Lever Interactive has been helping education clients succeed for over 12 years. With our Premier Google Partnership, we have an in-depth understanding of the ever-evolving student journey, and we utilize advanced techniques to help schools connect with those students and increase enrollments. So what do education marketers need to know about the opportunities in education digital marketing today?
The Student Journey
The education space is increasingly fragmented, as prospective students have more choices than ever before. Therefore, it’s increasingly important that schools highlight their differentiating factors to cut through the clutter and help students decide what’s right for them in their moment of need.
First and foremost, education marketers need to think of their prospective students first. Schools need to make sure that they are present when prospective students first start to search and think about that next step in their lives.
Today’s prospective student has a lot of power. They know that there are a lot of different places they can go for research. Education marketers need to make sure they’re present and providing valuable information in those various touchpoints, including searches for schools, degrees and certifications; a strong mobile presence; and utilization of video and display.
With this understanding of how education marketers need to connect with prospective students in a fragmented environment during their student journey, let’s take a look at a few innovative methods the Lever team uses to increase the success of our education clients’ digital marketing efforts.
Advanced Technology for Precise Mapping
Outside of the targeting options made available to us within the engines, the Lever team leverages mapping software that allows us to implement an advanced approach to mapping that directly aligns with our clients’ goals.
The driving power behind our mapping is utilizing client’s 1st party data – across the entire funnel – to create sophisticated maps that give us clear insight on where prospect actions (inquiry, enrollment, etc.) are occurring and in what concentration.
Mapping student data allows us to zero in on precise areas of opportunity, rather than rely on DMA targeting only. For one client whose objective was to increase enrollments, we leveraged their inquiry and enrollment data and created heat maps of pockets where their enrollments were concentrated, and shifted more media dollars to these areas and applied increased bid modifiers. This resulted in increased enrollments and reduced wasteful spending, as it eliminated areas that drove high inquiries but low enrollments.
Geo-fencing is also an important tool we utilize to be present in hyper-local areas on mobile. As an example, using Snapchat – an important tool for targeting Millennials and Gen Z – we can create a geo-fence around high schools during college fairs and help drive interest for particular colleges and universities to keep them in the consideration set post-fair.
Beyond the Inquiry
Understanding the funnel beyond the inquiry is just as critical as understanding the intent and action related to the programs.
Our digital campaign management focuses on all metrics – not focusing on one conversion or cost per as the only indicator of the overall health and growth opportunity of the campaigns.
Our goal is to always fill the funnel with qualified inquiries that ultimately turn into enrollments, and we’re able to do so by managing across multiple channel-conversion metrics.
For example, an education client’s funnel may go from inquiry, to booked appointment, to attended appointment (which most often resulted in application), and then ultimately to enrollment.
In times of limited budgets, focusing on enrollments rather than inquiries, by shifting focus in both optimizations and budget to keywords driving enrollments, may be a way to maintain effectiveness.
A Customized Digital Experience
Focusing on audiences is essential for moving education clients into the future.
We know from our work in education that the path from initial interest to conversion can be up to 2 years in length – deciding what to study and where to study before applying and enrolling. This can start as early as the beginning years of high school, usually with the help of a parent. Or, this can be the journey of a college undergrad investing time researching the right grad program for them.
If the greatest amount of time is in the very beginning stages, it’s important to establish your school early in the journey for the most consideration. The entire journey must feel cohesive, while relating appropriately to the prospect in the funnel as they switch through mediums, devices, etc.
Every searcher is in a different place within the search funnel. They have different needs, priorities, questions and interests, and they shouldn’t receive the same messages in search, when viewing a display ad, or when interacting via social media. So, how do you do that? How do you make sure you’re delivering customized messages to all prospects, while delivering your school’s experience in the most personal way?
Audience lists are increasingly important for marketers, in order to builds lists of users bucketed into website history, interests, demographics, etc. You’re likely familiar with utilizing audiences as remarketing lists, which you should absolutely be doing. But now, new technology allows us to use the combination of these curated audience lists and new messaging technology, directly within already existing campaigns, to produce feed-based messaging. This lets you serve personalized ads, directly relevant to the searcher, their interests and where they are in the funnel. We were able to utilize tactics like RLSA previously for this, but now we can do it in a more advanced way without any additional budget and without new campaigns to support.
This isn’t limited to search. We can utilize the same or similar technology through other channels, such as display. In fact, we recommend utilizing Smart Display campaigns for highly customized display ads tailored for the viewer, which also utilize machine learning to test the best images, text, CTAs.
Additionally, we also feel it’s important to stay connected to the prospect through the FULL funnel. That means we don’t simply disappear after the user has inquired. Students often consider more than one school during the inquiry stage.
After inquiry, we still believe building a personal connection with your students is important! We aim to connect right after the point of inquiry with Google surveys. We can learn why they chose to inquire, what they love about your school, and what their largest barriers to entry may be. This provides valuable information that we utilize when optimizing campaigns and share with the schools.
With today’s extremely fragmented nature of the student journey, it’s more important than ever to make a conscious effort to understand where your best prospects are and how to connect with them there in an effective and efficient manner. We hope these insights into how we help our education clients connect with prospects in innovative ways have been helpful to you. We will be sharing more insights focused on education digital marketing soon, so make sure you subscribe to our newsletter in order to stay informed. And, as always, we’d love to talk with you or hear your questions and/or feedback.