D is for Data

Over the past few years — I’ve heard the importance of data-driven decisions. However, I always found myself wondering what data? And what decisions?

In 2019, I did a presentation at the CASE IV Conference featuring this very topic. I talked about ways that universities could use data to make better decisions.

A Theme Emerges

In doing my dissertation research, I explored how marketing might be a means to overcome the enrollment cliff. One key theme that emerged was the importance of using data to support marketing efforts.

This aspect is one of my favorites, as I thoroughly love data. And, these insights gave me some additional thoughts of how data might be used.


Personalization involves using the data students have shared with us to craft an experience that is tailored to students and their specific interests.

It has to be specific to the student, their interests, their intended academic program, their geographic origin, and their academic background. We’ve already been forced to move toward having one-on-one conversations with 100,000 students at the same time, and I think that’s only going to continue as we near this cliff. 

Study Participant

Website Traffic

Looking at website traffic can also help determine key programs, key search terms, and key areas of interest for prospective students. Using website data can help in finding new students and identifying programs that should be promoted.

Data showed us we had a modest number of students coming from the area there. But once we started advertising there and engaging with the community more, right? I mean…we started advertising. We started showing our faces down there. We started visiting college fairs, all of that stuff, and that generated more interest. 

Study Participant

Student Data

A final type of data involves reviewing student data at the end of each year to determine learnings that can then be applied to marketing efforts in order to fine tune the marketing to be more effective moving forward.

We look at trends in current student data in an effort to understand why students did not stay at the institution. We try and dig deeper and find out if that’s a trend or if it’s just this one year or what. Then we adjust our marketing strategy based on those trends

Study Participant

Why Data Matters

Dollars are tight — using data intentionally can help save money and stretch the limited resources.

Competition is fierce — using data can help universities stand apart from the competition who takes a more generic approach.

Students expect it — most importantly, students expect their university interactions to be customized to them.

What are You Waiting On

The biggest reason people don’t start or don’t use data heavily is they’re not sure where to start or how to collaborate to do this work. I think the advice is start small. Start with areas you can control. And finally, start now.

I can’t wait to see how you use data !

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