Marketing and ‘The Steve Jobs Methodology’

Steve Job’s is the most innovative CEO in the world. He’s also one of the best marketers, ever. In a recent article, John Sculley, the last person to manage Jobs, described what’s been referred to as, “The Steve Jobs Methodology:”

“What makes Steve’s methodology different from everyone else’s is that he always believed the most important decisions you make are not the things you do, but the things you decide not to do.”

That last part deserves repeating: The most important decisions you make are not the things you do, but the things you decide not to do. As a marketer, you have many opportunities to elevate and expand your brand. Which one’s really make a difference? In higher ed, many marketers are fixated on promotions – social media, for example. But how many marketers are looking at, and helping to make, decisions on the other Ps? How about which academic programs not to run? Or, which academic programs need to be priced differently? These decisions relate to perhaps the two most important Ps in marketing – product and price.

Here’s the takeaway: Decisions about promotional strategies, like social media, are probably the least important decisions that will be made at the university this year. What you sell is far more important than how you sell it. And quite frankly, we’re selling too many things that people don’t want. Deciding what not to do helps elevate those programs that are at the core of your university’s mission and business goals. And it focuses your institution’s time and resources on the programs that matter to the marketplace. And the more your programs matter, the more your brand elevates and expands. As my friend Bob Sevier says, a curriculum that’s in tune with the marketplace and uniquely delivered by your institution is the best marketing asset of all. So ask yourself, are you helping your university decide which things not to do?

PPC Conversion Rates

A fellow colleague at another university e-mailed me about conversion rates for PPC campaigns. He said he had trouble finding anything online about higher ed PPC conversion rates, so I asked him if I could republish my e-mail response in case it might be of help to you. Also, if you have PPC conversion rate info of your own, please share it in the comments below. Thanks!


Hi Rob –

I found you through BlogHighEd, and was wondering if you had any information to share on a topic that I am currently investigating – pay-per-click search engine marketing.

In addition to an imminent complete website overhaul, I’ve been tasked with developing a pilot PPC program, and I’ve not been able to find any data related to PPC in the Higher Ed vertical.

I posted to the educause mailing list asking if anyone had positive or negative experiences with the various companies that work in this space (Network Solutions, Clickable, Yodle, ReachLocal, etc.), but I did not get any responses. Have you had experience in this area?

Also, I’ve read that across all PPC marketing, the average conversion rate is 2% – but I’m guessing that is heavily weighted towards consumer product sales, and not Higher Ed inquiries/applications. Any thoughts on what might be reasonable in terms of performance expectations after the initial couple moths of keyword honing?

Any information you can provide would be very, very much appreciated. If you are aware of other fellow Higher Ed colleagues who might have expertise in this area, I would be very grateful if you could pass along this email.

My Response:

Yeah, 2% is on the low side. But, since PPC is based on competitive bidding and geo-targeting, conversion rates really depend on which programs are being marketed, where and when. It also depends on whether you are doing display and/or extended network ads. We’ve had campaigns that have had conversion rates as high at 13.75% and as low as 1.57%. Our overall campaign conversion rate since October 2008 is 4.03%. However, this last fiscal year, we increased the number PPC conversions even though we decreased our conversion rate, so it really depends on what you value more, the number of leads or the conversion rate.  But I would say with some confidence that you can do much better than 2%.

Hope that helps and good luck with the upcoming campaigns!