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Episode #29
Filling Seats Podcast | February 7, 2023

What's coming in 2023 + 1 year of Filling Seats

In this episode:

You’ll hear from Jonathan Clues who is the CEO and founder of StudentBridge.

You'll hear him discuss:

  • What the past few years have looked like for StudentBridge
  • What's to come this year and how that has a huge impact for colleges and universities
  • What insight he has for schools to meet enrollment goals this year
Jonathan Clues

Jonathan Clues

Founder & CEO

Podcast Inst Logos-29

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Host: You're listening to filling seats, the state of enrollment, marketing, and higher ed. Hosted by StudentBridge. In this podcast. You'll learn, what's working to grow shape and sustain enrollment. At colleges and universities directly for marketers thought leaders and ed tech innovators, because anyone can design a brochure, but not anyone can fill seats.

[00:00:30] Host: Welcome to episode 29 of filling seats. This episode marks the one-year anniversary of our podcast. Our first three episodes launched on February 1st, 2022 in the past year. You've heard from seven higher ed thought leaders and 23 colleagues at colleges and universities across the country. Including community colleges and technical schools, small publics, small privates and HBCU, several large publics health programs, graduate programs and law schools.

[00:01:02] Host: We've landed on the top 150 marketing podcast charts several times. And the top five most downloaded episodes were. Episode 11 website pages and inquiry outreach with Bob Johnson. Episode 19 community college recruitment with Cassie Montgomery of Amarillo college. Episode 27 authentic messaging with Lindsey Nyquist of Fort Lewis college.

[00:01:30] Host: Episode 16. Campus culture that differentiates with Lauren Findley and Noelle Stovall of Jacksonville state university. And our most downloaded episode has been episode 23. Uh, communicating the why with Tim Butterfield of Grinnell college. Thank you to everyone who has been a guest listened and shared over the past year.

[00:01:52] Host: If you'd like to be a guest on an upcoming episode, visit student and complete the form at the bottom of the page. Now for this episode, you'll hear from Jonathan clues, CEO and founder of student bridge. You'll hear him discuss. What the past few years have looked like for student bridge what's to come this year

[00:02:14] Host: and how that will have a huge impact for colleges and universities. And what insight he has for schools to meet enrollment goals this year. If you'd like to know more about why Jonathan chose to work in higher education after being a professional race car driver

[00:02:29] Host: and what he believes the future of higher education and enrollment marketing are be sure to check out episode one. After you listened to this one, here's Jonathan.

[00:02:39] Jonathan Clues: So 2022 was, as I expected at the beginning of 2022, just a year of survival really.

[00:02:45] we came out great. we came out a really strong position, but it's really the first year I went into a business year after 2020 and 2021, just not knowing what to expect. I think we heard so many times. , these are uncharted times and hard to navigate. And so coming to 2022, I just didn't wanna make any predictions.

[00:03:02] Jonathan Clues: It was just like, I'm gonna roll with the punches through 2022. So in reality, the fact we came out as strong as we did, really saw some upticks at the end of the year, both from the market and the industry, as well as our own teams, just everyone really pushing through. it was really heartwarming, if you will, and just a great thing to witness and.

[00:03:19] Host: So obviously a lot of our partners at colleges and universities have been faced with, budget cuts, lots of uncertainty, the great resignation. What are some trends that you saw for schools in the past year?

[00:03:32] the Great resignation really was more, almost a great exodus from higher education. we have partners and colleagues that had maybe 20, 30 people in office of Enrollment that went to three or four people and. So it was a massive exodus, and then we almost saw some musical chairs, which is quite normal in, in our beloved industry, that people move from institution to institution, taking that wealth of knowledge and ability with them.

[00:03:54] so we saw some settling in the kind of the shrinking of roles. but that doesn't mean that our hardworking partners on the other side of the. Aren't feeling the pressure. I don't think there's any president out there or Dean that said, Hey, you know what, we've got half the staff.

[00:04:07] Jonathan Clues: Let's hit half the enrollment numbers. So they're having to find ways to hit the same numbers with less people. And they're definitely feeling the pinch. But of course, with salary savings while budget cuts have occurred, there's so much salary savings going on and when you don't have the people and feet on the ground, it's the time to really.

[00:04:26] Jonathan Clues: Technology and other systems that can help you amplify the size of your team. So from that respect, we've seen, the schools that still want to kind of sell their way outta it versus save their way outta it, really doubling down and looking for new solutions to help amplify their message and reach that prospective student, which is at the end of the day, the life of the institution.

[00:04:44] Host: so Obviously other than Student Bridge, are there any other providers out there that you've seen offering really great solutions that schools are adopting?

[00:04:54] Jonathan Clues: I make a real point of going to quite a few of the industry conferences that I can throughout the year, and I use that as much to meet our partners and potential prospective new partners as to talk to. Colleagues in the industry at, you may even call 'em competitors, but just friendly competitors or just adja adjacencies.

[00:05:12] Jonathan Clues: And I think the whole industry echoes the same thing. The vendor side as well is that we've had the great resignation impact us. It's been hard to keep hold of our own teams. Budgets have been cut on our side as well. but from the kind of opening up of the industry, I think that during 2020 obviously there was a kind of a fake sugar rush from maybe, government grants and cares act money and things that happened that meant there was more cash.

[00:05:36] Jonathan Clues: 2021. We saw that pendulum swing far the other way and people actually batten down the hatches and stopped spending 2022. I'd say my peers in the industry as well as us have seen, again, just maybe not a return to 2019 that I wouldn't say we're there yet, but we've definitely seen that easing.

[00:05:53] Jonathan Clues: Uh,it may not be an easing a budget, it's more of a realization that you just have to spend and buy wisely, but you still have to.

[00:06:00] Jonathan Clues: and , one of the key topics or one of the kind of storylines that came out is a feeling that look, while education is served, especially in our area of education, which is the recruitment of students, so that admissions and enrollment side, it's really served by.

[00:06:13] Jonathan Clues: A hundred or 200 fantastic vendors with great solutions that solve a small part of the puzzle. And with the lack of resource on the buying side at the university and colleges, there has been a general feel that they are, sometimes forced to go with more the all in one solution. that actually may not be as good as the.

[00:06:33] laser focus, boutique solutions. . Specialized solutions, but just from an onboarding perspective, like, hey, we can onboard the vendor. We can do better vendor management. So they're compromising the end solution because they're so time starved and so, You know, I think that when it comes to advice , it's easy to, for me to give advice from a vendor point of view, obviously, but reality is you've gotta balance what are the key solutions you shouldn't compromise on.

[00:06:56] at the end of the day, one size fits all. Jeans don't look good on anyone. They just fit everyone. And so I think it's really important to like work out which parts can be a little bit more vanilla, which parts can be out there. just doing a job, ticking a box, and which parts really need to knock it out the.

[00:07:11] Jonathan Clues: And get a maximum ROI on your spend. Cause ROI isn't just about dollars, it's about time. And so sometimes it's worth putting a bit of extra effort and a bit of extra money into the things that are really gonna impact their business goals, which is the enrollment of right fit students, they're gonna retain and graduate.

[00:07:26] Jonathan Clues: And so that would be my suggestion is don't just. Suddenly say, Hey, everything's gotta be easy, because, I think that great saying is that what, that anything easy is rarely great and everything's great's rarely easy. So I don't think that's, the right answer anyway.

[00:07:40] Host: . Tell me about the upcoming launch of StudentBridge 3.0

[00:07:43] Jonathan Clues: this a, a very exciting time for us, , , we've been listening to customers, really putting is the ground to both our vendors and partners, on the school side, but also their customers, the students, and really our job and our goal as Student Bridge is

[00:07:57] Jonathan Clues: to improve the way schools can tell their story and engage students in a way that they can do it quicker, faster, and cheaper. They can do themselves, and better. And so what we are really excited about StudentBridge 3.0 is we're bringing out an amazing data platform, AI-driven data platform to back up our award winning.

[00:08:16] Jonathan Clues: Consumer facing, content delivery platforms. So for years we've won the battle on engaging students, but now we're going to measure them, and now we're gonna have to tell you exactly what they want, exactly what they've been looking at, how long for, and building up a really powerful student profile as well as.

[00:08:33] Jonathan Clues: An engagement score based on the content. beyond that as well, part of StudentBridge 3.0 is actually a World's first really is a content score. So we are indexing all of our content in our platform to provide our partners, the schools and universities real insights into what contents moving the needle.

[00:08:50] because yeah, we produce content all the time and everyone produces the world's content. but out there's a lot of noise, a lot of content that's really not doing much, just sits there. And so our content scoring will also be able to help college universities know where to invest their time and effort into the content that is performing versus what isn't performing.

[00:09:07] Host: How will this impact some of our college and university partners?

[00:09:11] Jonathan Clues: Well, StudentBridge is very proud to, boast over 250, approaching 260 partners, college and universities, and everyone's gonna be offered the upgrade. every new perspective,and partners gonna be on the new platform. It's gonna be our standard. But as far as impacting existing customer, The sooner we can get them upgrade into the new platform, the better because the content already exists and all we need to do is start wiring it in to start getting fantastic data and insights and measurements outta it.

[00:09:37] Jonathan Clues: And of course, whether it's a new partner or an existing partner, The idea of better insights is to make better decisions. See when teams are smaller like they are now, if everyone looks the same, you treat them the same, but if StudentBridge can help identify highly engaged individuals or individuals are engaged with certain types of content.

[00:09:55] Jonathan Clues: University and colleges can really personalize that outreach and really think about the way they want to speak to student A versus student B versus student C, which not only is a massively improved experience for that student because now you actually know what they're interested in, but will drive better outcomes.

[00:10:11] Host: Can you risk letting your prospective students fall asleep? Are you snory-telling or storytelling with student bridge? You'll have better stories, better visits and better enrollment. If traditional marketing isn't working, we'll help you deliver better content. If your visitors aren't sticking around, we'll help you provide a better experience.

[00:10:34] Host: And if stealth visitors aren't raising their hands, we'll help you get more. Be where your students are. 24 7 with student bridge. We've proudly partnered with hundreds of institutions to deliver thousands of online experiences, to hundreds of thousands of prospective students leading to better stories.

[00:10:54] Host: A private liberal arts school had one third of all self visitors return to their site and browse for much longer than the average student. Better. Two public universities saw a four to 20 times increase in virtual event participation and better enrollment. One law school partner saw a 23% increase in enrollment in only one year and a small public college had 20% enrollment growth over four years.

[00:11:21] Host: Are you ready to amplify the story of your school, faculty and students with a video? Viewbook. Are you ready to activate the ultimate self-guided campus tour app when you can't be there with visitor? Or are you ready to deliver an impressive virtual campus experience with video and 360 degree images with interactive maps, student bridge is your one stop shop for easy and engaging enrollment solutions.

[00:11:46] Host: Learn

[00:11:49] Host: . What else can partners expect from us in the coming.

[00:11:53] one of my goals at Student Bridge is never to stand still or sit still. So we are looking at the next stage of, problems we've heard from our customers, which is, The student,, they're insatiable thirst for content, especially video content.

[00:12:06] Jonathan Clues: There's a reason why TikTok s number one, YouTubes are close number three, behind Google search engine. And,it's video, video, video. And , video can be a large investment of time and money to produce correctly. So we are really excited about producing a continuous content system that's a workflow system.

[00:12:23] Jonathan Clues: That's taken our 22 years of experience producing award-winning content that gets results. And we have allowed the college and universities to do it at scale quickly and affordably. So we're really excited about that. that may come out at the tail end of 2023, but the first half of 2023 is all about StudentBridge 3.0 given us data insights out there and really helping college and universities make better decision.

[00:12:46] Host: . Let's talk a little bit about messaging. How should schools be messaging this year?

[00:12:52] we see there being three major issues, that the universities and colleges are facing. And then the first one, which is a messaging thing, is, is college even worth it? Is the degree worth it Now in the. , unbelievable times we've had of low unemployment and lots of jobs out there.

[00:13:08] Jonathan Clues: Not enough talent to take the jobs. The college degree became a little bit less required. People were just hiring people without it, and people were hiring anyone just to get,a warm body into the seat. So now the times come where the, where that's changing. We see, layoffs, we see job layoffs.

[00:13:26] Jonathan Clues: We know the economy's changing. And this is a typical time when people actually go back to school to, Hey, we can't get a job. , I'm gonna go back to school and further my education. And so this is a really key time, I think for universities and colleges to jump on that and really explain about the value of an education.

[00:13:44] Jonathan Clues: See, too many of our customers and partners will really just talk about themselves. We're good at this, we're good at this, we're good at that. But to a student, they wanna be spoken about what? What does it mean to. Um, a lot of what we've been doing recently has been in the line of, neuroscience and neuromarketing, which is all about talking to the person from their point of view.

[00:14:02] Jonathan Clues: And so we are gonna start encouraging college and universities really to start talking to those fears of a student and or doubts of a student versus just promoting universities high points, because every university's really good at telling us what they're good at. But that doesn't really answer , maybe the bigger macro problem of should I even be going to.

[00:14:20] Host: What else should schools be focusing on in the new year? Any strategies or tactics you think that are really worthwhile?

[00:14:27] Jonathan Clues: I think that universities need to start grasping that student.

[00:14:32] Jonathan Clues: Come to college for an experience, not just education, because you can get a great education online. You can get a good education online, in your own time, in your own pace. What you don't get is that interpersonal experience. You don't get experience of leaving home and getting out your parents' basement and doing your own laundry for the first time.

[00:14:49] Jonathan Clues: So I believe that universities need to really double down on the experience they provide a student of come almost coming to ages as an dependen. Individual, adult. and really focusing not just on campus but community showing that a campus is always part of the local community. It always has been.

[00:15:06] Jonathan Clues: And that's why we have university towns and so I really believe that universities need to look at increasing the amount of content they have. Yeah. We wanna talk about the great programs. Yes. We wanna talk about the great athletics they have.

[00:15:18] Jonathan Clues: Yes. We wanna talk about all kinds of different programs about the opportunities, the university. , what about the local community? What about the outcomes for jobs? And I think that they need to get far broader in their storytelling.

[00:15:29] Host: Any other advice or insights for our enrollment friends?

[00:15:34] the struggles of 21 and 22 are gonna continue. I think that in fact potentially that it could even get tougher in some ways, that the,the economy may. Have a harder time through 2023 than it did in 2022. And at times it was hard to even tell that we were actually effectively in a recession.

[00:15:50] Jonathan Clues: Any trying time is always an opportunity for the people that are willing to get ahead of it. And so my advice would always be, don't rest on your laurels. Don't stop, don't get defeated. look, the blockbuster story, . Who would've ever thought when you walked down to a blockbuster?

[00:16:04] Jonathan Clues: And picked your BHS for a three day rental, who would've thought they're outta business now? Who would've thought that? JC Penney's outta business and Sears, if you don't evolve, you die. , and you really, really have to think of it as education has challenges and headwinds.

[00:16:18] Jonathan Clues: It always has, but now at the time, technology's been around 30, 40 years and, it's only getting stronger. It's not going anywhere. And I just encourage universities to get less, scared of it will be or shy about embracing technology, getting informed about what technology can do for them in amplifying the message, increasing the message of a smaller.

[00:16:37] Jonathan Clues: To still hit bigger results because it's there right in front of them. and look, student Bridge would love to help you. Maybe we don't have the solution for you, and if we don't, we'll guide you in the right direction if we know where to send you. But,, most of the vendor communities there to help the industry.

[00:16:49] Jonathan Clues: , we do well on the industry does well. So I think 2023 is another year. We're all in it together and we've gotta support each other and, get.

[00:16:57] Host: Any conferences you're looking forward to this year where someone might be able to meet you in person?

[00:17:02] Jonathan Clues: We like going to quite a lot of the conferences. CIVSA's always a great one when it comes to the, more the in-person tour and the on-campus experience. We love, our partnership with RNL and we always love their, conference. It's always a great event with great people. And then a really more intimate setting to really meet people and have great conversations.

[00:17:21] Jonathan Clues: And of course the big show is like NACAC. always worthwhile to get to the big ones. See what's out there. That's when I really look forward to meeting other vendors as well. And so it's great to get back in person and meet people and have a drink or a coffee and just say hi in person.

[00:17:34] Jonathan Clues: So a lot of good stuff coming along in 2020.


[00:17:39] Host: This is the Filling Seats podcast, hosted by StudentBridge, your one stop shop for easy and engaging enrollment solutions. If you're tired of snory-telling, and ready to start storytelling your way to better visits and better enrollment, visit

[00:17:58] Host: To connect with this episode's guest, check out the show notes. If you enjoyed this episode, leave a rating and review and don't forget to subscribe. For more information about the podcast or to let us know, you'd like to be a guest visit Thanks for listening!