Episode 021

Long Sales Cycles, Tracking & Attribution With The Director of Performance Marketing at The Flatiron School

One of the biggest challenges for education marketers is the length of the average enrollment cycle.

In a field like Ecommerce, it usually takes just five to seven days for a lead to convert into a paid customer. Odds are, that Ecommerce purchase didn’t require much thought, since the product was probably more of a “want” than a “need.” Choosing the next stage of your academic career, on the other hand, is a life-changing decision. You can’t blame a prospective student for waiting several months (at least) to apply to a school. Thus, education marketers must monitor this months-long decision-making process so they can determine which marketing efforts are having the most influence on enrollments.

In today’s episode, we’ll cover:

  • How do you create strategies for such a long sales cycle?
  • Why are tracking and attribution so important?
  • What is the purpose of a lead management system?

This week, I spoke to Akeel Haider, who is the Director of Performance Marketing at the Flatiron School. This coding bootcamp has ten campuses around the US, along with one London campus. Students can also complete their degrees entirely online.

With nearly fifteen years of experience in performance marketing for higher education, Akeel has helped many traditional and non-traditional schools better understand their marketing funnel. This became increasingly difficult as schools began using more channels to connect with prospective students. Eventually, Akeel concluded that the key to scaling efficiently was creating a system that uses a variety of KPIs to accurately track the progression of the prospects’ journey from the first marketing touch point down to enrollment and matriculation stages in the admissions funnel and beyond.

How do you create strategies for such a long sales cycle?

Poor quality leads is a common struggle in the education space. In Akeel’s experience, the quality of a lead is directly related to the individual’s similarity to your ideal student, or persona. So, before tackling any other part of your marketing funnel, the first questions to ask yourself are: Are you attracting the right persona? Do your lead generation efforts reflect your persona’s goals and preferences?

Once you’ve gotten that out of the way, you can move on the daunting task of connecting the dots, i.e. tracking different touch points to gain full visibility of the enrollment cycle. Each stage of the funnel has its own KPIs, with the bottom funnel KPIs being the most important. This is because there are too many misleading early indicators of a high quality lead. Rather than focusing entirely on cost-per-lead, Akeel recommends devoting more attention to optimizing bottom funnel KPIs like cost-per-acquisition.

Why are tracking and attribution so important?

Another reason it’s so difficult to track the full enrollment cycle is because the required data doesn’t just come from one place. Many education marketers get their data from a number of systems: you have the student information system, CRM system, marketing automation systems, and the marketing platforms themselves. The solution is to create a database that collects data from all of these systems and ultimately allows you to see the final stages of each enrollment cycle.

Although Akeel has only been at the Flatiron School for about five months, he has already managed to slash their cost-per-acquisition by an incredible 75%. How did he do it? By improving tracking so he could see which marketing channels were driving the most applications and enrollments. In Akeel’s case, paid search turned out to be their top performing acquisition channel, so he optimized accordingly.

What is the purpose of a lead management system?

As vital as CRMs are for education marketers, they still have flaws like any other software tool. For example, while most CRMs do a wonderful job of collecting leads, they are not designed to determine the quality of these leads, or whether or not these leads are even real. An email asking for more information could be fake, but the CRM doesn’t know that.

Akeel solved this problem with a lead management system, which is the middleware between someone filling out a lead form and the data being entered into the CRM. There’s about a dozen reputable lead management systems out there, and some offer very different features than others. However, it’s important to remember that the main benefit of any lead management system is to simply weed out the junk so you can easily see which leads are more likely to covert.

Different Methods, Same Goals

Unfortunately, the technology that education marketers need has not evolved at the same pace as the education industry. For this reason,
Akeel had no choice but to create his own systems and processes for collecting information and tracking touchpoints. But while his methods were certainly unique, they were just another way to obtain the foundation for every successful digital marketing strategy: data. Education marketers must always remember that it’s the collection of data – not the actions you take afterwards – that usually requires the most effort.

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