Noble’s project team spearheads all things digital. Aside from optimization [SEO/SEM] efforts, they also plan, manage, and execute ad campaigns to drive student enrollments. Improving site UI/UX is another key initiative.
Noble Studios has a stable, dedicated, and professional team. Their personnel contribute in more ways than one and always bring fresh ideas to the table. More importantly, Noble’s team restored faith and produced value their competitors could not.
"They’re always fine-tuning.... I absolutely rely on them to guide me down the right path."
Introduce your business and what you do there.
I am the director of admissions and marketing at a private preschool-through-eighth grade college prep school in Nevada.
We’re planning to add high school in the coming years, as well as boarding school. We’re part of an international family of schools, and we recently went through an ownership change within the past 12 months.
What challenge were you trying to address with Noble Studios?
For the last several years, we’d been under a corporate structure based out of Chicago. Within the context of this previous ownership model, a lot of the marketing efforts were centralized in Chicago. We were working almost exclusively with partners and vendors out of Chicago or the East Coast. The ability to branch out and experiment with other vendors happened once the ownership change was finalized.
Moving into this current structure, we were able to decentralize our efforts. Decentralization let individual schools within the larger group identify and hire their own vendors. As a result, I went on the hunt for a reliable digital marketing agency. I wasn’t especially satisfied with the agencies based in New York, at least the ones I had firsthand experience with.
What was the scope of their involvement?
They’re handling all of our digital marketing like SEO, SEM [search engine marketing], display ads, and social ads through a variety of different platforms. They recently performed a UX/UI audit on the site. They’ve done heat mapping to help identify improvements that could be made. A lot of focus has gone into site optimization.
They then built out the entire marketing piece for various campaigns. Only one campus is being marketed and there are some sub-products within that. They’re involved in our open house campaigns and now they’re doing campaigns around freshmen admissions because we’re opening up ninth grade next fall (for the first time).
The website that we currently have was built and paid for under the old corporate umbrella out of Chicago. Because of this, our website looks identical to multiple other schools around the country. It was built on a platform that I’ve come to learn is going extinct very quickly. It doesn’t transfer well when it comes to remote hosting. We did quite a bit of work tracking down a web development team that could upgrade the site. Once the hosting was taken care of and the web development team was on retainer, we could begin the backend programming. That’s when Noble was able to take a look at the functionality of the site and make some true performance recommendations.
The website’s mobile performance, which is where most of our traffic comes from, had some real functional defects. For example, certain pages showcasing tuition and fees in a table format are only to visible to desktop users. In other words, anyone who tried to access the same pages from a mobile device couldn’t see the same data. Embedded images were also prone to malfunction and then failed to render. Noble used a holistic approach to eliminate distractions as well as streamline the user experience for both desktop and mobile users. Much of the work remains ongoing.
What is the team dynamic?
There have been three people on the project team and two have been with us since the beginning. One is my main point of contact. Only one resource was shifted away from our project and the change was very well-managed.
How did you come to work with Noble Studios?
I requested three formal bids from companies, but I was already familiar with Noble through another business associate. Noble came highly recommended, but their proposal was impressive by itself. That paired with the great recommendation from my contact. Those two factors convinced us to go with Noble.
How much have you invested with them?
$75,000-$150,000 per contract.
What is the status of this engagement?
We started working together in August 2016 and the work is ongoing.
What evidence can you share that demonstrates the impact of the engagement?
This is my fourth full cycle of enrollments while working at this school. This has been the highest number of enrollments that I’ve had in a single cycle. This was the first year that we’ve increased our overall population from end of year to the beginning of the next school year.
There are much higher conversions despite fewer leads coming in. That was one of the problems we had previously while working with other agencies. We’d receive reports outlining all the traffic visiting our site, but it was worthless because zero were contacting us to schedule tours.
Once Noble came into the picture, they fine-tuned the analytics and got the site traffic under control. As a result, the leads became viable. They weren’t spam anymore. They weren’t users who didn’t understand the product, which was another tricky thing when you have a private school. Sometimes people think you’re a charter school or they think that you’re a college. It could be any number of things. Before Noble, it was almost impossible to rectify those issues. Now those improvements have manifested in a higher enrollment and the growth of our overall population. That’s all I can ask for.
How would you compare your experience with Noble Studios to others?
Compared to other agencies I’ve used within my work at the school, the difference is night and day. Our previous agency couldn’t deliver on the KPIs we targeted. They were handling us as a group instead of as an individual school or as a singular client. To them, the client was a group of 10 schools and they figured they could set it and forget it. They would send reports and tell us everything looks great because there’s been an increase in traffic to the site, despite the traffic being useless.
Noble takes a completely different approach. They answer to only me. They’re not concerned about my being a part of a larger account, where they’ve got to spread themselves thin to make sure that they’re sharing their resources. That’s been a huge difference.
Another big difference is that they’re local. They’re in Reno, which is still an airplane flight away, but I get to see my account rep every one or two months, which is important. I’d never met the people in New York City. I couldn’t tell you how many people were even on the old team with those previous agency partners.
How did Noble Studios perform from a project management standpoint?
We communicate primarily by phone and email. I haven’t had a chance to go up to their offices in Reno yet. That’s not for lack of them inviting me to come out; it’s been my own extenuating circumstances.
It’s really effective being able to speak with them whenever necessary. Every month, we have a set meeting to go through all of the data for the month. We review historical data and they propose new ideas. Updates on progress and completed activities are also shared in great detail. Everything covered is sent to us separately for our own records. They keep me plugged into what’s going on what they’re working on, which is important.
What did you find most impressive about them?
Noble is always monitoring site performance and making proactive changes, which completely separates them from other agencies. They’re always fine-tuning.
For example, they’re always running A/B tests and implementing minor tweaks to improve the user experience. There have been other times in which they’ve suggested we spend money proactively because of ad performance, despite knowing how limited our resources are. What’s important is that those suggestions are data-driven, and almost always end up in our favor. That kind of thing is important to us because if we’re going to throw money at campaigns, we need to be reasonably sure about the returns.
Are there any areas they could improve?
No. I tell them not to ever leave me. I’ve worked with marketing agencies long before my time at the school. I understand the environment and working in client-based business. I understand how difficult it is to constantly refresh and introduce new ideas to an account that you’ve had for a good, long while.
If and when you find a capable partner, they can do wonders for a marketing director. Since there aren’t many experts in-house, I absolutely rely on them to guide me down the right path. The fact that they’ve been able to do that for me has been tremendous.