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There’s no “I” in “culture of ROI.”

Well, technically there is, but when it comes to creating a culture of ROI for marketing on your campus, no one can do it alone. With people all across campus creating ad campaigns, social media posts and email newsletters, it’s impossible to successfully track and analyze data without a shared institutional commitment to strategic planning and measurement. Only by working together to create a “culture of ROI” can an institution succeed in making data-driven, strategic decisions for success.

A “culture of ROI” means everyone on your marketing team has a shared commitment to track the impact and value of everything you do. This means for every campaign or individual marketing communication effort your team should:

  • Tie every tactic back to institutional goals
  • Set clear conversion KPIs and understand how they will be measured
  • Tag any and all links appropriately
  • Analyze results to make more strategic decisions in the future

Beyond “Tag Everything”

Yes, in order to collect the proper data, everyone should tag every URL. But asking your colleagues to tag every link -- and think carefully up front about conversions and goals -- may just feel to them like asking them to do more work without a clear payoff. And for many, it’s work they don’t particularly like or even understand. How can you demystify the process, remove barriers and help your higher ed colleagues get enthused about tracking ROI?

Get Buy-in From on High

When our colleagues understand that making data-driven decisions is a priority for the president and the VPs, and they know that they will be held accountable for showing data regarding the success of their initiatives, they will be more likely to view proper tagging and data analysis a priority.

Explain the Benefits

But top-down accountability only goes so far. People also need to understand the benefits that come for them in taking an action. Before you implement your new “tag everything, track everything” policy, take your show on the road. Meet with everyone impacted by this initiative and explain to them how they will benefit from taking these extra steps of thinking through conversion goals and tagging URLs.

Some of the benefits you can highlight include:

  • Information about which marketing efforts are most effective allowing you to be more nimble during campaigns
  • Information to plan more strategically for future campaigns
  • Data to back up saying no to colleagues or supervisors with vague, unworkable ideas
  • The ability to tell a great story about the success of their work

Make It Easy

Realize that even though tagging links and thinking about outcomes might not seem difficult to you, many of your colleagues are daunted by this stuff. For them, it may feel challenging and excessively technical. Make this process as easy as possible by:

  • Clearly explaining how to tag URLs, including what each of the parameters means
  • Showing examples of links taken from their own work context
  • Providing a standardized taxonomy for tagging
  • Automating creation of links using the Google URL builder or a spreadsheet that builds the URLs automatically
  • Give people direct access to the data

Part of the fun of tracking campaigns is being able to see the results. Yet many marketers are disconnected from their campaign results. It’s important to give colleagues access to analytics and train them on how to view and interpret their campaign results. Not only will it take the reporting responsibility off one person, but it allows everyone to participate in the results payoff in real time.

Hold Each Other Accountable

Commit to hold each other accountable for ROI. When a new idea is floated, always ask, “What is the call to action? How will we measure it? How will we know what value this initiative brings to our campus?” Without clear answers to these questions, scrap the idea. These questions may seem annoying at first, but in time they will become second nature to your planning process.

Empower Data Storytellers

Provide training to help your colleagues understand and analyze their own campaign results to tell great data stories. Help them understand how to translate data into meaning, especially for those senior leaders who will be asking about progress (see point one above!). People who are empowered to tell their own success stories will also be more likely to embrace the importance of setting up their campaigns correctly from the beginning.

It won’t happen immediately, but if you start small, carry a clear mandate from leadership, offer training and access to the data, and empower your data storytellers, you can become a data-driven team that works smart. What other ways have you cultivated a culture of ROI on your campus? Leave a comment below, or connect with me at

Rebecca Larson is director of web communications at Wheaton College in Illinois.

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