By Doug Goodnough
Director of Marketing and Communications
More than a decade ago, Siena Heights made the decision to begin an Online Program. It was not an easy one, especially since the idea of offering college courses online was a very foreign concept at the time. Concerns about delivery, academic fraud, quality and interaction were all hurdles that had to be cleared. However, Siena Heights was one of the first private institutions to successfully develop its online reputation and portfolio.
And that work has paid dividends. SHU has been ranked nationally for five consecutive years by the U.S. News and World Report, and has been the top program in Michigan for the past two. In 2018, Siena Heights is tied for 23rd in the nation. As the director of Marketing, my job is to let as many people as possible know about it.
We currently have online students from more than 30 states and even a few countries. So, how do you attract new students into the program, especially ones from states like California, Illinois and New York?
The answer has been digital advertising. For the past few years, Siena Heights has invested in paid search marketing. Ever "Google" something on the Internet? Some of those search results that come back have a space called "Paid" or "Sponsored" advertising. The idea is to bid on "keywords" that people looking for an online degree might enter. And the higher the bid, the higher up on the page your ad would appear in those results. The hope is that people will "click" on your ad, fill out an inquiry form, and then the recruitment process can begin.
This fall, we took digital advertising to new "Heights." Partnering with Advance 360, an online digital marketing company, Siena Heights is expanding its efforts to recruit students into our programs. While paid search is still a component, we are also using display ads on a network of web sites (see example above) that target potential students based on their web usage. Ever order something online from a site like Amazon, and then magically see ads for a similar product/service follow you around when you surf the web on your phone? Same concept.
Also, social media channels like Facebook and LinkedIn are advertising platforms that can target potential prospects using demographic information. We are utilizing this strategy as well.
And the results are promising. We used a digital media advertising strategy to market our new Online MBA program, and we were able to meet our enrollment goals for the very first cohorts in January. Also, our undergraduate online program also met its goals for the Winter enrollment cycle, and visits to our main web site, sienaheights.edu, have increased.
We are just getting started. The hope is the significant investment we are making in digital media advertising will keep filling the recruitment "funnel" for those programs and more. And months from now, those sustained messages and campaigns will result in more met enrollment goals.
"That's the Siena Effect" we are working towards!