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20 MarTech Buzzwords Higher Ed Leaders Need to Know in 2021

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2021-03-03T21:11:56+00:00March 03, 2021|

As the coronavirus continues to force enormous upheaval upon colleges and universities, many of higher ed’s marketing and recruiting strategies will need to shift to accommodate changes in students’ circumstances, preferences and behaviors. To prep you for those strategic conversations, we’ve compiled this list of marketing-technology (MarTech) buzzwords that you’re likely to hear more about as your institution charts its course forward during and after the pandemic.

Talk the talk with these 20 MarTech terms

Consider this your cheat sheet to help you understand all the latest marketing and technology lingo in the world of higher ed.

1.      Augmented reality

Augmented reality (AR) utilizes technology to layer superimposed elements (e.g., images, sounds or text) on the existing world around you. Unlike virtual reality, AR builds upon your actual surroundings to make real-world experiences interactive (think Pokemon Go!). AR presents innovative options for higher ed marketers. For example, Snapchat geofilters (which allow individuals to overlay designs onto photos they take in the app) are a good starting point, with 90 percent of Snapchat users reporting they enjoy geofilters.

2.      Conversion

This is one of the most important key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure to see whether your digital marketing efforts are effective. Conversion is the process of transitioning an individual in your target audience from an “observer” into known prospective student lead, which could include the number of requests for more information or “contact us” form submissions on your website, the number of applications started and the number of applications submitted.

3.      Dashboards

Websites have dashboards to inform their operators of critical performance indicators such as site traffic volume, user time on a given page or seasonal spikes in interest. Proper use of the data gained from website dashboards is critical to understanding whether your content is resonating with audiences, but dashboards can and should be used for all types of digital marketing including ad campaigns, social media and email marketing. The greatest insights come from cross-reporting on enrollment and marketing so that patterns regarding outcomes are revealed. See our vote for the top ten dashboards you need to grow enrollment here.

4.      Data flow

This self-descriptive phrase refers to the sequence that reflects how data moves through an institution from point-of-capture to other departments and, ultimately, to reporting. Understanding data flow – or barriers to data flow – is becoming increasingly critical to managing higher ed MarTech and revenue growth. For more on data flow, see our article on data mapping here.

5.      Data integration

Higher ed marketers rely on a wide variety of technologies and platforms – all of which generate loads of data. For this data to have any value, it must be integrated into your institution’s planning, operations and decision making. In marketing, the goal is to create a holistic view of prospective student’s unique journeys and brand engagements, using data to create campaigns that drive conversions. Read more here about how to get started with effective data integration.

6.      Data privacy

Over the last few years there has been increased awareness around data accuracy and privacy in digital marketing. This awareness has generated increased public scrutiny of companies’ data practices and new privacy laws, such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Privacy Rights Act. Aside from the high financial penalties for non-compliance with these regulations, higher ed marketers should expect their current and prospective students to be more concerned with the personal information your school is collecting, how it’s captured, how it’s stored and who has access to it.

7.      Digital marketing

While this is a general MarTech term, digital marketing is simply the overall practice of leveraging technology channels to reach your prospective students in new ways. This includes the use of web-based channels such as social media, email, search engines, livestreaming, email, web content and more to connect with prospective students (as well as current students and alumni). Now is the time to re-examine your marketing activities and implement digital marketing to replace physical activities where possible to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on future student recruitment – and current student/alumni retention – and maximize your budget.

8.      Distance/online learning

While not a new concept, distance learning and online learning became ubiquitous almost overnight due to COVID-19. With the pandemic still an ongoing ordeal, there’s likely to be a large number of students continuing to seek learning options that allow them to continue their education without the need to be on campus.

Instead of looking at online learning as a temporary fix, institutions should embrace its transformational impact, evolving beyond traditional approaches to online learning, and looking to it as an opportunity to access new students who were outside their reach before. See more about an evolving new modality of online learning called HyFlex that’s likely to become a mainstay in higher ed and differentiate universities of the future.

9.      Gamification

This term references the process of transforming a difficult or challenging task into something that’s more fun, entertaining or rewarding. It’s the incorporation of game-like elements such as rewards, points and challenges to trigger a sense of achievement and motivate your audience to participate in a specific activity. For prospective students, the task of researching and applying for school may fall into the “tedious” category. Higher ed marketers might consider utilizing gamification tactics in the pre-application or inquiry stage, using things like surveys, quizzes, trivia and your own marketing content to drive action.

10.  Influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is about tapping into an already-well-connected individual’s existing network of engaged followers on social media. These individuals have a large influence over an audience you might be trying to reach and can be helpful marketing to those individuals. Social media influencers can give your university their endorsement or show students what it’s like to attend your school. And remember – celebrities aren’t the only types of influencers. Higher ed marketers can look to their existing students or distinguished alumni as potential influencers or digital age “student ambassadors” to promote your school’s message.

11.  Marketing attribution

In today’s digital age, prospective students engage in hundreds of different fragmented digital touchpoints before deciding to enroll. From search engine queries, to social media engagements, email blasts, website visits and phone calls, students’ reliance on a digital research journey (aka “Customer Journey”) is only increasing.

With all these different touchpoints pushing students towards enrollment, it’s important to look holistically at your digital channels to determine how/if enrollments are connected to specific touchpoints. For example, a focus on attribution will allow a higher ed marketer to see how a prospective student came to your website; what prompted the visit, what page they landed on, and what they did next – in the long term, can we connect this path to enrollment and replicate it? If a college’s website and marketing campaigns are set up with proper tracking, they can learn which campaigns are working or where there might be a breakdown in how information flows to and from the prospective student. For more information see IAB.com.

12. Micro-credentialing

Micro-credentials are credentials that represent specific skills being learned. As such, a degree may be made up of many micro-credentials. Students or workers may also pursue individual micro-credentials to augment a degree, or to update their knowledge as technology (or employer) needs grow and evolve. In some cases, micro-credentials are referred to as “badges.” For more on micro-credentials, see this Educause report or this Collegis article.

13.  Mobile-first/mobile optimization

Generation Z lives with a mobile-first mindset. They use their smartphone to carry out all kinds of daily activities, including searches for colleges and visits to higher education websites. However, many colleges’ and universities’ mobile sites don’t offer the same features and functionalities as the desktop experience. Content designers must start prioritizing how the content will work on a mobile screen first, adding in desktop or laptop functionality later, because mobile screens have more restrictions. Having those restrictions in mind on the front end helps ensure that the content’s look and functionality will be mobile friendly. For more on mobile-first design see this article.

14.  Persona

Personas are generalized, semi-fictitious representations of your ideal student based on real information and market research. Including information such as demographics, behavior patterns, motivations and goals, personas can help institutions better target their marketing messages. This narrows the field of prospects, allowing schools to focus on quality over quantity.

15.  ROI (return on investment)

In business, “return on investment” often refers to how much net revenue was made in comparison with how much was invested. In higher ed, we are hearing more institutions use this term in reference to investments in marketing or technology. An institution may want to look at net revenue earned from enrollments within an enrollment cycle. Or, it may want to look at increases in efficiencies. For example, if technology upgrades have eliminated sources of frustration among students, staff and faculty, the ROI may be less about money and more about brand, reputation and overall student experience.

16.  Social media automation

As prospective students look for their right fit community as they research schools, they now often turn to social media pages to get a sense of a school’s culture. To keep your brand top of mind and prospective students consistently engaged, however, your school needs to post regularly. Save your team time and effort by embracing social media automation tools, like HubSpotHootsuiteSprout Social and BuzzSumo, which automate specific tasks all from one platform.

17.  Social listening

When a college monitors student feedback on social media sites, then uses its findings to gain insights into opportunities or areas in need of improvement, they are participating in social listening. Taking note of social media’s direct mentions of your institution, its competitors, keywords or topics is also considered “social listening.”

18.  Seamless (or “frictionless”) experience

This is another way of talking about the ideal student experience. A seamless experience is the end goal of providing the right information to each prospective student at the right moment, in the right place. This could be via Google, a social media platform, an email or a phone call, depending on where the student is in the college selection process.

19.  Student Experience

Every campus has its own notion of student experience, but when it comes to increasing enrollment it can be helpful to think of student experience in terms of how easy it is for students to get questions answered about what programs are offered, how much they cost, how long they take to complete, how to apply, what’s required and so on.

20.  Video content and livestreaming

Pprospective students still want to see genuine, engaging firsthand accounts of what it’s like to attend your institution. Pre-recorded or livestreamed video content for colleges and universities can include anything from virtual campus tours, speakers and guest lectures, day-in-the-life videos, interactive online events involving faculty and staff, Q&A sessions with current students, and more. What you want to do is to create videos and upload or livestream them to your website, YouTube and social media pages to boost brand awareness, generate conversions and enroll students.

Increase your MarTech IQ

To learn more about other relevant topics and ways the pandemic has accelerated growth trends in higher education for 2021, check out our article 2021 Higher Ed Trends Roundup.

Let our experts help you find the solutions to meet your school’s marketing, recruiting and enrollment goals.

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About the Author
Elise Povejsil
Elise Povejsil is a marketing manager (content and communications) for Collegis Education. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Conflict Studies from DePauw University.