Marketing Metrics and Getting Back to Basics

Just because we can measure it, does it mean we need to?

April 14, 2016

Villanova beat North Carolina in the final seconds of the NCAA Championship last week with a game-winning three-pointer. The shot was only made possible by a game-winning assist, which coincidentally is something that I’ve been thinking about.

Assisted Conversions in Google Analytics is tucked under an opaquely-named heading called Multi-Channel Funnels. It’s a place where you can look at the metrics of traffic sources that assisted in a conversion but weren't the final interaction that led to the event registration, donation, application, or whatnot.

Think about your integrated marketing strategies. Choosing to enroll in a degree program or give a substantial gift to an institution isn’t an impulse buy — which is why we craft multi-pronged, multi-channel campaigns. The prospective student that just signed up for a campus tour, after Googling your institution, may have first considered visiting campus two months ago when driven to your Admission site by a post on Facebook, where they had recently begun following you after getting your viewbook in the mail.

All those touch points worked as a team. So while the primary metric will probably show the conversion coming from organic search, it’s nice to also give credit to some of the other pieces in the marketing mix.

The application of these metrics, however, is limited to those things we are actually able to track. I dare say many of us haven't seamlessly integrated analytics across systems from website to CRM to application or gift processing, which greatly hinders our ability to set up meaningful goals and conversions in our analytics software. And then there's the perennial challenges of measuring print.

The Holy Grail of Metrics

Maybe because it’s the new kid on the block, but social media seems to be under undue pressure to prove it’s worth via metrics. We seem to be obsessed with finding a way to give social media credit by demonstrating the ROI of all of the resources we are dedicating to it because those resources are not insignificant. Dedicated staff. 24/7 monitoring. Content calendars. Animated gif and geofilter design.

We are also awash in numbers from social media. It’s wonderful that we can know so much — what headline is more engaging for a particular audience and what time of day our audience is more likely to engage — but what is unknowable is whether social media has a direct impact on the bottom line. Do likes translate into applications or shares into donations? We can't know. There are countless social media tools vying for our money right now but none of them can tell us that yet. I know. I've asked.

What's the ROI of Customer Service? The ROI of Storytelling?

I understand the mandate to measure. We have to make strategic decisions about how to use our limited resources. I am also not immune to the absolute pleasures of being able to quantify the success of an advertising campaign — something that was next to impossible to do 20 years ago. But might we be setting up some unrealistic expectations or worse, misleading colleagues outside of our areas that all of our methods have ironclad quantifiable results?

Social media strategist Dr. Liz Gross recently recommended some innovative ways to report on social media analytics, and my favorite was measuring the amount of questions answered and response times. At my university, we talk a lot about the content reach of our stories on various platforms — whether website, social media, email, or traditional media. There's no doubt that customer service and media relations are valuable to our institutions and very well may affect a student’s decision to attend or an alum's to donate, but we were doing these things long before Mark Zuckerberg donned his first hoodie.

Teamwork FTW

So back to thinking about assists. At Fordham, we are completing both a strategic planning process and a Middle States accreditation process, and there is nothing like either one of those for helping you step back and consider the bigger picture. It’s made me want to think less about measuring every little thing and more about the integratedness of everyone’s work for institutions on all levels. Truth be told, we’ve got some tried and true metrics we can look at in enrollments, monies raised, student satisfaction, and those reviled rankings.

Certainly the methods by which we reach our audiences have changed significantly in the past two decades, but our goals and objectives at colleges and universities have not. And when as institutions we move the needle, that success won’t be measured in a single metric or even in a single department.

Just take the win. Whoosh.

Donna Lehmann is the senior director of marketing and communications at Fordham University in New York City.


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