Companies like Amazon, GoPro, Zappos, Uber, and Apple have demonstrated again and again that having a deep understanding of who one’s customers are and how they make decisions is one of the most powerful competitive advantages an organization can possess. Over the years, marketers have devised a number of tools like buyer personas, empathy maps, and journey maps to better understand the customer’s experience and decision-making process. Unlike personas and empathy maps that attempt to build a more or less static profile of buyers’ characteristics, journey maps convey how the customer’s decision-making process unfolds over time.

While journey maps can be used to describe almost any buying decision, they’re particularly helpful in describing high-consideration decisions — like choosing a college — that often span months or years, involve input from many sources, and include a variety of logical and emotional considerations.

In this episode, we talk with Matt Sluzinsky, Director of Web Strategy and Services at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science. While Mayo Clinic is one of the most recognizable names in medicine, many are surprised to learn the clinic also provides over 400 academic programs ranging from entry-level certificates to elite residency programs. As part of the school’s efforts to raise awareness about the extraordinary range of opportunities available at the college, Matt and his team partnered with an outside firm to create a series of journey maps to better understand how different types of students engage in the decision-making process and how to better tailor the college’s online content to support prospective students in their journey.

According to Matt, the results were illuminating and helped to energize his team’s efforts as they set about a full-scale redesign of the college’s website. Backed by fresh, compelling data, his team was able to focus their efforts on developing the specific types of content they knew would have the greatest impact on prospective students, including the creation of a comprehensive online healthcare careers guide.

In this episode, Matt outlines the process his team used to create the journey maps and shares specific examples of how the journey mapping process informed his team’s work.

Transcript

Jarrett Smith:
Hey, this is Jarrett Smith, host of the Higher Ed Marketing Lab. As I record this, it has been eight months since we released our last episode, and obviously so much has happened during that time. But we’re ready to get back in the saddle and we’re as excited as ever to bring you the best episodes we can. So we’re going to start with an episode on journey mapping that we recorded pre-COVID. Unfortunately by the time it was ready to release, it really just didn’t feel like the thing to be talking about, but the episode was really good and the topic is as relevant today as it was eight months ago. So I’m excited to share it with you now finally. I hope you enjoy the episode and I hope we’ll get to see you again soon as we release more episodes in the very near future. Until then, take care. Talk to you soon.
You’re listening to the Higher Ed Marketing Lab. I’m your host, Jarrett Smith.

Welcome to the Higher Ed Marketing Lab. I’m Jarrett Smith. Each episode it’s my job to engage with some of the brightest minds in higher ed and the broader world of marketing to find actionable insights you can use to level up your school’s marketing and enrollment efforts. In this episode, we’ll be talking with Matt Sluzinski, director of Web Strategy and Services at Mayo Clinic’s College of Medicine and Science. Well, Mayo Clinic is one of the most recognizable and well-regarded names in medicine. What many people don’t realize is that Mayo Clinic also offers over 400 programs in healthcare education, ranging from entry-level certificate programs to elite residencies.
Over the years, the college has faced a number of challenges with regard to recruitment, ranging from simple awareness that the programs exist to a general lack of understanding among prospective students about the sheer number of career paths available in healthcare. With these challenges in mind, Matt and his colleagues engaged in a journey mapping exercise to better understand how various types of students engage in the decision-making process and how to better tailor the college’s online content to support prospective students in their journey.

We begin by defining what a journey map is and the types of questions it can help to answer, and then we explore some of the specific research techniques his team used to construct their journey map. Finally, we talk about how his team used these findings to drive concrete changes on their website and of course, the results that followed. This was a fun conversation and a great introduction for anyone who’s been curious about how journey mapping could be used at their school. So without further ado, here’s my conversation with Matt Sluzinski.
Matt, welcome to the show.

Matt Sluzinski:
Thanks, Jarrett. Glad to be here.

Jarrett Smith:
Well, really happy to have you here and super excited to talk about journey mapping and some of the work you’ve been doing at your school, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science. I guess before we dig into that though, could you just tell us a little bit about your school and your role there?

Matt Sluzinski:
Sure. So Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, I describe as essentially the university within Mayo Clinic, which is a nationally and internationally renowned medical center. So we’re running a number of schools within this college that cover, I think, over 400 programs. We’ve got students and trainees from all 50 States and I think at last count, almost a hundred countries. So a pretty wide range of student types and programs that we offer. We’ve got programs from nine weeks, I think our shortest one is nine weeks in phlebotomy, so blood draw, we can get you trained up into that and most likely moving into a career in that in just about nine weeks. All the way through to six, seven, eight-year programs, if you’re getting an MD-PhD joint degree or doing some of the higher end residency programs like neurosurgery. So you’ve already been through an undergrad experience, you’ve been through medical school and now you’re moving into that real world residency training and possibly fellowship training.

So we run a whole gamut. We have a medical school, MD granting, graduate school, PhD granting. One of the largest, if not the largest, set of residency and fellowship programs in the country for graduate medical education, so after medical school, as well as a lot of offerings on continuing medical education, other continuing professional development and our allied health sciences training programs. So all the other skillsets and careers outside of a physician who are needed to work in a hospital in clinics. So people that do radiography, x-ray technology, sonography which is ultrasound, rotations for dieticians, social workers, a whole gamut of programs that are the allied health support staff.

Jarrett Smith:
That’s a lot of programs. So tell us a little bit about the team you work on and specifically what you do.

Matt Sluzinski:
Sure. So I lead the… We call ourselves the Web Strategy and Services team within the College of Medicine and Science. We’re about a year and a half old. We were created in late 2017 to really be the first in-house web team within the college, which had been previously supported in its web and digital efforts from kind of a shared services model within the broader Mayo Clinic organization. And so in about that year and a half, we’ve built a team to support our recruitment website, our college public facing website that we relaunched in fall of 2018, as well as been getting into social media and some other aspects of outreach to prospective students and trainees, as well as some other web work that we do to serve our internal department and other stakeholders. So our team is people with skillsets around content strategy, content development, recently added some skill sets on multimedia and video. We also have a dedicated user experience designer and user interface developer to help us bring that design perspective as well as connect the user experience through all the work that we do.

Jarrett Smith:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Matt Sluzinski:
So we’ve got a pretty wide range of skill sets that we need to be more or less self-sufficient to run this website aimed at recruiting new students and trainees into our programs.

Jarrett Smith:
Well, and you’ve got so much that y’all are doing at your school and I know that certainly creates a number of very sort of interesting challenges from a recruitment and enrollment standpoint. I wonder if you could dig into that a little bit and tell us about some of the problems you guys have faced over the years in terms of how you talk about yourselves online, how you share about your programs on your website.

Matt Sluzinski:
I would say over the years, the web presence has been pretty deficient when it comes to modern day standards and so that was really our first big project last year, was to redevelop that basically from the ground up, but that’s just the visuals and the messaging that we’re putting out there. I think at a higher level, just a really wide scope of our programs. And in some cases, challenges with awareness about some of these programs in the local area in the region. So for example, our medical school or Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine is one of the most competitive in the country. I think we take in over 8,000 applicants to enroll a class of 100 each year.

Jarrett Smith:
Wow.

Matt Sluzinski:
And that has no challenges in terms of volume. They have some other things they might want to be working on, but certainly no volume challenge and is recruiting from a national pool of candidates. On the other end of the spectrum, some of our more entry level health sciences programs, like I talked about, phlebotomy or sonography or radiography are recruiting, generally speaking, more of a regional type base of individuals. And given that the people coming into those more entry level programs may not have a lot of experience with higher education. Some of these programs, you might need a high school degree, or you might be enrolled in a degree granting program at one of our affiliated institutions, you’re going to have, I think, some more education to do even around some of these careers.
So that’s been a persistent challenge that we try to deal with on the website and through social and through other means is trying to really educate up people about the realm of possibilities in health care that it’s not just a surgeon or some other kind of physician or a nurse. And in some cases, our audience has been cared for by those types of people, if they’ve had personal experiences in healthcare but have they been cared for by a radiation therapist or a respiratory therapist or a clinical neurophysiology technician. And trying to educate up on some of those really high value options in the healthcare space, but toward an oftentimes a younger audience.

Jarrett Smith:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Matt Sluzinski:
We do have some career changing, other types of populations, but just having that awareness that we offer these programs, that these careers do exist, and that while we are a big name in medicine, a lot of these are really attainable for you, that if you have the right background and the right interest in this, you’d be a great candidate for these programs.

Jarrett Smith:
Mm-hmm (affirmative) So I mean, given the diversity of students that you’re marketing to and the different ways that they can arrive at your school, and as you kind of outlined the different challenges with folks who’ve got these programs that present a great opportunity, but we’re reaching a much younger audience that doesn’t even know they exist, that these are options. It makes sense that you guys would turn your attention to really thinking deeply about that student journey from prospective student to enrolled student. For those of us that maybe haven’t done a journey mapping exercise or maybe haven’t even seen one, could you kind of outline for us what is a journey map? What does it do? How do you use it?

Matt Sluzinski:
We had worked on this with a higher ed consulting firm, Ruffalo Noel Levitz who had done some work with the college over the years and done some real foundational work on organization and strategy around enrollment management, and this journey mapping project was sort of a subsequent piece of work to that. And I think it really rose out of the idea that do we really know who we’re targeting?

Jarrett Smith:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Matt Sluzinski:
Do we know who our audiences are? And as I described with this sort of breadth of programs and the types of people who are interested in these programs, it’s really important to understand from the very entry level through the very advanced type of programs, what is influencing people as they make decisions? Who are they getting inputs from? What kind of content on a website might be interesting or valuable to them? So a journey map is really a way to visualize this. And so for… I know we’re on a podcast here, but the deliverable is essentially a table, so you have columns and rows and along the columns would be stages of a process.

So for us, it would be awareness of a program, inquiring to a program, applying, and then ultimately maybe enrolling. And you’d be sort of matrixing that with, what kind of mindsets do people have when they’re entering these different stages of the journey? What kind of activities would they be pursuing together information? And then potentially what are some web content targets or opportunities that we could have based on these findings to start targeting some of these questions that they have, or get information in front of them at the right point in the process?

Jarrett Smith:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Matt Sluzinski:
And we ended up doing eight segments of this. So for example, our prospective medical students were a segment. And over in the health sciences area, we had a number of segments based on the more entry training programs all the way up through, we have some doctoral granting and masters granting programs as well, where it’s really a different audience. They’re in the same realm of programs, but they’re significantly more advanced type of program than some of the other ones.

Jarrett Smith:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Matt Sluzinski:
And then international as well, also our graduate students. And trying to understand what’s important to them, how do they move through a journey from becoming aware of us in the first place all the way through to enrolling in a program. And I would describe this, I guess, for the audience is just a one piece of what you could do as far as the user experience research project, so there’s persona development is another option. But it really just gets down to, can you talk to your customers, your prospective students, your users, whatever you have out there, and put yourself in their shoes, figure out where they’re coming from so that you can ultimately target your work to them rather than more of a top-down approach, that I think somebody used to call for us, “We make, you take.”

Jarrett Smith:
Oh, that’s great.

Matt Sluzinski:
Which is we’re going to give you what you think you need rather than putting ourselves in your shoes and your perspective for a while, and then trying to meet you where you are.

Jarrett Smith:
Yeah, that totally makes sense. And I can imagine that going through an exercise like this, really forcing you to engage with your target audience in a structured focused way was just enormously helpful. I would love to talk a little bit about how your team went about putting these together? What approach did you use? What research methods did you use? What kind of questions were you trying to answer in a little more detail so that the fixing kind of picture how all of this gets assembled?

Matt Sluzinski:
Sure. So in our partnership with RNL on this project, we had developed kind of a multi-stage approach to ultimately piecing together these final journey map deliverables. So step one was, can we talk to our own internal stakeholders and try to understand we’re level set on the administrative side within the college, we’re people coming from deans, other individuals, and really try to get a sense to start fleshing out who could these different segments be? So it took a little while to get to the ultimate eight audience segments that we ended up with, but really refining those and conducting a little bit of preliminary interviewing and research to try to narrow those in.

And then there were two probably major methods that were used by RNL to source actual data from our prospective students. So the first is we had an intercept survey on the website for a period of time. So some percentage of people that came to our now previous iteration of our website would get the little light box pop up, asking them if they would be interested in participating in a survey about where they’re at in the process of seeking information about a higher education program and what’s important to them. And then those surveys are also used to identify people who would raise their hand and say, “Yeah, I’d be willing to be a part of a one-on-one interview in the future,” so trying to source people for future follow-up one-on-one deep dive type interviews.

Jarrett Smith:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Matt Sluzinski:
And so that was one input, the other was talking to recently matriculated. So basically people in their first year of a program who are on campus now and asking them if they can basically reflect on the journey they took now as incoming first-year students into any of these programs and see if they could kind of do a look back as best possible on what influenced their decision making along the way. But really the gold, as I understand, it was in the focused interviews that were done with the prospective students off the web surveys or the current students in their first year, where you can really have open-ended qualitative discussions about what drives you, what motivates you, who are you seeking input from, what’s important to you and start piecing together a look at, from awareness through inquiry apply and role, what are some opportunities that we can help support that decision-making process for you?

Jarrett Smith:
Mm-hmm (affirmative) So what did your research reveal? Was there anything that you guys found surprising? Did it confirm anything you felt like you already knew and confirm some hunches for you? What did you find?

Matt Sluzinski:
Yeah, so this was kind of a mix of things that we suspected were out there and some things that were maybe a little new to us. So I guess a few of the summary or high level findings on this were based on the one-on-one interviews that were done with prospective students or trainees. Many of them were really highly directed and knew more or less what they were focused on and potentially, years ago in some cases like they’ve had an interest in health care and interest in medicine or in science for a period of time, and now maybe are refining exactly what that could look like, but you don’t need to sell them on the career in this field. They’re down trying to find what’s the right program at this point, “I know I want to go into medicine or science and what’s the right fit for me.”

Another finding was that… I mean, this is not groundbreaking but for us, I’ll give some context for it. But that location is really in consideration from the beginning for many of these students. And Rochester, Minnesota… So I should’ve described, I guess, the campuses up front. So we have about 4,000 students and trainees across the three Mayo Clinic destination campus locations, the largest being Rochester, Minnesota, the other two in Phoenix, Arizona and Jacksonville, Florida. And obviously our Jacksonville and Arizona campuses are going to be much more major metro type areas compared to Rochester, Minnesota population, 115,000, where for some people that’s a big town, for some people that’s a small town. And if you’re recruiting a national pool for a residency or a fellowship or a medical student from the coasts, you need to sell our locations in a different way than you’re trying to sell them to rural Minnesotans who coming to Rochester might be the big city.

So really trying to understand that some nuance in location and campus and community type information, especially if you’ve got people who are straight out of high school in some cases or all the way, maybe into their mid or late twenties, they’re at different life stages and maybe looking for different things out of our locations.

Jarrett Smith:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Matt Sluzinski:
And the third one I think was the Mayo brand is strong. It’s one of the, if not, the strongest brand in medicine and people know it as, in some cases, the destination of last resort for complex medical care. But as far as the education aspects of what we do at the College of Medicine and Science, some people are familiar with that, but a lot of people aren’t. And I think just trying to double down on getting the reputation out there, the awareness around the breadth of programs that we offer. And we know people are going through different rankings type organizations to find top schools or looking through accrediting bodies for accredited programs in a field or networking with family members or friends or other colleagues, but the brand out there is strong but how do we start making sure that we’ve got the education, the higher ed messaging to go along with it as well?

Jarrett Smith:
So it sounds like it really was kind of a mixture of some things you already knew and a couple of things that you hadn’t really considered, maybe, were as important as they turned out to be.

Matt Sluzinski:
Exactly. And I’ll emphasize too that even the things that we sort of suspected were out there or that came through pretty loud and clear on the journey maps, that weren’t huge aha moments, there was so much value in being able to focus our work where we spent, basically, full-time most of last year, 2018, redeveloping design content interface system for our public facing website which really hadn’t had a serious piece of work done like that, I think, ever potentially, but had just languished, and being able to focus the work on where the evidence takes us and being able to use that as decision points for leadership and say like, “We’ve talked to the prospective students and trainees, and here’s what we’ve learned, and this is the direction we’re going to go.”

And we paired that with other sorts of higher ed industry research around top tasks that people perform on websites, what content are they looking for in higher ed websites, how do they prefer to be communicated to at different points in the enrollment journey? And just having that evidence in the back pocket to help focus the work because as you know with a large website or enterprise website redesign, you’ve got a lot of input coming from a lot of people, a lot of stakeholders involved. And the more you can ground that in the data and the evidence and the research was so valuable in helping keep this on track and drive us to the product we were able to create.

Jarrett Smith:
That makes complete sense, and sounds like you guys got a lot of mileage out of that on many levels. So ultimately, an exercise like this has to result in some concrete sort of tangible action, but you’ve kind of already hinted that in terms of driving the decision-making on how you’re presenting information on the website, how you’re organizing information and what and how you talk about things. I’m curious. Can you give us some examples, dig into that a little bit? What things did you change and ultimately, have you seen some results from that?

Matt Sluzinski:
Yeah, the core content on our website is really about our programs, our academic courses of study, or in traditional undergrad would be majors. But that was really where we applied a lot of work was what are the findings say about what helps we’ll make decisions about a specific program and how do we prioritize things like explaining the admissions process really clearly, cost and aid options. Showing student outcomes was something we had never done quite well enough. And we’ve put a really heavy focus as we start refreshing some of these program packages of pages around specific programs, how do we get the student perspective and the faculty perspective for that matter but show real outcomes, put real faces to quotes or faces to profiles or videos, and help people see themselves in some of these other individuals who have successfully navigated through the program and now we’re seeing early stage career success, or maybe something further down the path. That was kind of a win that helped us energize some work as we refresh our programs.

A couple other good examples. So one is around that career awareness. So I talked about, do younger type individuals know what a sonographer does or a histology technician or a phlebotomist? And we had a number of pages on our site, about 40 of them in fact, that were really informational about different types of healthcare careers like that. But structurally, within the site, they were kind of hard to find. Some of them are getting pretty good rankings and traffic from Google search, but with bounce rates, 75% or higher. So people are finding them, but we weren’t really having the people stick around to maybe find the programs we offer in that field. They were kind of more informational type pages.

And so we decided last year to double down on this and package all of these up into what we’re calling our healthcare career guide. So if you were out on our site, there’s a package of about 40 careers that we’ve divided up and added some way-finding around, what kind of salary might I expect? How many years of higher education might it take for me to get into this career? Am I interested in working with patients or working in a lab or working in some sort of administrative or support position? And really revamping these from what were really long form, all texts, weak call to action, low energy pages into really beautiful visuals, some calls to action around finding a program or contacting us if you’ve got an interest in some of these career fields and then providing some related careers too.

So if I come in on histology, this is a lab-based career, here are three more that are lab-based careers that you might be interested as well. So just give people some really deliberate pathways to stick around, maybe learn a little bit more and suck them in a little bit so that they’ve got somewhere to go. We’ve moved them through a pathway and are able to potentially get them to come in through that really broad-based Google search on a career field and maybe turn them into an inquiry or ultimately an applicant into one of our programs.

Jarrett Smith:
Yeah. And I love just how that idea is sort of intimately connected with the research you did and what you learned through conversations with your targets, really empathizing with where they’re at in the journey and then developing brand new tools to help meet them where they are and help them make a decision. So I think that makes so much sense. What kind of results have you seen? If you’re creating this more engaging content that is, as you said, kind of sucking them into the site a little further or giving them something to engage with, I imagine you’ve seen probably lift in things like page views, time on site.

Matt Sluzinski:
Yeah. So we’ve looked at this in fact on, can we start attributing any of our inquiry form submissions to some of this content? And so through some kind of more advanced user path analysis and Google analytics and in big query, we’ve been able to tell that depending on what kind of attribution model you want to use. Somewhere between six and 10% of our inquiry forms are from visitors whose first ever contact with us on our website began on one of those career information pages.

Jarrett Smith:
Wow.

Matt Sluzinski:
And somewhere between 15 and 17% of people who submit a contact form viewed one of those pages at some point in the journey before submitting it. So it’s playing that kind of top of the funnel role, as well as some supporting role that [inaudible 00:23:57]. Most of our search traffic is going to come right into a program or a course of study, and we’ve made some really deliberate pathways so that if I’m around a program reading about the histology program, we’ve got some information there that says, “Find out more about what a histologist does on a regular day,” and add it a little video type content or photography as well as some links into these career information pages. So it play that supporting role as well, that if I’m interested in this but I don’t quite understand maybe the day in the life, they can use that as a resource as well.

Jarrett Smith:
That’s fantastic. I certainly hope folks will take the time to go out and actually see this when they have a moment. Where should folks go to check that out? Maybe we can share your URL and I can certainly post a link in our episode notes.

Matt Sluzinski:
Yeah. We’re at college.mayo.edu.

Jarrett Smith:
Perfect. Matt, thank you so much for your time today. If folks want to reach out to you and maybe find out a little bit more, ask some questions, connect with you online, what are the best places to do that?

Matt Sluzinski:
I think we can probably post some contact information or people are free to kind of shoot me an email. I’m not really deep on the socials right now.

Jarrett Smith:
Gotcha.

Matt Sluzinski:
But you could find me on LinkedIn or find me on Facebook. I’d be glad to talk to anybody who’s trying to get into this and just trying to bring a more user centered approach to the work you do. I think it can be the momentum often keeps us sort of in the office and not really engaged with those end users, and that’s really not the way that digital is moving now. You need to be out talking to people, understanding at that front end of the journey what do people want, so that’s the personas are this journey mapping. As well as, as you go on, testing the work you’re doing with real people, whether that’s usability studies or some other ways to understand that people are engaging with your material.

So it’s really an iterative process. It’s a cycle. It’s not a one and done and really committing to putting yourself in empathizing with your users. And I think a quote or an adage I heard a long time ago that stuck with me is that, “You don’t want to fall in love with your product. You want to fall in love with your customers.” And when you really understand what drives people and what they’re looking for and what’s going to move them along to take the action that you want them to take, so for us, that’s inquiring about a program or applying to a program, how do you help just get them there in a way that meets them where they are at the point in their life, meets them where they are based on their past higher ed experience or their geographic location in some cases, and really commit to that and use that as the foundation for your work.

Jarrett Smith:
Well, Matt, that is fantastic advice. I can’t think of a better way to wrap up the show so thank you so much for sharing your experience with journey mapping and taking a really user centric approach. Just thank you for being willing to share that with us. Appreciate it.

Matt Sluzinski:
You bet. It’s been fun.

Jarrett Smith:
The Higher Ed Marketing Lab is produced by Echo Delta, a full service enrollment marketing agency for colleges and universities of all sizes. To see some of the work we’ve done and how we’ve helped schools just like yours, visit echodelta.co. If you enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. And as always, if you have a comment, question, suggestion or episode idea, feel free to drop us a line at podcast@echodelta.com.