AdWords Insight: New and Improved Enhanced Campaigns!

By Lindsay Steiner, Associate SEM Specialist

It’s no secret that the landscape of internet search is constantly changing. With the increased use of mobile devices and tablets, search engines are no longer only used from the comfort of our desks. Instead, we seamlessly transition from one device to another whether it’s online shopping from a tablet, finding directions from a mobile phone or researching from a desktop. And Google, in its infinite wisdom, has of course been keeping a close, big-brotherly eye on our complex search behavior.

That’s why this summer Google underwent one of the biggest changes in AdWords history – the transition to Enhanced campaigns. Enhanced campaigns have given us the opportunity to tailor our advertising efforts to the changing context of our audience, whether it’s the device they’re using, their location, or even down to the hour of the day. We can deliver the most relevant ads and information in each situation, ultimately increasing return on investment which is everyone’s bottom line, right?

Enhanced Campaigns

Let’s walk through the major changes that we are the most excited about here at Gragg:

  1. Mobile bid adjustments: This new feature allows advertisers to bid lower (or higher) on terms for users searching with their mobile device.
  2. Location bid adjustments: Notice that your clicks are converting in one part of the city, state or country better than others? Bid up in those spots and down in the others.
  3. Time of day bid adjustments: Bid higher during peak hours or choose to show your ad only at certain times of the day when you’re likely to get traffic to your site, restaurant or storefront.

Let’s combine and apply these new enhancements to a real-life scenario:

Let’s say you’re a local flower shop, and it’s ONE week until Valentine’s day. You offer online bouquet orders for the next couple days, but then those last-minute shoppers must come in to the store to pick out flowers for their hot date. Using these new enhancements, you’d be smart to bid high for desktop users using an ad that directs them to your online shop in the weeks leading up to the big day. Then, when the 14th comes around the corner, you better bid higher on mobile devices, and even better, users who are within a five-mile radius of your shop. Because let’s be honest, there will be plenty of procrastinators frantically searching on their iPhone for “florist” at the eleventh hour. Using these new enhancements, you can tailor the copy and format of your ad specifically to the last minute user and ensure you’re bidding high enough to get that coveted first position ad rank.

While we here at Gragg don’t sell flowers ourselves, these new enhancements allow us to get even more granular with our targeting and tracking in any vertical, whether it’s education, insurance, finance, retail and beyond. As a data-driven agency, this is something we love here at Gragg.

Images courtesy of Google

Interactive Banner Ads: The Next Step in Display Advertising


Since the creation of the internet, advertisers have been working towards finding the most effective way to tap into its resources. With such a complicated and ever changing medium, it’s safe to say most advertisers have been playing catch up since the beginning. However, with agencies beginning to recognize the need to have specialized departments geared towards internet based advertising, the tables are beginning to turn.

2013 is shaping up to be one of the most innovative years in internet based advertising of all time, more specifically in banner advertising. Utilizing a static banner ad for your company is no longer a viable option. Yet still, companies use them and are then frustrated by low click through rates. Dan Earle, Vice President of Operations of San Antonio Multimedia (the in house agency for Career Point College), said the success of banner ads has more to do with its implementation and strategy. “I don’t want to say banner ads don’t work. If it’s in line with a particular customer then it has a good shot of having success,” Earle said.

We propose by 2014 the traditional static banner ad will be a thing of the past. A symbol your company has been left behind in today’s changing advertising world. As the internet evolves, so are its users. Consumers who use the internet for purchases are much more likely to do additional research on a product. Your ads must adapt to a savvier consumer. With Targeted Banner Ads you are able to tap into the wealth of data that exists on the internet and use it to better inform the consumer. Ads are able to adapt to the uniqueness of each individual consumer, as opposed to the other way around.

However, this is not to say targeted banner ads are a silver bullet that works in every situation for every organization. With anything that is new and innovative the risk is to apply it to anything and everything with the expectation conversion rates will be identical. Specifically relating to the education industry, there are some who feel targeted ads simply may not be the best. “With education, because we are so limited in the types of things we can say or do, I think it’s very difficult for us to have the same approach with banner ads,” said Earle.

What are Targeted Banner Ads?

Before diving into the importance of why your company should utilize Targeted Banner Ads, it’s important to first define what we are talking about.

 1.       Traditional Banner Ads

  • When we reference Traditional Banner Ads we are talking about banner ads you see every day on every website you visit. They promote a constant product or service and you can simply click on the ad to go to a website. We all see them, we all ignore them.

2.       Targeted Banner Ads

  • When we say Targeted Banner Ads we are talking about “smart” ads. They track what the user does, say, and shows interest in. Then, it adapts the ad based on those preferences. We’ll go a little deeper in a minute.

Why Target?

The internet is a sea of data and people. According to the website Internet World Stats, 34% of the world’s population is currently on the internet. How does your company cut through the noise and get noticed by those you are targeting. By utilizing Targeted Banner Ads, companies are able to engage the user on a much more personal level by adapting to what the user is looking for. Targeted banner ads can be created to adapt based on three separate parameters:

1.       Behavioral Advertising

  • Behavioral banner ads examine the click path for a particular computer over time. The IAB released a report stating Online Behavioral Advertising is utilized to review data in order to, “predict user preferences or interests to deliver advertising to that computer or device based on the preferences or interests inferred from such Web viewing behaviors.”

2.       Contextual Advertising

  • While behavioral advertising reviews patterns over time, contextual advertising looks at what key words the user is specifically searching. Advertisements are then delivered to the user based upon those key search terms.

3.       Semantics Advertising

  • Semantics based advertising is very similar to contextual advertising, in it targets the ad based on search terms. However, where contextual bases they’re ads on exactly what was searched for, Semantics Advertising looks at what the user may have ultimately meant. If they were searching for “Running Shoes for Knee Pain” we would assume they were looking for Shock Absorber Running Shoes.

By pulling data for campaigns currently underway, we are able to see what many companies are beginning to see. While the total spend on each of the above referenced traditional banner ads dwarfs the spend for the targeted campaigns, we see a much higher rate of return on those ads. What the data clearly shows is while traditional banner ads tend to have a very low click through rate, in the .08 – 1.4% range, targeted banner ads click through rates can reach as high as 17%. While 17% may be on the high end, an average click through rate of 4-6% is fairly common with these campaigns. As agencies are becoming more and more capable of tracking this data in real time, traditional banner ads are becoming a thing of the past.

Spend Clicks Click Through Rate Cost Per Click
Traditional Banner Ad #1 $75,268.33 30,432 0.08% $2.47
Targeted Ad #1 $8,949.20 32,109 16.45% $0.28
Traditional Banner Ad #2 $80,574.61 23,879 0.07% $3.37
Targeted Ad #2 $3,143.63 11,851 17.24% $0.27


Not only can click through rates be tracked by advertising agencies, the fact these ads are designed by a technology based agency allows their effectiveness to be tracked easier. Agencies are able to see what keywords are working, who is clicking, and what strategies lead towards conversion most often. With this wealth of data, agencies are able to quickly adapt their strategies regarding Behavioral, Contextual, and Semantics Advertising to maximize conversion.

Though, at the same time, some organizations have found these sorts of campaigns have not always worked. After running successful targeted campaigns for other clients, Ted Downing, Director of Marketing at Vista College, found  he was not getting similar results in his current campaigns.

“Last year we ran a fairly in-depth banner campaign. We had retargeted flash banners that would be served based on the last page they were on. Click through rates fell within industry standard, but the actual conversion we got from them was minimal, which was surprising,” said Downing.

The fact is while certain organizations have seen success with targeted advertising, it is not something that cures all ills. Like all your marketing you will need to adapt quickly to what is working, and what is not. By utilizing data that can be aggregated online you can quickly implement campaigns, monitor their effectiveness, and adjust accordingly.

The Advent of Mobile

It’s safe to say mobile advertising exploded in 2012. If you have any doubt regarding this remember in December of 2012 eMarketer published a report stating, “mobile ad spending will hit $4 billion by year’s end, up 180% from 2011.” With the success of these campaigns there is little doubt mobile advertising will be the hot issue for 2013 and 2014. If 2012 was the year of experimentation, 2013 will be the year of complete implementation. Mashable’s Seth Fiegerman already said this in a recent article. “As these platforms continue to improve their ad formats for marketers this year, and consumers continue to spend more time and money on mobile devices, advertising spend on mobile will only continue to skyrocket.”

So you are probably asking yourself what this has to do with Targeted Banner Ads. Due to their design, Targeted Banner ads have a built in capability to adapt to other devices. This “Responsive Design” enables the advertisement to adapt to any device, from blackberries, to iPhones, and tablets. With over 60% of mobile search-triggered conversions occurring within an hour of the initial search, finding ways to leverage mobile advertising is going to be critical to any business. Targeted Banner Ads not only target each consumer specifically based on accumulated data, but also adapt to whatever device may being used.


Targeted Banner Ads allows companies to utilize large sums of data that can be easily gathered on potential customers’ internet activity. By identifying potential consumers based on behavioral, contextual and semantics advertising you drastically increase the likelihood the target is actively looking for your product. In addition, targeting individuals creates a more personal experience building a level of credibility between the viewer of the ad and the company presenting the information. Though with all campaigns, you still must be mindful of the bottom line. Targeted campaigns can only be effective if they are executed strategically and in certain situations may still not be affective. But by staying on the cutting edge of targeted and mobile advertising your company not only stays ahead of the curve regarding effective online marketing, but will know firsthand what new strategies will be successful.


Fiegerman, Seth. “5 Marketing Predictions for 2013.” Mashable. Web. 6 Jan. 2013. <>

Morrissey, Brian. “15 Alarming Stats About Banner Ads.” Digiday. Web. 21 March. 2013. <>

December, 2012. “With Disply Campaign Optimizer, Inflection Increased Conversions by 480%.” Web. <>

18 December, 2012. “US Mobile Ad Spending Jumps to $4 Billion.” <>

21 March, 2013. “15 Alarming Stats About Banner Ads.” <>

9 June, 2011. “You Are More Likely to Survive a Plane Crash than Click a Banner Ad.” <>

“Internet World Statistics.” <>

Meet July’s Newest Graggians – Part 2

Due to the large number of new hires this past month, the monthly blog was divided into two separate entries. Last week we got to know Kristin Hewlett, Taylor Ferrill, and Jonah Grotz. This week, we get to know Cody Adams, from Interactive, and Kevin Weaver, from Account Service.

GA: So Kevin, tell us a bit about yourself

KW: I graduated from Washburn University in 2011 with two degrees in Business Administration: one with an emphasis in marketing and one in management.  During my senior year I worked as a marketing assistant at a corporate promotions company called Sunflower Marketing and then I moved to Wichita where I worked for the Go Wichita Convention & Visitors Bureau.

GA: Is there a lot of tourist stuff to promote in Wichita?

KW: Really, as far as leisure travel it’s way behind, but the main attraction is more like corporate, engineering, aerospace stuff. Unless you like cowboy or wild west stuff, there is not a whole lot to do.

GA: Did you focus on more business related stuff?

KW: Not really, the Wichita has a chamber that focuses on economic development. We did more leisure and conventions, mostly.

GA: Any funny or interesting information about you?

KW: I’m interested in a lot of things: history, soccer, planes, food, traveling, and music to name a few.

GA: Have you seen any of the Ken Burns Documentaries?

KW: I have, but they are so long. A bunch of them are in my instant queue. I’m currently working my way through “The War.”

GA: Ya that is a long one.

KW: Some funny information: I don’t know if it’s funny or more embarrassing, but I have a shoe collection that I think could rival anyone else’s.  Through most of college I worked part time at a shoe store and I definitely took full advantage of my employee discount.  I’ve been slowly getting rid of some pairs so it’s not as out of control as before, though.  I knew I had a problem when my wife called me out for having more shoes than her.

GA: Are we talking different colors, styles

KW: Different styles, some different colors. It has drastically decreased, partially due to my own embarrassment, partially my wife calling me out. I knew it was time when I couldn’t organize them and had to dig through to find a shoes mate. Sadly, I really only wear three.

GA: I understand. The wife can put the veto on certain things. Like red pants. That’s my white whale.

KW: I actually have a pair of red pants, my wife actually had to convince me to buy them but they are pretty nice.

GA: Like bright red?

KW: No, sort of a faded red.

GA: That’s awesome. What else do you like to do?

KW: I like to do it all.  I enjoy exercising, playing soccer and basketball, listening to music, watching movies, watching sports, spending time with my wife and reading.

GA: Any specific books?

KW: My dad introduced me to Malcolm gladwell, he wrote outliers, blink, and a bunch of other stuff. They are very interesting to me without being overly complicated.

GA: Nice.

GA: Alright Cody, tell us about yourself.

CA: Four years as an Aviation Electrician in the Navy.  Currently a senior at UMKC, majoring in Communications.  Started as an intern in June, started full-time a month later.

GA: So you went from intern to full time employee in a month? Are you like an SEO genius or something?

CA: Nah, I’ve basically been learning about everything that Chad has been doing. Learning from everyone. The interactive team has made learning the job a lot easier.

GA: : Any funny information about yourself?

CA: I was a featured extra in the American cinematic classic, Renaissance Man.

GA: Hold the phone, the Danny DeVito Renaissance Man?

CA: Ya, I have a picture of me meeting him in 4th grade. In the one scene I am in you see me right next to the actor that plays Dexter’s dad in the show Dexter.

GA: How did this happen?

CA: I was getting my picture taken with Santa Claus and there was a casting guy there that apparently like the “look” of our family.

GA: Any other interesting facts?

CA: I was ranked #80 in the world in the original Halo. I’m an avid fans of Minnesota’s sports teams and a mild fan of KC’s sports teams.

GA: Isn’t everyone in Kansas City kind of a mild fan of our sports teams?

CA: Well, except for the weirdo Sporting KC fans.

GA: You mean, like your boss?

CA: Exactly.

GA: What else do you like to do?

CA: Spend time with family, friends, tailgate, play music, listen to music, cook food, eat food.

GA: Do you have a favorite cuisine?

CA: Ahhhhhh….man. Can I say Pizza?

GA: You can say whatever you want.

CA: Ya, I mean pizza is pizza. It’s not really even Italian, It’s just…pizza. I can’t eat Mexican two days in a row, but I can eat pizza multiple days in a row.

GA: I’m pretty sure it’s italian, but I won’t split hairs. Where can you be found at?

CA: Sometimes Westport, usually just my couch.

Launching New Features with Internet2Phone

Speed to lead is a key factor in remaining competitive in any industry. With Internet2PhoneTM our clients have the opportunity to connect with prospects in less than 60 seconds of an online lead form submission. Companies investing in online lead generation rely on this product to reach prospects before their competition even gets the chance.

Analysis proves clients using Internet2PhoneTM have a 20 percent increase in conversion rate. Internet2PhoneTM enables you to remain top-of-mind with your prospects as we instantly push a phone call to your sales representatives to initiate a conversation with the lead. Here’s how it works:

  1. Lead submits a form online
  2. Gragg sends an automated call to your company
  3. Representatives press 1 to accept and call the lead
  4. Our system initiates a phone call directly to the lead
  5. *New!* Gragg re-prompts the automated call if representative is unable to accept in Step 3

With increasingly busy schedules, we understand challenges representatives face while trying to reach prospects. To accommodate we have introduced a new re-prompt feature of speed to lead. In the event a representative is unable to respond and accept the initial lead delivery, our system will re-queue delivery for that lead five minutes later for another opportunity for connection. Reports have shown higher acceptance rates among re-prompted leads when compared to first attempts, which means more opportunities for conversions and sales.

To learn more about how Gragg can help you reach your prospects before the competition give us a call at 1.800.GRAGGADV.

Great Ideas Come From Great Brainstorming

By Julie Ray, Account Executive

When it comes to problem solving, planning and coming up with the next big idea or invention, most companies utilize brainstorming sessions with key employees. Each week, meetings are held to solve problems and plan for accounts at Gragg Advertising. I am sure most companies operate in a similar fashion. This structure has existed for many years and has great validity in the fact that teams (historically) have come up with the best ideas. Existing within these meetings are the following personality types.

  1. The Meek – quiet, timid, distracted, computer user
  2. The Controller – controls the conversation, we all have one of these
  3. The Idea Crusher – could be the boss, IT providing a reality check, or someone unwilling to put in the effort
  4. The Facilitator – the person who probably called the meeting, keeps things moving when they get bogged down

Due to these polarizing personality types, meetings tend to be dominated by a select few while others just vanish. This leads to meetings loosing focus and a failure of bringing any new ideas to the table. About six months ago, I came across an article that focused on the ways to become a better brainstorming company. This style, known as “brainsteering,” fosters individual participation from each attendee. From that technique I chose five steps that I thought would be the most helpful and productive.

  1. Shoot for Quantity
    • Try to gain as many ideas as possible. Think “no idea is a bad idea”.
  2. Choose GREAT People
    • Bring people into the conversation that are experts in the areas you need help in. Don’t select people based solely on their rank or position.
  3. Divide and Conquer
    • Instead of having one fluid conversion that could potentially last for hours and end up nowhere, divide into groups of three or five. There is a science behind selecting an odd number of people.
  4. Focus the Conversation
    • Provide one question to each group and have the group come up with as many solutions as possible within a time frame. The most important take-away from the article was to not allow other ideas to come up during these highly focused sub-group conversations. At the end of the time, give each sub-group a few more minutes to narrow down their list to include the TOP ideas that came out of their “power session”.
  5. Develop a Plan
    • No idea that comes up in your brainstorming session can immediately be put into place; however, the plan to implement can and should be done promptly. From this activity, many ideas will be generated. The best way to narrow down the list is to look at the practicality and execution time of each idea/solution.

By utilizing this exercise, people will feel involved in the success of solving a problem or helping the company. Whether or not their idea was chosen, they contributed to the conversation.

In conclusion, don’t be a brainstorming dummy. Don’t think that anything should ever continue being done the way it was before. This will only result in generating the same solutions and practices. In the end, this will only help in overall company growth and involvement, which is a win-win!

The Conversion Conundrum

How To Close More Sales From Your Online Leads

By Marty M. Fahncke

Lead generation is big business. Every day millions of leads are generated online for a wide range of industries including insurance quotes, college degree programs, auto loans, and home repair.

But what happens after the lead is created? The next step is the sale, and that’s an area where many companies fall short. Are your sales conversion rates where they should be?  If not, this article is for you.

I’ve been in touch with some of the top experts in sales conversion, as well as a few companies who are masters at making conversions happen. From my discussion with them, I’ve compiled some powerful and effective tactics to increase conversions for your business. Here are the Top 5 tactics to solve the Conversion Conundrum.

Respond Quickly

The speed by which your sales team responds to an online lead is directly correlated to your conversion. The quicker you respond to an inquiry, the higher the odds it will turn into a lead or start. If you are dealing with non-exclusive leads, the “need for speed” is even more acute. In fact, Andrew Schrage, co-owner of Money Crashers Personal Finance, cites an statistic that close to half of online sales go to the vendor who responds first.

A hot prospect can turn into a cold lead in a hurry. “Follow up quickly, strike while the iron is hot, and be prepared. A lead doesn’t mean someone is ready to buy, it means they’re ready to consider,” said Jeff Goldberg, sales trainer for Jeff Goldberg and Associates.

According to the Harvard Business Review, companies that try to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving queries are nearly 7 times as likely to have meaningful conversations with key decision makers as firms that try to contact prospects even an hour later. Yet only 37% of companies respond to queries within an hour. Is your company one of the 37% following up on your leads promptly?  Or is your company one of the 63% losing sales because of slow response?

Provide Social Proof

Goldberg further advises that your sales team tell a “Verbal Proof Story”. This is a story about someone else, similar to the prospect, who by doing business with you lived happily ever after. Social proof can be a key factor in closing more sales. According to Robert Cialdini’s bestselling book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”, “[O]ne means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct…We view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it”. In other words, people tend to do what they see others just like them doing. As you attempt to convert the sale, ask yourself these questions: What kind of testimonials are you using? Are they compelling? Are they true? Do they make your prospect feel comfortable doing business with you?

Be A Problem Solver

“Think of yourself as a doctor,” shared Marc Wayshak, sales coach and the author of Game Plan Selling. “A good doctor will thoroughly examine a patient before telling the patient if there is a solution. Only a quack doctor would offer a solution without identifying the real problem. Sales people must have this same mindset with their prospects.”

The days of the scripted sales pitches are over. Prospects are more informed, more connected, and busier than ever before. They want customized solutions to their immediate problems. If you can solve those problems, you’ll win the sale.

To solve problems, you’ve got to uncover them. Often, the prospects real “hot button” or actual problem is much different than what they tell you up front. To get to their true problem or pain point you’ve got to ask the right questions. “Maintaining control of the interview is the key to driving the conversation in the direction you want it to go. This allows you to ask the questions and gain the commitment from the prospect necessary to drive toward conversion,” said Thermo Interactive’s Keith Elliott.

Chat Them Up, an online specialty bedding and mattresses store, found that warming up their prospects during the lead generation process helped to increase conversions.“30% of all of our sales start as chats, and we are able to capture data with an email or phone number on 90% of the customers who engage in our chat functionality,” said Dan Dietz of Olejo. As you will find in the “Nurture” section below, securing that email or phone number can often be nearly as critical as getting the full lead. Dietz indicated that chat provides three functions which help drive more conversions for his business:

1)    Chat engages customers who otherwise would not feel comfortable calling in and talking to a sales rep right off the bat. It works as a soft introduction to the products we offer and provides an easy way for the sales agent to help guide the customer to the products they are looking for.

2)    Chat establishes a relationship and helps drive a follow up call.

3)    A huge lift in reaching and converting prospects when it comes to following up with customers via telephone. Our sales agents are able to accurately segment customers and track their shopping actions after the first chat. This allows our sales agents to know the right time to call the customer to give them the best chance of closing the sale.”

“Online chat is an excellent tool to drive conversions. For one of our clients, we experienced an 80% conversion rate of those who engaged in chat to actually setting an appointment with our client,” said Nicole Tackett, Product Development Manager of Gragg Advertising.


Depending on your business category, conversion rates may hover between 2% to 50%. That means up to 98% of your leads won’t convert on the first call. Many businesses simply discard those leads after a few attempts to reach or close the sale. That’s a huge mistake. “When you consider that the average prospect needs to be ‘touched’ 5 to 7 times before they buy, most sales teams won’t do that. They’ll stop long before that and call it a ‘dead lead’,” said Scott Harvey, Chief Marketing Alchemist of Honest Website Marketing.  “But even your dead leads have value if you nurture them.”  Tactics to nurture a lead may include email newsletters, connecting on social media, and direct mail.

An eye doctor Harvey’s organization works with experienced a substantial conversion lift when a nurturing campaign was implemented over the top of their existing Google Adwords campaign. “When we added lead capture to their website they got between 60 and 90 additional leads per month consistently, without impacting the number of phone calls they received,” Harvey said. They are extremely conservative, and only ‘drip’ nurturing content out to their list twice per month. So it took a little while before they started to see a return. After 3 months, their conversion rate for people who started as email-only leads stabilized at about 12%. That’s about 6 to 10 sales conversions per month, which is over 200% more clients than they get from pure phone call-in prospects.

Bonus Tip:  Ask For The Business. 

This simple but fundamental step is so often overlooked it’s criminal.  In monitoring thousands upon thousands of prospect interactions during my career, it never ceases to amaze me how often the rep simply isn’t asking for business. They will talk with the prospect about anything and everything before they will actually commit to the close. You and your team need to be monitoring, coaching, and training your sales team to move efficiently through the information gathering and qualification process, and don’t be afraid to ask for the sale when the time is right.

In summary, some of the most effective ways to solve the conversion conundrum is to get back to basics, with just a few 21st century twists thrown in:

  • Respond Quickly: Don’t let the lead sit for even one minute longer than necessary.
  • Provide Social Proof: Testimonials, case studies, and third party endorsements are gold in the lead conversion process.
  • Be a problem solver: Remember the doctor story.  Diagnose, THEN prescribe.
  • Keep the lines of communications open: Start the conversion process early with chat features on your website then continue to communicate with even your “declines” by nurturing them back to hot prospect status.
  • Finally, ask for the sale: You don’t get what you don’t ask for.

Good luck!

About Marty M. Fahncke
An expert in multi-channel direct response marketing with over 25 years experience, Marty M. Fahncke brings a unique and proven track record of success to his readers. Having been involved in marketing campaigns that have generated over one BILLION dollars in sales, Marty has seen what works…and what doesn’t. As Director of Strategic Aggregation Marketing for Gragg Advertising, Marty and his team generate millions of online leads annually for Gragg’s clients.

A 2012 Review and 2013 Preview

2012 Review

When we take some time to review 2012 as a whole, it’s very easy to view the year as a disappointment. Between multiple schools closing their doors, a slew of negative congressional reports, and new legislation that put for-profit colleges in the cross hairs, this past year was not without its problems.

When reviewing the data we have for the past year, we begin to notice that 2012 was not nearly as bad as we originally thought. There was some contraction, but there was also expansion for many schools. The vast majority of the negative impacts we all felt over the past year were directly the cause of an adjustment in the economics of our industry. I will not get long winded on this subject, but this is the third economic adjustment I have seen in the last 25 years in the education business. In addition, I understand the negative impact of government involvement and the politics played that have impacted our industry. I believe all business is cyclical. There will be good times and bad, and you have to weather them both.

Regarding accusations and congressional investigations, in every industry there are “good players” and “bad players”. This is true of non-profit, community, and for-profit colleges. We all know Congress has targeted the for-profits and have disregarded the negative aspects of Community and Traditional Colleges, all of which have issues beyond acceptability. Maybe someday congress will realize this and correct the greater issues.

The purpose of this article (sorry it took me so long to get to this) will be to review the data from the past 12 months, put it into context regarding both the economic and politically charged climate, and then take a look forward at prospects for the coming years.

The years 2005 – 2009 were outrageously good to the career and for-profit colleges as a whole. With a perfect storm of a down economy, layoffs and people considering career changes, more and more people wanted to go back to school. As a result of traditional colleges simply being unable to handle the volume of students, not to mention they were ill equipped to handle the unique attributes of a non-traditional student, the for-profit colleges experienced an average of 18-20% growth year over year. However, as we saw these numbers continue to grow and grow, that level of growth was simply unsustainable.

With the economy seeing improvement and people starting to be comfortable in their jobs, the number of new students started to plateau in 2011 and 2012. Couple this with the fact that the number of for-profit and private non-profit colleges and curriculum continued to expand, resulting in a very competitive education environment and a diluted pool of potential students. We saturated the market and are continuing to do so. This saturation has had an impact on school groups who didn’t notice or accept the change and continued to run their business as they always have. Successful schools, both large and small, have had to adapt to the changing EDU environment.  Schools have had to learn to be more analytical regarding admissions, open enrollment, curriculum development, curriculum cancellation, scholarships, student retention, cash basis students and career services.

2013 Preview

We are in a time of change for education. We need to change with it and follow the market. This means doing a better job at curriculum development and student based programs that focus on the “student first” and not just profits. I believe in making money, but we need to focus on reinvesting in our businesses. This means investing in programs that grow students and make their students success their priority. In addition, we need to focus on putting the right student in the right class. I feel there is curriculum that is good with “Open Enrollment”, but this should not include all curriculums.

Giving assessment tests for admissions should be a part of certain higher level classes. We need to do a better job of not accepting students that have a low chance of graduating in higher level classes. This will reduce drop out and default. Basically, don’t enroll a student in “Court Reporting” until they can successfully pass the required remedial classes.

Schools are going to have to adjust to new regulations and legislation that have stuck. The good news is, there are a lot of great business people in this sector who are smart and can make the appropriate changes. Schools who adapt to these changes and find new ways to thrive will be the ones that come out on top. Those that dig in their heels and refuse to adapt will ultimately crumble under the weight and inevitability of change.

It’s important to note the task before us is not to find a way to reinvent the wheel. Many of the things that have worked in the past will continue to work moving forward. What is necessary is to simply modify some of those tactics. No longer is it prudent to buy more and more inquiries on the assumption they will convert. Guerrilla tactics, such as optimizing the number of leads developed from your website and through referrals, need to be implemented. Additionally, the leads that are received need to be worked in a more efficient and effective manner. In my previous article, The Strategy of PPL, I discussed the key role a well trained admissions department has with regard to increasing conversions. While it seems like a no brainer, so many schools fail to have a thorough process in place for working leads and meeting or exceeding industry averages for converting leads (and simply changing the way you count leads or calculate conversions does not make an admissions department successful). This cannot continue if you hope to continue to grow.

When looking towards the future, one area that stands out is the growing importance of mobile. By 2014 it is forecasted that mobile searches will surpass traditional PC based searches. With mobile’s place in the total media mix increasing by 12% already in 2012, the need to have a mobile site in place is critical. Last month Gragg Advertising sent out an email outlining the importance of having a responsive website. Data was provided showing over the next few years tablet sales are expected to grow by 38%, while PC sales will actually decline by 1.2%. By utilizing a responsive design your site adapts to the new and emerging devices, not the other way around. If you think your site is fine and doesn’t need to enhance the users mobile experience, know that a study done in 2013 showed sites with mobile friendly versions saw conversions rise from 2.8% to 6.6%. The time to adapt is now.


Overall, the past year has been a tumultuous ride. Between schools closing their doors, an apparent downturn in public sentiment and increased regulations it can seem like the sky is falling. However, when we step back from the situation and take some time to thoroughly review how the past year has gone, we notice that things were not nearly as bad as they seemed. What seemed like turbulence was actually just change, and change is something we all can deal with and use to our advantage.

Over the coming year we will continue to be challenged to find new and innovative ways to grow our business. But this is nothing new. Efficiency, balance and being on the cutting edge of new technologies are critical to future success. This is why we at Gragg are already working to put together a mobile task force that will meet regularly to discuss new and exciting opportunities for our clients.

The media will find a new story to write about, congress will find a new industry to harass, and business will go on. But it will not, and can not, go on as usual. By leading your company through change you will not only continue to grow, but position yourself as a leader in the industry.

If you have any thoughts or input please email me at

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Increase Conversions with Educate2Excel

Knowing is Half the Battle

A properly trained and prepared admissions staff is your organizations greatest asset when turning potential leads into conversions. But what makes a great representative? Without the proper training, your admissions team is likely not prepared to manage potential students expectations, questions and fears regarding returning to school.

With this in mind, Gragg Advertising created Educate2Excel to help train admissions representatives to become experts in recruiting, enrollment and retention. By utilizing this service, admissions representatives will improve their skills in email communication, interviews, navigating obstacles, and much more.

Knowledge is Power

Educate2Excel is a five week, five course, online training program utilizing an interactive learning environment and instructor-led classes. Each class is available individually as well. Classes include Introduction to Admissions, Psychology of a Prospective Student, Navigating the Buying Cycle, Compliance 101, and Methods of Effective Communication. Certification is available to all individuals who complete the five week program.

Have it Your Way

Every schools needs are different which is why Gragg Advertising also offers customized admissions training. We will work with your team to design a specific training program that will meet your needs. Whatever need your team has, we will create a program to address it through both on-site and webex training.

Contact your account service representative at Gragg Advertising today for more information on Educate2Excel, or call 877-GRAGGADV.

The Strategy of Pay Per Lead: PPL in your Media Mix


Over the past few years I have noticed increasing demands put on career colleges’ marketing departments to deliver large quantities of leads to their admissions department.  The thought behind this is simple.  The more leads that the admission’s team has to work, the higher number of conversions they will have.  As Pay Per Lead (PPL) is a cheap, easy, and fast way to get large quantities of inquiries, the temptation is there to sacrifice, other, more costly, advertising mediums.  While this is an understandable impulse, it is also a recipe for trouble.  The following are several points as to why a disproportionate level of PPL leads can hurt your overall goals.

Why PPL?

The first point I will address is why there is a tendency to focus in on PPL inquiries over other advertising strategies.  There is no question, if you want a large number of inquiries, for the lowest cost, PPL can fill the need.  In addition, PPL inquiries can be tracked easily to determine conversion rates.  These are excellent reasons why PPL needs to be a part of your overall campaign.    However, as the proportion of advertising budget spent on PPL rises over 50%, conversion rates begin to drop.  Over the past five quarters a research study was completed showing the ramifications of clients that more than doubled their spending in PPL.  As you can see from the data, this drastically affected their Cost Per Start.


Case Study Pay Per Inquiry 2011 – 2012


Q3 2011

Q4 2011

Q1 2012

Q2 2012

Q3 2012

Spend Actual






Lead Actual






Enrollment Actual






Start Actual






Starts CVR Actual






CPS Actual







The Proper Mix

It’s important to remember that while the average cost per start for a medium such as television may be higher than PPL, cutting any one traditional medium from your campaign can affect overall lead volume.  I suggest a holistic approach to your campaigns with appropriate levels of spending in your media mix.  As a part of the research study referenced above, data was analyzed to find out how a PPL heavy media mix can affect not only the PPL conversion, but all other media types as well.  As you can see, in the 1st and 2nd Quarter of this year, with a drastic reduction in budget for most of the remaining media types a drop in conversion rate happened across the board.  It’s easy to believe no matter how many inquiries you add to a campaign the conversion rates stay the same, but the data simply does not support this.


Case Study Q1/Q2 Media Mix


% Spending

% Inquiries

% Starts


Media Type Study Industry Study Industry Study Industry Study Industry




































Direct Mail























































Overloaded Admissions Teams

The biggest obstacle when it comes to simply adding more inquiries to your budget each month is also the simplest.  While you may be doubling your number of inquiries, are you doubling the staff it takes to contact those potential students?  Your school could be receiving thousands of leads each month, but if your admissions team cannot contact them all, what is the point?  In order to properly convert an inquiry, admissions teams need time to be able to attempt to contact the potential student with 3-5 minutes of submission.  Research shows that multiple attempts are needed and conversion can take upwards of 2-4 weeks.  Inundating admissions representatives with inquiries will inevitably drop the number of contact attempts and eventually burn out even the best employee.


The analysis shown above clearly shows allocating a disproportionate amount of your budget to PPL each month can drastically reduce your overall conversion rate.  Not only does the reduction of other mediums affect the performance of the PPL inquiries receive, but the drastic increase in the number of inquiries received each month can overload an already overworked admissions department.  As previously stated, a holistic balanced approach to your campaign is the best way to approach your media mix.

The focus of your campaign, as it pertains to PPL, needs to be squarely focused on two things: 1) quality inquiries; 2) the process in place to work these inquiries.  Next in this three part series, we will answer the questions “What is a quality lead?” and “What process should be in place to work these leads?”

If you have any thoughts or input please email me at

If you would like to stop receiving white papers from me, just email me back and ask me to take you off my list.

Convert more calls to leads

Wouldn’t it be nice to reach a prospective client immediately after they contact you? When they are ready to buy, you should be ready to talk. By instantaneously reaching your audience and assisting them with their decision making you are increasing the chance of converting the prospect into a client.

Gragg Advertising developed a custom tool to communicate with prospective clients almost immediately after they submit and inquiry via the web. Here’s how Internet2Phone™ works:

  • Each request receives an automated Internet2Phone™ call that contacts you
  • You have the option to Press 1 to connect with the sales inquiry
  • You’re connected immediately after they’ve submitted a request.

Here’s proof it works:

Recent analysis has shown that one Gragg Advertising client had an overall conversion rate of 3.9 percent across all media.  Once the client implemented Internet2Phone™, the conversion rate jumped to 4.7 percent – a 20 percent increase! Further research showed that calls lasting over two minutes converted at 6.8 percent – a 74 percent increase!

Use Internet2Phone™ as your automated solution to reach your customer base, connect with each lead, and the longer the call lasts – the higher the chance for conversion and more sales for you.