Like many higher education marketing teams, the centralised marketing division at the University of Western Australia has been through a digital marketing transformation.
But according to head of digital and creative, Aaron Collyer, there is light at the end of the tunnel, with a new digital marketing and personalisation strategy set to culminate in the launch of a new Future Students website purpose-built for all prospective students later this year. The digital transformation follows a comprehensive research project, a restructure affecting the entire university, and a marketing technology stack review that will help to modernise UWA’s go-to-market approach.
Marketing department restructure: hub-and-spoke
The university already had a central Brand, Marketing and Recruitment team, but that has been expanded in the recent restructure and a hub-and-spoke model developed for marketing; the BMR team now works with satellite marketing teams located at new Service Delivery Centres established for each of the university’s four faculties (that number was reduced from nine prior to the restructure).
The difference with the new structure is that instead of reporting only to the head of the faculty, those marketing teams now report to director of Brand and Marketing, Peta Maddock. Maddock and Collyer — who heads a digital and internal creative agency team that will number 34 within the broader BMR central marketing division — report to chief marketing officer Karen Carriero, creating the opportunity for greater collaboration, communication and brand cohesion, as well as probable cost efficiencies, across all marketing activities.
Researching the student buyer journey
Collyer says UWA kicked off a research project through a long series of focus group-style interviews with prospective domestic and international students, first-years and post-graduate students. The goal? To examine how they researched university courses and made decisions about which university to attend, the issues that were important to them, and the types of tools they used.
“They wanted to find the information they needed about things like courses easily,” Collyer says. “The surprise was that everyone had a similar approach.”
UWA underwent a period of discovery, building out marketing personas and mapping student buyer journeys. The decision was made to create a new digital hub for prospective students under the Future Students banner offering course details, scholarships and other information that was important to them.
Digital marketing transformation through personalisation
The Future Students website will be personalised for domestic and international students, with the possibility of changing the message or language depending on the country from which international prospects are viewing the site.
“If we know a person’s coming from outside Australia, we won’t show a domestic message on the home page header hero section of the site,” Collyer says. “Next we can look at language or different messages for different countries. And if we know they’ve been researching post-graduate courses, we’ll show them content tailored for that.”
All students will be able to register to save relevant information, in the process populating a content recommendation engine. “We’ll have a student dashboard where they can create an account to start saving information,” Collyer says.
“We’ll supplement the content they have selected with other relevant content we’ll recommend. For example, if they’ve been researching a particular course, we’d be able to show them a video interview with a student who is taking that course.”
Once they become students of the university, they’ll be directed to another website.
Reviewing the martech stack
The new Future Students site relies on Sitecore’s CMS to offer a tailored content experience, but Collyer says it will be integrated with the university’s CRM and marketing automation provider. A number of marketing tools are under review or consideration, including a data management platform and a data visualisation provider, among others.
A more agile approach
“Some of the lessons we learned are that we probably spent too long trying to get everything perfectly right in terms of journey mapping and personas, then it took another year before we started implementing,” Collyer says.
“We’re looking at taking more of an agile approach: trying to do something quickly with that sort of information, even if it’s not for the bigger job.”
Gearing up the internal creative agency
Other lessons related to managing the amount of content that would be required to feed the hungry beast of a tailored website experience that offers different messages promoting a single product to different audiences.
“Once you start going into that tunnel you’re faced with the question of how many versions (of content) you’re going to have to create,” Collyer says. “We had to take a bit of a step back and adopt a model that was going to be realistic. We tried to identify key areas of the website where we thought personalisation was going to make a difference.”
UWA’s Digital and Creative team functions as an internal creative agency but Collyer says while staff from separate digital and print production teams were first brought together in 2015, it is still learning to behave like an agency culturally.
It is also in the process of gearing up staff-wise and in terms of technology to feed the content demands of a more personalised approach to digital marketing, and to service the broader UWA marketing structure, receiving stakeholder requests for marketing work and turning those around efficiently.
Aaron Collyer spoke about UWA’s digital marketing transformation at the Digital Marketing Strategies for Higher Education conference, sponsored by Simple.