Enrollment Edge is celebrating our first anniversary! In December 2020, we recorded our first episode. And for the past year, we’ve been given the opportunity and responsibility to produce our podcast for you—enrollment leaders.
Our goal has been to engage in meaningful higher education topics with thought leaders in order to help our listeners be better informed, more productive, and on the cutting edge of "next practices".
enrollmentFUEL’s CEO, Mike Wesner, joins me to review what we saw and learned this past strange and unfamiliar year. Mike is a big thinker, always looking to uncover the next practice and the next big technology that will help colleges recruit and enroll students. In this year-in-review episode, we’ll examine our most listened to and shared episodes and begin to look ahead at 2022.
[00:00:00] Jay Fedje: Welcome to the Enrollment Edge Podcast for college enrollment and marketing leaders. I'm your host Jay Fedje, Enrollment Edge is sponsored by enrollmentFUEL, a trusted full-service student search and marketing partner to colleges and universities across the country. If you'd like to learn more about enrollment tool services, or you have questions about today's episode, we've included a link to our website in the show notes. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to hear what you think. If you can, help us by subscribing to our podcast, sharing it with your friends and leaving a five-star review on Apple podcasts. The Enrollment Edge is celebrating our first anniversary. In December 2020, I recorded our first podcast episode, and for the past year, we've been producing our podcast with the intent of digging into meaningful enrollment and marketing topics with thought leaders in order to help our listeners be better informed or productive and on the cutting Edge of enrollment practices. In this special episode, enrollmentFUEL’s founder Mike Wesner joins me to review what we saw and learned this past strange and unfamiliar year. Mike is a big thinker who's always looking to uncover the next practice and the next big tech that will help colleges recruit and enroll students. We talked through how the best enrollment leaders had to reinvent their standard operating procedures to meet challenges this past year head on, how technology is becoming an increasing part of all strategic enrollment plans. And how during a pandemic year, enrollment leaders had to bring their admissions teams back to basic blocking and tackling skills. In this year-in-review episode we'll examine our most listened to and shared episodes, and begin to look out ahead at what lies in 2022. All right, today welcome again to the Enrollment Edge we are often running with a brand new episode and today I have Mike Wesner CEO, Founder Chief Imagination Officer, got that one, right, I love that title, by the way Mike Wesner's with us and we're doing something on our one year anniversary that we haven't done yet this year. And that is we're going to attempt to look at a year-in-review and say what were the highlights and quite a year it was Mike, welcome to the Edge.
[00:02:24] Mike Wesner: Jay I'm excited about being here today. I really enjoyed your podcast series this year. And I've listened to all of them and thought, man, these are really good. And you've had some really exciting people on this year. So, I'm glad to also be included in this community of podcasters.
[00:02:46] Jay Fedje: Yeah, thanks. You know what, we're kind of wrapping up with a big thinker. Mike, you and I we go back several years now. But one of the things I think that drew me to you in a conversation was your ability to think not, what's the best practice, but what's the next practice. And that really stirred in me as an enrollment manager. To be thinking about what's ahead, what's in the weeds or in the bushes? What's out ahead of me, and how can I begin to make sense of some things and there's an innovation and entrepreneurialism. And so, Mike, I'm extremely glad to have you looking back at all of these things. Because as we've talked about 2020 and 2021 was a year and a season like no other.
[00:03:39] Mike Wesner: Yeah, indeed.
[00:03:41] Jay Fedje: We faced not only the pandemic, but the economy and there were so many things and you've talked about this and I'm going to start with this there were things in motion already. And you've talked about how the pandemic was an accelerant it was really just the gasoline that went on the fire but the fire was already there. And some of the things we're going to talk about as many of these as we can but let's start there you've talked about those changes already being there. What did you see?
[00:04:14] Mike Wesner: Yeah, like you said, Jay, I saw some things already happening and the pandemic just helped accelerate things and to really smash the timeline that maybe would have taken 10 years for us all to figure out and to compress it into one year. One thing that has been happening for a long time that I think was really magnified this past year is something caused by the whole volume versus quality strategy in the world. I had a vice president tell me many years ago, Mike, I am not going to go into my president's office and tell him I didn't make the class this year because I decided to buy fewer names, I decided that I would make my shop more efficient if I had fewer applications, that I've transformed my shop into this one that's focused on relationships and no longer just focused on the process of processing high volumes through. I've seen that conflict go on for many, many years that only the bolder are really challenging that paradigm where we're comforted by having large amounts of volume. And then all of a sudden, people started to realize that volume may go away, I may not have the luxury of coming at this any longer with volume, I may not be able to buy names, as more and more schools decided to become test optional. Names became harder to find, some of the things that are already in place to help you find better and quality names really rose to the surface of importance last year. Many years ago, Jay, I tried to get this movement started where we were going to change the name of students search, and no longer call it student search. But we were going to call it student find and I made up 50 T shirts with the word FIND across the front, and from a distance it didn't look like FIND, but some of those T shirts that are that we made probably could still be found out there. Because I thought that find was a better word, you were going to have to go and find names. So, you know, things like Look-Alike Modeling. And I know you've talked about in some of your other podcasts and became very important this past year. And I think in the future, more and more people are going to find names that way. And that presents some challenges too. But it also creates some great opportunities, if you're finding names that way.
[00:07:20] Jay Fedje: It does, and we've seen a number of shifts this year. And you've talked already about several of them. But there's a common theme. I think that we've touched on here, you've touched on already. And that is when you're talking to a decision maker on campus, you're talking to a leader on campus that can decide to stay the course, to ride it out or to do something innovative, do something that's not been done, push the envelope, you can use whatever metaphor you want. That takes a special type of leader. And this last year, that was amplified even more, the pandemic made leaders have to do one of a few things you've talked about the three different kinds of buckets that leaders fell in you talk about that. The leadership piece of this to me is absolutely paramount is schools that had strong innovative leaders that were confident that were willing to take some risks, but not everybody did that.
[00:08:29] Mike Wesner: Yeah, I've been a longtime student of leadership. And I've just been amazed that when I was in the Navy, there was this saying we had about leadership is that you could walk on the quarterdeck, the quarterdeck is where you received guests who walk up the bow, and just with your experience of being received coming on board the ship, you could quickly know what the commanding officer was like on that ship. And I can see the same things when I go to campuses, when I'm on campus, and sometimes it's that first 10 minutes where I'm sitting in the admissions office, waiting to have a meeting with the Vice President of Enrollment and just watching and observing just how I'm handled, how I'm received how guests that are coming in are received, how people are communicating with each other and you can just really tell what the president of the school is probably like or what the VP of Enrollment is probably like. So, much of this is about leadership. And I'm a big fan of John Maxwell's law of the lid that if a leaders a 7, the organization can only be a 6. And one of the things that you can do, the best thing that you can do to improve any organization is to raise the leader from that 7, up to a 9 and your entire organization becomes an eight. But there's this lid that a leader puts on an organization and I saw it this past year, and the three ways that I saw how leaders responded to the pandemic. Some leaders crawl up in the corner in a ball and just decided not to participate and you know, we had a client this past year, Jay, who we helped achieve a record enrollment, record enrollment. And as soon as the pandemic hit, we were notified that the President had decided to trim budgets, and by X amount of dollars, and we were going to be included in that. And that school did not have a very good year this year, because they decided to go roll up in a ball in the corner, and not participate in it. And then you had leaders that panic and leaders that you know, I'll never forget the day years ago, where I was driving in my car to a meeting with a school near Asheville, North Carolina, and the VP of Enrollment called me earlier that morning and said hey, don't come today. I'm not going to be there. I've decided because my numbers are low that I've gotten in the car, I'm gonna drive out to some high schools today. And I thought, man, do you really think that's a good use of your time? Spending your day like that. In the last article that I wrote in Octane, I talked about those that are exploring bringing the students search in house, I see a lot of people who don't understand the importance of outsourcing those things that aren't your core competency, so that you can focus best on things that are your core competency, but the way they handle stress is this hunker down mentality, we're going to bring this in house, we're going to do it ourselves, we're going to be a marketing agency, a mail agency, a print shop, digital banner ad company, we're going to be all these things and do our jobs that we have to do already, to build relationships and bring in our class, because by golly, we're going to get busy, and we're going to hunker down, because for some leaders, that makes them feel better.
[00:12:55] Jay Fedje: Yeah, it's a lot of work, it's activity.
[00:12:57] Mike Wesner: It's comforting to get in the shop, roll your sleeves up and participate. But it may not always be the best thing to do for your organization. And then we saw leaders this past year, like the Joe Montgomery's at Tuskegee, and the Kiana Scale at Xavier University of Louisiana who looked at the situation and leaned into it and said, hey, we have a tremendous opportunity here to do something because of this. And it certainly helped that there were others in the corner hanging out here and those distracted by activity that they shouldn't be doing. And so meanwhile, these forward thinking, polished leaders, look at this opportunity to innovate, and to try new things and actually drew energy from the situation and that's leadership. That's what I saw this past year that just really excited me that people could look at adversity and look at challenges and opportunity to do something about it. And you know, one of the things I always tell my boys, I have three boys and I'm coaching all the time at home too. And one of the things that I tell them is are we're going to bounce, or are we going to splatter? And I saw a lot of bouncers this past year that really showed and demonstrated great leadership and it was encouraging to me.
[00:14:37] Jay Fedje: I think one of the things that we've talked about we've observed, we can name off a number of different situations, but good leadership doesn't feel like they have to do everything. They feel like they have to be trusted, and they have to be able to trust and so consequently, one of our podcasts was on trust leadership. And trust leadership is a state where a leader has to bring in wise counsel, I'm going to trust people that are smarter than me and that sometimes can feel a little bit challenging for leaders that they don't know everything. But I think the best most innovative, strongest leaders right now in a crisis and a pandemic, when things are really unfamiliar, completely unpredictable, that there were a lot of strong leaders, enrollment leaders and marketing leaders that began to pull in voices from the environment. And sometimes they were from other industry’s, they were from the pharmaceutical industry, or they were from another industry that they went okay, I've got to be more like them. I've got to be more like them. How do I adapt those techniques and those strategies into enrollment management? And I think for me, when I saw that aspect of leadership, I thought, I have really strong confidence that if anyone's going to be able to make it and make it work really well, it's going to be that leader in that department in that school, because they're not thinking like they've always thought they look at the situation, like you said, and say, okay, what are my opportunities? What can I see differently now? And there were so many tech advances that we are starting to pull in. I talked about digital forensic lead generation now and how search is changing so dramatically. And the use that a lot of these leaders have to embrace and become good at least pulling in expertise from outside.
[00:16:46] Mike Wesner: Yeah, let me let me go back to a good point that you were making there, Jay, I'll talk about leadership all day, forgive me, I love to see good leadership. But what you described there is what I call a good leader that has a teachable spirit. I had a mentor many years ago, Dean Troon, a campus minister at Michigan State University, who would say to me that this person has a teachable spirit or this person does not have a teachable spirit and good leaders have teachable spirit. They are constantly learning. They create a learning culture, they use the wise counsel of many, they surround themselves with many great people. Susan Kaufman, one of my mentors, in the enrollment industry, BP emeritus from Elon University, am I saying that right? Emeritus of emeritos?
[00:18:08] Jay Fedje: Tomato tomato, Mike it’s okay.
[00:18:09] Mike Wesner: Yeah, there's a correct way to say it then. She was, even though she was very successful, very wise. And she was very teachable to changing trends and new technologies and trying new things and being innovative. And I don't see that always. But, you know, I just commend her for that. And usually, if you see a good leader, you'll see somebody that's humble enough to have a teachable spirit of wanting to try new things. But you know, getting into some of those new things that you were starting to talk about some of the new things like I heard, you mention, forensic lead generation, and I never want to pass up an opportunity to talk about that, because that's an example of us learning and I like to describe enrollmentFUEL as a learning organization. Because we're teaching, we're constantly learning. We're presented with new information all the time. And you know, we are really trying to figure out how to engage the nontraditional student. We are trying to figure out how you find transfers. I just would hate all the times I would be asked, how do you find transfers? And I didn't know, and I've wanted to know. So, finally, a couple of years ago, we started doing something about it, with this whole forensic lead generation, where you didn't have lists or purchased names. You were told you could purchase GRE names, or you could go and buy names from the clearing house of transfers, but you really had to find people, this is where find comes back, where you have to kind of create your own way to define that person then to find that name and so what we learned on how to find people, helped us this past year when all of a sudden, lists went away, and it was harder to find these new tools that help you find this kind of stealth activity. I can remember hearing the word when I first got in the industry 15 years ago, a stealth visitor a stealth app that doesn't know everything, what I've come to realize is that with Generation Z, all activity, almost all activity is stealth.
[00:20:59] Jay Fedje: It's all stealth.
[00:21:00] Mike Wesner: So, you have to go back and forensically, like a detective and piece together, what has happened? Because no longer are you going to get that participative visitor who says I want to click on everything and I want the full experience. And I'm going to activate cookies here. And today we have this generation properly named homelander, Generation Z, these home landers who are scared of all the harm that's in the world that have been taught you don't click on things.
[00:21:39] Jay Fedje: Don't click on links, bad stuff happens when you click on a link.
[00:21:42] Mike Wesner: Don't create a digital trail, don't create this footprint, or fingerprints of where you've gone or don't activate some kind of marketing messages, you're going to be sorry for it later. So, it's typical of a Gen Z-er to come in, be influenced by the marketing that you do, that you pay lots of money for, that you strategize about and whiteboard. And then they look at it, and they hop out of the browser, so they won't be detected. So, how do you detect that kind of activity in the world that we're in today? How do you know that. Because you have to know that and I'm thankful that we're figuring that out. And that's the world that we live in today. And that's the effort of forensic lead generation inside of our company, I think your partners in the future are going to have to help you forensically piece together the picture for you. It's a puzzle that you're having to solve. And it's fun to solve it.
[00:22:47] Jay Fedje: But it's a lot more work, isn't it? I mean we've talked about being on this side of this conversation versus the practitioners, I love going in and buying lists, I could buy 10s of 1000s of profile names. And if I'm on that side of things now, and I don't get 10s of 1000s of profile names, that's a scary thing for me. Because I have already bought into the volume, the quantity versus quality aspect. And now I've got to shift gears, like you said, to the mentality that nontraditional, the graduate and adult market where those enrollment leaders are saying, well, I don't get 1000s of leads, I get dozens of leads, or I get hundreds of leads. But I am doing everything I can to catch them. And I'm using my website, I'm using technology, I'm using everything I can to capture every possible lead I can. And I think that paradigm will go back to leadership, the leaders that are going to be the enrollment leaders and marketing leaders that will be successful in this next phase of recruitment are those that will see things a lot more like their adult grad counterparts are saying I can't wait to lead. I can't just buy 5 million leads. I've got to get the ones I can and I gotta be all over those folks. I've got to really build that message in that communication with them.
[00:24:19] Mike Wesner: Well, the cool thing is that the modeling that you should be doing with your modeling partner, to help you intelligently purchase names ahead of time and there are a lot of solutions out there to help you do this. But when you go into buy names, typically you should have some sort of intelligence that tells you what ponds to fish in. So, while you're doing that already, you can take that same science, and apply it to Look-Alike Modeling. Which is even better, in some ways, instead of buying a name from a list provider, now, all of a sudden, you can serve an ad into a home, right? A lot of times when you buy lists, you end up having a lot of names you don't need, sure, can't get granular enough to really buy efficiently. And I think there's some reasons for that, people that want to make money selling names, want to sell more names, you're gonna want to print things want to print more pieces. But the look alike model gives you the names where if you get your model to come in and overlay a suppression table, on top of your names that you've now purchased. Because you couldn't get them as granular as you want them anyway. So, you have to put another model on top of that, that is what the look alike model is going to give you is those next names already, so you're going to get better names then you could ever purchase. So, there's some excitement in the whole look alike model too. There are some shortfalls, too, obviously, we don't always have the addresses of people. Sometimes we do. But, and often, you know, you're not going to know the name yet of the individual, you know, the household. So, you have to be careful. I've always thought personalization is effective. But what's even more important in messaging is relevance and sometimes, you know, people call me Steven, like your son, Andrew doesn't like to when people try to call him Andy or Drew, right? No, you can get yourself in trouble with that, but I think there's a there's great opportunity with Look-Alike Modeling
[00:27:03] Jay Fedje: So, you bring up a point, I think the one thing that we also emphasized this year, I'm going to pull up a term, but I'm going to tie it something else, I'm going to pull up the term and you say this, all the time, rugged individualism. Rugged individualism is the attitude that I can do anything that I put my mind to, and I can just lean into anything and I will get it done. But one of the things that has really stoked that fire, well, actually, there's a couple of characteristics, one, limited budgets to CRMs, that show in some ways that you can do a lot of things on your own. But there are limitations to the expertise of the things that you're talking about that college leaders just don't have, they don't have that capacity, that bandwidth, either in their marketing department or in their enrollment department to be able to manage all of those elements. So, they've got to bring in those partners. But in the idea of rugged individualism, this idea that I can do all things, I can bring it all in house and do it all, is a false sense of security. I mean, are you really saving money, there's a lot of invisible, budget bleeding, you know, because you don't really know the things that are taking your staff time and causing inefficiencies and so on. Some things you can do in house and some things you just got to let go. But I think it's the CRMs as well as kind of a circumstance really have encouraged a lot of leaders to bring that back in house. And leaders have to manage that, they've got to be able to look very, honestly at their capacity at their staff and say, I've got expertise over there, but I don't have any expertise in this area at all. And so, I'm going to need help there.
[00:29:03] Mike Wesner: I want to thank you for using my term. Yeah, and I hope I'm using it correctly. I if I am my AP American history teacher in high school, William Morgan would be very proud of me. But remember this term to describe the American mindset as the as the pioneers went westward and because they were rugged and individualistic. They had this stubbornness that made them successful. And you know, that's what I term. You know, this leader that stubbornly says I can fly solo here, then we can do all of this, some of it is that comfort that I said is his desire by people just being busy, but some of it is not having that teachable spirit, right? Where you think you can just do everything on your own. And there are great CRM products out there, and there are so many things that you can do better than you could 5,10 years ago with CRM products, but Jay, I've not seen any in house operation that can do search, better than most vendors, they are competitors. Even you can do search better, because this is what we do. And this is our full time job and things are constantly changing. I mean, how would you like to be able to keep up with all the algorithmic changes in Google's analytics to decide what email is going to be lead through and manage your reputation scores of all of those things?
[00:30:53] Jay Fedje: And what's in the news right now is Facebook and Instagram. And where's that going to lead? I think, I think those of us in the business are looking around going, okay, we have some options. We have some theories, we're prognosticating a bit, but we don't know where things are gonna go. We don't know where regulation is going to take us but relying on people to keep their eye on that particular ball all the time. I think that's worth the investment.
[00:31:19] Mike Wesner: You're going to need that wise counsel in the future, a subject matter expert. And I think there are things that I've seen that some shops can do well, I think you need a partner to come alongside and to fill gaps and to bounce ideas off. I really love the word partner, I very quickly, when I got into this industry, 15 years ago, I started to realize the big difference between being treated by a school as a vendor, versus a partner, and my partners would let you see behind the curtain. And they had a level of vulnerability and vulnerability was my word. Maybe it's very similar to having a teachable spirit. But to really help someone you have to have this vulnerability. That says, I don't know at all. And Jay, I don't know it all. I've never even been the Vice President Enrollment at a school and sometimes I'm jealous of you guys that have been in that seat. Sometimes I think it helps me see more clearly some things, right? Because I don't know what I don't know. So, I'm not gonna get bogged down with things that are not important. But you know, I think this rugged individual needs a partner, at least for that one time each year where they need to be bailed out, some of the best schools out there that do some of this still run into situations where they need somebody to come in and handle their overload. One of the best shops out there internally, I think are the guys at Sanford University, Sanford does some really great things, fortunately, Jason gives us some credit for being that teaching organization and teaching them and partnering with them for a certain period of time where they were kind of on their own. But you know, every so often, like this past year they circle back and say, hey, we got a new idea. And we want you to try it out first, or we got this new challenge over here, and we can't keep up with all this. And we need your help here. And I love that relationship we have with them.
[00:33:59] Jay Fedje: I think, it's easy to see immediately. I think you talked about it because in sitting in a welcome center in admissions office, I think that it's easy to see, or for me to see in a conversation, those enrollment leaders that are asking the right questions because they're not afraid to show some vulnerability. I think that it's absolutely paramount. You have to you have to put pride aside and get to the task of doing what's right. I'm gonna shift gears a little bit. But I like to talk about one of the things that I think that I heard and saw this year was a return to the basics. We talked about blocking and tackling, talking about building relationships, there were so many things this last year during the recruitment season, that were taking away travel, events on campus. All of those, I think foundational elements that really were parts that were predictable, that fed admissions offices, their talent, the school's talent, their admissions, staff, but also their inquiry pool, and their application pool, and so on. All of those things, I think, were really important to them, and suddenly, poof, they're gone. And now what they had to get back to really basic blocking and tackling tactics, and some of that we saw and some we didn’t, and I think some of those basic things are really important and will continue to be important.
[00:35:36] Mike Wesner: Well, Jay it's factor that dances on both sides of the bell curve that I talked about. I love being an early adopter. I loved the book Inside the Tornado, about early adopters and being the first one to try something. And, you know, that's a dangerous place to be to. But I'm also respectful and fascinated with how some things are absolutes, some things, you know, stand the test of time. And one of those is direct mail. I come from a direct mail background, I'm a big believer in direct mail, I know that 98% of Americans have what's called a mail moment each day where they lead in a very ritualistic way, let mail become a part of their day. Every day. They have a routine I come in and my wife asks me, right after she asks me how my day was, the second thing she asks me is what came in the mail today?
[00:36:50] Jay Fedje: What, came in the mail today, right?
[00:36:51] Mike Wesner: I love digital advertising. I love connected television and the potential of being able to send a commercial to 3000 people that haven't completed their application yet. But I know that nothing moves the needle in our company, like a direct mail piece that hits. Direct mail stays around. I mean, we all have our piles of direct mail pieces that we keep that stay around for months, you know, luckily, sometimes a direct mail piece can make it under a magnet or under a phone tag on the fridge. And just stay around its the gift that keeps on giving. So, I'm a big fan of direct mail. But some evidence because I have this humility that I'm still trying to figure out. Who are we really talking to? And this is one of the shared dilemmas I think that was manifested even more this past year. Are we talking to mom? Or are we talking to the student and a lot of times I really think not enough effort is spent in communicating with mom.
[00:38:10] Jay Fedje: Right, she has a very different set of criteria in this whole conversation, both mom and dad
[00:38:16] Mike Wesner: Yeah, you want to get mom's attention send her a postcard series of 8 postcards over a 4-month period and she'll keep a stack of those. I love when we get to offices and we see all 15 Octane issues that we've ever printed, they collect them you know, they have them on their bookshelf. But you know, sometimes it's really cool to figure out the ways to communicate with a 17 year old, but direct mail is one of the ways that we know. I think it helps even more this past year because you have a generation Zer that was locked up inside of the house that got mail that looked at mail because they were bored and then they lived their life it slowed down enough that they actually saw it so that's an absolute the other absolute bit.
[00:39:13] Jay Fedje: I was just gonna say we had written off direct mail years ago. There were folks that were saying good you know, we're gonna we're gonna save postage and really do everything by email. The reality is I look out my window to my mailbox, there is never anybody standing in front of my mailbox, saying you can't put mail in there. But there are tons of different kinds of endless numbers of different kinds of bots, and filters and firewalls that are keeping email outside my email inbox. Thank goodness. So, you're writing me that I think that is one of those things that not only gets mom's attention dad's attention, but also is getting students attention.
[00:39:54] Mike Wesner: I think one of the one of the reasons why we may have given up on direct mail too soon is because email received too much credit for what has gone by direct mail, email that comes two days later. It has the convenient, slick clickable link in it a chance to measure what the mail piece has already done, the mail piece that's sitting on the kitchen table that's had impact its influence that's informed that it's getting measured by the email that conveniently comes later. So, we gave too much credit, the email, it all works together, it all converges together and to say, unfortunately, all of it is necessary digital banner ads, sure. Direct mail, social media, ads, email, it's all really necessary. And yeah, I was just gonna say the other apps that were that I noticed pretty soon I think became even more important. This past year because we couldn't do campus visits isn't the importance of visiting campus. I think that's going to come back even more important in the future as people want to be together. I know you're a big baseball fan. And you know, I like baseball too. I was never really good at it. It's a hard game. It's an easy game to learn like chess, but it's a hard game to really become good at it. And that movie Moneyball.
[00:41:37] Jay Fedje: Oh, yeah. One of the best one of the best.
[00:41:37] Mike Wesner: It really helped me focus on what the absolutes are. In our business, what is it? Because for those of you that don't know that the Oakland A's this, Billy Beane, built a baseball team, around new metrics, not the old metrics that everyone thought were the way to measure success and sexiness in baseball, like batting averages. But you know, all of a sudden, there was new metrics. And the metrics included simple things like getting on base. And that's one of my favorite lines in the movie as they were deciding whether to draft a player or to trade for him. You know, the guy helping Billy Beane says he gets on base. And sometimes that's by taking a walk, but you get on base. And it's really helpful. Well, you know, in enrollment, so many people are measuring the number of applications you have so many people are measuring, the number of anchors you have, or how many names you buy, I mean, in this volume driven world, but all the sudden, you know, I started to ask myself, what is the equivalent of getting on base in the enrollment world? And the best I could come up with is a campus visit, you know, sure. You can ruin a campus visit to but not if it’s done well. I've seen it happen firsthand, the father of three boys, I've gotten horrible campus visits, I've had campus visits that were the reason that we came back and went to school there. Because my boys had a great experience during the campus visit, when they were very anxious. And somebody stepped in and sensed that and really had the emotional intelligence to give us exactly what we needed. But the campus visit is so important. And the basic tenet of the visit is you have to be nice to people, but not everybody knows how to do it well, in enrollment is to be nice and to create a wonderful experience for a family that's coming.
[00:44:01] Jay Fedje: It's not just a student I heard you say it several times. You said, they were nice to us. They were nice. We went came back and we went there. You didn't go there; your son went there. So, it's interesting, isn't it that that colleges oftentimes focus too much simply on the student and don't bring in all the other decision makers in the family because this is a family decision. And that's one of the blocking and tackling basics. I think that is an absolute right, that we've got to not just focus attention on this, especially in this generation, because they're looking at mom and dad, these students are looking at mom and dad as to their cues, is this a good place is this not a good place. When a student left campus, we did a little survey, about three minutes and we sent it to their car on their mobile phone, to start the conversation in the car. Because we knew that mom and dad or mom or dad and the student were in the car. And as they drove away, we wanted them to talk about what their experience was. We needed to drop a few seeds and man; I tell you we got some great responses back out of that. It wasn't about did you have a good visit? It was what did you see today? What were your thoughts about you know, this or that? What were your thoughts about? You can't be just talking to one.
[00:45:30] Mike Wesner: Yeah, that's good. This past year, Jay was my last son, he couldn't go visit any campuses.
[00:45:40] Jay Fedje: Yeah, right, that must have been really hard.
[00:45:42] Mike Wesner: It was really hard. It was really hard. And he remained on the waiting list of one school for a really long time. And it wasn't going to find out until the very end. Whether he was going to go to school there or not and that wasn't in the cards for him. So, we had to scramble, and he was staying up at night. Having panic attacks, thinking about this new season his life and I just decided to create my own campus visit experience. So, I took him, and I didn't call ahead. But sometimes it looks like I'm coming there for a massive sales call to get in there. I didn't do that. But I went there kind of incognito. And somebody saw us from admissions and got involved and it changed everything.
[00:46:39] Jay Fedje: Even though they weren't expecting you, they still responded to you.
[00:46:42] Mike Wesner: It was a goose bump moment. I mean, where I could see Silas, relaxing, and I could see someone with emotional intelligence, helping him to talk about as he was gonna start classes the next week. That's how guys do it by the way. Everything is laid in the guys were even with the dad that's in the business, you know, we but Silas was really comforted by this world class experience. And they just knew how to be nice and right. The campus visit is so important and I look for it to be that getting on base metric.
[00:47:23] Jay Fedje: A couple of other things that we've seen, the personal notes, the handwritten things, not bulk packaging, and everything that's going to have its place. But there is something about you know, I, my kids have gone through my son's have gone through college, and they've had friends and there is something about seeing on social media, when someone holds up a handwritten note that they take a little selfie with the handwritten note from the person at the school saying, we're proud of you. We think the of you and we're so happy that you're coming, you know, in a couple of months to be on campus, those handwritten notes again, back to the basics it's about investment and time and there's so important. So, let me ask one last question. As we look back at the year, and we're looking back at the year we learned what we do, we you know, what we've done and we've made some pivots along the way so what's around the corner? What's rattling in the tall grass that we've got to be aware of. I know I'm talking to a visionary and you see the matrix, you see the little green dots. But when you look out ahead, what are you seeing as the things that we should be looking for in the coming year?
[00:48:49] Mike Wesner: Well, I think I'll talk out of both sides of my mouth again, and I think we're going to see those are going to be successful are those that are transformational leaders, that are leaders that are going to take some risks, but at the same time have some absolutes in place that we're going to produce. And, you know, I think that eventually, the way we buy a name is going to go away. And we're going to have to come up with better ways to find students in the future. What those are going to mean is programs that are driven by IP captures, for example, you know, that if I capture an IP on this page on my website, and that IP address correlates to this mailing address, I'm going to mail a piece that's triggered by that activity to that household. And I'm going to find my leads, I have to operate in a forensic kind of that way in the future to build this, but so I think that's going to be part of the future. And, you know, I think more and more people will continue to cut the cord. I mean, if you cut the cord Jay and what that is good does is it brings television in as a new channel to all this that, you know, all of a sudden, you know, it's affordable, I mean it per ad, those are the most expensive ads that you can buy right now. But they're some of the best ads when you can get a family watching college football at eight o'clock at night. And one of the commercials is your local college, talking about outcomes right there and just feels big time and relevant.
[00:50:59] Jay Fedje: Right. And it's targeted demographically. I mean, there's one thing that that we know now and that is household A, your house is watching that football game. And household B, next door is watching that football game, you might be getting different ads, because your different demographics, you have different buying traits and buying characteristics. So, you can target right down to the very specific address.
[00:51:26] Mike Wesner: If we have a mailing address, I can steer the ad into their house because I know their IP address. And if they've got connected television, I'm going to get them on Hulu or view Gen TV or Sling or whatever. I mean, I think we're going to see more of that in the future. And the other thing that I'm excited about is, you know, because I like to run to the new things, too, is, you know, this Gen Zer's are suspicious of any kind of marketing or advertising. They're not going to want to click on things that's only going to respond to influencers in social media. And I think, you know, having a good influencer program and understanding the laws that dictate what you can and can't do and negotiating contracts with influencers and man these are some of the things that Joe at Tuskegee has let us do with him where you go in and you find a influencer that has effective influencers don't have a million followers. Those are entertainers, those are influencers but the influencers just have 1 to 3000 people that really look up to them. So, you know, if you're a denominational school and you know, you're going to have maybe a musician and your denomination or a youth leader, right or a well-known pastor or coach or something that's going to influence maybe 3000 people that you know will be an advocate for the school and can really help you and so I think we'll see a lot of that kind of surer purposeful social media content in the future. That's genuine and real but one of our core values in our company. You know, people want real Jay. They want real and I think we'll see a lot of that in the future. So, I think these are exciting times even though you know, you have to do so much more but, in some ways, if you have faith and trust your instincts and you try new things, there are tools in place now. That make your job easier. They really do. And, you know, you just have to trust test, try new things, and not succumb to the volume methodologies out there that are just you know, expensive, inefficient and they're not good for morale in your shop because it's hard to run a shop effectively that way.
[00:54:31] Jay Fedje: Well, Mike, Founder Chief Imagination Officer, I got it right this time at enrollmentFUEL. Mike, thanks for spending some time and celebrating a year of Enrollment Edge. We've really enjoyed bringing thought leadership to an industry that really does need thought leadership, but people do challenge and push the envelope and talk about the easy things and the hard things. So, Mike, I appreciate your time today and loved having you looking back at a year-in-review.
[00:55:01] Mike Wesner: Jay, thank you for letting me be a part of this and hopefully, some movers and shakers and those that lean in and are innovative are out there listening to this right now and they may be one of your future podcast guests and firing others to lead from the front in the future.
[00:55:15] Jay Fedje: Well, I appreciate it, Mike. Thanks.
[00:55:16] Mike Wesner: All right, Jay.
[00:55:17] Jay Fedje: You've been listening to the Enrollment Edge Podcast, Enrollment Edge is sponsored by enrollmentFUEL, a full-service student search and marketing partner to colleges and universities. If you're listening on Apple podcast, please give us a five-star rating and review, your feedback will help us remain relevant and on the Edge. The Enrollment Edge is produced by Alison Walls, I'm your host Jay Fedje. Thanks for listening.
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