Storylift goes beyond simply targeting demographics and behaviors. By identifying the attitudes and affinities of your ideal candidate, we ensure the right message reaches the right audience. With Storylift, you get many unique benefits, but our targeting capabilities are what truly differentiate us from others.
1 Monckton Boulevard
Columbia, SC 29206
David is the cofounder and chief executive officer of Storylift. He manages the strategic growth of the company and is passionate about harnessing consumer data to clients’ goals.
Lauren is the director of client relations at Storylift. Lauren has been with the company for over five years, working with career colleges to better their social media marketing approach.
Read the Transcript:
|Lee Doubleday: The guests on today’s episode of Career College Central Radio are David Guy, the cofounder and chief executive officer at Storylift, and Lauren Swink, the director of client relations at Storylift. As you may or may not already know, Storylift goes beyond simply targeting demographics and behaviors. By identifying the attitudes and affinities of your ideal candidate, they ensure the right message reaches the right audience. With Storylift, you get many unique benefits, but their targeting capabilities are what truly differentiate them from others. Hybrid education was becoming more and more popular prior to COVID-19, but now the demand has doubled. Storylift’s market research team has discovered a shift in the interest in hybrid education, what students were looking for in their education, and what attracted them the most to the hybrid model. The demand for the hybrid model is what we would like to discuss on today’s podcast. Welcome to the show, David and Lauren.
|Lauren Swink: Hi, Lee. Thank you.
|David Guy: Thanks, Lee. Great to be back.
|Lee: Alright. Well, why don’t we start off by briefly defining the hybrid model? What exactly are we talking about here?
|Lauren: So, Lee, the hybrid model is basically the concept—in this case, from an educational approach—of a student having the option of working on their education remotely at home through online learning as well as in-person, face-to-face instruction. So, we’ve seen a lot lately, over the last year and a half or so, how remote work has changed and become a lot more popular recently. And the same has taken effect in the education sector. So, the popularity with hybrid learning has really increased over the last year and become more enticing to students and going back to school and furthering their education with the convenience and ability to, again, do some of their learning and studies from home, as well as having that face-to-face instruction as well.
|Lee: Yeah, I understand. You’re right, and I like the comparison that you made between the work environment and the school environment being semi-similar now. A lot of people are going into work maybe two or three days a week, but then the other days they’re working from home. It’s almost similar with a hybrid model, where maybe you’re going into class two days a week, but three days are online. And I can see why that’s a popular structure. So, I’m glad that we define the hybrid model. But why don’t we discuss now for a minute COVID-19’s impact on the hybrid models? What have you seen happening, specifically in the for-profit education space, as coming out of sort of the COVID-19 era?
|David: Yeah, so we do a survey every couple of years to gauge prospect mindset, where people stand in their thoughts about college or degree, etc.—and maybe to back up a little bit on setting the stage for the output to that survey, which really address the question you’re asking: So, part of what we do is create targeting sets off the back of market research like this that goes out and identifies who the likely candidates are for a specific target market—in this case, for-profit education. So we have a pretty rich data set of social attributes and targeting criteria that match generally the target market for for-profit education. And in this case, we tried to conduct the research using the same targeting parameters that matched the typical profile of a for-profit student—the idea being, can we get a survey of how did this subset of the US economy fare relative to the general economy? And then does that have any explanatory power on the shifts that we’re seeing that maybe we can talk about a bit, in terms of what students are looking for and how they’re looking to complete their degrees? One of the key things that came out of that survey that I found very interesting, in terms of how it affects then for-profit sector, was the fact that the—whereas, in the US economy overall, there was a 12% job loss. When we use the same survey criteria to reach the targeting parameter toward the core target market for the career college sector, over 39%—almost 40%—had lost their jobs or had been reported as having had their hours significantly cut. So almost twice or almost three times the effect on the overall economy in this sector that really lines up pretty—yeah, it was a pretty stark number. So, the impact overall was pretty stark. And then, obviously beyond that, one of the things that we found a direct knock-on effect, when we asked people what percentage of these people who are going through this shift in their job structure or ours, how many of them would be interested in potentially going back to school? We saw a 50% lift in that metric. So that correlation, obviously, is an immense shift in the mindset of people that had been thinking about—otherwise would not have been thinking about—going to school. And that correlates really strongly with the heavy impact that the pandemic had on the subsector. Pretty incredible jump in that, basically, if you think about that for the layman terms, that effectively doubles the market size in the entire sector, right. So if I’ve gone from a 50% lift in that number—that’s a 50% lift in the number of people looking forward to going back to school, which is the market for the career colleges.
|Lee: Wow. Wow, that’s incredible. So now that we talked about that, what are some of the students—what has changed that the students are asking for? Has anything changed as far as what programs are they asking for now? Is it different than before?
|Lauren: It is, Lee. And when we took our research a bit further, we typically look at what students are most interested—what program types are they most interested in? We generally see (and we’ve always seen in our surveys) that health care is number one. And we’ve seen that in our work with clients across the board that health care programs are usually the top programs to generate leads. However, last year when we ran our research, we learned that technology has taken the lead in the interests in program types. And that’s really the first time we’ve seen technology take that jump and the number one spot. And I think there are a lot of factors there, and number one is COVID. Going back to the remote work, people working from home and the technology they’ll need to work from home and also the convenience of working from home and the ability to have a tech career and have more flexibility in your job type. In addition to that, COVID and the health care field, I imagine that many of these students would be, maybe, nervous about going into the health care field with the uncertainty of what’s to come. And again, just the increased demand in technology over the last year in the job market is clearly taking an effect on the program types in the interests in the students in their higher education goals.
|David: Maybe adding one thing there that I thought interesting in the data that I mentioned before: when we went back and followed up on the question of, “Are you interested in going back to school?” we also asked those who said they are why. 61% of the survey respondents that had indicated they were interested in going back to school cited COVID as a significant factor in their decision. So if you think about that knock-on effect and what Lauren just said as well, if well over half that number COVID was the significant driver in their decision—clearly, that’s going to affect the types of careers they’re interested in. And then that I’d say, to me, the technology jump was somewhat counterintuitive given the demand for health care workers. But clearly, the knock-on effect, not only did that affect the decision, but it adjusted what they thought they would want to do to study.
|Lee: Yeah. I find everything that you just said really interesting. And I would ask you, do you think that these numbers that we just talked about, are they inflated because of COVID? Or do you think that this is something that’s going to continue for the long term or, at least, for the foreseeable future?
|David: I would say, in my mind, that it will probably be some of both, right. I think that there’s a clear shift in the new normal of how we work, how we interact, what is going to be the careers going forward, and how health care will change, how remote work will change—all that’s going to be a new normal. I will say that there’s the unfortunate knock-on for a lot of these folks is the fact that finances and the logistics of going to school still remain a hurdle. So, I would say that as we get back to normal, there is probably a window of opportunity for schools to push hard to get folks back into training programs or education programs before you sort of settle back into old routines as employment goes back and slowly gets back to normal. Clearly, there’s been a lot of high-level discussion in the broader economy of who’s going back to work and when. And I think there is sort of probably a short window where schools can capitalize on this. But then I don’t believe it’s going to go back fully to normal in terms of what folks are looking for.
|Clearly, the pandemic effects will be short-lived, right. As a new generation of students comes out over the next four to five years, the effects are significantly less, right. They didn’t lose their jobs; they were in high school. So, I think there is a short-term effect that will be felt here. But, ultimately, I do think the new normal of how we work and where we work will affect people’s willingness to attend school in a hybrid level and a hybrid model, which, again, I think that was probably the biggest demographic change for all of us, right. We’re all much more used to the tools. We’re able to use the tools we use now, even for this podcast, for example. I had never used Zoom before the pandemic, and now it’s second nature. So I think that mind shift will definitely positively affect this group for tools looking to try to implement some sort of hybrid model. We’re much more comfortable with it. But the purely economic and the pure COVID effects of being unemployed, having excess spending cash, having time on your hands, that’s going to be short-lived. And in the mindset, sort of the fear that set in for a lot of folks, I think will also be short-lived.
|Lee: Yeah. That’s all good insight. And I think you’d be hard-pressed to find somebody who would disagree with you. I would just say that—I would just echo what you had said. I think the expectation of students going into furthering their education—whether that’s for-profit, traditional university, whatever it is—is different now than it was before. And I do think it probably does have a lot to do with the new normal of the way that we’re working, and that’s a good comparison. People are going to expect some sort of level of hybrid education, especially for that adult student who’s looking to go back to school—as it just being an expectation on behalf of the student and what they want out of their educational experience from the school because they want to be able to be flexible on when they go to school and how they do their program. And I think a lot of schools have really adopted that model, and that’s what we’re talking about here. The interest in hybrid education—I agree with you—is something that I don’t think is going to go away anytime soon.
|David: Even beyond that, though, I would just add that some of the surveys we did in the past when we asked the folks who said they didn’t want a hybrid—wouldn’t be open to online education—a lot of it was simply the candidate saying, “I don’t learn well online, I don’t have that—”, it’s really an experimental thing, right? But for better or for worse, now we have it, we have an entire, almost, generation of students that have had a year, a year and a half now, of learning online. And they know how that works. And there is a fear—and a lot of these a lot of the candidates, obviously, in this applicant pool didn’t go to secondary college undergrad for career programs. And they’ve been in the workforce a while. And I think there’s simply a hesitation on the learning method. But given that you’ve got a generation that have been forced to learn that way, I think that will lift some of the fear of the unknown that a lot of the candidates in the past have had.
|Lee: Yeah, I think you’re right about that. And also, the schools have had time to really hone in on getting the program done well online. So there’s a lot more experience, I guess, on both ends, the educational institution and also the student having more experience with it. So, I was going to ask you, why do you think hybrid education is so attractive to students? I know we’ve sort of talked around it, but what would you say are the three or four most attractive pieces of a hybrid education?
|Lauren: I would say I mean, for the most part, is the flexibility and the convenience of a hybrid education. That somebody is able to learn from home, learn in the comfort and safety of their own home—and during COVID of course, people were scared to go out. They were scared to be around groups. And so I think that is stuck with some people. And as we saw in our research, a lot of people would have preferred the hybrid approach, or online learning over in-person learning, mainly because of the comfort and the safety level. And instead of having to commute and be around other people in a classroom, they felt more comfortable learning from home. But, of course, it’s the convenience and the flexibility of being able to learn from home. If you’ve got a job and you need to adjust your schedules, you have more flexibility of working from home. And of course, the convenience of not having to commute, to save in commute time, and to work around your schedule.
|Lee: Everything that we talked about here and the type of student, we never really talked about, I mean, I guess we sort of talked around—this is not on the script. Talked around the type of student or the demographic of the type of student. But how would you say, or what would you say is the best way to market to the individual, the student, who may be interested in the hybrid program? So let’s say I’m a college and I offer a hybrid program. What would you say is the best way to market to that student my hybrid program?
|Lauren: Yeah. So, we would really take that—as we’ve mentioned before, not in this podcast but in our last podcast—we market primarily through social. And so we can use the social cues, the likes, interests, and behaviors in our targeting that we’ve gathered over the years to hit these specific audience types. And we’ve refined that over the years with our research. And then we take that research and put that into messaging. And so we message to these students and these niche markets and niche demographics around the hybrid approach. And really explain how the hybrid approach works, what program types may be available to them, and also the benefits of remote learning and the convenience of it and the possibilities that these students may have that they may not have known that they had previously.
|Lee: So David and Lauren, I know that you guys had recently published an e-book and you have some additional resources—if anyone is more interested in more information on the research you conducted, is there a website or somewhere that these individuals can go to learn more about the research you conducted?
|David: Sure, storylift.com is the website. So that’s the company site and in our resources section that survey’s there, as well as some write-ups on the insights relative to what we’ve discussed today, as well as the previous study that we talked about on the last podcast that kind of looked a little bit at some of the other behaviors of the target audiences. So would love you guys to check that out. You can also read more about how we target these surveys, and how we target the actual candidate pools and lead generation that we do, because they overlap there. So I’d love you to check it out. And of course, happy to discuss anything one-on-one with anyone who has specific questions on it.
|Lee: Awesome. Well, I want to thank Storylift for coming to the show with us today. If you have questions for Storylift, please feel free to check out their website and their contact information that will be included in our show notes of our website, which is www.careercollegecentral.com. We had a great conversation with Storylift, talking about the demand for hybrid education, talking about different ways to promote hybrid programs, and talking about the impact of COVID-19 and what it’s had on our space. So I want to thank all of you for joining us today. Have a great day.