MIT Sloan Executive Education (MITSEE) offers non-degree programs for executives and organizations around the world. The primary objective of their marketing and business development team is to drive new participants to their programs and encourage ongoing participation and continued enrollment among past participants and companies, driving greater customer lifetime value (CLV).
When analyzing the MITSEE customer journey during the initial phases of the collaboration, our Smart Panda Labs team found the following pain points that interfered with this ultimate goal.
- Awareness: Few efforts were being made to build awareness for the program overall, leaving the top of the funnel neglected.
- Consideration: The high level of spend across their search engine marketing channels attracted high levels of unqualified traffic, increasing costs per acquisition and negatively impacting marketing ROI. At the same time, prospect campaigns were not strategic and lacked personalization, leading to low engagement and falling short of conversion goals.
- Decision: The site analytics revealed that a number of elements in the user experience on the main website – the primary channel for course registration – interfered with the ability to enter and move through the conversion funnel, thus impeding registration.
- Retention: Database marketing campaigns were not segmented and lacked both personalization and automation, leading to low engagement and insufficient repeat registrations. Meanwhile, campaign metrics (CTR, Attribution, Conversion Rates) indicated that remarketing efforts to past participants were poorly designed and loosely targeted.
- Advocacy: While MITSEE had been gathering input from past participants and share their experiences with prospective and past participants via their blog, they had not been taking advantage of other channels to build advocacy.
Our team focused on understanding the participant, whether prospective or past. Who are they? Why are they interested in executive education? How can their journey be improved and simplified? And how can we leverage what we know about past participants to help us attract more prospects?
From there, we built an omni-channel marketing program designed to improve the customer journey while maximizing MITSEE’s marketing spend. Using a Lean methodology, we iterated our experiments after each initial pain point was addressed. We applied creative intelligence to the results, digging beneath the metrics to understand user motivation and preferences, continually personalizing the campaigns to drive improvements.
MITSEE was able to start building awareness without incremental budget (see Consideration). Using savings from the SEM budget to drive awareness, they were able to start building the funnel from the top, leveraging channels like social advertising where they were able to target based on demographics, firmographics, interests, and other factors. This led to thousands of new leads and email subscribers, generating an 111% increase in the database.
By being more targeted on the intent of prospects and focusing on managing to the point of diminishing returns, MITSEE was able to reduce overall SEM spend. Despite a 56% decrease in spend, SEM campaigns delivered a 67% increase in conversion rate and a 54% decrease in CPA.
Simultaneously, the marketing team leveraged the increased database to deliver strategic campaigns including personalization and various deployment tactics. This increased engagement (unique clicks) by 107%, driving more qualified traffic into the Decision stage.
Several pain points on the website were addressed, from calls-to-action throughout the site to efficacy of product pages. For example, in recognizing that visitors on the site who created an account were 1000x more likely to register, MITSEE tested a new design for the initial page in the program registration process that drove a 28% increase in new account creation.
By segmenting the database and automating key communication campaigns, MITSEE was able to drive a 21% increase in CTR on email communications. This move enabled greater exposure to additional courses, resulting in an increase in enrollment. Re-marketing campaigns were also audited and rebuilt, leading to an 89% decrease in spend due to better targeting and improved creative assets, with notable decreases in CPC (-74%) and CPA (-70%).
Participant interviews were increased, and the ways in which these stories were shared (and used to inform decision making) were broadened. Participant experiences are now shared across the website, landing pages, social, and email, where they continue to prove beneficial to engagement and loyalty.
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