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Education Marketers: How to Utilize Your Data to Build Awareness and Drive Enrollments

Education marketers know that developing the right digital marketing strategy for your school is critical in helping to meet your school’s goals and objectives. But should you focus primarily on awareness? Or on driving those last steps towards enrollment?

In our previous education-focused blog post, New and Innovative Trends in Education Digital Marketing, we discussed how understanding today’s trends and advanced techniques in education digital marketing can help education marketers connect with prospective students & increase enrollments. Today, we’re taking a deeper dive into how to utilize your first party data to both build awareness and drive enrollments.

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Trying to determine the right channels, budget allocation, messaging, and mix of awareness vs direct response can be a bumpy road to navigate for any business – but this is especially true for the highly competitive education space!

Public, private, non- and for-profit schools of all sizes are all actively competing for prospective students’ attention, and the education industry is spending around $2 billion annually in digital advertising to capture it. Are they effectively connecting with their audiences, or are they focusing on the wrong goals and thus wasting their money on ineffective efforts?

Prospective students have access to more information and resources than ever before in their decision-making process – a journey that averages 2 years. But the average number of schools that end up making a prospective student’s shortlist of schools is just three, and the likelihood of a prospective student enrolling at one of those three schools is above 90%.

So it is more critical than ever to ensure your school is there early – with the right information – to make that shortlist, and to continue to communicate with that prospective student through to enrollment. But, how do you know you are investing your digital marketing dollars to the right prospective students for your school and programs? It all starts with utilizing your first party data to develop a comprehensive understanding of your student audience online.

Utilizing First Party Data to Establish Your Audience

Understanding your internal data and what insights it provides is always crucial to developing a successful strategy, and ultimately to executing a strong marketing campaign. However, we often find with our education clients that this is easier said than done.  Because of the typical multi-step process, from inquiry or application to enrollment, we often see issues that affect accurate first party data on these prospective students’ journey path.

Internal databases and CRM systems are often legacy systems that the schools have had in place for years and are not necessarily designed or updated to work seamlessly with campaign data to develop a unified view of the prospective students engaging with and enrolling at their school.

So, the first step we take for our education clients at Lever Interactive is working with them to ensure their first party data is consistent from campaign reporting systems, into internal databases, AND that any potential offline data that may be occurring after an initial online engagement is feeding back into the same systems. Between technical limitations and often times, cost considerations, this can be a tricky process. But there typically is a solution or workaround with some technical understanding of these systems and how they integrate with digital marketing data.

Once we are able to unify first party data and marketing data across systems we are able to begin capturing the audience persona of the prospective students. We can determine basic demographic information – such as age, gender, ethnicity, and or economic demographics – but we can also begin taking this further to gain an understanding of how prospective students are engaging with your school.

For example, we can determine if demographic trends vary based on the program or degree. Or, if a prospective student reached your school from a generic business degree campaign and you offer five different degrees housed under business. Is one of these programs being selected more often than the others? If so, is that for an internal reason such as more open classes or are external factors driving this?

These types of insights help provide the framework for a digital marketing campaign that reaches the right prospective students for your school and helps you meet your school’s goals.

Building Successful Cross-Channel Digital Marketing Strategies

Having this understanding of your prospective students, you can now leverage this data as a strategic asset to begin building audiences within your digital marketing campaigns, and you can provide value to your prospective students by delivering relevant, meaningful messages and experiences in every moment that matters to them in their journey.

With advancements in audience technology across platforms within digital we can incorporate your prospective student data in two ways.

First, we can utilize your first party prospective student CRM lists into digital marketing platforms across the purchase funnel – from search to display, social, and video. By developing specific audience segments, campaign strategies, messaging, and content across channels we can ensure we are delivering a meaningful experience to each prospective student based on how they are choosing to engage with your school. This is critical to ensuring your school remains in the shortlist of schools for a prospective student all the way through to enrollment.

Second, we can also utilize what we have learned about your students’ audience persona to build new audience segments utilizing second and third party data across channels to reach new prospective students that match who your student person, but who have not yet engaged with your school. This is the tactic that helps ensure your school is there early on for the right prospective students to make it into their shortlist of schools.

Utilizing audiences across channels to reach new students makes your awareness strategies work smarter and ensure you are driving more prospective students into your pipeline. Display, social, video, and even non-brand search campaigns will be more likely to drive prospective students to convert.

Which brings up the important component of tracking and measurement between awareness building and direct response driving strategies. As we’ve discussed, both serve a critical role in ensuring your school is present across the student journey, but success will look different across channels and strategies.

While applications or enrollments may be the ultimate goal, devaluing other touch points a prospective student may take, or cutting your digital presence down to only the most efficient application or enrollment driving tactics – based on a last click measurement – is a very slippery slope that will cause your school to miss out on the right students.

To learn more about how Lever Interactive can help your school unlock your first party data, build successful cross channel digital marketing strategies, or rethink your measurement and attribution, please contact us.


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