By: Pip Bulbeck, writer and editor, ADMA
As Year 12 students around the country undertake their final high school exams, universities and their admissions and marketing departments are prepping behind the scenes for the busy offers and acceptances season.
Not only are domestic undergraduate and post graduate placements a fiercely competitive arena, but the increasing number of international students seeking to study down under means Higher Education providers need to engage a bigger pool of prospective students and build closer relationships and deeper engagement with them.
Curtin University, based in Western Australia, has found that using advanced digital marketing underpinned by Marketo’s platform in the last twelve months has provided them with a huge uplift in engagement with prospective students and increased enrolment numbers, with the results of one small trial enabling the platform to pay for itself.
Anthony Green, Curtin’s Marketing Automation Manager said the implementation of the new platform over the last twelve months has helped create a seamless experience that allows the university to nurture prospective students through the admissions life cycle, identify and score leads from unknown to prospect to qualified and gain increased visibility into the student journey from initial interest to enrolment. Marketo has also allowed the marketing team to better track all marketing channels including websites and social channels, on and off campus events and information sessions, as well as increasing the University’s contact database.
Previously the university used its CRM platform to deliver broadcast EDMs to promote numerous activities and events without cohesion from a customer conversion perspective. These EDMs were delivered in isolation from other marketing campaign activities across other channels and reporting was onerous and provided little customer insight.
The results achieved on the Marketo platform, being run by a dedicated team of 5 staff has been extraordinary, says Green. Curtin’s use of the platform as well as its innovative marketing approach, teamwork and impressive enrolment results saw it awarded Marketing Team of the Year by the Australian Marketing Institute in October 2017.
From implementation to full campaigns, the transition to a marketing technology platform has helped Curtin’s team build value, scale and ROI quickly. The University started with a Marketo contact base of 20,000, which in twelve months has grown to 50,000 including 15,000 new undergraduate prospects. The team have run 391 campaigns to both domestic and international audiences, with nurture campaigns that cover time spans of a few weeks to six months to three years. The team has integrated Marketo from a lead generation perspective with Google Adwords, social media and display advertising. The campaigns have integrated EDMs as well as “smart lists” that retarget prospects via social media including LinkedIn, Facebook and closed social media platforms like WeChat to specifically target the all-important Chinese market. SMS reminders have also proven effective.
The targeting and personalisation achieved by the system means that open rates for EDMs have increased from 20-30% to over 80% for those considered ‘hot prospects’ and click through has increased from 5 per cent to 25 per cent - a significant improvement on older campaigns.
“Gone is the ‘spray and pray’ model of EDMs” says Green. “We have been able to be innovative using this platform”, he adds, explaining that his team, early on, realised the power of the platform when it ran a small trial against a control group that was specifically geared towards new international students.
“We knew that international students were applying for multiple universities before making a decision on which institution to attend so we realised we needed to work more directly with Admissions to tailor appropriate post-offer messaging to convince students to choose Curtin. This content focused on promoting the benefits of university life and Perth as a study destination.”
“As well as our EDM campaign, with Marketo we were able to link to Facebook and other responsive pages, pushing a call to action to students to accept their offer from Curtin. The conversion rate for the sample that received our nurture communications was double that of the control group which received zero additional follow-up. Getting these 70 new international students to enrol means the platform has more than paid for itself with one small campaign”.
“Our vision is to be the leading Australian tertiary education provider in regards to fully integrated marketing automation by the end of 2018,” says Ty Hayes, CMO, Curtin University. “The success of Marketo in just 12 months, has fast-tracked our strategy to shift from shouting and broadcast marketing, towards personalised 1-1 data-driven engagement with improved customer experience and a clear focus on conversion,” he adds.
“The keys to success have been establishing a dedicated team with a clear remit, providing the necessary training and hiring a specialist agency with deep marketing automation experience to get us racing out of the blocks”.