7 Steps to Cross-Channel Marketing Attribution

Cross-Channel Marketing Attribution WhitepaperSpending without proof of effectiveness is on its way out. In truth, it hasn’t been acceptable for a long time.

Businesses of the 21st century are streamlined in both budgets and resources. As a result, marketers can no longer justify media budgets of any size without delivering quantifiable ROI.

Cross-channel marketing attribution tracking and modeling allows marketers to demonstrate the value of what they do. But that’s not all. By providing timely, insightful and actionable data with which marketing campaigns can be holistically optimized, attribution tracking also assists in the effective optimization of marketing efforts. Click here to download our new whitepaper, Cross-Channel Marketing Attribution: From Comprehension to Deployment to Predictive Planning, published in partnership with LeadsCouncil.

Without a doubt, cross-channel attribution is complicated to set up. Though oversimplified, the seven steps below will help you get started.

1. Create your attribution lexicon.

Define your campaign objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs), and make sure everyone is using the same language.

2. Integrate all of your data sources.

Identify one system (like Sparkroom performance marketing technology) to integrate, house and clean all of your marketing and conversion data and translate it, as needed, to ensure the lexicon language is being utilized.

3. Tag everything.

Tracking pixels must be incorporated into the code of every campaign element (display ads, landing pages, email creative, websites, etc.). These pixels power analytics tracking by letting you know when and from where someone has come. In addition, tags can set cookies (code placed on user devices to identify and remember information about an individual). Tags help collect data inclusive of IP addresses, browser information, traffic sources, cookie data and user behavior.

4. Establish a baseline.

Using last-click attribution, establish current performance benchmarks. As you make campaign changes, you’ll be measuring lift in relation to these initial parameters.

5. Build an attribution model.

With so many different approaches available, it’s essential to evaluate methods to determine what will work best for your brand and media mix. Use historical data to test models, and remember your best solution may be a combination of standard approaches.

6. Evaluate your attribution model.

Approximately three months are needed for model training and another three months for optimizations to start impacting campaign results. If you’re not seeing positive performance impact six months after launch, it’s time to adjust your approach.

7. Continually test and optimize.

Even when you see a conclusive ROI from your efforts, you should constantly search for opportunities to enhance your tracking and campaign performance further. Test new channels and monitoring methods regularly and make adjustments as appropriate.

Nothing worth doing comes easy, but having cross-channel attribution tracking in place will make every future decision easier. To learn more, download our new whitepaper, Cross-Channel Marketing Attribution: From Comprehension to Deployment to Predictive Planning, published in partnership with LeadsCouncil.

Click here to request a customized demonstration of Sparkroom performance marketing technology and to get a sneak peek at our soon-to-be-announced cross-channel marketing attribution features.

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Do you have blind spots in your enrollment management strategy?

Here are 5 tips to help you fill in your enrollment management performance gaps

Few marketing or admissions teams have sufficient, actionable insight into the evolving enrollment lifecycle. Without complete visibility into key enrollment performance metrics, the gap between marketing efforts and enrollment outcomes is likely to widen.

Here are five tips from our new ebook, published in partnership with Velocify, to get you closer to seeing your full performance picture.

1. Identify and remove process defects to minimize variability

The close inspection and realignment of operations are required to achieve enrollment management integration and synchronization. This process should begin with a comprehensive analysis of all operational processes and a competitive review. The development of operational strategies should focus on identified enrollment goals, and the execution must be regularly fine-tuned to ensure effective management of recruitment efforts and admissions processes.

Download our new ebook, Mind the Gap Between Marketing and Enrollment: How to uncover and correct the 5 worst performance gaps in enrollment management, to learn more.

2. Integrate your data

Most institutions have disparate technology systems in place to manage the work of individual departments. As a result, data is rarely shared across divisions in a convenient or usable manner, and each team is left optimizing their performance based solely on their own data, which can hinder the higher-level performance. To achieve accurate enrollment insight, data from marketing and admissions (at a minimum) must be integrated into one system to make reports analyzable and insights actionable.

The award-winning Sparkroom performance marketing technology integrates marketing data, automates marketing processes and provides marketing analytics that drive smarter decisions and a more optimized budget. Click here to see how this results in effortless results reporting.

3. Leverage enrollment outcome data to improve marketing spend

Data that illustrates which marketing efforts are driving the highest quality candidates for your institution should be shared between admissions and marketing. Enrollment outcome data can provide marketing with insight into campaign effectiveness. Download our new ebook to learn more.

4. Re-ignite aged leads using lead scoring and data

If a prospective student is inundated in the first 90 days, she may tune you out completely. But it may be possible to re-engage that prospect in a few weeks or months when she is further in her enrollment journey. Data and lead scoring can inform a remarketing strategy to help you re-engage aged inquiries. Request your free enrollment marketing campaign audit to assess your immediate opportunities.

5. Don’t rely on last-click attribution

Analysis of marketing outcomes based only on the last click can be detrimental to the long-term performance of an enrollment campaign. That’s because last-click attribution neglects to account for the support provided by top-of-the-funnel marketing initiatives. If optimizations reduce or remove brand-building activities, the lift they were previously bestowing on bottom-of-the-funnel tactics will be slashed. Inquiry volume and conversion rates suffer when campaign performance is not reviewed holistically. Sparkroom can help you develop a customized, cross-channel attribution solution. Click here for your customized demo of our proprietary technology.

You can create a more predictable path to enrollment by better understanding what is and what is not currently working in your enrollment management approach. Removing the gaps between marketing and admissions is a great place to get started. Download our new ebook, Mind the Gap Between Marketing and Enrollment: How to uncover and correct the 5 worst performance gaps in enrollment management, to learn more.

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The Top 6 Takeaways from the LeadsCouncil 2016 Higher Education Lead Generation Trends Report

During late 2016, LeadsCouncil surveyed higher education professionals to understand industry thoughts about third-party lead generation, lead quality, marketing strategies, enrollment results and more. Listed below are the top six takeaways that all higher education marketers should know. Click here to download the LeadsCouncil 2016 Higher Education Lead Generation Trends report, sponsored by Sparkroom.

1. A greater share of higher education leads are perceived as “quality” than in the past

Approximately one-third (31.4%) of the survey respondents rate more than 40% of their leads as “quality.” This is up from 29.2% the prior year. Likewise, the percent of respondents that felt less than 20% of their leads were “quality” dropped from 46.2% in 2015 to 40% in 2016, which is a positive sign and points toward a future of higher conversion rates. Download the full report to learn more.

What percentage of your lead volume do you consider to be "quality" leads?

2. Finding quality higher education leads is hard

Despite the positive change noted above, finding incremental quality leads is still tough. More than half (57.2%) of survey respondents consider this to be a “difficult” or “very difficult” challenge. Download the full report to learn more.

When you need to increase your flow of quality leads, how easy is it to find the incremental leads?

3. The median CPE from third-party higher education leads is up

Based on survey responses, the median CPE for third-party leads increased by one-third, from $1500 in 2015 to $2000 in 2016, while the median CPE for first-party leads stayed below $750. Not surprisingly, an increasing proportion of people disagrees with the statement, “The lead generation ecosystem is healthy and meets my expectations with regard to overall quality and performance.” Download the full report to learn more.

Rate your agreement with the following statement: "The lead generation ecosystem is healthy and meets my expectations with regard to overall quality and performance."

4. Contact rate is the strongest indicator of higher education lead quality

As expected, “ability to contact” was ranked as the most reliable indicator of lead quality. Consumer behaviors were listed as the next strongest indicator of quality and the top pick for data that survey respondents wish they had more of. Download the full report to learn more.

5. Higher education marketing budgets are being re-allocated toward first-party digital campaigns

Looking toward 2017, survey responses made it clear that third-party data leads and traditional marketing are getting less budget than in the past. Meanwhile, content marketing, paid search, mobile, SEO, email marketing and social media campaigns have growing budgets.

With regard to technology, lead management and marketing automation were most likely to have increased budgets planned. Download the full report to learn more.

6. Confidence with regard to higher education regulatory compliance is higher than in the past

After the higher education regulatory changes of 2011, compliance became a top concern. Since then, lead generation practices have been reformed and confidence levels regarding compliance have turned around. Download the full report to learn more.

Rate the confidence you have in your lead generation partners and your agency partner with regard to regulatory compliance.

Sourcing high-performing leads and quickly evaluating quality is challenging. The best campaigns are built based on a review of school and global data, then carefully monitored and regularly optimized. But, without a doubt, campaign management takes a lot of time and effort.

If you find yourself short on resources, reach out to the experts at Sparkroom. Our enrollment marketing team develops winning, customized student recruitment campaigns by combining and leveraging our decades of higher education and performance marketing experience. Every campaign is uniquely designed based on an analytic review of historical data to incorporate the best cross-device channels and maximize performance while minimizing spend.

Find out what you could be doing better. Click here to request your free enrollment marketing campaign audit.

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3 Tips to Further Align Your Marketing & Admissions Teams

Tight coordination between enrollment management resources is essential to capture prospects on a journey that is increasingly circuitous. Here are three tips to ensure your marketing and admissions teams are aligned.

1. Don’t expect a straight line in enrollment management.

A decade or so ago, marketers regularly talked about the customer journey, referring to a linear path from brand awareness to consideration, intent and purchase. But with the influx of channels and devices, the straight line is all but a distant memory. Marketers who anticipate and plan for an irregular route to enrollment may experience enhanced conversion rates. Download our new ebook, published in partnership with Velocify, to learn more.

2. Take advantage of the enhanced opportunities offered by the new world of media.

The fragmentation of media channels makes it harder to achieve effective reach and frequency, but it also means more opportunity for marketers. Competition for advertising dollars has encouraged platforms to boost their targeting capabilities. Download our new ebook, Mind the Gap Between Marketing and Enrollment: How to uncover and correct the 5 worst performance gaps in enrollment management, to learn more.

3. Make sure your enrollment management efforts are both integrated and synchronized.

An effective enrollment management structure requires the integration of marketing and admissions, as well as a number of support services. But integration alone will not give you the win. To succeed in today’s marketplace, enrollment management efforts must be driven by customer-centric strategies designed to develop and nurture relationships. This can only be achieved through cross-functional team integration and process synchronization. Download our new ebook to learn more.

Are you looking to realign your enrollment management resources to achieve your online program growth goals? Sparkroom can help!

Click here to request your free enrollment management strategy session, and we’ll help you find opportunities to enhance the alignment between your marketing and admissions teams.

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Do You Know the 5 Worst Enrollment Management Performance Gaps?

With our new ebook, jointly published by Sparkroom and Velocify, we are helping higher education professionals to “mind the gap between marketing and enrollment” by uncovering and correcting the five worst enrollment management performance gaps.Mind the Gap Between Marketing and Enrollment - eBook Published by Sparkroom & Velocify

So what are these gaps?

Gap #1: Marketing and Enrollment Misalignment

Too many enrollment management professionals are still anticipating a straight line from awareness to intent to inquiry to enrollment. Simply put, this just doesn’t happen anymore. Therefore, marketers who anticipate and plan for an irregular route to enrollment are likely to experience enhanced conversion rates. Download the ebook to learn more.

Gap #2: Miscalculating Prospect Attention Limits

Prospective students have a finite attention span, and the competition to become part of their consideration set is intense. What’s the solution? Be fast and be first. In fact, 70% of prospects believe the first school to call them has an advantage over the competition. Download the ebook to learn more.

Gap #3: Failure to Meet Student Prospect Expectations

Today’s consumers want to engage on their terms. When they’re ready to learn more about your school and the programs you offer, they expect a timely response and attentive service. Do your operations support this requirement of today’s prospective students? Download the ebook to get tips for success.

Gap #4: Insufficient Enrollment Insight

Most higher education institutions lack sufficient, actionable insight into the evolving enrollment cycle — including marketing, inquiry management and enrollment contact strategies. Without visibility into key enrollment performance metrics, the gap between marketing efforts and enrollment outcomes widens as consumer expectations evolve. Download the ebook to learn 5 ways to eliminate blind spots.

Gap #5: Post-Application Attrition

Application is not the end game. Students who apply to a school still have decisions to make and hurdles to overcome before starting. Institutions that achieve a high application-to-start yield rate keep in touch with applied students on a regular basis to ensure the students understand and achieve each upcoming milestone. Download the ebook to learn more.

You can create a more predictable path to enrollment success by prioritizing and synchronizing the entire enrollment lifecycle to address the top enrollment management performance gaps. For support in this process, click here to request a free cursory enrollment management strategy session from Sparkroom.

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January & February Higher Education Lead Generation Volume Predictions

Historically, 54.4% of January’s inquiries are generated during the first 16 days of the year. Based on this month’s volume to date, January is on pace to end up with volume up 27.1% from December and down 3.5% YOY. This month-over-month change is an improvement from January 2016, which delivered an increase of just 18.2%.

January Average Daily Volume Trends 2013-2017

February has less variance in volume than January. Throughout the month, we have historically seen volume levels on par with the second half of January. On average, external source volume drops 13.9% in February, and volume from internal sources slip 7.4% compared to the prior month.

January-February Average Weekly Volume Trends - 2013-2017

The chart below shows monthly volume totals from January 2016 to January 2017, with projections for the end of January 2017. Moving further into 2017, we believe the volume trends will be positive. Early signs of expansion for programs that passed regulatory hurdles combined with the continued growth of internal marketing channels should result in strong inquiry generation performance throughout the year.

Monthly Volume Totals January 2016-January 2017

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15 Top Higher Education Programs – Q3 2016

Sparkroom Q3 2016 Higher Ed Inquiry Generation Review Whitepaper CoverBased on Q3 2016 Conversion Volume

The 15 top higher education programs based on share of conversions (SOC) in Q3 2016 made up 57.5% of all higher education lead volume and 56.2% of all conversions, according to the Sparkroom Q3 2016 Higher Education Inquiry Generation Review.

#1 Business Administration and Management, General

Bringing in 10.5% of all higher education lead volume and 15.6% of the conversions, the Business Administration and Management, General program is holding onto its top higher education program spot. The Q3 2016 conversion rate for this business program was 12.2%. With maturing still to come, this conversion rate was already up 15.0% QOQ and 18.7% YOY.

The inquiry share of voice (SOV) for business administration and management programs is down 7.7% QOQ. The Business, Management, Marketing and Related Support program category has been losing inquiry SOV for some time. Last quarter (Q2 2016) saw QOQ inquiry growth, and we were watching to see if it would be the start of a business program rebound. But Q3 results proved this is not the case. The inquiry SOV for the business category was down 7.5% QOQ and a whopping 93.0% YOY. Meanwhile, the Q3 2016 conversion rate for the business category was 10.1% ― already strong with maturing to come. The share of conversions was up (2.4% higher QOQ) as a result of this healthy conversion rate, and in Q3 2016, more than one-quarter of all conversions were for business programs.

We partially attribute the unexpected situation of shrinking inquiry volume and growing conversion rates to employability. Graduates of lower-level business programs typically have limited job options in comparison to graduates of higher-level or niche business programs. Schools have streamlined their offerings based on this trend, and the remaining business programs are converting quite well.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted 8% growth in “business and financial operations occupations” from 2014 to 2024. This rate is on par with all professions, but the 2015 media pay of $86,110 is significantly above the average for all occupations.

#2 Nursing/Registered Nurse (RN, ASN, BSN, MSN)

Nursing/Registered Nurse programs accounted for 13.5% of all higher education inquiries in Q3 2016 but only for 9.8% of all conversions. The 6.0% conversion rate for nursing programs in Q3 2016 is down 19.5% QOQ and 39.0% YOY. Although further maturation of the Q3 2016 cohort of inquiries will boost performance, it is unlikely that the conversion rate will match that of the prior quarter.

The BLS projected 19% growth within the health care profession from 2014 to 2024, which is much faster than the  average expected for all occupations. The increase is projected to add roughly 2.3 million health care jobs to the economy. However, the BLS projections were based in part on the federal health insurance reform increasing the number of individuals with access to health insurance and may be impacted by changes to the Affordable Care Act under the Trump administration.

For registered nurses, the BLS projected slightly lower growth of 16%. In addition to greater health care access, this increase is expected due to an aging population, growing rates of chronic conditions and an increased emphasis on preventive care. The median annual wage for registered nurses was $67,490 in 2015.

#3 Medical Insurance Coding Specialist/Coder

Although the Medical Insurance Coding Specialist/Coder is ranked just one spot below the Nursing/Registered Nurse program based on volume of higher education conversions, its share of volume in Q3 2016 was significantly below that of the second-place program. Medical coding programs brought in 5.1% of all higher education inquiries in Q3 2016 and 5.0% of all higher education conversions. The 8.2% conversion rate for Q3 2016 was up 0.5% QOQ and 8.6% YOY.

As a result of the growing use of health services in the U.S., the BLS projected a 15% increase in “medical records and health information technicians” from 2014 to 2024. The median annual wage for people in this profession is just $37,110, but typically only a certificate or associate degree is needed to qualify for employment.

#4 Medical Office Assistant/Specialist and #5 Medical/Clinical Assistant

With 3.4% of all higher education inquiries and a 3.7% share of conversions, Medical Office Assistant/Specialist programs are in a period of growth. The conversion rate is also climbing. In Q3 2016, the conversion rate was 9.0% and matched the Q2 2016 conversion rate, but it should mature to a higher point. The Q3 2016 conversion rate was 4.6% higher than the Q3 2015 conversion rate.

Medical/Clinical Assistant programs brought in 4.8% of inquiries but only 3.5% of conversions during Q3 2016. These programs had a conversion rate of just 6.1% in Q3 2016 ― down 5.8% QOQ and down 18.4% YOY.

A 23% growth in employment of medical assistants was projected by the BLS as the health care category grows as a whole. Also, physicians are expected to hire additional medical assistants to help with routine administrative and clinical support needs.

The relatively meager median wage of $30,590 (as of 2015) for medical assistants is reflective of the minimal education required for this profession. Most medical assistants have attained certificates as their highest level of education.

#6 Health/Health Care Administration/Management

Health/Health Care Administration/Management programs accounted for 3.2% of all higher education inquiries and 2.8% of all higher education conversions in Q3 2016. The 7.2% conversion rate in Q3 2016 for health care administration programs was up 6.6% QOQ and 4.3% YOY.

Employment of “medical and health services managers” is projected to grow 17% from 2014 to 2024. Many of these positions require a master’s degree, and the $94,500 median annual salary reflects this education requirement.

#7 Criminal Justice/Police Science

The inquiry SOV for Criminal Justice/Police Science programs was 2.4%, and the share of conversions was 2.8% in Q3 2016. The 9.7% conversion rate in Q3 2016 for criminal justice and police science programs was higher than expected ― up 9.0% QOQ and 5.9% YOY.

The BLS projected only 4% growth for “police and detectives” between 2014 and 2024. This expansion is a slower rate than across all occupations, though demand varies by location. The median annual wage for this field is $60,270.

#8 Psychology, General

Psychology programs accounted for 2.8% of all higher education inquiries and the same percentage of conversions in Q3 2016. The 8.1% conversion rate for psychology programs in Q3 2016 was up 13.6% QOQ and 8.4% YOY.

The employment of psychologists was projected to grow 19% from 2014 to 2024. Candidates with doctoral degrees in applied specialties will have the best job prospects for these high paying positions. (The median annual wage for psychologists was $72,580 in 2015.)

#9 Computer Systems Analysis/Analyst

Computer Systems Analysis/Analyst programs held a 1.5% inquiry SOV and a higher 2.1% SOC in Q3 2016. The conversion rate in Q3 2016 for computer systems programs was robust at 11.5% ― 11.2% higher than Q2 2016 but down 1.8% YOY. (Though with additional maturing, the Q3 2016 conversion rate will likely pass the Q3 2015 conversion rate.)

“Computer and information technology occupations” were projected to grow 12% from 2014 to 2024, according to the BLS. The increase in jobs is due to a greater emphasis on cloud computing, big data, the internet of things, mobile computing and more. Due to the complexity of this field, it has a high median annual wage of $81,430.

#10 Pharmacy Technician/Assistant

Pharmacy Technician/Assistant programs brought in 1.8% of all higher education inquiries and 2.0% of all higher education conversions in Q3 2016. The 9.3% conversion rate in Q3 2016 for pharmacy tech programs was higher than the 8.9% conversion rate of Q2 2016 and the 8.2% conversion rate of Q3 2015.

The employment outlook for pharmacy technicians is slightly stronger than the average for all occupations, but with a 9% projected growth rate (from 2014 to 2024), it is weak compared to other health care fields. The median annual wage for pharmacy technicians was $30,410 in 2015.

#11 Educational Leadership and Administration, General

The share of inquiries for educational leadership and administration programs was 1.3% in Q3 2016. A high conversion rate (10.0%) delivered a greater proportion of conversions (1.6%).

Based on estimated school enrollments and budgets, “education, training and library occupations” are projected to grow at an average rate according to the BLS. The same applies for “elementary, middle and high school principals.” This profession group had a high median annual wage of $90,410 in 2015.

The “postsecondary education administrators” occupation is projected to grow at the faster rate of 9%. The median income is similar to that noted above at $88,580.

#12 Liberal Arts and Sciences/Liberal Studies

Liberal Arts and Sciences/Liberal Studies programs brought in 1.5% of all higher education inquiries and 1.6% of the conversions in Q3 2016. The 8.4% conversion rate for liberal arts programs in Q3 2016 was quite weak compared to the 12.4% conversion rate of the year prior.

Because liberal arts degrees can help graduates land in a variety of occupations, we are not outlining employment or wage details for these programs.

#13 Web Page, Digital/Multimedia and Information Resources

The inquiry SOV for Web Page, Digital/Multimedia and Information Resources was 2.4% in Q3 2016. A disappointing conversion rate of 5.4% resulted in only a 1.6% share of conversions. The conversion rate was down 11.6% QOQ and 15.3% YOY.

This program can lead to a variety of positions, and the employment prospects range dramatically. There was little to no change projected in the employment rate of graphic designers, but 27% growth was estimated by the BLS for web developers from 2014 to 2024. Graphic designers had a median wage of $46,900 in 2015. Meanwhile, the median salary for web developers was a much higher $64,970.

#14 Truck and Bus Driver/Commercial Vehicle Operator and Instructor

Truck and Bus Driver/Commercial Vehicle Operator and Instructor programs accounted for 0.7% of all higher education inquiries generated in Q3 2016 and 1.5% of all conversions. The 19.1% conversion rate achieved for trucking programs in Q3 2016 was the highest conversion rate for all of the top 15 programs. The conversion rate was down 1.0% QOQ and 7.4% YOY.

The job outlook, according to the BLS, for “heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers” contrasts with the conversion rate. They projected 5% growth from 2014 to 2024. The average median pay for truck drivers was $40,260 in 2015.

#15 Accounting

Accounting programs also performed well in Q3 2016, bringing in 0.7% of all higher education inquiries and 1.5% of the conversions thanks to a 16.7% conversion rate. This conversion rate for accounting programs was 15.5% higher than Q2 2016 and 17.1% higher than Q3 2015.

The accounting profession is projected to grow at a rate of 11% from 2014 to 2024. The median annual wage for accountants was $67,190 in 2015.


The Sparkroom Q3 2016 Higher Education Inquiry Generation Review covers overall trends in the inquiry and student acquisition activities of higher education institutions for the period of January-September 2016. The following topics are featured:

  • Inquiry volume
  • Conversion rates
  • Channel distribution
  • Inquiry costs
  • Top higher education programs and program categories
  • Degree-level distribution


Click here to get your free copy of the Sparkroom Q3 2016 Higher Education Inquiry Generation Review.

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The Pros & Cons of an Internal Enrollment Management Organization

Whether achieved in-house or through outsourcing, online higher education enrollment growth requires integration and synchronization of all enrollment functions to quickly and proactively manage the funnel of prospective students from inquiry through matriculation. Why? Because speed matters for online students.

As our enrollment management whitepaper explains, the distance-learning arena does not parallel the traditional higher education market. The competition is fast and inclusive of many more institutions than the competitive set for the typical campus-based program. Plus, online students are very different, both in demographics and in behavior. The time-intensive enrollment management formula utilized for years by most traditional schools no longer works in today’s competitive environment.

Many institutions have outsourced to online program management firms (OPMs) to achieve the requirements needed for quick scaling. See my prior blog post to learn more about the pros and cons of OPMs.

We’ve seen many other institutions succeed at building out internal enrollment management structures. Although the implementation process requires an up-front capital investment and dedicated resources, institutions reap the long-term benefits of this decision, including 100% revenue retention and operational continuity.

Internal Enrollment Management Organization Pros & Cons

The Pros: Internal Enrollment Management Organizations Retain All of the Control & the Revenue

An internal enrollment management team is responsible for everything. As a result, the institution reaps every bit of the eventual rewards.

1. Retain complete ownership. An internally built enrollment management organization is 100% owned by the institution that created it. There are no expiring contracts that cause operations to revert to the starting line.

2. Structured to succeed. Cross-functional integration facilitates student recruitment in a highly competitive setting. Integrated enrollment management organizations are customized based on the internal and external environments and can be regularly evolved to ensure ongoing success.

3. No revenue sharing. The tuition earned by online programs is not split. Everything an institution earns is theirs to keep.

4. Complete operational control and continuity. Institutions that internally manage the enrollment process make all the decisions regarding recruitment and admissions practices. Every choice can be selected based on what is important to the school now and in the future. Most importantly, internal enrollment management organizations – and everything they create – are fully owned by their institutions.

5. Brand equity protected. The institution makes all of the marketing decisions. Third-party actions focused on a fraction of the school portfolio are alleviated.

The Cons: Building Out a Competitive Enrollment Management Team Requires an Organizational Commitment

Without a doubt, there are no shortcuts to success.

1. Up-front capital investment. Although the expenditure will be significantly less than the multi-year loss of funds from a revenue sharing agreement, there is a required up-front capital investment to generate brand awareness and recruit students. Because an institution is investing all the capital, all the financial risks lie with the school as well.

2. Cross-functional resources needed. The management of distance learning programs requires more than just marketing and admissions staff. Financial aid, transcript evaluators and applications materials processors are also necessary. In addition, institutions may need to hire dedicated instructional designers, learning management system administrators, technical resources and student support professionals. However, most institutions already have these resources, and the only thing needed is operational integration.

3. Slow(er) implementation. Building from scratch takes time. The most successful online programs managed by internal teams took up to a year to launch. But many schools have successfully achieved five-figure online enrollment within less than a decade.

Do You Need the Immediacy of Outsourcing Without the Long-Term Commitments?

Unique to the industry, Sparkroom offers short-term OPM engagements. Let us manage the demand generation and admissions funnel while supporting the restructure of your in-house enrollment management operations.

Sparkroom short-term OPM engagements provide the following benefits:

  • End-to-end marketing and admissions funnels, from inquiry to matriculation
  • Cross-channel demand generation and promotion campaign strategy and execution, including creative development
  • Performance marketing technology provides 100% transparency into media buys, conversions and overall ROI
  • Simultaneous strategic consulting to realign internal resources, developing an integrated enrollment management organization that can take over the efforts when ready

Sparkroom short-term OPM engagements are ideal for institutions looking to scale online programs and for schools facing the expiration of existing OPM agreements. A variety of fee structures, including customizable retainer and fee-for-service arrangements are available. Click here to request your cursory enrollment management strategy session and to start customizing your ideal support solution.

Click here to download the Sparkroom enrollment management whitepaper.

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Affiliate PPC Leads and Hot Transfers Underpriced


When Factoring Average Cost and Conversion Rates, Higher Education Affiliate PPC Leads and Hot Transfers Were Underpriced in Q3 2016

Affiliate Data Lead v PPC v Hot Transfer Conversion Rate and Price

The overall cost per lead (CPL) for third-party higher education inquiries was $44.13 in Q3 2016, according to the Sparkroom Q3 2016 Higher Education Inquiry Generation Review. Up 3.1% QOQ and 12.1% YOY, this average was primarily set by the $42.24 price tag for affiliate data leads, which accounted for 46.9% of all lead volume in Q3 2016.

In Q3 2016, the average CPL for affiliate PPC leads was a $39.82. Up 13.3% QOQ and down 19.3% YOY, this lead category was considered premium when it first launched and right-pricing followed. But with a Q3 2016 conversion rate 8.8% higher than affiliate data leads and a CPL that averaged 5.8% lower, we expect the price for affiliate PPC leads will continue to adjust over time.

The CPL in Q3 2016 for affiliate hot transfers was $97.72. The CPL was up 5.6% QOQ and up 36.6% YOY. Hot transfer pricing has been up and down, but it appears now to be steadily rising. And no surprise. Hot transfers were a bargain in Q3 2016. The conversion rate for hot transfers was 276.8% higher than the conversion rate for affiliate data leads, but the CPL was only 131.3% higher.

The Sparkroom Q3 2016 Higher Education Inquiry Generation Review covers overall trends in the inquiry and student acquisition activities of higher education institutions for the period of January-September 2016. The following topics are featured:

  • Inquiry volume
  • Conversion rates
  • Channel distribution
  • Inquiry costs
  • Program distribution
  • Degree-level distribution

Click here to get your free copy of the Sparkroom Q3 2016 Higher Education Inquiry Generation Review.


Note: This data within this post was corrected on January 16, 2017.

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The Pros & Cons of Online Program Management (OPM)

OPMs specialize in quickly taking schools from online program infancy to maturity. Through comprehensive services inclusive of marketing, recruiting, operations, IT support and more, OPMs invest their capital in providing an easy, risk-averse solution to online program growth.

Typically, two types of higher education institutions consider OPM partnerships:

  • Institutions newly offering online programs
  • Schools with existing online divisions that have failed to realize significant enrollment growth

As our enrollment whitepaper explains, both face the same challenge. A lack of resources and experience keeps them from competing on an even playing field with institutions that have successfully established their online program offerings.

Online Program Management (OPMs) Pros & Cons

The Pros: OPMs Simplify Online Program Development, Promotion & Recruitment

Hiring an OPM allows an institution to rely entirely on someone else’s resources to grow online program offerings and enrollment.

1. No initial outlay required. OPMs come to the table offering to make an investment in a brand. Typically, they fund the marketing efforts, provide the staffing and cover all necessary expenditures. As a result, institutions can get online programs launched without making any noteworthy capital investments.

2. OPMs have everything covered. OPMs are comprised of large teams inclusive of online education admissions professionals, instructional designers, learning management system administrators, marketing and recruitment experts, technical resources and student support professionals. Because of the breadth of their resources, schools can rely on OPMs from start to finish to plan, launch and maintain online programs.

3. It’s fast. OPMs have the funding, infrastructure and team already in place. As a result, the go-to-market timeframe is a fraction of what most institutions can achieve on their own.

The Cons: OPM Agreements Demand High Tuition Revenue Sharing, Require the Relinquishment of Control and Lock You Into Long Agreements Whether or Not Their Performance Achieves Your Objectives

OPMs take on every aspect of program management, including the decision making.

1. Demanding tuition revenue requirements. OPMs don’t work for free. Far from it. Tuition revenue-sharing agreements vary, but the split going to the OPM can be as great as 70%. Most schools using an OPM provider accrue only a small portion of their potential online income.

2. Long-term contracts. Because OPMs invest significant resources in the launch and growth of online programs, they often require lengthy contracts – of up to 10 years – to ensure time to recuperate their investments. These contracts lock schools into binding terms despite changing climates, competition and internal resource capabilities.

3. Lack of control. When schools engage with OPMs, they release much of their authority regarding how and where programs are promoted. Using their funds, OPM providers typically manage the end-to-end recruitment and admissions process. Decisions are made based on the need to be successful for the programs they manage and do not necessarily factor in what is of greatest long-term benefit for the school or its brand.

4. Ongoing dependency. The expiration of an OPM contract frequently leaves an institution with nothing. Everything that was developed by the OPM, from programs to systems to teams, is owned by the OPM. Upon contract expiration, schools make one of two choices: renew the contract or start anew.

5. Not always effective. Time and time again, we’ve talked with schools anxious to part ways with their OPM provider because of disappointing performance. While missing targeted enrollment goals is always regrettable, it’s even worse when a long-term agreement forces the continuation of ineffective, outsourced enrollment management.

Is an OPM right for you?

Business decisions are all about tradeoffs, and sometimes outsourcing makes sense. Before you make any conclusions regarding an OPM, outline your short- and long-term objectives then review your institution’s current practices to identify current gaps and understand capabilities.

Sparkroom specializes in helping colleges and universities identify the best path forward. We work with schools to assess the current situation, evaluate opportunities for growth and decide how to proceed.  Click here to learn more about Sparkroom enrollment management consulting.

Click here to download the Sparkroom enrollment management whitepaper.

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