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eduWEB: marketing becomes customer service

August 20th, 2009 by mdmcginnis

Though the closing keynote speaker at eduWeb conference did approach student recruitment from the perspective of commercial marketing and even salesmanship, his concept of marketing also embraces more personal factors: relationships and customer service. As Erick noted, he sometimes sounded ruthless, but he tempered his ruthlessness by saying, for example, that we shouldn’t try to convince every student to enroll, only those we can best serve.

With my slight background in direct marketing, I’m fascinated by how easy it can be to continue with business as usual (and unfortunately state employees are notorious for this, aren’t we?) without ever finding out if we’re meeting the needs of our customers. Of course, direct marketers believe they’re immune to this problem since they claim they’d go out of business if they weren’t!

The speaker, a former admissions director, urged each member of the university community to see every working hour as contributing to the central goal. (To help his own company’s meetings to do that, he removed the chairs from his conference room). He quoted a college gardener who, when asked what his job was, said, “To recruit fine students.” Certainly it was more than erosion control. Every part of a university, even every website, contributes to the opinion that outsiders have of it. Responsibility cannot really be shared. Only individuals can be responsible.

“What’s your school’s elevator pitch?” the speaker challenged. An entrepreneur develops an elevator pitch because his only chance to win a big investor or a big client might last only a few seconds. Before the elevator door opens, he or she has to prove why this enterprise is different from any other. Every university needs a unique selling point. If another school can do what we do, then we’re redundant.

It can’t be said too often: visitors to your website come for their reasons, not for yours. What are they looking for? The speaker quoted Michael Sexton, Dean of Admissions at Lewis & Clark College: “Stories not stats, people not programs.”

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Thursday, August 20th, 2009 Branding
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2 Comments to eduWEB: marketing becomes customer service

  1. “Stories not stats, people not programs.” Wow, that’s a powerful quote. Obviously some visitors come for statistics & information on programs, but Sexton is right — everyone wants to be treated like a customer, to experience an information environment amicable to what they came for, and to feel that they’re engaging meaningfully with real people. Connection and engagement.

    How does this affect the way we design a department’s website navigation? Does it mean we adopt dynamic “Web 2.0 navigation” methods like tagclouds over menu bars? Should our javascript notice where the cursor lingers and how long, and make inferences to provide insights or suggestions? What should the search results look like, and where should it be presented?

    I can see several short talks exploring applications, perhaps shared at the next UWEB meeting.

    Thanks!

  2. Monty Dickerson on August 20th, 2009
  3. That’s great, Monty. If I were a store clerk, I know some of the ways I might help a face-to-face customer. But are there Web technologies that would allow us to say, “Would you like to know more about what you’ve been looking at for the past 10 minutes?” or “Can I help you find something? Because you act lost”? We use CSS so visitors can tell which links they’ve already visited. It would be great to have code that would highlight a link if it hasn’t been visited within 5 minutes, or if three particular previous links have been visited. Or a menu sidebar that suggests links based on the visitor’s behavior.

  4. mdmcginnis on August 20th, 2009

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