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The Flaw of Last-Touch Attribution in Higher Ed Marketing

A focus on marketing attribution has arrived in higher ed marketing.  With reams of data available on student prospects, there is now an abundance of metrics to sort, label, track and analyze. ROI can now be better achieved. However, while marketing decisions based entirely on data and analytics is the Holy Grail, is it the desired pathway in higher ed?

In a word: No.

In the case of higher ed, multiple touch points are needed to support the metric responsible for a final conversation in a well-designed plan. All touchpoints play a role in the purchase journey. While organic search may result in a conversion, it was made possible while standing on the shoulders of the other vehicles in the marketing mix.

So, an effective integrated marketing plan combines both the last-touch attribution data with vehicles earlier in the student journey to present evidence and build affinity. It is this combination that will go a long way to convert student prospects to admitted students.

4 reasons why multiple touch points are necessary:

  1. High-Stakes Decision

The cost to enroll in degree programs for students is sizable. As such, it requires multiple touchpoints and feedback loops along the purchase journey.

  1. Substantial Time Investment

A campus tour is an investment in time and travel for the prospect and is therefore likely the result of more than a Google search. Earlier touch points are important like social media engagement, email and detailed brochures delivered to the prospect.

  1. Build Consumer Affinity

Consumer affinity has value and plays a role in evoking an emotional connection that is hard to quantify conversion by conversion. So in the world of ROI, this aspect plays a role in the decision, albeit in isolation not as quantifiable.

  1. Acknowledged by Google Analytics

Within Google Analytics, assisted conversions are under a heading called “Multi-Channel Funnels.”  These are where the traffic sources that assisted in the conversion are stored, but not the final event itself that resulted in the desired action. Keep in mind that with limited lookback windows (90 day maximum); GA is unlikely to always reveal the full journey.

In practice, it is necessary to leverage high-converting vehicles in your marketing plan.  However, your plan must also include appropriate venues that can make strong connections to build awareness, reputation and affinity among student prospects.



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