By Jonathan Oleisky

You’ve spent the summer getting your enrollment marketing plans ready. Make sure you are measuring the value – the return on investment (ROI) – of your marketing plans. It’s critical to understand the ways in which your prospects come to you and how effective those “touches” (print, digital, social, attending an open house, etc.) are.

Measuring enrollment marketing ROI will tell you what you are doing well and not well and where to focus your efforts. In business and sales, measuring ROI is more science than art. (Check out Harvard Business Review’s refresher.). But in the educational marketing world, it’s both science and art, data-driven and anecdotal information.

What are your Enrollment Marketing goals?

Your overall goal may be to increase enrollment, but you need to get more granular.  Set specific, reasonable, qualitative and quantitative goals for each marketing strategy.

For example, if you create a Facebook ad for your open house: you might want to consider:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • How will you target them (by zip code vs. radius to your school; males vs. females; custom audience vs. look-a-like audience, for example)?

Identify metrics for the qualitative, too, those stories and anecdotes to which you can’t put a number.  For example, if give your current parents (or alumni) your school’s car magnet, ask them to put it on their car and post and tag a photo of it on social media. The number who post and tag is quantitative.  For the qualitative, on your Facebook page, ask those who posted to share stories and conversations when others noticed their magnetized school pride.  Maybe include a mosaic image of several people’s bumpers with your magnet.

Consider these metrics.

Yes, you are measuring how many people are inquiring, attending events, submitting applications, coming for visits and enrolling. But there are more metrics to consider:

  1. Engagement: How many likes, shares and comments are your posts getting? The latter two are much more important than the first. With Facebook, it’s no longer all about the likes. Because of the complicated algorithms behind the scenes, only a small percentage of your followers actually see your posts. If people share and comment, Facebook pushes that post to many more people.
  2. Number of clicks: Use unique URLs for different open houses and print ads. That way you can easily measure how many people clicked on your site from a specific ad (or billboard or direct mail piece).
  3. Traffic to your website: Does this increase by unique visits a few days after your direct mail postcard hits mailboxes? During the run of a radio or TV spot?
  4. Website Bounces: Where did people leave your site? Tuition/fees? In the middle of a long inquiry form (keep it short)? Measuring when and where someone left your site tells you a lot about length of content, navigation, calls to action, etc.
  5. Relevancy: You are writing and pushing a lot of news items for your website and social media. Use Google Analytics and Insights on the social channels to determine what are the most popular posts – and which items generate action. For many schools, sports content is very well read/liked. What are creative ways you can weave larger themes into sports content? A profile on a scholar-athlete who also leads the Robotics team? A service project by the tennis squad? One of the most popular webpages for day schools is the lunch menu page. Use this reality to push readers to more choices once they are checking out the menu with links to news or an article by your school nurse on helping children make healthier food choices.
  6. Keywords: Use keyword search tools – Google Keyword Planner, Wordstream’s Keyword tool, Adwords Display Planner – to learn what keywords people are using to find you. Integrate those keywords in your website copy, blogs and other content.
  7. Referrals: If you ask, they will tell. Keep track of every which way people come to you. On your inquiry form, include a drop-down list of the ways people may have heard of you (traditional print, outdoor advertising, broadcast, social, etc.). Include “reputation,” “referral from [LIST PERSON]” and other word-of-mouth referrals. Update this every year as your marketing plans change. And when someone calls the Admission office, ask how he or she heard about your school.

Getting beyond Google Analytics.

How wonderful that we live in the age of digital analytics! But there is a whole world of feedback out there that can’t be measured through Google.

  • Use existing volunteer groups (alumni, parents, student leaders) as ad-hoc focus groups for insights on your marketing efforts.
  • For many independent schools in markets with a lifestyle magazine, there is typically an “education” issue that features school ad after ad. Buy a few copies and ask your staff, trustee marketing committee, parents, academic colleagues, etc. to go through it and comment on what ads they found compelling and not so compelling. The answers might surprise you.
  • Periodic surveys to parents, alumni, prospects (no more than five questions, please) about a campaign, event, etc. can yield interesting anecdotal insight. Incentivize it by holding a drawing with a gift card for all who respond.

Use ROI to plan your next move.

Measure your enrollment marketing metrics on a regular basis (two or three months is ideal), and then dive deep into the data with your admissions and marketing staffs. Review your print, social, digital marketing strategies and how they measured up against the quantitative and qualitative data you’ve collected.

From all your quantitative and qualitative insights, you will be well equipped to create the most effective enrollment marketing mix for your institution.

  • What were the strengths and weaknesses of each strategy/campaign/event?
  • What were the surprises and opportunities?
  • What was the impact of the strategy/campaign/event on personnel, budget, the rest of your institution?
  • What kind of feedback did you get, internally and externally?
  • How effectively did you reach your intended audience(s)?
  • What content was most compelling/interesting to those audiences? What wasn’t?
  • What are the upward and downward trends?

And if you need any help with some brainstorming tips for groups and individuals, check out our blog. LINK.

Remember, there is no cookie-cutter plan. What is right for you may not work for the school or college down the street or across the country. Try different approaches. Just be sure to set goals, measure, analyze and act on that information.

Share your stories of measurement success with us in a comment.

We’ll wrap up our ten-part Summer Marketing Series with a final post next week. Missed any? Follow the links for a crash course in creating your best marketing plan.

#1 What is your Word of Mouth Saying about your School?

#2 7 Easy Ways to Take the Blah out of Blogging for Your School

#3 Best Ways to Work with Graphic Designers

#4 How to Execute a Social Media Audit for Your School

#5 What’s Your Position on Brand Positioning?

#6 Showing Your Website Some Summer Lovin’

#7 The Value of a Facebook Ad Campaign for Independent Schools

#8 11 Essential Photography Tips for Independent School Marketers

Jonathan Oleisky is Kalix President.