Your back-to-school campaign is about to kick off – but when it’s over, how will you know if it was successful? Tracking metrics from all facets of your campaign will allow you to evaluate the campaign’s overall success and illuminate the state of your sales pipeline as we head into the selling season of the education buying cycle.
By understanding the metrics from your email marketing, content marketing, public relations and social media efforts, you can optimize your education marketing strategy for future back-to-school seasons, inform your selling strategies for coming months and have a successful 2018-19 school year.
New technologies emerge and old trends may fade away, but email marketing remains a staple of all well-developed marketing plans. It serves as a content distribution channel to reach interested prospective customers and help share information that can meet your current customers’ needs. Segment your lists to tailor messages to specific roles, district sizes and geographic areas, and deploy drip campaigns to move leads through the decision-making process and into the sales funnel. For the back-to-school season, focus on two primary measurements: email performance and the number of new subscribers.
Open and Click-through Rates
For current subscribers, evaluate your open and click-through rates. Compare the performance of your back-to-school campaign to prior emails efforts. Analyze past performance to pinpoint what worked and what didn’t. For example, if the open rate on a back-to-school email exceeds those of previous emails, compare and contrast your subject lines and preview text to identify why recipients were more likely to open the message. Your conclusions can then be applied for future campaigns.
In the education market, the benchmarks for open and click-through rates are 14.3 and 1.4 percent respectively, according to MailChimp. Use these numbers as a starting point for measuring the performance of your email lists. Your goals may vary depending on the size and segmentation of your list, but it’s important to keep these top-level metrics in mind.
The number of new subscribers serves as an early indicator of what is to come with your sales pipeline. New readers will become warmer leads in the future with the proper lead nurturing techniques. These awareness-stage prospects will receive regular email communications with your product information, company news, content assets, case studies and more. They might not complete a purchase today, but in time, may trickle down the funnel and become warmer prospects.
To establish your goal, revisit the number of new subscribers you obtained last year from July to September. Depending on your overall sales objectives, you may increase the goal by three to five percent rather than simply maintain your previous subscription levels.
Incorporating content marketing into your education marketing strategy allows you to demonstrate value to potential customers. Case studies, whitepapers and infographics are content assets for the back-to-school season that answer educators’ questions and guide them through the vendor selection process. Therefore, the metrics for your content marketing efforts will help reveal if your content was truly beneficial to your audience. The two main areas to track are ungated and gated content.
Ungated content is openly accessible and does not require any contact information or action to view. Key metrics to track through Google Analytics are time on page, average pages per sessions and bounce rate for visitors to that specific page. If visitors are spending several minutes on the page, visiting multiple pages and bouncing less than 50 percent of time, they are finding your content relevant and useful.
Gated content requires the visitor to complete a task or provide information to obtain access. The same metrics are important for pages that include downloadable content, but the most relevant metric to track is the number of conversions from visitors to that page. A low conversion rate could be a result of directing non-relevant users to the page, a weak call-to-action or poor online user experience. Your conversion rate goal will vary depending on how targeted your audience is, how you are driving traffic to the content and what content you are gating.
Receiving positive coverage from the education trade media should be a year-round goal, but a well-timed piece of coverage or two during the back-to-school season can boost message projection to your target audience. Leveraging the coverage across your marketing channels will maximize its impact, and in the end, there are several metrics that you should monitor.
Outlet Circulation and Activity
A traditional metric for news coverage is the circulation or online reach of the news outlet. Earning coverage in an outlet with over one million monthly visitors is substantial and builds awareness throughout the industry. Monitoring the outlet’s activity with the news coverage is another metric to track. Keep an eye on any tweets or posts from the outlet or journalist and the type of engagement received. This is trickier to quantify, but it can provide an anecdotal sense of how the coverage was received by your target audience.
Paint an even more accurate picture of your success by referencing Google Analytics, campaign tracking and referral traffic. While getting news coverage by a high-reaching outlet is excellent for visibility, earning coverage in an outlet that drives website traffic with engaged users is even better. Pay attention to the bounce rate, average time on page and average pages per session from your referral traffic. Utilizing campaign tracking links specific to media coverage will allow you to evaluate how it resonated with each outlet’s audience.
Social Media Marketing
Social media campaigns are often broken into two buckets: paid and organic. The two can and should complement each other, but when evaluating their success it’s important to look at different sets of metrics.
Unless it is shared by others, organic content is viewed only by those who already follow or like your accounts. Focus your back-to-school tactics and measurement efforts on Facebook and Twitter, the tried and true primary social networks for education marketing. For organic posts on Facebook, it’s important to track reach, engagement rate, impressions and page likes gained. The most important organic Twitter metrics are impressions, followers gained, engagement rate and link clicks.
Social media advertising offers detailed targeting capabilities that can deliver content and ads to audiences not reached with your organic content. By using the Facebook Pixel, you can target recent website visitors who may not follow you on social too.
When running social advertising campaigns, it’s important to track paid reach, impressions, engagement rate, follows or likes earned and link clicks. Most important, track cost per result. The cost metric may be based on the cost for every 1,000 impressions, link click, video view, form completion and others depending on your established paid content objective.
If you are running ads to drive website traffic, use custom Google Analytics links to monitor visitor behavior once they reach your website. Monitor how long they stay on the website, how many pages they visit, whether or not they complete Google Analytics goals and other relevant behavior. This will help determine whether your campaigns delivered tangible business results or just empty impressions and clicks.
In the end, your cost per result goal depends on the campaign objective. If you are running an awareness campaign, the cost per 1,000 views should be small, but if it is a lead-generation campaign, your desired cost per result depends on the value of a lead to your organization.
The most important metric: deals closed. Given the average length of the education buying process, achieving this goal will likely take a longer period of time and often occurs well after the back-to-school season. You will succeed by honing all of the above metrics to consistently put your best foot forward.
Once a sale is made, work backwards from its completion to determine how the new customer reached the purchasing decision. To understand how the lead did or didn’t progress through your funnel, analyze their journey: from the lead-generation tactic that drove them into the funnel, to their movement through the funnel, to what prompted the final decision.
This comprehensive review of your education marketing strategy will reveal the most significant lead-generation funnels and determine which tactics still need refinement. From there, take a minute to enjoy your success and consider that it will soon be time to begin filling the funnel once again.
Interested in learning more about how to track the success of a back-to-school campaign? Let’s talk!