The marketing best practices that drive student and financial value in higher education


In my previous post,Why personalising the student experience is critical to higher education’s viability," we examined the role customer intelligence can play in driving value for universities and students across the higher education journey. Specifically, analytics has a vital role to play in helping decision makers, particularly marketers, to generate accurate insights in order to optimise every step of the journey or life cycle as some call it. This includes better performing recruitment campaigns, honing course content and value, supporting students with appropriate services and interventions, and increasing yields from alumni fundraising.  

Accessing valuable outcomes, or insights, at any point along the student journey depends upon your university adopting a best practice approach to implementing and using analytics, which I will discuss in a moment. 

However, to unlock the best results, data-driven marketing must be deployed at the beginning of the student journey. Why? Because pinpointing the right kinds of students for your university sets up the life cycle for success. Students who are motivated to be at your establishment will fully buy into your course programme, your culture, your ethics and your academic principles. And they are more inclined to complete their courses, less likely to require spending on interventions to retain them, and more likely to reward their experience with funding as alumni. 

The marketing best practices that generate the most value

Experience reveals three best practices that most successful higher education marketers follow: 

  1. Data integration
    No one department is responsible for optimising the student journey. This results in data silos and significant gaps in insights. By bringing together all your data, you will be able to create a single view of each student at a granular level. And you can scale out to develop a holistic predictive view of what’s going on – all the time – along this life cycle. The result is more accurate connections between cause and effect throughout the student life cycle. 
  2. Self-service analytics
    As a marketer, it’s essential that you can access your data yourself, rather than waiting for IT departments to serve up reports. This allows you to monitor campaigns and implement results immediately so that ROI multiplies. Yet no marketer works in isolation. Having an analytics programme that allows other stakeholders to visualise the data you are collectively working with will help you create a more cohesive plan of action, get approvals faster and share successes. 
  3. Personalised messaging
    The beauty of powering marketing campaigns with analytical insights is that you can model scenarios and rapidly see the outcomes in certain sectors of the student population. This allows marketing managers to create personalised messaging that drives certain actions across preselected segments. What’s more, this predictive capability will allow you to adapt messaging in near-real time for even better marketing performance.    

Take a step-by-step approach

The great news is that you don’t have to roll out these best practices concurrently. At SAS we have helped our clients achieve great success using a case-by-case approach. Here, we help customers select a use case that we know is simple to achieve, is ripe for analytics support, and will deliver significant value quickly. We take the knowledge from this project and plough it into the next use case, optimising ROI along the way.  

The SAS Customer Intelligence platform is an analytics-powered marketing capability that gives you complete visibility of your student audience and all aspects of your marketing activity. It includes financial management and activity planning, as well as generating the predictive insights you need to make your recruitment campaigns work harder. It’s cloud-based, so you can switch it on and get going after a brief phase of implementation and data discovery. And you can scale it up to include every stakeholder who needs access to your campaign information. There’s no huge investment in IT kit, and our customers have typically seen value within three months of the go-live date. 

Change the game with insight-driven value 

Value comes from being able to accurately answer some of your most taxing questions and then plough the answers into your marketing campaigns. What kinds of insights could you access? 

Everything from understanding whether your messaging is resonating with prospective students to uncovering how you can attract students who will be successful and want to complete their degrees. How about extrapolating trends in applications or understanding which students will be most active on campus? The depth of insight can be completely tailored to your needs, as demonstrated by our work with this UK university.     

A real-world success story: Canterbury Christ Church University 

Perhaps its capabilities are best brought to life with a brief look at Canterbury Christ Church University, in Kent. 

This institution's core challenge was getting an accurate view of admissions data, various components of which were held by different departments. Understanding this data, as it changed, was extremely important because it affected financial planning, course planning, resourcing and infrastructure requirements. Critically there was no ability to drill down into summary data to understand the causes of what was happening.  

The initial aim was to build a suite of reports that provided insight into the student journey, This needed to encompass initial application, offer, enrolment, education, graduation and employment. With SAS, the team was able to quickly pull data into a viewing pane and understand the cause and effect of recruitment activities on admissions. It was also able to review the implications for the university from an academic, financial and planning perspective. 

Subsequently, the university has extended analytics to look at retention, identifying potential issues through declining attendance and intervention to help at-risk students. 

The ROI is clear to see. One investment in a pre-configured, cloud-based analytics solution that is simple and intuitive to use. These can be specifically designed for marketers to use in multiple ways to optimise the student journey. Click To Tweet

One marketing platform, multiple ways to generate ROI

The ROI is clear to see. One investment in a pre-configured, cloud-based analytics solution that is simple and intuitive to use. These can be specifically designed for marketers to use in multiple ways to optimise the student journey. Best practice principles are built in so that your marketing capabilities are streamlined and driven by high-quality, contextually rich data. This is key to delivering a personalised recruitment experience for students and greater financial certainty for your university.  

To find out more about the SAS Customer Intelligence platform or to book a 30-minute discovery call, please contact me at or visit 



About Author

Harry Clarke

Working with public sector organisations in order to prove the value of analytics, SAS UK

Harry works with higher education institutions across the UK in order to deliver the value of analytics to the student journey, advocating innovative approaches to maximising the value of data. He is passionate about lending his voice to the opportunities that emerge for universities through embracing data-driven decision making and putting the student at the heart of everything that they do.

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