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A Digital Marketer’s Approach to Higher Education Technology

November 7th, 2017 Posted by Higher Education, Integrated Analytics, Marketing Automation No Comment yet

Many challenges exist for higher ed marketers, such as measuring student engagement and increasing student enrollment while dealing with higher competition. Balancing strategy, campaigns, and measurement and doing all of it well can be a strain on marketing teams everywhere. So it’s no wonder that we eagerly jump at the chance to use technology to cover those marketing related tasks that were done manually before. But with so many options available, what are the types of higher education technology that are truly useful? We’ve put together a list of tools that are helpful to higher ed marketers. 

Marketing Automation Platforms

What are they?

Are they good for higher ed?

  • Marketing automation platforms work well for marketers across industries, but are definitely great for higher education institutions. Aside from just automating basic marketing tasks, you also get greater insight into your users’ journeys and their path to application. Many of the major marketing automation platforms also provide higher-ed-specific solutions which address some industry-specific challenges.

Analytics Platforms

What are they?

  • Analytics platforms track website and marketing campaign performance. You can see how many people visit your site, but also what pages they visit and what tasks they complete. You can also track the performance of your marketing campaigns and set up goals, such as student application completions. Moreover, better understanding the student journey can help you develop a stronger marketing strategy.

Are they good for higher ed?

  • Measurement is always good! And as far as higher education technology goes, you should at least have an analytics platform in place. If you’re new to it, you should start by at least understanding how many people visit your site before you move on to measure the student journey. Google Analytics is highly recommended given its price (did we mention that it’s free?) and how well it integrates with websites and other marketing tools (like Google Ads). However many other tools do exist and can provide powerful solutions to help you understand your target audience, such as Tableau or Adobe Analytics.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Platforms

What are they?

  • According to Salesforce, “At its simplest definition, a CRM system allows businesses to manage business relationships and the data and information associated with them.” On a basic level, a CRM is a database that houses information on your prospects, accounts, customers, and anyone else your company or organization may interact with. CRMs are powerful tools because they let you manage your relationship with your contacts, such as guiding your prospects through the application process.

Are they good for higher ed?

  • CRMs can help you understand the student journey through enrollment (right down to housing the application) and beyond. They often integrate with separate application programs, recruitment tools (e.g. Target X) and even marketing automation platforms for full-funnel insights into the student’s path to enrollment. They can also be used by both your enrollment and marketing teams. This is great, but in order to use them to their full potential, a solid strategy and process needs to be in place beforehand, in order to ensure you get the most out of the tool.

Email Service Provider (ESPs)

What are they?

  • Like marketing automation platforms, an Email Service Provider can send mass emails and may even have the ability to personalize and automate communications. With most ESPs, you can set up email campaigns, create templates, schedule deliveries, and receive performance reports on your emails. However, most features and functionality will be limited to email.

Are they good for higher ed?

  • If you don’t use a marketing automation platform, an ESP, though more restrictive, can be an alternative. While it doesn’t have all the power of marketing automation (e.g. lead scoring, advanced workflows, website tracking), you can still set up simple drip campaigns that allow you to automate your communications. Moreover, you can house your contacts in a database and create segmented lists.

A Case for Higher Education Technology

In an ideal world, we’d have all these tools and use them to their fullest potential. However, no higher education technology can solve all of your marketing challenges. These platforms won’t necessarily replace all the tasks that you do: just facilitate them. Therefore the most important thing before buying any marketing technology is to solidify your marketing strategy and decide upon a strong process. This should involve multiple stakeholders, not just the marketing team but admissions, program directors, and anyone else involved in the student application process. Without a solid strategy in place, technology won’t be efficient. Buy-in is just as important as alignment. If your team doesn’t see the usefulness and won’t use the technology, what is the point? But once these processes are in place, technology can help make your job a bit easier.

(Updated July 2018 to reflect Google’s change of Google AdWords to Google Ads.)

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