"I want to maximize the ROI of our marketing spending."
This is the directive UNC Charlotte’s Division Communications Manager gave us in 2017 and again in 2018. Before we began working with them, the admissions department used mass print mailings, college board lists, and traditional pay-per-click ads as its primary student recruitment resources. Now, they wanted to try new initiatives focused on intelligent digital ad spending, data analysis, and quantifiable returns.
"Ok," we said. "Let's take a deep dive into your existing data, build audience and persona models, and use that intel to boost lead generation and ROI."
A deep dive into over 70,000 student and prospective student records — stripped of PII — yielded a good bit of actionable intelligence. This intel helped us build nearly a dozen highly targeted audiences, which we used to boost lead flows and maximize the ROI of paid ad spending.
"Let's also generate actionable intel we can use to decrease wasteful spending and improve UNC Charlotte's overall recruitment efforts."
LeadOn helped UNC Charlotte generate important data that it can use in a variety of ways. This intel can help fine-tune the scope of its admissions department, focus future recruitment efforts, and keep upward pressure on the ROI of overall marketing spending.
How does LeadOn help?
By combining the self-sufficiency of an application with the expertise of an agency, LeadOn uses four actions to help UNC Charlotte quantify results, maximize ROI, and achieve its marketing goals.
LeadOn uses all available data resources — social media intel, Google Analytics, student and prospective student information, and other digital signals — to continually fine-tune UNC Charlotte’s audiences. We always know whom we’re speaking to and how well we’re resonating with them.
LeadOn uses audience intelligence to build highly-relevant marketing collateral. This helps ensure content topics, social media channels, and ads align with known audience variables. Now, marketing spending has the potential to generate exponential returns.
Lead Generation & Nurturing
We use a custom lead-generation tool (choose-unccharlotte.com) to generate a steady stream of leads for UNC Charlotte. This allows them to nurture prospective students along a well-defined conversion path and creates additional front-line intelligence we use to fine-tune our various audience hypotheses.
Measuring, Analyzing, Reporting, Learning & Fine Tuning
We use engagement data and other digital signals to constantly learn from our marketing efforts and improve our audience models. This allows us to fine-tune collateral resources, improve lead generation, hone application and enrollment workflows, and improve overall marketing efforts (on- and offline).
Data & Discoveries
Working with LeadOn is an adventure. Our customers usually start with one set of assumptions. Then, working side by side, we discover all sorts of exciting, unanticipated things. Steering into these discoveries helps maximize the ROI of overall marketing spending. This is certainly true in UNC Charlotte’s case.
Like most higher education institutions, UNC Charlotte’s recruitment efforts have historically focused on prospective students. This makes intuitive sense, and it’s in line with the kinds of traditional marketing resources entities like The College Board offer.
However, our data is unambiguous: parent audiences drove the vast majority of campaign performance. In fact, it’s difficult to justify spending any marketing resources on students. It’s better for UNC Charlotte — and likely other higher education institutions — to focus on marketing themselves to parents.
Note the age distribution of landing page visitors (left).
Also note how well parent-focused campaigns performed compared to their student equivalents. On the left, you’ll see the percent of landing page visits and form submissions driven by parent- and student-focused campaigns.
The parent campaigns contributed > 90% of all UNC Charlotte’s site visits and leads.
Our deep dive into UNC Charlotte’s 70,000 anonymized student and prospective student records also revealed that 46.82% of recent enrollees were from just fifty zip codes, all of which are in the Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville metro areas. 18.54% were from the top ten (left).
While we did target a state-wide, national, and even international alumni audience, the vast majority of our campaign resources were focused on just these two metro areas. This allowed us to spend as efficiently as possible and boost the campaign’s ROI.
These insights had a profound impact on the campaign. Marketing in just two metro areas and positioning ourselves to parents rather than students boosted campaign performance right from the start.
First, average cost per click (red) remained 39-65% below best practice (gray).
The Virtuous Gap
During the UNC Charlotte campaign, we were also able to sustain one of our most important abstract models: the “virtuous gap.”
As we fine tune a customer’s audience data and use that intel to improve the alignment of channels, messaging, and creative, we begin minimizing spending (cost per click or “CPC”) and maximizing engagement (click through rate or “CTR”).
This is marketing in its most harmonious state: putting sustained downward pressure on CPC (red) while simultaneously putting upward, even exponential pressure on CTR (gray). More often than not, the virtuous gap has positive collateral effects on lead flows as well.
“How has LeadOn helped UNC Charlotte?”