October 29, 2019

4 Scary Things That May Be Lurking in Your Higher Ed Marketing Strategy

Is your digital marketing strategy keeping you up at night? You shouldn’t be afraid to peek behind the scenes of your school’s campaigns, but it is possible Frankenstein strategies are hiding in the shadows. Even though it’s a month filled with ghouls and goblins, your student acquisition strategies shouldn’t have any cobwebs or give you goosebumps. 

If any of these terrifying tactics are haunting your higher ed campaigns, it’s time to turn the lights on!

#1: Ads Are Using Last-Click Attribution

Let’s get right to the point: last-click attribution is dead when it comes to digital strategies in higher ed. The average post-secondary school prospect now requires thousands of touchpoints across multiple schools before making a decision. Treating the last touchpoint as the only one of importance will result in stripping away 90% of the prospective student journey and missing the whole picture. This is no way to optimize budgets and make new spending and channel decisions under the fog of a last-click model. So if you find last-click attribution driving your digital strategy, consider switching to a model that provides a fuller look at the digital student journey. Even a pre-built Google model like time decay will give you a better picture than last-click.

#2: Separate Digital Channels or Tactics Aren’t Tracked in the CRM

If you’re already tracking the overall application or inquiry source from a website into your CRM, then you’re at the top of your class. Making sure website lead gen opportunities are passing tracking parameters into your school’s CRM will allow you to evaluate the downstream success of digital tactics: seeing which marketing spend results in enrollments, starts, graduates, etc.

But it’s a common error to have these parameters set broadly and universally. Many schools will treat any website lead as the same source in the CRM, or only label them as organic vs. paid traffic. With so many digital touchpoints playing key roles in a student’s journey, this broad approach will prevent you from properly evaluating the role, importance, and ideal investment in specific channels. Make sure each digital platform, ad type, and even audience receives different tracking parameters so you can drill down as precisely as possible in seeing how each converts leads to enrollments and students.

#3: Ad Messaging Doesn’t Change Based on Audience

Every prospect is not created equal. And modern digital ad platforms allow tremendous amounts of customization to ensure every prospect can see the messaging your school wants and needs them to see at that moment. If every searcher sees the same general selling points about a school, every time they encounter an ad, there will be no chance of telling a good story and truly selling the prospect on that campus and program.

Ad messaging should be segmented out as much as possible – based on geography, prior website touchpoints, potential program of interest, and more. A user who has already engaged with a display ad shouldn’t see general brand messaging when they search. They should see something deeper-level that assumes their awareness of the school, like a student testimonial or urgency messaging about the deadline to apply. Age or parental demographics can also be used to deliver messaging specific to flexible class schedules, evening classes, or online offerings. You can even use income-level data at a ZIP code level to deliver financial aid-based messaging to ZIP codes with lower household incomes. Whatever the strategy, differentiating your school based on the specific people seeking it out is key to driving trust and eventually enrollment.

#4 Paid Search Doesn’t Make Use of Campaign-Specific Conversions

In such a crowded digital space, successful student acquisition requires a school’s strategies to stay ahead of the curve with the latest ad updates. None are more recent, or perhaps more important, than Google’s campaign-level conversions. Google Ads now allows individual campaigns on search and display to track and optimize to a specific conversion. Until now, it was all-or-none – every campaign worked toward the same single conversion goal. The new ability to steer each campaign toward a different desired outcome has direct application to boosting student acquisition efforts.

No matter the school, it’s a good bet that each program has different conversion needs, expectations, and strategies. A nursing application is not created equal with a robotics engineering one, for instance. If your conversion actions, Analytics events, and goals are set up properly you should be able to parse out on-site conversions based a specific campus or program. Importing all of those into Ads will allow campaigns specific to that campus or program to track and optimize only those conversions that are applicable. No more all-or-nothing approach that keeps things too broad and treats all actions as equal. That means no mis-aligned spending and optimization strategies.

Are you interested in exploring how to make your digital student acquisition strategies less of a trick and more of a treat? Let’s talk.

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