How Can Schools Find Budget for Inbound?

September 6, 2016 Kaitlyn VosWinkel

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Everyone is looking for more marketing budget. As the well-known song goes: "You can't always get what you want." To even make the case for more budget, you need to show how your current marketing contributes to filling your school's enrollment class with the right number of ideal students. 

The first place to start is determine where your marketing budget and efforts are giving you a return, and where they can be better spent. This way, regardless of whether you get a budget increase, you'll still find more money to spend more wisely in your current budget.

To identify where to allocate your current budget to better effect, you need to:

  • Be clear on what you're currently spending
  • Understand how much it costs to acquire each enrolled student
  • Determine your current ROI on your efforts

How Are You Using Your Budget Now?

Small team or big team, hopefully you have a formal marketing budget that spells out what you're spending for all your content and campaigns. Take a look at these sample marketing budget templates to get an idea of what you should to include. 

Don't overlook the cost of what other departments contribute in terms of creating content for your campaigns. You can include those numbers in your budget for purposes of identifying actual costs, even if this sort of inter-departmental exchange isn't a formal cost item on your marketing budget.

Now there are other costs associated with getting a prospect to become an applicant, and still more to become an enrolled student. You only want to include the marketing costs. So for example, you don't want to include the costs of Admission's activities throughout the enrollment journey. That's on their budget, and you're trying to reclaim your own dollars.

Start with a list of all your discrete and ongoing campaigns. This includes every piece of your blog, newsletters, email nurturing series, premium content, and landing pages, as well as your PPC ad spend and social media efforts. We're talking about costs for photos, graphic design, copywriting — anything and everything from student labor to hard dollars for advertising.

Understanding Your Student Acquisition Costs

In a commercial context, businesses always want to know their CAC – client acquisition cost. The economics for schools are different, even if you're a for-profit school. But you still have an acquisition cost for each student you enroll.

The formula for determining the marketing CAC is to divide your total marketing budget by the number of enrolled students. So if you have 2,000 students in one enrollment class and an annual marketing of $200,000, your marketing CAC is $100 per enrolled student.

The marketing CAC is the baseline metric you use to get make decisions about what specific marketing campaigns and costs are more valuable than others. 

Re-assess your CAC each year to find how it changes. As you expand and refine your inbound marketing efforts, you'll find your cost of acquiring new students continues to goes down with time. A robust inbound strategy helps your school develop a strong online reputation through the awesome content you keep publishing over time. You'll continue to reap the benefits from your established authority and historical content, making inbound the most cost-effective method of filling your enrollment class with the right students.

Determining ROI for Specific Marketing Campaigns

This is where the heavy lifting comes in. You want to understand your budget costs, but also the relative cost of your team's efforts. If your team doesn't track its time, here are some time tracking tools you can look at. When you know how many hours are spent on a campaign, you can assign the effort expended on it in dollar terms.

The trickier part is knowing how much of your marketing effort and spend contribute to a student enrolling. You probably already gauge the success for specific campaigns using other metrics, such as new leads, applications downloaded, or applications sent in. You probably set a goal for each campaign based on one of these conversion metrics.

But what you want to know now is how much a campaign contributed to an enrolled student. It's truly the only success metric that really matters to you and your boss.

For this, you need to attribute specific campaigns as the reason(s) a student ultimately enrolled at your school.

There are three basic models of marketing attribution:

Single campaign – This is the simplest, but crudest model. It can be a good place to start attribution when it's new for your team. Under this attribution model, you select one marketing touch point to get the full value of a student. This would typically be either that student's first or last touchpoint.

Equal value – Also a simple model, but uses more data. You give every touchpoint for a student the same value. Or you might decide to use only the first and last touch, but give them equal weight.

Weighted value – In this model, different touch points have different weights. This is best done after you've been tracking attribution for a few enrollment drives. You may find that a high percentage of students watch a webinar at some point, but only a small fraction of people who read the blog ultimately enroll. So you'll weight attending a webinar more heavily than reading your blog. 

Let's play this out using the single campaign model, using the first touch point you can identify, which is the point at which they entered your database.

If 10% of your enrolled students got into your database because they subscribed to your newsletter, your newsletter is their first touch point. Now let's say you spend $30,000 of your annual marketing spend on your newsletter, 15% of your annual budget. But that 15% accounts for only 10% of all enrolled students. 

You're spending $150 a year on your newsletter per enrolled student ($30,000/ 200 students). That's well above your overall CAC.  In this case, you might decide sending out your newsletter twice a month, instead of weekly, frees up time and money you can use running other more effective campaigns. 

You can apply the single campaign model on every campaign. Then start aggregating what you learn. One email nurturing campaign may have a high CAC, but overall, your email campaigns do well. In that case, analyze the campaigns to discover what causes the discrepancy and do more of what works, less of what doesn't. 

As you get used to running single campaign attribution formulas, you'll learn more about the value of your marketing activities to use the more precise attribution models to learn even more.

Then you can sing along with the Rolling Stones as you rework your current budget: "But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need."

Email MArketing For Schools

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