The Five Secrets for Marketing and Enrollment Growth: Split Tests (The Third Secret)
Good data is the lifeblood of any successful operation. With websites and online marketing, split and A/B testing are critical and should be ongoing processes. Testing methodology doesn’t just apply to marketing though. You should look to integrate split testing into your admissions/enrollment process and your university advancement efforts as well.
The idea here is that complacency is very difficult to recover from; both from a competitive and cultural standpoint. Disciplined employees can create incremental improvements on current processes that can be the difference between success and failure.
Email campaigns are a wonderful area to start with if you are not used to split testing and adjusting for incremental improvements. For example, create two identical email messages that will be sent to your students or donor database. Have one of those emails sent from a company email address like email@example.com and one of the emails sent personally from your VP of Student Affairs (firstname.lastname@example.org). Within your email campaign software, you will be able to see which of the emails had a higher open rate, which had a higher clickthrough rate, or which email was more often forwarded. Sounds simple, right? Now complicate it. Split test your subject lines, email content (text versus video), messaging, or anything else you can think of. Apply this same line of thinking to your other marketing channels.
Make multiple website landing pages that A/B test colors, text, messaging, headlines, value propositions, donor messages or anything else that would benefit your college or university. Create multiple social media posts or ads that A/B test those same things. Split test your Google ads, organic website pages and your original content via creative video editing.
The admissions/enrollment process is perfect for split testing. Many higher education executives, unfortunately, fail to understand how to systematize split testing because of the variance between students, terms or programs. As the competition within higher education heats up, executives have a responsibility to train admissions/enrollment advisors to understand what works and what does not. This even applies to “elite” universities. Just because a university may only accept 3%-5% of applicants, doesn’t mean there isn’t an online university trying to swoop in and enroll students before they begin their education somewhere else. That is the state of higher education today.
So, what can you split test in the admissions/enrollment process? How about these areas:
- The number of applications obtained via text blast or email blast to a group of eligible students; which worked better?
- If you are calling potential students, is the contact rate higher on Monday or Tuesday?
- Is a student more likely to proceed forward and start classes if they receive motivational messages via email drip campaigns versus those students that don’t?
- Is a student more likely to move forward with their program if they receive a call from the program Dean? What about those students that don’t receive that call?
- How important is the New Student Orientation? Are students more or less likely to persist through a census date if they attend orientation versus those that do not? Do you measure this?
- If a student submits their information via your website, do they convert to an applicant more often if they receive a video thank you message versus just a text thank you message?
These areas are just a small sampling of activities that can be measured in an admissions/enrollment process. The point here is that you need to know what works and what does not so that you replicate the good and purge the bad.
If we forgot to mention something and you are wondering if you should split test it, the answer is yes. Then, split test your winners with a new version.
Do this over and over and over again. Incremental improvements can be found indefinitely. The data you will create will drive your college and university decisions to a point of profit and/or sustainability.
Let this become your mantra: Everything can always be improved.
There is absolutely nothing in your business that cannot be made better. Wherever you have new ideas, you can use multivariate testing to determine the best course of action. Do you need to choose between two slogans? Three logos? Four images? By testing ideas against each other with accurate measurement and reliable statistical methodology, continuous incremental improvement can be within your grasp.
What is a multivariate testing mentality? “Multivariate” simply means recognizing that your tests may involve more than two variations. The tools available in the world of digital marketing make multivariate testing simple, fast, and reliable. It’s so easy that you will find yourself at a competitive disadvantage if you don’t use it aggressively.
In the admissions/enrollment area, multivariate testing may not be as easy as it is in digital marketing. However, that is not reason enough to procrastinate investigating areas that need improvement. Constantly try to get new, reliable data and compare it to the model you have built. Adjust when needed, then test some more.
When should the testing end? Never.
Author Perspective: Administrator