For the last few months, I’ve been doing freelance and consulting work at my amazing, stupendous digital marketing agency, Gas Mark 8. It’s been an interesting time, and I’ve learned so much about managing a business. It’s been more than just web and programming, WordPress, design, video and more. I’m talking accounting, bookkeeping, expenses, and so on. It’s been a crash course, that honestly, was easier to do when it was just a side hustle.

Welcome to the inbox of my discontent

One of my institutions I’m working with at the moment is my old employer, where I was head of marketing. While I miss that role and the people terribly, there’s one thing I don’t miss. That’s the endless parade of cold calls, sales inquiry emails and, shockingly, the random drop-in at my office from a potential vendor. Not cool.

I’ve needed to get my old email address back as most people on campus had it saved in their email clients and I was missing emails. Since getting it back, I’m shocked at what comes into that mailbox.

There’s mail from lists I never signed up for. Mail from companies that don’t offer services relevant to higher education web and marketing. WordPress comment notifications.

What’s surprised me the most is the flood of cold-call emails from sales people. In the last week, I’ve seen all the classics, including:

  • I didn’t hear back from you a week ago and here’s another email?
  • You didn’t respond, so here’s an email trying to be funny or cute with a gif or emoji
  • You don’t know me, but can you talk for 10 minutes today?
  • License a magazine logo that gave your school a good ranking

I know most of these are automated, but if your mail system and/or sales CRM sees that I didn’t open an email from you for the last two years, wouldn’t you remove me from your list? Why would you continue to hammer my inbox for something I was never going to even see?

It’s not like sales people and the automated systems aren’t checking for new data. Every week, LinkedIn tells me I showed up dozens of searches a week. I initially thought (and wrote on Twitter) that was a ton of people looking to offer me jobs (spoilers: it wasn’t, sadly. Instead, I learned  sales people are using the site to scrape for info. Daniel Kraciun hit me up with some good info:

Given that info, you would think people would update their stale list and see that I last worked for that particular employer two years and as many jobs ago.

I guess at the end of day, these bad practices stun me. It’s never been easier to get current information about people, and yet people aren’t doing a good job of it.

What does this mean for Higher Ed?

Let me tie this into higher education marketing. Are we doing the similar things in our space?

I ask because I am going through the college search process with my son. He is getting dozens of emails a week from schools all over the country (and he should, he’s amazing.)

Screenshot from an emailWhat I’ve found interesting is that even after he demonstrates interest by attending an open house, or visiting campus, he’s still getting “search” emails from one of the several vendors we all outsource our search emails to.

Talk about mixed messages. He’s constantly asking me if he should respond to another “search” email asking him to confirm his interest. This is happening even after he’s emailed the admissions office, took a tour, and talked with a faculty member. Someone’s list is now stale. It’s clear the campus CRM and the vendor platforms aren’t communicating well, if at all.

That might not seem like a big deal, but it could be very detrimental.

It just takes a small bit of confusion and people, like us, will end up ignoring the emails or removing ourselves from that school’s list, and that’s that. With so many choices in terms of higher ed, it feels like it doesn’t take much to cross a school off the list. If I have to do a ton of work just to see if you want me (or my son) to attend, we’re gonna pass. Time is, after all, money.

Don’t let this happen to your institution!

A QR Code generated by WeChat

A QR Code generated by WeChat

Since I switched jobs last year, I’m now managing a marketing team with team members in the UK and one in China. It’s been very interesting to learn about marketing in China and what works and doesn’t. It’s been a big shift from higher ed, but one I’ve enjoyed learning about. I’ve only scratched the surface so far, and I know I have much more to learn over the coming months and years.

What has surprised me is that with the rise of social mega-services like WeChat, one technology that never quite caught on here continues to explode there.

That’s right, our friend, the QR code.

The sad, maligned QR code. The things that’s had books written about it.

What’s been at most a novelty here, is serious business there. It’s not just for social either, QR codes are everywhere in Asia, and China especially. If anything, the demand for them is rising.

We’ve been using them for awhile, but they are a key part of our messaging in that region of the world. We put them on some printed materials, and we made favicards at Jakprints this year with a QR code that takes users to our brand’s WeChat page. Jakprints even tweeted them out:

Last night, my father sent me a picture from a McDonald’s in China where he’s travelling for business. Yes, the self-ordering and payment kiosk could be a post about the coming change in employment due to automation, but also pay attention to the QR codes prominently displayed on the side graphics. I don’t know where that QR code leads, but they’re not going away in China anytime soon.

I’m writing from Boston, where I spoke yesterday at the EduWeb conference.

EduWeb LogoIt’s my second time at EduWeb – my friend and colleague Josh Tysiachney and I spoke at this conference in 2008 in Atlantic City. That was the time many of us got stuck in Philadelphia post-EduWeb due to weather.

Yesterday, I spoke about my experiences of transitioning from being the “web guy” to being in charge of more of the marketing at my institution in a session entitled “A Web Yankee in King Marketing’s Court.”

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