By Alberto Cecchi, Head of International Office of Gasma (Gastronomy and Culinary Management Campus) in Spain.
Spending time setting up tracking can have a tremendous impact on the success of your marketing initiatives. Online channels and campaigns can help you track website visitors and connect these interactions to future enrolled students.
Starting a new academic year knowing how the students arrived to your university will help you understand which platforms, campaigns, and pages on your own website are attracting and engaging students all the way to your campus. And it’s not just about marketing! Although tracking can be done invasively and unethically, by following best practices it can be a great way to more effectively help prospective students.
Don’t forget GDPR
Before you begin, make sure that any data you collect from students meets General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) requirements if you are located in an EU country or will be collecting and processing the data of EU students. Any tools that you use will also need to be compliant with GDPR, including the cloud where the information is stored. I recommend choosing a CRM so that you can have all of your data centralized in one legally-compliant tool.
Use tracking to help students get the right information about your programs
Digital information won’t just help you enroll more students, it will also help students get the information they need about your institution.
Imagine a student has just applied to your university. You could review the history of her website visits and see that the candidate has not visited a webpage about the study program yet. Your CRM could then, immediately after the admission request, send an automatic email asking her to review this information. This could help your candidate prepare for the admission interview by better understanding the program.
If your university has an agreement with a government to offer scholarships to their nation’s top students, you’ll want to spread this news as effectively as possible to inform relevant students about the opportunity. However, if you promote this offer without geotargeting your audience, you could easily create misunderstandings and be faced with an inbox full of soon-to-be disappointed students from around the world hoping to win a scholarship they were never eligible for.
With some simple tools, you can configure your university website to advertise this information only to people coming from the specific country offering the scholarship. In fact, webpages can contain dynamic content depending on the geographic origins of the page visitor, meaning that one webpage can be customized to a host of locations.
Focus your marketing with UTM codes
A similar tool to help track prospective student engagement is UTM codes. The principle is very simple: You can add information to URLs (for example, placing a button in an email or in the destination address of a banner) that leads to your website. When someone clicks the URL, Google Analytics will collect data about the visit and can show you your campaigns alongside each other.
By using separate UTMs to add to your URL, you can know which campaigns bring in the most traffic. For the visitor, this in no way impacts their site experience. But for you, you’ll receive information that you can use to know more about your audience—which can help you provide better, more valuable content.
The student conversion information lives in CRM records. It is possible to tie UTM parameters to data in CRM. Thanks to this link it is possible to calculate vital analytics, like ROI.
To give an idea of the power of this tool, you can make statistics with respect to the Adwords keywords that created information requests. After this step you can also determine which keywords produced admitted students. Your CRM can also capture additional metrics that Google Analytics doesn’t, such as why leads coming from your campaigns end up in “black lists” or as “junk leads.” The answer to this question can help you optimize your communication by producing content that will increase the quality of future visits. You can also build a scoring algorithm to qualify leads according to their origins and actions.
The same goes for campaigns in specialized portals like educations. Which banner has produced admission requests? Which advertisement medium was most effective? A newsletter or a banner campaign? In the planning phase it is necessary to set specific UTM codes that will allow us to trace the results.
Using these types of tools, GASMA has been able to recruit students from over 50 different countries for our gastronomy degree that began in 2015. But while these tools are powerful, they should also be used carefully. Keep in mind that there are other facets that make up a student recruitment process beyond scoring and tracking enrollment.
The simple question “How did you find us?” will not give very useful information. The most important answer you should ask is “How did we convince this student to enroll?"
Alberto Cecchi is Head of International Office of Gasma (Gastronomy and Culinary Management Campus) in Spain, a campus with more than 75% international students. Alberto uses the latest technologies, like CRM and analytics tools, to improve educational processes. He managed several projects related to the use of new media for schools and universities and is an author of several books in the field of new media. From 2000 to 2013 he was a lecturer at Universities of Urbino and Perugia for programs related to new media and computer science.