Retargeting: Not Just Another “Drive By”

Carnegie Higher Ed Jan 30, 2013 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

I do a ton of traveling for my job: flying, then driving, and then flying and driving some more. My friends and family know that my car is my second home during travel season and the time I’m most available to talk is when I am driving somewhere (hands free, of course).

On all my trips it never ceases to amaze me how many billboards I see on the side of the road. On the expressway, it’s the big shiny ones with sparkles, fireworks, and half naked women urging you to come back to their restaurant for the fantastic food (their wings ARE fantastic!). There are even billboards on back country roads advertising truck stops, insurance, fast food, and motels. However, many of the billboards I see on a consistent basis are advertisements for colleges and universities. Undergraduate programs, graduate programs, online programs, hybrid programs . . . the list goes on and on.

Whenever I see a billboard for a college or university, I always think to myself, “I wonder how they measure the ROI on that?” For that matter, how do you measure the ROI for any kind of non-lead-generating print advertising? Many of our clients advertise in our recruitment services, Private Colleges & Universities or Public Colleges & Universities, which represent a blend of print, e-communication, and online componenents. The ROI from PC&U is pretty easy to measure, as the students are directed to our site where they can request information and, in turn, the schools receive the student information weekly. But if they weren’t directed to an outside website, how would a school know their advertising dollars are being put to good use?

This is where Retargeting comes in. What if a college or university could put up a billboard on a road that was exclusively traveled by potential students? Not just any potential students, but students who were interested in that particular school? If I were in charge of advertising dollars at that school, I would be painting that kind of billboard—as we all know, the best audience to market to are those who have already expressed interest in your product or service. Think that road doesn’t exist? Think again: it’s online on the “information superhighway.” This is the exact science behind Retargeting: when someone is interested in a school, usually the first place they will go is the website. Once they are there, the visitor is tagged (it’s not magic—just some computer coding—and they don’t even know). Then when they leave and visit other sites, they will see ads for that college or university. When they click that ad, they are then taken back to the school’s website or a specific landing page. As basic as it sounds, it is actually one of the most effective marketing tools available. Even if a person is hesitant to click on the actual ad and comes back to the website through a search engine . . . it’s still measurable. Mission accomplished.

The most wonderful thing about Retargeting, or any digital marketing, is that it’s all measurable: impressions, click-through rates, etc. Most importantly, the person holding the purse strings knows where the money is being spent and can see the results.

You can follow me on Twitter @jlawnchair; or on Google Plus as Jennifer Lonchar

Never miss an update.