A long time ago in a higher ed marketing office not so far away, baseball played on the radio, oscillating fans circulated the air between cubicles, all the good shows were on cable, and data-driven digital marketers had just one thing on their minds: optimizing cost-per-click. Times were simpler then.
Nostalgic as those simpler times were, the marketing world has moved on. On one hand, that means higher ed marketers have access to a lot more potential data points. On the other hand, it means the task of building and optimizing a digital marketing strategy is more complex than ever.
Today, marketers have an ever-expanding pool of data at their disposal. The only thing growing as fast as the dataset is the computing power available to analyze it. AI helps. In fact, AI tools excel at quickly parsing through data and making minute changes that deliver big results. Still, there are some questions only humans can answer.
What you choose to measure, and the context you put around data can mean the difference between good results and great ones. Here are a few questions that can help create context for data-driven marketing.
Build Data-Driven Marketing Around the Right Goal
Marketers see the best results when they measure as far down the funnel or student journey as possible. They’ll collect plenty of data points along the way, but the supreme metric is graduation.
Yes, high-performing programs optimize higher ed digital marketing efforts to graduation.
Marketing hasn’t truly done its job until the student has enrolled, persisted, and earned their credential. Keeping an eye on graduations lets marketers see the big picture. We understand that, which is why EDDY delivers full-service marketing for the entire student lifecycle. Digital marketing is just one part of the ecosystem that attracts and engages students.
Of course, it’s not easy to optimize day-to-day digital marketing performance to an event that’s years in the making. Breaking that goal down into manageable parts can make the path to success easier to follow. Metrics like contact rates, applications, and enrollments can help.
When it comes to digital marketing, key metrics can align with milestones along the student lifecycle.
Measure What Matters for Each Milestone
If the goal is inquiry generation, metrics like impressions and CTR probably aren’t the right tools for the job. That would be like measuring a child’s height based on their shoe size. It might be clear that the child is growing, but the measurement tool isn’t precise enough to tell whether the kid still needs a booster seat.
Metrics like conversion rate and CPC are more valuable for inquiry generation. They help determine cost-per-inquiry, which indicates whether a campaign is worth continuing.
CTR and impressions are a lot more useful for awareness marketing. But, context is still important. An ad for the best beef probably won’t sell many steaks if it’s being served to vegetarians. To put this another way, quality matters. It’s one way to make the most of your higher ed marketing budget.
The ultimate measure of awareness marketing success is the rate at which impressions influence behavior. That’s why the best-performing campaigns use post-inquiry performance data combined with quality cues to understand whether inquiries are turning into enrollments.
In short, post-inquiry data shows what’s working. Sometimes it can even reveal opportunities outside the digital marketing space. High inquiries lead to high enrollments only if digital strategy is paired with a strong communication strategy and inquiry nurturing.
Data-Driven Marketing Takes a Holistic View of Data in Context
Individual data points have limited value. Real insight comes from looking at all of the data and drawing informed conclusions. That means expanding awareness beyond a single campaign or channel to look at the holistic impact across all digital marketing efforts.
It’s common to see different interaction or enrollment rates across different channels, which can affect average overall CPI. Data-driven marketers track performance against overall CPI goals as well as against specific enrollment goals for each program and channel.
Don’t forget that organic marketing plays a role too. Although the impact of organic social media on enrollments is a little harder to track, organic inquiries can help keep CPA and CPE in check.
Shift From Data Collection to Optimization
Data-driven marketers collect data on every step in the marketing cycle, from awareness, all the way through to graduation. They use that data to constantly refine and improve marketing across social, organic, and media channels. They know that their work isn’t done when the student applies. It’s just beginning.
Data-driven marketing for higher ed takes more than powerful AI and big data sets. It also needs human marketers who can build context around the data to shape strategy.
At EDDY, we’re not just data-driven; we put data into context to help schools grow enrollments. If you’re ready to maximize your marketing efforts, reach out. We’re here to help.