The Future of Marketing in Education

On Marketing and the impacts to Education

The future of digital marketing is a space where personalized experiences exist within a multi-device landscape in real time. <- That is a lot of buzz words. Let me break this down.

Personalized experiences shouldn’t just be about predicting where we want people to click. We want to shift their desired experience from being driven by web strategists to an experience where their last click influences their next one.

While it is vital to use data to inform digital strategy, what has become increasingly important is allowing this process to happen in real time. Many Ecommerce enterprises are using these strategies already, allowing for algorithms to predict related purchases and increase cart values.

Education can use these tactics to offer relevant value points in a personalized digital experience. For example, offering a prospective students relevant to their IP address, their previous sections visited or connecting them to a live agent who can immediately help with their particular questions.

These personalized experiences can also be used internally to track trends, common questions and seasonally important items. Allowing business processes to be influenced by this business intelligence data can not only reduce call and email volume but also increase the responsiveness of institutions and better position their brand as student focused.

With increased competition, institutions must respond to students immediately. Social media has allowed for them to respond quickly on surface questions, this has increased the expectations of consumers on all levels of inquiry. This means allowing for that very specific admission question to be answered immediately (yes, immediately). This doesn’t necessarily state that a live agent must be able to answer questions at all hours, however, we can answer immediate questions via technology based on keywords and sentences.

The implementation of Salesforce-like business tools to rank prospects is something many administrators feel they need to implement, however have very little concept of what it could mean. Ranking prospects based on their tracked interactions with the institution can not only focus your efforts in responsiveness, but also help in understanding (and reacting to) the needs of highly ranked prospects. For example, if most of your 5-star prospects are asking the same questions, you can pre-emptively supply them with this information before they need it. This information will also help institutions find those 5-star prospects through social advertising and niche content marketing.

This personalized, real-time experience must also be device agnostic. The future of marketing will include many more devices over time and we shouldn’t dictate or leverage a certain platform. Learning management systems (LMS) are becoming device agnostic and the overall student experience should be reflective of this as well.

The trends in marketing as a sector are moving towards customized experiences that motivate consumers to share them in a social setting. Education needs to be a part of this.

The Future of Education

Barriers have long existed in education; proximity, access to resources, logistics, financial and social. Many of these barriers have been removed by forward-thinking institutions and individuals (that’s another conversation, but Sal Khan embodies it).  The truth is “the student” changes with time and so should the institutions; the key is the pace of that change. Often, we (speaking from the institutions’ point of view) wait for time to pass before adjusting to this change. This lead time is beginning to shrink as institutions are beginning to implement a more rapid pace of change in order to remain competitive.

In Ontario, institutions have increased their investment into marketing strategies over the last 10 years in order to compete outside of their traditional catchment areas and expand their reach. Furthermore, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities is now looking to institutions to create Strategic Mandate Agreements to focus their efforts and diversify the product offerings available in Ontario. Education is becoming less about geographic location and more about a desired product offering.

The worlds of business and education have collided; however, many organizations are still slow to react. Major change is on the horizon in Canada and it is being seen through the innovation around data driven business processes (from prospect management to alumni relations), predictive modelling and customized user experiences.

Technology is playing a major role in this change. The format of education has shifted from a “one to many” model towards a “many to many” model that increases lateral student interactions and decreases the reliance on professors to foster discussion. Predictive modelling can allow institutions to better predict student behaviours and needs.

Technology and business processes need to adapt accordingly in order to offer students seamless access to the information they desire, as well as customized products that build on their previous behaviours. Soon, educators will be able to rely on business processes to warn of potentially disengaged students through data driven analysis. For example, a student with higher risk factors (1st Generation, background or low grades) who visits your counselling services webpage may be afraid to send an email to book an appointment. However, these actions combined with their background may offer the institution the opportunity to allow that data to trigger an email to the student with information relevant to their needs.

In summary, education is shifting towards a more competitive landscape that can leverage technology to offer a better student experience. Creating these customized user experiences will separate the institutions that treat students like a number, versus those who treat them as individuals.

One Awesome campaign and why it succeeded.

In marketing,communications and IT, we’re often jumping from one campaign to the next aiming to reproduce and improve on successes of the past. Recently, we just capped off one of our most successful campaigns and I figured it was worth a post! In a nutshell, here’s what made this campaign successful!

Clear Goals: Our campaign had a goal of generating positive association with our University by incenting high school students to create videos telling us why their school is #Awesome. The prize: $10,000 towards their school prom. Internally, we had goals of generating 20 videos, 25,000 views on YouTube and generating an increase of positive mentions for our brand in social channels.

Organizational Support: This idea needed the support of Recruitment, Marketing, Communications and IT. Each played their respective roles in promoting the contest and achieving the results.

Distribution: High School students are a target market that consumes advertising faster than most demographics, we used our advantage – school visits. Our Liaison team intelligently positioned the contest to the students directly while in schools and solicited the support of the school administration.

Awareness: As the campaign grew, our highly targeted Facebook ads were served directly to students at schools that were likely to participate. These gentle reminders funneled traffic to our campaign website where they could view videos that other schools had submitted. Our #AwesomeLU hashtag on Twitter was used relatively often, however our account saw a very significant increase in followers, as did our Facebook page.

Summary: In the end, the campaign had clear goals, a clear target market and committed execution from multiple departments that led to an outcome we can all be proud of. This has most definitely influenced the decisions of students in choosing which post-secondary institution to attend next fall.