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What do these situations have in common? They all revolve around an organization believing that if you hear or see information closely related to your profile, you will be more likely to use that group's products or services. Direct marketers have proven for decades that connecting with an individual's passion increases response to marketing campaigns. How do you feel as a consumer- do you feel you get better service, save time, and learn more due to personalized interactions, do you shudder to think outsiders know so much about you, or a bit of both? Regardless of your sentiments, personalized communications will only grow more common and intense as major social and technological forces converge: more of our activity publicly available, near-limitless storage capacity, lightning-fast networks, and sophisticated data modeling tools to connect the dots.

The How To's of Personalization

There are several ways to harness the attributes of personalization to better serve your constituents while also improving your institution's performance.These include:

  • Email and newsletter programs: Basics such as using the person's name in the salutation are a must; slightly more rigorous and impactful is data-driven copy based on the person's last gift, attendance at an event, reunion or homecoming, or athletic/arts/social affiliation.

  • Admissions communications: The ability to simulate and extend the close relationship that admissions people develop with prospective families can be a powerful tool to increase the yield rate. Many colleges and universities are starting to leverage the power of marketing automation systems to "nurture" their prospects during the admissions cycle, while schools without the knowledge and technology to created automated systems can still achieve comparable results through "manual" nurturing, as noted in this blog post. You can learn more about this topic on our Lead Generation and Nurturing page.

  • Print ads: Many print publishers have been reeling since the acceleration of the Internet and seismic shift to electronic and social channels for news and information. Beginning around 2010, innovative publishers began experimenting with personalized magazines that offered custom information, or access to it, based on the subscriber's profile. While this is still a work in progress, and more costly than many schools, colleges, and universities could afford, it is an area to watch in the future.

  • Personal website experience: A strategically similar experience is beginning to play out on the web, where execution is easier due to the connectivity of the data to the medium. Many web providers and technologies offer features to alter your content experience based on your status as a returning vs. new visitor, responses to web surveys, pages you have visited, or other manageable variables. 

The Power of Connection and Relevance

Automated data-driven personalization makes many school leaders squeamish, but done thoughtfully,                                       it is a very powerful strategy that can increase the effectiveness of your communications. Ironically, for

the concerns of many traditionalists about marketing being too scientific and cold, effective use of

personalization can enhance the link you are building with your students, parents, prospects, and other

groups. Communications throughout human history has thrived on relevance and shared interests, and

we believe the increasing capability of marketing strategy and technology to enhance the connection 

between institutions and their constituents will pay huge dividends for all parties in the future.

Want to know more about personalized marketing? William Bullard has been creating targeted marketing experiences for individuals in businesses and schools since 1980, and would welcome the chance to discuss your goals and potential personalization strategies.


Surely you have noticed that your life experience is becoming highly personalized. You see online ads for restaurants in Cancun minutes after booking a hotel room on the web. Direct mail and telemarketers (those you haven't yet added to your cell phone auto-reject list!) have distinct profiles on your behavior, attitudes,activities, and group affiliations. And of the course, the entire Google ecosystem is built around integrating your activity, from knowing where you travel via Maps to what you search for on the web and the videos you watch.

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