On the 12th Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me . . . a Marketing Lesson?

Carnegie Higher Ed Dec 16, 2013 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

I never thought much about the song “The 12 Days of Christmas” until recently. Remember that song? Then again, how can you forget it at this time of year—there is hardly a store, mall, TV, or radio station that isn’t playing it over and over and over again. Couple the repetitive broadcasting with the repetitive song lyrics, and, well, you just can’t forget it. And because this song seems to be everywhere I am, it got me thinking about how it might apply to my world of higher ed marketing and student Search . . .

Colleges and universities need to be everywhere prospective students are, with the right frequency, and at the right time. So when building your student recruitment campaign it is important to strategically plan for the right frequency, channels, and timing. The more times and places you can get your message out in front of the right audience over and over again the more you are building your brand and pushing your prospects to pay attention. If you are everywhere they are how can they not notice you and more importantly—not forget you.

You know prospective students are surfing the Internet, texting, checking their e-mail, looking at their Facebook account, watching TV, and even reading their mail—are you in all those places? It takes an integrated strategy, and it can be overwhelming (much like holiday shopping), so here are a few things to think about when considering frequency, channels, and timing when building a student Search campaign.


Instead of dropping one large mailing to your Search buy, combine and time your direct mail outreach with a sequence of short, frequent, and actionable e-mails. Drive students to a personalized or campaign-specific landing page making it easy for them to respond. Once a prospect opens your e-mail or hits the PURL, you can begin layering in online strategies like Retargeting. Through Retargeting you will get your message in front of those prospective students again and again as they surf the Web. Accomplishing frequency of message in this way is key to driving return traffic and engagement.


Be sure your campaign integrates the best of traditional media with online tactics in a holistic way. Through direct mail and e-mail, you can push students to your college’s key admission pages or to a personalized landing page where you can start a digital relationship (like Retargeting) with them. Or try IP targeting—the ultimate intersection of traditional and digital marketing efforts. IP targeting allows you to match your mailing list addresses to home IP addresses, enabling you to deliver targeted display ads into residences. This can be used to place your brand in front of households before, during, and after your Search mailing (there’s that frequency thing again!). And because IP targeting reaches all devices operating on that IP address you reach not only the student prospect, but their parents as well.


Pay attention to the calendar and where your prospective students are in their college search cycle and ensure your messaging reflects that. Also give careful consideration to the implementation timing of your marketing strategies—do you want to start with a direct marketing campaign and have your digital strategies to support it or visa versa? Be sure you map out your campaign in a sequence that optimizes each strategy, allowing them to reinforce each other to build your school’s brand and elicit a response.

There is a lot to think about, and so many options to consider when creating the perfect integrated Search campaign. Come to think about it, it’s a little bit like shopping and finding the perfect holiday gifts: you know you can do it, but oh what a pain! So if you’d like help creating an optimal, well-integrated campaign, let us know. As for your holiday shopping, well, you are on your own, but I would recommend finding something other than a partridge in a pear tree . . .

You can follow me on Twitter @adpoulin or on Google Plus as Alexa Poulin.

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