The secret behind marketing automation success

Dec 17
Author:Eileen Cai
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Everyone loves a new toy to play with. And when it comes to marketing, nothing compares to opening the box on a new marketing automation platform. Real-time reporting, insights into online activity, personalised content, and nurture emails are just the tip of the iceberg.

Designing sexy new email templates, making up fun heat scores, and finding creative ways to segment your database is all very exciting and where newbies will inevitably spend a lot of time. But it’s the less glamorous parts which really determine how successful engagement with prospective students will be; and ultimately, how many apply.This was a mistake we made at the University of Canberra. For a year we naively tinkered with CSS, guessed at what content customers would be interested in, and segmented based on what faculty wanted to promote. We were on a journey with a destination in mind, but with no map, little idea of how long it would take, and only the vaguest of idea in which direction to start travelling.

While there were wins – surprising wins in hindsight – unlocking extraordinary results throughout the following 12 months came from research reports, spreadsheets, workshops, and Word documents. And ultimately, we were able to achieve this through a collective realisation; marketing automation is a tool, not the solution.

What we as an industry have come to call “marketing automation” is, in reality, an extension of content marketing. We now just have a tool to deliver our customers what they want to know, when they want to know it, and know where they are in the buying process. But giving customers that level of personalisation starts with knowing who they are, and joining them on their buying journey.

At UC, this involved research, research, and more research. Who were our students? Who were tertiary students in general? What did they want to know? What motivates them to study? Wading through hundreds of pages of research reports and spreadsheet after spreadsheet of web and email analytics sounds boring to everyone but the biggest of data nerds, but it’s where the foundation of any successful campaign is built.

With real data and insights, the fog lifted on our prospective students. Out went course-based segmentation, in came new avatars based on purchasing motivation and intent. We suddenly knew their pain points, the likelihood of them making a purchase, the path they would take to make a purchasing decision, and the types of content they consumed.

From there, phase two of the “boring but important” planning became a breeze. A sprinkling of art to the truckloads of science gave us a year-long content plan mapped to our customers’ journey and delivering content they actually wanted.

But was it all actually worth it?

At the time of writing, we had sent 280% more emails than our 2016 campaign to a database that contained 88% more leads. Despite these dramatic increases in size and volume, our total number of engaged leads has increased more than 10%, with our already above-average industry email metrics improving in open and click-through rates.  All results that are directly attributable to our campaign planning.

So, where is your university? Doing fun and sexy “marketing automation” without any direction, or delivering best-practice content marketing with a powerful distribution tool?

To learn more about this topic, attend our Digital Marketing Strategies for Higher Education Conference held in March. Book by Friday December 15th to save ! 

Submitted by Eileen Cai

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