On-Demand Webinar Overview
Do you really know who your target consumers are and how to reach them in the most efficient, most effective manner? This workshop takes attendees through the process of using data to define target audiences, including demographics, behavioral attributes and media consumption, to contribute to the development and optimization of cross-channel media campaigns that perform. If you’re actively spending money in multiple media channels and not sure what is or is not working, this is the session for you.
Akeel Haider - Vice President of Innovation and Strategy @ DMS
Akeel Haider is the Vice President of Innovation and Strategy at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), an industry leader in providing end-to-end customer acquisition solutions that help clients grow their businesses and realize their marketing goals. In this role, Akeel leads the product and service development strategy for Sparkroom performance marketing technology. The proprietary award-winning Sparkroom performance marketing technology integrates marketing data, automates marketing processes and provides marketing analytics that drive smarter decisions and a more optimized budget.
Liz Dye - Director of Analytics @ Sparkroom
Liz is the director of marketing analytics at Sparkroom and has extensive media management experience with several top brands in higher education. She provides insights and performance analysis designed to help educate media buyers at Sparkroom and across the education space, while allowing them to make effective, data-driven decisions that measurably impact their marketing ROI. Liz earned her bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Princeton University in 2005 with independent research in social communities and self-representation.
…communications, marketing, management, and strategy. For anyone unfamiliar with Sparkroom, we provide fully transparent, analytics-based strategies that are designed to achieve higher education enrollment marketing objectives. Since 2010 our Sparkroom marketing software has been capturing, processing, just about one million student prospect inquiries each month, making it one of the most comprehensive student inquiry databases on the market today.
We combine our deep database and on the ground marketing expertise, like what you guys are about to hear today, to provide insights to our clients, helping them to better adapt to their own approaches and take advantage of changes in the industry landscape. I want to welcome everyone here to today’s webinar, Using Data to Get it Right: A Step-by-Step Approach to Holistic Cross-Channel Marketing, where we’ll be discussing how using demographic and behavioral data can create effective campaigns that target consumers in an increasingly multi-device world.
If you’ll humor me for a moment, I’d like to present today’s two fabulous presenters, Sparkroom Director of Marketing Analytics, Liz Dye, and Director of Marketing Services, Akeel Haider. In her role at Sparkroom, Liz has employed her razor-sharp wit and keen analytical skills with some of the top brands in higher education to develop successful enrollment marketing strategies by employing performance analysis and database decisions to optimize campaigns. Little known fact about Liz, she is half of a pair of twins.
Our second presenter today, Akeel Haider, brings more than a decade of experience in performance marketing and extensive work in the field of mobile advertising to help Sparkroom clients to navigate the ever-shifting landscape of cross-channel marketing. In his spare time, Akeel enjoys watching European soccer, playing English squash and cooking American squash. He’s also an all-around, pretty cool dude.
Before they get started, though, let me just bring up a couple of housekeeping notes. First, I’d like to point out some functionality on your webinar control panel. If anyone doesn’t know where the webinar control panel is, you can see me pointing to it, wait…no, you can’t see me pointing to it. But the webinar control panel is located in the top right corner of your screen. If you can’t see it, look for an orange box with an arrow. If you click on that arrow, the box will expand. If you have any questions during the session please type your questions into the question box and our wonderful presenters will answer them at the end of their presentation.
And second, I’d just like to assure everyone that following today’s presentation, we will be making both a recording of this webinar, as well as a copy of the presentation itself available to all of you who are participating today. Again, thank you so much for joining us this afternoon. Now, if you’d like to make sure that your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position, I’ll pass things over to Liz so we can get this flight underway.
Alrighty. Well, thank you, Jeff, for that introduction. Before I get started I want everyone to think of one place in the whole world that they’d rather be than sitting at their desk right now. It’s okay, I won’t take it personally. Now, once you have that place in mind, I have a follow-up question. How would you get there from here? Literally, how would you go from where you’re sitting right now to your dream destination?
For me, the place I’d like to be is the Four Seasons Resort in Maui and the first place I’d go to get there is my email inbox. I’m always looking for a deal and lucky for me there’s a flight sales email from one of my favorite travel websites leading. I click on the link, go through the landing page, but ultimately, don’t end up booking anything right away. I figure I’d better check with my husband first.
So the next time we’re in the car together, I casually mention that I could really use a vacation and he agrees. Before he changes his mind, I immediately search for travel agents on my phone and find an ad for a local company I’ve used before. Clicking on the call now button I’m connected with a travel agent, and before I know it I’m on my way to Hawaii. Akeel, how about you?
Yeah, well, thanks Liz. Well, you know, after you came back from your vacation I was looking at all of the beautiful big pictures you brought back and I got really jealous. I was on Facebook, checking what you’re doing, and I decided, hey, maybe I should check some other Facebook pages talking about Hawaii because it seems like a great idea, right? So that same evening, after I did that on Facebook, I am sitting on my couch with my iPad in my hand and there it is. There’s a commercial on TV, because I was watching TV. There’s a commercial on TV about Hawaii. My god, it must be fate, right?
Something goes off in my head. I’m like, “Okay, I really need to look at vacations in Hawaii.” So what do I do? I have the iPad in my hand, I go to my favorite travel site and I look for good deals. I find one, I book it, and there it is. The plane shows up at my doorstep a few days later and I’m off to Hawaii.
So, even though Akeel and I took two completely different paths, across two completely different sets of devices, we both ended up with the vacations that we so richly deserved. And that’s cross-channel marketing in action. The notion that consumers interact with brands multiple times and in multiple different ways all along the purchasing path isn’t a new one. The typical customer stages shown here were valid way before interactive and cross-channel marketing became such a hot topic. Prospects still go through these same stages, only now their journey is split across increasingly fragmented media channel and device pathways.
So in order for schools to guide students from prospect to graduate, the interactions along the way need to be adapted for our current media landscape. Today’s agenda focuses on exactly that. How to successfully navigate the new ways of interacting with prospective students in order to gain ad reach and efficiency.
We’ll start by talking about some of the key facts that we’ve gathered from our own experiences and research in cross-channel marketing. Then we’ll cover some of the challenges we’ve encountered along the way. And from there, we’ll go through the steps of setting up a cross-channel marketing plan with a strong foundation in media and customer data, as well as how to make sure that media plan is successful in the long-term.
So let’s start by looking at just how important cross-channel marketing has become. We’ll set the stage by talking about a few of the things that we know from our own research and research done by other influencers in the space. First and foremost, we know that the way prospective students interact with schools has changed dramatically in the past few years. Changing media platforms and channels have multiplied the ways in which content can be delivered to those researching school options. And the second important thing we know now is that prospective students expect schools to be providing the information they want, when they want it, in a way that is cohesive and consistent across all these outlets.
Another key thing we know is that any one marketing channel or media device doesn’t help get schools and students connected on its own. Instead, all the channels and devices shown here work together to create that integrated experience. And in doing that, they’re collectively creating a unified path for students to get the information they need to move from somebody who’s expressing interest with a first search query to somebody who’s finally ready to enroll.
Let’s take a look at some of the numbers that help put some context around just how prevalent this sort of behavior has become. 90 percent of users use multiple screens sequentially to accomplish a task, just like I did when booking my trip. 98 percent move between devices that same day to accomplish a single goal, just as Akeel did when he booked his trip. 38 percent use PC’s as a starting point for more complex activities, such as researching products and comparing prices, much as I did when I looked for my daily travel deals.
65 percent use smartphones for initial research, kind of like we all do when we’re sitting on the train or in line for coffee and decide it’s time for us to go on vacation. 65 percent of tablet owners reported using a tablet while watching TV daily, just like Akeel did when he saw the TV commercial about Hawaii and responded by using his iPad. And all this happens during the average 4.4 hours a day the average consumer spends in front of a screen. Which for some of us is probably even a conservative estimate.
These numbers make it pretty clear that school marketers need to make sure they’re everywhere all of the time. Spreading themselves across all screens and using them for different purposes at different parts of the customer journey. For those of you schooled in more traditional media and advertising concepts, effective frequency used to boil down to the Rule of Three. In other words, three exposures were what it took to really make consumers familiar with the brand and what it offered. But naturally, with the content access points being so different, so is that magic frequency number. What’s interesting is how different it is and how much it varies by both media channel and device.
A few of the numbers we’ve gathered in the course of reviewing our own campaigns and others are listed here. Some channels, like email, search, and online video are still most effective around that two to five exposure range. But others, such as display and retargeting, have much higher effective frequency points, all the way up to ten exposures. And mobile display is highest of all, which is likely due to the much smaller ad formats and shorter screen interaction times that come with the mobile media formats. The biggest take-away from this is how complex and different concepts like effective frequency have become in a cross-channel setting.
We’ll go through a few other highlights from our current cross-channel marketing campaign research, especially on the subject of how all these channels and devices interact. But let’s start out with a couple views of our paid search campaigns performance by device in 2014. There’s a couple of interesting things we’re seeing here. First, take a look at the chart on the left. This shows the share of impressions by device for all of our search campaigns throughout the year. Although desktop still holds a slim majority, this gap has been closing super quickly, especially in the last half of the year. This is consistent with larger trends reported by Google and others with ads served on mobile devices rapidly catching up with those for more stationary devices.
But then take a look at the second chart. Here’s a share of leads by device for the same time period. And although mobile is gaining share, it’s still a good ten points underneath its impression share. So what do we take from this? Well, what we’re seeing is that mobile is being the assisting device here, as opposed to the last click lead source. That’s key info to have when understanding how consumers are using mobile media to interact with your brands. It may not always be as easy as looking at the lead source alone. The idea of assisting channels, as opposed to assisted channels, is a key one in understanding how cross-channel marketing plans work holistically.
Here’s a snapshot of how we saw one targeted display campaign impact lead and enrollment volume for one of our clients. We started by creating a targeted student profile based on first and third party data sources. Then after identifying audience segments that match this profile, ads were served to one half of this group but not to the other, in order to gauge how much performance lift was created by seeing an ad. Results are shown here and highlight what a key part this type of display campaign is in driving incremental traffic to various channels. Website traffic benefitted the most with lead volume more than doubling from the test group.
But all other channels saw a lift in lead volume of at least 45 percent, even offline channels and affiliates. For this particular school, the 51 percent lift in lead volume at their current enrollment rate yielded an incremental 15 student enrollments at a cost well underneath their target. And let’s not forget about the traditional media channels, such as TV, and they still have a very important part to play in the system channel line-up. The chart on the left shows how various channel’s prospective customer visits increased during periods of increased TV advertising. The lift is between 15 and 25 percent on all channels and especially email and paid search.
The chart on the right shows what page visits generated by brand versus general keywords during the same time periods. So this extends beyond just the brand name recognition towards consumers really honing in on the more general themes of the ads as well. There is a 25 to 30 percent incremental visitor lift during these time periods at the same conversion rates, which translated into a strong performance boost.
And finally, let’s take a look at one of the most unsung heroes of the prospect life cycle marketing team, email nurturing. We recently evaluated one school’s nurturing campaigns to see how the emails triggered along enrollment timelines impacted prospect’s final decisions. Both groups on average received roughly the same number of messages each. However, people who ultimately enrolled were more than twice as likely to open the messages and 30 percent more likely to click through to enrollment resources or social media pages. This indicates that the majority of people who end up enrolling are really getting value from this content and using it as a way to move from the recognition to decision-making customer phases.
According to a recent report by Marketing Sherpa, 79 percent of customer leads never convert. And that’s probably, actually, more like 82 to 85 percent for most schools. And lack of lead nurturing is one of the biggest reasons for this drop-off. So even though it doesn’t get that last click credit, this sort of in-funnel activity can be critical in closing new students.
We’ll shift gears a bit now and focus on how higher education marketers are specifically impacted by this new cross-channel approach. Many of us are very well aware that higher education enrollments have been stagnant to slightly down from 2010 on in every sector. In our own database we saw inquiry volume fall 20 percent in 2014 compared to 2013, with some degrees and programs declining at an even faster rate. Added to that, a very tenuous regulatory environment and major operational changes to many of the top education providers. These factors and many more are adding up to a very challenging environment for enrollment marketers, and one where creativity and efficiency is more important than ever.
Schools have been responding by diversifying their media mix at an increasing rate. In the past, schools relied heavily upon third party inquiry providers for the bulk of their inquiries. This has begun to change for a few main reasons. No. 1 is increased efficiency. Each first party channel easily outperforms third party channels as a whole by two to three times conversion rate. That kind of performance variance creates huge upside for schools who can focus on increasing quality leads from these diverse first party sources. Second is increased control. First party sources are branded and transparent. There’s no guessing about where ads are being placed or what context they’re being viewed in.
And finally, increased exposure. Given how often prospective students are moving between channels to interact with people they know, stream content, or research things like education, the more diverse the media channel roster is, the more likely the school is to find prospects where they’re looking. So schools are reacting to this shift by moving their spin at a pretty substantial rate. This graph highlights that change month by month from 2013 into 2014. At the start of 2013, third party sources delivered 70 percent of inquiries for schools. By the end of 2014, this dropped to only 60 percent of total inquiries. There’s a slight uptick in December 2013, likely due to schools offsetting seasonally low first party volume.
But we expect schools to continue to diversify their inquiry sources in 2015 and moving forward. And finally, the student enrollment funnel, no matter how a prospect enters into it, is long and complex. Marketing dollars and strategies are invested to help make sure students make it all the way through, but in varying ways depending on the life cycle stage. We have just looked at some of the ways that various channels interact to help with prospects from initial brand awareness through intent and inquiry stages and all the way through enrollment and beyond. Investing in the life cycle holistically, instead of on a channel-by-channel basis, really helps to improve the ROI at every step of the way by creating a consistent and importantly user driven experience.
So all of this probably sounds great, but now let’s talk about some of the factors that actually make it a pretty complex task.
Thank you, Liz. So I think Liz laid out beyond a doubt why we need cross-channel marketing, right? And why we need a diversified media plan, basically. But with that really comes some interesting challenges and problems and those can be summarized in the following: we have attribution, you have attribution and tracking in general, you have click data on your additional marketing systems, you have enrollment data on your CRM, and more data elsewhere, right, company management, other data that’s coming to you from all different directions.
But can you tie it all together to understand what really works? Which channels are performing? Which channels are lifting other channels? And how they all work together. So tracking from impression back to enrollment then to start is really an essential part, which is a challenge today in the digital media world that we live in, right? A holistic channel view is another challenge. You’re spending a lot of marketing dollars in a competitive space. What impact are you really having overall? Can you see all you spend across channels horizontally, or within channels, as well as across channels vertically?
Another issue is bandwidth and expertise. Do you have the capacity and the expertise in house or with your agency to run all these different channels? Finally, organizational structure as well as the data. When it comes to organizational structure, really the issue of working in silos is one that comes to mind. The person who’s doing the display marketing is not necessarily talking to the department that is doing the offline, traditional media buying. The trends and learnings that are being learned and understood from paid search companies are not being shared with other professionals who are working on other campaigns to capitalize on that.
So those are some of the issues that come with organizational structure, basically restructuring so everybody’s sharing, everybody’s working together towards a common goal and there’s an understanding and learnings that can be shared.
Another thing is big data. You’re capturing data from so many different platforms, like you said in CRMs, but are you filtering, labeling, sorting this data and storing it in places where it’s accessible? And doing it securely, as well. Why we need that is at the end of the day, you need to be able to produce actionable intelligence and if the data is all over the place, how will you be able to generate that?
So let’s move forward, the issue of attribution in a PPL world, or pay per lead world, you can distinctly assign a cost per inquiry for a specific channel because you’re buying the media based on that model. Which means that it can be translated into a distinct cost requisition number getting one-to-one on attribution. Great, but in a cross-channel world, channels overlap. Users move between devices, as Liz just explained, and between screens. The track of impressions to enrollment is more challenging. As a result of not having the data point that can be traced back to impressions correctly, means that marketers may divert dollars from a display campaign that’s really working to assist other channels.
So things like click to conversion, view through conversions, online matching and user data need all to be understood and tracked across channel to be able to be effective here. So it’s an issue today.
Yeah, and just to make attribution that much more fun for enrollment marketers, our data has shown that prospective students often inquire more than once and often via different channels. The data shown here is from a review of two years of inquiries from one of our clients and it displays the average number of inquiries per inquirer, or IPI. The average IPI is well over one in almost all channels and in some cases is even above two. So in addition to figuring out how to properly assign credit or generate that inquiry and impressions and clicks from various channels, there’s now the added wrinkle for schools to figure out which inquiries should be credited as providing an enrollment.
Yeah, so those are the challenges and so how do you manage it all, right? You need a diverse media team with different talents and also you need technology behind it that is solid. You need to be able to create forms, manage vendors, track inbound calls and recordings, understand scripts and call center issues. That data needs to be scrubbed, de-duped, scored, qualified and routed and frankly needs compliance team and technical resources and creative resources. So there’s a lot to manage and that’s one of the other issues that we see when it comes to a cross-channel company, is not necessarily that we know that we need them, but do we actually – are we actually set up for success?
So when it comes to marketers today, what do they think about cross-channel marketing? 50 percent say they need to have a deeper understanding, or want to have a deeper understanding and make it a priority in 2015. Only 35 percent have truly devoted some type of effort for cross-channel marketing in 2014. But more importantly, 58 percent, maybe because of the challenges we just mentioned, said that they actually failed to measure the cross-channel journeys for their prospects.
So basically, we as marketers need to do a better job, but we also need to have the tools and technologies, right, to be able to finally get to a place where we can answer the question which 50 percent of my marketing spend dollars are the most effective.
So let’s move on to the next part of this presentation, or this webinar. Here we want to talk about how to actually build a cross-channel campaign. There’s different names for it whether it’s Omni-channel, cross-device, cross-channel campaigns. At the end of the day, we have identified at Sparkroom four different steps that we need to do that in order to basically create a successful, or solid campaign. Now, this can vary by different agencies and by different marketers. They might have different ways to do that. But at the end of the day, here’s how we do it.
The first – it’s really four steps and the first step is to create an ideal audience, what we call an ideal profile segment that we can target effectively. The approach is really all analytics based and data driven. So the step one is really about collect current student data, analyze the demographic attributes, identify where they consume information, and identify if they’re more likely to become students. This is explained in the next slide, but in essence, it’s the ability to identify who the target demo is, where they are, how can we reach them. That’s step one.
Step two is about basically taking that target audience profile, or the segments, our ideal audience with a propensity to enroll, and understand how we can reach them. What channels they are on, what type of screens and devices do they have, and so on. The third step is creating, or basically building, a targeted media plan to engage them. The final step is on executing, measuring, testing, and optimizing the cross-channel campaign. So we’ll go through these steps sequentially to understand how we’re doing it.
As Akeel mentioned, the first step in foundation of any data-driven cross-channel media plan is really to identify to whom and how a marketing plan should be targeted. At Sparkroom we do that using three main sources of intel. First, there’s the school’s own first party data. There’s really two main things we look for in here. One is how campaigns have performed in the past. What affiliates may have been successful or not so successful, which keywords were most cost efficient, programs that tended to yield better results than others, and so on. All this helps us stop from making the same mistake twice and really get a leg up on building the right marketing plan.
Two is understanding who the current students are at an institution. We take this information and plug it into our third party partners’ databases in order to create and flush out a more complete idea of who that targeted audience is. The third party partners we work with allow us to access this more in-depth information about key audience attributes, such as level of education, media interaction habits, demographics, behavioral attributes, and so on. Pair this with the first party data and we’re really able to paint a very detailed picture of the target student and understand what the best way is to get in touch with them.
And finally, being an agency, we’re able to leverage insights from dozens of other campaigns and schools to perform a reality check against our initial plan. Anticipating what a campaign needs to look like early on before having full performance feedback lets us head off certain disasters before we end up wasting too much money. And being able to use localized data to help get new programs or campaigns started allows us to leverage these insights and make sure all campaigns are as successful as possible right out of the gate.
Thank you, Liz. So for the purpose of this webinar and to understand the next steps to building the plan, we’re going to take a look at one student profile. Specifically for an online MBA program that is national. So when we take a segment like that, or a target demographic, ideal audience like this, we can generate this detailed information that we’re talking about through the process that Liz just described.
So let’s take a look at what this audience – where this audience is and what they do. So the first thing we like to get is a little bit of demographic information. So they seem to be younger, just reaching a mid-point in their careers and likely looking to move up quickly. They are busy, heads of household with children in the house. They have two middle class incomes in most cases, which means the household is ready for that extra professional push. And their screens are likely male, 56 percent are male, half of them are non-white with the average household income of about 75 to 99K. So that just gives us a high level overview of who they are.
But what about media consumption? They’re very social media focused. They actively download apps and mobile games. They’re actively seeking more information about jobs and education online. 31 percent of them look for jobs and 68 percent, they look on education websites. So this is one area where we can reach them. The demo is specific – this demo is also specific audience, which is active in digital media, right? But they also can be reached through offline media as well, like TV, through prime time or late night hours.
What about device consumption? Another area where that really can help us in that channel selection in campaign building phase as well. So in terms of device consumption, they are a very mobile-connected audience, 97 percent of them have a smartphone. iPhone seems to be the smartphone of choice for them. And they use also some devices at home to connect to the internet, whether it’s laptop or tablets or phones.
Another important thing when we try to build our media – or our cross-channel media campaign as well, is really try to minimize the wasteful spend with an initial plan. And the way we do that is we look at geographical data. So we want to go after the highest densities of key audience segments where they are around the country. So basically, what we would – specifically for the MBA program, once these are available for targeting, but we probably want to start in the areas where we see that the specific demo has a higher concentration.
So the next step is, now that we have information collected about our ideal audience, and we have a deeper understanding of who they are, it’s really about choosing the media channels that we’ll reach them on. This is a very important step and it’s a step that requires some expertise. Sparkroom has a – when you’re talking about us, Sparkroom specifically has a wide range of services and channels and services under those channels. Media experts, so media channel experts, plus a media team in accounting, we sit down together to really look at this target demo and understand, which are the most important channels to use within the initial media plan?
Again, why expertise here is important is we understand the device consumption and where they are, so there are some channels that are going to make sense and some might make sense, but we will not choose them initially. As an example of that, we already know that they are active on mobile media, but we also know from our experience that they’re not necessarily impulse buyers. So although a mobile display campaign in advertising on mobile apps, because they download those and we don’t have to reach them on, might be a good idea, it definitely needs to be understood that this is more of a mid-funnel, higher and upper-funnel type campaign, where we are influencing them. But they are not necessarily going to click on the ads, although it might have a big impact down the road.
So this is where agency historical data and baseline channel experts can come in to talk and understand what channels are best utilized or can be used for this. In many cases, understanding the target audience is not really enough as well, to do the media channel selection. For example, channels like Facebook are targeting email lead nurturing, search engine optimization, may require access to more than just the student demographic profile. Things like the website analytics, understanding the unique visits per month, understanding the lead flow, to be able to put projections and actually select the channels that we need.
So, moving forward, before we get into the actual plan, Liz mentioned previously the long and complex funnel for EDU and how challenging it has become to understand the various touch points along this journey. Although this is a challenge, it is also a great opportunity for us education marketers to build a pleasant user experience, a positive one that can leave the prospect with a favorable perception of the brand. So it’s challenging to be present in all these different phases, but it’s essential to the success and it’s a great opportunity as well.
If we take just the upper part of the funnel, which is the awareness, concentration, intent, and inquiry, we can actually slice this out and we can understand that what we need to do here, for example, is build awareness and recognition, create some buzz, have mid-funnel campaigns and this upper portion to engage them, what we call soft engagement. Things, like, maybe social media would be one area here. And then finally, have direct response campaigns, we can call maybe catch-all, or things where actually you’re able to get the intent translated into an actual contact, right? Let’s just understand this. If we don’t have awareness campaigns and this upper part of the funnel is taking care of, it’s very hard for later stages to materialize as well.
So that said, let’s take a look at our initial plan. Again, this is not – we’re not suggesting that it needs to be exactly in those proportions, but based on all the information that we just gathered. This is a plan that’s based on percentage of budget. What’s important to notice, for example, is that we dedicated a large portion of the budget to paid search marketing, in this sense Google AdWords, Bing, etc. Because those are the channels, or this channel is known for high performance, good conversion rates, and we know that there’s demand on them as well for this specific program so we’re devoting a large portion of the budget to that.
That said, it’s projected to generate only a specific amount of leads per month. So, although this is a great channel that we can start with, it may not be necessarily enough to generate the volume goals that we need to reach. So that’s where other channels like hot transfers, website inquiries, and so on can be added as well. They’re also very active in social media so we dedicated a big portion of that to Facebook and potentially some other social media ads through direct ads, retargeting, re-engagement, etc.
And email lead nurturing, which of course once the inquiry is captured we need to enable that prospect to have a way to continue through our funnel and enable them to have the information they need when they need it as well. We were able through some – over our email campaigns to really increase those conversion rates in the later stage of the funnel from application to enrollment, from enrollment to start by using some of those retention and lead nurturing campaigns.
So moving forward, let’s take a look at the media plan by percentage of leads per month. Now, we dedicated a big portion of the plan, for example, to paid search but as you can see, the volume that’s generated from there is less than other channels. That is okay because the conversion rates are taken into consideration here. And that’s, again, where expertise, agency historical data, your own historical data, are important because that’s where we’ll be able to put some baseline to start with this initial plan, where we understand some of the metrics already.
So moving forward to take another look, or another slice of the media plan. We’ll see as well, in terms of enrollments, we can see that paid search is back to being at the top of the channels that are generating enrollments for us. So the media plan is really tailored specifically based on all the information we’ve gathered. Those will be the geographical areas where they live. That’s where we want to start to make sure that we don’t have any wasteful spend. It’s tailored to exactly reaching them on the channels that they are available on across the different stages of the funnel.
So how do we execute the plan? In terms of the plan execution, we have our initial media plan projections. Let’s take a look at some important factors in executing the plan. The first one is media buying. Understanding the key to attributes for a channel, establishing KPI so we understand, historically as we move through the campaign, the variation and how to manage that and using channel experts to build – to have specific input on optimization of the certain channels as well as the media buying part of it. The geo-targeting to the areas with most opportunity is also very important.
One other very important factor is tracking and measurement across channels within each channel for every interaction. The only way to be able to subsequently optimize the campaign is to be able to capture those interactions and understand them. This includes every action at every stage if possible. I see many clients and many marketers start campaigns, for example, without having the full view where they don’t know how many, necessarily, impressions created how many leads and that in some cases may be fine, but if you’re not tracking your calls and you don’t understand, for example, if somebody who’s coming from paid search, are they clicking on the ad on the paid search or on the landing page?
What is the effect of that phone number on that landing page? Is it creating increasing conversion or decreasing? How about your scripts with your call center? Have you AB tested that? There’s tons of areas across each milestone that we can enhance to move conversion rates and be able to do it. But the only way we can do it is if we are able to track it all. Have recordings for the call able to marry our impression data back to enrollment data.
The other step would be consistent messaging, creative, they need to be relevant to the user, personalized as possible, make sure to use the value of your – the value proposition of the brand and as well benefits. I highly recommend reading The Six Principles of Persuasion, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, and other influenced tactics and strategies. Game dynamics is one where you can definitely engage your user and help them basically move in your file as well. And again, we talked about anticipating the channel performance. That’s another important thing where having the baseline would really help us review track – review and track past media performances, seasonality, and allocate to most cost effective channels accordingly.
More importantly, we need to test. Test, measure, and then adopt the new channels as well. So now that we understand some of the important factors we need to take care of when we’re building the campaign, let’s take a look at some results, some results for our cross-channel media plan. So you’re running for a while now and you finally have your first set of data that you’re looking at. Taking a look at the data we can quickly, based on our channels, understand which channels are performing and which ones are having a challenge. It’s easy to say that the top five we’ll continue with and we might actually put on some of the budgets – we might increase some of their budgets.
The ones in yellow are the ones that are getting close to our goals, but not really hitting them. So the question is how can we enhance them? What type of optimizations we need to do within each of those channels to actually move them to hit their goals, right? This is mostly would be our focus. Now the final portion would be ones that are really not hitting the goal, far off, which it’s easy to say let’s eliminate those and maybe in more spaces one would be right to do that. But it’s very important to take a look at how those channels are impacting others.
So Liz mentioned a case study that we did on this topic and it turns out one of her display campaigns, although the volume of inquiries and the initial click to conversion data that we had didn’t show a lot of promise. When we did what we call an offline match, or basically we looked at all the data that the school got and the journey of the user, and we matched them back to, did this user actually see the app? We’ve seen incredible results where, actually a channel that we thought was not performing in fact had influenced other channels in a very positive way. So we need to take this into consideration when we’re trying to optimize our cross plan.
Furthermore, if we – let’s dig deeper into one of the channels as well. So we looked at the channels virtually. Let’s look at the channels horizontally. This is an example, a hypothetical example, of a display campaign. And I’ve seen this many times. So we have Campaign A and Campaign B. Very similar spend, similar creatives, likely different targeting, impressions almost the same, clicks have a big difference. So we see the click-through ratio in Campaign A being much higher than Campaign B so at a first glance, and also the inquiries they we’re generating from the first display campaign versus the second.
We see, okay, at first glance, it really looks like Campaign A is the winner, but in reality when we went back and tracked the enrollments back to which campaigns it came from and where the influence happened, we realize that we actually generated five enrollments from Campaign B and only two enrollments from Campaign One. This creates – this actually changed the entire performance understanding of those campaigns making Campaign B the winner. So those are the type of in-depth understandings that we need to have about each channel.
When you’re building your campaign we also need to understand the impact of mobile. It’s very big. Every year we say it’s the year of mobile. The reality is that there has been a shift into mobile adoption in the past years. This picture just shows that. But what does this mean really? The world has changed in the past few years and we know that, based on our own data, Google’s data, every data you look at, that the rise of mobile impressions, views, inquiries, are all on the rise. We’re definitely gonna come to a point where we’ll have more inquiries and impressions on mobile devices this year. That’s at least where we’re headed.
But what does that mean to us in to a cross-channel campaign? What that means is that, I’ll just give you one example for one of our campaigns to see the impact. What that means is you need to have to be in a mobile mindset. You need to be able to build campaigns that are optimized for mobile across channels. So we’re talking about, for example, the response of landing pages, response of templates, being able to track those, media that is also taken into consideration, mobile devices. In this case we switched, for one campaign, from, to a responsive design.
This is an email campaign that we’ve done for one of our large clients and we switched it to responsive templates, or responsive email templates, as well as responsive landing pages and we saw a huge increase in open rates as well as in click rates. So this is the type of impact you will see if you adopt to mobile. It’s not a question anymore if we should, but a question of how can we get there as soon as we can.
Alright. So moving forward, what should a cross-channel campaign do for you at the end of the day? We talked about all the different factors, the challenges and how to be able to create a successful campaign. In reality, it should really hit your goals, that’s one way. But if you’re already hitting your goals what should it do? It should help you decrease your cost per enrollment. It should help you get better conversion rates. It should help you get more volume. At the end of the day it’s about managing your spend more effectively and increasing – beating your goals. Not just hitting them, but really beating them.
So in terms of attribution if we go back one more time to that. There’s different ways to really assign the attribution for a specific campaign. Some of those that are popular, last click or first click, you could do it linear. So for example, is the last touch point – does the last touch point get all the credit for the enrollment? Or is it the first click? Is it the first impression? That first display ad, does that get all the weight? Or is it linear, distributed across the entire funnel, between channels? Or do you give more weight based on time, basically? So there’s different ways you can create your own. But it’s important here to have your own way of making sure that you don’t ignore the overlap of the channels and the impacts on each other.
So what does that all mean again? It’s really challenging today with all the tools that are available to have this cross-channel view. So we live in different dashboards and marketers in general suffer from that. According to Sales Force 2015 State of Marketing Report, 25 percent of marketers see that integration of marketing tools and systems as one of their most pressing challenges in 2015. So management cross-channel campaign plan can require so many systems that it can become cumbersome, really. We need to understand the impact of that. We need to understand what type of tools can bring all this together.
So different agencies, different companies, different marketers, sometimes they do that manually, do that through software. We have our own way as well where we have tried to tackle this, where we created a command and control dashboard. We’re in the process of actually working on that. And if you’re will be visiting at least when we have a presentation about cross-channel marketing, we’ll be reviewing some of the technologies that we will be providing for this. But, basically, what you want to do at the end of the day, is to pull all the data that you have into one place where you can see the full funnel and you can see across channels.
We’re ignoring a lot of the funnel for a lot of the market as we all live in different places and it’s really hard, as we talked about. So a dashboard like this may be one answer to this. There’s different approaches, again, and maybe you’re doing it manual today, maybe you’re using various tools. As long as you’re able to understand the impact of cross-channel diversified campaign, how you bring them together, there’s different ways to do that. This is just one way. So, as a recap…
Yeah, so I guess to kind of go back and just tie everything together…we have a few main takeaways that we want to make sure that the audience today really understands as being kind of our key cross-channel marketing plans and also initiatives in 2015 and kind of what’s underpinning them.
The first main take-away is really that having cross-channel marketing approach is not optional anymore. So five or ten years ago, schools could really get away with leaning on a strong presence in maybe two or three channels exclusively. But now, as we saw, students really demand, and schools have to offer, a more diverse media approach in order to get that maximum reach and cost efficiency from their media buys.
The second one of these, really that media plans do function holistically. It’s really critical to approach how the entire set of media channels and ad buys perform as a whole from a student acquisition standpoint. It can be easy to cheat assisting channels of credit for increasing brand awareness, or providing quality interactions between a prospect and school since they may not be credited with last click leads to enrollments. However, it’s clear from what we’re seeing and performance evaluation, that these assists are helping to improve overall ROI and are just as integral as those last click channels.
Thank you Liz. As challenging as it is and as innate as it is to have an understanding of cross-channel campaigns, this really also provides a unique opportunity for us to enhance the user experience. If you are able to manage this and have a unified view, then maybe you’re able to create consistent messaging within your funnel, across channels to really push and create that awareness of your value proposition. So we have a responsibility to create campaigns across channels that have that optimized experience for our prospects.
And I think that takes us to the end, so thanks a lot for your time and attention and Jeff I’ll turn it over to you for any questions that we got along the way.
Great. Thanks Akeel and Liz. So yes, as Liz mentioned, now is the time in the presentation when we take questions. Again, if you have any questions, please type them into the question box on your webinar control panel. If you can’t see the control panel, look for the orange box with the arrow. Click on that box, the control panel will expand, and you can type questions into the question panel. We’ve received a couple of questions already and I’m gonna start off with kind of a combination of two questions, both of which were asking for some clarification on definitions.
The beginning of the presentation there’s a chart that lists both mobile and tablet as channels. We had a question about what mobile is in that context.
Yeah, so in that context, mobile would be any phone, smartphone, wireless device. Tablet would be an actual tablet device, whether it’s connected to 3G or wireless. So it does separate the two. A lot of times mobile encompasses both smartphones and tablets, but in that case, you know, Google does break them out, so we like to look at them separately.
Alright. And the second question was just very quickly can you guys describe what hot transfers are?
Sure, hot transfers are when a prospect is on the phone, whether they’ve called into an 800 number for more information, clicked on an ad, and then they speak with somebody who qualifies that inquiry, make sure it’s a real person who’s really interested and then immediately transfers that call over to a school. So instead of the data lead being submitted and transmitted and then the school actually making an outbound call, this is somebody who’s on the line and directly connects with admissions.
It’s basically a call verified inbound call from a prospect to your team.
Alright. So we had a couple of questions, all of which deal with the idea of attribution across channels. So bear with me on this as we kind of work our way through. We talked a little bit about some of the different potential models for how you attribute that value. In practice, what is most effective in being able to answer the question ‘who gets credit for this’?
Yeah, I think I know…
You can go ahead first.
Sure, we’ll both take a stab at it. But it’s an excellent question, right? And it’s an internal question with cross-channel campaigns. At the end of the day, it’s all based on your ROI and your cost per acquisition goals. So who gets the credit, we talked about the various ways of that. If you’re isolating the specific channels that provided lift to other channels, are they – in terms of sheer volume versus the spend that you spend on them, are they ROI positive. Meaning, you need to look at KPI’s effective CPM and effective cost per moment and effective cost per start.
And, you know, it can get a little murky because if you’re not tracking correctly, it’s easier in the digital world, not as easy, but still better than the offline world, to be able to track that journey. Some of the platforms out there like Facebook, Atlas or Google allow you to have some insights into that journey because those are the two companies that actually have log-in information besides just cookie key and pixel information, right? When you just have pixel information, how much can you do with it? There’s other companies like Blue and various ones that you can actually ping to get information about that specific user that saw your page versus saw an ad and so on.
So there’s different tools out there, but again, nothing that brings them all together. So the short answer is, there is no, from my perspective, there’s no real one answer for that. I think you need to take a look at it from an ROI perspective, but then how do you manage offline as well? If you turn off your offline campaign can you see the impact and calculate it that way? So there’s different ways to do that.
Yeah, I agree that there’s no one way, but I’ll add three points to that. One is, I think that a recent study, I think it was Experian, found that 70 percent of marketers use last click attribution. So is it the right one? Not necessarily, but it’s the one I think is most common. Two, it’s been suggested that for lead generation focused marketers so really very specific to education, so in a lot of cases, time decay is actually the better model because it really kind of shows and gives more credit as people go from being aware of a brand towards actually getting to that point where they submit their inquiry.
They turn their information over to a school and really kind of have that level of trust that they’re getting the information they want and it’s not gonna be abused. So I think that’s something to definitely taken into account. But three, as Akeel mentioned, there’s not a right model. I think the most important thing is that there is a level of attribution modeling being done and really marketers are taking the steps needed to understand all the different touch points that happen along the customer journey and not default into one method because it’s the easiest.
And I think if – I saw, just recently, a Facebook study that tries to tie their display advertising to retail sales as well, and probably we can Google that or we can provide it in the notes later, that actually, exactly was able to provide some answer to that, where they were able to attribute finally those display ads on Google to increased purchase in retail for a specific brand. And Facebook has their own platform to do that, by the way. But, yeah, I don’t think there’s specifically one answer, it’s based on your specific funnel and platform.
The issue with that specific Facebook example is that that Facebook lift shown doesn’t take into account….as shown or anything else.
It’s an incredibly overlapped world, and, yep, absolutely.
Alright. So we talked a little bit about how to do the attribution model. What types of technologies are people using to track that user path from the initial viewing of an advertisement all the way to a conversion on a website?
I’ll take that. Up to conversion on a website?
So all the way from that initial impression through the different cross-channels stuff up until they become a customer.
Yeah, and that’s exactly where the problem is. You have different platforms and so you have front-end campaign management tools where you can do impression and click tracking, as well as pixel tracking and maybe you’re able to see the clicks through, view through, etc. But then you might have another system where you’re capturing all this data and processing them, and you have another CRM where it’s actually coming to where your admissions team is interacting with. And it’s all about the infrastructure.
So at Sparkroom we’re able to actually provide technology that ties in all the way from impression back to moment just because of our unique position in the marketplace. Where we sit, between the CRM and those front-end company management tools, and through API’s we’re able to bring both worlds together so you have a unified dashboard there. But it’s – I haven’t seen other tools out there, although I’m sure there are, that can sort of tie everything together. Technology is definitely possible and through API’s you can probably use third party tools as well to bring all the data in together. Liz do you have anything to add?
Yeah, I mean, I think that’s it. I think everyone’s got their own ways, their deterministic ways of finding it so Google and Facebook know exactly who you are, what you saw, when you saw it, and then having to kind of get the actual customer acquisition data back to them and match that up is really something they control, be a niche. And then there’s probabilistic way of doing it, so using cookies and pixels and things like that to kind of triangulate this must be somebody because they’ve kind of been in the same place and they’ve seen an ad and we can kind of piece it together type customer acquisition and outcomes. I mean, everyone does it differently, there’s a bunch of ways to do it.
Privacy is always a concern and something we have to be mindful of, but, yeah, I think at Sparkroom we really make it a focus to get those front-end metrics and connect them with the offline acquisition, which is everyone’s target. So how you do it is, unfortunately, not a straight line all the time.
Alright. Okay, so we talked a little bit about how the tracking works, we talked a little bit about how the attribution works. From a logistics standpoint, now this is an interesting question, so from a logistics standpoint it seems like the steps presented in the presentation seem focused on the idea that a single agency controls a lump of marketing or advertising spend and then makes dynamic channel usage decisions based off performance because they’re tracking across channels.
Currently, the person who’s asking the question says that they don’t handle all their channels in-house, but they do segment budgets for specific channels across multiple companies. So do you have – is that type of business model still viable? Or do you have any tactical recommendations for how they can kind of incorporate their existing structure with doing some type of cross-channel campaign?
Yeah, I mean, again, not to say that Sparkroom is amazing, but actually what it does is provide it as a self-service as well as an agency service. So regardless of what agency you’re using or if you’re doing it in-house you need some sort of a platform like that where you’re bringing the different key data into it. And it’s – when we’re talking about big data and all this data that’s being captured all the various places, we really need to make an effort on a structural and foundational level to be able to understand what all this different data is and bring it back.
Yes, ideally you want an agency that you trust or maybe your in-house department that can do all of this, but then do they have the tools for it and the expertise? So it doesn’t have to be one agency. Yes, we can – you need to use different platforms or at least one platform to tie those different media buys, but, again, if you’re just doing the manual reporting and your agencies that you hire don’t talk to each other, how are you able to find, count those trends and findings to be able to take it to the next level and save $1,400.00 on your cost per start, for example, right?
So that’s what we’re talking about, really, is – it’s one thing to try to give it to an agency and that’s problematic, but it’s another problem if you try to diversify too much where different platforms and agencies and vendors manage your different things. And that’s fine, again, on a pay per lead world, but that’s not the world we live in right now, given the challenges that we’ve seen and the trend, as well, that we’ve seen. Liz do you have anything?
Alright. So we’re just bumping up a little bit over on time now, I’m gonna squeeze one more question in and then if you guys have any additional questions following that, please feel free to send them into us and we would be more than happy to answer them. But the question is, just very quickly guys, we’ve talked about integrating a lot of systems into this stuff. What types of student information systems do we currently integrate?
All the major CRM’s. Our clients’ work with a huge variety of them so I know that our tech team could probably give specifics but we’ve integrated with major CRM’s from Sales Force to Calisma to Velocify. Whatever works for your admissions operations? We’ve interfaced with the past most likely and can do so in the future.
Yeah, and that’s on the back end of CRM. On the front end also we integrate with various tracking platforms as well, whether it’s Google AdWords or Linktrust, wherever we can get the data and sort of grab it into our dashboard, we’ll do that.
Alright. And that’s about all we have time for as of right now. I thank everybody for staying with us these extra two minutes. Now, as I mentioned before, if you have any questions and you need additional information, please feel free to contact Liz or Akeel at the contact information that’s currently listed on your screen. For more information on Sparkroom’s products and services you can always go to www.sparkroom.com and if you missed any of those URL’s, you’d like to have another look at this presentation, as I mentioned earlier, we will be sending out an email within the next few days which contains a link to this deck as well as a link to the recording of the presentation itself.
We’ll also be posting all of this information on our blog which is located at www.sparkroom.com/blog. Again, thanks for joining us this afternoon. We are honored that you did and have a wonderful day.