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Maximizing Third-Party Vendor Campaigns to Push Performance

September 7, 2016 Kathy Bryan

A Case Study Focused on Strategic Optimization & Diversification

Recently, a group of regional schools with diverse programs and geographies asked us to help boost the performance of their enrollment marketing efforts. They had been self-managing their third-party campaigns, which were comprised exclusively of pay-per-lead (PPL) vendors. Due to in-house resource constraints, this school group was buying massive quantities of inquiries from large third-party aggregators, and the overall quality was sub-par. As a result, they were not achieving their application rate targets.

When we began working with the school group, they asked the team to maintain the application volume while increasing the application rate to push down the average cost per application (CPA). Immediately, account services, marketing analytics and media teams took steps to make the campaign more strategic.

The Sparkroom analytics team benchmarked historical school campaign data against global higher education industry data. Based on prior performance and a robust knowledge of the capabilities for each vendor, the media team began right-pricing inquiries. In some cases, they worked with vendors to lower the cost per lead (CPL). But for vendors who were hitting their campaign goals and had the potential to drive more volume, the CPLs were increased to motivate these vendors to deliver more.

Before working with Sparkroom, the school group was receiving only the “traditional” style of PPL data leads from third-party providers. Despite the influx of new third-party options, which can convert at more than three times the rate of PPL sources, the school had not added these new sources of leads to their campaigns.

leads from non-PPL third-party sources can convert at 3x the rate of PPL data leads

While considering the performance potential of “non-traditional” third-party leads and the importance of source diversity, we researched options and began testing new sources on the school’s campaign. To speed up the assessment process, our team appended lead data with segment codes provided by Neustar. This data let them compare incoming leads against prior leads that resulted in conversions. Ideal segment codes were provided to vendors so they could actively source leads with those profiles for delivery to the school group.

Lastly, our team implemented a bold optimization approach. Unlike when the school group was managing their campaigns, vendors were no longer able to skate by on marginal results. Inquiry performance was evaluated regularly, using milestones from contact to application, and campaign adjustments based on this data were made monthly.

Over the course of two years, we doubled the number of lead sources on the campaign. This diversification allowed for competitive pricing and easy scaling, which led to enhanced campaign performance. As a result of the third-party overhaul, the school group’s application rate increased 32% with a 3.4% reduction in the CPA.


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About the Author

Kathy Bryan

Kathy Bryan is the Senior Vice President of Corporate Marketing and Communications at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), the fastest-growing independent digital performance marketing company. In this role, Kathy is responsible for all aspects of marketing and communications for DMS and its subsidiary brands. Since its inception, DMS has evolved into an award-winning, full-service performance marketing company demonstrating incredible year-over-year growth which has earned recognition on the Inc. 5000 list in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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