We recently rolled out the Marketing Budget Deliverables process for FY 2018. Marketing budget projections are among these deliverables, because as marketers we cannot determine ROI without first knowing the “I.”
Marketing expenditures are growing across higher education, particularly in the area of digital marketing. In our highly competitive industry, institutions are on average increasing their advertising spend—in some cases substantially—to tell their story and try to stand out from the crowd.
Marketing should be a strategic investment, and the onus is on all of us to demonstrate how it advances the top priorities of our respective campuses, schools, and units. Marketing and communications professionals often have broad portfolios—you do a ton of stuff for IU!—but we must remember to keep the ROI discussion focused on impact rather than activity.
For Indiana University’s central marketing efforts, we have four primary methods to measure success.
1. Competitive Enrollment Results
We have many audiences to serve, and the Fulfilling the Promise brand strategy is intended to provide flexibility to do so.
We especially want to connect with students in every phase of their IU journey—prospective, current, and alumni. Prospective students are at the heart of our brand strategy, and marketing is integral to attracting bright and diverse students to all of our campuses.
We ultimately want to affect enrollment, and therefore we closely monitor how the university’s enrollment figures stack up against national, regional, state, and competitive set trends.
2. Digital Marketing Return on Investment
We can most accurately determine ROI in the digital space, which represents the institution’s largest marketing investment.
IU is completing the second year of its comprehensive digital advertising campaign. This year’s campaign has generated more than 5,000 leads—those who have provided their name and email and expressed interest in learning more.
Working with admissions partners on the campuses, we track these leads through the funnel so that we can eventually determine cost-per-application and most importantly cost-per-enroll (in addition to cost-per-lead).
3. Brand Tracking Research
The Fulfilling the Promise campaign, deployed across digital and all other media vehicles, is also designed to elevate the IU brand. Optimizing the IU brand promise is one of our strategic priorities, as the university must continue strengthening its brand position through the Bicentennial and beyond.
To track performance, we utilize custom online surveys with prospective students in Indiana, neighboring states, and key export states. Measures include awareness, consideration, and brand attribute scores for IU Bloomington and IUPUI versus competitor institutions. Surveying began in January 2015 and is ongoing each month.
With two years of data, we can identify trends. For instance, awareness of IU is trending up in Indiana and neighboring states, and consideration of IU is trending up across all geographies.
4. Traditional Media Measures
Measuring total media impressions over a specific period of time is the most traditional way to measure effectiveness and efficiency of these channels but is also the softest. (With television advertising, for example, we measure reach and frequency. This medium targets parents and also serves to “mobilize the base” of IU alumni and friends.)
However, don’t underestimate the contribution to ROI that traditional media can make.
The power is in evaluating its influence on other channels. IU South Bend’s TV buy provides a direct assist to its digital marketing, resulting in better digital campaign performance.
Thank you for the work that you do across our university to drive strong marketing ROI.