Insights in Higher Education: Jeremy Thompson, Lesley University

by Don Martelli | Thought Leadership
August 23, 2016

A college graduation is a moment in time where family and friends watch their graduate walk across the stage with a big smile and a piece of paper that says they put in the work. As many know, getting to that point isn’t easy and reaching that accomplishment is a journey.

Jeremy Thompson, Lesley University
Jeremy Thompson,
Lesley University

Before that journey begins, however, there’s another that students take, which is designed by creative, personalized and data-formed marketing campaigns. Behind those marketing campaigns are folks like Jeremy Thompson, Assistant Vice President for Marketing at Lesley University.

Founded in 1909, Lesley excels at preparing students for careers in the arts, education, and mental health through undergraduate and graduate programs at its main campus in Cambridge, MA, extension sites across the country, and online. In a highly competitive market, Lesley’s strong reputation as a university that values individual attention, practice-based learning, and applied creativity is evidenced by its 84,000 alumni making a difference in communities around the world.

Recently, the higher education team at Belfort Group chatted with Thompson about the work he and his team have undertaken to create a marketing journey to attract and engage students – a journey rooted in data.

“We use a complicated, layered data model that matches traditional demographic and geographic characteristics with consumer behaviors,” Thompson said. “Using this methodology has allowed us to optimize our inquiry pool for both quantity and quality. The data shows us what’s working and what isn’t, so we can adjust our strategy accordingly.”

When asked about any magic bullet or channels that work better than others, Thompson sighed a bit, chuckled, and said, “There is no magic bullet, which is why analyzing data – constantly – is so important. For example, using data analysis, we’ve intentionally reduced the lead volume for our undergraduate programs by several thousand and increased new enrollments more than 25%, simply by focusing on leads that have the highest probability of converting.”

Thompson understands that what’s working now may not work tomorrow, so it’s important to keep marketing programs flexible and scalable.

“Following the data has allowed us to target different populations with different messages based on several characteristics, ultimately identifying a set of prospects that have behaviors and interests that align most closely with our brand,” Thompson said. “This approach has taken shape over the last several years. Like many of our colleagues at other universities, we’re becoming much more disciplined about looking at data and making decisions based on it.”

The task, as many who work in higher education know, is daunting. Finding the right prospect. Getting them initially engaged. Nurturing them into a qualified lead. Bringing them through the deposited stage. And, finally, having them show up on campus on day one.

Through it all, Thompson said, the tough work is rewarding.

“Our team doesn’t have the opportunity to interact with students as much as many other faculty and staff at Lesley,” Thompson said. “This is why we always volunteer to work at commencement.  It’s one time among a handful throughout the year that reminds me why we do what we do. It’s all about the students.”

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