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Towards a Growth Organization

For a number of years now, the term Growth President has been in the vernacular of college boards, C-Suite leaders in academia, general administration, and faculty. In large part, the term is meant to reflect that leader who is leading the charge to gain students. That leader should be reaching new student populations, developing initiates, and engaging the existing donor base and adding to it. It should be clear that the effective Growth President will create the vision, the team, and the culture.

What a Growth Organization Needs

As most educational institutions at least understand what a vision is, even when they do not use one well, the concept of a vision should be fairly understandable. The vision is developed to show where an institution intends to go. If growth is a goal (and it should be), the vision must reflect the ability to grow. It must speak to what that growth looks like and how the institution intends to get there. Certainly, the President (the Growth President) develops the vision with their own flavor and zest along with the executive team.

While these steps are not necessarily sequential, the next aspect that must be put together is the team that will carry out the vision for growth. Usually there is a team in place. As Jim Collins notes though, the right people have to be in the right seats on the bus. So the Growth President must make sure the team, from the board down through the C-Suite Leaders, through the administration, staff, and faculty are all in the right place on the bus. . .or get them to the right place or on a different bus.

This leads to creating the culture for growth. Peter Drucker, Mark Fields, and Bill Aulet have noted that, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast, technology for lunch, and products for dinner, and soon thereafter everything else too.” In other words, establishing the culture is the quintessential thing that the Growth President must doculture-eats-strategy for growth to be sustained. Every team member, regardless of their area, must be focused on growth. No one can say “growing the school isn’t my job,” or “recruiting students is not my job.” Everyone is a recruiter. Everyone is a public relations specialist. Everyone is an innovator for growth. Everyone must have an attitude of looking for new things, new ways of operating, and a sense of personal responsibility for growth. Those who will not be a believer in this culture need to find someplace else to belong.

As I’ve worked with colleges around the U.S. and internationally, I’ve seen some institutions who think the President (the Growth President) is the answer to growing. They are part of the answer. . .but not the only answer. They are just a start. The entire culture must be about growth for growth to be sustained.

What Growth Organizations Have Done

As I’ve watched colleges become Growth Organizations, I’ve noted examples of successful methods and techniques for growth. Here are a few examples:

So many institutions have looked at their programming and determined that they needed to reach new student populations. As a result, the implemented adult and online programming, they added more programs that were needed in the market, and they have seen exceptional growth. One of InterLearn’s clients went from 0 to 500+ students in their adult programs in five years. That has changed their financial status from being in debt and ready to close to excess revenue in the millions.

One college in the U.S. Southwest had identified that one of their growth strategies needed to be adult and online programming. When some faculty pushed back and would not support it, those faculty found themselves “put off the bus.” Today, that college is a leader in the area as a result of that move.

Another institution in the U.S. Midwest implemented a staff contest to generate student leads for its programs. A challenge goal of certain number of leads was set. If they reached that goal, the entire college staff would receive additional days off (with pay, of course) at Christmas. Everyone was encouraged to reach out to people they knew through social media, e-mail, telephone, and in person to help gather leads. They made the goal as an entire organization and had some extra time off at Christmas as a reward.

One president has dinners for community members at his home on a monthly basis to tell the story of his institution. Additionally, weekly he meets with potential donors who can financially support the vision.

One president so recognizes his central role in recruiting that he is regularly giving out his business card with his personal mobile telephone number on it. He talks to people in his community about starting a program at his institution in restaurants, grocery stores, etc.

One institution, in order to raise the initial funds for marketing, cut an already dilapidated budget and worked its fledgling donor base (none of which could give more than $5000). Those efforts allowed them to gather the amount that they needed to really push their adult and online programming to grow.

Each of these examples show the dedication that is needed by the entire organization to be a growth organization. Yes, the President must be a growth-minded President who really LEADS. However, everyone is part of the growth process.

How is your organization working to be a growth organization? Send me your stories and I’ll try to feature you on our blog.

If you need some help working towards being a Growth Organization, let InterLearn help you in your endeavors. Contact me today at (918) 895-1185 or

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Trust the Process – The Right Activities Lead to the Right Results

Today’s post is by David Guyor, an Associate at InterLearn. His area of focus is Recruiting and Enrollment.

Over the past 25 years, I have worked in new client development, university corporate development, and college admissions. In each role I have seen a simple strategy prove itself again and again. This strategy comes from a sales approach called Strategic Selling and it’s expressed in a phase:

“The right activities lead to the right results.”

In my consulting work with colleges and universities, clients have benefited from this piece of wisdom in different ways. Whether it is improving traditional or adult student recruiting efforts or improving area business development to create recruiting opportunities, a consistent process of the right activities has led to better results in every case.

The key to the phrase is the word right. Recruiting really improves when it is given the right priority, by the right people, involved in the right amount, of the right activities, targeted at the right populations, at the right time(s).

Take several moments for an honest assessment of your school’s recruiting efforts. I’ve never met a client who said that recruiting isn’t important, but after a few brief questions and some conversation, it becomes clear that the recruiting department is pretty much on its own, with other departments and staff thinking that growing the school is the priority of someone else. But, we wholeheartedly disagree.

On various levels, enrollment involves, quite literally, everyone. I remember a famous president of a state university who was known for his amazing ability to know the names of virtually every student he encountered on campus. Now, he didn’t believe his primary role was recruiting, but he did believe that he had a significant influence on the image and growth of the university. He was interested, intentional, and always engaged in the growth of the school. Through his efforts of engaging current and future students, he was part of the enrollment efforts.

I have worked with faculty who also understood the importance of their role in networking, engaging their students in providing referrals and acting as a spokesperson for their school. They loved their work, believed in the school’s mission, and knew that they could play a positive role in growth.

Every department, to a person, should have a focus on enrollment and recruitment. So, for example, how can the registrar’s function make recruiting a priority, and who are the right people, the right kind of activities, and the right amount of these activities to allow the registrar’s office to positively impact recruiting? In other words, is there a clear understanding of how academic counseling, registration and even financial aid impact recruitment and re-enrollment? Are there clear expectations in place for this?

Department heads, department staff, faculty instructors, student leaders, chaplains, and student life staff all can, and should, know the goals for growth that their school is committed to and everyone should know, in practical ways, how they can make achieving these goals a reality.

When a positive culture of pride and energy is developed where everyone knows that promoting, inviting, networking, and enthusiastically representing the college is everyone’s responsibility and everyone’s privilege, growth in all kinds of ways is contagious and great things happen.

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People Like Us Do Things Like This: Marketing in Christian Higher Education

I had the pleasure of attending “Business Gets Personal,” a one-day conference with Seth Godin (@ThisIsSethsBlog), Dave Ramsey (@DaveRamsey), and Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee). The conference was designed to be a way to connect us (business owners) to our clients in a personal way based on the expertise of the three speakers who put the conference together because “they just liked each other.”

If you know me well, you probably have heard me espouse a Dave Ramsey-ism or two (or twenty). Dave was his usual great self. However, it was the other two speakers, neither of which I had really followed, that really surprised me in a great way.

To start the day, I arrived to find that my seats were front and center in the venue. We were in the “spit zone” of those who spoke at the front of the stage. GREAT seats!

Then Seth Godin got up to speak. I’d heard OF Seth but really didn’t know much about him. I found him to be a keen intellect (and not just because he had a similar hair style and an appreciation for the finer cult movies of the 80s. . .I’m looking at you Buckaroo Bonzai). He began describing how we had changed from an Industrial Economy to a Connection Economy. We used to go with a mass marketing appeal to our potential clients. Now we are going with a more coordinated, trust-and-permission-based exchange of ideas based on generosity and art. He shared how we used think of the two standard deviations from the norm as our marketing target because it contains 95% of the population.

Seth shared, though, that when marketing is in play, we are seeing a flattening of the curve and more of the population is going to the niches. Therefore, we are not getting the same bang for the buck by appealing to the masses. Instead, Seth reflected, “People like us do things like this” to represent the idea of how marketing needs to be done. That is, we as consumers like to be around people that do things that we like to do. If you’re familiar with the construct of the tribe (people like us), the tribe is our marketing target, Seth noted.

Gary Vaynerchuk was up third for the day. Instead of doing a traditional presentation/lecture, he decided that he wanted to have audience members line up and come to the stage to ask him questions that he would 1) attempt to answer individually and 2) attempt to answer in a way that had meaning to all (or at least the majority) in the auditorium. (On a side note, if you are new to Gary, as I was, and particularly if you are in the conservative circles that I am in, Gary may be. . .how to say this. . .a little bit “salty.” That is, his vocabulary tends to be laced with heavier profanity. It’s part of who he is, to the point that he addressed it given the Dave Ramsey audience which is often pretty conservative. However, don’t let that scare you away from the points that he makes. While I won’t be using his same phraseology, I greatly appreciate what he shared and will continue to follow his information. Thanks Gary!) While Gary answered a number of questions from the audience, there was a theme that emerged that tied in very well with Seth’s points: You must become a media company. Instead of paying attention to being heavily involved in “social media,” we must think in terms of just being involved in “media.” Gary noted that the “second that people understand that they are a media company around their product, they begin to own the field.” Use social media but use it as a company providing information of value that you own.

So, coupled together, the two main points that I took from the conference really hit home for me in relation to Bible and Christian Colleges and Universities. First, we need to realize that our market is not going to be everyone and their dog. Yes, we can have a wide range of people that are going to be part of our tribe and we can attempt to continue to expand our adherents. However, a mass marketing appeal doesn’t work the same way it used to. We need to be strategic in our marketing to get people to our institutions. Part of the way we do that is by providing value to people with whom we come in contact. One way we provide value is through media (social, traditional, technology, etc.). Our attitude needs to go from trying to be a good sales person to caring well for the people with whom we connect giving them resources and information to help them (and not just “get our message out”). As Seth noted, we need to capture the art of our work and have generosity as our center.

As leaders of Christian institutions, we sometimes expect the value of our product (education) to speak for itself and we expect students to flock to our buildings, our classes, our perspective. We forget that the Great Commission told us to GO. In Matthew 28:18-20, we hear Jesus say:

18 I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,[a] baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

In the same setting (right before His ascension), Jesus said this (as recorded in Acts 1:8):

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

If we are to follow the Great Commission and go into the uttermost parts of the world to make disciples of all nations, we should recognize that there is a world that needs to hear the care and value we bring them.

How will you do that through the institution in which God has placed you?