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Darcy Grabenstein Feb 1

How to Shorten the EMBA Decision-Making Process & Increase Your Program’s Bottom Line

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The decision-making process for a prospect to enroll in an Executive MBA program is painfully long. Statistics show that this process can take up to two years. So what can you do to speed up the process? Develop —  and implement —  a pull-through digital enrollment marketing strategy.

EMBA Decision-Making Timeline

                      Source: GMAC Prospective Students Survey 2014

Audience targeting is a key component of any successful marketing strategy, online or offline. Don’t throw a wide net; targeting will produce better results. Why? Because you will be delivering relevant content. If you bid on keywords that are too broad, you may be wasting your online advertising dollars. To promote a Healthcare EMBA program, for instance, both the keywords and the ad messaging must be specific. Otherwise, you may receive a great quantity of leads but not quality leads. Quality leads will be more interested in your EMBA program and, therefore, more likely to commit sooner.

Timing is everything. While you want your online ads to appear prior to your program deadlines, you also want prospects to see them at key stages in their decision-making process. Keep in mind that, although these two timelines may intersect at certain points, the overlap may be minimal. That’s why you should schedule ads throughout the calendar year, not just based on the academic calendar.

So what are some of the stages that prospects will go through on their path to enrolling? Here are a few common stages:

1. Considering an EMBA
2. Deciding what type of EMBA program
3. Seeking information
4. Applying
5. Enrolling

The Adult Audience Journey

Just because you get a prospect into the funnel, that doesn’t mean it will be smooth sailing. Bottlenecks can pop up anywhere:

• Cost of program (more important to self-financed than employer-sponsored prospects)
• Concerns regarding work-life balance
• Questioning ROI of EMBA degree

Your program positioning and digital marketing strategy must address and overcome these and other obstacles. You can kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, by offering incentives for early enrollment. First, financial incentives will help to bring down the overall cost of an EMBA. Second, incentives can help shorten the decision-making process.

What kinds of incentives can you offer? That depends on your program’s pricing and operations budget. Some programs offer scholarships, waive application or GMAT fees (some programs waive the GMAT altogether), or pay for textbooks. Other programs offer incentives to specific groups, such as military veterans.

If you find that work-life balance is an issue for prospects, take a look at your program format. EMBA programs must be willing to rethink traditional models in order to appeal to professionals with limited bandwidth. Programs with flexible scheduling will have an advantage over those with rigid formats, and may prompt commitments earlier in the decision-making process.

Your digital marketing strategy must demonstrate program ROI. How? Include testimonials on ROI from current students and alumni. If favorable, compare your tuition to that of other EMBA programs. Survey your alumni to find out how they moved up the career ladder (and how quickly) and how much their salaries increased post-graduation. Collect stats, and then use them to your advantage.

Digital enrollment marketing is more than just “setting and forgetting” a search engine marketing (SEM) campaign. Your strategy should be made up of many components: keyword optimization, banner and search ads, landing pages, search engine optimized (SEO) web content, social media advertising, retargeting campaigns and more. Your online campaign also should be consistent in visuals and messaging with offline marketing.

Don’t forget to monitor your campaigns. Tracking results will reveal which components worked best, and which fell flat. Then tweak your campaigns for optimal results.

A coordinated, consistent, ongoing marketing effort will produce the best results and, ultimately, shorten the prospect’s decision-making timeline.

Darcy Grabenstein is senior copywriter at Annodyne.

Darcy Grabenstein Sep 29

Develop a Content Game Plan

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Content (and let’s not forget context) is king, so they say, which means you need a game plan to keep pace with your opponent, er, competition. Here are a few excerpts from our content playbook, to help ensure that you’ll be on the offensive, not the defensive, throughout the year.

Game plan

Play No. 1: Be relevant

Think about it. If a football coach were to give a locker room speech encouraging his players to slam-dunk and hit three-pointers, would they quickly zone out? Of course they would.

The same can be applied to content. You’ve not only got to be relevant, you need to provide the reader with some valid take-aways.

Whatever you do, avoid a fumble here. If you regularly post content that’s not remotely related to your line of business — or your followers’ interests — your content will eventually be ignored. Or worse, you’ll cause a turnover: Your followers will start following your competitors instead.

Play No. 2: Be timely

Timing is everything in football. It’s also important in terms of content and content marketing. You’ve got to keep on top of what’s trending in the news and in social media. That way, you can capitalize on trending topics by tying in your content in some way. The hashtag is your new best friend.

This concept, known in some circles as newsjacking, is not new. Public relations professionals have been doing this for decades because, in short, it works.

Miss the snap, however, and the play is over.

Play No. 3: Be consistent (but not predictable)

You’ve got to get in the game. By consistency, I mean you need to post content on a regular basis. If you post only sporadically, your followers will assume there’s nothing new on your social media sites and you’ll disappear from their radar screens.

But you don’t want everyone reading your passes, either. You DO want them reading your content. If you simply copy/paste your content from one social media site to another, you’ll lose in the long run. Define a strategy for each social media outlet (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), then develop content that builds upon that strategy.

Play No. 4: Be sure to pass

That is, hand off quality content to your colleagues via social media. In the world of social media, sharing is caring.

You want others to share your content on various social media networks, so it behooves you to return the favor. However, you’re not doing yourself (or the originator of the content) any favors if you’re sharing just for the sake of sharing. Share relevant content (see No. 1 above), and then make it value added by including your own insight.

Of course, you can always play Monday morning quarterback but by then most of the social media buzz probably will have subsided and you’ll miss out on the bulk of the action.

Here’s to a winning season!

Darcy Grabenstein is senior copywriter at Annodyne.

Photo courtesy of: Jim Larrison

Diana Altobelli Jan 22

The Struggles With Higher Ed Marketing and How To Overcome Them

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As if digital marketing weren’t already tough enough, the search engines don’t seem to be easing up any time soon. Not only that, but higher education keywords and phrases are getting to be quite expensive. Here at Annodyne, we service many higher education institutions. Using online marketing strategies such as search engine marketing, we have seen great success with our clients in filling the seats of MBA and EMBA programs.


With that being said, it can be even more difficult for institutions with small to medium-sized programs to gain online recognition and traffic. The price tag for higher ed to attract potential students via paid search continues to increase, costing anywhere from $50 and up per click.

As paid search becomes more expensive and with limited budgets, it is important to spend your marketing dollars wisely and in a space where you can compete. Let’s talk about content marketing, for example. If you ask me, the term is getting a bit irritating at this point but bear with me.

Institutions are challenged to come up with a great key message that will stand out among the rest, one that will resonate with potential MBA and EMBA students (or any student, for that matter). Only a fraction of colleges and universities are nationally ranked, or have the funds to pay for rights to use the badge signifying their ranking.

All the rest must determine what makes their program truly unique. Why not start with alumni and faculty? Learn what professors and teachers at the college are doing internally, then create stimulating ad copy that will resonate with students. Whether you create case studies, white papers or even infographics, you will engage the end user and capitalize on your marketing efforts by providing relevant information.

What would be even greater is if the potential student engaged with that content. Micghael Schrange from MIT sums up what engagement is really all about. “Engagement is smack at the intersection of commanding attention and taking action.”


For example, views and traffic are great, BUT… that does nothing for your campaign if no one is interacting with your posts, photos or videos. Let’s think of it in reference to search engine optimization. You are getting tons of traffic to the website, but no one is filling out lead forms. You might want to check your bounce rate; is there enough content to keep the reader engaged for awhile? These are all questions you need to ask yourself when looking to keep the end user engaged.

The same goes for social media. You can post 2-3 times a day, but if no one is sharing, liking or commenting on your material you may want to think twice about what you are doing. Or if you are just starting out maybe you want to assign some team members as social media ambassadors to help increase the engagement with like users who may be interested. Do you see where I’m going with this?

Now since, search engine marketing maybe not be the greatest avenue to bring in leads for your Executive MBA programs, leveraging your social media pages might do the trick. Yes, it is becoming even more of a struggle to gain the reader’s attention, but having an active presence on a platform where a majority of users spend their time can create conversions.

As with Google AdWords, you still have the ability to target your audience on social media. With Facebook, you can target by interests, behaviors, location, age, gender and more. This not only allows for more effective targeting but can be much cheaper than the search giant.

The bottom line is developing an end goal, a marketing strategy so that you can properly measure, track and gauge how your social media or search engine marketing campaigns are doing. Once that is laid out, it can be much easier to determine which tactics and platforms to use when it comes to higher education marketing. Make sure they are aligned with the institution’s objectives as a whole!

Diana Altobelli is a search marketing coordinator at Annodyne. 

photo credit via AZ NetMarketing

The Social Network gif via The Other Hubby

Crewe Fox 

Darcy Grabenstein Jan 2

Keep Your Eye on the Crystal Ball: A Trio of Marketing Trends for 2015

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Crystal ballAs early as 2012, industry insiders were predicting marketing trends for 2015. I’m all for advance planning, but these days marketing (especially online marketing)
is a moving target. New devices, new apps and new experiences make today’s predictions obsolete in no time.

And now, at the risk of becoming obsolete, I’ll share a few of my own predictions for the coming year.

Context is dethroning content as king

Content will continue to be key, but I predict that context will eclipse content in terms of importance. What exactly is context marketing? It’s delivering the right message to the right person at the right time.

You’ll notice that I’m speaking about one message and one person. Even if you’re sending out an email to thousands of people on your list, your strategy and messaging should be formed around the idea of talking to a single customer or prospect.

Data is integral to context marketing, since this is what determines the right message, right person and right time. Collecting that data is the first step; using the data effectively can make or break your marketing campaign.

Google Glass

Wearables will become more mainstream

While I don’t expect wearable technology to be fully adopted by the masses (the prices are still too prohibitive for many, and the technology too intimidating), I do think we’ll be seeing more of these devices in the next year and beyond. Adweek declared wearables “the new social” after their domination at SXSW. From Google Glass, Samsung watches, smart bracelets and rings to GoPro and more, wearable tech is here to stay.

What does that mean for marketers? First, marketers will be called upon to promote the products themselves. Clever marketing will be required to convince the public that they need one of these devices. Marketers also will have to leverage opportunities for campaigns on these devices, tweaking them for these much smaller formats.

Writing skills will be more important than ever

OK, so I have a vested interest in this prediction. However, it can’t be denied that everyone is publishing content online. Individuals and businesses alike are creating and sharing content like crazy.

If you’re not a prolific writer, it’s OK. You can always hire a ghostwriter. (You’d be surprised how many big-name bloggers use ghostwriters.) If you do use a ghostwriter, however, be sure to collaborate from beginning to end. That way, your content will be genuine and reflect your personality and voice. If you write the content yourself, be sure to have someone proofread/edit your original copy before posting it.

So there you have it. My predictions are down to earth, not earth-shattering. What are your marketing predictions for the coming year?

Darcy Grabenstein is senior copywriter at Annodyne.

Crystal ball image courtesy of Jon Ross, Flickr

Google Glass photo credit: Royal Opera House Covent Garden via photopin cc

Diana Altobelli Oct 7

No Tricks, Just Treats – Halloween Content Marketing

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Fall is in full swing, so it seems. Pumpkin everything, “Gone Girl” just released and the horror décor is coming out. However, we’re not going to trick you this time around or scare you straight. Instead, I’m here to provide a few of my own tried-and-true content marketing tips.


Get creative with your content strategy. Don’t be afraid to tell a spooky horror story. This is the perfect time to be dramatic, bold and scare the pants off of your customers by focusing on communication and sharing information through infographics.

Let’s be real. We are all visual, so what better way to showcase a case study than to display it through a stimulating image? Infographics can visually explain information, trends and statistics from your latest search engine marketing campaign or what have you.

The great thing about infographics is that there are many generators out there. You don’t even need to create your own template. For example, Piktocharts offers more than 2 million charts and over 550 beautiful themes.


Reach out to top influencers. If you are struggling to gain a fan base or following, you may want to start reaching out to established bloggers in your niche or industry. Search for those who have high domain authority and a large following.

Now what to do with these top influencers? Help them. Why? Because you must offer them help before asking for it, especially if you are nobody. What better way to do this than to ask them for an interview for a post on your page.

This way, once your interviews are published you can notify these top influencers. It’s essentially free content for them; all they have to do is tell their followers to check out the interview!

Simple as that. It is a win-win for both parties. You both get great content for your websites. When they alert their loyal readers to check out the exclusive interviews, this will redirect their fans to your page.

Here’s a trick for your content marketing strategy. Blog in lists and very short paragraphs. You may have noticed none of my paragraphs are more than three to four lines long. This creates breaks on the page and for the eyes, making the blog much easier to read.

It’s a simple tip that can improve the blog’s effectiveness. If your blog isn’t in short paragraphs, you might want to create lists or bullet points. This allows readers to skim through faster and catch the main points of the post.

Social media is your friend. Work with the platforms you are active on and integrate your content marketing strategy to spread the message across various networks with a single post.




Step out of your comfort zone. Create engagement. Don’t expect it to come to you. Reach out, comment on other blogs and build relationships from there. This will result in a greater chance of generating traffic; new readers will want to see what other types of content you’re posting. By creating a real community where questions are answered, problems are solved and tools are shared, you will become more noticeable in your market.

Any of these treats has the ability to increase your online success through content marketing. What types of tricks do you have up your sleeve for holiday marketing?

Diana Altobelli is a search marketing coordinator at Annodyne.