Audience Measurement: How to Pass the Test

Carnegie Higher Ed Jul 12, 2013 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

Today’s “empowered student” puts higher ed to the test.

And that test goes way beyond their expectations of receiving a compelling experience, regardless of how, when, and where they engage an institution—be it brick and mortar or online.

The fact is consumers are paying attention to a broader set of selection criteria now that they have access to the information they need to make better, more informed decisions. Furthermore, in 2012, the IBM Institute for Business Value’s Global Empowered Consumer Study found that 61% of consumers trust their friends’ reviews more than experts’. This represents a growing shift from the days in which campus tours, direct mail, and guidance counselors were a surefire way to drive enrollment.

We’re also learning more about how consumers use multiple channels in real time. This includes the dreaded “in-store search” to see how the competition stacks up and “showrooming” to see a product in person while checking for the best price online. Consumers then use those same channels to vent frustration when they don’t get want they want. There is no doubt that students are doing the exact same thing as they consider what college they want to attend, what to do for post-grad work, or if they should consider a possible transfer throughout the academic year.

All of this leads to two questions every marketer must ask:

  • How did this happen?
  • What can I do to pass the test?

We already answered the first question. Consumers have information . . . and lots of it. We know all too well that when you put the right device into the hands of today’s tech- and social-savvy students, they will find what they need, when and where they need it.

The trick lies in answering the second question.

To pass the test, marketers and advertisers must beat consumers to the answer by giving them what they need, when and where they need it, without them ever having to search for it. In some cases, marketers and advertisers need to understand their customers’ desires at a level that allows them to provide this information before the consumer is even aware of what they want.

In order for marketers to accomplish these remarkable feats of insight, they need to know who they are talking to . . . right down to the specific individual among massive audiences.

This is where audience measurement becomes a critical exercise in any campaign and helps change the game for success as marketers can finally understand precisely who they are targeting.

In short: marketers need data-driven audience profiles that provide a complete picture of each student’s lifetime interactions with the institution. To accomplish this, marketers in higher education should take the following steps:

  • Collect: student profiles, digital interaction history, customer actions and responses, third-party data
  • Analyze: clickstreams, attribution, customer behaviors, channel performance
  • Decide: advanced segmentation, curriculum recommendations, search bid optimization, UI optimization, offer and content targeting
  • Deliver: cross-channel campaign personalization, display ad targeting, real-time alerts and push messages to smartphones
  • Manage: ad network integration, audience optimization, content optimization, yield optimization

With these types of strategies and tactics being deployed by today’s leading higher ed organizations, audience measurement is experiencing a dramatic change from a focus on the delivery channel to a focus on the individual student, alumni, or family, as marketers and advertisers work to understand the 360-degree view of the customer.

The result is a compelling, personalized experience across digital channels, based upon deep insights into each student’s major, interests, and lifetime interactions. Marketers can also recapture lost opportunities by effectively retargeting students with relevant content and messaging.

This is more than just an improvement in your marketing efforts. It’s a win-win scenario that will drive increased awareness and enrollment for you and a smarter customer experience for your student body.


Graeme Noseworthy is the Strategic Messaging Director–Big Data for Marketing, Media & Entertainment for IBM and our keynote speaker at the 2014 Carnegie Conference.

If you like to learn more about big data from Graeme, please join us January 30-31st at the Disney Yacht & Beach Club Resort.

Read more about Graeme’s career on LinkedIn or see what he is up to on Twitter at

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