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Does "Growth Hacking" Have a Place in Higher Ed?

As a technology company, we think a lot about “Growth Hacking” when it comes to communicating our messages with impact and low marketing dollars. But what does it look like for Higher Ed? Is there flexibility for growth hacking in that space?

According to his book, Growth Hacker Marketing, Ryan Holiday describes:

With a mind for data and scrappy disregard for the “rules,” they have pioneered a new model of marketing designed to utilize the many new tools that the Internet has made available: E-mail. Data. Social Media. Bootstrapping.

Ryan — famous for his “growth hacking” and marketing expertise — was the keynote speaker to open up CUPRAP’s Annual Development Conference at the Hershey Hotel this past March.

For those of you asking… what is CUPRAP? CUPRAP is the group of marketing and communications professional in higher education. Ryan was a great kick off to the day since it was clear the trend “doing more with less” resonated throughout each session that followed.

Although #TeamTassl was only in the house on Thursday, we walked away from the day with some great insights on how Higher Ed Professionals are “bootstrapping” their way to success:

  • Kellen Manning, a Communications Coordinator/Digital Specialist at MIT, showed that Social Media strategy must be fluid… “like water, my friend,” and willing to change shape to appeal to the changing taste of a tech-savvy audience

  • Steve Patterson of Patterson Media Team & Bill Haley of Allied Pixel taught how you can “bootstrap” your way to an awesome school video with affordable equipment OR by utilizing your institution’s media department (the extra-resourceful way!)

  • Jeffrey Martin, Senior Associate Director of University Communications at St. Joseph’s University showed that having “personality” in your communications is essential to cut through the noise and make a connection to your audience. He does an awesome job with the University’s twitter account.

While budgets are getting slashed all over, college and university departments are being asked to do more with less — less money, fewer people and less time.

In addition, alumni and university stakeholders want to be communicated with more personally, which means information and the ability to connect with your “customers” (alumni, students, etc.) is vital to your success.

This changing landscape requires a new toolbox of marketing materials, but most importantly, the right mindset to accompany them.

It was great to see this mindset permeating throughout the CUPRAP conference last week. Higher Ed professionals are putting their ears to the ground, using social media to get a pulse on what’s going on around campus instead of expensive focus groups or consulting firms.

Bootstrapping no longer implies piecemealed, lower quality, hurriedly done work that is “good enough to get by.” If there’s anything that #CUPRAP2016 taught us, it’s that the bootstrapping mentality is the future for College and University communications.