Spotlight for Career Services ProfessionalsNovember 13, 2013
by Gary Alan Miller
As career services professionals, we often find ourselves acting as quasi-marketing professionals, and it is an area of our work in which we can be very creative. Why should we ruin it with something as dreary as analytics? To use a well-worn business cliché, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Obviously, we need to manage our marketing and continuously improve our efforts to reach students effectively.
At the macro level, you should connect your marketing analytics to your broader assessment plans and learning outcomes. But, those very important topics are beyond the scope of this article. Here, I will give you a few considerations to take you down the path toward better measurement of your marketing efforts.
For the purposes of this article, let’s use a career fair as a running example. For a career fair, you may have a marketing mix that involves sending out e-mails, advertising in the student paper, using social media channels, distributing handbills, posting signage, and more. With these efforts, you are hoping to increase attendance at the fair. But, even if your attendance goes up, how can you know what factors contributed to attendance and which were not effective?
Hearing directly from the source is one approach. If you do a post-event survey, it makes a lot of sense to ask the attending students. There are many ways to ask, but I recommend at least these two approaches:
There are certainly other questions you could ask, but these are the baseline in my view. You can also use existing technology to collect useful data in other ways. Your social media platforms can provide you with beneficial data, and there are a lot of resources available to help you understand best practices and approaches. Here are a few:
But, what about those activities that are not electronic? How else can we know if our posters, handbills, and newspaper ads are having an effect? In the previous article in this series, I introduced the idea of using a “call to action” with your marketing efforts. If your print materials for your fair call for a digital act, such as an RSVP or visiting a webpage, you can use a link-shortening tool to track those efforts. You want to put a unique URL on each of your types of physical materials—one for the handbill, one for the poster, and one for the newspaper ad—so you will be able to determine which was most effective in driving action. Additionally, from this data, you can begin to piece together which of your efforts are worth repeating and which are lacking return on investment.
I have saved e-mail for last. You rely on it heavily. Your students likely loathe it. But, it can still be effective. However, most of us are not using systems that can tell us whether or not it is working. I am a strong advocate for career centers using tools that allow for tracking of actions in response to e-mails. There are a variety of e-mail marketing platforms on the market that allow you to know how many students opened your e-mail and which of them clicked links within the message. Many of these systems will allow you to segment recipients by these actions, allowing you to send appropriate follow-up messages. After all, should a student who opened and clicked on a previous career fair message receive the same follow up as someone who never opened it?
Recognizing that such systems are not free in most cases, another approach is to treat e-mail the same as your print materials. By including unique URLs, you will at least have the ability to track how many click actions were taken as a result of a specific message. Additionally, you can refine your marketing e-mails by doing A/B testing with unique URLs in each. In A/B testing, you send one set of students a message written one way and another set of students a message written another way—the distinctions between the two messages can be in approach, in content, in subject line, and more. There are a lot of interesting articles to be found regarding A/B, or split, testing. So, read more if this is a new concept for you.
Of course, there are many other avenues for collecting and analyzing metrics related to your marketing efforts, so consider this a brief introduction more than a comprehensive set of approaches. The key takeaway is for you to find the metrics that are most related to your overall assessment and learning outcome plans, and then take the time needed to gather appropriate data.
Investing in the analytics can take time, which we all lack. However, by devoting resources to some of these actions, you will find that you can begin to “work smarter, not harder” with your marketing. Making better marketing decisions as a result will allow you see greater effects from potentially fewer actions in the long run.
If you have questions or interesting approaches to your marketing analytics, I would love to hear from you. Send me a tweet @garyalanmiller!
Gary Alan Miller is co-founder of the Innovation Forum for Career Services, is director of external relations and communication for SoACE, and currently serves as a senior assistant dean at UNC Chapel Hill. Find him on twitter @garyalanmiller.
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