Elliance Case Study

Good Alone, Stronger Together

Carlow University

How Underdog Carlow Achieved Record Enrollment Growth Despite the Demographic Cliff.

Standard marketing practices—democratic budget allocation and predominant reliance on paid advertising—had failed to produce enrollment growth for Carlow for years. Elliance brought a fresh outlook by deploying three mutually-reinforcing practices.

First, Elliance brought a novel concept of allocating the lion share of budget to the signature programs, followed by program portfolios, and deploying the remaining budget to the rest of the programs.

Second, Elliance advocated for investing in a combination of paid marketing (giving a short-term boost) and content/SEO marketing (creating an enduring rising tide).

Third, Elliance championed powering all paid campaigns and content with an inspiring brand.

Faculty, staff and students galvanized around these coordinated efforts. Despite the demographic cliff facing the entire higher education space, institutional enrollment grew to a record high.

A graph of right-fit leads over time, read the following description for more detail
Image Description When using paid marketing, the numer of right-fit leads increases quickly but drops off over time. When using inbound marketing, the number of right-fit leads begins gradually, but eventually rises higher than paid marketing. By coordinating paid digital and SEO spend, clients can get the immediate ROI of a paid campaign while building organic page one Google rankings.

Carlow advertisement: Devoted to the future of You. Come as you are. Leave with all that you dream to be.


Activating the Carlow Brand

Early in our discovery process, we saw that theirs was the story of underdogs thriving with tailwinds from unexpected helpers. The Elliance team, with its unfair share of underdogs, picked up that torch and carried its central idea — underdogs win despite the obstacles — into every nook and cranny of the new strategy, brand and campaigns for Carlow.

In a world where ambition alone sends many running for the nearest success elevator, Carlow students and faculty appreciate the inner and outer lift that comes from building, climbing and extending the ladder together. At their core, Carlow graduates, rather than looking down at anyone, connect across shared, human experience with fierce honesty and stubborn hope.

Carlow graduates keep Southwestern Pennsylvania’s leading healthcare organizations, educational institutions and government humming and relevant. They go on to become responsible leaders that create sustainable communities.

Elliance crafted the brand line “Devoted to the future of you” with its natural extensions, “devoted to the future of nursing”, “devoted to the future of education” and “devoted to the future of economic development” and “devoted to the realization of health equity”.


Prosperity: Activating Traditional and Inverted Admissions Funnels

Elliance advocated for investing in a combination of paid marketing (to impact traditional admissions funnel) and content/SEO marketing (to impact the inverted admission funnel).

Two charts demonstrating traditional versus inverted admissions funnels. Read the following description for more information.
Image description In a traditional admissions funnel, only a subset of the many initial prospects will apply, a smaller subset will be admitted, and an even smaller subset will enroll. In the inverted funnel model, a small number of "heroes" will share the brand with their inner circel, expanding to their outer circle, expanding to a broader set of right-fit candidates.

To improve the quality of inquiries flowing through the traditional admissions funnel, Elliance first activated paid advertising with smarter methodologies like micro-segmentation, look-alikes, machine learning, big-data algorithms and affinity groups. Instead of directing prospects to skinny, high-pressure, give-me-your-contact-info-first landing pages, we romanced prospects with story landing pages and microsites which inform, persuade, engage, delight and convert prospects.

Elliance designed blog and landing page content that was bright, colorful and employed graphical content.


Next we complemented the paid advertising with SEO/content marketing powered by career guidance infographics, advice-oriented content and student and alumni stories that Elliance got ranked on Google page 1. This attracted and inspired like-minded prospects who benefitted from comprehensive career advice and guidance.

The combination of traditional and inverted funnel strategies turned out to be potent. Paid advertising acted as booster rockets while practical, useful and inspiring content created an enduring rising tide for the brand.



215+ Number of Keywords
on Google Page 1
10.9 M Blog Share Impressions
9% 2023 Enrollment Growth.
Highest Enrollment in a Decade
“To significantly increase brand awareness, one of Carlow’s six strategic priorities, I leveraged the existing Elliance relationship and engaged them to lead an expedited brand discovery process as well as develop a powerful brand platform that would unify Carlow’s messaging across its offerings and communications channels. Working together, we built an integrated campaign that included Elliance’s creation of an award-winning :30 television commercial. Even better, independent quantitative research showed that Carlow had achieved a three-percentage point lift in brand awareness within nine months.”
Lisa Fischetti, Former VP for Marketing, Carlow University