Digital Marketing for Enrollment: The Right Way
By: Keith Knowles
When it comes to digital marketing for higher education enrollment, technology can be a dangerous thing. I’m not referring to the dark web, viruses, ransomware, etc. I’m referring to how technology is often seen as the “solution” to problems when, in most cases, it’s really the tool that facilitates the processes that solve the problem.
What makes this so dangerous is that the end users (schools) often feel a sense of complacency as well as a false sense of security and comfort simply in owning and using the technology. At the end of the day, the technology is only as effective as the processes that went before and after it as well as the expertise of the users/staff in operating the technology and executing the project.
Take content management systems (CMS) for example. How many schools are spending thousands upon thousands of precious marketing dollars on CMS software because they feel it’s necessary in order for them to have a better website? Without naming names and getting into the particulars, I’d say there are quite a few.
However, I would argue that a website without a CMS can be just as good, if not better, than one with a CMS because the presence of a CMS has virtually no impact on the criteria that make a website great. A website is great because you spent the time to strategically plan out the user experience, your content was professionally written, and your design looks great. Your CMS didn’t “do” any of that. It simply facilitated the architectural build and addition of content.
The same can be said for digital marketing campaigns – the technology in this case. A digital marketing campaign is only as good as the processes that go before and after it as well as the expertise of the users/staff in operating the technology and executing the project. Having a presence in the digital realm isn’t enough to guarantee success. A successful campaign requires thoughtful planning, execution, optimization, and monitoring. However, there are plenty of campaigns running at this very moment that fall well short of that standard of excellence. And the most unfortunate part is that some of these campaigns weren’t produced in-house but rather by “expert” vendors. I know because I was once a customer working with these vendors and I felt woefully underserved time and time again.
Technology is s complex matter so it’s easy for the average customer to trust the experts’ recommendations and authority on the best practices and processes required to pull off a successful digital marketing campaign. This is the danger area of technology because the customer simply doesn’t know any better. They’re complacent because they’re utilizing the latest tools to market their schools. They’re on Facebook, Instagram, Google Ads, and they even have a geofencing campaign targeting their feeder high schools. They report the latest impression and click counts at their weekly team meetings and everyone feels good knowing they have an omnichannel approach to enrollment marketing.
That “sounds” great, but unless the campaigns are executed to achieve maximum ROI, they’re really a glorified waste of money. Here’s an example I’ve seen countless times and it’s truly a head-scratcher.
A school decides to prospect for students digitally so they hire a firm for their expertise. The firm puts together a comprehensive media plan that includes:
- Facebook & Instagram
- Google Ads
- Ad Sequencing
- Website Retargeting
The school likes the plan and the next step is for them to supply the ad creative and links to the pages on their website where they want to drive traffic from the ads. This is where it all goes wrong. The school, either not knowing any better or not having the resources to execute this part of the project correctly, gives the firm URLs to existing public pages on their website or (much, much worse) the link to their home page and the firm accepts this. They don’t push back and talk about best practices – they just accept what’s given to them.
The lack of dedicated landing pages in a digital marketing campaign is a major, yet common, mistake. Dedicated landing pages help maintain information scent, focus the user on the goals of the campaign, and allow for proper and adequate campaign tracking. Yet, I am constantly seeing campaigns that omit this very important step. It’s as if they think that the ads themselves are “the campaign” and that couldn’t be further from the truth. The campaign is a combination of:
- Strategic planning
- Key Performance Indicator determination
- Research and interviews
- Storeytelling copywriting
- Enticing ad and landing page design
- Landing page development
- Monitoring and adjustments
When done correctly, digital marketing campaigns are a lot of work but are worth every penny. When not done correctly, they are a giant waste of money.
At Calculate, we pride ourselves in providing the “soup to nuts” package that ensures all of our campaigns are working as efficiently and effectively as possible. At the end of the day, your success is our success so cutting corners is just as harmful to us as it is to you.
Here’s a peek into our process:
Strategy & Research
We’ll work with you to define the project scope, the intended audiences/programs to target, the key performance indicators (KPIs), etc., etc. We'll then do all of the necessary research to develop key selling points and marketing messaging.
We are experts in helping our clients tell their unique story in a very authentic way because that is what today’s students want. We’ll interview your star students, alumni, and faculty to gather the necessary information to be used in the campaign.
Once we’ve done all of the upfront legwork, we’ll then utilize that information to craft all of the ad & landing page copy, design all of your ads, and even design & host your landing pages if necessary. In a recent 9-month campaign for Marist College, we wrote copy for and designed 387 ads!
We’ll help you decide on the right mix of audiences to target and the proper budget to allocate towards each. Whether it’s your own in-house list, a purchased list, geographic, demographic, or psychographic targeting, we’ll ensure your ads are being seen by the right people.
We believe an omni-channel approach to enrollment marketing is ideal and we’ll help you decide what tactics will work best to help achieve your goals. From social media marketing, search engine marketing, & geofencing, all the way through Connected TV & Out-of-Home, we have you covered.
Campaign Monitoring & Reporting
Once your campaign launches, our work is far from done. We constantly monitor and adjust campaigns to optimize them for peak efficiency. We also provide detailed reporting that goes well beyond the impression numbers you may be used to.
The End Result
When working with Calculate, you can rest assured that your campaign will be executed the right way. We don’t cut corners and we adhere to all of the best practices when it comes to digital/inbound marketing.
Because we want to win just as bad as you do.