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Part of the 101 series, an introduction to various topics for enrollment marketers.
Why Invest in Digital Marketing?
If you think about your day; how it starts, where most of your time is spent, and how it ends – there’s a solid chance you spend a fair amount of time looking at a screen. Whether it’s your phone, a computer, or a tablet it would be safe to assume that at least one passes your eyes for a portion of the day. In fact, studies have shown that the average adult spends an average of five hours a day looking at a screen while teens spend upwards of seven.
With those statistics in mind, it is easy to see how digital marketing has grown so rapidly over the last few years. Less and less is being spent on billboards, print, and radio ads and is being reinvested into display and search ads. On top of having a captive audience, digital marketing offers something that no other form of marketing has had before – clear tracking.
While the digital world may be ever-changing, one thing remains constant – it’s not going anywhere any time soon. With that in mind, we are going to dive into why it’s important to invest in digital marketing.
What is Digital Marketing?
On the surface, digital marketing is advertising across digital channels and platforms to attract new families and students. However, as you start to peel back the layers of the digital landscape, it becomes a complex world of platforms, optimization opportunities, various ad types, countless guidelines, and millions of competitors making it easy to get lost.
At the simplest level – digital marketing can be served as a display ad, a search ad, or a social media ad. All variations have the same fundamentals; including the ad itself, the ad group, the campaign, an audience, demographic targeting, location targeting, an ad schedule, and budget. Similar to a normal marketing campaign, the digital side can be hyper-focused on specific people, regions, interests, time frames, etc. However, where digital marketing starts to diverge from standard marketing/advertising can make for one lengthy list. From flexibility and clear ROI (return on investment) to real-time results and audience manipulation – neglecting to use digital marketing can not only leave you losing to your competitors, it quite frankly can leave you losing an incredible number of families and students.
Why is Digital Marketing Important?
One of the many bonuses to using digital marketing is the flexibility that the platforms offer. When print or billboard campaigns are launched it is almost impossible to go back and make edits or optimize based on real-time results because there are hard copies delivered or posted. In the world of digital, ads can be altered as frequently as you would like. Whether it be targeting, spend, images, or copy; all aspects of ads can be altered at any point during the campaign. While it may take extra time to go in and make edits, it isn’t difficult to do so.
This is a great feature to utilize if your school or organization is looking to test certain ideas, copy, or audiences. If a portion of your test starts to outperform the other(s) you can easily shift budget to the stronger performance, adjust the other ads to reflect what is doing well, or turn off what is showing poor performance.
It tends to be impossible to control when/how many cars drive past your billboard or what day the pamphlet you sent out actually gets to a students’ home. Opposingly, the timing of digital ads lies in your hands. All platforms allow ads to run during the hours you designate, spend less during lulls, or spend more during peak times. This is a great way to increase performance because certain hours don’t lure the audiences you’re trying to reach. Reflecting back on flexibility, if you want to test spending more/less at certain times or only running ads during specific hours it’s easy to make edits.
Power of Audience
Another advantage of digital marketing is the power of audiences. From incredibly broad to hyper-focused, you have the ability to mix and match demographics, interests, and locations to best fit your goals. If you want to exclude older audiences because your campaign is prospective student-focused, great that’s easy. If you’re looking to target parents of elementary school students for a new campus opening, also possible. Another great tool you can use is lookalike audiences. With hundreds of millions of people online, there might be families and students interested in similar schools that never thought to look at your school and on the flip side, you never thought to target. Creating lookalike audiences can help expand your reach in just a few easy steps.
One caveat we always like to warn partners about when creating targeting guidelines for campaigns is that the more specific you get with targeting, the smaller your audience becomes. While having very focused audiences could bring you exactly what you are looking for, it may limit who your ads reach; which in turn excludes families or students that may also be interested in what you’re promoting.
Following closely behind audiences is the concept of remarketing. Wouldn’t it be amazing if the day after a prospective student opened something from your school in the mail, they drove past one of your billboards, and then drove home to visit your site? You’re in luck because that’s exactly what remarketing does!
Creating audiences of families or students that have visited your site enables you to capture those who have clearly shown interest in your school and “retarget” or serve ads to them at a later time. Chances are you’ve been remarketed to yourself. Have you ever looked at a pair of shoes on a site and then later saw the exact same shoes in an ad while you were reading a blog or scrolling through Facebook? Well, that company was using remarketing. It’s a great way to send a reminder to someone because families or students rarely decide to enroll in just one visit to your website.
Real-Time Results and Clear ROI
Thinking back to the standard versions of marketing (print ads, mail, billboards, radio/tv ads, etc.), it is incredibly difficult to track how many families and students came directly to your school because of those ads. Can families or students tell you directly that they saw an ad? Of course. However, within the world of digital marketing, platforms like Google Analytics can help you see the exact ad a parent or student came from, how long they were on your site, what buttons they clicked on, all the way up to if they submitted an application. With tools like goals on Google Analytics and pixel tracking, you can create your campaigns and websites in a way that will explicitly show you a family or students’ journey.
These real-time results (or lack thereof) can help influence every other aspect of your campaign that we have discussed today. If certain audiences have spent more time on your site than others you can funnel more of your budget in their direction. One platform may serve ads that lead to a lower bounce rate or lead to more pages per session, showing that they’re worth the extra ad dollars.
Digital marketing tends to be an endless puzzle where pieces are constantly moving and the opportunities for testing are endless, but it can pay off rich dividends with full-funnel tracking and easy access to real-time data.
How Niche Can Help You Get Started
It can be daunting to jump into the world of digital marketing on your own. At Niche, we have a digital marketing team dedicated to helping you and your school reach interested families and students. With industry-specific knowledge and experience across various platforms/ad types, our team will not only manage your campaigns but optimize to provide the best performance possible. Learn more about Niche can help you get started.