CMO50 2016 #14: Tyron Hayes

  • Name Tyron Hayes
  • Title Chief marketing officer
  • Company Curtin University
  • Commenced role May 2014
  • Reporting Line Vice-president, corporate relations
  • Member of the Executive Team No
  • Marketing Function 70 staff, 4 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Education and training
  • 2015 ranking New to CMO50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    Curtin University’s CMO believes that if you stop learning, you start losing. “In marketing and education, it’s critical to continually sharpen the saw in order to be more effective and continue to innovate,” he says.

    A big initiative that’s helped Tyron Hayes and his team innovate over the past year was a marketing hackathon, where the team were taught lean startup methodologies, prototyping and the importance of putting the customer at the centre.

    “We also have profiles for all staff, so we can see how the entire team sits on the wheel of preferences from innovating to inspecting and producing in order to harness skillsets and plug gaps,” he says.

    And embedded in every work plan is feedback on what new things staff tried, where they failed, and what they learnt.

    “In addition, we’ve created short-term project roles in critical functions such as automation and content marketing, where staff can be seconded to lead while receiving training and upskilling,” he says.

    It’s not surprising then, that one of the attributes Hayes is fostering in the marketing team is “hustle”. It’s also the team that gave Hayes his proudest moment in the last 12 months: Winning a VC Excellence Award in recognition of their efforts to provide excellent customer service to future students.

    “We strive to be customer-centric and it was great for this to be recognised,” he says.

    More from the CMO50 submission

    Innovative marketing

    Hayes says marketing strategy at Curtin is underpinned by five forces: A student and customer-first operating model; being strategy and insights driven; game-changers and innovators; taking a global perspective; and strategic content curation.

    In line this this, the Curtin University marketing hackathon was launched to help staff generate new ways of engagement that would inspire students to choose the education institute, create compelling and shareable content that builds awareness and engagement with the Curtin brand among high Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank segments of high school students, and increase first preference market share.

    The two-day marketing hackathon put the customer at the centre as participants rapidly generated and test new marketing ideas to inspire future students to choose Curtin. Fifty participants took part including current and future students, agency partners, industry mentors and staff from a cross-section of functions including IT, teaching and learning, along with marketing.

    Seven ideas were created, and in July, the Curtin PUPS (people under pressure at school) activity became the first to go live. The idea stemmed from customer research that confirmed Year 11 and Year 12 is a very stressful time for high-performing students. Among many options, puppies were identified as providing the best stress relief.

    Curtin partnered with dog rescue company, SAFE Perth, and took 12 puppies to meet 120 students at one high-performing school just after they received their exam results. The activity was captured on video and students were quick to take selfies and photos of the activity. Staff also provided additional value-added content to students about how to deal with exam stress.

    Results included more than 50,000 video views, posts being seen at least 243,000 times, 7060 social engagements, and one dog was rescued. From a staff perspective, it enabled employees to broaden their skillset in things like event management and partnerships, Hayes says.

    It also precipitated organisational structure flexibility by allowing staff 10 per cent of their time to work on projects outside their domain or department post-hackathon.

    Empowered business thinking

    A wider business initiative Hayes is involved in is Curtin Uni’s MOOC strategy and postgraduate course reviews.

    “Marketing is usually an afterthought and brought in only to promote the end product. However, over time at Curtin I have successfully used my influence to insist that marketing provides input into course offerings via roles on committees and by my team conducting market research into new course offerings,” he explains.

    Hayes has helped determine which new MOOCs should be offered, resulting in the launch of several successful including digital marketing, environmental sustainability and mining. Marketing has also designed and launched follow-up nurture strategies to leverage the database of leads created from these MOOCs, created rapid go-to-market strategies for new courses such as predictive analytics, and generated new ways to offer course units in an unbundled manner, known as ‘stackable credentials’, via the creation of new Web pages.

    To date, the MOOCs have attracted 70,000 global participants. Hayes points out that historically, it took Curtin 50 years to attract 60,000 students to traditional courses each year.

    “Importantly, these projects are moulding a new mindset among a traditional culture that we must change and respond to digital disruption and increased global competition,” Hayes says.

    Data- and technology-driven approach

    On the data-driven front, Hayes and his marketing team have been working to realign Curtin’s high school engagement strategy off the back of insights. A major emphasis was to increase market share to greater than 45 per cent of all first preference University applications in Western Australia, and lift High ATAR applications by at least 22 per cent.

    One way marketing tries to do this is by hosting 700 high school engagements per year. But with limited capacity and clear KPIs to meet, it needed to become more strategic and focused.

    This triggered the launch of the School Engagement Strategy, with data as the starting point. Using visual analytics software, the team began charting all WA high schools into four quadrants based on two axis: Total university applications and Curtin’s market share of total university applications.

    Four tiers of schools were identified, then marketing mapped information from its CRM onto all high school engagements and measured the impact of those engagements relating back to gains in Curtin’s market share. Additional filters were put into the mix around student performance, and trend analysis and geo-mapping were used to create a visual display showing the territory that Curtin had gained in recent years over our competitors. The analysis used data from its Business Intelligence system, future students CRM system, and Studentbox online feedback portal, Hayes says.

    “Strategically, the above analysis meant we could finally evaluate the return on investment from our high school engagements and operationally start making decisions about which schools to target, with which activities and to what intensity.”

    The geo-mapping exercise of high ATAR schools has also been used in Curtin’s outdoor advertising strategy to serve relevant messages on Ad shells and transit near schools, he says.

    Hayes says the application of data analytics has resulted in a renewed focus among the team, deeper relationships with schools by implementing an account management approach in parallel and new CRM processes to record interactions.

    “It required us to develop and use new skills in data analytics and it required a change in roles to include a business development/account management capability,” he continues. “It has increased our ability to engage strategically with our top tier schools, to offer their students more personalised services and to better manage the workload of the team.”

    By being more focused, marketing should save up to 20 per cent of related outreach costs in 2016, while still achieving set objectives and steadily growing market share from 37 per cent only a few years ago to 45 per cent of all first preferences.

    The work resulted in marketing establishing a department charged with marketing analytics and platforms. It’s also developed a marketing dashboard and reporting schedule using data points from across a range of systems and inputs and is transitioning from campaign reporting to holistic period reporting.

    The next step is a marketing automation project and ambition to use data analytics and digital body language of prospects, combined with persona understanding to build customised journeys and increase conversion, Hayes says.

    Customer-led approach

    Curtin’s list of activities to be more customer-led is equally substantial. A key initiative launched in the past year was a high-level segmentation study, which resulted in nine personas for future students that are now being used to craft its content strategy and optimise the customer journey.

    In addition, marketing recruits up to 25 Curtin students to be ambassadors each year, sharing their experiences with future students at events and online. Future students are also being connected to current students via CRM to enable better conversion tracking and a more seamless customer journey

    “Knowing the power of peer influence among our target demographics, this is a very powerful strategy for Curtin and delivers an amazing return on investment,” Hayes says.

    On top of this, marketing played a lead role in launching Curtin’s new website in late July, which was re-engineered to be more customer focused, responsive and intuitive, and it included an extensive information architecture and customer research component, Hayes says.

    Fostering team capability and agility

    A key role for the CMO is fostering the capabilities and agility of marketing to be more responsive to customer needs and expectations. Hayes is embracing a host of methodologies, practices and processes to make this come to life.

    As well as the staff skilling and training opportunities listed earlier, he’s established ‘look ever forward days’, a one-day activity every 4-6 weeks that focuses on the key strategic issues or projects with marketing team members. Topics have included content marketing, automation and customer personas and agencies and guest speakers have contributed to these workshop-focused engagements.

    More regularly, marketing has embraced agile sprinting within teams for key projects, building new agility skillsets, and training was providing in agile and scrum for key staff. All marketing staff use Liquid Planner as a project management tools, and minimum viable product is a core focus for all.

    An example Hayes points to is where marketing recently helped launch a new

    course in predictive analytics within six weeks, something that usually takes 18 months to get through various committees and into the market.

    “Our team rapidly conducted market research into the new offering, fed that back to the course design team, and then quickly briefed the agency on the campaign,” he says. “The digital advertising and landing page including an Expression of Interest form was built and launched within two weeks. In the meantime, the conversion strategy was developed and implemented.

    “It was a perfect case of ready, fire, aim.” Over 60 EOIs and nine applications for semester two intake were received.


    Creativity is definitely linked to innovation in Hayes’book, and he says his team’s efforts to break new ground are a reflection of its creative approach.

    To help, he’s introduced a 70/20/10 model for the marketing plan, with 10 per cent dedicated to breakthrough ideas. Three creative council meetings are held weekly, encouraging feedback and debate across the team to get the right creative result, and by encouraging failure, Curtin is enabling risk-taking and pushing creativity further, he said.

    “Our mantra is to inspire people to choose Curtin (first) by positioning the university as a leader in research and education,”Hayes concludes. “It takes compelling and interesting creative ideas based on deep customer insight in order to do this. Yes measuring what we do matters, but I never underestimate the power of creativity.”

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