As the summer campaigning season comes to an end and enrolments are being counted, marketing campaigns are coming under scrutiny. Did we spend enough? Did we use the right media? What would have happened if we had spent differently?
The biggest challenge for marketers and the holders of the purse strings is proving the correlation between advertising spend and number of students recruited. There is no fool-proof way of proving a link unless you decide one year to do something radically different, like spend nothing or spend big on summer advertising, but even then the campaign effectiveness can be impacted by prevailing market conditions. However there are many ways to measure the impact of campaigns.
Traditional media, such as newspapers, outdoor and radio, should be measured in terms of their target audience impressions and benchmarking the cost per thousand impressions. Remember to include the production costs as well as the media cost in calculating the cost per thousand. A good advertising agency should be able to also provide reach and frequency data. Reach is the percentage of your target audience that is exposed to your message (i.e. the percentage of 15-19 year olds) and frequency is the estimated number of times individuals will see your message. Frequency is vitally important and this figure should exceed 3 times. Advertising only seen once or twice is rarely effective.
Historically Rave has used different telephone numbers on different media to establish the cost per call generated. Some channels perform much better due to the nature of the media. People are more likely to call from a piece of direct mail delivered to their home than from a 48 sheet poster which is only seen for 3 or 4 seconds. Over the last two years there has been a noticeable decline in telephone calls generated from advertising, primarily due to websites being the preferred method of contact and information search. Discrete landing pages can be created for different media and tracked using Google analytics, but this is not fool proof as many people will simple perform and organic search and go straight to the home page.
Digital marketing wins hands down in the battle with traditional media in terms of impact and measurability. Running Facebook campaigns or other digital advertising is highly measureable and accountable. The statistics available include the number of impressions, click-throughs (to your website) and the cost per click through. Digital marketing is contextual, namely we can target specific audiences. For example, a million impressions for outdoor advertising is a million impressions of the entire adult population, whereas a million impressions on Facebook will be just of your bulls-eye target audience.
The effectiveness of your PR elements of the summer campaign should also be measured. The best method is to use equivalent advertising spend, but remember to include online and traditional media in coverage and all agency or staff costs. Equivalent advertising expenditure is simple yet time consuming to calculate. If you get half a page of editorial in the local newspaper, you simply apply the advertising value to it; hence you can calculate the advertising value of PR for each £1 of cost. Rave has a system that will create these metrics for you and can even be broken down by faculty or division, and individual news story.
Social media deployment is becoming an integral part of summer student recruitment campaigns. Social media measurement is possible but can be quite expensive. Rave runs systems to measure the volume of social media activity for you and your competitors and will also give your share of voice compared with other colleges. These systems also provide audience sentiment towards your brand and how this sentiment changes over time.
Finally, it is very important to survey existing and new students on the impact of advertising. Include a few questions as part of the application and/or enrolment process as this will help inform next year's campaign.
Read other FE News articles by John Wilford:
New models for marketing
Strategies for engaging with employers
Marketing Further Education on a budget