DMS Best Practices & Case Studies

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Reversing Cost-per-Enrollment (CPE) Trends

DMS Success Story:

Using Strategic, Targeted Program Optimizations to Lower the Average CPE Cost


A private, for-profit college was seeing a rise in its average cost per enrollment (CPE) over the prior 12 months and needed to reverse this costly trend.


Quickly and dramatically lower the school’s average CPE.

DMS Solution

The Digital Media Solutions (DMS) team analyzed school data combined with customized, audience-specific third-party data and overlaid aggregate education industry data, stored within Sparkroom performance marketing technology, to create a customized, strategic marketing plan for the school.


DMS media strategists evaluated the program-level performance of active inquiry providers. This allowed media buying, performance reviews and optimizations by program.

Inquiries and enrollments were heat mapped to identify the zip codes with the greatest conversion rates.

Using global data stored within Sparkroom, a competitive analysis was performed to evaluate average costs and conversion rates in comparison to schools with similar programs and locations. Websites and request for information (RFI) landing pages were also reviewed to ensure relevant and differentiating program, subject and category messaging.

Right-Pricing, Geo-Targeting and Other Refinements

The DMS team negotiated revised costs per inquiry (CPIs) based on historic global performance and desired results. While CPIs were lowered for a set of vendors that were delivering CPEs above target, CPIs were simultaneously increased for high-quality sources to obtain better rankings on their web pages and custom traffic focused on the sub-sources that provided the strongest conversion rates.

DMS worked with inquiry providers to improve performance based on analytic assessments, by refining their geo-targeting, adding qualifying questions to their inquiry forms and/or adding new filter requirements, such as graduation year restrictions.

Meanwhile, a set of inquiry providers that did not show opportunity for refinement was paused.

Adding Volume & Vendors

To offset the volume loss from paused vendors, program-specific volume increases were provided to the highest converting active vendors by leveraging the dynamic capabilities of Sparkroom technology.

The DMS media team then selected new inquiry providers to be added to the media plan based on knowledge of the vendors’ high conversion rates along with their willingness to add quality channels to the traffic mix (paid search, organic search, websites with matching program content, etc.).


For the three-month period following these optimizations, the school's CPE fell by $410 (or 22%) in comparison to the prior five months. And the CPE was down 19% year over year. This was the direct result of a 49% increase in the enrollment rate due to inquiries being higher quality and a closer match to the school’s target profile. Media spending was also reduced by 28% as a result of the refined media plan.

Want to lower your average CPE? Contact DMS to get started.

About the Author

Digital Media Solutions

Digital Media Solutions, LLC (DMS), the largest single entry point for scalable and reliable, martech-enabled digital marketing solutions, deploys a robust database of consumer intelligence and leverages massive proprietary media distribution to provide customer acquisition campaigns that grow businesses, offer visibility into the customer experience and provide accountability for every media dollar spent. DMS continues to experience explosive year-over-year growth, with continuous recognition on the Inc. 5000 list, securing its sixth consecutive ranking in 2019, and the Entrepreneur magazine 360 list. Named one of America’s “Best Places to Work” by Inc. magazine and awarded the 2018 Excellence in Lead Generation Award by the LeadsCouncil, DMS brings together some of the industry’s most knowledgeable people, efficient processes and sophisticated technology across the digital marketing spectrum.

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