The Goal

To expand a regional school’s digital outreach to a national level in order to promote Online offerings, while still working within a limited budget and hitting cost-per-acquisition targets.


The Client

A for-profit university with multiple on-ground locations in the Mid-Atlantic region. The school had long featured an Online offering, but only ever used marketing efforts to promote and grow the traditional on-ground campuses. When COVID prompted a rapid pivot into online learning, the client knew it was time to invest in those programs as a standalone brand. 


The Challenge

As a for-profit online education provider, the client would be immediately faced with heavy competition. An ability to enroll nationwide meant a desire to market broadly, but budget limitations require finesse. Going head-to-head and outspending the major online players at a national level would never produce results. To achieve the goals in acquisition costs while still smartly expanding the reach of digital, Statwax would be challenged to get very granular in who and how we targeted ads.


The Strategy

To make the best use of budget, Statwax started by investigating which locations nationwide had the highest existing performance for the client’s online programs. Our Data & Analytics team analyzed years of inquiry, application, and enrollment data for each online program and mapped out the highest concentrations by state and zip code. The result was a visual guide to the best performance in terms of volume, conversion rate efficiency, and student retention and revenue – all down to a zip code level that would help pinpoint where additional marketing dollars may help capitalize on existing brand equity and success.

This information was exported into bulk sheets to help the Statwax Paid Advertising team set up campaign targeting efficiently – applying zip code-level targeting en masse to paid search efforts and then auto-adjusting bid modifiers based on the best performance of lead-to-application-to-enrollment.

Paid search, display remarketing, and Facebook lead-gen ads were chosen because they all offered zip code-level targeting and more specific audience outreach. With limited budgets, the client could not compete nationally across all broad concepts. Instead, Statwax honed in on its priority programs to support instead of focusing only on the larger brand. Through the past enrollment analysis, personas were developed to determine key interests, demographics, and behavioral signals of the ideal student in those programs. Those personas were built out into custom affinity audiences for Google display efforts and individual ad set audiences on Facebook. Paid search then focused on branded keywords, program-specific terms, competitor conquesting, and search remarketing in the most high-reward geographic areas.


The Results

Through this approach, Statwax was able to generate more than 4,200 program leads and nearly 500 applicants in the first year – both all time highs for the online programs in any single year. By focusing on key locations nationally as well as persona-based targeting and messaging, quality improved dramatically. The client saw 2X growth in the lead-to-applicant rate for its online offerings compared to the previous year. They also achieved a 44% reduction in cost-per-lead and a nearly 28% reduction in cost-per-enrollment over that same time period.


The Takeaway

There is a treasure trove of information hiding in each school’s existing student data. Unlocking that information is the key to being able to generate scale and success with digital tactics – even when up against the big spenders. By finding unique ways to analyze where past success has occurred and why, Statwax can set up new marketing efforts to make the most of every dollar all while robust tracking helps prove out how ad spend has translated to actual students.

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