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CUnet and LeadsCouncil recently released the 2012 Higher Education Marketing Benchmarking Report for For-Profit Schools. This report is based on a survey conducted in the spring of 2012 of 300 higher ed marketing professionals from both the private for-profit and the public non-profit higher ed sectors. This report covers the for-profit sector only. The non-profit sector results will we be released in the near future. The report provides some very interesting insights into the evolving nature of educational marketing.

The main points were:

1. Cost per enrollment for purchased leads is going up 58% of respondents indicated that cost of third party generated leads was increasing.

2. More private schools are beginning to generate their own direct and organic leads Purchased leads dropped from 66% to 44% of total inquires generated over the last year. 99% of schools reported they were focusing on ways to increase direct/organic inquiry generation in 2012.

3. Digital marketing is gaining budget share Marketing budgets are generally not increasing but schools are investing more in paid search, SEO, social media, and mobile.

4. Analytics is becoming more important, compliance less 44% of respondents indicated that inquiry/multichannel analytics were a high priority for 2012.

5. Competition for online students is up Cost per enrolment of online students is continuing to increase with 34% of programs reporting an average cost of $2000 per student. The report is available for download here.

An Observation

Our experience with our clients in this market over the last year certainly corroborates these findings. As costs and competition increase, executives are working hard to adopt new practices that will stabilize their cost per enrolment, get more internal control over the mission-critical task of lead generation and to produce clearer measurements and analysis of ROI on their online (and offline) marketing efforts.

Digital marketing and internally managed lead generation do provide great opportunity for schools to increase your marketing effectiveness and ROI on scarce dollars but hand-in-hand with those activities comes, in our opinion, a requirement to proactively manage them through your analytics. Really effective online marketing requires that you have your web ecosystem and all of your online advertising firmly anchored to your business goals and performance through your analytics. Sometimes we see people who believe they can skip the analytics part and direct ALL of their marketing dollars into online activities like more buying PPC, or more email or more Facebook ads. This is a mistake. The old axiom, “If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it” has never been truer than in online marketing.

It is reassuring to see in the report that analytics has become more important to 46% of the people surveyed. But if you are part of the 54% of managers who did NOT think analytics are becoming more important, then we strongly recommend you step back a bit, learn more about the capabilities of analytics and get some expert advice in this area.

If you do this, I’d bet money you’ll change your opinion for next year’s survey. How important are analytics to your marketing efforts?