University marketers, have you made your New Year’s resolutions yet? Alongside all the promises to keep fit and be better with money, perhaps you might add “be more data-driven”.

There are countless applications of data within the office of university administrators. With the right capacity to collect, process and analyse data, university marketing can be as finely tuned as a performance sports car.

But first, we need to make sure we’ve turned up to the student recruitment race in the right kind of car to begin with. In marketing terms, this means getting your channel marketing strategy right. This, as much as anything, must be shaped by data.

Build strategy on data

Starting at the beginning, you must make sure that you’re collecting this data in the first place. Without data on user behaviour, user journeys, and user demographics, there’s no way of understanding how best to shape marketing strategy. You should be tracking everything. Even if it doesn’t seem valuable now, you don’t want to be looking back in five years frustrated that you’ve missed a key trend…

Then you need to do something with it. To do so, we need data analysts on board to help us parse and understand our data (agency or in-house – the latter may work out more cost-effective in the long run). Get this structure set up, and you’ll be able to understand what sort of applicant is generated (or not) through each channel.

Accordingly, you will be able to strategize, dedicating resources and energies towards the most effective platforms. Of course, if your target audience is international, cross-border variance must be taken into account. LinkedIn will work well for an Indian audience, while in the UK, the most popular app with teenagers is Snapchat.

Never stop testing and refining

At this point we can start thinking about the sort of refinement we were talking about above. This will rely on rigorous, comprehensive testing to ascertain what sort of content produces what sort of results on each channel. While reporting should be centralized to the greatest extent possible, it’s also important to be alive to differences that might come to play between courses and departments. On channels like Facebook, you’ll be able to play around with different user segmentation. The point of collecting all this data is that one-size-fits-all approaches will no longer pass muster.

The process, of course, never ends; effective channel marketing strategy hinges on constant testing and fine-tuning. Fashions change, and new platforms enter the marketing mix: think of young people migrating from Facebook to Instagram, or TikTok’s coming to the fore over 2019.

Stick to that New Year’s resolution, however, and you won’t be caught out.

Contact us for tailored advice on how your institution can best capitalise on data.