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Education Marketing Evolves as New Digital Channels Change the Landscape

New MDR research shows continued dominance of email in education marketing while documenting the impact of new digital approaches.

June 5, 2013 – MDR’s just-released Digital Marketing Trends in the Education Market 2013 report provides valuable insight to how educators use digital content, the types of devices they use, how they view email and social media, as well as benchmarking information about current practices and trends in marketing to the education industry. Evolved from MDR’s previous annual study, Email Trends in the Education Market, Digital Marketing Trends confirms that educators are highly engaged with digital media, and marketers are using multi-channel strategies to connect with them online.

The New Email

Email is still the channel of choice for education marketers, but the report challenges some tried-and-true assumptions. Campaigns to fewer than 3,000 prospects were the majority among MDR customers and delivered Open and Click-Through rates far above the average for larger campaigns (see Figure 1 below). This proves that smaller, targeted segments with relevant messaging are a better bet for marketers than the “batch and blast” model. “The research indicates that when education marketers carefully target and segment their prospecting email campaigns, they see better program results,” said Derek Fairfield, MDR’s Leader of E-Marketing Solutions. “We also found that personalization effectively improves Open and Click-Through rates, with personalization by last name, title, and whole name the most commonly used methods.” Finally, the tendency to avoid sending emails on Mondays and Fridays can be re-examined. The report showed Open and Click-Through rates on those days to be as good if not better than other days of the week.

Figure 1: Open and Click-Through Rates by Size of Campaign

 

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Teachers in the Stream

Teachers continue to seek out online digital content for instruction, and this year’s report shows a jump in the percentage using video sharing and streaming sites. In fact, YouTube and the various sites under the Discovery.com banner accounted for 50% of teachers’ attention. In response to a new question, teachers rated “previewing materials to use with students” as one of their top reasons for researching online digital content. Among college faculty, this was the number one reason. Yet, YouTube is still one of the most blocked sites on school networks, followed by Facebook, and marketers should watch to see if the professional use of these sites by teachers will result in a change in these blocking policies.

Education Is Social

While this year’s finding that 50% of teachers use social media in some way is not a significant change from last year, “exchanging ideas” became the top-rated activity. “This demonstrates that educators are more engaged with one another and are interacting professionally on social media,” says Fairfield. “It may also be an indication of the success of education marketers in reaching out to educators via this channel.”

New this year, MDR added questions to tease out the impact of social media on purchasing behavior. When social media had an impact on a purchase, teachers identified Facebook and Pinterest as important sources. While K-12 teachers use Pinterest more that college faculty, college faculty use Google+ more than Pinterest.

Display Advertising Shows Real Promise

According to Kim Booth, MDR’s Product Manager for Web Advertising, this year’s survey included a number of new questions to capture the use and results for web display advertising. “We launched the product in March 2012, offering our customers a unique capability to target educators with many of the same selects they use for targeted email and direct mail campaigns,” says Booth. “The campaigns we’ve deployed since the product’s launch indicate an average Click-Through rate of 0.12%, significantly higher than that obtained with traditional banner ads, which range from .07% to .10%.”

When it comes to ad size, the research indicates that leaderboard ads were the most frequently used, but skyscraper ads received the highest Click-Through rate. This difference is attributed to the larger page real estate and the provocative positioning of skyscraper ads.

In terms of impressions served by campaign objective, lead generation was the majority with 52%, followed by sales and brand awareness in the 20% range. Campaigns designed to increase brand awareness had the highest Click-Through rates, but that should not be taken as evidence that display advertising should be used only for brand awareness. The report highlights the importance of conversation tracking for accurate channel attribution. “This year, MDR had 14 customers using an embedded conversion code on the confirmation page to track both post-click-through and post-viewing conversions,” says Booth. “Even with that small sample, the results were impressive: a third of conversions were attributed to a display ad post-click, and the other two-thirds were attributed to the ad post-viewing” (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Percentage of Conversions by Post-Impression and Post-Click Types

 

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Learn More

To learn more about the report’s content, click here. To order Digital Marketing Trends in the Education Market 2013: A Comprehensive Analysis of the 2011-2012 School Year, call 
800-333-8802 or order online.

To get a closer look at the report content and hear expert commentary on practical applications for the data, replay MDR’s recent webinar, Capturing the Click: Connecting With Educators in a Changing Digital Market.