Marketing to iGen
By Ethan Boldt, Inside Direct Mail
September 2009 issue, This Month's #4 Mailing, pages 8-9
Salem College uses a pURL campaign—and successfully leverages its data—that gets prospective students to 'visit' campus
The average, and above average, college sends out static mailers and brochures to prospective students. When a response comes back in the BRE, the folks in the office of admissions have to frantically input data before sending more relevant material and hopefully nudging the prospect closer to choosing their college. It can be a tense and time-consuming process for both college and prospective student alike—as well as a costly one for the college.
Times, though, have changed for both. Today's high schoolers are as likely to check out a website video as a new piece of mail for them, so why not combine the two? That was part of the thinking behind Keiger Direct's recent spring campaign for Salem College. "The 2009 Salem Shines Campaign addressed prospective students by using multiple media types of which they are familiar. Using the iGeneration's [today's internet generation] technology bubble to an advantage, we used the world wide web, YouTube and email to bring everything together," explains Leslie Berry, a project manager for Keiger Direct, a division of Keiger Printing Co., based in Winston-Salem, N.C.
"Salem was ready to step into the unknown. They've been around for 230 years, are the oldest continually operating women's college in America, so it was great to see them try something different...and talk to students on their level," relates Berry.
That "something different" began with an invitational 6" x 9" postcard with a prominent pURL. On the front, Salem shows a picture of several young women strolling happily along on the beautiful campus while using the first name of the prospect with two themes—"[Name], how will you change tomorrow?" and simply, "Shine." Subsequently, these themes were used on the pURL itself and following touches in the mail and email.
The addressed side is where the connection to iGen really is made. A miniature picture of a video screen with the play button is shown on the upper-left corner alongside the pURL, and a blue box on the bottom-left says those magic words: "AS SEEN ON YouTube." Then it tantalizes with, "For a sneak preview of Salem's new video go to," and gives the pURL again.
Meanwhile, the only other copy is a block in the middle that even uses the word "personalized":
The moment you step onto Salem College's campus, your life will begin to change. You will benefit from a personalized education for women in classes averaging 13 students...
It follows that with two calls to action, a toll-free number and email.
Not bad for a campaign that Keiger had all of two weeks to turn around. "Our main challenge was meeting the deadline and making budget, so we kept it simple this year," says Berry. Because the budget was reduced 20 percent, the shorter time frame worked to Keiger's advantage by going with a simple but effective mailer and subsequent efforts. Salem College also reduced the number of students mailed by 20 percent to help make budget, going from 100,000 down to 80,000.
"We were pushing the [50-second] trailer on the pURL, and if they filled out the survey, they were sent a password-protective link and thank-you email from the site for the full five-minute video," describes Berry.
After gathering the data from the pURL survey page, a variably printed, eight-panel, roll-fold self-mailer was sent the following business day. Two panels were variable-based from question one (academic interest), and two images and a highlight-specific text panel were variable-based from question two (additional interest). The customized brochure also was variable by ethnicity, with one panel featuring a current student's success story. Overall, there were 562 possible variations.
Question three asked if prospects wanted to arrange a spring visit to Salem. If they answered "yes," then a follow-up Spring Visit mailer as sent to them. For prospects who didn't fill out the survey but visited the site, they were sent a static brochure.
Idea In Action - Staying RelevantThere's no tougher audience than soon-to-be college kids. "The following year we will step it up a little bit and stay ahead of the curve," says Leslie Berry, a project manager for Keiger Direct, which handles Salem College's direct marketing campaigns. She admits the video teaser used this year may not work in the future, so Keiger and Salem are going to try something different next year. "With all the data that we have collected, we'll be able to step up the variable and incorporate more [response boosters], such as an offer."
More than 80,000 self-mailers went out in two batches, Feb. 3 and 4. Salem got the names from the college board—SAT scores had to be above a certain figure, and because it's a women's college, all names were females. It was sent to sophomores and juniors, mostly those in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
After filling out the survey, prospects received variable thank-you emails from the prospective counselors, including their pictures and contact information (it was divided up regionally between six counselors). If a prospect decided to attend Salem, she received a handwritten note from the counselor.
The response rates were in the "A" range. The pURL was live for three months, with hits going through to the very last day. Responses increased by 303 percent from the previous year. Spring visits increased 46 percent from the previous year. Kathy Barnes, associate dean of admissions at Salem, is already looking forward to next year's campaign and says, "The response rate in itself was amazing. I was very pleased with the seamlessness of the campaign—from postal to email to the connection to our video. [The campaign was] on the cutting edge of where the marketplace is heading." IDM
(reprinted with permission)