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Pipeline Marketing Blog

How To Increase Enrollment: Marketing Attribution For Higher Education

By Andrew Nguyen
Mar 22, 2016

Educational institutions compete like all other businesses. The only difference is what they compete for.

From revenue to prestige, educational institutions have a variety of goals to reach. What you may not know is how important marketing attribution metrics matter to recruitment and enrollment success. Marketing attribution data helps enrollment managers understand how to grow by recruiting the best students.

In this post, we’ll discuss how marketing attribution helps marketers and enrollment managers understand how to increase their admit-to-enrollment numbers. In other words, understand the levers that influence students to make the final hurdle in the recruitment process: deciding to enroll.



Higher Education Recruitment and Enrollment In The Digital Age

Two forces are simultaneously shaping the role of the recruitment and enrollment manager. The shift in who pays for higher education and the shift in how students seek information. Higher education is increasingly being funded by tuition, which means institutions need to focus on operational costs and enrolling students who are both intellectually capable and financially stable.

Simply put, wasting money on recruiting pools of students with low chances of enrollment is a cost that institutions can’t continue to ignore.

Read more strategies for overcoming enrollment problems by Jason Smith, marketing expert serving higher education institutions.

Online communities and forums offer students access to information that helps them decide which school is right for them. While there are many factors that go into a student's decision, online channels (e.g. social media, online communities, mobile, and websites) are a growing source of influence.

These two forces shaping the recruitment and enrollment landscape calls for new tools and methodologies for meeting institutional goals.


Measuring Performance With Market Attribution Solutions

Which marketing or recruitment campaign resulted in the the highest enrollment? This isn’t an easy question to answer as the decision process takes months. Luckily, there is information available for analysis once a student is admitted. Where are they from? What highschool did they attend? Are they low income or high income? What were their standardized test scores?

All these data points can help marketers and enrollment managers predict, based on past data, whether a student will enroll or not. These data points allow managers to segment certain student groups with high enrollment rates, and in the future provide similar cohorts with the right information, content and support to maximize enrollment rates.

Where marketing attribution data comes in is when admitted students begin researching and deciding the which school, out of all the ones they were admitted to, is the best one. Every online engagement or touchpoint is a piece of a picture.

That picture tells you how many engagements before enrollment, what kinds information they engaged with, which online and offline channels they engaged with, and the sequence of engagements.

This picture of the student journey can help enrollment managers shape their online marketing efforts. They can understand the right channels and combinations of online and offline events (such as information sessions) that will maximize the chances of enrollment.

For online marketing strategies for higher education institutions, see this post by Bob Johnson, an expert higher education marketing.

Higher education institutions spend a hefty sum of money on online marketing. Marketing attribution data informs recruitment and enrollment departments on how that line item budget equates to new students.

Improving Enrollment Rates… Also With Marketing Attribution Solutions

Marketing attribution models are built on touchpoints data, i.e. engagement information like which campaign, channel and date a student engaged with marketing.

Improving enrollment rates requires looking at touchpoints data of enrolled students.

It requires creating cohorts of students with different journeys to becoming a student.

By “journey” I mean the combinations of touchpoints and demographic data that correlates with enrollment. Did they attend an information session, did they correspond via email with an advisor, did they watch videos about campus life?

All these touchpoints played a role in convincing the student to enroll.

However, this isn’t true for all students.

Imagine knowing which groups of students will enroll even if you don’t engage with them after sending them an acceptance letter. Every year there are thousands of these students who are already committed to your school. Why waste money engaging with them when you can engage those who are on the fence?

Using multi-touch attribution, enrollment educators can begin to understand where recruitment efforts are most impactful. Institutional researchers can then design statistical models for predicting which groups of students have a moderate chance of enrolling. These are the fence sitters that marketers should target.

For online or for-profit institutions, imagine knowing which prospective students who have visited your site or engaged with your brand are more likely to apply to your program. You could prioritize who you reach out to, which advertising platforms to spend your online marketing dollars, and which kinds of advertising are working.

See this great introduction on marketing attribution for higher education by Wakefly, a marketing agency. 


Recruitment and enrollment professionals will always be the drivers of student enrollment. They understand the art of  engaging with students and are the ones that meet goals such as diversity.

But marketing attribution is a tool that higher education professionals should add to their tool belts. It informs them of where to look, where to spend budget and which campaigns are working well.

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Topics: marketing attribution, higher education

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