Specs Howard School Broadcasts Success Using HubSpot's Marketing Software

Specs Howard is a leading Media Arts career school based in the greater Detroit area of Michigan. Their marketing team had traditionally focused only on outbound initiatives such as recruitment fairs, radio ads, and paid search. In late 2012, they found that despite the increasing volume of leads generated for Admissions that year, overall student enrollment was down. With enrollment gaps to fill, they turned to HubSpot in 2013 as a solution to help them with lead management and nurturing.


increase in organic leads
within first yr


increase in total leads
within first yr


increase in monthly traffic
within first 6 mos.

About Specs Howard

Specs Howard School is a private media arts school leading the fields of Broadcast Media Arts, Graphic Design and Digital Media Arts. Specs Howard School programs focus on teaching students the skills and knowledge needed to work with industry relevant equipment in job-related activities through a hands-on approach. Specs Howard students are continuously building confidence and increasing skill levels, while working toward achieving their ultimate goal: employment.

Taking a Hard Look at Enrollment

Since 1970, Specs Howard School of Media Arts has offered hands-on experience and project-oriented learning in the media arts. They offer three premier programs of study including Broadcast Media Arts, Graphic Design and Digital Media Arts. They’re well known in the greater Detroit area and many students are referred by word of mouth. Buzz generated from recruitment events and lead inquiries on the school’s website were increasing in 2012 but overall enrollment for their certificate programs was down.

The marketing department was piecing together a variety of tools but struggled to track their overall effectiveness. They were using Constant Contact to send out email blasts but this process was both manual and time-consuming because they had to export lists from their campus management software.  They also had Hootsuite for social media and Google Analytics for website performance monitoring but none of these tools integrated or spoke with each other.

This lack of integration made it very difficult to track the performance of their marketing campaigns. “These individual tools worked well enough on their own but with a small department we would have needed multiple individuals to gather all of the information and compare in order to accurately evaluate campaigns,” shared Kathryn Stickley, Marketing Manager at Specs Howard.

Reduced enrollment numbers led the marketing department to take a hard look at their ecosystem of tools and processes to figure out what needed to change in order to get more applicants enrolled into their programs for 2013.

Kathryn recollects, "We were charged to look into marketing automation software as we came to the realization that with a small department and many large goals to achieve, we could not increase our lead to applicant numbers as needed."

"The free content that HubSpot provides helped reinforce that the inbound methodology is what separates HubSpot from other marketing automation software companies."

Kathryn Stickley

Marketing Manager

Specs Howard

Applying Inbound Marketing at Specs Howard

Like many schools, Specs Howard had previously focused solely on traditional outbound marketing initiatives. They had become familiar with inbound marketing and HubSpot through it’s blog content and free educational resources.

Kathryn mentioned, “The free content that HubSpot provides helped reinforce that the inbound methodology is what separates HubSpot from another marketing automation software companies.  The emphasis on educating marketers on inbound methodology instead of simply being a software provider really impressed many employees of the company.”

The marketing team at Specs Howard knew an inbound approach would help them to attract and educate the right type of student; students who were committed and motivated to get their start in the media industry. This shift in strategy was solidified when they read HubSpot case study examples that spanned different levels of educational institutions, demonstrating the powerful scalability of the platform. “HubSpot is what you make it,” says Kathryn, “ they have a solution for everyone.”

After a custom demonstration, Specs decided to purchase HubSpot’s all-in-one marketing platform and consulting in order to support their lead and enrollment goals for the upcoming school year.

"Working with someone at HubSpot who works exclusively within the education category also eliminated many frustrations of service offerings from other companies that we simply would not utilize."

- Kathryn Stickley

Attracting Distracted Students With Video Content

Specs Howard focuses a lot of their efforts on creating content to attract and educate prospective students about their programs. As a small marketing team, it’s critical that they maximize their reach and impact of every piece of content produced.

Their strategy relies heavily on the use of HubSpot’s Social Media and Blogging apps. Within those apps the team is able to broaden their reach, create and schedule content in advance.  This feature allows Specs to save hours of time each week and ensures they have a social media presence during weekends and over holiday breaks.  Kathryn says, “HubSpot’s social media and blogging tools help me put more thought into what we post, when we post and where we post instead of scheduling with no real thought behind the content or messaging.”

A key piece of their lead generation strategy is to create and promote blog content, both in the form of written posts and video testimonials. They have a specific page on their site with video clips from school graduates who are employed in the workforce. Their “Specs Grad Spotlight” helps prospective students see what sort of careers Specs grads can follow and provides opportunities to learn more.


The marketing team uses HubSpot’s blog templates to formulate posts that include a “Request More Information” form on the sidebar that's proven well for leads generated. “Using blog templates in HubSpot helps us save time and we kept the content short, sweet and too the point so the videos could do the talking,” shares Kathryn. As a result of displaying highly-relative video content, the Grad Spotlight has been a successful lead generation tool for Specs with a 14.7% conversion rate.

Placing the Right Students in the Right Programs

Through HubSpot’s Landing Page app, the marketing team is able to easily create specific landing pages for recruitment events held throughout the year. They’re goal is to leverage landing page features to increase their conversion rates and generate more leads for the admissions department.

Specs accomplishes this by using HubSpot’s progressive profiling and smart field features. “With progressive profiling through smart fields in HubSpot we can gather new information from students without it being overwhelming and because we are asking for something different it gives our pages a fresh look.”

Another focus of theirs is to nurture prospective students towards enrollment by sending them educational and helpful school information.  They leverage Smart CTAs to display next-level content to prospective students to take the next step in the research process. For example, they display a “Schedule a Campus Tour” call to action for any unknown web visitor and the smart CTA will recognize when they become a lead and display “Apply now”.


Next, they use HubSpot Workflows app to create custom workflows for each of the three programs that they offer, as well as an “unsure” workflow that gives information about all of the programs and the differences between them. 

If a student indicates on a form they’re “Unsure” of which program they’re interested in, they are automatically added to a Smart List.  Then an informational email workflow is triggered from that smart list. The workflow is designed to send that prospective student a series of emails explaining the differences between their program offerings, how to apply for financial aid and other important materials. The ultimate objective of this workflow is for a prospective applicant to become an enrolled student. Once a student joins their “Enrolled Student” smart list, they are automatically removed from this workflow and enter into a more relevant one based on their program of enrollment.

As a result of these customized educational workflows, Specs Howard has seen a reduction in the number of potential students switch their program of choice because they're more educated and informed on what these programs entail.

Trying It All Together with Reports and Analytics

The Specs marketing team also uses HubSpot's tracking url generator to see which of their advertising efforts are working the best. They use tracking urls when directing traffic to a landing page from somewhere other than a call-to-action on their own site, like a PPC campaign, display sponsporships on local websites, or Spotify ads. By using tracking urls they know where each lead comes from and can determine how well that ad is performing in terms of lead generation. Using this feature, they can also tell which ad has the best click to contact rate so when determining where to purchase ad space on other websites, they know exactly which channel is best.

Now using the HubSpot platform, Kathryn and the marketing team can quickly access live data to understand how their campaigns are impacting enrollment. From the campaign dashboard built into the software, they can see every channel’s performance and use real-time analytics to track against the goals they’ve set.

“The campaign insights allow us to tweak content in the midst of campaign based on click through rate, open rate of emails, page views, and submission rate.  We also evaluate each campaign after it has ended to help us with future campaign creation.  Overall the insights help us see if our inbound efforts are effective by resonating with our audience.”

They now have these insights and know that it's working by attributing HubSpot to a 54% increase in monthly traffic within their first six months and by the end of their first year, had a 15.8X increase in organic (free) leads for their school. 

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