Read the Transcript:
Bob Martin: Our guests on today’s episode of Career College Center Radio are David Guy, the cofounder and chief executive officer of Storylift, and Lauren Swink, director of client services at Storylift. As some of our audience may not know, Storylift goes beyond simply targeting demographics and behaviors, identifying the attitudes and affinities of your ideal candidate. They ensure that the right messages reach the right audience. With Storylift, you can get many different benefits, but their targeting capabilities are what truly differentiate them.
Lee Doubleday: For-profit educational institutions recruit almost 2.5 million students a year. So, you can imagine the competition for marketing to potential students, which is why we wanted to focus our conversation around four ways to utilize the top of the funnel and attitudinal targeting with Storylift. Welcome to the show, David and Lauren.
David Guy: Thank you. Good to be here.
Lauren Swink: Thank you, Lee. Thank you, Bob.
Bob: Hey, David and Lauren. Let’s just jump right in. Let’s start off very briefly. If you wouldn’t mind defining how you use the term funnel, and what is the top of the funnel? What does that mean, and exactly what are we talking about for our audience, so they get an idea?
David: Yeah. I think a lot of people use the marketing funnel as an anecdote to describe the transition someone takes from an intent marker, which is an inquiry, to an interview, to a application, to a start, right? We’re very familiar with that funnel where the individual has self-identified themselves or responded to an ad or organic search or referral, and they’ve begun the process of the application and enrollment. We think it’s—not just across the education space, but across a lot of different verticals—it’s important for organizations to think of the lead funnel as something that starts beyond or before any intent marker. So, for us, when we say top of the funnel, we mean how do we identify candidates or leads or audiences that have not expressed an intent marker, haven’t been given to you as a referral, haven’t responded to an ad—how do you identify those people and figure out ways to reach them in authentic new ways? So, for us, that’s what we mean by top of the funnel. It’s the absolute beginning of the thought process. How do you implant the thought into someone’s mind that, “I could go back and get to school? I could better my life, and I could move—” and then how do we take that person and move them from that initial discovery of the idea into the traditional intent marker, where the traditional lead funnel starts for most schools?
Lee: Okay. All right. So now we’ve defined the top of the funnel. What are four ways to attract more people to the top of the funnel using social media? These are the people who, like you mentioned, are probably before inquiry.
Lauren: Yeah. So, we believe that social media is the best way for storytelling, so we like to tell that story through a variety of creatives and content. We’ve got four ways that we use to define these pieces. You can try presenting what the outcome could look like by painting a picture. We use a variety of media and content pieces to paint that picture to present a brighter future for these students, the opportunities that may be available to them. We want to note that everyone, they envision a bigger and brighter future in their career, and we create these content pieces to show where that can take them. So, testimonials would be a good example of how we may present this content to show real-life stories and examples of a student who have gone from maybe a part-time job waiting tables to a new career in the health care field. And to kind of paint a picture for what their life might look like 5, 10, 20 years from now, and how getting this degree can lead them to that future.
Second would be to play toward the audience affinities about creating content that is related, the most common affinity of your ideal candidate. So, for example, we would show how transitioning from again waiting tables to a career in the health care field may improve a way of life, but also what overlapping similarities and skills individuals may carry over into a new field. So how they can relate from what their current skill types may be into what a future career might be and how they can transition those skill sets.
Third would be don’t limit your possible reach. We want to start broad. So, like David was saying earlier with the top-of-funnel approach, we don’t want to define our audience immediately. We want to start broader and make sure that we’re reaching all possible audiences, and then you can segment those into different audience types and redirect those certain affinities, interests, likes, behaviors. So, with top of the funnel, you don’t want to segment would-be recruits too early—just, again, by assuming the demographics would narrow out specific audience types. You want to stick to more relatable topics like changing the world, making more money, having more freedom in their careers, more flexibility. We want to hit in those areas where there may be a void and bring to light many of the new opportunities available with a new degree. For example, maybe more structured work hours, flexibilities, ability to work remotely.
And then, finally, introducing new concepts. So subtly introduce a new idea or concept that your recruit might not have considered, like going back to school, for example. So, show how furthering your education may not only help lead to a new career but also the rewarding benefits that that career has to offer—and the skill sets that are going to provide them better opportunities in their future.
David: Right. To summarize, really, when you think about everything Lauren just said, really what it comes down to is the sweet spot for us—for anyone, when you’re trying to create a campaign to generate incremental demand before intent markers are displayed—is to make sure you’re really thinking about that overlap of attitudes and affinities. So, what are my pain points and who do I relate to? And that’s where the sort of the power of social comes in, where you can target with the right technologies around attitudes and affinities, but primarily the attitudinal targeting that we think is so important.
Lauren: Right. And it does provide more creative opportunities, as well, through videos, blogs, content spaces, etc., to be able to hit these people in different verticals.
Bob: Joining us today on this edition of Career College Central Radio is David Guy and Lauren Swink with Storylift. Let’s do a little bit deeper dive. Talk to me a little about—either one of you, because both of you obviously are very knowledgeable—talk to us a little bit about this attitudinal targeting topic issue. Why is that important? What is it and why is it important?
David: So, for us, attitudinal targeting is a term that we sort of coined, and it relates to the ability—primarily on social platforms but, to some degree, across display as well—to be able to segment people based on what they believe, think, and feel. Right? So, it’s one thing to say, “I just want to target 18- to 24-year-old females.” Right? It’s another thing to say, “I want to target 18- to 24-year-old females who really are fed up with being a waitress and are thinking heavily about starting a family and starting a career, providing for their families.” So what social allows us to do is to leverage almost seven years of research where we’ve combined in-depth, true market research with social data and other primarily social markers that allow us to be able to create and target segments that we think, feel, and believe a certain way. Again, we’re creating audience segments that have like markers that would lead us to be able to target them along these attitudes, so that when our media and content reaches them—all of which is paid—we’re able to speak to them in a voice that’s likely reaching the right target and is likely reaching them with the right message.
So, for us, attitudinal targeting is being able to leverage that data set that’s out there using our technology and other platforms that are out there to target at that level, which allows us to introduce topics at the aspiration point, right, where we’re engaging them with, “We know you’re frustrated with your current state. Here’s a solution.” And then we’re able to target them with that medium, which makes the medium buy much more efficient and gets us to a point where—which we may want to talk about a bit—how you’re not cannibalizing your other channels. So, for us, that’s the difference. We’re not targeting search terms. We’re not retargeting based on a pixel we placed. We’re not buying audience. We’re targeting attitudes and affinities in a way that allows the budgets that are deployed just to not cannibalize the core media budgets that our clients and schools have.
Lee: So, essentially, you are using attitudinal targeting technique to generate exclusive leads for schools that are not cannibalizing their own PPL campaigns or PPC campaigns. Is that correct?
David: Yeah, we think that’s the key differentiator. We see so much waste across the spectrum because, to your point when you opened the call, the landscape is so competitive. I mean, you can’t go five miles in most large urban centers without seeing competing schools. And they’re all competing. And we know geography is incredibly important, right? We’ve seen over the years that a five- to six-mile radius is really the max that you can draw efficiently. So, these schools are all overlapping. They’re targeting media very closely and they’re all buying the same keywords. Right? So, you’re not only competing with your own when you’re buying from PPL aggregators or you’re buying other PPL sources, you’re also competing with your own budget and the budget of other schools.
So, our ability to target and deploy media above that fray, lets people carve out media budget so that you’re creating incremental demand rather than competing with your current PPL sources and other. Our schools, the schools that we work with, as they allocate budget into this channel, really operate in a sweet spot in between organic and referral traffic and PPL. Our conversion rates typically end up somewhere in below organic search, but above PPL, because of the fact that we’re reaching people on an exclusive basis and generating incremental demand that isn’t being cannibalized by other media channels.
Bob: So, David and/or Lauren, would it be too far-fetched to say that what you’re doing now with Storylift might show us what the future’s going to be in this whole lead generation business?
David: Yeah, I think so. I think ultimately it’s not going to come as a surprise to anyone who listens to this podcast or is affiliated with your tools that one of the biggest pain points of all schools who are buying—anyone who buys leads—is the quality of those leads and how they’ve been worked over and beat to death almost, sometimes, before they get to a counselor. So, PPL, in and of itself, clearly will never go away. But as a channel, the room to grow there certainly is limited. It’s the most expensive channel, as everyone knows, and the quality of the lead candidates so the drain on resource time is incredibly hard, incredibly high. Most schools, I think the sweet spot for the number of applicants an enrollment agent can handle somewhere between 20 and probably 30, 35—max—a week. So, in order to do that, anything that can move the needle toward a higher quality lead and an incremental lead that isn’t being—where you’re not competing with another source or channel or school clearly makes everything more efficient from the top to the bottom.
So definitely, I believe that schools, especially in the EDU space, are desperate for ways where they can generate incremental demand that doesn’t come on a pay-per-lead basis. And that’s why we think some of what we talk about today is so important.
Lee: Yeah, that’s a good point. I like what you said there, because you’re not only competing with other schools to get the lead and talking to your admissions representatives, you’re still competing with those other schools because I guarantee they’re contacting that student, too.
David: That’s right. And kind of exponential, right? Because the odds that a candidate, once they engage with your rep, will then Google or Bing or search for that career or that school. It jumps incredibly, right? At which point then enters into the funnel for every other lead aggregator, every other school’s paid search program. So, the instant they come in, you’re immediately starting that competition process again afresh.
Lauren: Yeah. So, I’ll add, as an additional layer, you’re reaching—like David said—you’re reaching a fresh set of eyes. You’re reaching a different audience outside of these people who are already actively starting to go back to school. So they’re not being hammered by the ads. They’re not being hammered by the reps. It’s a fresh audience that’s new to the concept.
Lee: Yeah, right, which makes the admissions representatives’ jobs a lot easier to be able to transition them into starting.
David: That’s right.
Bob: We want to thank our guests today from Storylift for coming on today’s show with Lee and myself. If you have any questions about Storylift, any of the topics that we covered today, please feel free to check out our website in the contact information that will be included in the show notes on the website, which is at www.CareerCollegeCentral.com
On behalf of Lee Doubleday and myself, we’d like to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules and we hope you have a great day.