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Data-driven Marketing and Analytics

Data-driven marketing

Data-driven marketing has the potential to transform your institution's reputation and performance, yet in many schools, colleges, and universities, it is still a foreign concept. This page will define the subject and briefly cover its most important applications for educational institutions. We will stick with the influence of data and analytics on topics most affected by marketing and not on higher-level areas of governance, such as tuition, capital fundraising, board activities, and the like.

Data-driven marketing is first and foremost a way of thinking. It essentially means the use of available data to guide decision-making. The basic definition we prefer for education is "using the results and information from your marketing activities to direct decisions on what audiences to target, what channels and media to use, how to best allocate your resources, and how to create relevance and engagement."

Why Data-driven Marketing?

First, why should you care about data-driven marketing? Unless you are one of the few cutting-edge organizations in education, it will require different ways of thinking, different processes and systems, and long-term, new skill sets in a few of your key people. Change is challenging for everyone, and few struggle more than successful, traditional educational institutions. BUT - if you can make the transition, you have a great opportunity to:

  • Increase your number of prospects, applications, and yield rate

  • Retain more of your current students

  • Generate higher participation and gift amounts in your fundraising

  • Raise alumni engagement at events and on social channels

  • Improve constituent satisfaction


These successes will happen because you understand what your constituents are interested in, what compels them to act, which communications media they prefer - in sum, what engages them.    


Your Relevant Data - What and Where

Opportunities to enhance the power of your marketing programs are everywhere. Here are the primary media and metrics you can test and track:

  • Email: open rates, click-throughs, subject lines, copy tone and length, use of video, optimal timing of delivery, opt-outs, and many more

  • Website: page views, visits, unique visitors, time on page, path tracking, use of images, content style, and many more

  • Direct mail: response to key calls-to-action, personalization, interest level when integrated with digital channels, and many more

  • Digital ads: ad types, size, placement, clicks, path tracking, activity after click, response to calls-to-action and ROI if available, and many more

  • Print ads: ad types, sizes, publication, response to calls-to-action and ROI if available, interest                                             level when integrated with digital channels, and many more

  • Social media: views, likes, retweets, comments, shares, use of images, use of videos

  • Blog posts: page views, comments, social media shares

  • Video on major channels like YouTube or Vimeo: views, likes, comments, average time watched

  • Market research: parent and alumni survey responses, focus group findings, image audits,                                                     predictive modeling results, and lessons from studies of parents who don't re-enroll.

  • Testimonials/word of mouth: where are they most effective and in what medium, direct effects on                                           enrollment and/or retention if available.


Drilling into Data-driven Marketing

You can learn much more about data-driven marketing can help your institution from our two blog posts, which delve into strategic topics such as what data can tell us and how to use it in your marketing. You will also gain valuable insight on tactical factors, including specific metrics, testing, ROI assessment, and much more.

See posts on Part I and Part II now!


And when you're ready to discuss your data-driven marketing questions and goals, William Bullard can help. He has been helping clients and his own organizations understand and leverage data since his first career in direct marketing.

Data-driven marketing
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