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How to Prove Marketing ROI to Your University's Administration

Justin Smorawske


One of the biggest challenges facing college and university marketing departments today is how to prove return on investment to their schools' higher-ups. We hear about this problem all the time, and, while the tangible impacts that marketing and advertising efforts have on an institution's bottom lines can be difficult to measure, measuring your ROI is far from impossible.

Read on for some tips on proving ROI to your university's administration.

Set Goals

You can't track the impact of your marketing and advertising efforts if you don't have goals for the types of impact your efforts should have. Throwing money out into the void in the hopes that something sticks is bad for business. Before you can see the impact advertising has on your bottom line, you need a clear digital strategy that outlines where you're going and how you want to get there. Are you trying to increase your transfer-student applications? Average ACT score? Graduate applications? What do you want your advertising spend to achieve? Once you've decided this, you can decide what metrics you should track to measure your ROI and overall success. Don't know where to start? Look at your university's strengths, and try to capitalize on them.

Know Your Averages

Before you can know where you're going, you need to know where you've been. Once you've decided what metrics you'll need to measure to gauge success, do your best to find out what these numbers have been in the past. Seeing higher numbers is nice, but you can't measure the success of a campaign without knowing just how much your key performance indicators have increased. If your department hasn't been keeping track of these metrics, it's never too late to start.

READ: How Your Data Improves Your Higher Education Marketing

Track Everything

The best way to prove the return on investment being generated by your marketing and advertising efforts is to provide your administration with hard data that makes a business case for advertising. For example, if you launch an advertising campaign to reach more college-bound seniors in an effort to boost your freshman applications and overall freshman yield, then measure the increase in these data points and compare them to the cost of your campaigns. This will give you a rough idea of the cost of each additional application and acceptance. To take it a step further, you can multiply the number of additional new students by the average cost of tuition to get an idea of your campaign's return in real dollars. Wondering how to calculate the total cost of recruiting a college student? Check out our blog on the subject. 

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