Monday, November 16, 2009

Thanksgviving Engagement through Personalized Cards Will Increase Retention

Thanksgiving is approaching so it is time to focus even more keenly on retention. This is one of the most problematic times of the year for student retention. When they go home or do not come to class during the holiday break, it is the first time they have had time to sit, reflect and consider whether or not they want to continue at your college or university. It is a time when you can either make sure you stay in their minds and hearts in a positive way, or spin the wheel and take a chance.

Rather than spend a lot of space and words on why Thanksgiving is the first real problems period for retention, I will direct you to an earlier discussion on the topic. Things have not changed much on the rationale. All that has changed is that times are tougher, money is tighter and it is likely you have not been providing all the academic customer service needed to make students feel really good about their investments. Oh yes, you cut back on them. Fewer sections, more adjuncts, cuts in staffing, reduction in services, traded more automation for people, etc. etc. to save money when you should have focused on more customer service and that would have saved students and money.

Don’t know how many times we need to say it but…RETENTION YIELDS INCREASED REVENUES FOR ALL OF A COLLEGE’S NEEDS EVERY SINGLE TIME! Please get the message out to others including the president of the school. Stop cutting and start adding to the budget and people.

Okay, I am slightly off topic here but how is it that so many intelligent people make so many dumb decisions? How is that they try and succeed to make the dumbest cuts they can to make a budget? Where does the money come from? Students, their tuition and for some public assistance based on student headcount. What do we need to keep our students who bring in the revenue in tough times? Increased services to meet their needs and ROI concepts. They feel the financial pinches too as they try to pay tuition which makes the payment feel even greater yielding increased service demands. So what do intelligent people do to keep students who bring in the revenue needed for the budget. Whatever is sure to tick them off and make them unhappier than they could be so they will leave in greater numbers. And push the “get me outahere” gauge into the red zone over Thanksgiving. The first time they have some rest to let it all hit them.

And that’s our segue.

This is the time, right now to get in touch with students and the maintain communication through the rest of the year. With special focus on Thanksgiving. It is extremely important that you are part of the Thanksgiving break. You need to be in the home when Sally or Waldo are from your college or university. You must be kept in a top of mind spot with a positive impression to assure students and parents do not use the break to consider leaving after finals or the year if it already paid for.

How to Keep Top of Mind During Thanksgiving

I just had a knee operation (which is one reason that there was no article last week. That and I spent the past two weeks working on a memoir of four years of deep grief following my son’s death from meningitis. The memoir is not to commemorate my son but provide an honest and at times raw truth of what grief is without any glossing over the truth of it. The real, full truth. If anyone wants to read it so far, let me know). Okay back to the knee operation and how it provides a partial answer. I was home for three days and a greeting card came in the mail. Not from a friend or relative but from the Ohio State Medical Center. It was signed by many of the people who tended to me when I was in the hospital!

They had provided some very good attention and service and now they were coming into my home to say thank you for letting them serve me. This made the hospital experience which was good even better. Yes, that’s right. The surgeon and his staff who actually cut me up did not sign it which would have been better but still… This was a real wow.

I have long been a proponent of sending personalized greeting cards home over the holidays and other critical times. This has been done well by some schools following the how to save students over Thanksgiving seminar last year. One school that did it particularly well over the Christmas break is West Virginia State University. They sent out a beautiful postcard that accomplished the goal and helped engage students and boost retention. You can get some help on how WVSU did it from a great guy there name Danny Cantrell.

Granted sending out personalized cards can be a drain on resources and that means not just money but people tie. But compare the costs to the tuition from one student saved. Or to be even easier to follow. Compare the cost of producing cards for over Thanksgiving and Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, economic stimulus through shopping time to the $6420 it costs (on the average) to recruit a replacement for one student who drops out.

To help with saving money, time and labor, the sending of personalized cards can also be outsourced at a very reasonable price. There are times that outsourcing can save money, time and increase service such as these cards, or a book company that takes care of all student books needs and even sends books directly to students such as Ambassador Books or having your website made into a dynamic 2.0 engagement and marketing source through a group like COREacademics. (I have no financial interest or gain from these companies,. They are just good providers that I have been meaning to let you know about.. I do recommend them. More on each at a later date)

There is a company that has over 13,000 card choices that can be personalized to send to students or others with whom you want to increase your engagement. If a school wants to do what West Virginia State did, the cards can be totally personalized with any picture to wish.

All you would have to do is choose the cards you want to send. Or choose a few different cards to be able to target segments by any measure you wish – major, interest, year, etc. Then personalize the message inside the card by typing in a message or even uploading a picture with a message for the inside. Then click and send the personalized card with a mailing list to the company. Within 24 hours, the personal cards are printed and mailed out for you.

It is even possible to send students gifts such as cookies candy and the such with the cards, budget permitting. But imagine if you did send a small gift home for Thanksgiving! The impact of a small gift to eat with Thanksgiving dinner would be huge. It is also possible to have a card insert with a coupon for free coffee, a slice of pizza or the such at the school coffee house or a local business. That way you could also share some of the cost with a local business.

The cost is not at all expensive either. I believe it would save any school using it a great deal of money. To send out a personalized card including postage is $1.42. Postcards can also be sent at $0.49 plus postage. And they do all the work so no one has to work on design, selection, politics of selection, addressing all the envelopes, stamping them, getting them to the post office and all the rest.

I found this to be a valuable way to stay in touch and I think you will too. My contact with SendOut Cards has also authorized me to offer readers and their colleagues an opportunity to try the system. Send out a free card to anyone you want by clicking here. Or just email me and I will get a card to you or anyone you’d like. Anyone.

Again, I get nothing out of this. I just think this is such a great way to increase engagement that I want to pass it on to you. Just click here and go.

BTW, we plan to offer the Thanksgiving seminar this year if there is interest. If you’d like to learn It’ll be sponsored by my publisher The Administrator’s Bookshelf who of course hopes it will sell books. But hey, they put up the money so…. Here’s the blurb from last year.

Thanksgiving is a period during which many students complete their decision to stay or leave your school. Most powerfully, if they are not sure they fit or that the college cares, the comfort of gathering with family and friends will exacerbate any questions of do I want to go back next semester? They are among family and friends where any discomfort, apprehension or concern about your school can be magnified. They compare their feelings to those of friends who say they love their college. Too often, you lose.

But there are some easy, quick and compelling how-to’s Dr. Raisman will share that can help you and your school make students come back from Thanksgiving feeling valued and re-assured they made the right enrollment choice.

If you are interested in the seminar, please let them know by clicking here or emailing at





by clicking here

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The book was great. I was able to finish it (I read it on Wednesday night at church while my son practiced for his Christmas musical). What you’ve done is show how the concept of customer service can be applied successfully in higher education. I’ll definitely be recommending it. Jim Long, Manager of Employment and Training, Human Resources, Point Loma Nazarene University

“We had hoped we’d improve our retention by 3% but with the help of Dr. Raisman, we increased it by 5%.”Rachel Albert, Provost, University of Maine-Farmington

“Neal led a retreat that initiated customer service and retention as a real focus for us and gave us a clear plan. Then he followed up with presentations and workshops that kicked us all into high gear. We recommend with no reservations; just success.”
Susan Mesheau, Executive Director U First: Integrated Recruitment & Retention University of New Brunswick

“Thank you so much for the wonderful workshop at Lincoln Technical Institute. It served to re-center ideas in a great way. I perceived it to be a morale booster, breath of fresh air, and a burst of passion.” Shelly S, Lincoln Technical Institute

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