Earlier this week, I learned about the University of California’s increased marketing efforts to promote their available online courses.

Here is an excerpt:

“In an effort to show off its array of online courses, the University of California has poured millions of dollars into promoting its UC Online system. But as the San Francisco Chronicle reports, only one person from outside the UC system has taken a class.

For its operating costs, UC Online took out a $6.9 million loan from UC. Since the earliest meetings in 2010, it has spent about $5 million, with most going to a marketing company.”

Without any intimate knowledge on hand, it’s hard to say how something like this could happen. However, we can recommend a process to ensure it doesn’t happen in the future, and it all comes down to tracking campaigns and proper segmentation.

First, let’s address the campaign. The article goes on to explain how the University of California generated a good deal of interest in online courses with current students, but not much with potential students. It is imperative that initial audience segmentation be performed so that separate campaigns can be created and designed to drive both current students and new enrollment separately.

This allows for the following:

  1. Targeted content designed for each segment
  2. The ability to track conversions back to persona / segment
  3. Proper optimization of campaigns
  4. Testing of long tail vs. short tail terms
  5. Ease of testing different traffic mediums (search, display, email)
      Define which channels or combination of channels speak to your audience segments best
      Eliminate wasteful spending with data

After creating separate campaigns and monitoring the success of each, it is time to look at overall tracking. Unfortunately, the bad practice of using cost per lead or even cost per click as marketing campaigns KPIs is still prevalent. While both can be a good source of directional insight, they are by no means a best practice solution for KPI tracking.

To be effective, tracking needs to address enrollments, sales, and sign ups. Whatever the final conversion is, it is crucial that you track your campaigns at these core levels. You can then tie specific enrollments back to the campaigns and see if you are indeed driving the type of traffic you segmented for. If so, start to focus on finding additional scale. If not, focus on the segmentation and see what is driving what. In keeping with this process, you will make solid decisions based on data before you ever spend money.