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11 Takeaways from the AMA Higher Ed Conference

by Patrick McGovern - February 13, 2020 - 5 minute read

For those working in marketing at a college or university, this is must attend conference. It’s three days (this year it was in Vegaswith nearly 1,500 in attendance and over 50 presentations! It’s a lot.  

 Unfortunately, not everyone that needs to attend can. So, for those that couldn’t make it, or for those that went and need a refresher – I've got you covered.  

Here are my 11 takeaways from the conference:  

  1. An iceberg is waiting for higher ed. But I’m still running into those working in the space that don’t know about the crisis.  Even worse, this sector doesn’t move fast, but instead works in a decentralized model and the rising costs will cause a reshaping of this entire vertical. 

  2. Marketing should target between 3-5% of the overall institutional budget. And with that budget, institutions should consider a 70, 20, 10 split of resources. 70% of the budget going toward those proven channels and tactics, 20% on moderately risky ventures and 10% on risky tactics. 

  3. Not surprisingly, the shift in marketing is toward hyper-local and personalized messaging. Many institutions need help in this area.  

  4. There is a distinct trend toward bringing more work in house. I was surprised in talking to those attending how big some marketing departments are becoming. 

  5. Colleges and universities need to allocate more resources on transfer, adult and international students. There is opportunity with these segmentsToo many schools have focused too long on the “traditional” student to fill their classrooms 

  6. Retention is going to be a much bigger deal going forward. As such, marketing departments will need to place more focus holding on to the students they bring in. 

  7. When it comes to your website simplicity and transparency are two thoughts to keep in mind. Specifically, make the costs clear and make it easy to find academic programs.  

  8. The role of marketing is growing within higher educationhowever, marketing still doesn’t have a seat at the table. Too often programs are created and then given to the marketing department to find the students because “that’s marketing’s job.” That needs to change. Marketing needs to be in on the ground floor when it comes to determining what programs need to be created and launched. 

  9. Price matters. Institutions should do all they can do to hold the line on the cost of tuition. Not only is this an issue domestically, it’s having a big impact on our ability within the U.S. to attract international students. We are pricing ourselves out of the game.  

  10. Here’s a scary stat75% of Gen Z said there are ways of getting a good education other than by going to college. That’s just not good news. 

  11. Finally, if you find yourself at the blackjack table in the wee hours of the morning, always split aces and eights 

If you attended the conference, please let me know your thoughts. What stood out? What didn’t you hear? What presentations resonated with you?  

The 2020 conference will be in Chicago. Hope to see you there.  

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