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:
Joanna Peña-Bickley, in a great blog post, explains that personas are rooted in Jungian theory and premised upon the notion that there are twelve archetypes that symbolize basic human needs, aspirations, and/or motivations. These archetypes each possess unique characteristics, traits, and values that range from the heroic to the ordinary and from the wise to the jester. Marketers latched onto Jung’s theory because these archetypes, or at least aspects of different archetypes, resonate with all of us and in many ways help us in defining ourselves. Thus, these archetypes are utilized extensively in advertisements for every type of product and service that we encounter.
In the higher education marketing context, persona development is (or, at least, should be) vital to crafting effective communications. .eduGuru wrote an informative and resource-rich post regarding how persona development is important in determining how to design web sites and craft communications for the various audience types that the sites serve (prospective students, current students, faculty, alumni, parents, etc.).
A college web site is a great example of a communication channel that needs a variety of personas developed. However, even extremely targeted communications, such as a postcard invitation to alums to attempt to get them to attend homecoming, should be crafted after personas have been developed to inform the copy development and image selection. In short, there is no communication (no matter how large or small) that wouldn’t benefit from being persona-driven.
At Converge, our donor motivation research is premised upon three main personas of alumni that were derived from extensive survey research and statistical analysis: Champions, Friends, and Acquaintances. Each of these personas have different motivations and characteristics that have major implications concerning how college and universities should communicate with them.
The data necessary to develop personas can be gathered via primary research methods (surveys and focus groups) as well as via predictive modeling that is based on database information that contains information pertaining to demographics, academic profiles, past giving/engagement behaviors, etc.) The more data that is collected and analyzed, the stronger the personas.
In future posts, we will examine how personas can be developed for prospective students as well as for prospective donors in the higher education marketing context.
Are you developing personas to drive your communications strategy?
Leading that web development project, I observed three critical factors that are crucial to building a successful and effective web presence. I believe that these three factors lead to the success of this site, not only from an awards perspective, but also from a user experience perspective:
1.) Awareness of the goal of the web site.
I had the privilege of working with a forward-thinking and energetic Associate Vice Provost and Excutive Director at The University of Michigan as well as the Assistant Director for Communications for Admissions. They articulated clearly and concisely on day one what the goal of the site was and what type of experience they wanted prospective students to have in terms of interacting with the web site. The goal was clear: “We want a site that tells a story of what it means to be “Leaders & Best.” In doing so, we want a web site that creates an unbelievable user experience.” Those goals provided the litmus test for every recommendation and design decision that we made – did it help to tell the story of leaders and best? If it didn’t resonate with target audiences as reflective of the experience of a Michigan Student and Leaders & Best, it was off the table.
The goals in terms of call-to-action/user interaction were clear. We want prospective students to be able to:
These three calls-to-action needed to be accessible on every page. Here they are on the Admissions home page:
These calls to action were derived from focus group interviews with prospects from New York to California. Prospective students wanted it to be as easy as possible to find out how to apply, schedule visits, and obtain information concerning majors/programs based on how the user searches and not on how the University organizes itself.
3.) Telling the story
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.
“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?”
Nick Denardis just led a great #FAC session in which he discussed web design for next steps. And, just what are these next steps? According to Nick, “the ‘next step’ is anything on a page that can engage your user, it might be a simple click, it might be to fill out an additional item in their alumni profile, it might be to tell a friend. It depends on the what you are trying to accomplish….Each page on my journey should be getting me one step closer to that goal. Once I found it the “next step” starts over, now the next step is for the institution to get me every piece of information possible to either apply, request a campus visit, meet with an advisor, etc. The content on that page should engage me enough to show that the institution cares and wants me as a student.”
Here are a few other informative exchanges from the session:
Q: What are some general rules of thumb in relation to navigational links…I have always heard 7 + or – 2? Is there a rule about number of links?
A: 7 +/- 2 is a great rule. But it isn’t a hard and fast rule. It depends on the amount of visual space you are leaving for the menu. If there is enough breathing room to make the elements scannable then more is fine.
Q: What are best practices in how much content should live on a page?
A: There are no best practices for quantity of content on a page that I have seen. I think it comes down the action you want the user to take. My rule would be to try to keep every page (homepage as the exception) and define one goal. Put enough content on that page to sell that one goal, nothing more, nothing less. A page with multiple goals on it isn’t doing each goal justice. Sometimes though it takes stepping back and broadening the goal, but then you may find yourself adding additional pages to accomplish more micro goals. Users are use to clicking on the Web, they aren’t afraid of it, they will explore more pages as long as they think they will provide value.
Q: How do you most effectively test good design with audiences?
A: Testing calls to action can happen with either in person tests or with automated testing like A/B tests. If you have a good starting point and you’re looking to improve incrementally than A/B test would be the best approach. But if you are completely missing the mark (ex, sending an email out to a targeted audience and only getting a 1% click through rate) it would be better to start with in person interviews and tests.
Q: What are, in your view, exemplary academic sites in terms of design and user experience?
A: Some academic examples that I have come across that I have really enjoyed the experience are
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.
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.
On Friday, December 16, Converge Consulting will be hosting a #FAC Friday After Class live chat session on the Converge web site at 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. 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.
.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.
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. Each session lasts for approximately 30 minutes.
Seth Godin wrote a recent blog post in which he poses six questions that should be asked when analyzing a web site:
Seth concludes that these six metrics differentiate successful from unsuccessful companies in terms of their online marketing efforts.
If those questions seem strange or not applicable, they probably won’t be for long. As higher education institutions continue to operate more and more like private sector organizations, these are exactly the types of questions and metrics that will form the basis of evaluating online marketing efforts. Extrapolating these principles to online marketing in higher education, it is time to ask some related questions:
In simple terms, colleges and universities are wasting time, talent, and treasure in terms of online marketing if the following questions cannot be answered readily and accurately:
With all of these questions, you might be wondering where to begin? Visit our web site or call us for a consult. We can help you answer these critical questions. To give you a head start, please access the Analytics presentation (embedded below) that we led for DePaul University last week for a diverse and talented group of online marketing professionals from across the institution who understand that the questions above speak to ROI and serve as the barometer for success.
If you can track it you can measure it. We can help.