Every industry has its buzzwords and higher ed marketing is no different. Marketing technology has made leaps forward in recent years, often generating new words and language to accompany its evolution. Below are 20 terms we use a lot, and get asked about – often. If any of these seem unfamiliar, you’re not alone! But, you’ll likely hear them more throughout the coming year, so get ahead of the curve and use this to prep for chats with your favorite marketing folks.

1. Algorithm

“A step-by-step procedure for solving a problem or accomplishing some end,” per Webster’s. Today, among marketers, this term is often associated with a set of rules a computer follows to achieve a goal. For instance, a search engine uses an algorithm to analyze keywords in combination with the computer user’s past search history in order to identify results that are likely to meet the user’s need.

Algorithms have gotten so advanced that they are now able to customize results information for the user even if the search terms used have a wide range of interpretations. For example, a user searching under “bachelor” may either be looking for a TV show, or information about bachelor’s degrees. Today’s search engine algorithms can assess what the most relevant answer is according the user’s past search history.

2. Attribution

For higher ed institutions, what we’re usually talking about is 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? If a college’s website and marketing campaigns are set up for proper tracking, a college 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.

3. Customer Journey aka “Student Selection Process”

“The customer journey is the complete sum of experiences that customers go through when interacting with your company and brand. Instead of looking at just a part of a transaction or experience, the customer journey documents the full experience of being a customer.” – Survey Monkey. For colleges, we commonly use this phrase when talking about how prospective students research and decide upon which institution to attend.

4. Dashboards

Just as cars have dashboards, websites have dashboards to inform their operators of critical performance indicators such as site traffic volume, user time on page or seasonal spikes in interest. Website dashboards are critical to understanding whether 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. We believe dashboards should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure they reflect the most useful questions of the moment. See our vote for the top ten dashboards you need to grow enrollment here.

5. Data Flow

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

6. Data Visualization

According to TechTarget.com, “Data visualization is a general term that describes any effort to help people understand the significance of data by placing it in a visual context. Patterns, trends and correlations that might go undetected in text-based data can be exposed and recognized easier with data visualization software.” For those of you who consider yourselves visual thinkers, being able to contrast and compare data in the form of shapes and colors can be illuminating. Think pie charts, maps and graphs. For more examples of data visualization, see this article.

7. Hyper Local

The rise of searches from mobile devices that contain the words “near me” has created opportunities for marketers to target specific geographic areas such as popular street intersections. Users are looking for services within easy walking or driving distance, and so marketers get narrow – targeting users within that range. This laser-focused marketing is referred to as being hyper local.

8. Location-Based Marketing

This term can be used when talking about how to reach mobile users as they walk by your location, but it is also used when talking about consumer insights, segmentation, targeting and analytics. Perhaps an organization will use location-based marketing data to determine where to open a new location. For more on this topic, see this article in Adweek. For a look at how marketers are using Snapchat in this way, see here.

9. Machine Learning

“Machine learning (ML) is a category of algorithm that allows software applications to become more accurate in predicting outcomes without being explicitly programmed. The basic premise of machine learning is to build algorithms that can receive input data and use statistical analysis to predict an output while updating outputs as new data becomes available,” according to TechTarget.com. An example of how this might work is in how a Netflix account “learns” its user’s preferences. The more the user interacts with Netflix, the more likely they are to receive recommendations that seem like a fit. More examples are available here.

10. Marketing Automation

Every organization seems to put their own spin on marketing automation, but at Collegis, we use this term when talking about marketing tasks that are likely to be repeated often. It covers email marketing, automated responses to inquiries and personalization – using a prospective student’s name in automated communications. For more on marketing automation, see this post.

11. Micro-Credentialing

Micro-credentials are credentials that represent specific skills learned. As such, a degree may be made up of many micro-credentials. Students or workers may pursue 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.

12. Mobile-First

It used to be that online content was built for a desktop or laptop screen, and then shrunk down to fit on a mobile screen. Now that mobile use is so prevalent, content designers have started prioritizing how the content will work on a mobile screen first, adding in desktop or laptop functionality later. What’s the advantage? Mobile screens have more restrictions, so as content is created with a mobile-first mindset, 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.

13. Persona

Hubspot defines a persona well: “A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers … When creating your buyer persona(s), consider including customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals. The more detailed you are, the better.”

14. Precision Marketing

Precision Marketing is the idea of using demographic and consumer data in marketing campaigns to identify the interests of individuals, or very small groups of similar individuals. This is what enables people to get a well-matched experience in Google searches, remarketing and social media ads. Read more.

15. ROI, aka “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. Usually, a formula like this can be used:

ROI = Net Income/Investment.

In higher ed, an institution may want to look at net revenue earned from enrollments within a season. 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, more about brand, reputation and overall student experience.

16. 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 the institution, its competitors, keywords or topics is also considered “social listening.”

17. 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 they take to complete, how to apply, what’s required, and so on. Students are increasingly expecting an “Amazon-type” experience that is intuitive and fluid, offering the right answers at the right time.

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 – which may 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. UX, aka “User Experience”

When you hear someone talking about how well online tools function, that means they are talking about user experience, aka “UX.” “Good UX is felt more than seen,” says Jessie King, senior interaction designer/developer with Collegis Education. “It’s like when you’ve invited someone into your home. If they feel good, they’ll want to spend more time.” Read more.

20. Value Proposition

Prospective students are value conscious, looking closely at tuition costs and degree outcomes. But cost isn’t everything – people are often willing to pay more in exchange for value. So, to connect with right-fit students, it’s important for institutions to have a clear idea of what benefits they provide – and how they do so better than others. This is often called a “value proposition.”

For colleges, “value props” are often defined by the types of degrees and programs offered, rankings, faculty, research accomplishments, whether the institution is faith based and any number of variables that connect with prospective students.