According to an April 2, 2012 Deutsche Bank report on online education, diversification of marketing channels in terms of recruiting new students reduces financial risk. Maintaining a balance among referrals, corporate channels, community colleges, military, traditional media, inbound organic search, and purchased leads was cited in the report as essential to reducing volatility. Analysts perceived 10% to 25% exposure to purchased leads as a safe percentage while they viewed exposure of 50% or more as risky. The higher the exposure to purchased leads, the more difficult it becomes for a university to control its destiny.
Traditional schools need to pay close attention to these analyses and spend wisely so that recent improvements in market share versus online schools continue. These brick-and-mortar institutions need to take control of their recruiting processes in a way that minimizes overexposure and maximizes brand recognition. Many analysts feel that brand recognition is one of the key drivers behind recent gains in market share for traditional colleges and universities.
One of the keys to effective marketing is the ability to track and measure expenditures across channels at the campaign level and in real time. The web should serve as the hub of a school’s marketing efforts. Creating segmented campaigns with unique landing pages and inserting QR codes on mailed pieces that are intended to drive recipients to the web are two methods that can help institutions start to track and measure marketing expenditures more effectively and efficiently. Similarly, utilizing email applications to track clickthrough and open rates as well as driving people to an institutional web site via social media channels enable more robust campaigns in terms of channel utilization, management, and analysis.
Diversifying the marketing mix, leveraging brand recognition, understanding ROI per channel and per campaign, these are the ways to:
In the midst of summer, you are working hard to ensure that your yield strategy is producing results. Nonetheless, there are a number of students who did not enroll despite the fact that they applied, liked your Facebook page, and visited campus. The question is: Why? It is crucial to gain a deeper understanding of why these students didn’t enroll.
Like their Millennial generation peers, your prospective students live online. Online marketing and social media supply them with information about every type of product and service under the sun. If they are interested in your institution, the odds are that they have gone to your web site and/or social media sites to learn more about the school and, hopefully, to request more information, schedule a visit, or download/submit an application. It is crucial that your marketing team understands what web pages and/or sites lead these prospective students to act in desired ways. It is equally important to understand what areas of your web site and social media applications see prospects dropping out of the funnel.
What are you measuring? Do you know how to set up analytics goals? Are you examining pageviews, time on site, bounce rate, and other key metrics that can help you understand your prospective students’ web behavior?
As one of our analytics clients stated, “Our website is one of the most important marketing channels we have as an institution and the analytics provides us with a plethora of data. However, we realized that we were only starting to scratch the surface of what we could learn about our website from all this data we were collecting.”
The following infographic provides some great information related to what you should be measuring and analyzing:
This is part two of a two-part blog post.
To help you achieve and master the basics, it is helpful to utilize Web Analytics. Typically, this means having Google Analytics installed on your website. Once you have Google Analytics installed, you are able to start tracking your web traffic.
Next, set up Goals in Google Analytics. Once you set up Goals, you are able to determine how many individuals are completing the website tasks that you want them to complete. For Admissions, these Goals might include someone submitting an inquiry form for more information about the school, scheduling a campus visit, or submitting an online application. These are each actions that someone can perform when visiting the website. Defining these actions as Goals, it becomes much easier to determine how effective your website is at encouraging users to complete desired actions.
Finally, utilize Campaign Tracking. Campaign Tracking allows you to learn more about your audience and how they respond to specific marketing channels or messages. The power is not in the tactic itself, but rather in how the tactic is strategically employed. This leads to segmentation.
If you have purchased a list of names of prospective students, you have the ability to segment that list based on multiple levels. For instance, you may want to compare how effective a particular postcard is at encouraging prospective students with an ACT score of 30 and an interest in engineering to schedule a campus visit with how effective the same postcard is at encouraging prospective students with an ACT score of 30 and an interest in nursing to schedule a campus visit. Utilizing campaign tracking and segmenting your list, you can compare response rate.
This determination was made possible by implementing the “web as the hub of your marketing efforts strategy,” which encouraged each group of prospective students to visit a landing page. Next, Google Analytics can assess the effectiveness of your efforts. This might mean that the postcard was particularly effective for only one of your target segments. You could then act on that information and decide to use the postcard only for the group that found it compelling.
You will often need to continue testing and refining your efforts, being mindful of what variables (those that you can control and those which you cannot) that affect the behaviors of your target segments.
If you practice these “basics” of higher education marketing (and marketing strategy, in general), then you will have a solid foundation upon which you can use the most effective marketing practices to reach your target audience. Furthermore, this can save money by eliminating the components that are clearly not working.
Once you master the rice, delicious sushi will soon follow.
This is the first part of a two-part blog post.
I recently gave a presentation to admissions counselors at the joint SACAC/PCACAC Conference in Arlington, VA. The presentation focused on the importance of beginning with the basics of marketing and building on that foundation.
When new sushi chefs begin to learn their craft, they spend months, or even years, solely cooking rice. The rationale: if one can’t properly cook the rice, then the rest of the sushi will not taste very good. The rice seems like such a simple element, but it dictates whether the sushi tastes great or terrible. Sushi chefs who are able to make rice correctly are revered for mastering the skill.
So, how does sushi preparation relate to higher education marketing?
Often, we get a great idea and implement it. Or, we are in such a frenzy that we forget to cover all of our bases. We have time and resource limitations as well as many competing tasks. However, if we learn and practice the basics, our criteria will be solid when it is time to evaluate and reassess our efforts.
There are many aspects of marketing that can be considered “basic.” Here are a few key tenets:
Clearly, there are many items that can be added to this list. However, it is really a basic list of components that can make or break your efforts.
Watch out for part two of this blog post next week.
“Analytics” is a hot term these days. While many confuse the “analytics” that is typically associated with “business analytics” and the “analytics” associated with “web analytics,” there are many who don’t really understand the term in either contexts. Don’t be embarrassed. It is not one of those user-friendly, universally loved words like “giggle.” So, let’s lay out a few definitions.
Merriam-Webster defines analytics as “the method of logical analysis.”
According to Wikipedia, “Business analytics (BA) refers to the skills, technologies, applications and practices for continuous iterative exploration and investigation of past business performance to gain insight and drive business planning.” Furthermore, business analytics utilizes statistics, data mining procedures, predictive modeling, etc. For example, banks leverage business analytics to determine which products should be offerred to which customers based on variables such as credit rating, past product usage, etc.
Web analytics has been defined with slight variations by a number of experts. Avinash Kaushik defined web analytics 2.0 as:
(1) the analysis of qualitative and quantitative data from your website and the competition,
(2) to drive a continual improvement of the online experience that your customers, and potential customers have,
(3) which translates into your desired outcomes (online and offline).
This definition does a good job of explaining what web analytics is.
The next question that we will explore in a series of related posts is “why is web analytics important?”
It is very important that you track your campaigns with Google Analytics campaign tracking. However, an issue that many higher education marketing professionals face is that it can be very difficult to create trackable URLs in Google Analytics and then be able to organize them. Take a look at the following article in Smashing Magazine in which I explain how you can create a WordPress plugin to create and organize Google Analytics campaign tracking URLs, shortened versions of the URLs, and trackable QR codes.
When working with Google Analytics data, it is important to ensure that you are applying the appropriate context to it. It is much simpler to do this than it may at first appear.
When you are analyzing your web traffic for the number of inquiries or applications, it is essential to exclude internal (on-campus) web traffic from your results. Including traffic from visitors that were on-campus can skew your numbers and present an inaccurate conversion rate.
It is very easy to fix this by applying a quick Advanced Segment on-the-fly.
Create a new Advanced Segment where you Exclude the Service Provider Containing your school name. Note that several options will probably drop down as you begin typing the school name. You can select the correct service provider name for your campus, save it, and then apply the proper context to your report.
It is very easy to create powerful Advanced Segments in Google Analytics. This will help your higher ed marketing analysis maintain consistency and accuracy.
In a recent Google Analytics Blog post, A Look Ahead at Measurement in 2012, Google predicts five major trends related to what is on the horizon for the analytics industry in the new year. While these trends are predicted for businesses in a general sense, the predictions serve as a barometer for college and university marketing teams to gauge their level of analytics knowledge, skills, and practices.
So, college and university marketers, a few questions:
2012 is the year to begin to use data to drive your marketing decisions and strategies. The tools are making it increasingly possible to use data more effectively. The key is having the right people to help you implement the tools to their potential. Enter Joshua Dodson, a web analytics expert and Google Analytics certified professional who can help you discover and analyze your data so that you ultimately uncover the mysteries of what has been hiding in plain sight.
Michael Fienen discussed the findings of .eduGuru’s national study on content management system usage in higher education during the Friday After Class (#FAC) session on December 16.
The following are some noteworthy study findings:
A key take-away from the study is that, when evaluating the myriad of CMS options available for colleges and universities, there is no magic bullet. The various systems all have strengths and weaknesses. Deciding which CMS to use requires a thorough analysis of technological and user-based needs.
We appreciate Michael and the .eduGuru team’s great work, their commitment to the higher education marketplace, and their willingness to discuss the results of their study during Converge Consulting’s Friday After Class session last week.
The full summary of results can be found at this link on the .edGuru site.
Tomorrow (12/16/11), Converge Consulting will be hosting a #FAC Friday After Class live chat session on the Converge web siteat http://www.convergeconsulting.org/fac/ in which .eduGuru’s Michael Fienen will be releasing the findings of .eduGuru’s nationwide survey regarding content management system usage in higher education. .eduGuru’s survey of more than 500 institutions examined which schools are using what content management systems and also gathered feedback from users about the systems that are supporting the web presences of our colleges and universities. In an effort to provide resources for institutions that need a new CMS to design, redesign, or realign their university’s site, the findings will cover current trends regarding CMS usage at colleges and universities in the United States. Particular emphasis will be placed on discussing levels of customer satisfaction with specific content management systems as well as the features that specific systems offer.
Michael has been working in web development for more than a decade. He currently wears many hats, functioning as the Director of Web Marketing at Pittsburg State University, CTO at the interactive map firm nuCloud, and working as a consultant with organizations around the country. He is a respected speaker at conferences on subjects ranging from video, to mobile, accessibility, and content strategy, and also writes for the award winning higher ed web development blog .eduGuru.
Audience members can participate in #FAC Friday After Class either through the comment feature onhttp://www.convergeconsulting.org/fac/, or by using the Twitter hashtag #FAC during the event. The session will last for approximately 30 minutes.