Ideas, insights and inspirations.

Today, more than any other touch point, a website is the digital soul of an organization. As one of Pittsburgh’s longest standing manufacturing website development agencies, Elliance has been delivering prosperity to regional and national industrial companies for the past 30 years. Our arsenal of website development best practices includes:

1. Start With a Smart Strategy and Plan

Revenue Strategy, Communication Strategy and Search Engine Ranking Strategy are the three pillars of a smart manufacturing website development strategy. Bake each of them into every stage of website development.

A good website development project begins with a thoughtful plan. Map out and outline all of these facets up-front:

  • Ambitious goals and objectives – for inquiries, revenue, communications and search engine
  • Target audiences – buyers, influencers, specifiers and talent of all ages you plan to recruit
  • Requirements and needs – for users (stated and unstated), business, content administrators
  • Content strategy – in service of delighting each target audience
  • Specifications – for interactive components
  • Functional requirements – including a system of calls-to-action
  • Merchandising approach – for selling, cross-selling and up-selling of products and services
  • Integration requirements – with analytics, marketing automation and third-party applications
  • User experience requirements – including design, progressive disclosure, and navigation system
  • SEO strategy – infusing keywords in every phase to ensure Google and Bing page one rankings are secured
  • Domain architecture – for the primary website and potential campaign landing pages
  • Content-migration and URL redirects – retaining your past SEO rankings and building upon them

Despite all the planning, be prepared for some surprises along the way such as with third-party integrations and new requirements surfacing midstream.

Aim higher to meet the needs of more digital savvy users.

2. Make it Easy to Use for Content People

Content people naturally don’t have sufficient programming know-how. They are looking for easy to use, point-click-and-type interfaces on their website platform. They want the ability to view content as the website user would experience it before publishing. They want the ability to roll-back if the need arises. A sound website platform should support workflows, access control lists (ACL), the ability to create a smart page builder, create-once-publish-everywhere capabilities and development-staging-production environments.

Delight content people.

3. Make it Beautiful

Strategy is invisible. Good design makes it visible.

Manufacturers are in a war for attracting talent from a digitally savvy generation of Gen-Zers, Millennials and Gen-Xers. Manufacturers can’t expect these people to buy from a company with a tired, old manufacturing aesthetic. New buyers are increasingly digitally savvy. To appeal to them, manufacturing websites should consider incorporating nature-inspired organic forms, cool digital design, and interactive energy. They need to convey manufacturing expertise backed by thought-leadership and confident modernity.

Milton Glaser, the iconic designer, once said “There are only three reactions to a piece of design: no, yes or WOW! Wow is one to aim for.” We couldn’t agree more.

4. Appeal to Strategic Buyers, Tactical Buyers and Influencers.

Smart manufacturing marketers realize that not all customers are born equal. New websites are focused on converting both high-margin strategic buyers and an emerging generation of tactical buyers. Along the way, they must persuade the influencers also.

Increasingly, buying is a committee decision. Meet the needs of all members of this comittee.

5. Build Critical Features

Here are some smart features worth providing for your smart engineering-minded buyers:

  • Product catalog and services – as a quick reference to your offerings
  • Custom solutions – to facilitate higher-margin, complex sales
  • Project galleries – to showcase your solutions in action
  • Markets served – to reduce buyer’s risk of buying from you
  • Customer stories, testimonials and third-party validations – again to reduce their risk of buying from you
  • Auto-complete site search – to give quickest path to your products and services to repeat buyers
  • Faceted search – to show depth and breadth of product (and service) offerings
  • Configurators – to engage your buyers
  • Resource center – to provide convenient access to all your brochures and spec sheets
  • Blog – to convey product and thought leadership, and fresh content to feed the Google and Bing bots
  • Customer portal – to enable customers to find answers to routine questions about their past purchase history, warrantees, add-ons, and a whole lot more
  • Multi-language support – to facilitate international and multilingual buyers

6. Make it Search Engine Friendly

If a manufacturer can’t be found on page one of Google or Bing, its products can’t be bought. Google page 1 is destiny. 90% of users never go beyond page 1 of Google results. Organic rankings (i.e. the top 10 natural search results) are clicked more, trusted more, and convert three-folds better than paid ads. 

Manufacturing website designers and developers must start their projects in collaboration with SEO marketers who’ll research and assemble crucial search phrases in a Keyword Lexicon. The lexicon should inform all aspects of website design including user experience, information architecture, initial website content, website development and ongoing content upgrades. Keyword categories in the lexicon should include products/services, applications, industries, reputation, decisioning, and strategic buyer questions. Keywords must include the variety of phrases used in the buyer journey and the talent recruitment journey. It is imperative for the website designers to use SEO best practices to ensure that manufacturer’s products and services, thought-leadership content as well as job postings can surface on page one of Google and Bing.

Google page one is destiny.

7. Make it Mobile-First, Responsive, Fast-Loading and ADA-Compliant

These factors are both good for business and good for search engine rankings.

Given that close to half of website traffic now comes from mobile devices, build a responsive website (i.e. auto-adjusts to various browsing devices) that is mobile first and delights people. Since page load speed is a Google ranking factor, avoid cheap hosting services, and ensure the website developers have a proven record of building clean, efficient and fast code. Make your website ADA compliant (WCAG AA 2.2) website to serve all audiences and avoid being sued by unscrupulous law firms chasing non-compliant websites.

What you can’t see can hurt you.

8. Power With Smart CMS Technology wtih a Maintenance Mindset

Google rewards fresh content. The ease of updating the website depends on your chosen content management system (CMS).

Depending on website requirements, the size of your organization, your need for flexibility and internationalization, availability of in-house technology talent and budgets, you must either pick a proprietary, open source or commercial grade CMS that best suits your needs. Ensure it support a “Smart Page Builder” that lets you create your entire website and custom layouts from a single interface. Ensure it is thoroughly SEO-friendly and plays well with other software components such as analytics, marketing automation software, CRM software, tracking tools, and more. Most importantly it should be easy to use for content people.

Since websites are dynamic entities, it should be coded to be simultaneously logical and easily maintainable. Documenting the code is crucial. 

A good CMS should let you operate a website with almost the same ease as you use utilities at home.

9. Test, Test, Test and Then Test Some More

Zero defects matter as much for websites as they do in manufacturing.

In accordance with quality guru Dr. Deming’s advice, ensure that quality is built into every phase of the project. However, to ensure that the end-product meets the highest standards of quality, test the pre-launch website across a number of platforms and devices to ensure that the responsive design maintains its integrity, passes the Google mobile friendly test, and adheres to Google Core Web Vitals guidelines. Test on common smartphones, tablets, desktops and laptops, as well as the most recent versions of popular web browsers whose usage is more than five percent of the total website traffic. In addition, test each website page for ADA WCAG 2.2 Level AA compliance using a variety of automated testing tools (WAVE, FAE, AXE, DubBot) as well as manual testing to ensure that these standards are met.

Aim for nothing less than zero defects.

10. Build for Security

Prepare yourself for a world where a cyberattack is initiated every 39 seconds.

Build your website code with protections from spam and SQL-injection. Use HTTPS and stay up to date on SSL/TLS versions. Ensure operating systems and CMS security patches are installed as they surface, a few times a month.

The last thing you want to experience is website downtime or to be held hostage to ransomware.

11. Host It Right

Because websites are mission-critical, people are impatient and Google penalizes slow websites with lower rankings, hosting matters a lot.

  • Ensure your website is hosted securely on a high-speed Tier-1 environment, and weekly software and security patches are deployed.
  • Protect your website hosting environment from ever-evolving malware and attacks. Apply security patches promptly.
  • Keep your uptime high with 24×7 monitoring and daily backups.
  • Automate infrastructure configuration and code deployment.

Cheap shared hosting will hurt you.

12. Measure ROI

You can’t manage what you can’t meausre.

Upstream ROI metrics include increase in inquiries and demand, achievement of thought leadership, and increase in brand value. Keep an eye on downstream metrics also such as bounce rates, conversion rates, time on site, growth in organic traffic, content popularity, expansion in reach, and more. Establish regular meetings to measure ROI.

What ultimately matters is not the effort but the return-on-your-website-investment.

Remember, the underpinnings of great websites are simplicity, humanity and performance. The simpler and more predictable the user experience and the more human-friendly the content administrator’s experience, the more complex your website backend will be. Great website developers lean into this paradox and love delivering joy, brilliance and satisfaction to both website users and content administrators.

Looking for a professional manufacturing marketing agency to design and develop your website? Review our website design and website development expertise and contact us if you wish to join the elite group of manufacturers enjoying business growth with their websites.

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Elliance, a higher education enrollment marketing agency, has built a reputation by both increasing and growing enrollment for more than 100 colleges and universities. Founded on the principle of right-fit matchmaking, our recommended strategies revolve around six core beliefs. First, if they can’t find you, they can’t buy you. Second, if they do find you, you can’t bore them into buying from you. Third, back your claims with proofs. Fourth, ensure that students are able to see themselves at your institution. Fifth, pursue right-fit students at all cost. Sixth, you must be easy to do business with. All our recommended actions for increasing and growing college enrollment revolve around these core beliefs:

1. Activate a Winning Strategic Plan

Winning, not playing and optimizing, is what successful college presidents focus on. To create an inflection point, they sometimes deepen their competitive advantages and at other times disrupt and challenge the status quo.

College presidents lead strategic planning based on thorough, objective assessment of institutional strengths and weaknesses in the context of societal shifts. They involve board members, faculty, alumni and corporate partners in their strategic planning process. To enact change, presidents must be keen observers, strong persuaders and strategic communicators. Their challenge is to effectively use key framing questions to challenge old ways, butcher a few sacred cows and tell stories that infuse new worldviews.

To become a school of consequence, you must behave like one.

2. Define a distinctive hook

Consider declaring a unique hook, like offering a graduate-in-four-years guarantee (e.g. Randolph-Macon College), a job placement guarantee (e.g. Capitol Technology University) or a tuition lock (e.g. William Woods University grad and online programs). Parents and students are attracted to colleges willing to stand behind their commitment to graduate students on time and help them get a job.

3. Invest In A Brand. Speak with One Brand Voice.

In the sea of sameness, brands win. A brand is the sum of all experiences, be they virtual, experiential or architectural interactions. It is the DNA of an institution that affirms its purpose, defines its core values and highest ideals, creates distinction, and is the foundation of its reputation. Speak with one brand voice to all audiences, but strike different notes for each segment of students, alumni, donors, partners and influencers.

All great higher education marketers engage in branding to position their colleges and universities as institutions of consequence.

4. Grow Your Reputation

Great colleges curate, orchestrate and elevate their content strategy to deftly manage their institutional destiny with flagship publications, storytelling on websites and social media channels.

They maximize their content productivity and amplify their thought leadership with a Keyword Lexicon –  comprised of high-value words and phrases you can rightfully “own” in service of both attracting right-fit students and building an impeccable reputation. They insist that each and every piece of content a college produces is infused with keywords, so it can secure its rightful Google page 1 rankings.

They widen their content reach beyond alumni and friends to influence people who aren’t aware of their college brand. They measure and communicate the economic impact of their institutions.

Google page 1 rankings are destiny. When you secure them, traditional rankings will also follow suit.

5. Offer In-Demand Degrees

Offer an academic portfolio to prepare students for the near and far future. This can take various forms.

You could become a niche college. If you are a niche college, offer an inch-wide, mile-deep portfolio of programs. Palo Alto University offers psychology degrees only, Wheelock College offers child development programs only, Capitol Technology is Washington DC and Maryland’s STEM university, and Thunderbird School of Management specializes in International business only. Inch-wide, mile deep.

You can also become a professionally minded liberal arts college. For instance, Bryant University will not let a student graduate in business without a liberal arts minor and vice versa.

If you are a broad based educator, offer a largest variety of majors and minors. Catholic University of America, for instance, offers more than 400 degrees.

6. Make First Impressions Count

First impressions matter.

  • Create a transformative website. Create an impeccable website. Make it beautiful. Invest in high-fidelity academic program pages. Make it alumni success centered. Make it outcomes centric. Make it conversion friendly. Make it search engine friendly. Make it responsive. Make it accessible. Feature institutional reputation points. Showcase groups of students in social settings. Celebrate campus life. Celebrate your star students, alumni and faculty because they, not the institution, are the real heroes of your story.
  • Make your social media about your students, alumni, faculty and experiences.
  • Claim your Google page 1 rankings – ensuring the information that appears on search engine results is persuasive and inviting.
  • Create high-impact open houses, information sessions, and campus tours.
  • Make your classrooms, admissions décor, facilities and grounds beautiful because beauty engenders confidence.

Remember you become the story you choose to tell.

7. Create a Culture of Service

Of course you ought to create an adaptive, dynamic and participative campus culture that’s inclusive, diverse and respects differences. Of course your students, faculty, and staff must reflect the emerging realities of our pluralistic culture, society and world. But what people crave most is a psychologically safe environment, a culture of reciprocity, and an ethos of giving to students, others and society.

It’s not the strongest, nor the fittest, but the most caring that flourish.

8. Build relationships with corporation and community

Higher education institutions live in an ecosystem of mutually beneficial relationships with corporations and community organizations as natural allies. Creating porous walls between the institution and these natural allies is an integral part of the job of everyone at the college. The external partner relationships are valuable in three ways:

  • Parents and community members exert considerable influence on future students’ enrollment decisions when they are choosing a college.
  • External partners offer students internships, co-ops and jobs.
  • As government research funding has dried up, corporations, civic organizations and alumni-led entrepreneurial companies have stepped in to form a new source of college revenue.

These allies can create opportunities for forming new institutional trajectories.

9. Build your athletics

Nothing builds school spirit better than athletics and intramural sports. That’s true whether a college is a Division 1, 2 or 3 sports school. Support athletics. Contrary to common belief, the athletes’ habit of achievement transcends sports into their personal, academic and professional lives. Nurture them.

10. Serve diverse audiences and support them

Explore and harvest new student streams such as adult students, online learners, distance learners, graduate students, international students, and professional development communities.

Recruit, enroll and support students, faculty and staff from diverse faiths, ethnicities, genders, and socio-economic backgrounds. Allocate budgets to fund talented teams, effective management practices and smart technologies so the college is prepared to serve and support the various student segments.

In a college, the needs of your students must come first. Care of the students will create a reservoir of life-long memories and goodwill you’ll need to create lifelong relationships. A diversified culture and revenue stream will also future-proof you.

11. Deploy enrollment practices for growth

Since the vast majority of colleges are tuition dependent, your enrollment team must achieve predictable and reliable enrollment revenue for your college by attracting increasingly robust, motivated and diverse students.

  • Embrace machine learning, algorithmic and big data driven enrollment marketing strategies.
  • Invest in CRM and Marketing Automation software.
  • Fish where the fish are (hint: digital media).
  • Attract and enroll only right-fit students.
  • Activate an effective marketing air game. Understand target audiences. Create psychographic and demographic personas. Fortify academic program pages. Deploy smart paid and SEO strategies. Conduct email marketing. Activate traditional media and PR. Deploy both traditional admissions funnel and inverted admissions funnel strategies.
  • Communicate with influencers. Because students are heavily influenced by their peers, parents, teachers, college counselors in high schools, and principals. Ensure you proactively communicate with influencers. 
  • Mobilize a strong boots-on-the-ground game plan. Foster relationships with high schools. Encourage campus visits. Provide virtual tours. Attend industry conferences and events where prospects might be competing in competitions.
  • Create feeders. Offer summer camps and pre-college programs.  Cultivate relationships with attendees and their families.
  • Follow-up on a timely basis. Activate a personalized contact strategy system by a partially automated comm-plan.

You are recruiting students who’ll be your brand ambassadors and life-long donors. It pays to invest in attracting, converting and retaining the right-fit students.

12. Build an endowment war-chest to improve student experience and rankings

Recall that 60% of the US News ranking is based on selectivity (25%) and placement success (35%). With a solid endowment war-chest, you’ll be able to:

  • Modernize your facilities
  • Contain the class sizes
  • Attract the best-fit students
  • Manage the placement of your graduates
  • Keep the student/faculty ratio as small as possible

13. Respond to trends

Adapt and refine your strategies based on the evolving landscape of education and the preferences of your target audience.

If you are seeking an enrollment marketing agency to grow enrollment for your college or university, view our higher education marketing capabilities and consider partnering with us.

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As a leading social media agency for manufacturers and industrial companies, we are frequently asked to share our best practices. This is part of a series of posts to explain how social media audit can serve their interests.

A social media audit involves a comprehensive review of a industrial company’s primary social media channels, profiles, activities, and performance. The goal is to assess the effectiveness of the current strategy and identify areas for improvement.

After gaining access to a manufacturer’s social media management software or accounts, we conduct a twelve-point social media audit to assess the following:

1. Profile Information Audit
We assess all official social media profiles to ensure accurate and consistent information is presented, including logos and colors, profile pictures, cover photos, about information, and contact details.

2. Platform Presence Audit
We identify all social media platforms where the manufacturer has a presence. This includes major platforms like YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), Pinterest, etc.

3. Content Audit
We evaluate the type, frequency, and quality of content posted on each platform. We assess whether the content aligns with the manufacturer’s goals and resonates with the target audience.

4. Engagement Metrics Audit
We analyze engagement metrics such as likes, comments, shares, X-reposts, and other interactions. We assess the level of audience engagement and identify successful and underperforming content.

5. Promotions Audit
We analyze the content promotions the brand is running to ensure they are aligned with the manufacturer’s goals.

6. Editorial Calendar Audit
We review and evaluate the existing content schedule and plans outlined in the editorial calendar for social media marketing to ensure corporate objectives are being met over a longer time horizon.

7. Hashtag Usage Audit
We review the use of hashtags across platforms. We assess the effectiveness of branded, domain and product related hashtags and occasionally identify opportunities for new ones.

8. Brand Consistency Audit
We ensure a consistent brand identity is applied across all platforms. We check if branding elements such as logos, colors, and brand promise and position are used uniformly.

9. Metrics & KPIs Audit
We evaluate key performance indicators (KPIs) that are aligned with the manufacturer’s goals. This may include metrics such as reach, impressions, engagement rates, and conversion rates.

10. Competitor Benchmarks Audit
We compare the manufacturer’s social media followers and volume metrics with that of key competitors. We identify areas where the brand excels and areas where it can improve based on peer benchmarks.

11. Followers Audit
We analyze the demographic information of the audience on each platform, including age, gender, location, and other relevant details. We examine the growth, decline and rate of growth/decline in followers/fans on each platform. We evaluate the demographics and interests of the audience to guide tailoring of future content and engagement strategies.

12. Sentiment Audit
This is included by special request only. We evaluate and analyze the sentiments expressed by the audience toward the manufacturer and its product offerings on various social media platforms. The goal is to gauge the overall sentiment—whether it’s positive, negative, or neutral—associated with the manufacturer’s products and services.

What’s typically excluded is evaluation of the performance of paid social advertising campaigns, including ad spend, reach, click-through rates, conversions, and ROI.

A social media audit provides valuable insights that can improve the effectiveness of a manufacturer’s social media strategy. It is typically conducted every few years to adapt to changes in the social media landscape and the corporate goals.

If you are seeking a manufacturing marketing agency partner who can complete your social media audit, contact us.

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Elliance, a higher education enrollment marketing agency, has built a reputation by both increasing and significantly growing undergraduate student enrollment for more than 50 colleges and universities. Founded on the principle of right-fit matchmaking, our recommended strategies revolve around five core beliefs. First, if they can’t find you, they can’t buy you. Second, if they do find you, you can’t bore them into buying from you. Third, the students must be able to see themselves at your institution. Fourth, you must pursue right-fit students at all cost. Fifth, you must be easy to do business with. All our recommended actions for increasing undergraduate enrollment revolve around these core beliefs:

1. Invest in Branding: Babson has positioned itself as THE college for entrepreneurship, American University as THE supplier of “wonks” to the political and governmental establishment, Drexel as THE university that mandates coop experience, and so on. Investing in a strong brand can lift a college from obscurity to national prominence. Brand your college.

2. Make the First Impressions Count: Fortify every touch point – including websites, social media, open houses, information sessions, grounds, classrooms, tours, and admissions office décor. Claim your Google page one rankings and elevate your search engine snippets. Make your facilities and grounds beautiful because beauty engenders confidence.

3. Define a Distinctive Hook: Become a niche college. Declare a hook like: offering a graduate-in-four-years guarantee (e.g. Randolph-Macon College), a job placement guarantee (e.g. Capitol Technology University) or a tuition lock (e.g. Assumption College). Parents and students are attracted to colleges willing to stand behind their commitments.

4. Sharpen Your Academic Offerings: If you are a niche college, offer an inch-wide, mile-deep portfolio of programs. If you are a broad based educator, offer a large variety of majors and minors.

5. Create an Optimal Website Presence: Make it beautiful. Invest in high-fidelity academic program pages. Make it alumni success centered. Make it outcomes centric. Make it conversion friendly. Make it search engine friendly. Make it responsive. Make it accessible. Feature institutional reputation points. Showcase groups of students in social settings. Celebrate campus life.

6. Lower Admissions Barriers: Offer competitive scholarships and financial aid. Offer early decision and early admissions programs. Offer job guarantees for job placement. Offer 4-year graduation guarantees.

7. Activate an Effective Marketing Air Game: Understand target audiences. Create psychographic and demographic personas. Fortify academic program pages. Deploy smart paid and SEO strategies. Conduct email marketing. Activate traditional media and PR. Deploy both traditional admissions funnel and inverted admissions funnel strategies.

8. Communicate with Influencers: Because students are heavily influenced by their peers, parents, teachers, college counselors in high schools, and principals. Ensure you proactively communicate with influencers. 

9. Mobilize a Strong Boots-on-the-Ground Game Plan: Foster relationships with high schools. Encourage campus visits. Provide virtual tours. Attend industry conferences and events where prospects might be competing in competitions.

10. Create Feeders: Offer summer camps and pre-college programs.  Cultivate relationships with attendees and their families.

11. Follow-up on a Timely Basis: Activate a personalized contact strategy system by a partially automated comm-plan.

12. Respond to Trends: Adapt and refine your strategies based on the evolving landscape of education and the preferences of your target audience.

If you are seeking an enrollment marketing agency for increasing and growing your undergraduate enrollment, consider partnering with us.

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Elliance, a higher education enrollment marketing agency, has built a reputation by both increasing and growing online student enrollment for dozens of colleges and universities. Founded on the principle of right-fit matchmaking, our recommended strategies revolve around six core beliefs. First, if they can’t find you, they can’t buy you. Second, if they do find you, you can’t bore them into buying from you. Third, the students must be able to see themselves at your institution. Fourth, you must pursue right-fit students at all cost. Fifth, you must be easy to do business with. Sixth, you must be supportive and understanding of life constraints of online students. All our recommended actions for increasing online enrollment revolve around these core beliefs:

1. Offer Online Degrees in Ideal Formats and Starts: Offer your online programs in formats that are convenient for working professionals. Online students prefer frequent starts for courses, ideally every 8 to 12 weeks, and need the flexibility to pause and restart without penalty.

2. Create a Legendary Online Learning Experience: For online programs, student experience wholly depends on the quality of your teaching materials and ease-of-use of your learning platform. Invest in online instructional design and let word of mouth spread your reputation.

3. Create an Optimal Website Presence: Make it beautiful. Make it alumni success centered. Make it conversion friendly. Make it search engine friendly. Make it responsive. And make it accessible.  

4. Lower Admissions Barriers: Don’t require standardized tests. Accept prior learning and work experience credits. Offer flexible payment options, scholarships, or discounts to make your courses more affordable and appealing to a wider audience

5. Activate an Effective Marketing Air Game: Understand target audiences. Create psychographic and demographic personas. Fortify online program pages. Deploy smart paid and SEO strategies. Conduct email marketing. Activate traditional media and PR. Deploy both traditional admissions funnel and inverted admissions funnel strategies.

6. Communicate with Influencers: Because online students are heavily influenced by the opinions of their social network of peers, co-workers and friends, remember to reach out to corporate HR departments, trade associations, and senior managers who manage working professionals in need of a degree to advance their careers. 

7. Mobilize a Strong Boots-on-the-Ground Game Plan: Hold open houses and webinars. Attend industry conferences and events. Leverage partnerships with community colleges and employers.

8. Follow-up on a Timely Basis: Activate a personalized contact strategy system by a partially automated comm-plan.

9. Respond to Trends: Adapt and refine your strategies based on the evolving landscape of online education and the preferences of your target audience.

If you are seeking an enrollment marketing agency for increasing and growing your online enrollment, consider partnering with us.

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In the age of Google and AI, a manufacturing and industrial marketing strategy is incomplete without a blogging strategy. We will first share several good reasons why manufacturers must include blogging in their marketing mix.

Why manufacturers should blog?

While a blog does require some time and effort, it is well worthwhile for these five reasons:

1. Provides the fresh content that Google and Bing rewards with page one rankings.

2. Significantly cheaper than annually paying third parties for links.

3. Conveys subject matter expertise, which buyers reward.

4. Builds topic authority, which Google and Bing reward with higher rankings.

5. Expands website real estate which grows your brand impressions and reach in the age of Google, Bing and AI.

Best practices in industrial blogging

Next, we’ll share eleven best practices we’ve seen work for many industrial companies.

1. Goals: Could be a combination of communicating subject matter expertise, reputation building or humanizing your company.

2. Name: A good blog name should be memorable and help your SEO objectives.

3. Design: Make it consistent with your website design and ensure it resonates with the target audiences.

4. Target Audience: Speak to engineers, buyers, partners and talent you are trying to attract.

5. Keyword Focus: Know the keywords you want to be ranked for and choose them carefully around your highest margin products and services.

6. Content Focus: Every post should be focused on one or two related keywords. Link back to your products and services. Here is a short list of ideas for blog content:

  • Interview of customers, subject matter experts, or employees with specialized know-how
  • A story about how you solved a challenging problem for a customer
  • Trends you are seeing in your industry
  • Industry best practices
  • Feature a partner
  • Interesting events you are planning to attend or just attended
  • An infographic you created or found that is worth sharing with your customers
  • A video you produced about your product working in the field
  • A how-to-story
  • A planning checklist

7. Voice: Be positive, real, helpful, accessible, insightful, professional and knowledgeable. Avoid jargon.

8. Length: Limit the length of blog post to less than 500 words. Break a blog post into two if necessary. Occasionally, you could write a mega blog post. Google loves and rewards both kinds.

9. Engagement: If you have the time to respond, encourage questions and comments on the blog.

10. Reach: Share your blog posts on your company’s official social media channels. Boost posts to expand reach. 

11. Metrics: Measure the number of views, shares, likes and rankings.

Until your team develops its own blogging muscle, an agency partner can be a vital resource. They can help by coaching your team, offloading some writing, SEO-optimizing and promoting your blog posts.

If you are seeking a manufacturing marketing agency partner who can get you going, contact us.

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Elliance, a higher education enrollment marketing agency, has built a reputation by both increasing and significantly growing graduate student enrollment for more than 50 colleges and universities. Following are some of the most successful strategies that our university clients have activated to unleash enrollment growth in the past two decades:

Strategies for Growing Graduate Student Enrollment Unleash Growth

1. Invest in branding. In the sea of sameness, brands win. When the University of Delaware College of Business and Economics wished to create a rising tide for its vast portfolio of graduate business programs, Elliance crafted and paid off their new brand line “Opportunity, Inc.” It worked attracting students from across the nation and across the globe.

2. Bake research about student behavior and what they value into website, microsite snd landing pages. When we reflected GMAC research findings into Carnegie Mellon’s MS in information systems management program microsite, its applications grew by 118 percent within one year.

3. Tell a better story. Romance prospects and show that the value of the degree exceeds its cost. Carnegie Mellon MSE degree was ranked on Google page one for every conceivable keyword, but its enrollment was anemic. With a photoshoot of rock star students, and new copy that emphasized value of the degree, the enrollment took off without additional marketing.

4. Fish where the fish are. Since digital now leads traditional media, promote your program on digital channels like web, Google, social and Wikipedia. When we helped William Woods transition its marketing budget from all traditional to primarily digital, its graduate enrollment grew by 25 percent and online enrollment doubled in just two years.

5. Pursue right-fit. Hunt like sharks and don’t feed like whales. Create personas with their unique motivations, be it career development, salary bump or living more meaningful lives. Increase your presence across their unique student journeys.  We helped Carlow University achieve the highest enrollment in a decade by creating marketing that resonated with their right-fit students.

6. Persuade influencers. It is well known that the recommendations of bosses carry an extraordinary weight in the enrollment decisions of their followers. When William Woods graduate educational program leaders fostered conversations with their 600+ alumni principals, school superintendents and education district leaders, the teachers signed up in droves for their MEd and EdD degrees.

7. Dominate Google page one because if your program can’t be found, it can’t be in the considered set. Tune social to amplify storytelling. This is the secret of success of each and every one of our clients. For example, Pepperdine graduate business programs grew dramatically and Carnegie Mellon MSPM enrollment grew 12X in 4 years.

8. Optimize follow up strategies. Unlike undergraduate programs, graduate students expect the program directors and faculty to reach out and discuss the passion of students for the program.

9. A/B test your way to success. Effective A/B testing lets you quickly determine the difference between winning and losing messages, ad channels and geographies. Armed with these insights, we encourage our client to feed the winners and starve the losers. For Manchester Business School, we targeted 20 cities and rapid A/B testing revealed that only 3 were converting. We pulled the budgets from the 17 non-performing cities and applied that to the 3 top converting cities. Their inquiries and applications grew rapidly.

10. Simplify application, acceptance  and financial assistance forms and processes. Your processes should not be an obstacle course. We’ve helped streamline processes for each and every one of our clients improving their applications yield and reducing their melt.

11. Engage alumni by featuring them and telling their stories of achievements. It will inspire confidence in prospective students. We routinely do this for every client. Prospective students connect with the alumni seeking their counsel and  advice on whether they should enroll. We use this heuristic for all our higher education clients.

12. Forge partnerships with employers because they are not only harvesting grounds for new students, but also for projects and research initiatives. When we created corporate relations microsites and brochures for several Carnegie Mellon masters programs, they were handsomely rewarded with increased corporate engagement and sponsorships.

13. Cultivate feeders like undergrad programs and employers. When we encouraged a number of program chairs to cement ties with various national and international undergrad programs and HR/training manager at corporations, their enrollment grew dramatically.

14. Offer new flavored, distinct degrees instead of creating new commodity, me-too programs. Distinct degrees always sell better. When Duquesne University launched its MBA in Sustainability, it gave us the fertile soil to secure dominant positions on Google page one. Enrollment grew 3X and application selectivity dropped from 90% to 10%.

If you are seeking an enrollment marketing agency for increasing and growing your graduate enrollment, consider partnering with us.

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Elliance, a higher education enrollment marketing agency, has increased and significantly grown graduate student enrollment for more than 50 colleges and universities. Founded on the principle of right-fit matchmaking, our recommended strategies revolve around four core beliefs. First, if they can’t find you, they can’t buy you. Second, if they do find you, you can’t bore them into buying from you. Third, the students must be able to see themselves at your institution. Fourth, you must pursue right-fit students at all cost. All our recommended actions revolve around these core beliefs:

1. Know that you become the story you choose to tell. It’s how institutions make meaning from the arc of their history, and operate with a sense of destiny to create purpose that propels them into the future. This story is what students and employers buy into. You must articulate your story so it’ll appeal to your right-fit students. 

2. Celebrate students, not the institution, as the real heroes of your story. The best programs realize that students, alumni and faculty — not the institution — are the real heroes of a program’s story. Celebrate their journeys and the consequential problems of humanity they are solving.

3. Prove your brand claims. Buyers are both intelligent and skeptical. Persuade them by providing proofs in the form of stories, stats and third-party validations. Gather them and go long on proofs and short on claims in your messaging.

4. Romance prospects with high-fidelity websites story landing pages. Higher-fidelity academic and story landing pages attract higher quality students. They are the “money pages” used by value-minded prospects to make their program choices. Build them with the right balance of persuasion architecture, science of conversions, and beauty. Assure the prospects that the value of their degree far exceeds its cost. Inform, persuade, engage, inspire, delight and convert prospects. 

5. Pursue right-fit students. Invert the admissions funnel by marketing your students and alumni heroes to attract more like-minded prospects. This will create admission pipes, not funnels. Expect these right-fit students to go on to become engaged citizens, brand ambassadors, recruiters, partners and donors. Hunt like sharks; don’t feed like whales.

6. Surround and engage prospects and influencers where they hang out. Fish where the fish are. Allocate marketing investments in digital channels where students roam. Invest marketing dollars in digital channels where influencers live.

7. Deploy A/B testing and AI smarts in targeting.  In your paid advertising, use methodologies like micro-segmentation, look-alikes, machine learning, big-data algorithms and affinity groups to generate high-quality right-fit leads.

8. Claim your thought leadership. Weaponize your content based on your program’s natural wellspring of ideas, innovation and thought leadership with a thoughtful search engine optimization strategy, keywords and social sharing. Insist that each and every piece of content your department produces is “juiced” with keywords, so your program can secure its rightful Google page 1 rankings. Don’t surrender top search rankings for your program to competitors and lead aggregators.

9. Measure what matters. As management guru Peter Drucker said, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Create a culture of disciplined accountability with a shared dashboard of key performance indicators. Define a set of essential metrics that truly matter. Gather them and be decisive in taking action based on data.

10. Reinforce integrated marketing with boots-on-the-ground efforts. Boots-on-the-ground efforts include forging partnerships with undergraduate programs, stimulating alumni networks, cultivating relationships with corporations, giving webinars, attending industry conferences, nurture feeders, follow-up with prospects on a timely basis, and a whole lot more. When integrated marketing and boots-on-the-ground efforts mutually enhance each other, they liberate fresh new growth. It takes a combination of air game and ground game to grow graduate enrollment.

If you are seeking an enrollment marketing agency to increase and grow your graduate enrollment, consider partnering with us.

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A breed of automated website builder platforms have recently emerged in the market. At first glance, they are attractive because content marketers without any coding and programming knowledge can build a website quickly. However, the websites they generate are cookie-cutter, bloated, not SEO friendly, and not ADA compliant.  They may be okay for frugal small business and non-mission-critical websites, but they don’t stand a chance at becoming engines for liberating revenue for fast-growing small, medium and enterprise companies. Mission-critical websites need custom argument construction on key pages, lightening speed, SEO friendliness, and ADA compliance. 

For mission-critical websites, Elliance has created Smart Page Builder to create custom websites that are easy to manage and operate by non-technical content marketers. Our Smart Page Builder:

  • revolutionizes website development by providing an intuitive interface that allows content marketers with varying technical skills to create and customize web pages easily. 
  • streamlines the website development process and reduces the need for coding knowledge.
  • democratizes website creation and empowers individuals and businesses to quickly build professional-looking websites without relying on dedicated developers, fostering efficiency and creativity in the web development landscape.
  • enables content marketers to construct custom arguments on different pages of the website, including the ability to construct new pages with LEGO-like building blocks such as:
    • multi-column copy blocks
    • reusable, shared content blocks
    • product/service cards
    • related products/services
    • carousels
    • accordions
    • tabs
    • photo and video galleries
    • quotes and testimonials
    • tagged content, news, events and people feeds
    • forms and form embeds
    • callouts
    • and a whole lot more
  • empowers content marketers to manage secure access using ACLs, create workflows, preview before publish, review audit trails and roll-back changes.
  • creates SEO friendly websites that are light in code and load fast on smart phones, tablets and desktops alike.
  • creates ADA compliant websites.

Interested in building a mission-critical manufacturing website with our Smart Page Builder that’ll liberate corporate growth? Let’s talk.

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To combat shrinkage in college-bound high school students, higher education enrollment marketing professionals are developing strategies for winning an outsized share of the online, adult, graduate and international student markets. In other blog posts, I’ve shared our playbooks for increasing and significantly growing adultgraduate and international students enrollment. In this blog post, I’ll address strategies for recruiting online students.

In growing enrollment for online  programs for the past 25 years for numerous colleges and universities, we have learned three things: First, students can’t buy your programs or buy-into your college unless they can find you on Google page one or are referred by satisfied peers and friends; Second, you must build student support and flexibility into every aspect of your online offerings; Third, someone on your team must play the role of chief experience officer who views the entire student experience from their perspective.

To succeed, higher education institutions must deploy a unique balance of the marketing air-game, boots-on-the-ground game and follow-up contact strategies.

ASSESS THE SITUATION

Appraise the college’s situation by immersing yourself in the college data and touch points:

  1. Asses your brand. Are you a local brand, regional brand, state brand, super-regional brand or a national brand. Your brand elasticity will determine how far from your campus locations you can realistically recruit from. A strong brand platform will also attract right-fit students who will stay and finish their degree.
  2. Evaluate your online enrollment data. Is the majority of your online enrolled students coming from within 100 miles of your campus locations? Study admissions funnel data carefully. Which part of the funnel is facing the biggest loss and melt?
  3. Know your signature online programs, portfolio online programs, and remaining online offerings. Know the online programs that are oversubscribed, undersubscribed and at-risk. Why? Because you won’t be able to spread your budgets evenly across all programs. You must play favorites and you’ll have to create smart portfolio groupings.
  4. Assess your website and perform an SEO audit. Leads from your website will out-convert the paid leads by 3-folds. Google page 1 is destiny.
  5. Benchmark cross-app competitors. Know who is ahead of you and who is behind you.
  6. Define right-fit students. These are the kind of students you want more of. There might be different definitions of right-fit amongst women, men, military/veterans, working professionals, Hispanics, African Americans, and others.
  7. Know your referral rate. Referrals produce some of the best quality leads. The best colleges graduate happy students who become the largest source of future students. Satisfied graduates bring trust and credibility which helps prospects cut through the clutter of choices and marketing.
  8. Understand what your prospects value the most about the institution (brand, salary bump, job placement, peers, alumni,, faculty thought leadership, etc.). Don’t operate blindly.
  9. Allocate competitive marketing budgets. Most non-profit colleges and universities are investing between 2% and 5% of their total revenue on marketing, when they ought to be investing at least 10%.  Small and medium sized colleges are increasingly competing against a growing club of for-profit colleges and public universities that are investing more than 20% of their revenue or greater than $100M in marketing.
  10. Perform SWOT. Face reality head-on.

PLAN: BEFORE YOU START OFFERING ONLINE DEGREE PROGRAMS

1. Acknowledge the Psychic Battle of Hope and Doubt

Even though online education has become more mainstream, online students are typically working professionals who wrestle with competing forces.

On one side of this timeless battle, the chariots of hope gallop forward. Ambition simmers in them. Stars are lining up. The online students are ready to make the leap. 

On the other side, the demons of doubt rise in them: Am I too old? Have I been out of school too long? Am I qualified? Will I be able to keep up? Can I get there? Can I afford it? Will I be able to balance my family life, job and college? Will I fail?

It’s against this backdrop that colleges offer online programs and online degree completion programs.

2. Offer Online Degrees in Ideal Formats

Offer your online programs in formats that are convenient for working professionals. Most adults prefer asynchronous formats so they can pace themselves. If your programs are synchronous, offer them in the evenings and weekends. Give a technology orientation seminar so students are able to be effective from the very start.

3. Offer Adult Programs in Ideal Starts

Online students like frequent starts for courses, ideally every 8 to 12 weeks, and need the flexibility to pause and restart without penalty.

4. Invest in Online Learning Platform and Online Instructional Design

For online programs, student experience wholly depends on the quality of your teaching materials and ease-of-use of your learning platform. Don’t cut corners.

ACTIVATE MARKETING “AIR GAME”

WEBSITE: THE ULTIMATE CONVERSION MACHINE

Your website is one of the most important touch points for online prospects because it is the #1 lead and application generation tool for online programs. You’ll be judged and evaluated by its quality and beauty.

  • Inform it by market research insights.  Since most online students are working professionals who are paying tuition from their own pockets, they value flexibility and tuition freezes.
  • Invest in high-fidelity academic program pages.  Program pages, what we call “money pages” on a college website, are where many college decisions are made and college preferences are created. Even though the colleges are asking students to pony up fees that are close to the price of expensive cars, it’s rare to find the level of romance and presentation that even economy car companies put into their entry-level model pages. Instead of settling with bland program pages packed with facts, the VPs of Enrollment Marketing must create program pages that romance prospects and their families. They must feature stories of enrolled students, faculty, facilities, studios, and centers of excellence where the students’ minds will be shaped and skills will be developed. They must paint pictures of exciting opportunities that await them after graduation and offer stories of alumni as demonstrable proof of their program’s distinction.
  • Make it beautiful. Romance prospects. Merchandise hope.
  • Make it search engine friendly. Inform it with a Keyword Lexicon. Bake best practices in search engine optimization (SEO) into all aspects of it. Ensure that your online academic program pages, faculty and the university magazine stories are all ranked on Google page one.
  • Spotlight online enrolled students, alumni and alumni chapters in the institutional website, brochures, and social media. If students can’t see others like themselves there, they simply won’t show interest. They also rely heavily on word-of-mouth from friends. Craft brand messaging and content that is inclusive of people of different races, socio-economic status, career stages and faiths.
  • Prominently feature institutional reputation points because students use them as short-cuts.
  • Feature proof points of your commitment to various student profiles. For instance, working professionals would like to know that you have the support system in place for them. Similarly, African American and Hispanic students don’t wish to stand out like sore thumbs and want to know if the college has the support infrastructure for them to graduate on time.
  • Create customized admissions, financial aid and scholarships sections for adult students that address their unique needs.
  • Be prepared to create an online admissions microsite. If your design template and CMS constraints don’t let you mirror the website user experience with your target audience, be prepared to create a new admissions microsites.
  • Track website performance.  Carefully track prospect journey and conversion performance. Adjust it until it starts performing optimally.

PAID ADVERTISING: HUNT LIKE SHARKS. DON’T FEED LIKE WHALES.

Search, Social and Media Advertising paid platforms are all powered by algorithms that maximize their own profits with little regard for a marketer’s investments. To offset the algorithm’s greedy tendency, use sensible campaign management techniques to tune, optimize and micro-manage various aspects of the campaigns.

  • Deploy new paid advertising methodologies based on what the right-fit students value, micro-segments, look-alikes, A/B testing, geo-targeting, machine learning, big-data algorithms and affinity groups.
  • Use the latest best practices to create high-converting digital ad creative. Run A/B tests to feed the champs and starve the chumps.
  • Direct prospects to brand-infused, high-fidelity, story landing pages. Infuse brand, ROI, cogent argument construction, differentiators, calls-to-action, ROI stats and facts into the creative. Again, run A/B tests with copy and images to feed the winners and starve the losers.
  • Choose the ad platforms wisely. Not all paid channels perform equally. Google generates solid leads for most pre-professional online degrees. Online students convert best on Facebook/Instagram and YouTube, but not on Snapchat and Tik Tok.
  • Carefully track prospect journey and campaign performance so you can determine the right keywords, the right messaging, the right platforms, and the right landing pages. More importantly, so you can answer the pivotal question: where should you invest your precious marketing dollars in the next 12 months.
  • Use sensible campaign management techniques such as budget optimization, bid management, keyword management, audience optimization and judicious management of algorithmic recommendations.

ACTIVATE INBOUND/SEO MARKETING: GET FOUND ON GOOGLE/BING PAGE ONE.

Mobilize search engine optimization (SEO) and your content marketing engine to dominate search engines. Remember four things.

First, research shows that when colleges “get found” via organic Google page one results, prospects trust them more. Google page one organic results command over 90% of click share, and generate close to two-thirds of inquiries. Organic inquiries tend to form long-term relationships with the universities and they tend to melt away at a reduced rate. 

Second, leads generated from Google organic rankings tend to be like-minded and outperform paid advertising leads by three-folds.

Third, the best prospects prefer to “discover” the college of their choice through “accidental finds” on Google page one and word-of-mouth on social media.

Fourth, SEO marketing is a long game. It takes several months to achieve local and regional rankings, and often a year or more to achieve national and international rankings.

In light of these, we recommend that the college:

  • Develop smart foundational SEO. Establish a multi-year rankings plan for securing Google/Bing page one rankings.
  • Start by creating a Keyword Lexicon with keyword clusters, frequently asked questions, and natural language queries. Ensure it include keyword buckets for academic programs, thought leadership, brand, geographic, decisioning, and reputation. Also ensure that the keywords span the entire student decision journey, all the way from awareness, to consideration, to decision and beyond.
  • Optimize all your online academic program pages. Ensure that the information that appears on search engine results is persuasive, aspirational and inviting.
  • Because rankings weaken over time and search engines reward fresh content, marketers must create a continuous stream of high quality, trusted and relevant content (such as articles, blog posts, videos, infographics, white papers, thought leadership articles, social posts, quizzes, games, etc.) and ignite it via promotion and conversation-starters to encourage peer-to-peer sharing. We call this the inverted admissions funnel strategy, which attracts and converts like-minded prospects.
  • Monitor your search engine rankings and traffic to identify which pieces of content are performing well and adjust your emphasis accordingly.

CONDUCT EMAIL MARKETING CAMPAIGNS

  • Email marketing is most effective with house lists, and as joint marketing campaign with related niche organizations; purchased lists convert poorly. Carefully track prospect journey and campaign performance.

COMMUNICATE WITH INFLUENCERS

Instead of making a shortlist of colleges on their own, online students are heavily influenced by the opinions of their social network of peers, co-workers and friends.

  • Instead of investing most of their marketing dollars on targeting students directly, reach out to corporate HR departments, trade associations, and senior managers who manage working professionals in need of a degree to advance their careers.  This creates a stereophonic set of messages that surround and engage an online prospect with what’s distinctive about a college.

INFLUENCE RANKING AND RATING AGENCIES

  • Although colleges have an ambivalent relationship with college rankings, prospective students tend to gravitate towards the best ranked colleges they can afford to attend. Smart colleges routinely influence these ratings by creating committees that proactively affect ranking factors such as peer perception, student satisfaction, student placement rates, and salary data.

Each of these paid, earned and owned media strategies are good alone, but better together.

MOBILIZE BOOTS ON THE “GROUND GAME”

  1. Recruit Online Student Ambassadors. Ask them to share their positive experiences and insights with their friends. Ask them to welcome new students.
  2. Facilitate Student Visits and Tours. College visits are moments of truth. Face-to-face interactions during college visits, alumni outreach, and admitted student days improve the number of high-quality leads and admissions yield.  Students remember a college that reaches out to them in a timely, caring, personal and organized manner. Successful colleges work very hard in casting and directing volunteers, tour guides, work study and junior staff — ensuring the talking points, presentations, touch points and tour details are all curated and orchestrated perfectly. God is in the details.
  3. Befriend Community Colleges. The more the number of community colleges you build partnerships with, the higher your enrollment will be.
  4. Cultivate Relationships with Corporate HR and Training Directors. Corporations hope to retain employees by fostering their intellectual development. Corporate training programs are one means of doing that, but encouraging employees to get their next degree is the other means.
  5. Cultivate Strong Relationship with Surrounding Communities. Become known as the friendly online education provider in your region. The goodwill generated will pay off handsomely.

DEPLOY “FOLLOW-UP” CONTACT STRATEGIES

All your marketing investments will be wasted unless you build a solid follow-up system for inquiries and applications.

  1. Follow-up with inquiries on a timely basis. Respond quickly. Keep it human. Recruit friends and colleagues to become secret shoppers for your university — and ask them about their experience.
  2. Deploy a personalized contact strategy for every stage of the admissions funnel to maximize yield. Know what prospects and influencers need at every stage of the admissions funnel, and meet their needs. Pay as much attention to admission yield communications and follow-up processes as you do to lead-generation and lead-nurturing communications. Offset reduced contact with stealth applicants by stepping up the game at each touch point. 
  3. Deploy a unique contact strategy for applications to prevent melt.  The application is the new lead. Treat admitted students with the same care as you treat leads. Deploy drip campaigns, accepted student days, early orientation, and welcome reception.
  4. Deploy a unique contact strategy for applications to prevent melt.  The application is the new lead. Treat admitted students with the same care as you treat leads. Deploy drip campaigns, accepted student days, early orientation, and welcome reception.
  5. Make it easy for them to succeed. Designate counselors and coaches who assist with registration, scheduling, waiting lists as well as transportation, work-school balance, health issues, and psychological support.

Remember two things. First, a broken inquiry and application follow-up process reflects poorly on the entire brand. Second, don’t let automation get in the way of personalized and timely follow-up because there are no short-cuts for old-fashioned, human-centered relationship building.

If you are seeking an online enrollment marketing agency for increasing and significantly growing your online enrollment, consider partnering with us.

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