Blog >> higher education

Darcy Grabenstein Mar 22

Not All Leads Are Created Equal

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A lead is a lead, right? Wrong.

There’s a big difference between a lead and a qualified lead. The latter is someone whose interests/behaviors indicate that he or she is likely to be a good prospect. In the Executive MBA world, this means the lead is more likely to enroll in an EMBA program than other leads.

Lead scoring is a methodology used to identify “hot” vs. “cool” leads. It is used to rank prospects against a scale that represents the perceived value each lead may have for the organization. The resulting score is used to prioritize leads. “Hot” leads should be followed up first, with “cool” leads later.

Before you can score your leads, you need to obtain some information about them. You can do this several ways:

  • Include an inquiry form on your website and landing pages
  • Capture demographic information when leads call to get information on your EMBA program
  • Collect information via forms at open houses and other events

Among information you’ll want to track is which program(s) the lead is considering. If this particular lead is interested only in a traditional MBA, be sure to share that information with your MBA colleagues at your institution. Likewise, you’ll want other programs to share leads who show an interest in your particular program.

A word of warning: While you want to capture demographic information via your online forms, you also don’t want to scare off prospects with too many form fields to complete. You must strike a balance. Focus on capturing basic information first; once you have that, you should follow up via phone and/or email to learn more about your prospects.

You can use other methods to find out what programs a lead is interested in. On the web, you can monitor visitors’ activity on your website. Attributes such as where they clicked, how long they spent on certain content and whether they requested more information could tell you a lot about their particular interests.

So exactly how does lead scoring work in the EMBA realm? Truth be told, it works basically the same as in any other industry. You gauge prospects’ interests/actions and rank them accordingly.

To determine how interested prospects are in your institution overall, see how many different web pages they visited on your site. You also can see repeat visitors, and track how often leads visit your site in a given time period. If this coincides with your registration deadlines, you may have a “hot” lead on your hands. Another factor that may contribute to a lead being considered “hot” is whether the lead’s company will help fund the employee’s studies. Once the best leads are determined, your admissions team must work to guide them through the application and enrollment process.

If a lead is identified as “cool,” that lead could simply be researching in advance of making a decision down the road. Eventually, such leads could prove to be equally valuable, but not in the short term. However, you don’t want these leads to fall through the cracks. You must nurture these leads. Keep in mind that committing to an EMBA is a big decision, one that has a longer buying process than, say, purchasing a new piece of workout equipment.

How can you keep cool leads on your radar, and keep your program top of mind among them? Keep the lines of communication open. Remind them about upcoming seminars, deadlines and events such as class previews. Executive education courses are a great way to introduce your institution, its faculty and curriculum to prospective candidates. In addition, if you see that a decent number of leads are coming from a particular geographic area, go to them. Schedule an information session in a location convenient for a majority of your leads.

While lead scoring saves wasted time/effort after the fact, many overloaded EMBA marketing and recruitment staffs simply can’t devote the time to it up front. That’s why it’s important to automate the process. First, set up a point system for assigning points to leads. Determine prospect actions and behaviors that correspond to the various lead scores. Then weight those actions/behaviors in terms of the likelihood that the prospect will convert.

Annodyne’s proprietary lead tracking and lead management platform, Annotrak™, automates lead scoring and more. Leads are color coded for easy identification: red distinguishes high-priority (hot) leads from blue low-priority (cool) leads. Annotrak also tracks social media activity and multichannel marketing performance, and can send tailored email messages to your leads.

No matter how you capture leads and their demographics or how you prioritize them, you must remember that it’s more than just data. It’s all about relationships. In fact, this entire process is referred to as prospect relationship management. Your admissions team must work to develop relationships with prospects at every stage of the sales funnel, and through every step of the buyer’s journey.

Darcy Grabenstein is senior copywriter at Annodyne.

Darcy Grabenstein Feb 23

Make Your EMBA Program Stand Out from the Crowd

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BluePaper logo

Transformational. Life changing. Experiential. Professional development. Leadership potential. Executive coaching. Career advancement.

These are all words/phrases used to describe most Executive MBA programs. Could they be used to describe your Executive MBA program?

Therein lies the problem. Most EMBA programs end up sounding and looking the same. How is a prospective student expected to distinguish between your program and that of your competitors?

Think of your EMBA program as a product. Then you must determine its unique selling proposition (USP). This marketing concept was first put forth as an advertising theory back in the 1940s, yet it still remains relevant today. A USP is what makes your product/service different from all the others out there.

Domino’s Pizza does a great job of incorporating its USP into its marketing communications:

“You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less —  or it’s free.” Like a good tagline, a good USP is specific to your business and/or industry. In other words, it’s not enough to simply say, “We provide great value.” How do you provide great value?

Following are other ways you can make your EMBA program stand out from all the rest:

  • Exceptional ROI. Is your EMBA program the least expensive in your city? region? state? the nation?
  • Fabulous faculty. Are your faculty members noted for their research or publications? Have they received awards? Do they have industry experience? Students want to learn from those who’ve “been in the trenches,” so to speak.

  • Innovative curriculum. Most EMBA programs cover business fundamentals. But what types of electives are available? Do you offer specializations in or tracks according to areas of interest?

  • Impressive cohort. Is the caliber of your cohorts head and shoulders above the rest? EMBA students learn from each other as well as from their professors. This could be a big selling point.

  • Brand equity. Is your program ranked? Does it have exclusive accreditation? Is it part of a business school that is ranked or widely acclaimed? Is it part of a prestigious college or university? It’s OK to piggyback on the brand of your parent organization.
  • Program format. Many schools tailor their program schedules to meet the needs of working professionals. Is there anything about your program that is especially flexible? Do you offer a hybrid of learning environments or formats?

  • Leadership development. Do you go above and beyond basic executive coaching? Do you go the extra mile when it comes to careers and placements? Do you take leadership development to the next level? What about executive education?

  • Global reach. Does your EMBA program have an international component? If so, how does it differ from all the rest? The University of Texas at Arlington, for example, is known for its China immersion and Asian Business Studies Graduate Certificate.

  • Alumni network. This extends the value of your program beyond graduation. Where are your alumni now? We’re talking both geographically and in terms of positions at their respective companies. You might just find a trend to capitalize on, such as a track record of success in a particular industry.

Another way you can distinguish yourself is through your advertising. Think about foregoing the traditional students-in-classroom imagery and use an image totally unrelated to academia. This will make your ads eye-catching, which is the first goal of any ad. Your messaging, however, will still resonate with your audience.

If you’ve read the above bullet points and still are scratching your head over how your EMBA program stands out, this could be a wake-up call. Perhaps you need to revisit one or more elements and tweak them to make your program more enticing to prospective students.

Annodyne can help you determine your USP with services such as brand identity and messaging workshops, competitive intelligence and communication assessments.

Visit us at

. . .

Darcy Grabenstein is senior copywriter at Annodyne.

Darcy Grabenstein Aug 20

The Importance of Thank-You Pages

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When an online lead-generation campaign is launched, many organizations obsess over the banner ads, the keywords, the landing page content and, of course, the form used to capture data. However, the online marketing doesn’t end the second your prospect has dutifully filled out the form and clicked “submit.”

The prospect should then be directed to a thank-you page that includes even more information about your product or service. Keep in mind that, on the landing page itself, extraneous links are discouraged. These will only draw attention away from the form and its call to action, which is your main goal here: generating leads.

On the thank-you page, however, you have the opportunity to redirect the prospect back to your site. You also can provide additional details about your product or service.

Here are a few examples of content you can include on a thank-you page to keep the prospect on your site — and engaged with your brand:

  • Your logo. Chances are, the prospect is just becoming familiar with your organization. Reinforce your brand by including your logo prominently at the top of the page.

  • Links back to your site. Omit these, and you’ve lost the prospect for good. (At least, until you follow up via email/phone/letter on the lead generated from your landing page form.)
JHU thank-you page

The Johns Hopkins University EMBA thank-you page includes a strong call to action and links back to the site.


  • Images. This is an optional element, but who says a thank-you page must be text only? If other pages on your site have a header image, include it here for consistency.
    Disney Thank-You Page

    Disney does a great job of using images and brand reinforcement,
    but falls short when it comes to links.


  • A video. Even better than an image, include a video to engage the prospect. It doesn’t have to be long (in fact, the shorter the better).

  • Downloads. If a digital brochure is your incentive for filling out the form, then you’ll obviously have a link to the PDF on your thank-you page. You also can link to other brochures and downloadable information.
Seattle thank-you page

The Seattle EMBA thank-you page includes a link to view a digital brochure
and several other links presented in a graphic format.


  • Upcoming events. For an online retailer, this could be an upcoming sale. For an organization, it could be a webinar, in-person meeting or online chat. Take it up a notch and include a calendar widget that allows the prospect to register and add the event to his/her own calendar.
Illinois thank-you page

The University of Illinois EMBA landing page includes a calendar widget and links to its blog and social media sites.


  • Contact information. If the prospect wants to send an email or speak to a human, make it easy to do so.

  • Social media. Have a presence on social media sites? If so, include their icons and link to your pages.

Vanderbilt’s Americas EMBA thank-you page includes several links back to the site, a download link, and links to its social media sites.


  • A link to your blog. If you have a blog, consider linking to it (assuming that the content is fresh). This will give the prospect insight into your company and its “personality.”

  • Testimonials. The thank-you page is the perfect opportunity to include success stories, quotes and more. Remember, you’re still in the process of “selling” the prospect at this point.

  • A call to action. Don’t assume that your prospect isn’t ready to make a purchase or other decision. Include a visible call to action with the option to buy, sign up, apply, etc.
Arizona Thank-You Page

The University of Arizona thank-you page prominently displays its logo and includes a strong call to action.

Failure to include at least some of these elements on your landing page could mean missed opportunities for your organization.

Darcy Grabenstein is senior copywriter at Annodyne.

Marisa Albanese May 5

In-Security Issues

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I have a very good friend named Denise whom I’ve known since we were 8 years old. Dee and I have a long, tangled history of incidents and adventures, some of which were amazing and others not worth repeating in polite company. When we were 11 years old, Denise got the Internet. A little context, this was 1996, when the Internet was still dial-up and everyone got those sweet AOL CDs offering free Internet. Remember when we had to pay by the hour for the Internet? Dark and evil times, my friends.

Anyway, during one of our marathon phone conversations, Dee was regaling me with tales of Internet browsing. We decided to create a Yahoo Geo-Cities page (oh yeah, this was real old school). Here’s how the conversation went down:

Denise: “Aren’t the Spice Girls amazing? Hey, Macarena!”

Me: “Dee, too legit! But we need to focus. I stopped reading YM for this.”

Denise: “Sorry. What should we call our page?”

Me: “Hmmmm. How about The Web Page of Marisa Albanese and Denise Clarke?”

Denise: “No! You can’t put your name on the Internet! That’s how people find out where you live!”

I may have paraphrased the beginning of the conversation, but I clearly remember Dee having a conniption over my title suggestion. While we can all chuckle over this now, tween Denise was offering some sage wisdom — data security is an ongoing problem.


This was Denise back in the ’90s. After this blog, post I’m pretty sure our 22-year friendship will be history.

In February  2014, the University of Maryland’s IT department detected a breach in one of its databases. It was revealed a hacker had accessed the personal information of 300,000 student and faculty records. These records went back to 1998 and contained names, addresses, and Social Security numbers. The university stated the security around its databases was strong and that it was a “sophisticated” attack. They offered victims a free year of credit monitoring and the president of the university, Dr. Wallace Loh, even posted a video on YouTube providing updates on the data hack. Everything was under control.

Then David Helkowski made a post on Reddit.

Mr. Helkowski worked as an IT security consultant for the university. Over the course of a year, he discovered several “backdoors” on various databases containing student and faculty information. A backdoor is when someone hacks into a system and creates a way for themselves to access it. The hacker can get in and out quickly, without drawing attention. (Backdoors are created for large databases for legitimate IT purposes, too. Do not get concerned if one of your analysts uses this term.) If what Mr. Helkowski is alleging is true, that means the university’s databases had been previously hacked.

Then the February breach occurred, and Mr. Helkowski was not happy with how his warnings had fallen on deaf ears. So, he hacked into the newly “secure” database and posted Dr. Loh’s Social Security number on Reddit. He then bragged about what he did to his co-workers via the gamer site Steam (so there was a nice transcript of his conversation). He claims he did it to prove how unsecured the database was. I can’t wait for the film version of this to be made. I hope they get Ryan Gosling to play David Helkowski because God knows that man needs to be seen more.

All joking aside, what he did was stupid (and got him in trouble with the FBI because hacking is a federal crime) but he made some solid points. He also pointed out something very troubling — college databases are deep troughs brimming with valuable personal information, and they can be very easy to dismantle.

What’s the takeaway from all of this? Data security is a complex business. Take every necessary step when securing a database. If you use an IT security professional, which I highly recommend, take his or her recommendations seriously. Get educated. I truly believe the reason why these things happen is a lack of understanding. IT has its own language, but understanding what’s good and what’s bad isn’t hard. So invest in data security.

Or you could use the money to hire a PR rep to describe a data breach as a sophisticated test. Your choice.

Marisa Albanese is database marketing analyst at Annodyne.

Marisa Albanese Mar 23

Carnegie Mellon University Deserves Your Judgment

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Dear Carnegie Mellon University, I have two words for you: Test Plan.

In case you haven’t heard, the prestigious university, located in Pittsburgh, emailed 800 prospective students acceptance letters. So what’s the problem? These students were actually rejected by the admissions board.

I just felt the collective wince of our reading audience.

Carnegie Mellon is not the first university to send mass acceptance emails only then to reply to unfortunate prospective students with “You know that ecstatic glee you felt yesterday? All that hard work, long hours of studying, and immense sacrifice actually paid off in the end? Yeah, you’re going to want to sit down. Our bad!” This same thing happened at UCLA in 2012.

What’s interesting is the problem was centralized in one department – Computer Science. Side note: The publishers of Webster’s Dictionary are now using this event as their definition for the word “irony.” I don’t know what kind of system Carnegie Mellon is using to manage its admissions process. However, I will assume it is using some kind of Customer Resource Management tool (CRM for short). This allows more automated, and efficient, mainstreaming of electronic communications. Montgomery County Community College is currently entertaining vendors to help with its own CRM needs, a process which has Annodyne acting in a consultancy role.

I have a very simple question for CMU: How did you let this happen? There are no fail-safes in your system? If that’s the case, Computer Science Department of Carnegie Mellon University, then someone needs to go to Google and type in the words “test plan.” A test plan prevents stuff like this from happening. It’s mainly used when creating new software, updates to existing programs, basically any time you make a change. It’s exactly what it sounds like — a plan to test the system. But a test plan can, and should, be developed for situations like this.

Someone mislabeled a file. Fine, that happens. But there was no master file uploaded to check the names against? This can be done automatically, using the correct software. Here’s something — maybe take 20 names and run a test batch? Yeah, I’m sure the folks in the Computer Science Department of Carnegie Mellon University have better things to do with their time than to double-check an email list. Silly me!

To the students who were accepted only to get the rudest shock of their lives — chin up. Sometimes your second-choice school turns out to be the best choice. A few years ago when I was applying to graduate schools, I really, really, really, (did I say “really”?) wanted to go to NYU. But I was waitlisted. Three weeks later, I was accepted into Drexel University and never looked back. Drexel turned out to be exactly what I needed.

Get your degree and come work for us at Annodyne. This could be you!


Senior Applications Director Lester Traband is crazy about coding.

Marisa Albanese is database marketing analyst at Annodyne.

Mar 9

A Higher (Ed) Calling

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I am originally from the UK. Yes, I have bad teeth. I pronounce aluminum “aloomineeum.” I know all British expatriates in the USA (not really, but you have no idea how many times this comes up in conversation). I love football (the “real” football and not that ruining of rugby that you Yanks so love).

Getting more to the point, I joined Annodyne last year in a higher education enrollment/retention strategic projects role. My position is “embedded” on the campus of our client, Montgomery County Community College. I work alongside my talented brainiac colleague Marisa Albanese, who is the other Annodyne “embedded” at the college.


I came to Annodyne from many years in big pharma. I brought to my new role at Annodyne much prior experience in customer acquisition, segmentation and retention, coupled with a passion for big picture thinking. It somewhat amazes me that all those years in pharma proved to be highly translatable in a higher education setting (thanks, Pfizer!).

Working at the college is a fantastic experience. Every day, I get to collaborate with the incredibly talented members of the college’s Project Horizons team. This joint Annodyne/college cross-functional workgroup is tasked with the implementation of strategic initiatives that support the college’s enrollment/retention/completion goals. It is a truly unique and innovative partnership. On any given day, Marisa and I wear many different hats… project manager, analyst, process integrator, planner, meeting presenter. We’ve already accomplished much and I’m confident that Project Horizon’s collective efforts will have a transformative impact.

There is a tremendous sense of accomplishment that comes with this engagement. Equally fulfilling is the certainty that we are helping students — whom I see every day — improve their lives and ultimately make their dreams come true.

Marisa Albanese Feb 13

Love, Community College Style

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Once upon a time, in a land not so far away from Annodyne, lived a young girl. This girl knew she wanted to gain more knowledge. She worked really hard at her studies and was accepted into a big, fancy university. The girl was so happy!

But then, the evil troll of financial reality came by and said, “Foolish girl! Do you have any idea how much this big, fancy university is going to cost!?”

And the girl was sad because the evil troll was right; the big, fancy university was going to be a small fortune. But the girl was lucky because, just as she became forlorn, the fairy Godmother swooped in and said, “You there, being forlorn, just go to Montgomery County Community College! You’ll get a quality education at an affordable price.”

The girl, for once, paid attention and did just that. And she lived happily ever after.

The story you just read is true and that young girl is me. Shocker!

This is my humorous way of detailing why I love my job – because I get to give back to the place that gave me so much. Like a vast majority of young people seeking a higher education, cost was a high concern for me. I turned to Montgomery County Community College because it was the cost-effective choice.

But I got a bit of a surprise; I fell in love with the College. I had professors who cared about me, advisors who always went the extra mile, and I received some great support both academically and personally. I also was pretty active socially. You’re looking at a former treasurer of the Student Government Association. Yes, contain yourselves.


This is me on the day I graduated from the College in May 2006.

It was at Montgomery County Community College that I discovered how much I loved research. This passion carried over to my undergraduate and eventually graduate studies. Montgomery County Community College helped me lay the foundation, through academic exploration, for my future career as an analyst. A career that has taken me back to the place where it all started. Now I get to use the same skills the College once helped me hone to give back to both current and future students. Some would call me a hero, which I totally am, but this isn’t the time or place.

This carries into my work and commitment to not only the College but to all of our clients. Annodyne helps institutions reach people so they can better their lives. This is something that gives everyone here immense pride. Also, my experience as a former student gives a new perspective to the work the Project Horizons Office is completing.

So I guess this girl really did live happily ever after. OK, that may be taking it too far. Let’s just say I’m very fortunate and will continue to work tirelessly to retain said fortune.

Marisa Albanese is database marketing analyst at Annodyne.

Marisa Albanese Dec 4

New Year’s Resolutions – Expand Annodyne’s Analytical Capabilities and Sign Up for a Yoga Class

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December has just begun and I’m already thinking about my New Year’s resolutions. It’s the analyst in me; I’m always assessing a situation, identifying the problems, and working out a viable solution. As you may have guessed, this makes me a blast at dinner parties. But it’s also what led me to Annodyne.

I was brought on board to help Annodyne engage in a long-term project with Montgomery County Community College regarding the enrollment and retention of current and potential students. Annodyne has maintained a successful relationship with the College, providing SEM and SEO services. But the College recognized it needed to fully understand the needs of its students in order to progress as a top-notch educational institution.

The College has the data needed to find the solution to this challenge. It turned to Annodyne to help sort it out. This was a first for Annodyne. The agency determined someone was needed to dedicate the bulk of his/her energy to sorting, cataloging, reporting and providing data feedback. Someone dynamic, engaging, analytical, with a superior intellect. Well, they couldn’t find that person and instead got me.



There may be a question of why this type of research is even essential. Over the past several years, there has been an increased examination of the value of a college education. Students are asking themselves, “Is college really worth it?” Colleges are no longer marketing just the academic experience. On a recent trip to New York, I passed this billboard on the New Jersey Turnpike for Neumann University.



It caught my attention. There is not one mention of program offerings or a beautiful shot of the campus surrounded by sun-burnt fall foliage. It’s just about the affordability of the college and a very happy student who isn’t blowing through her parents’ retirement fund. How did Neumann know this would be effective?

Analysis! Straight up, hardcore data analysis.

Back to my resolution. In joining Annodyne, I came to understand something. Within the marketing industry, you either evolve or perish. Annodyne saw the chance to pioneer an entirely new specialty and embraced it with vigor. Over the course of the next year, my resolution is to take a page from this strategy and focus on two things: analyzing the college’s data to create comprehensive student profiles and crafting a case study for Annodyne to use with future clients.

Has your organization used an analyst for complex data work? Tell me your experiences. Oh, and if anyone could recommend an intro yoga class in the lower Montgomery County area, that would be great, too.

 Marisa Albanese is database marketing analyst at Annodyne.