7: Concordia University, Irvine Brings the 4 P’s Back to Higher Ed Strategy w/ Rick Hardy

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rick Hardy, AVP of Marketing at Concordia University, Irvine, discusses how his team takes a product marketing approach to academic program development and promotion.

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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. Slash playbook. 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 Oleson, AVP of marketing at Helix Education, and we're here today with Rick Hardy, lead marketing officer at Concordia University Irvine. Rick, how you doing today? I'm well. Thank you, Eric, good to be here. Excellent. Great to have you. Rig is not only a fantastic marketer, but a great guy I'm happy to call a friend, and Concordia University Irvine has an incredibly interesting approach to product development that I'm really excited to get into today. But before we do, Rick, can you give the listeners a little bit better understanding of both Concordia University your vine and your role there? Yes, Concordia University run is a roverly young institution founded in founded in one thousand nineteen and seventy two. First Class started in one thousand nineteen seventy six, but we've add the university. I've been here since two thousand and ten, so I'll say we, but universe. He has been on this track for a while. Just a lot of growth around forty five hundred students, one thousand six hundred traditional undergrads approximately. So we do have a good percentage of graduate students, smaller percentage...

...of adult undergraduate students. It's a were private university, Lutheran University in Southern California and Irvine and which is located in Orange County California. Austin Burkett and tell us a little bit about your role in your team there. My role as lead marketing officer at the university is to manage a centralized marketing and communications team. So we within our team we have the web team, the CRM for admissions, publications, PR graphic design, print graphic design of course, digital design, search engine, marketing magazine. We kind of do it all here. Social media more centralized, but you know, our conversation is going to going to show that that we're also collaborately involved with people cross campus doing marketing. Awesome. I'm really excited to get into that aspect of it. I'd like to start with with what you and I've been talking about recently, which is really interesting to me, especially as an old school marketer. Let's talk about your belief in the importance of bringing the four peas back to higher education strategy. Yeah, I think I'd like to start by to truths in marketing that I preach on campus. I advocate for. The first is the market rules that if if we don't if there's an not a market for your program and we're trying to recruit students for it, we're just going to be in a tough situation. I tell people we can't outspend a bad a bad market. The other truth is our job as marketers is to essentially leverage market dynamics and this means all four peas. I mean, when you look at marketing, it's not just promotion. It's another thing I preach are marketing is more than just promotion, and so I know that it's since, you know, social media and new media as it was called years ago, came into being and start emerging, we came up with some thought leaders who had let's...

...replace the four peas with a four season. I'm looking at one model here. It's their term. differently. Consumer wants and needs cost to satisfy those convenience to buy communication. But I think in in higher education in particular, marketing, we know, has has been kind of a dirty word over the decades. It's becoming more more adopted by college, especially private universities. But the reality is I've been in a conferences where I've had speakers say they go to some campuses and they can't even see the sea word consumer or customer. And furthermore, as marketing finds a place and it is recognized on campus, I think a number of faculty and executives on at universities tendency well, that's marketing where that's admissions. So we create a program. Therefore, now you guys need to go and recruit for it and market in and find out to find a position for it. I like the four peas because it puts the onus right back on the campus. Start with product or program, program, if you have to name it that way. At Your University, yere, we'll call it a product. We have to align that to the market price. We have to align that to the market. That's generally understood at universities place. It's been a big conversation the last ten years, as the actually fifteen twenty years, as online education is as emerged more so you have to find the right deliveries option for your program and then, of course, promotion. So I think the four peas is really a good model, at least for us, because it lends itself to asking questions across the cross those areas, whereas in and allows me, as a lead marketing officer, to talk about customer talk about market and ask tough questions, sometimes about the program that were reviewing. So that's that's why we utilize the for piece here. I really love it and let's dig into that one product or, like you said,...

...if that gets you glares around your campus program if that will get you in the door. That kind of product marketing approach you take to academic program development and promotion as well is really fascinating. Making sure that your division in your marketing department gets in earlier in the conversations before you're just broughty finished program and said make this work for us. Can you share what that kind of collaborative approach with academic development looks like? Yeah, fortunately I'm at a university that has a sense of market and marketing, so here it is. Even though we're centralized here. It's not all of our responsibility in marketing to launch new programs. The academic houst does that, but they do for every new program they do secondary research and sometimes some primary research to figure out if there's a market and specifically, you know, within some new programs there's emphasies or concentrations which of those we should be launching, and I'm asked to review. I have a hand in on that. My budget pays for half the budget for the research and I have had a review what that research says and then once there's a decision. I'd like this sooner. Actually, I get about doing a marketing plan based on the four piece. So sometimes that has happened. I got here and, as I said in two thousand and ten and week, started reviewing programs at that point. But with new programs that are launched I'll create a new marketing plan for those. I will start having conversations because, even if we were just talking about ocean, marketing has to understand really the intricacies of these programs and to try to find a position trying to fund a brand for them really interesting. Any specific either success stories or kind of roadblocks that you can think about where you were brought in to determine the market by ability of a program pre launch and you learn something in that process or during the promotion process that that really helps steer the program in a different...

...direction. Yeah, I could actually give an example of a graduate program that we reviewed after I got here. So it was already in existence but the kind of it had, its enrollment had plateaued and was experiencing some decrease, not huge but some. So we went about formed a small committee of facty administrators, myself, to go through a marketing plan review and we took the four peas and went through that and as we looked at program just started asking some tough questions about it. Actually, I need to back up. We started that process and said to time out. We really have to have data. So we the program went about surveying alumni and students to find out what the authentic student experience was really what the brand was out there about the program. As soon as we had that data, then we then we started to react to it and started to see bullet point after bullet point under product where there were some issues with the student experience and the price wasn't an issue. And but with promotion we saw just a lot of really big disconnect between how marketing had been branding the program and, you know, ultimately positioning it in the market to what the actual experience was. And so we were looking as we looked at it, we developed really a new brand campaign for that program and went about that. This is a long process, especially in academics and higher education. So it took a few years time for us to figure out the brand, but also for the academic house to make changes. And so I we sit here now, few years later. That's all turned around. They've really made a lot of improvements. We don't hear the same issues with student experience and I just found out last week, or actually a couple weeks...

...ago, that we really need to shift the branding of it again to reflect of a program directors goals with the type of student they like to recruit. Some of the problems with promotion for that program was of a previous marketing planet identified really student straight out of college, to millennials, young millennials, and develop the pro they kind of created the program for that group, but that group coming in was being mixed with kind of season career professionals and it was causing some issues in the classroom. So we shifted away from that and so really that process has changed both the promotion but also the actually the program itself. And it came as a result of sitting around a table multiple times talking hash, being honest, and for me that that's not so difficult. I've been a faculty member before, I've been behind the curtain. At some institutions that may not be possible, but here we're able to really talk frank with each other and try to get things turn around. He's typically, you know programs. Maybe a dean is holding a program Director responsible for meeting a Roma goals and he or she's looking at marketing and admissions and saying why I don't recruit. And here, by bringing it all together, we can say, okay, we're having some trouble with enrollment, when we're finding that it's not mad to the market exactly what what can we do? How can we work together to fix whatever's broken? So that's one example I think of a success story. The enrollments turned around. It's has a healthy percentage of growth each year and we're finding a market for it. So that's a success story for us. But we go through that hole. The marketing plan is the four peas. We we take product and well, first of all we go opportunities, threads, strengths, weaknesses. We look at all those and then we go product. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this program? So the...

...weaknesses point two areas that need to be addressed, but the strengths kind of point to possibilities for finding brand position and the market. What are the strengths? The strengths many times say, well, we're the only institution in the market that does this and we you know, there's maybe some Aha moments in these meetings were okay, okay, perhaps there's something we can do with a promotion of that, and we do that for price and place, whether it's online or facetoface, or how many units the program is, so on and so forth. And you know, behind all this is the data we've accumulated internally, but also data that is out there about the higher ed market, in this case for graduate adult students. What we know? How many units works best, so and so forth, and so marketing and communications in the tape mark marketing can really be at the table helping inform on some of those things. I ended up here writing a white paper just on the graduate delt market because I saw across all these programs just leaders not understanding why we were doing certain things in promotion. So I was able to do a white paper, distribute and have discussions with academic leadership about this is why the product needs to be shifted or or whatever the case is. Rick, I love how you've bought in a seat of the table at the academic program development table, both for you know, pre launched by ability, for launch promotions, as well as this iterative reconsideration and how do we continue to tweak this to be most effective when you come to the table and talk for peace with your academic friends and faculty. Any resistance there? It seems like you have a very firm belief that marketing is not only your job and your team's job, that it's everyone's job. How is that received? You know, I've tried to think back when I first got here. I just give my background. factuty...

I started developing relationships with faculty from day one. Had Coffee on our campus coffee shop. Started talking about one of my ideas were and none of the ideas were like you need to do this promotion wise in order to change things around. I just talked about what what burn and is, what branding is, what marketing is, and developed relationships and then just move forward. But I was fortunate here because this was already a market sensitive institution. The provost office was already doing research pre launch, and so I think my approach blended well when I arrived with what was already happening here. But I just said just sit down and ask stuff questions. There's always personalities, no matter what the businesses, but especially in higher ad so you just kind of just kind of have to figure out how to navigate those. I view faculty be having been one for many years. It's a great campuses are well, what a great place to be. Each day I can go eat lunch or have coffee with an artist, a designer, historian, theologian here, a business professional, finance expert. So for this particular program I had many of those discussions. Some of those came with individual factor members who saw us going on and want to talk to me. So I think I just have those. I understand at other institutions it may not be so easy, but I think you just have to move forward boldly, but you know deftly, that you walk and try to navigate the situation and try to figure out each person you dealing with and and not offend people but ask, try to find ways to ask questions. Incredibly helple tips, I think, for all those who who wish our departments were part of larger conversations on campus and think some great practical tips of how we earn our way to that table. Anything else you want to share with our listeners today that we haven't covered, or any tips for institutions who love this idea of this product marketing approach to program development but don't exactly...

...know how to start? Yeah, universities and campses are so different, the cultures vary and it's so tight in with history of the institutions. My general belief is that you just have to start carving out professional relationships with, in this case, academic leaders, even university leaders. I had written I'm trying to revive it again. I had a blog. I was very active with that. I was able to just spin off some print off or send them links at times of look at this is what I think about certain things and impact what you've been doing and I think we need to shift gears here. So I think relationships are important. And then just kind of the ground rules. I really have defined what brand is, and branding for us it's, you know, what people experience with, students experience you to be or what people have heard you to be, and so I just have preached that. It's different than identity, which we're at a very identity twere of and Union University identity is very, very much what we say it is. And so about marketing, about the four peas and so on and so forth, and just have those conversations and but there has to be an openness at the highest levels to do this. And if your university is really decentralized or at schools, and you have to work on each school differently. And my my experience my career has been at institutions where marketings been centralized. So that's different. Since some listeners might be experiencing right rick, depths of thought and advice, they're really appreciate you joining us today. What's the best place for listeners to connect with you? Will read that blog you mentioned if they have any follow up questions. Yeah, my Ug link is on my twitter profile. I like I said, I'm trying to revive it's been a while since I've been there, but there's good stuff there. I think I'm a rick a hardy, R I s Ka Ah Rdy on twitter, rick a hardy, you can find me there. Love to follow hire a people who are died tweet about all sorts of things, but try to try to focus on marketing and...

...admissions and enrollment areas, but that's probably the best place. Awesome, Rick, thanks so much for your time and thanks for joining us today. Thanks, Eric Appreschi. Enjoyed it. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show on Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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