How Colleges and Universities Can Leverage Third-Party Data in Program Marketing

How Colleges and Universities Can Leverage Third-Party Data in Program Marketing

Psst… Don’t tell my fellow content strategists, but content is not king of the digital marketing world. Now hear me out (and content gurus, don’t ask me to turn in my content card just yet), content is important; and yes, content is important for SEO, it adds awareness/value to brands, it generates leads and traffic… but it’s not king.

Data is king.

This can probably turn into a chicken or the egg debate, but I fall under the argument that you can have the best content in the world, but it doesn’t matter if it’s not getting to the right people. In other words, if a tree (or content) falls in a forest and no one is around to see it, is it really accomplishing anything?

Using data will give you a deeper understanding of who your target audience is, what makes them tick and what will resonate with them.  This insight not only makes your content better, but it enables you to proactively find the people who want to read it. In the end, data should drive the content you create.


So what’s all this talk about third-party data?

There has been a big push for data and making data-informed decisions in all industries, and it’s  now starting to take hold in the EDU world (as it should). Yes, you need to increase brand awareness and drum up interest and applications for your programs, but what data can do is take it one step further to ensure you find right-fit students instead of just gathering loads of applications. Data allows you to market smarter and improves the quality of your prospects and applicants.

Beyond traditional data sources for higher education, such as enrollment metrics, CRM data and Google Analytics website activity, third-party data can also provide crucial insights and projections that standard data does not provide. We have seen third-party data deliver two particularly helpful insights:

  1. It can confirm (or disprove) existing data.
  2. It can offer new untapped insights (i.e. possible opportunity segments, new growth markets).


What can third-party data do for higher education?

One example of how third-party data can elevate your marketing that we’ve seen first-hand success with is Emsi, a labor market data software. Emsi has helped us and our clients make more informed decisions on digital marketing strategy and how we curate content.

Through Emsi, we can gather insights and information on:

  • Competitor insight: Regional vs. national completion data, distance vs. on-campus completion data, program tuition, credit hours and other unique identifiers
  • Occupation insight: Previous five years vs. up to a 10-year outlook, employment insight, earnings, annual openings
  • Market demands and projections: GAP analysis, top trending employers, target occupations, trending skills and qualifications sought by employers
  • Audience insight: Attributions and unique identifiers

How can higher ed benefit from this type of data?

Simply put, integration of multiple data sources allows for a full-funnel perspective of potential students and student experience. By integrating your existing data with Emsi data and an understanding of your goals, we’re able to help colleges and universities create a more precise and effective digital marketing strategy.

We’re then able to think about how prospective students find your website, tweak the nurturing experience and create consistent messaging that resonates with the right audience. In the end, third-party data can be an essential tool, like a compass, to add another layer of insight to your strategy and guide your digital student enrollment journey so that right-fit students find, inquire and enroll in your programs.

Elevate your program marketing strategy with data.

If you would like to know more about how we work with Emsi or how you can leverage your data to make better-informed decisions, contact us. And stay tuned as we will follow up on this blog with examples of similar work Vanderbilt University and Northwestern University.

Or if you disagree that content should still wear the crown or that I should turn in my content card, tweet us at @ConvergeOrg. We love hearing from you and would be glad to continue the conversation.

Ben Achtabowski
Ben Achtabowski
May 24, 2018