At a private or independent school, it’s important to provide our board (and our executive team) with the numbers they need to see and understand return on ad spend. Some metrics are simple to understand and the line between investment and success is clear. Others - like assisted conversions - can be misunderstood, but they are a critical piece of the puzzle.
Let’s explore the fundamentals of assisted conversions, and how you can ensure that your board understands how to make decisions on digital channels, and their role in providing a positive return on ad spend.
What are Assisted Conversions?
Assisted conversions are a Google Analytics (GA) tool that shows what is directing people to a website and shows which channels are most effective within the marketing ecosystem. You can think of it like a goal in hockey. Someone ultimately shoots the puck into the net… but it’s important to understand and give credit to the players who passed them the puck.
If we dig a level deeper, assisted conversions can become complicated when it appears like all the traffic is coming from a certain channel - and that's not how people browse. Assisted conversions are a type of attribution modeling, which means that how an individual winds their way through the Internet is not a linear path. In other words, the analytics are tracking the different pages a person lands on while on the site and before their arrival. It's not only the first click that determines what is driving traffic on a website.
For example, we might review a report that tells us 500 people visited our website to register for an upcoming virtual open house - but it would be wrong to assume that these registrations were driven by the website alone. Some people may have visited the website organically, but many others ended up there through an email link, a Facebook ad, a Google search ad, an Instagram story… The GA program gathers information to show where the client was last browsing and gathers this data to help us see a clearer picture of how each piece of our marketing campaign performed.
Board members often misunderstand how the marketing campaigns and the programs that track the work. It's natural to do this because name recognition leads board members to sometimes assume one campaign is more helpful than another. Most people are familiar with prevalent marketing campaigns, but the marketers who run the programs know the nuances. Let's compare the difference.
How People Think Digital Marketing Works
A board member will often say something like, "I know that Google Ads work, and Facebook advertising does not. Therefore, we need to fund Google Ads and stop advertising on Facebook."
This happens when a member is looking at a report and sees that one type of channel seems to generate more conversions, not understanding that the default when showing conversion data is the last touchpoint of a user. Also called last touch attribution. They might assume that a parent (let’s call her Jennifer) clicks on a Google Ad at 9:00 PM, then registers for an open house online at 9:05 PM.
This way of thinking overlooks the complex journey a customer embarks upon - and eliminating one method of advertising can potentially exclude many promising new leads.
How Digital Marketing Actually Works
Remember that person from the past example? Let's take a look at a more realistic view of how Jennifer engages with content and makes life decisions online.
Let's say that Jennifer sees and clicks on a Google Ad promoting your school on Tuesday at 9:00 PM - but she doesn’t sign up. Her kids need to go to bed, so she closes her laptop. She decides that she’ll think about it and maybe discuss it with her partner. She handles bedtime, watches a few episodes of her favourite show, and goes to bed.
On Friday at 5:30 PM, Jennifer finds herself waiting outside her daughter’s dance school and picks up her phone to do some more research. She signs onto Facebook so she can check out the school’s page, read some reviews, check for negative comments, and get a feel for the school’s culture. While she’s there, she sees a Facebook Ad promoting an Open House and she clicks through to find out when it’s happening and how she can register - but then her daughter finishes her class and she puts her phone away to drive home.
On Saturday at 8:00 AM, Jennifer wants to share what she’s learned with her partner. Over their weekend morning coffee, she picks up the family’s iPad and searches for the school name - then clicks on the Google Organic result. She shows her partner a few highlights from the school’s website, then signs them up for the Open House.
In our example here, all the advertising platforms did their job. Google Ads sent Jennifer to the right website. Facebook sent the prospective parent to the website. Google Organic forwarded her to the proper landing page and sign up form. All the platforms advanced the target consumer along the journey to converting - and interacting with multiple platforms is crucial for some to arrive at the final enrollment tunnel. In a case like the one we’ve described here, it’s important to understand that Google Organic didn’t ‘score’ on its own - it was assisted by Google Ads and Facebook.
Marketers understand why assisted conversions are critical to our work. How can we bring our boards on board? Beyond defining assisted conversions, here are three important things to communicate.
1. Understand How Parents Research Independent Schools
When marketing independent schools, the internet path can be even more complex since it often involves more than one consumer: one or two parents, other family members, and perhaps even an older child who is participating in the decision. As well, parents prioritize the education of their children and will undertake plenty of research to find the ‘perfect’ school. As marketers, our goal is to direct families into the enrollment funnel after clicking through a campaign designed for them. Metric uses multiple platforms when we build a campaign - so that means various channels and methods of outreach, all measurable.
It’s then up to marketers to help share this information with our boards to ensure the proper credit is given - and the proper budgets are allocated going forward.
2. Understand the Overall Customer Journey
Part of our campaign development process at Metric includes a well-defined customer journey, outlining our target audiences at various points in their decision-making journey, digging into their motivations and barriers at each stage, and ultimately designing digital ads that will meet them in the right place at the right time in order to drive conversions. This is especially important when marketing private or independent schools, as a ‘conversion’ represents a major life decision that will be made very carefully by each family.
At each stage of the journey, we use different advertising mediums - including social ads, search ads, email, SEO, and more - sometimes encouraging the audience to learn more and sometimes driving them to a conversion like requesting information, registering for an event, or applying to the school. Every piece of the puzzle is important. Defining the journey and understanding that big picture is important to ensure that every step is valued.
3. Understand how Trust Drives Marketing
Trust is a critical component of a school’s brand - parents are putting their faith in us to care for the development of their children, and they’re making a substantial investment in us to help make this happen. Marketing plays a major role in helping to build this trust from our first point of exposure with each family.
Trust is developed through sharing information and communication. We design our campaigns to build trust slowly and steadily, repeating core messages about who we are as a school - not just blast parents with one ‘apply now!’ message everywhere they look. Because of this, assisted conversions are critical to help us understand what’s working and what needs to be optimized.
Learn how to track your assisted conversions in Google Analytics
Take the next step - and turn that data into results. Metric Marketing works with private and independent schools across North America to create impactful and measurable marketing campaigns. We’d love to talk to you about your school’s marketing needs. Please contact us