"I just have a gut feeling" is an expression you would probably not expect to ever hear in such a data-driven environment as marketing, but we have heard it often. Where we need to rely on a gut feeling, there is clearly an absence of data, and so instinctive actions based on experience and an understanding of the market come into play.
With so much at stake for ROI from strictly monitored budgets, this can be a huge risk, especially because no data to make the decision means no data to track its efficacy.
So why is this happening? Yes, it is true that education institutions are often large and decentralized, with systems and processes that do not always join up and talk to each other. Manual processing of information can be siloed, with team members not always aware that information they are capturing is of great importance to others in the team.
However, short of a process overhaul, there is very often a simpler way to make better data-driven decisions and measurements. Yes, we are talking about attribution models; in other words, ways to figure out what the exact touch points are which lead to conversions.
Congratulations! A new student just signed up for the MBA. But what really led to that decision to sign up? Was it the first interaction, the follow-up call, the paid media ad she saw, the FAQ on the website, the social post or that beautifully crafted marketing email? Every one of these has a cost, but really knowing how important each one is in converting prospects is nuanced and tricky.
The journey from awareness of your institution to enrolling in a course can take place in so many different ways. With multiple engagement points, each with their own metrics and associated spend, running blind is an expensive business.
CRM tools can be configured to assign credits to each step in the conversion journey, so that we can see where most impact is happening, but even then we have to think about tailoring that to our own context. If we are as focused on generating brand awareness as we are on sales, then there is one setup, whereas there might be a different configuration for high volume sales leads, or even for those who want to build initial quality leads to nurture further on.
Even in using education portals, attribution is not always clear. In the cases where leads fill in a form on the portal's page, the trick is to connect it via a straightforward API to the institution's CRM. In the setup where the portal redirects traffic, but not leads, implementing a correct tracking is a best practice which should not be skipped. There is no right or wrong from a leads' redirection strategy VS a traffic generation strategy. What is non-negotiable in both cases, though, is a proper integration and tracking.
There is another grey area when it comes to paid media: should we allocate a lead to the source from which it entered or the one from which it converted? We're talking here about the distinction between the "first interaction" (source from which it entered) and the "last interaction" (source from which converted). Sometimes a contact enters the CRM because of an organic action (first source), but makes the decision to enroll after having seen an ad (last source). The question is, then, which is the source to which we should attribute the conversion? The first or the last? Speaking of no right or wrong, this could be associated to the egg or the chicken dilemma. As we don't want to upset any vegan folks here, our only comment is that no matter which one you decide on, stick to that choice, and don't try and mix and match attribution processes.
Seeking the support of professionals on these types of configuration and decision-making processes is highly recommended (hi!) but there is something more straightforward that many professionals in the education marketing and recruitment sector actually miss. Something that can make all the difference to the way we track lead and engagement data. That thing is the landing page.
A lot of thought goes into creating a call to action, but the creative focus often falls on the call, as the action is usually one thing only: go to our website.
A typical website for an institution has a lot of room to browse around, from testimonials to faculty pages, course descriptions to student life. Funneling a prospective student straight from a social click to your full website is something Malcolm Gladwell warned us about.
There is a lot of room on a website in which to get lost, and ultimately bounce out with a vague intention to come back later, if they ever do. We need to narrow the focus, and the landing page does that.
On a single landing page, you can leave all the critical information in one place. This person has clicked on a social post about an MBA, and they will want all the important details about that course to be in one place only. Fees, timetables, start date, content, accreditation, faculty, learning experience and all of that good stuff, right there in one space.
This is a controlled environment, and a further call to action in and of itself. Minimize distractions on this page, allow it to be easily shared on socials, make all the information crystal clear and make sure keywords are carefully chosen, not overstuffed, and the whole thing is optimized for conversions.
Speaking of conversions, whether they happen or not, it is of paramount importance to track in the same place the efforts from both marketing and admissions teams. Remember that "without data, you're just another person with an opinion", who is navigating blindly, and driven by a gut feeling.
With that in mind, integrating all sources and centralizing information in a CRM, to measure all marketing actions in the same place, and to be able to compare the marketing investment per source VS the enrollments from it, is absolutely crucial. The data insights from a 360 degrees view in a CRM might make you realize that one source works better for your September intake, while another one is the most accurate one for a specific geographical area. "In God we trust; all others must bring data."
So what is the action we want them to take from the landing page? If you go to all the bother of providing critical and persuasive information on the landing page, only to give a contact email address at the end, this is another massively missed opportunity. A contact form is what you need here, specially created to dovetail into your CRM and give you the information you really want. When properly configured, this form sends metrics to the CRM, enabling admissions team members to be one step ahead towards conversion.
On the one hand, they will receive very valuable information to emphasize on during the first call (e.g.: if the answer to "how are you willing to fund your studies" is "scholarship" instead of "personal funding", the admissions staff can already tailor their pitch to this lead's particular case).
On the other hand, if a lead scoring strategy has been implemented, depending on the input from the lead on that contact form, the CRM automation will generate a score for each lead, and, in the case where the staff is reduced in numbers, only the leads with higher scores should be contacted by the admissions team. The rest should be done by the CRM automations based on personalized actions aiming at automatic lead qualification and conversion.
We aren't done yet, though. If we're thinking that's it all done and dusted, then where are your manners? A thank-you responder is one of the most understated tools in the whole process. This can be as simple as a confirmation that the lead's details have been received and that someone will be in touch shortly, or it could be an email with a summary of the tailor made offer, a link to a webinar or downloadable asset, but there should be something at the end.
That something is important for the lead as it gives them something back in return for their data, but it's also something very important for the institution as a Thank You page is crucial for reporting purposes. Some would think that we could use the submission form to measure how many contacts arrived from a specific landing. The reality is that if that same form is used in other places, such as the main website or other landings, the results will be combined. That is why an ad hoc Thank You page should be created for each landing to use as a "conversion event".
Configuring and building landing pages and contact forms, tailoring your CRM, to ensure attribution data is properly captured; this can all be quite technical to set up, but once it is done, it really just needs to be tweaked and monitored. At geNEOus (formerly NEO Academy), we are committed to empowering you to lead this change. Yes we can come in to work with you, get to know your brand and help to build campaigns, landing pages and CRM structures and attribution models for all of it, but we aim to train you as well, not to linger.
The thing is, that data is empowerment, once we know how to get it and how to use it. When structures are in place and the team know where to focus and why, we can make decisions based not on our guts, but on good and solid information. When we know what is working, we can tighten up our budget allocation and really show ROI on the things that work.
This can sound like a lot of work, but the truth is that this level of automation frees us up to do the things that plugins and attribution models cannot: be creative, communicate, build things together as a team.
If you do think this is something we can help you with, then we call you to action- click this link, be taken to our lovely free audit form to find out if we are a good fit. We won't leave you hanging.