way you pay for other professional services. Even when you are paying for creative services, the proposed fees will be based on hours necessary to complete the work. This is precisely why your RFP may not yield what you want in response. Most RFPs from higher ed procurement offices are not written for professional services, which makes the “shopping” part all the more difficult. I recently wrote about that here.

Be transparent about your challenges.

Your initial conversation should be similar to the one you have with your physician. You explain your symptoms: what’s hurting and where. Just put your pain out there with the consultant.

My doctor asks questions like “How long has it hurt?” and “Does anything seem to prompt or intensify your pain?” A good consultant will ask probing questions too in an effort to fully understand what’s wrong.

But my doctor needs my help in describing what I’m feeling and how I’m feeling. Sometimes, just by looking at me, he can tell I’m sick. But he needs my description of what I’m feeling to know how to help. Just because he’s seen a hundred patients with the flu, doesn’t necessarily mean I have the flu, right? If I hold back in my description, he might miss something important that will really help me.

So don’t hold back. The more information you provide at the outset will determine the strength of the outcomes.

Be open to a diagnosis.

If you’re like me, you like to tell your doctor what your diagnosis is. Informed by my careful scrutiny of my conditions and symptoms, not to mention the myriad pharmaceutical ads to which I’m exposed, I usually feel quite confident in suggesting a prescription for my ailments. One time, when I was convinced I had a spider bite, the doctor started laughing and suggested we record it for posterity: “If that is a spider bite,” he said, “I’m taking pictures and writing this up. You and I will be famous for this one-of-a-kind bite.” I try not to diagnose myself or prescribe anymore, but admittedly, it’s tough.

I encourage you to let your consultant complete the diagnosis and prescribe a treatment. If you are speaking with an expert, she will likely be familiar with your ailments and will be able to suggest a good and healthy path forward. If you have a broken leg, a good doctor will treat your broken leg, and not suggest ways to control diabetes—unless that has caused the broken leg. In the same way, your consultant will address your specific circumstances.

Beware of those who offer a silver bullet. Every time I see the doctor he says, “You know, Rick, you could lose a few pounds and you’d feel a lot better.” And, he adds, “If you drank more water, you’d be surprised how much it would help.” There’s nothing magical about either of those directions. He’s right. Those are fundamentals for my good health. I might not care to hear those things, however, because I want him to give me something that will make me fit by next week.

Your diagnosis will determine the best treatment. You won’t know the treatment plan until you discuss it. The solutions may be simpler than you think.

Learn more about RHB’s strategic approach to helping you solve your higher ed marketing challenges at rhb.com/go-beyond-branding-to-coherence.

Be honest about your budget.

In our experience, it’s best to be upfront about your budget. While we’d like to believe that no budget is too big, it truly can be. Caring for your budget is part of the responsibility of your marketing consultant. And if you believe your budget is too limited, just ask. If someone comes to RHB with an expectation beyond the scope of the budget, we don’t laugh like my doctor did about my “spider bite.” We look for ways to solve problems within the prescribed budget. Every client circumstance is different; thus, every solution and treatment plan is different. That’s another reason why it’s difficult to shop.

One way to approach the budget question is to ask, “If you had $50,000 to work with, what would you invest in first and why?” Note that this part of the conversation should follow the discussion of your symptoms, not precede it. You can’t prescribe without first diagnosing. For example, while we place high value on research at RHB—and we favor beginning with Circles of Influence because of its output of rich data—we might not necessarily recommend starting there if you are bleeding during yield season. And while surgery may be in your best interest, you may be better off with a great bandage until you are ready for more intensive work.

Know your decision-maker(s).

An important word of advice: include the decision-maker in the shopping. The rules surrounding your procurement processes generally don’t serve you well. One of the primary reasons is due to the gap between an RFP and the decision-maker(s).

We’re happy to engage with someone on your campus who is researching our capability to solve your problem. But when we start to prescribe (as we generally must in a proposal), we want to speak with a decision-maker. Most often, an RFP sounds very much like a self-diagnosis; that may not be your best way to start an engagement with a consultant. See above.

Be clear about who will make the decision to hire—and whom to hire. If that isn’t you, be sure to include the decision-maker in the diagnostic conversation. You’ll receive far better counsel and results.

RHB does offer services and products that you can add to your cart, but perhaps our greatest service lies in helping you decide what you really need. Our best work entails helping you discover what to shop for. And, the best way to shop begins when you pick up the phone and dial 317.634.2120.

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Best Practices for Successful RFPs https://www.rhb.com/best-practices-rfps/ Mon, 28 May 2018 11:15:11 +0000 https://www.rhb.com/?p=2713 My goal in this piece is to help you achieve your objectives when submitting RFPs for professional services. I have to say at the outset that I don’t believe RFPs are the best avenue for securing the results you want and need from a consultant. RFPs may be great for buying staples and tissues, but not so much for buying expertise. We’ve read hundreds of RFPs in the course of our RHB history and 99% of them are problematic for one reason or another. For one, they generally fail to seek the best match between a client and a service provider. The requisites and questions aren’t crafted for a multitude of variables...Read more

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When a post starts with a caveat, you may be tempted to dismiss it, but I hope you won’t write this off. I’m writing with a good spirit and good intentions, even though this could be misconstrued as sour grapes or something worse. I truly hope this post informs you and helps you achieve your objectives.

My goal is to help you achieve your objectives when submitting RFPs for professional services. I have to say at the outset that I don’t believe RFPs are the best avenue for securing the results you want and need from a consultant. RFPs may be great for buying staples and tissues, but not so much for buying expertise. We’ve read hundreds of RFPs in the course of our RHB history and 99% of them are problematic for one reason or another. For one, they generally fail to seek the best match between a client and a service provider. The requisites and questions aren’t crafted for a multitude of variables.

Second, they’re expensive. When your institution pays to have someone develop an RFP, you use time in engaging many prospects who may or may not be qualified and the providers themselves invest thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours preparing responses. And, you and your colleagues invest hundreds of hours reviewing them. This waste of time and money could be readily rescued by a few hours on the phone or in a video conference and with better results.

Third, while they may answer some basic questions about who’s willing to respond to your request, responses to RFPs likely don’t sift out who is best equipped to help you. They say little about whose “chemistry” best mixes with your own.


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If Delta Can Do It, So Can You https://www.rhb.com/personal-notes-recruitment/ https://www.rhb.com/personal-notes-recruitment/#respond Mon, 21 May 2018 11:15:24 +0000 https://www.rhb.com/?p=2656 Teams of recruiters and development officers tell us that high levels of personalization are impossible given all of the demands on their time. We’ve been told that personal notes just cannot be expected when inquiry pools and alumni lists are as large as they are. Taking time for a personal note following a visit or phone conversation or for a hand-written event may, in fact, be the best possible investment you can make...Read more

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A few nights ago I was on a Delta flight returning home from Atlanta. It had been a full day of meetings, so after my boarding libation, it didn’t take long for me to fall asleep. When I woke up during landing, I noticed a Delta-branded card on my lap. I figured that it had fallen there as someone walked by. I didn’t even turn it over. I just stuck it in my iPad as I was getting off the plane.

When I got home, I opened my iPad and the card fell out. This time I noticed the back side of it and discovered it was a personal, hand-written note addressed to me. The crew was thanking me for my loyal patronage. It was a kind gesture, to be sure. But it also made my wheels turn.

First, I admired the effort of personalization. The simple 33-word note helped me feel important to Delta. Enough to blog and tweet about, anyway. Personal notes seem a lost art. Emails and texts and instant messages on various platforms have replaced hand-written notes and letters. Personal notes seem the stuff of a bygone era, romanticized in films and literature. Frankly, I was surprised—pleasantly, to be sure—by the gesture of the note.

Second, my surprise was partially due to my understanding that writing a note takes time. Someone(s) at Delta prioritized that note and invested in the few minutes needed to acknowledge my loyalty. I suspect the content was drafted by a marketing department and my note was copied and implemented by a flight crew member (it was signed by the Seattle-based flight team). Yet, even though it may have been templated copy and was not overly heart-felt, the investment of the gesture suggested an investment of time in ensuring my well-being and satisfaction.

More significantly, the note was written voluntarily. Granted, the flight team may have been directed to write a note. In fact, I am fairly certain that it was not the initiative of the authors/flight team that prompted the note. But someone at Delta decided that the note was a worthwhile investment of time and developed a process to make it possible. Delta did not have to write a thank you note. I would still fly Delta loyally without it. I didn’t expect the note and that is what made it all the more noticeable.

As a marketer, I kept thinking how well they made use of their CRM and the plethora of information about me that they store in their database. They were able to craft a note using my name, my frequent flyer status, my flight and my seat; all four variables were readily available and Delta made excellent use of those details to demonstrate their knowledge of me. Rather than creeping me out, this level of personalization sufficiently impressed me as a measure of their interest.

Contact RHB to see how our CRM expertise can work for you.

Finally, the note reminded me that personal gestures are not impossible at large scale. Technology is certainly the key to managing the data and process of delivering that note. A database coughed up my name, destination and seat number, but a person hand-wrote a note and set the note on my lap. I’m guessing I’m one of a million or more in my frequent flyer category. Assuming Delta extends this to each one of us at least once, I’m impressed that they invest in that effort given the enormity of the assignment.

Why is this worth writing about? Teams of recruiters and development officers tell us that high levels of personalization are impossible given all of the demands on their time. We’ve been told that personal notes just cannot be expected when inquiry pools and alumni lists are as large as they are. Taking time for a personal note following a visit or phone conversation or for a hand-written event may, in fact, be the best possible investment you can make. You do not have a million people in your pool. If Delta can pull this off, you and your team can too.

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Best Practices for Campaigns in Slate: An Interview with Alex Williams https://www.rhb.com/best-practices-slate-campaigns/ Mon, 14 May 2018 11:15:13 +0000 https://www.rhb.com/?p=2692 Configuring email campaigns in Slate can be difficult, but doesn’t have to be. Whether you are at the start of an implementation or nearing the close of your most recent build-out, there are pivotal tactics and strategies that can significantly streamline your enrollment marketing process. You can maximize key data points and leverage Slate’s many…Read more

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Configuring email campaigns in Slate can be difficult, but doesn’t have to be. Whether you are at the start of an implementation or nearing the close of your most recent build-out, there are pivotal tactics and strategies that can significantly streamline your enrollment marketing process. You can maximize key data points and leverage Slate’s many tools and modules while building campaigns that are efficient and effective. In our work with clients, we are frequently asked about the most innovative and creative strategies for building and configuring email campaigns in Slate, especially when it comes to creative content development, deliverability and performance indicators for successful campaigns. Our Vice President for Marketing Integration, Alex Williams, recently sat down with our lead designer and developer, Alisa Chambers, to talk about the major pain points that colleges and universities experience when they produce campaigns in Slate.

 


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Evaluating Customer Experiences in Higher Ed https://www.rhb.com/evaluating-cx/ https://www.rhb.com/evaluating-cx/#respond Mon, 07 May 2018 11:15:46 +0000 https://www.rhb.com/?p=2678 By now, you are probably becoming comfortable using the word “customer” due to the prevalence of discussion around customer experience (CX). Design thinking as a discipline places high value on shaping satisfying customer experiences that influence purchasing, loyalty, interaction, recommendations—in truth, CX encapsulates everything about our relationships with those whom we exchange anything (services or products). How will you evaluate the experiences that relate and connect your institution with your customers?...Read more

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By now, you are probably becoming comfortable using the word “customer” due to the prevalence of discussion around customer experience (CX). Design thinking as a discipline places high value on shaping satisfying customer experiences that influence purchasing, loyalty, interaction, recommendations—in truth, CX encapsulates everything about our relationships with those whom we exchange anything (services or products).

Think for a moment about the hundreds of experiences you have regularly:

  • checking out at the grocery store
  • buying concert tickets online
  • standing in a queue at the theater popcorn stand
  • making an airline reservation
  • conversing with the mechanic at your car dealership
  • receiving notification of jury duty
  • completing your insurance and health questionnaire at your doctor’s office
  • waiting for your bus
  • checking into your hotel
  • posting an Instagram photo
  • getting a hair cut

With each of these, and thousands more, you are building impressions, making decisions and evaluating your response. You can be certain that your customers are doing the same with the experiences they are having with you.

How will you evaluate the experiences that relate and connect your institution with your customers? Try focusing on a specific audience, say parents of prospective students or alumni donors from the 1970s, or high school counselors. (Choose an audience that has meaning for you in terms of significance to building better relationships or exchanges.) Now select a particular experience, such as visiting campus, meeting with a financial aid advisor, submitting an online gift or arranging your high school visit.

Certainly, some market research can help: ask real customers to tell you about their experiences with you. Discover where the high and low touchpoints lie. Listen for your strengths as well as where opportunities for improvement lie. Your assessment will require empathy. You need to walk in your customers’ shoes; you’ll need to really hear from your customer’s point of view. That’s not always easy to do; yet, be sure to approach evaluation in a defenseless mode. You may be inclined to rationalize your choices—don’t. Just listen and learn.

Here are five questions you can ask yourself in order to evaluate your CX without speaking with customers. We always recommend you speak with your customers directly, but these five questions will help you: a) assess your choices in shaping experiences, b) imagine experiences you can create or improve upon and c) determine what experiences are worth your investment.

Discover how RHB can help you evaluate your customer experience through our signature research methodology.

Does it support, prove, or reinforce the market position you have chosen?

As you think about any experience, the first question you need to ask is whether it helps advance your market position. Remember, you get to choose your market position. Your behaviors and messages must align with that decision in order to ultimately build the brand that you desire. If, for example, you have chosen to be the most beautiful campus among your competitors, then you will need to invest in plant maintenance to ensure that campus visitors see manicured lawns, clean and uncracked sidewalks and gorgeous buildings with spotless restrooms. Anything short of that will not support the position you have chosen. You can’t say you are one thing if you are something else. Well, you can, but no one will believe you.

How does this experience differentiate you from competitors?

On a similar note, think about the experience you are evaluating as a way to stand out from the crowd of competitors. How is this experience better than that of your peers? Do you have a more robust social media strategy? Are your communications more personalized? Do you offer programs that competitors do not?

You will need to assume that, for the most part, your peers are offering similar experiences. Getting into, through and experiencing life after college have common characteristics no matter where you go to school. Your task is to make your experience uncommon. By doing so, you will create value. If you can make your experience unique, you can create a monopoly.

Does this experience naturally reflect your institution, or does it seem artificially overdone?

You can tell when something is just too much, too over the top, too put on. At a time when consumers seek authenticity and when commentary is prevalent and easy to share, you can build more trust by being yourself. That’s true for your institution as well. Experiences need to reflect reality.

When an experience goes overboard, you create tension for the buyer. You create an expectation that cannot be sustained. Initially, the consumer may be very impressed with the experience, but if you cannot repeat that same level of experience in other areas, you’ll lose the confidence of the consumer.

Let’s say that your admissions team develops deep, caring and welcoming relationships with families. They’re able to draw students into the campus. In fact, when they plan a campus visit overnight, it’s an incredible event with tons of personal attention and service. Let’s say that your student development team takes a different approach. Because they want students to learn independence, they don’t hold hands of new students the way the admissions team might. You can see that the difference of these two mindsets may create a tension that is felt by the consumer. The gap between the high-touch service of admissions and the low-touch service of student development may create an expectation that will not be realized once a student enrolls.  Should admissions minimize their efforts or should other offices on campus raise their standards for student experience? That’s a tough question and one that only you and your colleagues can determine. For the sake of your customers, you all need to be on the same page.

How could you make this experience more memorable?

Experiences stick with us, especially those that are great and those that are terrible. You know this from your own encounters. You’re still talking about that incredible meal you had on vacation. And you still bring up that nasty car rental agent when your office lunch conversation turns to horrible travel experiences.

You no doubt are motivated by your own history to create great experiences for your customers. As you dissect the experience you are offering, an important question to ask is “what will our customer remember about this?” Follow that with: “what could we do to make this a more positive memory?” By asking these important questions, you’ll likely find little tweaks you can experiment with to offer an out-of-the-ordinary experience.

Is this experience the best it can be?

The question of quality begs a couple of other questions: “what do we mean by quality?” and “by what will we measure quality?” Those two questions often create roadblocks for higher ed professionals. Our world focuses on critique, on evaluations that are thorough and correct. (As I’m writing this paragraph, my colleagues and I are chatting about a recent piece of data about which we are skeptical. This “criticality” is built into most of us in higher ed—and it seems beyond our control!)

Still, even without precise measures, you know when you’ve had a good experience or not. You know when you’ve been satisfied with service. You know when you’ve been delighted. And you know when you haven’t been.

Examine your customer experiences with this same sensibility. Work less at a perfect definition and “score” and invest your time in assessing how well the experience achieves its goals, satisfies customers and leaves a favorable and coherent impression. 

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Slate Cycle Prep: Strategies for Success https://www.rhb.com/slate-cycle-prep/ https://www.rhb.com/slate-cycle-prep/#respond Mon, 07 May 2018 11:15:21 +0000 https://www.rhb.com/?p=2711 As commencements are, well, commencing, you may be heading into year 2 or beyond with Slate, which means that you’re about to undertake a big change yourself…Cycle Prep. While your team should focus on enhancing your instance of Slate with perpetual refinements as the tool continues to grow, Cycle Prep affords you a time to shift specific focus to Slate. So update your periods and rounds, archive your emails and events, and as you’re walking through your very own status page, think about updating to the custom portal option for your students. The possibilities are limitless. While you will have several items that you’ll want to check off your list to ensure your system is up-and-running for the next cycle, this time of year also offers the opportunity to rethink and revamp. For instance, if told your team when you first built Slate that you didn’t have to build your Read process a certain way because “that was the way it had already been done,” this is the time to reassess how you built things initially in Slate...Read more

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As commencements are, well, commencing, you may be heading into year 2 or beyond with Slate, which means that you’re about to undertake a big change yourself…Cycle Prep. While your team should focus on enhancing your instance of Slate with perpetual refinements as the tool continues to grow, Cycle Prep affords you a time to shift specific focus to Slate. So update your periods and rounds, archive your emails and events, and as you’re walking through your very own status page, think about updating to the custom portal option for your students. The possibilities are limitless.

While you will have several items that you’ll want to check off your list to ensure your system is up-and-running for the next cycle, this time of year also offers the opportunity to rethink and revamp. For instance, when you first built Slate you told your team that you didn’t have to build your Read process a certain way just because “that was the way it had already been done.” As you enter Cycle Prep, you can reassess how you built things initially because there’s no point in keeping processes that no longer best fit how you wish to operate.

There’s never a good time in an admissions office to make big changes to your systems, but summer is definitely a better time than most. Setting a project schedule for yourself will allow you to pace something like implementing Inbox or building drip campaigns out over a few months. Think about all of those opportunities that exist in your instance and the cool features you just haven’t had time to build.

Learn how RHB can help your team create a successful Slate strategy.

Over the last few years I’ve recommended a fairly consistent approach to tackling Cycle Prep (and making your summer a Slate Summer), and in recent years, Technolutions has made the process even easier by providing you with your own status page and checklists. Here’s my suggested timeline:

  • May-June: Review your Cycle Prep status page when released and check those items off thoughtfully and quickly. Know that, if you didn’t do anything else in Slate for the rest of the summer, you’d be ready for business when things need to go live.
  • Second week in June: Have a meeting in the beginning of June with all of your stakeholders. Encourage everyone to bring their Slate wish lists and to be prepared with a case of why their wants should take the leading spot for revision or implementation.
  • Third week in June: Pull together a much smaller team; perhaps just your implementation squad. Put all of the wish list items out on the table and rank them. It’ll be hard, but try to remove your bias for your own projects by thinking about what suggestions will have the largest impact for the most people. That’s not a perfect strategy, but it’s a pretty good one. Make sure you’ve registered for the Slate Summit.
  • Fourth week in June: Make a plan of attack for the Summit and figure out how your team will divide and conquer. With the variety of tracks and levels of sessions, there’s something for everyone. Let your wish list guide your session selection. Learn from other schools. Celebrate.
  • First week in July: Detox and think about everything you’ve learned and how that applies to your list. Revise if necessary. Technically, you could do this on your flight home. Go to the beach.
  • The rest of July and early August: Come back refreshed and begin building out those projects. By this point, you should have a defined list and a general idea on timelines and scope after everything you’ve learned from other schools.

You’ll notice what this summer timeline doesn’t have: immediately implement new features from Summit. Why? Those features didn’t exist when you had your initial meeting two months ago. Two months ago, colleagues expressed their ideas about things that would help to improve their processes based on features that already existed. Tend to the fires (or melting daiquiris) you already have before bringing in something entirely new.

I know how exciting it can be to think about new features and the possibilities they hold. I know how exciting the announcements can be. And I’ve seen firsthand how effective even the smallest changes in Slate can be for institutions, let alone entirely new modules. By forcing yourself to implement tools that already exist this year, you’re not getting lost in the weeds and you’ll have a more enjoyable summer.

That’s what we’re all after anyway, isn’t it?

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Your Party Is Not Your Brand https://www.rhb.com/brand-party/ Mon, 30 Apr 2018 11:15:02 +0000 https://www.rhb.com/?p=2674 Celebrating marketing and promotional efforts is a rather new phenomenon on college and university campuses. Higher ed has come a long way (at least for those of us in marketing) in adopting the practicality of well-executed marketing efforts. We still see many signs of reticence to jump on board the marketing train, particularly from the…Read more

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Celebrating marketing and promotional efforts is a rather new phenomenon on college and university campuses. Higher ed has come a long way (at least for those of us in marketing) in adopting the practicality of well-executed marketing efforts. We still see many signs of reticence to jump on board the marketing train, particularly from the academic side of the campus, but more and more colleges and universities are investing in marketing in order to ensure sustainability in a competitive industry. So, when campuses throw “launch parties” to introduce new campaigns, we’re reminded of how far higher education has come in a short time.

As higher ed becomes more sophisticated in its marketing endeavors, however, we’re noticing some troubling behaviors.

The campus-wide event to kick off a new campaign can be a great way to introduce your community to your new messaging, to provide the background and thinking that shaped your campaign, to ensure that your internal audience sees the campaign first (and is not surprised) and to build a network of brand ambassadors equipped with the knowledge and language to support your efforts.

Amidst all the celebration, though, your community can be easily confused by thinking the new campaign is your brand. Your campaign is not your brand. Your new logo is not your brand. Your new tagline is not your brand. These are only tools to garner attention and to help position you among your competitors. Don’t confuse these “branding” efforts with your brand. More on that below.


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How To Structure Your Slate Implementation Team https://www.rhb.com/slate-team/ https://www.rhb.com/slate-team/#respond Mon, 23 Apr 2018 11:15:23 +0000 https://www.rhb.com/?p=2654 Coherent teams are necessary for companies and projects to be successful. Having the opportunity to work with many teams in their implementation of Slate, I’ve had the chance to see what teams work well and where teams can be improved. While not every institution has the staff resources to build a large team, and some implementations fall entirely to one person, I’ve found that implementation teams excel with the right combination of personas, as well...Read more

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This is part two in a series of posts about the 5Ws of Slate implementation. You can read the introductory post here.

When I started with RHB, I, like all of my colleagues, took the Kolbe Index. The Kolbe isn’t meant as a personality test, but rather an assessment of your natural behaviors when faced with a variety of scenarios. Kolbe is designed to determine: the degree and precision with which you gather information; the approach to orderliness you employ when organizing information; how you deal with unknowns and your degree of inclination towards risk, change and innovation; and, how you handle tangibles, or how you deal with elements such as nature, tools or technology. Employees of RHB take the Kolbe not as a metric of personality or social style, but to gain an understanding of how we function as a whole. Like most companies, the team at RHB represents a mix of natural advantages, or personas, such as researcher, entrepreneur, theorist, designer or quality controller. These differences, neither good nor bad, allow us to operate as a coherent team.

Coherent teams are necessary for companies and projects to be successful. Having the opportunity to work with many teams in their implementation of Slate, I’ve had the chance to see what teams work well and where teams can be improved. While not every institution has the staff resources to build a large team, and some implementations fall entirely to one person, I’ve found that implementation teams excel with the right combination of personas, as well.

The Philosopher

All of your implementation team members have the ability to see the big picture. But the philosopher asks the why questions (more on that in a future post!) and constantly encourages the team to rethink old processes and “the way it has always been done.” Philosophers take a high-level view of the project and are curious about how the various elements of the tool should fit together. They challenge the team’s ideas and encourage the elevation of processes to the next level. The philosopher sees implementation as an opportunity to go beyond the technical in order to create efficient processes.

The Architect

The architect works with the philosopher to transpose those concepts and ideas into an actionable plan. The architect extracts the ideas from the philosopher and gets them on paper (or computer). They’re interested in mapping the project out from start to finish and in providing an overarching blueprint for the project, including actionable items that need to be carried out at each phase. The architect wants to keep the team on task and creates a tangible plan for doing so. It might be on a whiteboard in the office or through a project management tool—and there will probably be a GANTT chart or two—but the architect will do everything possible to communicate the project plan, deadlines and individual responsibilities. The architect will keep the team accountable.

The Maker

I’m sure you know where we’re going with this one. And, hopefully, you’ve got a team full of makers. The maker is going to be the technical point person on your team. She is  going to know the modules inside and out, how they impact one another and how they should be configured. The maker will know the clicks, the settings, and the order necessary to bring the components put forth by the architect to life. As the person breathing digital life into the tool, the maker will likely push back on the architect and philosopher at times, understanding either the limitations of the product or that one element must absolutely be in place before another is built. The maker will also be someone who understands departmental processes and will build the tool around those.

The Professor

No implementation team would be complete without someone willing to teach others how to use the tool at hand. But, we all know that a good professor doesn’t just teach. Professors are a blend of all of the personas here. They ask the deep questions of the philosopher and encourage their colleagues to think creatively, to keep an open mind and to question why things were built in a specific manner. They sometimes assume the role of the architect and expound on the importance of following documentation, staying on task and providing materials that are both relatable and understandable by their colleagues—describing a technical project in a non-technical way is a skillset unto itself. Finally, the professor morphs into maker, teaching best practices and helping fellow team members to not only troubleshoot problems, but to understand how to resolve errors on their own in the future.

Learn more about how RHB can provide you with strategic counsel for your implementation of Slate. 

Each of these roles plays an important part in the success of an implementation. You might find that there are individuals on your team who are both philosopher and maker or professor and architect. Maybe you have one person who is everything. Regardless of the composition, considering these four personas as you build your implementation team and how individuals will work together toward the mission of bringing your system live will pay dividends toward the success of the project.

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