What is Your Definition of a Respondent?

Carnegie Higher Ed Jul 09, 2014 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

You’ve worked hard on creating a stellar Student Search campaign. You’ve carefully crafted your school’s unique value proposition, created a well-balanced sequence of e-mails and direct mail outreach, and taken the time to procure the perfect list. You drop and hit send, and now you are ready for the leads to come in.

At the end of the campaign comes the crucial performance evaluation, as you measure ROI to answer one simple question: was it worth it?

To calculate ROI, you’ll need the following critical KPIs:

  • Number or responders
  • Number of applications from those responders
  • Enrollments yielded from responders’ applications
  • Amount spent

Armed with that information, calculating ROI should not difficult—in theory. But in today’s marketing landscape, it can be tricky. Do you measure first source, or last source, or which source? What about those stealth applicants? Where do you attribute them? With so many influences and touch points to generate a response, the water does become muddy.

What should be crystal clear, however, is the classification of a “responder.” In my mind it’s someone who has . . . wait for it . . . responded! That makes sense, right? Well, apparently, not so fast! There are differing definitions of “responder” across higher ed marketing offices. And I know I’m not the only one confused by the difference in opinions!

A shout out and a thank you to Brock Tibert for trying to shed light on this issue with his series of recent tweets and polls. I echo Brock’s sentiment: yikes!!! Since when does opening an e-mail or simply hitting a landing page qualify as a “respondent”?

When prospects click on an e-mail, they are showing an initial level of intent. And if you are using PURLs and sending them to a personalized landing page where you can track their clicks and gain insight into how they behave, even better. Use that information to monitor their digital body language and have a follow-up communication strategy based on where they went and what they did. However, until they hit “submit” on your request form and actively respond to you, they are not a responder and should not be counted as such. If you bucket your passive engagers with your true responders, you run the risk of sending them irrelevant future communications—messages they just don’t want to get that can also hamper your efforts to engage with them. Additionally, you falsely inflate your ROI, which can hurt next year’s planning efforts, as you don’t truly know what worked and what didn’t.

Make no mistake—watching, measuring, and analyzing passive engagement is very important, but don’t confuse those “engagement” metrics with a response metric. They are distinct, and lumping them together is not an accurate measurement of response.

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

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