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Two Kinds of Data

Measure twice. Cut once.

Marketing is an art and a science and gathering and interpreting the data is about the science. One kind of data gathering supports you in developing a detailed profile of your prospective family so you can refine your communications or brand. Another kind offers a picture of the specific behavior of your prospects when interacting with your website and social media.

If your “product” is education, if you are school or a college, you already know a great deal about who your prospective students or “customers” are than the average business does. Your staff talks to your prospective families, emails them, interacts with them on social media and in person. You already have an incredibly rich understanding of your prospects that would make most other types of businesses would green with envy. Qualitative and quantitative.

The second kind of data lets you study the performance of your marketing and communications, your target audience’s interactions with those communications, and whether or not you are reaching your goals. That data can be hugely valuable. Not only because you can use it to optimize and strengthen your marketing and communications, but also because it gives you some insights into how your prospects learn about you and think about you and make decisions.

For example, when we started looking around in one school’s data, we discovered that many web visits began with curiosity about the school’s summer session. A not-insignificant number of those visits then led to a significant time spent looking at the regular session. Yet, when we looked at the summer session website itself, we could see that it wasn’t at all obvious how to go from the summer session pages to the regular session or main school pages—indeed, they were two different websites. The branding was also very different—confusing if a visitor already knew about the school and confirming a perception of elitism, if they didn’t. To add to the problem, strengths that people valued in the summer program were not apparent in the content around the regular program.

A disconnect.

A few small tweaks to their website design, architecture and content could easily result in an increase in web-based inquiries for this school. They already know that many summer student families express interest in the regular session and are often drawn to the school that way. But by not connecting that knowledge with the web data and then subsequently the design and architecture, they were not able to take advantage of that fact.

Here are a few questions for college admissions folks to ask. What majors do most of your inquires ask about? And does that differ from the majors they explore most often or most deeply on your website? Are students from rural areas looking at different majors from students in urban areas?

If you know the answers, how can you make such insights work for you?

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