About the client
Open Colleges is a leading online educational institution, specialising in vocational courses. Part of the Apollo Education Group, they offer more than 100 qualifications to (predominantly) domestic students within the Australian market.
Open Colleges came to us in September 2017 with challenges stemming from the increasingly competitive industry in which they operate. They were spending millions of dollars each month on marketing initiatives to try and hold their position within the market and hit their lead generation KPIs.
To remain viable as a business, they needed to establish new ways of reducing cost per acquisition to a maintainable level. Being a publicly listed company added an extra layer of complexity as Open Colleges was facing increased revenue targets, while costs needed to remain the same or reduce.
The business had one quarter to bring their acquisition costs down before the peak period of January to March.
Dirty data and a lack of platform integration made it impossible to understand customers and improve lead quality properly
Open Colleges came to In Marketing We Trust with one key goal in mind: use data to reduce costs. To achieve this goal, several challenges needed to be solved.
Stop dirty data collection due to incorrect tagging and data capture
Open Colleges were spending more than $1 million per month to attract qualified leads. However, some of the users landing on site from ads were existing leads. Data quality was low due to poor tagging, which made it difficult to distinguish these from new prospects.
Overall data quality and integrity were devalued due to a lack of resources, technical support, governance, and maintenance; and the team were spending a significant amount of time finding and correcting errors, cleaning and organising data, and creating ad hoc reports. A lot of time was wasted hunting for usable data rather than improving performance.
Create integration between Salesforce, Google Analytics, Google Ads, and Facebook platforms
The lack of integration between their CRM (Salesforce) and their analytics tool (Google Analytics) made it impossible to effectively identify the correct source of a lead and more importantly, data was not flowing back to Ads platforms such as Google Ads and Facebook.
As In Marketing We Trust’s Chief Innovation Officer, Frederic Chanut points out “Adobe and Google premium products promise painless integration, but the challenge is almost always a data quality issue and overly complicated setup.” And this was certainly the case for Open Colleges.
Create automation to improve lead scoring and target lists
Additionally, lead scoring and automation processes needed to be implemented to show Open Colleges which leads were prospective students, existing leads, or even current students. Considerable manual effort was required to create static targeting and exclusion lists. Due to the time required (more than 2 days of manual work each month), this process was ad hoc and rarely updated.
Essentially, Open Colleges needed a single source of truth for their data that was accurate and insightful.
Our data is more critical than most of us give it credit for, and analysis is much harder than most of us appreciate. Additionally, trust in data is like trust in anything: easy to lose and hard to gain. For these reasons, an analytics implementation that evolves to keep pace with the ever-changing world is vital.
Integrating platforms to create a robust analytics implementation that provides quality insights and direction for the sales and marketing teams.
We approached Open Colleges’ challenges with the philosophy that marketers need to engage their customers with the right message, at the right time, on the right device, with the right contextual cues. So we set about creating a strategy that would combine the digital data sets from Analytics and customer identity data from Salesforce, via their Data Management Platform (DMP) to provide quality insights, help automate processes, and unite marketing and sales efforts.
Key elements of the plan included:
- Adjusting web forms: to ensure useful data was collected for lead scoring and reporting
- Configuring Salesforce: linking data from Analytics and Salesforce to create a clearer picture for each contact
- Integrating systems: to allow Salesforce and Google Analytics to talk to each other
- Collecting data analytics: determining which pieces of data needed to move from Google Analytics to Salesforce for a full view of customer activity
- Transferring lead qualification data: from Salesforce to Google Analytics when a lead was qualified
- Lead scoring: using BigQuery (machine learning) to automate the lead scoring process and reduce manual handling
- Building audiences: to feed into paid platforms for better targeting
- Creating exclusion lists: for use in Facebook, Google Ads, and Google Marketing Platform Campaign Manager to ensure existing customers weren’t advertised to
Like many businesses, marketing used one source of data (Google Analytics), while sales used another (Salesforce), which lead to a siloed, incomplete view into the customer journey. Our solution used integration to combine the data from both platforms to provide a holistic view for the team.
Taking a multi-step approach
The first step we took was an audit of Open Colleges current analytics. This allowed us to reconfirm goals and objectives with the business and gain a complete understanding of the Open Colleges analytics landscape. Understanding their needs allowed us to plan for better data inputs for advanced techniques like attribution modelling and machine learning.
Then, so that we could begin building new infrastructure and integration between platforms, we needed to clean the data.
We worked with Salesforce and Bohemia to design a solution that met Open Colleges’ needs and approval, with implementation occurring on each end.
Using Salesforce DMP, we created a 2-way connection between Google Analytics and Salesforce to improve the reliability of the data, which freed up time for the sales team as they could now focus on following up on hot leads.
We used BigQuery/Data Prep machine learning to automate the lead scoring process, powered by the data that was fed through from Open Colleges existing tools (Google Analytics and Salesforce).
And finally, we were able to place a member of the In Marketing We Trust team in the Open Colleges offices to support the marketing team in focusing on analytics activity to execute our strategy. Adding headcount in this way, enabled Open Colleges to focus on what they do best, while we added value in the areas we excel at.
Note: At the time there was no native integration between the two platforms, although a feature that allowed for this was released in January of 2019. We worked with Salesforce developers to create and implement the best fit-for-purpose solution.
Combining cross-platform data allows you to gain insight into the touchpoints a customer interacted with before converting. Understanding how each touchpoint performs is vital for any marketing team.
Working with Salesforce and Open Colleges allowed us to identify existing leads and create an exclusion list with an automated connection to bidding platforms, reducing wastage on ad spend.
Enabling Open Colleges to overachieve on their goals and refine processes to ensure future success.
We were able to assist Open Colleges in achieving their goals and make a $200,000 per month saving on media fees, by implementing an analytics strategy that drove insights and helped to understand their customers better.
We were able to make significant changes to the existing analytics platforms by:
- Reducing the number of tags by 16 per cent
- Redefining 25 per cent of triggers
- Reducing the number of variables by 50 per cent
And finally, ran workshops to share our knowledge and build up competencies within the Open Colleges team on best practices that resulted in long-lasting process change and vastly improved monitoring.
in savings each month
saved in reporting time per month
media fees saved on average each month
decrease in duplicate lead generation
Open Colleges selected us because of our deep expertise in analytics, data, and search. Our ability to work with all stakeholders, from the CMO to technical/development teams ensured that the correct configuration would be implemented.
With the ability to place a team member inside the Open Colleges marketing team 3-4 days per week to assist with the implementation, we were able to not only provide recommendations but actively work with their technical and marketing teams, joining their scrum, and push through the implementation in a very short amount of time.
Thanks to the rapid implementation cycle, Open Colleges was able to make the necessary changes within a quarter, and generate savings during their peak period.