Measuring Matriculation in Higher Education Paid Marketing

Understanding Matriculation in Higher Education

When we talk about measuring matriculation in higher education, we’re diving into how colleges and universities measure who’s joined the school as a direct function from paid marketing across different channels – either a single channel or sequence of channels. This number is crucial for colleges because it helps them understand if their ads and recruitment strategies are working. Most forward thinking colleges who are investing heavily into digital media work with their agency (like Umbrella) to track this through applications, acceptances, and enrollment numbers.

While impressions and clicks are great and lead generation is seemingly the primary objective of online media – the real gold comes in net enrollments attributed to media and the ability to understand the cost per enrollment and the objective return on marketing investment for student growth.

Happy american college students walking on campus on their first day

The Role of Paid Marketing in Higher Education

Paid marketing plays a pivotal role in the world of higher education. It’s the rocket fuel that powers the visibility of colleges and universities in the hyper competitive higher education space. The common mix of strategies includes pay-per-click ads, social media ads, programmatic media and sponsored content. Even colleges with prestigious reputations are looking to scale up their digital game – as more students migrate to brand discovery and research online, being visible where your prospective students are and understanding where the most ideal profile of students are and how to reach them is a key facet of any enrollment strategy.

Paid marketing isn’t about shooting arrows in the dark. It’s about precision – targeting the right people at the right time. Colleges can aim their ads at individuals based on interests, search history, or even geographical location, making sure they’re reaching potential students who are more likely to be interested in what they offer. Working to use your legacy data sets to build the best persona of your future students is a great place to start – marrying historical data to evolutions in the market and the schools offering ensures the school is investing in the correct legacy markets and the correct new markets.

Speed is an added benefit of digital media driven strategies. Colleges can adjust their strategies in real-time, shifting focus based on what’s working and what’s not. This flexibility means institutions can optimize their marketing spend and get the most bang for their buck, attracting more students with less waste. With legacy options like print, direct mail and billboards – once something goes to print, the cost is invested and the media cannot be altered.

Setting Metrics for Success in Educational Marketing

Given that most enrollment marketing strategies leverage multiple channels, multiple creative types across multiple platforms – its easy to get bogged down in data. While many of these platform centric data points are crucial for ensuring you are performing “in platform” well – prioritizing the key business metric – enrollments should take paramount.

Configuring your data flows so that all leads that are passed into the system across RFI pages, client websites, recruitment appointments and phone calls include a platform specific identifier that can persist with the lead through the CRM helps enable full lifecycle matriculation analysis and an objective ROI measurement on each unique channel.

If your agency is any good – they will be able to link media metrics together to understand digital path of travel, prescribe partial attribution credit to channels that worked together to drive a conversion before a lead that eventually enrolls enters your CRM.

By regularly checking in on the status of digitally generated leads through the application and enrollment process and tying that back to channel investment, Colleges and universities can start to prioritize key outcomes in enrollment and invest in student growth over platform centric metrics.

Strategies for Effective Paid Marketing Campaigns

Know your audience inside out. These are students, often Millennials or Gen Z, looking for courses that promise bright futures. So, focus your campaign to talk directly to their aspirations and concerns. Then, leverage the power of data. Use analytics to tweak your ads based on what works. Real-time adjustments can significantly up your game.

  • Your first party data is an asset to understand what has worked in the past
  • Your can also use that enrollment data to understand when/where/how to market to these users
  • Your agency should be able to ingest this data and create profiles of these consumers at a demographic and psychographic level to move beyond targeting based purely on High School academic performance.

Set clear goals for your campaign, like increasing website traffic or boosting enrollments, and track these meticulously. Understand how each channel plays into the awareness, consideration or conversion phase of the funnel and make sure you are configuring your main attribution measurement to track the relationship between ads in the path to lead generation and enrollment measurement.

Analyzing the Impact of Paid Marketing on Matriculation Rates

Any school can throw a rock and find an agency that can run paid media- in 2024 the odds are they can find an agency that will be effective at running Paid media. With the growth of platforms like TikTok, Meta (particularly Shorts) along with mediums like Google Search – the difficult part isn’t getting live and running – its understanding what’s working in driving key outcomes. That’s where analysis comes in. Schools track data like enquiry rates, application numbers, and, finally, how many of those applicants turn up for the first day of classes. Seeing a spike in numbers after a marketing campaign? That’s a good sign it’s working. How do we know where the enrollments are coming from- what is the difference between a lead that applies versus a lead that enrolls? These are the questions that colleges need to be asking, in an era with an abundance of options, using data to weed out excess or non optimal spend could be the difference in profitable growth or non success of media campaigns.

Schools need to find out what platforms move the need for ENROLLMENTS and not just leads and traffic. This is why correlating matriculation to media engagement and paid media is so massive and should be the basis for digital marketing decision making in 2024 and beyond for Higher Education.

Tracking and Measuring Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Each platform has its own set of KPIs and while we denigrate “vanity metrics” they are still relevant. Understanding click thru rate and completion rate are a great tell of creative relevance in platform – YouTube, Meta and TikTok all have best practices and as an enrollment marketer, you need to be cognizant of them. If your school isn’t meeting the benchmark, you will have a lower statical likiehood of ideal outcomes – e.g. Enrollments. Below are some key metrics that we want to track

  • CTR – Click Thru Rate a strong tell of how your creative is resonating within the platform
  • Completion Rate – A good indication of the relevance of your video content
  • Share Rate – Massive for social media, reels and stories that are shared is a key indicator your content is on point
  • Secondary Page Actions – Once users reach the page, even if they don’t submit a lead, where are they going?
  • Page Conversion Rates – How are your RFI pages converting? What content works best?
  • CPL – Cost Per Lead
  • CPA – Cost Per Application
  • CPE – Cost Per Enrollment

Conclusion: Maximizing ROI in Higher Education Marketing

To maximize enrollment marketing success – understanding and maximizing your Return on Investment (ROI/matriculation) is crucial. Simple, right? Dive into the data, figure out what’s working and pivot from what’s not. Focus on strategies that speak directly to high probability students. Use social media, targeted ads, and engaging content to make your institution stand out. Remember, it’s not just about spending money but spending it wisely. Pinpoint your most successful channels and invest more there. And always, always measure your results. Make sure you are asking your agency or your media buying team how they are optimizing against enrollments, the associates costs and sequence of events that drove the ideal outcomes.

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