The strategic foundation is often missing in many higher ed digital marketing measurement processes.
Over the years, the development of digital measurement practices in higher education has been driven more by the adoption of analytics tools than by a strategic approach.
Today, strategy is still an afterthought for many higher ed marketers and communicators when it’s time to measure the impact of digital marketing initiatives and campaigns.
This is exactly why I asked the 11 higher ed professionals speaking, by my side, at the 2019 Higher Ed Analytics Conference to share their advice on how to become more strategic with analytics in higher education.
Take the time to save time for Karine Joly, Curriculum Director – Higher Ed Experts
”The lack of time”is the most common explanation (excuse?) for the absence of a strategic foundation I’ve heard in my classroom, on social media or in conversations at conferences.
Time is indeed a rare and precious commodity for higher ed digital professionals as so many responsibilities and other duties as assigned have been added to their plate. But, if you don’t take the time to consider and implement strategic measurement, one of the best time management tool you can use, you will never get out of this infernal “cycle of more.”
For this reason, we have redesigned all our 4-week professional certificate online courses on Analytics at Higher Ed Experts to help digital professionals make time for strategy at the beginning of their learning journey. In the first week of all our measurement courses, enrolled students have no choice but to focus on the strategic foundation. A week doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s a start — and the most important part is to start with something.
Your strategic foundation doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s OK – and normal – to iterate through it. The beauty of digital is that it can be adapted very easily. So does digital measurement 🙂
So, whether or not you need to be guided through the different steps of a sound measurement process with the help of our courses (the next session starts soon if you do 😉), always make sure to take the time to save time by defining where you want to go and how you’ll know you got there!
Schedule time to make time for Courtnie Ridgway, Digital Media Strategist – Tarleton State University
The time it takes to get started with a strategic approach up front will save you far more time in the future. Make the initial investment, you won’t be sorry. You can get lost in data, spend days and days looking at metrics, paths, sources, behaviors, etc. I think it’s important to have defined goals for the medium. Find the metrics that will help you analyze the progress of accomplishing those goals, and develops a sheet or chart that will allow you to track that progress over time.
I like to block out at least an hour a week to look at what is trending. What degree pages are most popular? What were our top social media posts for the previous week? I compile these to identify trends and inspire content strategy when planning our content calendar. The first Friday (less demand for meetings than any other day) of each month is blocked for analyzing the data from the previous month.
Create a data-driven culture for Mandee Englert, Digital Strategist – Penn State University
Creating a data-driven culture is really the first step in becoming more strategic with analytics and performance measurement. Without a data-driven culture to lean on, only some decisions will be data-driven and therefore marketing plans will never meet their full potential return on investment (ROI). My advice for building a solid analytics strategy revolves around thought leadership and transparency:
- Provide thought leadership in analysis techniques and new solutions to problems. Helping your colleagues learn about analytics and how they can use it can help bring people into the fold of a data-driven culture where they are looking at data themselves, presenting it to their leadership and providing insights that help the organization as a whole.
- Create dashboards with tools like Tableau or Google Data Studio that will bring transparency around data and make it accessible in an instant which can help people turn to data more often when new projects arise.
Bridge the communication gap with leaders for Aaron Baker, Associate Director of Content Strategy – Harvard University
I think there is a communication gap between the leaders and the analysts in institutions of higher education. We need to find a way to bridge that gap so that more senior leaders are exposed to the power and possibility of making decisions with data—and so that those of us with access to the data know what drives our senior leaders. It’s a two-way street.
Should that conversation opportunity arrive and you’re face to face with a senior leader, be both gracious and brave as you explain what you do and the impact of your work. Start with a small example of how you used data to inform marketing decisions. Be sure to include the part where you saved money by selectively targeting your audience and tracked them from lead to conversion!
Start with a plan for Jessica Stutt, Integrated Marketing Manager – University of New Brunswick
My team works in the in-house agency style. We help various units and faculties (colleges) across our institution with their marketing efforts. It’s always a challenge to ensure what we’re doing is rooted in strategy and objectives instead of simply fun and/or interesting tactics.
Our key to success is to start with a plan!
We work to develop a marketing plan with the unit or faculty. This clearly states objectives and success measures up front. It prompts a really important discussion at the start and also helps to ensure everyone is on the same page – if you don’t start with the same definition of success you can end up with very different opinions of the process! Also – think of micro conversions that can help support your overall conversion. For example, if you’re trying to promote event attendance, what are the steps before the final registration that you can measure that can help indicate success? This can guide your evaluation of tactics and also helps you think through the process more which in turn assists in the development of the overall plan.
Start small with 1 metric for Sarah Kowalski, Web Content Strategy Manager – Montgomery College
My best advice is to start small.
Choose one data point where you know you can get good, reliable numbers. Gather your data accordingly and then create a report focused on that one area, complete with your actionable insights. Allow the data to make the case for you. If you can show that the numbers are valuable and meaningful and that you can interpret the data, you will have more and more success presenting your findings and analysis and having your suggestions adopted.
Although we can often generate our analytics reports in minutes, it takes much longer to drive institutional change. Over time, these smaller, incremental changes will add up to a larger impact on student experience.
Don’t do anything without a goal for Jackie Vetrano, Online Marketing and Social Media Manager – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Whenever we start in on marketing campaigns, we need to establish concrete goals and then get to work on the creative side. It’s easy to dive in and create the campaign then set it out into the wild without thinking about the entire reason for the campaign in the first place. Even with something as simple as a daily Facebook post, what is the goal? Clicks on the link? “Love” reactions?
In any case, it’s important to think of what we’re trying to achieve and then actually measure it. The next step isn’t just to move on to the next post, but to try and take away why something worked, or why it didn’t. Then, you can adjust and make the next campaign that much better.
Audit your data sources and focus on the critical few for Robert Bochnak, Social Media Strategist – Harvard Business School Office of Alumni Relations
First, get the best sense of what you can measure through automated means and what needs to be a manual process. For example, I track web clicks through Spredfast, a scheduling and analytics platform, but gather all my alumni engagement data manually (I haven’t found an acceptable automated tool yet). This takes some time since we’re averaging more than 4,000 alumni interactions a month on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Second, determine what you need to measure and what’s the best way to share this data. For my work, alumni interactions/engagement is by far the most important metric, so I not only track this information, but share it with my superiors in a number of ways.
Embrace your inner-business side for Alan Etkin, Senior Analyst – British Columbia Institute of Technology
Although it might feel uncomfortable at first, viewing higher ed as a multi-million-dollar business will help you focus your analytics and performance measurement efforts.
It’s this business side of higher ed – the revenue – that makes it possible to deliver the social benefits of education, so spend your energy tracking completed applications and all the key places prospective students provide their contact information. By tracking these conversion events (requests for information, campus visits, newsletter signups, etc), and by calculating goal values for each of them, you’ll start to get a comprehensive view of what’s working, and what’s not. This approach will help you provide your institution with the data needed to make informed strategic decisions about everything from website functionality to campaign performance.
Start with a small project tied to revenues for Kris Hardy, Director of Web and Digital Marketing – Messiah College
Unfortunately, many institutions are in a ‘flying by the seat of your pants’ mentality where it can be difficult to take time to think strategically about analytics. In addition, siloed workflows and processes can make it difficult to implement any type of analytics infrastructure.
One of the best ways to break out of this mentality is to start small with a project that has a clear tie to campus revenue generation (such as an enrollment campaign). Then share your success story with campus leadership, so they can see firsthand the power of analytics in decision making.
Leverage data throughout the student experience for Avinash Tripathi, Executive Director of Analytics – Kaplan Higher & Professional Education
At Kaplan student success is our top priority and the “success” part of the equation covers more than just graduation —we are continuously finding ways to leverage data to transform our student experience and support our students broad success. In fact, we leverage data to solve for return on education investment (ROEI) which encompasses learning outcomes, career success and more to monitor how our students are performing in the job market after graduating.
Start by the end for Joshua Dodson, Vice President of Marketing & Innovation – VisionPoint Marketing
Start with the end in mind.
Know what areas you need to impact and make sure you truly have your measurement capabilities specifically set up to measure them. Real strategy informs both what to do and what not to do. A good strategy involves making choices and determining the guiding principles that inform the tactics you choose. The point of analytics is not the measurement itself, but rather the measurement in service of making the best decisions to lead to the best outcome. Your measurement approach must support that.
A conference focusing on higher ed analytics?
The 2019 Higher Ed Analytics Conference (#HEA19) is a must-attend event for higher ed marketing professionals and teams looking for inspiration, ideas and best practices to step up their analytics and measurement game in 2019..
Read below what your higher ed colleagues who attended the past editions of the Higher Ed Analytics Conference said about their experience.Tags: HEA19, Higher Ed News