16: Future-Proofing Your Higher Ed Marketing Department w/ T-Shaped Marketers at National University

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Aaron Edgell, Head of Marketing Services at National University, discusses how when staffing your higher ed marketing department, you don’t want to hire generalists, or specialists, but both.

The high performers, the talented folks. They don't want to be in a box. They're always looking for growth, they're always looking to learn new things and I don't want to put them in their box. You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university. I'm Eric Olson, a VP of marketing at heelt's education, and we're here today with Aaron Edgel, head of Marketing Services at National University. Aaron, thanks so much for joining us today. Happy ago with you, Aaron. I have been colleagues before and he's one of my absolute favorite digital minds and higher education. We're going to have a great conversation today about how, when...

...building a team, you don't necessarily want to higher generalists or specialists, but both, with this concept of t shaped hiring. But before we get too far into that, Aaron, can you get the listeners a little bit better understanding of both National University and your role. They're sure. So National New University was founded in one thousand nine hundred and seventy one by a veteran and it was really founded on the the premise that higher ed wasn't helping working adults, specifically in military, active and and vets. So founded on that premise. It's been going strong for four decades now and based in San Diego, California, but we have campuses all throughout California and we are one of the highest. We actually credential more teachers in California than any other higher at institution. So my role at national I'm actually at the the system level, so Nash University, Diversity System, mostly with Nash University. That's our flagship and my role there is to manage all of the marketing services. So that's when...

...we're executing marketing and media buying. That is what we do and right now heavy into the Nash University side of things. But again we're trying to set up to become an agency, so that internal agency so that we can work with all of our affiliates. Awesome, awesome, Aaron. I think higher read inherently breeds specialists, faculty who are beautifully obsessed with a small niche of a field. They dedicate their entire life to its pursuit. But you argue that as more and more becomes expected of the hired marketing department to solve all our enroman growth goals and challenges, we can't take that same hiring approach to talk about this concept of hiring t shaped marketers to help do all the work that's being asked to hired marketing departments? Sure, yeah, so I was first introduced to the this concept. I believe it was pioneered at Ideo and there's a there's an interview with Tim Brown, CEO, and he talked about the need for that in and they're strong in design. So it's a very collaborate of environment and a few years after I saw that interview I became really...

...popular in the digital marketing space with Mas and distilled had some articles about it and I love the concept because the digital world so there's no longer like a separation between digital and traditional marketing. They really have to fuse together and become one and it's changing at such a rapid rate. So the concept of a t shape marketer is they can go broad so that top of the tea is is broad in not only skill set but also in empathy and and the ability to collaborate. So you have that top of the tea. But we still need a specialist who can contribute in paid search and SEO because we have to execute my goal, like it and and the demands of Higher Ed are the ability to actually get in and do the work right. So I have my team has to be able to execute. So if it's just the tea, the top of the tea, we don't execute, we can hire agencies, we can hire other people and coordinate, but you need a team that can...

...collaborate across can hire if we need to and work with external parties. But I need the ability to to own the strategy and to be able to execute internally. So let's say I have a paid search position open on my team and a resume comes across my desk from someone who lives and breathes paid search optimization, has for a decade. They are Google adward certified, their being ad certified. What kind of resume would get you even more excited than that one? So it's really hard to to see it on a resume, to be honest. So you'll see the I shape right the the depths. Like you said that I know that they come with some paid search experience. Sometimes on a resume you'll see that they've they've had exposure or done something else, but I think we're trained on our resumes to be very specific. If it's a role in director of paid search, I'm going to try to show that I've just done paid search. So a lot of times you won't know until the interview when you talk to them. You can see there. How do...

...they talk about the way they collaborated with other team members and cross functional or how have they are the curious about other things, like I'll ask those kind of questions, like what else are you interested in digital marketing if it's paid search? Yeah, like, what have you learned recently? Just just to kind of sus out their curiosity. I love it. What are the some of the benefits of having a team of t shape marketers in times of transition, when someone resigns or you're forced to let someone go? Oh this is this is one of the kind of the side benefits. I try not to look at it as the main benefit, but it's a huge benefit. So if you've got cross training, I always try to build. When I come into a new role I'm trying to build up a team. I inherit some of the team members that existed before. What I'm trying to do is reorganize us. So number one, there's overlap. So if somebody goes on vacation, we don't just not send email anymore because they're no longer they're here there out for a week right. So the benefit is that there's some cross functional...

...training and if someone's out on vacation, we can still move forward. I try to build this engine of continuous improvement. I'm a strong believer and like agile methodologies where we're moving quick and I don't care if you get it wrong. You just we need to move faster and always be getting better. So I repeating the same mistakes. That's a problem. So t shape allows that to happen and I find that the different personality, if you can connect on different levels and and collaborate. For example, in Seo you can jump in, you can be in a conversation, you can jump in and you understand it. I love it. I love it because higherd marketing departments are trying to do so much now and adding brand new functions. I think many heads have defaulted to hiring specialist to fill those functional gaps at their institutions. Email marketers, like you mentioned, social media marketers, marketing analyst, but there's often no inherent advancement plan in place for those specialists. In reality, they're often just small teams of one within this larger department. How does hiring t shape marketers help create more natural advancement paths at your institution? Yeah, so...

...that's a great question. What I've done in the past. So I'll look at what so I'll make an assessment of here's the team I have and then if if I need to elevate. I'm looking at two things. So I need to elevate this position within the organization so they know that we mean business, for example, data and analytics. So I create one of the first positions I created at this new role was a director of marketing, analytics and optimization, because I want the hire team, my team, but also the broader institution, to understand that that we're serious about it, we care about data driven decisions or data informed decisions. That's another conversation. So the ability to have somebody who comes in and what I've found is a lot of these. So the way I've hired that is they have a little bit of different background, but then they went deep in marketing analytics, but they have exposure to digital marketing in the past. So they've gone deep, but they have I can see in their career progression that they've had exposure to other things. So that's that's maybe and maybe that's on the resume thing as I'm looking to...

...hire. But what I found, though, is like high high performers, the talented folks, they don't want to be in a box. They're always looking for growth, they're always looking to learn new things and I don't want to put them in their box and say, nope, that's where you stay because I hired you for this role. They have to own that and I make that clear to the team. You have to own your world. This is what you own, this is what you're responsible for ultimately. But what else are you interested or we could hear the problems I'm trying to solve. If you can help me solve them, I would love to elevate somebody internally to help solve it. So I always leave those those things open. I find that it helps retain and get get the team excited. But to your point, there's natural progression. So as the industry evolves and as a new channel or a guy don't want. If snapchat somehow becomes this massive thing, I don't need to high shouldn't have to hire some kind of specialist for that or other changes in the industry or a new channel opens up or paid search just completely dies. My hope is my team is built strong enough that we...

...can adapt to that. It'll be a little rocky, of certainly of paid search died, but I'm home. I'm trying to build this resilient team to where we can adapt and be Nimble. I really love that approaching and I'm going to take that that Bait and get back to what you mentioned before about the difference between data driven and they informed. What did you mean by that? So data driven means we look at numbers and we just re react to them. The way what I found is people just eliminate all gut and experience from it. Data inform means we're making decisions grounded in data. You can always measure everything right. So if I'm if I've launched TV at a new market and I'm trying to measure direct. So let's look at brand search. Is that increasing and that in that DMA? Are we getting additional traffic in that DMA and every isolated excluded faculty and existing students? Sometimes you don't know, like we just looked at I looked at data this past couple weeks and it's not always clear. And so they did informed is more of it's informing our de decisions, but it's not driving every single decision that we make.

Awesome, really good distinction. I think people often stick in a functional lane where they're comfortable, the lane where they naturally excel. Let's say you have or have inherited a bunch of I shaped marketers on your team, great talents but specialists, often in a single function. How do you intentionally create an environment where your team feels confidence in the value they're adding, but they're both incourage just in expected to be openly vulnerable in their areas of weakness in order to help turn them into more t shaped marketers? So it's a tough thing to do, depending on how long and how in depth of an expert they are and what they do. If they've been doing it for a really long time, they may not mean it's really hard. One of the things that I do that I implement as I like to get everybody in the same room, all functional experts and if I'm doing a quarterly planning or even just a team meeting where we talk about the different areas, and then I will try...

...to I will pinpoint different team members on the team. If somebody's trying to solve a problem, I sometimes will help connect the dots for them if they have a hard time doing it. So I'll point out, for example, like the example I mentioned where media sort for doing media buying and traditional media and traditionally digital marketers. Having been a heavy digital marker myself, we don't give credit to like the traditional the TV. Okay, well, we'll just spend it because we can't track it and all of this. But if we're having that conversation, I'll try to have that paid search person in the room and talk about that connection like this will impact your brand search most likely, or impact other things. So sometimes it's just getting them all in the same room and connecting the dots for them. Additionally, what I like to do is training and learning as certainly if we're for an education, we should be increasing our own education. So I try to facilitate learning opportunities for that. Such good stuff. Aaron, thanks so much for joining us today. What is the best place for listeners to connect with you if they have any follow...

...up questions? So I'm on Linkedin, just Aaron edgel on Linkedin, and that's probably the best best place right now. I do respond to twitter, so you could also hit me up there. It's at Aaron Edgel. In fact, I'm Aaron Edgel everywhere. Try to connect with me and I'll respond. Be Happy to do that. He is a really good one to connect with folks. Highly recommended. Awesome, Aaron. Thanks again so much for joining us today. You're welcome to pleasure be with you. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom playbook you've been listening...

...to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the shown itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (264)