October 1, 2019

Getting More Out of Traditional Higher Ed Marketing with Digital Support

Higher education enrollment marketing is evolving every day, pushing further into digital strategies than ever before. That’s not surprising, as more prospective students are turning to things like search to find out about schools. But that doesn’t mean traditional higher ed marketing tactics don’t still have a place. You just have to know how to properly approach non-digital tactics to ensure they’re still playing into digital strategies and driving enrollments.

Measure Impact Where Possible

The biggest knock on traditional marketing when it comes to higher ed is the inability to track it. Digital strategies offer countless data points, providing attribution that can show exactly which prospects and students came from which ad dollars and touchpoints. Traditional higher ed marketing tends to exist wholly offline, losing a lot of that attribution and student journey tracking.

There are some unique ways digital marketing measurement can support traditional higher ed marketing, however. Brand lift measurements can help tell whether things like TV or radio spots are having an impact on the target audience. If you’re also running paid search, you can set baselines for branded search volume in a market in the weeks before and weeks following the launch of a TV or radio campaign. It helps to do this with year-over-year data for the best comparison, to avoid seasonality skewing results. You can use impression share as well, so even if your ads aren’t reaching every branded search user, you can still calculate the total volume. In the weeks that a traditional ad spot is airing, track the branded search volume in that same market. Develop a trend line, rather than letting single days determine anything. All other marketing efforts remaining equal, you should be able to start seeing whether an interested audience is reacting to this higher-funnel marketing tactic by seeking out more information through more search queries.

Set Paid Search to Work Alongside Traditional

In that same scenario, your school can benefit by going a step further than just measuring search impact. Prepare your PPC campaigns to actually build on any search volume momentum that traditional tactics may help create. 

Google has created a helpful Google Ads script for adjusting paid search bids according to a TV commercial schedule (it works with radio, too). By inputting the schedule of ads from your traditional marketing spend, you can set paid search to bid higher and skew budget toward those times immediately following. This allows ads to capitalize on any search lift resulting from the ads, rather than letting potential new prospects go un-engaged. Or worse, see your competitor’s ads and not your own.

Use Unique Phone Numbers

Most traditional marketing campaigns will rely on calls to generate any immediate inquiries for a school. Most billboards, TV spots, and print materials still tend to feature some sort of phone number to reach a call center and get more information. It’s the ages-old version of digital landing pages, but it doesn’t have to be an outdated hard-to-track tactic. A lot of people on the go will still want to call rather than visiting a landing page and filling out a form. 

You can bring traditional phone calls into a digital-first tracking world by using individual phone numbers and a call tracking service. Statwax recommends CallRail or Marchex as advanced solutions. Through these call tracking platforms, combined with unique numbers tied to individual campaigns, you can create a digital footprint of a prospect’s journey that starts with their viewing of a traditional higher ed marketing piece. That way you can gauge which billboard or commercial is having the biggest impact on intent. Some platforms even feed that tracking data back into ad platforms. So if a prospect sees a billboard and calls from a mobile device, your digital strategies like display and search can then hit that same prospect with follow-up touchpoints.

No single marketing channel is going to help hit enrollment goals. It takes a widespread, integrated effort and there’s room for traditional and digital tactics to support one another, rather than compete, in that mix.

Are you interested in exploring how to use digital to get more from your traditional marketing spend? Let’s talk.

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