Marketing for universities: the need for smart marketing data

The higher education market is starting to undergo a major disruption, with the advent of blended learning, remote access and connectivity, game-like learning, and new academic integration opportunities beyond the traditional teaching roles.

World-leading universities are starting to rethink their model to maintain relevance in today’s digitally literate and highly globalised world. They realise that students and society have leapt forward in terms of digital technology, expectation and control.

The Australian government is also starting to put the spotlight on education, announcing that international education alone accounted for approximately  $21 billion, $1b more than the ABS was reporting. 

Smart university leadership teams are starting to place much higher value on student and future student data to build a competitive advantage.

TrinityP3 has worked with a number of Australian universities who have identified the need to transform. Our role was to help guide them through these key challenges:

  1. Decentralised faculties with unaccounted marketing spending
  2. Lack of common process and governance structures driving inconsistency
  3. Fragmented agency rosters with massive communication complexity and no clear roles and responsibilities and performance metrics
  4. Lack of data-driven insights

It’s not hard to imagine the amount of publications, newsletters, websites, and other advertising material that one university faculty produces.

Now multiply that by all faculties, colleges and departments in a university.

Then add an agency for each area.

It’s a challenging recipe

One university for example identified that they had 90 publications, over 95 websites, 90 agencies, more than 20 decentralised marketing teams with a total of 110 marketers, seven different CRM systems and nine marketing automation tools. Not to mention the multitude of social media pages being separately managed.

You can read more about the case studies in these 2 articles:

However, given the need to transform in a digital environment, I’d like to tackle point 4 above; the lack of data-driven insights.

In search of smart data

Universities have a wealth of data.

They have admissions data with invaluable demographics and secondary school statistics (from new students – first time and mature age – split for each subsequent year).

They have active attendance and participation records (on campus and remote), accommodation status, and payment types.

They have channel opt-in permissions with associated engagement metrics.

They have on-campus spend, value added spend, and university related event and interest data.

They have faculty performance scores, results and achievements.

They have incredible content being created by students and professors with related social engagement metrics.  

They have peer-to-peer log-in platforms.

They can easily identify the most valuable and best students.

And the list goes on.

It’s a data-driven marketer’s nirvana.

So smart university leaders are realising that they have to move beyond batch blasting emails, and generic magazines, and are opting out of non-impactful marketing areas.

They have realised the need to use data to target students directly, create cohorts of like-minded individuals beyond age and faculty, and build platforms to harness the power of advocacy.

They are heading in a new direction by creating a single view of students and harnessing the power of student value and engagement.

Here’s a snapshot of how this can be achieved:

  • Identify all the legacy systems, technology platforms and data capture points within the university ecosystem
  • Rank and prioritise each data attribute for marketing purposes
  • Gather the relevant variables and put the database into a low cost middleware solution to analyse You’d be amazed what you can now do for under $100,000
  • Develop a simple, tenure-based model based on degree type (single, double and eternal)
  • Assign all disparate student value to a unique student ID
  • Generate a 10-decile value matrix to identify value insights split by product type
  • Assign engagement data to a unique student ID
  • Generate an engagement score for each student ID and also band into 10% deciles
  • Create a 9 box value / engagement matrix to identify overarching trends
  • Discover 5 actionable insights
  • Build a united, multi-faculty marketing plan
  • Co-create content
  • Identify and target the highest value and engaged segment with a VIP program to drive university awareness and consideration
  • Implement a lifecycle strategy for conversion, optimisation and ROI measurement
  • Develop a simple executive dashboard to present aggregated results, shifts and successes

People, process and procurement

At TrinityP3 we can help assess and align marketing strategies, and can help guide you towards the right structure and mix of internal and external capability required to deliver on the approach above.

We can help uncover spend areas that are hidden. And help you establish more robust performance measures.

And we can help you embed new business process governance and management around the use of data.

A few key questions to ask:

  • Who owns the main database within your university network?
  • Do any of your agencies have data sitting outside the main system?
  • Do you have a single student view of data?
  • Is your creative agency using data insights for strategic planning?
  • Is your media agency matching media response data to student IDs?
  • How is your media agency utilising non-personal data to drive university preference?
  • Have you assigned budgets based on cost inputs or value outputs?

Are you working in a senior university leadership position and ready to rethink your approach to marketing?

We’d love to share our thinking with you.

Are you struggling with the complexity that digital and data offer to business? Let TrinityP3 make sense of the new digital ecosystem for you.