The Importance of Understanding Higher Education Marketing KPIs

Today’s higher education marketer needs a full toolkit: a deep understanding of the student experience, a firm grasp on the university’s brand and unique differentiators, a creative mind, and a laser focus on enrollment goals. Most teams have enrollment goals to hit, but there’s a lot of work they have to do before these goals can be reached. 

Data is every marketer’s best friend. However, defining the key performance indicators (KPIs) for online higher education programs requires a unique approach that’s different from that of traditional business-to-business or business-to-consumer brands. In this article, we’ll cover some of the most important higher education marketing KPIs that you should be monitoring in order to ensure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns for online programs.       

Let’s dig in. 

What Is a Higher Education KPI? 

A key performance indicator is a quantifiable measurement used to evaluate the performance of a marketing strategy in terms of a specific end goal. Well-defined KPIs are the building blocks of a successful enrollment marketing strategy. Therefore, your goals need to be measurable and time-bound. 

When a KPI is measurable, it means that it can be assigned a numerical value. For example, your institution might seek to increase the number of prospective student inquiries via the university’s website by 20%. 

For a KPI to be time-bound, it must be attached to a specific timeline. The KPI mentioned above would thus become: to increase the number of prospective student inquiries via the university’s website by 20% over the next academic year. 

Why Are Higher Ed Marketing KPIs Important? 

In the modern higher education marketing landscape, KPIs are crucial for several reasons. 

  1. Goal Setting: KPIs help define what success looks like for an institution. 
  2. Measurement: KPIs allow an institution to measure its progress and performance against its goals through data-driven insights. 
  3. Decision-Making: Through consistent tracking of KPIs, an institution can identify what’s working and what’s falling short in its marketing efforts. This can help inform future strategy. 
  4. Accountability: KPIs create a system of responsibility. They provide clear and objective ways to assess whether a marketing team is meeting its targets. 
  5. Resource Allocation: KPIs can help an institution better allocate its resources based on which marketing activities yield the highest return on investment. 
  6. Communication: KPIs serve as useful communication tools, empowering a marketing team to explain its goals and progress to other key stakeholders such as senior management, faculty, and staff. 

Top Higher Ed Marketing KPIs 

When you think about the enrollment funnel, conversion rates and other metrics can track engagement across the student life cycle. Let’s take a closer look at conversion rates and other key higher ed marketing KPI examples. 

Conversion Rates               

Conversions are a vital part of an institution’s overall marketing strategy because they pinpoint the moment when a prospective student engages with your brand in a significant way, such as by clicking a link, requesting information, or enrolling. Conversion rates are core higher education KPIs, and there are several types of conversions to track, from click to lead, lead to application, and application to enrollment. Let’s break them down. 

Click to Lead

The click-to-lead conversion rate measures the percentage of users who click on an advertisement or link and subsequently complete a desired action, such as filling out a form or making an inquiry. This turns the user into a lead. 

Lead to Application

The lead-to-application measurement indicates the percentage of leads who submit an application for a program or degree offering. 

Application to Enrollment

The application-to-enrollment rate measures the percentage of applicants who officially enroll in or register for the program or degree. 

Marketing KPIs

Before an institution can hope to generate click-to-lead conversions, it must first work to establish effective advertising. You can use the following metrics to evaluate your marketing efforts and how they’re resonating with your targeted prospective students as described by their personas

Click-Through Rate

The click-through rate (CTR) indicates the ratio of users who click on a specific link compared to the total number of users who see that link (clicks versus impressions). CTR is commonly used to assess how relevant your ads are to your audience. 

Cost per Click

Cost per click (CPC) refers to how much you pay for each click on your ad. It’s a key metric used to assess the cost-effectiveness of your paid campaigns. For optimal CPC, you should evaluate the metric across various sets of creative assets and refine them based on the data. 

Deep-Funnel Metrics

Unlike in many other industries, the purchasing journey in higher education is a long one. For higher education institutions, deep-funnel metrics — those tracking activities near the end of the journey when students are submitting applications and enrolling in courses — are extremely important. 

Consider these metrics to evaluate activities farther down the funnel. 

Cost per Enrollment

Cost per enrollment (CPE) measures how much it costs to convert a lead into an enrolled student. You can measure this by dividing the amount you spend on marketing by the number of enrollments you have per semester. The lower your CPE rate, the more cost-efficient your conversion process is. 

There are a lot of ways to approach lowering your CPE, and, here at Archer Education, Onward is one of our secret weapons for this. 

Lifetime Value

Lifetime value (LTV) estimates the amount of revenue (tuition) a customer (student) will generate. The lifetime value of a student in a master’s degree program, for example, will be larger than the lifetime value of a student in a bootcamp program, which has a lower tuition rate. 

Discover Your Higher Education Marketing KPIs

Monitoring the right marketing KPIs is essential for institutions looking to optimize their enrollment marketing strategies and make the most of their budgets. This means you need to discern which KPIs are most important to your institution’s particular situation. For example, if you’re seeing a decline in application-to-enrollment rates, then you probably don’t need to invest in landing page conversions. Instead, you should focus on more deep-funnel metrics.

By paying close attention to the amount you spend, your conversion rates, and the level of engagement you achieve, you can help your institution attract, enroll, and retain right-fit, modern learners. But remember, data is just part of the process. These metrics should support a continuous effort to iterate and revamp your campaigns and content over time.  

Here at Archer Education, we partner with higher ed leaders and marketers to scale online learning growth and enrollment. We believe that education is the great equalizer in our society, and we strive to help institutions make education more accessible to all adult learners.