Why You Need to Be Obsessed with Data (Just Like Us!)

Carnegie Higher Ed Feb 10, 2014 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

How many publishing industry folks does it take to choose the alignment of a masthead? Five, actually. Four to quibble over whether it should be center or left aligned and one to say, “I’m bowing out of this one. Seriously, you guys are ridiculous.”

Okay, not the best joke ever. But it was funny at the time, I swear.

I love that I work in an office where my anal retentive attention to detail is not only appreciated but shared by my colleagues. We wanted that masthead to be readable, aesthetically pleasing, and grammatically clear, just like we want every one of our publications and projects to be as close to perfect as possible. That means paying close attention to Every. Little. Detail.

And it’s not just those visible details. We look under the hood. With our marketing campaigns and services, we inspect every element—the soft vs. hard e-mail bounces, the duration of a visit to a single webpage, the time of day when an audience is most active. We love that stuff (which isn’t so surprising, when you remember it’s the same people who went seven rounds on the best alignment for a masthead). And our affinity for data drives pretty much everything we do. It’s also one of our chief recommendations we have for our clients: know your data.

Marketing today is super niche—it has to be—but that’s old news. However, finding your niche, your school’s niche, and how to best market to those students is constantly evolving. It’s a moving target, but it’s one best struck by using data to inform each one of your marketing decisions. And that data spans a vast number of sources and uses, from the minutiae of website visit behavior to student profile details. It still blows my mind the degree of pinpoint accuracy to which we can reach students, not to mention improve strategy, using that information.

I was sufficiently impressed by the use of data in a recent campaign conducted through our direct marketing division. The school wanted to show its prospective students just how accessible the campus was to them. So they sent students a mailing using variable data printing with their distance from the campus—down to the mile. Not only that, they were able to show scholarship estimates to their most high-achieving prospects. They then tracked the responses to the students’ personalized landing pages. That level of customization strikes a chord with students (any customer, really); they are more likely to engage and respond. What’s more, with each passing generation, with each passing class even, students become accustomed to that kind of tailored messaging. But you don’t get that kind of personalization without the data to back it up.

You can still make marketing decisions based on what’s worked in the past; just make sure they’re supplemented by and implemented using the data and details that are driving the future.

Jessica is the Editor-in-Chief for Carnegie Communications. You can follow her on Twitter @JessicaTomer or on Google Plus as Jessica Tomer.

Never miss an update.