Lincoln Educational Services Gets Schooled1 Jul, 2011 By: Thomas Haire Response
CMO Piper Jameson is the driving force behind the 65-year-old post-secondary education giant’s recent expansion, utilizing DR across all media.
For Lincoln, direct response has always been the No. 1 source of marketing success,” says Piper Jameson, senior vice president of student recruitment and career services/chief marketing officer for West Orange, N.J.-based Lincoln Educational Services Corp. “The company has been in business for 65 years, and DR has always set the tone for how we look at everything. If a campaign didn’t bring results or prospects, we didn’t continue it. In the past year-and-a-half, we’ve added more of a branding philosophy to the mix. We have seen success telling people who Lincoln is, how it brings value and showcasing the success of our graduates.”
Jameson joined Lincoln in 2006 — the company’s 60th year in business as one of the United States’ leaders in career education and training — after spending the preceding 11 years at Universal Technical Institute (UTI), based in Phoenix. It was there that she made the transition from an accounting and finance career into her true passion — marketing.
“A lot of people ask, ‘How did you go from accounting to marketing?’” Jameson says. “But direct response provided a perfect transition for me — the concepts of understanding financial results, backend data and using analytics are crucial to both finance and DR marketing.”
In her five years at Lincoln, she’s brought the concepts of DR to a bevy of different media — television, online, search, E-mail, direct mail and, now, mobile and text. “Our success stems from an integrated marketing plan, centered around DRTV,” she says, but does not discount the impact and success of other media, as well.
With three vice presidents and more than 650 total employees under her sway, Lincoln’s marketing programs — and therefore, enrollment and successful graduates — have become more savvy than ever before, mixing impressive branding cues with powerful calls-to-action.
“When somebody sees a DR piece and then a branding piece, the messages often become one — I don’t know that our targeted consumers see our ads as DR-based anymore. If your message allows them to learn the value of your brand and your product, it becomes credible. We’re trying to offer the knowledge to understand what Lincoln is, who Lincoln is — and drive those seeking educational opportunities to choose that path.”
Lincoln Educational Services uses a multimedia DR attack that includes TV, online, print and more to drive new students to its 46 schools across 17 states.
Change Leads to Growth
Opening its doors as Lincoln Technical Institute in 1946 and now known as Lincoln Educational Services, the Lincoln brand has always been centered around career education and training. Committed to providing students with quality, hands-on skills and training needed to succeed in the ever-changing employment landscape, Lincoln now boasts 46 campuses in 17 states.
With degree and diploma programs in five areas of study — automotive technology, health sciences, skilled trades, business and information technology, and hospitality services — Lincoln operates such schools as Lincoln Technical Institute (LTI), Lincoln College of Technology, Nashville Auto-Diesel College, Euphoria Institute of Beauty Arts and Sciences, Lincoln Culinary Institute and Lincoln College of New England.
“Our top three current programs include our automotive and skill trade schools — people love cars and it’s a skill and trade that isn’t being outsourced overseas,” Jameson says. “Second are our allied health schools. As the population grows older, there is a huge and growing demand for nurses and other health professionals. Third is culinary — a lot of people have that dream of becoming a great chef and pleasing people with a talent.”
Lincoln’s expansion of its expertise and its offerings mirrors the growth of Jameson’s career, which began with financial analyst positions with American Express and Citicorp in the 1980s. She then jumped to a controller role with the Ritz-Carlton and Arizona Biltmore properties in Phoenix, and finally at UTI. About five years into her time there, around the turn of the century, the opportunity that moved Jameson toward her dream came along — a chance to work on a marketing program for owners of Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
Lincoln’s culinary programs are among its most popular, as many students follow the dream of becoming a chef.
“It was a home study program for Harley owners who had careers but wanted to know the basics about taking care of and working on their motorcycles,” Jameson explains. “I created the program, the packaging, the sales and marketing strategy and the website. It was my transition into the marketing side of what schools like UTI and Lincoln do. And, as soon as I completed the project — with great success — I knew then that this was what I had to do. My accounting background was perfect for DR marketing — DR is all about results and ROI. And my background was all about data and knowing what works and what doesn’t.”
At UTI, she went on to work on similar programs with NASCAR, Ford, BMW and more, increasing sales leads by 525 percent over two years while reducing the company’s advertising costs by $2.5 million using aggressive Internet marketing campaigns. However, in 2006, she sought a new challenge at Lincoln, a publicly held post-secondary education leader with more than $600 million in revenue.
“I’m going on six years now, and I’ve added admissions and career services under my umbrella in that time,” Jameson says. “I look at it all as one link — you know sometimes when sales and marketing are separate in an organization, it can lead to disputes. But here, we’re united and work in unison, and I see career services as the finishing touch of the business — the customer service. We have great graduation placement programs and actively seek employers for our graduating students.”
Direct Response Across the Board
For this mix, Jameson knows that integrated DR marketing is Lincoln’s best bet to continue, and expand upon, its success. According to Jameson, Lincoln’s marketing approach — known internally as “Brand New Day” — is divided into three areas: brand elevation, performance-driven marketing and intelligence-based advertising.
Brand elevation speaks to Lincoln’s goal of elevating its brand development across all of its locations by developing brand positioning, advertising and campaign taglines to promote its competitive advantages. All employees have been trained in this brand initiative. “You simply cannot get brand loyalty without delivering brand value consistently to everyone involved, including your employees,” Jameson says.
The company has spent time building the Lincoln name across all of its divisions, a key move in a time where mergers and acquisitions are rampant across the post-secondary educational marketplace. At the same time, branding in the company’s direct-response driven campaigns to its consumer base all use a “hero-archetype” message. “You remember going through college — the struggle of the academic pressures, and then the jubilation of graduation and the feeling that you ‘did it,’ and you accomplished something very big,” Jameson says. “You became a hero to yourself, your parents, spouse or friends. We apply this underlying message in our campaigns.”
Health programs are another big draw of potential students for Lincoln. With an aging population, the demand grows for nurses and other health professionals, according to Jameson.
The performance-driven marketing aspect is the basis for all of Lincoln’s programs — “Performance of our campaigns ensures that all marketing and advertising efforts are successful in driving our branding, increasing student recruitment and attracting new industry partnerships,” Jameson contends.
This is where Jameson’s number-crunching background combines with the tenets of direct response to make a real difference for Lincoln.
“It really all stems from integration,” she says. “We start with traditional DRTV, and while we do a lot of TV, it’s not as much as in the past. We’ve moved heavily into Internet marketing. People are more savvy today, and when they watch a commercial, they know they can go to the Internet. That landing page — where they meet your brand online for the first time — is often where the buying decision happens. It’s a very different model from the old one of picking up the phone, giving the prospect the right information and helping them through the decision process.”
With the Web providing the most likely location that Lincoln will drive its prospects, Jameson says that special attention has been paid to how navigable its websites are and how consumers travel inside of them. “We have a lot of combinations of marketing materials and mediums move people around site,” Jameson contends. “They come from DRTV, direct mail, E-mail, banner ads, billboards, mobile, text — we are really using every technology.”
Surprisingly, though, in this day and age of interactive digital marketing, Jameson says that one medium has been a consistent standout for Lincoln. “One of the things that is very effective in driving our prospects to take action is the traditional postcard campaign,” she says. “I can’t make you watch TV or go to my website, but everyone has to bring the mail in from the mailbox. And in that one second where you glance at each piece of mail, I made you look at my brand and my message. We’ve found a lot of recent success by adding an admission ticket — Admit One! — to invite them to come to an open house or a tour.”
The third facet — intelligence-based advertising — speaks to the analysis and reporting that is innate in direct response. And Jameson is a huge believer in using the company’s proprietary analysis tools to measure and tweak all of the company’s marketing efforts.
“We also look at the integrated effect on campaigns — what happens to enrollments when we only run one television ad, versus if we run television, radio and newspaper ads?” she says. “Our analytical data will show us which of the multiple media channels work best to increase leads.”
Still, she comes back to the growth of the Internet as a response vehicle when discussing the overall success of Lincoln’s campaigns since she arrived in 2006. “We launched a new website in 2007, which won the Ad-Tech National First Place Award for Best Search Engine Optimization (beating out such behemoths as ESPN.com). In its first year, we improved lead generation 165 percent, and in the years since, our leads and inquiries have increased 400 percent. As I said earlier, it really has become the medium people use to respond to any ad you have.”
Staying on the Leading Edge
Still, though, Lincoln’s biggest driver to that Internet response remains its powerful DRTV efforts. And DRTV is the only space in which Lincoln — a company that does almost 100-percent of its marketing in-house — utilizes key agency partners to maximize its capabilities.
“We use two TV media buying agencies — E&M Advertising and G&M Advertising — to bounce ideas off of each other and give us the most widespread look at the market we can get.” Jameson says. “These two agencies look closely at each of our markets and the competition in them. Everything we do has a unique phone number to track our campaigns’ successes — and failures. It’s a complex internal tracking system, part of our intelligence-based advertising plan.”
She continues, “We look at conversions — that is someone who actually enrolls in one of our schools — but we also take it farther, thanks to our media partners, by looking at cost-per-enrollee as well as cost-per-graduate. Obviously, that student who graduates from their selected program is worth more to us in many ways than a bevy of students who enroll and then drop out immediately. You want that end result — the student who stays all the way through graduation.”
Looking forward, Jameson believes that her teams’ efforts to make sure Lincoln is at the leading edge in sales, marketing and career services must continue. And that includes being a leader in utilizing the power of direct response across the best media available, whether TV, print or online.
“We are always seeking to be on the leading edge of understanding the new marketing and social aspects of reaching our target audience through these new mediums,” she says. “Social networks are ideal for proactive online reputation management. I do not see it as a lead generator, per se, but it has a brand credibility builder element to it. Lincoln is already diving into this new marketing space with blogging, social sites like Facebook, and others.” ■