As someone who was bought up in Southampton that's a pretty hard blog title to write!

For a change I thought I'd write a post about the work we do to support other teams in the department. As part of MARC (Marketing, Admissions, Recruitment and Communications) there is a lot of cross over in what we do in attracting and helping students. My team's role has overlaps with all of the above functions whether it be assisting them with their web presence, answering questions on social media, monitoring brand mentions or attending recruitment fairs...

The two day Hampshire recruitment fair
All staff in the MARC department are required to attend at least one UCAS convention a year as it's a great chance to get out of the office and to shadow our Recruitment team. When choosing which fair I should attend I decided to go back to where it all began and head back down south to the University of Portsmouth (where I studied many moons ago!)

So Michelle (from the Marketing team) and I set off on a Wednesday night armed with boxes of pens and enquiry forms for the three hour journey to Old Portsmouth. It was definitely a help that the area had not changed at all since I was last there (or the university) and we found our hotel with no trouble at all knowing that we'd need a restful night!
After a hearty breakfast we then set off to the student union and I enjoyed giving Michelle a tour of my old haunts (not sure she did!) We were stand number ten (being 'B' in the alphabet is a definite positive for our positioning) and our haulage company had already delivered our stands for us to build along with our prospectuses and freebies. What I found interesting was how old fashioned these fairs were, with most universities just having a branded table cloth and a pile of prospectuses. I decided to setup my laptop with our corporate film playing which did draw a lot of attention throughout the day. Then the hordes of prospective students descended...!

Roll up, roll up! Between us we managed
to get over 100 enquiries a day
It was definitely a busy few days with coach loads of students from local colleges walking the floors. Some were great with a real idea of what they wanted to study and where and we absolutely smashed our target of completed enquiry forms.  We also were one of the only stands to be giving out freebies (light bulb stress balls and tote bags) and I took sympathy on some people carrying arm fulls of prospectuses and just gave them a bag anyway.

Day two was actually busier and were both pretty tired from an epic pool tournament at the hotel the night before (no comment on who won). Again, I found it interesting to see how we had a bigger focus on collecting data than some other universities and also which of our subjects were most popular among our enquirers. We also had to tell a number of people where Bedfordshire is - I'm guessing that's not such a problem for more local fairs!

HMS Warrior (1860)
We finished at 3pm on the second day which left a bit of time for sightseeing at the historic dockyard and a decent meal at Gunwharf Quays. I also managed to find some HMS Victory rock to bring back to the team from one of the gift shops (ever the tourist...)

There's no doubt that these fairs are very important in raising awareness of our university and for gathering leads. My main feeling was that there is also a lot of scope to try and improve the interactive nature of the stands like at similar trade shows. I'm sure that with the sector becoming increasingly competitive this is something we're likely to see in the future.

For my next post I'll be returning to familiar territory as we film our second cinema advert on Wednesday. We've got a slightly different style for this one so watch this space for a full production diary!
This is usually the time of year that we can experiment a bit with our marketing activities to get some customer insight on what generates the best return on investment (and what doesn't!) Usually this means we trial a few small online campaigns to allow us develop a really robust plan for our clearing activity. However, we've just hit upon something which not only could teach us a lot but also allows us an even better way to reach our target demographic.

We've all seen examples of bad
re-marketing that can literally
take hours to remove or rectify!
Re-marketing is something we've been using on a small scale for a while. This is basically where a potential customer visits a website and is then targeted with their adverts forever on any site they subsequently visit. I know from experience that this can definitely get pretty annoying. The user feels like they're being stalked and in many cases it does more harm, to the brand using it, than good. I've definitely seen lots of bad examples of this in the past (mentioning no names!) where one innocent Google search destroys your browsing experience forever.

This is why, up until now, we've been cautious with our approach. However, a recent UI Refresh from Google has made it a lot easier to target meaningful adverts and track them in Google Analytics. As usual, we've been working with Ranjit at Statistics Into Decisions to get this up and running on our site and by just adding a bit of code we're now good to go.

One day's worth of data showing the
common interests of our site visitors
After spending a few days looking at this there's very little we can't do all from our analytics account. For example, we now get really good data on the sites our visitors go to after they go to ours. this can show us anything from their common interests to which of our competitors they are looking at for which courses. One thing I was very pleased to see was the amount of 'Movie lovers' we have who visit us - meaning our cinema advert was money well spent!

The segmentation options are always very simple to use and we can either import our existing lists or create new ones. The one option we definitely will use is targeting only people who visit key areas of the site (i.e 'Open days') and we'll ensure that there's a clear cap on the length of time they see our adverts with useful information.
We already learning a great deal about the type of person who is interested in coming to Bedfordshire to compliment our current data set and with the ability to add a myriad of filters can ensure we don't do more harm than good and oversell with blanket advertising across the internet!

In other news the team has been monitoring and tweaking our pre-clearing campaign which seems to be performing pretty well and I've been continuing to champion the cause for the right usage of social media. In particular I've been working on a report for our International Centre who are investigating a strategy to engage and highlight further their great research. The report looks at mentions, sentiment and common themes in order for them to see how they are currently perceived and how they can keep up the momentum that culminated in their recent Queen's award.

Portsmouth spinnaker - I remember
voting for this design way back in 1999!
Last of all, this week will see a couple of interesting new initiatives within the team, as on Tuesday we're meeting with Spectrecom to discuss an exciting new video project (more on that in the next post). I'm also off to 'Pompey' on Thursday and Friday to do my bit in assisting with staffing a stall for a recruitment fair. In our department we're obliged to do one of these a year and the reason I chose this one is that I studied in Portsmouth for my degree. I'm intending to take a bit of time to also see how much it's changed down south and re-visit some of my old haunts. I hope Kingfisher is still there as they used to serve the best fish and chips on the south coast!
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