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 themin their box. You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, thebest professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their collegeor university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or toolsand 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 ofmarketing at heelt's education, and we're here today with Aaron Edgel, head ofMarketing Services at National University. Aaron, thanks so much for joining us today. Happy ago with you, Aaron. I have been colleagues before and he'sone of my absolute favorite digital minds and higher education. We're going to havea great conversation today about how, when...

...building a team, you don't necessarilywant to higher generalists or specialists, but both, with this concept of tshaped hiring. But before we get too far into that, Aaron, canyou get the listeners a little bit better understanding of both National University and yourrole. They're sure. So National New University was founded in one thousand ninehundred and seventy one by a veteran and it was really founded on the thepremise that higher ed wasn't helping working adults, specifically in military, active and andvets. So founded on that premise. It's been going strong for four decadesnow and based in San Diego, California, but we have campuses allthroughout California and we are one of the highest. We actually credential more teachersin California than any other higher at institution. So my role at national I'm actuallyat the the system level, so Nash University, Diversity System, mostlywith Nash University. That's our flagship and my role there is to manage allof 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 ofthings. But again we're trying to set up to become an agency, sothat internal agency so that we can work with all of our affiliates. Awesome, awesome, Aaron. I think higher read inherently breeds specialists, faculty whoare beautifully obsessed with a small niche of a field. They dedicate their entirelife to its pursuit. But you argue that as more and more becomes expectedof 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 tshaped 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 TimBrown, CEO, and he talked about the need for that in and they'restrong in design. So it's a very collaborate of environment and a few yearsafter I saw that interview I became really...

...popular in the digital marketing space withMas and distilled had some articles about it and I love the concept because thedigital 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 arapid rate. So the concept of a t shape marketer is they can gobroad so that top of the tea is is broad in not only skill setbut also in empathy and and the ability to collaborate. So you have thattop of the tea. But we still need a specialist who can contribute inpaid search and SEO because we have to execute my goal, like it andand the demands of Higher Ed are the ability to actually get in and dothe 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, wedon'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 needto and work with external parties. But I need the ability to to ownthe strategy and to be able to execute internally. So let's say I havea paid search position open on my team and a resume comes across my deskfrom someone who lives and breathes paid search optimization, has for a decade.They are Google adward certified, their being ad certified. What kind of resumewould get you even more excited than that one? So it's really hard toto see it on a resume, to be honest. So you'll see theI shape right the the depths. Like you said that I know that theycome with some paid search experience. Sometimes on a resume you'll see that they'vethey've had exposure or done something else, but I think we're trained on ourresumes 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. Soa 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 collaboratedwith other team members and cross functional or how have they are the curious aboutother things, like I'll ask those kind of questions, like what else areyou interested in digital marketing if it's paid search? Yeah, like, whathave 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 teamof t shape marketers in times of transition, when someone resigns or you're forced tolet someone go? Oh this is this is one of the kind ofthe 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, Ialways try to build. When I come into a new role I'm trying tobuild 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'soverlap. So if somebody goes on vacation, we don't just not send email anymorebecause they're no longer they're here there out for a week right. Sothe 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 continuousimprovement. I'm a strong believer and like agile methodologies where we're moving quick andI don't care if you get it wrong. You just we need to move fasterand always be getting better. So I repeating the same mistakes. That'sa problem. So t shape allows that to happen and I find that thedifferent personality, if you can connect on different levels and and collaborate. Forexample, in Seo you can jump in, you can be in a conversation,you can jump in and you understand it. I love it. Ilove it because higherd marketing departments are trying to do so much now and addingbrand new functions. I think many heads have defaulted to hiring specialist to fillthose functional gaps at their institutions. Email marketers, like you mentioned, socialmedia marketers, marketing analyst, but there's often no inherent advancement plan in placefor those specialists. In reality, they're often just small teams of one withinthis larger department. How does hiring t shape marketers help create more natural advancementpaths at your institution? Yeah, so...

...that's a great question. What I'vedone in the past. So I'll look at what so I'll make an assessmentof 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 theorganization 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 rolewas a director of marketing, analytics and optimization, because I want the hireteam, my team, but also the broader institution, to understand that thatwe'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 andwhat I've found is a lot of these. So the way I've hired that isthey have a little bit of different background, but then they went deepin 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 progressionthat they've had exposure to other things. So that's that's maybe and maybe that'son 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 wantto be in a box. They're always looking for growth, they're always lookingto learn new things and I don't want to put them in their box andsay, 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 iswhat you're responsible for ultimately. But what else are you interested or we couldhear 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 Ialways leave those those things open. I find that it helps retain and getget the team excited. But to your point, there's natural progression. Soas 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 haveto hire some kind of specialist for that or other changes in the industry ora new channel opens up or paid search just completely dies. My hope ismy team is built strong enough that we...

...can adapt to that. It'll bea 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 andget back to what you mentioned before about the difference between data driven and theyinformed. What did you mean by that? So data driven means we look atnumbers and we just re react to them. The way what I foundis people just eliminate all gut and experience from it. Data inform means we'remaking decisions grounded in data. You can always measure everything right. So ifI'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 thatDMA? Are we getting additional traffic in that DMA and every isolated excluded facultyand existing students? Sometimes you don't know, like we just looked at I lookedat data this past couple weeks and it's not always clear. And sothey did informed is more of it's informing our de decisions, but it's notdriving every single decision that we make.

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

...to I will pinpoint different team memberson the team. If somebody's trying to solve a problem, I sometimes willhelp 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 mediasort for doing media buying and traditional media and traditionally digital marketers. Having beena heavy digital marker myself, we don't give credit to like the traditional theTV. Okay, well, we'll just spend it because we can't track itand all of this. But if we're having that conversation, I'll try tohave that paid search person in the room and talk about that connection like thiswill impact your brand search most likely, or impact other things. So sometimesit'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 ifwe're for an education, we should be increasing our own education. So Itry to facilitate learning opportunities for that. Such good stuff. Aaron, thanksso much for joining us today. What is the best place for listeners toconnect 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 rightnow. I do respond to twitter, so you could also hit me upthere. 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. Heis a really good one to connect with folks. Highly recommended. Awesome, Aaron. Thanks again so much for joining us today. You're welcome topleasure be with you. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollmentstrategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquelyhelping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has justpublished the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new contenton how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today forfree 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 itunesor your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until nexttime.

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