Give them more than the expected.

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Blogging, Conferences, Ethics, Facebook, Flip Ultra, Google, Logo, Marketing, Research, Social Media, Speaking, Technology, Tuition, Usability, YouTube | Posted on 06-04-2008


Let’s talk a little bit about expectations of an admission website, and the evolving nature of it. I’m going to speak in terms of the Whole Product Concept, which some of you might be familiar with. It looks like this:

Pretty self-explanatory. You have the basic product, the things that every school would offer. The expected product are a step above the generic items, but still thought to be present at all schools. The augmented product are ‘surprises’, value-added items that one would not expect. This might be the ‘wow’ factor of your site. Beyond that you will find potential product, items available for use but not necessarily being utilized by your industry. Things that haven’t been thought of or conceptualized yet.

Before I go any further, I’m giving you the finale right now. Your product spaces constantly shift and things move into smaller circles as time goes on. I’m telling you now because of this: 10 years ago in the recruitment process an admission website would have been an augmented (or perhaps potential) product. If you get that, then you will better understand the rest of this post. (Here is the archive of Butler’s Admission site in 1998. Here is the ‘virtual tour’ of 1998. Here is how you planned a campus visit in 1998. And here is how you applied for admission in 1998.)

Now, let’s jump forward a few years to 2002, the year I started college. Here is what the product concept for my admission process was:

Basic: The Admission office would have a website. (Here is the archive of Butler’s Admission site in 2002.)
Expected: I could get information about the school and see a few pictures of campus. I would be able to see when I could visit campus, and get a phone number in case I needed to call with a question
Augmented: I might be able to apply online. I could schedule a campus visit through a form. I could do my FAFSA online. A school might send me an email.
Potential: I could interact with real students through the site. I could take a virtual tour. I could ‘chat’ with someone and get an answer rather than call in.

Look at that list. Only 6 years ago. Then compare it to a Class of 2009 student. (Here is our current site.)

Basic: The Admission office would have a website that allows me to find everything I need on it. It is well-organized and easy to navigate. If I don’t find what I need, I can quickly contact someone either by phone or through the site. They email me about the school.
Expected: I can take a virtual tour, apply and fill out my FAFSA online, and schedule a campus visit. I can read student blogs. I can get more information from the school mailed to me (or emailed) by filling out a form. I can see pictures of campus.
Augmented: I can chat on the forums and get questions answered, or join a Facebook group to meet other students. I can get live help through the site. I can create content for the school and upload it to them. I can get updates from the school directly to my phone. I can see videos of student life, created by students. I can subscribe to RSS feeds for news and sports. I can check my application status online.
Potential: I can view a live feed of a student’s day to see what it’s like. I can go to 3rd party sites to learn about schools and avoid all of the “marketing junk and bias” (might be Augmented?). I can see similar students who have applied after opting in. I can enter a social media site that pairs me with a roommate based on our Facebook profiles. [If I only knew what else to put here...just think of all of the other things we haven't thought of yet!!!]

Then think of 3-4 years from now. Surely the augmented and potential items will have moved down to mostly expected things on your admission site, and those expected items will be basic. Won’t kids expect almost all of that? Or won’t it at least be offered enough to make it expected?

Some takeaways:

* Products usually shift inwards, but not always. Take podcasts for example. At one point we thought they would end up as something expected or basic, but they still seem to be a value-added in the augmented product area. I’m not sure if they will ever move past that.

* Early adopters are utilizing augmented and experimenting with potential products while late adopters are picking them up at the expected or basic product level.

* It’s dangerous to be floating in the expected. If you are not innovating and thinking outside of the box, if you are just going with the flow and playing it safe, you are not differentiating yourself. You are another school in the bucket, another postcard in the mail, another unsubscribe on the email list. And as we continue to move towards more web-based interactions with prospective students, don’t you want your website to stand out?

* As we continue to innovate, our prospective students will continue to expect more out of us.

Where do you see us over the next few years? Where is the potential, and what becomes more expected or basic?

Comments posted (6)

i notice the virtual tour is the same in the 2002 and 2008 sites. not quite up to 2008 standards.

It’s in process of redesign right now, at least I was told in a meeting today. It’s pretty pitiful, isn’t it? I don’t think the new one will be much better, but that’s what happens when you get a 13 person committee together.

We’ll try to succeed where we can, with the least amount of resistance as possible. :)

Brad this is a great post. My short attention span doesn’t really stop and think how far we’ve progressed in the span of 5 years. And/or haven’t progressed in spite of the possibilities.

Brad, this reminds me of other areas of higher ed that things are now “expected” such as distance learning courses. While researching graduate schools, I specifically look for ones with online course options so I may work on my degree and work full-time.

Amazing how many large universities (flagship schools even) that do not really offer much in the way of distance learning…

Great post!

Good Afternoon Brad,

I ama first time visitor to your blog—fascinating content.I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts. As a web marketing intern focused on higher education, I thought you might be interested in a study that my company recently published. Working in conjunction with students enrolled in Boston University’s AdLab program, Flimp Media conducted a survey on Facebook to help us obtain preferences and information from students regarding current college and university marketing practices, methods and content. Flimp is a web video marketing software company. We issued this research to help gauge interest in web video marketing as a marketing application for higher education.

If you’re interested I can e-mail you a pdf file of the Survey results, and please check us out at

Brittney Strickland

Amazing how many large universities (flagship schools even) that do not really offer much in the way of distance learning…

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