Earlier this month, we covered the topic of conversion rates and capture rates in higher education...
Perhaps the biggest advantage to marketing for online programs compared to marketing for traditional undergraduate programs is the use of performance-based marketing. With brand marketing advertisers are risking their investments in television, radio, or print in hopes that it will drive prospective students to visit the website or call the institution. With performance-based marketing institutions will only pay for the impressions, clicks, inquiries, or applications received. This post will discuss some of various types of performance-based marketing used in online student recruitment.
CPM (Cost Per Mille or Cost Per Thousand)
With CPM marketing institutions are charged for the number of 'eyeballs' or impressions that see your banner ad, logo, or text advertising. Typically institutions use CPM advertising on niche websites, career sites, in social media channels, or on geo-targeted properties like local newspaper sites.
Often, schools use this type of performance-based marketing as a form of brand advertising. However, sometimes a call to action, such as an invitation to call a phone number or to 'apply today' is utilized.
The good thing about CPM is that you are assured that a certain number of people will see your image, or message. Of course the downside is that there is no guarantee to get click throughs to your site.
PPC (Pay Per Click)
The next step up in online higher education performance-based marketing is PPC advertising. Just as the moniker suggests, with PPC marketing the advertiser pays a fee for each time someone clicks on an ad, a banner, or a link. This is the pricing model most commonly used for search engine marketing on Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
One of the benefits of PPC advertising is that an institution can attach tracking cookies. When a prospective student clicks on an ad the tracking cookie will be retained in the visitors web browser. After a student completes an interest page form or submits an online application this tracking cookie can be used identify the specific campaign that generated the first click onto the institutional website. When configured correctly, institutions can then utilize their PPC spend and the number of inquiries or applications generated to effectively manage and predict their enrollment activity.
One of the downsides to PPC marketing is that 'clicks' can be very expensive, especially for keywords like 'online MBA' or 'online degree program'. To combat this, many institutions implement less costly 'long-tail' search engine marketing strategies where they only bid on and pay for search terms that are less popular and searched less frequently.
CPL (Cost Per Lead) or CPI (Cost Per Inquiry)
Arguably, the most prevalent and most effective form of performance-based marketing is CPL or CPI marketing. Institutions can advertise on school directories, niche program websites, and other web properties designed to provide information to individuals looking specifically for an online program. Other vendors use email lists, telephone campaigns, and direct mail to generate interest in your school. Still others use television commercials or radio advertising to pique student interest in returning to school and then help the student choose among many schools the advertiser is representing.
The best thing about an investment in CPI marketing is that a specific number of inquiries is guaranteed because you only pay for the leads that you receive. Therefore, there is less risk for the institutional advertising dollars. In addition, since you are able to track from whom you received inquiries and how much you paid for each inquiry you are able to easily calculate your cost per enrolled student by marketing partner, thereby allowing you to make informed marketing decisions and more accurate enrollment projections.
In addition, colleges and universities tend to benefit from the 'halo effect'. When advertising with CPL marketing institutions tend to have an increase in 'organic' or self-initiated inquires, which typically manifest themselves as inquiries that come directly to the inquiry forms on your .edu website instead of submitting their information on the .com informational site.
However, the execution of a CPL marketing campaign can be complicated. Caution should be exercised to ensure that you work with appropriate partners and that insertion orders, form requirements and 'scrub rules' are all negotiated properly.
Most importantly, inquiries generated through this form of marketing must be called and followed-up promptly. Institutions can waste a lot of money if the inquiry response is too slow.
CPA (Cost Per Action)
There are also marketing partners and higher education service providers that that will deliver completed admissions applications or students that are ready to be enrolled for a fee or for a share of tuition revenue. These relationships tend to be more involved and often require long-term agreements, more legal and regulatory scrutiny, training of marketing partner employees, and much larger fees.
For the institution it usually means that the partner takes the advertising risk and pays the salaries of the employees that recruit students. This, of course, is very attractive to many cash-strapped institutions with little online marketing acumen.
Many institutions find the risk associated with another organization promoting the institutional brand and the expense of marketing in this way too much of a challenge. However, if managed correctly, CPA can be a very effective marketing strategy.
Give us a call at 513-518-7824 or request information if you would like to learn more about performance-based marketing at your institution. We can certainly help you increase the size of your inquiry pool and enroll more students in a cost-effective and data-driven manner.