4 Simple Steps to Greater Marketing Results


“Remember, a 4% response rate means a 96% failure.”

The CEO of a company I was working for said that to me after I celebrated a highly-profitable direct mail campaign with my co-workers.  Initially, that piece of truth took some wind out of sails. But after some time, that simple sentence became a driving factor in my work.

How can you make generate greater marketing results?

First, greater marketing results start with getting to know your target audience better. 

I teach marketing research at Southern New Hampshire University Online, and we discuss understanding the target audience.  Typically, students will come back with incredibly broad descriptions of the target audience for their class project.

One student even wrote, “Everyone on the planet will want this product because it is amazing, so everyone is the target audience.”

But you can’t effectively motivate everyone with the same media, message, offer, or creative/design.  So they better you understand your audience, and any segments within that larger group, you can use that information to improve performance.

Which brings us to the second tip for our journey to greater marketing results – segment your audience.  Segmenting your audience helps you address the differences between members of the target audience so that your campaign performance can generate more substantial results.

But you need to be able to segment in a manner that makes working with multiple segments faster, easier, and more effective.  Thankfully, that’s where CRM comes into play.

Yes, segmenting takes time and effort, and maybe even some money.  But it pays off.  And segmenting doesn’t really cost that much.  For example, take your institution’s student database over to Data Axle USA and have them append their data to your files so that you can identify the common factors.  That may cost you a couple of thousand dollars – tops.  I know.  I have done this for many colleges and universities over the years.

Then the next step is to develop a process for gathering additional insights into your students. 

For example, when it comes to higher education, what are their wants, needs, expectations, perceptions?

How do they go about researching potential colleges and universities and programs?  What media do they use?

And what is their decision-making process, as well as selection criteria?

Sure, there are more questions that will help you more effectively segment. But getting this information from current and prospective students is a great start.

Now that your audience is segmented, the third tip is to focus on delivering the right message and offer at the right time.

Today, you need to focus on what matters to the individual – gone are the days of “one message for everyone.”  Or even worse, “multiple messages so we can appeal to everyone in one campaign” because we tend to see lower results when we try to appeal to everyone.

Are your recruitment communications based on the prospective student’s wants, needs, expectations, perceptions? Are they based on where they are in their decision-making process? Do they answer the questions that make up their selection criteria? If you answered ‘No” to any or all of these questions, you have the opportunity to generate significant improvements to your recruitment efforts.

As for the fourth tip, please keep it simple.  And by this, I mean that you need to make the recruitment and enrollment process as simple and straightforward as humanly possible, and your communications should have a single objective that requires the prospective student to do one thing.

Let’s focus on the first part for a minute.  There is a tendency to forget that prospective students and their parents really don’t understand higher education.  This lack of familiarity can lead to misunderstanding and frustration that cause them to stop moving forward.

Add the second part of keeping things simple to the mix, and spend time explaining what you want them to do next and why it will benefit them.

A good friend of mine describes this approach as “the best way to eat an elephant – one bite at a time.”

Selecting the right institution and program and then going through the application, admissions, and registration process is a big thing.  Break down that big thing into small, easy to consume, and digest pieces or steps, and watch more prospective students turn into new students.

A few closing thoughts.

Working in higher education for more than 15-years, I see opportunities to improve recruitment and retention performance like these examples all the time.  The reasons vary, and to be honest, the reasons aren’t that important.  What is important is taking action to turn the opportunities into a successful reality.

The costs aren’t that much. And you can easily recover the costs through better results. 

So, if you aren’t doing all of these things today, what’s keeping you from doing them starting now?

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