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Less Leads, More Starts for Higher Education

A nationally ranked university was experiencing enrollment declines based on breaks in its internal process and amplified external market forces. As a result, they needed to create a focused marketing and sales strategy with limited resources to put their programs on a positive enrollment trajectory.

The Solution

  • Establish accurate cost per enrollment to guide budget modeling and enrollment projections.
  • Evaluate the current sales funnel to identify process breaks contributing to enrollment drop-off.
  • Harness first-party data across digital technologies to identify audiences and engagement patterns associated with historically converted students.
  • Deploy and optimize digital media & content to drive engagement for prospects throughout the different stages of the marketing/sales funnel.

Based on first and third-party data insights, we generated tailored personas and deployed digital media and content to drive engagement for prospects throughout the different stages of the sales funnel. Messaging and channels were adjusted yearly based on seasonality and enrollment trends. In addition, we utilized retargeting strategies to reach prospects who had already engaged with the university online and push them further down the applicant funnel.

Leveraging the strong brand and reputation of the university, both local and national paid media messaging focused on the overall brand. In contrast, remarketing campaign messaging focused on specific programs with which prospects had engaged. Budgets and messaging shifted throughout the year based on seasonality and application deadlines.

Over time, campaigns were tailored based on which messaging and personas were garnering the most engagement. Additionally, as we gathered more data on a program-specific level, we prioritized audiences associated with specific programs that engaged with paid media at a higher rate and yielded a higher profit margin.

By appending records of past enrolled students, we identified primary and secondary audiences to help focus our local and national targeting.

  • Primary Audience – Elite Households
  • Secondary Audience – Young Singles, Starting Careers
  • Tertiary Audience – Young + Middle Aged, Living Active Lifestyles in Metro Areas

Targeted identified audiences utilizing a multi-channel deployment strategy that moved users through the various marketing funnel stages.

  • Thought Leadership – Podcasting, Native Content, Organic Social
  • Brand Awareness & Prospecting – YouTube Pre-Roll, Paid Search, Paid Facebook, Display, SEO
  • Retargeting – Display, Paid Social Media

They analyzed the user journeys of various segments of students to understand the differences between those dropping off at various stages of the funnel and audiences and programs within the enrolled student population. This helped guide messaging at different funnel stages and UX updates to their main website to shorten the time from initial engagement to application completion.

  • Sample Size – 97
  • Average Before They Started Their Application – 132 Days
  • Average Number of Sessions – 6
  • Average Number of Pages Per Session – 6

They analyzed referral sources of various segments of students to help understand the differences in how they engage with multiple platforms. As a result, we tailored paid media deployment over time based on audience and program, driving down costs and increasing conversion.

The Results

Within one enrollment cycle, our client achieved a 57% increase in enrollments, a 23% decrease in cost per enrollment, and a 10% increase in application-to-enrollment conversion rate. By identifying breaks in their internal sales process, we implemented changes to nurture leads better and increase down-funnel conversion rates. Lastly, we established an accurate cost per enrollment to help with forecasting and budgeting for future enrollment cycles.

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