Kevin Price, Host of the Price of Business on Business Talk 1110 AM KTEK (on Bloomberg’s home in Houston) recently interviewed John Stapleton. Here’s that interview
About the interviewee
My name is John Stapleton, CEO of Paskill Stapleton & Lord, a higher education marketing firm. I manage the marketing and sales for the firm as well as all HR and other operations issues. I’m married for 27 years with 2 kids, a 16 and 13 year old. For fun I do aikido, play tradional Irish music on the fiddle and study Mandarin.
Tell me about your firm (number of employees, location, type of companies you work with, etc.).
PS&L’s main office is in Glenside, PA but our clients are all across the country. We have two people each in Pittsburgh, PA, Massachusetts and North Carolina and one in Colorado. Total is 17. We have been in business for more than 25 years. We started off as a photographer (me) graphic designer (Jim Paskill) partnership. As we moved into our higher education marketing niche we hired people from that space and then bought a market research/enrollment consulting company. If it has to do with recruiting students we have an expert in every aspect of doing that task.
What type and size of companies do you have as clients?
We work exclusively with schools; colleges, universities and independent schools. Even a small college is a multi-million dollar enterprise, the big schools are just that much bigger. Recruiting new students is super-important for most schools. Without tuition revenue they would not be able to exist.
Today more and more students in college are non-traditional, meaning they are not teenagers. Because of this trend our business in dramatically changing in the way we communicate with potential students. You can buy a list of tradional prospects from the people who run the SAT & ACT tests but to reach non-tradional prospects you need advertising and one-on-one communication in all its complexity.
What comes to mind when you see this topic?
We deal with presidents and executive VPs. They are usually not the initiator of a search for a firm like ours but they are the decision maker.
No one seems to take phone calls so you need to get your name and expertise in front of execs some other way. When you do meet these execs though you need to be very persuasive.
Our products are the part of the iceberg that you see; printed brochures, web sites and advertising campaigns. We conduct research to help us plan and develop these outward facing communications to recruit new students. The projects are big, important and expensive. Naturally there is a lot of stress that goes into the contract decision.
What are the best practices when it comes to this issue?
We promote “foot-in-the-door” workshops and free webinars by mailing postcards and emails to 8,000 higher ed execs. Starting this June we are beefing up our social media and press presence.
When it works, a workshop leads to a conversation about an assessment of the admissions department or the schools marketing plan or their web site or all of the above.
The deliverable from an assessment is a report that inevitably includes recommendations to refine or redo one or more of those iceberg projects.
The sales process start to finish, maybe 2 years? The $ amounts; $5,000 for the workshop – $18K for an assessment and then $100k to 300K – iceberg.
The biggest iceberg is advertising which is becoming increasingly important as schools need to recruit non-traditional prospects. We like advertising accounts because they are creatively fun and they are a recurring revenue source.
We also get a lot of referrals.