Market Research: Don’t Develop Your Digital Ad Strategy Without It

There’s no question that a big part of your marketing strategy is (and should be) digital. But a big question that arises across institutions is, “How effective is our digital marketing strategy?” And even though many digital marketing activities have the potential to impact marketing goals and objectives, optimized, targeted strategies have a considerable impact on your ability to increase effectiveness. From where to place digital ads for increased exposure to aligning digital strategy with the needs, desires, and nuances of target markets, market research is the best way to uncover the truly meaningful information that should be driving your digital decisions.

Here are three major benefits you can expect to gain in your digital marketing strategy from market research:

  • Meet audience needs. Sometimes the best marketing strategy is simply knowing your market. When you understand your target audiences, you can position your digital ad campaign to address their vital desires and concerns. Market research gives you the tools to do that.
  • Improve efficiency. Without market research to back your strategy, you could be throwing good money at a bad idea. Market research allows you to maximize the benefit of each dollar you invest.
  • Identify problems. With the strenuous routine of building, growing, and maintaining your brand, things like misperceptions, inconsistent voice, or poor targeting are not always top-of-mind. Market research provides an objective, outside-in assessment that can identify issues before they become critical.

Still hesitant about how market research can impact your digital marketing? We conducted market research for the institutions below; take a look at their quantifiable results — the kind of results that you can easily communicate to your president, board, VPs, deans, and more.

  • Stevens Institute of Technology, Office of Pre-College Programs
    Based on a strategic decision to grow program awareness and participation, the Pre-College Program at Stevens Institute of Technology came to us to gather market intelligence on financially able parents of highly motivated, academically talented high school-age students. The insights and perceptions of these parents — the decision makers in enrolling students in summer enrichment programs — were crucial to informing programming, format, delivery, and strategic marketing decisions.

Based on the research findings, the marketers of the Pre-College Program made changes to messaging and imagery in their digital ads and have realized quantifiable results — ad click-through rates have jumped from 0.45% to 1.58% and applications are up 15% compared to the previous year.

  • Miami University (OH)
    In 2014, we partnered with Miami University on a comprehensive research study that would form the foundation of a new long-term brand and a robust integrated marketing campaign. Long recognized as a Public Ivy, one of Miami’s key objectives was to quantify associations with the term. The results were clear: To key internal and external stakeholders, “Public Ivy” means prestigious reputation, academically rigorous, and high-caliber education at a public school price. Two years later, Miami’s Public Ivy campaign delivered: ~42M impressions and 120K clicks, culminating in a reported 26% brand lift during the six-week digital ad campaign. Miami also benefited from more than 16M impressions and 70K clicks during their six-week, paid social campaign, and more than 1M impressions and 263K total views of their brand video on YouTube.

What did all of these impressive statistics lead to? The 2020 class was selected from the largest applicant pool in Miami’s history, average test scores of incoming students are the highest in the university’s history, and the 2020 class is the most diverse yet at 15.5%, up from 13.7% last year.

  • Buena Vista University
    In Storm Lake, Iowa, Buena Vista University was experiencing the perfect storm of enrollment challenges: a seriously declining population of high school students; a state competitor set featuring two massive, well-known public institutions and more than 30 other small private colleges and universities; and strong public perception that “private” equals “expensive.” We were brought in to conduct extensive market research to discover what perceptions (or misperceptions) were preventing prospective students from considering BVU and identify the critical “must haves” in their school consideration set. Armed with that data, we partnered with OHO Interactive to develop and launch a bold advertising and digital campaign to help BVU increase awareness and drive enrollment.

The campaign had tremendous success. Within four weeks of its launch, more than 100 applications were submitted and over 40 campus visits conducted. Over the campaign’s five-month run, there were more than 1K applications submitted for Fall 2018, 272 campus visits, and over 170 graduate program applications received — more than three times the University’s overall goal.

The insights gained through market research extend far beyond your digital marketing strategy. When applied broadly, they reach every corner of your brand. And if you are consistently exploring your perceptions and practices, you are always primed for action and growth.

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