MA in digital communications - needs an internet marketing consultant

Ed Marsh | Oct 17, 2014

It's going, going, going....foul ball

OK - a bit late in the year for a baseball analogy (although it would have been interesting to have a KC vs. STL series for all the folks that refer our manufacturing and agriculture belts as "flyover states"!)

But that baseball 'call' occasionally comes to mind when I come across a bit of marketing that really works - it grabs my interest and only once I'm moving down the sales funnel do I consciously recognize what it's doing - and then really disappoints.  

Last month I wrote about one that veered way off into foul territory after ripping past third well in fair territory.  Today I had another - this is the tale of that head shaking exercise.

Alumni news

I receive an incessant stream of fundraising emails from a variety of colleges - my own and my kids'.  I haven't bothered to write incoming mail rules for them yet....but we're getting close.  But sometimes there's worthwhile stuff, and yesterday's mail offered information on a new Masters program in Communications with an available concentration in Digital Communication.

The concentration was described as "The concentration in digital communication examines the strategic use of digital technologies for communication professionals. This concentration addresses how to use the Web and social media to reach out to diverse publics and how to incorporate digital with traditional communication campaigns. Courses include effective Web design and strategy, public relations in the digital age, using digital and social media, and devising a digital strategy for a non-profit organization. Digital communication tools are an important part of the modern communication workplace. Students must complete at least three of the following electives."

Interesting, I thought.  I wasn't quite sure why I wanted to know more except that I hold the school in high regard academically, I live in the digital communications space and I exchange ideas with lots of folks who might be candidates for this.  Maybe it would be of professional development value to a junior internet marketing consultant.  So I wanted to know more - and the email invited me to complete a form "if you'd like to know more."

Perfect!  That was me.  So happily I completed the form.

Not info, a phone call

That's where we hit the first snag.  Upon submitting the form I didn't receive an email or link directing me to additional info, but was told to stand by for a call from a rep.  "Well" I thought to myself, "I'm like all those folks that want to research something without talking to a rep.  I don't want to talk to anybody.  But maybe they'll just send me some information after a quick call."

I went merrily on my way until my phone rang today with an unrecognized number...and I answered it.

Recorded no less

"Can I speak with Ed?"

"Maybe.  Who's calling?"

"This is XXX from XXX.  You submitted a form asking us to call you."

"This is Ed.  I actually...."

"Before we go any further I need to inform you this call is being recorded."

"OK.  Well we probably don't need a call yet, recorded or otherwise.  I actually just wanted to get some information."

And suddenly we're talking admissions

"But that's not the way our admissions process works.  I need to speak to you first to determine if you're potentially qualified."

"Admissions process?  What?  I just wanted info on the program.  Is there something you can send me?"

"It sounds like you're not ready to talk seriously.  Let me just send you an email with something on the program and if you decide you want to look into education opportunities further you can call me."

"That's probably best...." I said as I shook my head.

Pretty far foul

So two things jump out at me.

First, in a couple weeks it's going to hit the fan between marketing and sales.  Marketing's going to trumpet their lead generation prowess and sales is going to squawk about the poor quality of the leads.  "What a bunch of unqualified crap" they'll assert.  You know the script.  You've sat through that conversation before.

Second, there's a completely dysfunctional marketing and sales effort.  

  • Where's the understanding of buyers journey?  Someone gets a prospecting top-of-the-funnel email and moves immediately to submit an application and send a $10K chunk of a $60 investment?  In what world does that happen?  Where's the "communications" content that would move someone through the complex journey toward that sort of decision?
  • Where's the understanding of personas? Am I the only one in the world that thought it might be a program of value to others I know?  What options do they offer to share with others?  Is their only target persona the person who's decided to pursue an advanced degree for themselves sometime in the next 15 minutes?  Clearly they haven't even tackled the tactical execution steps that an internet marketing consultant might take them through - much less the strategic elements.
  • What has the sales team been told to expect?  Who's trained them on how to call this sort of "lead"? (vs. one which hits the website searching for a "Masters in Digital Communications" specifically)  The answer is clear - there's been no collaboration between sales & marketing (even less than one typically sees) an no sales enablement training or content created.

The hypocrisy

Of course the ultimate takeaway from this experience is that when the program's own digital communication is so poorly conceived it seems unlikely that the program merits referral.

But I can hear it now.  In a couple months when admissions numbers are disappointing someone will suggest a social media fix.  Maybe even woowoo.  That might be the answer.  Or maybe the academics will decide to engage an internet marketing consultant to help get them on track...

So for now, save your money and your evenings/weekends.  Skip this MA in Digital Communications.  But want to know more about internet marketing?  Check out our free guide.

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