8 Tips For Launching An Education Digital Personalisation Strategy

[Don’t miss Stephen’s ‘Digital Personalisation Strategy’ for Schools & Colleges half-day Masterclass workshopbook now.]

How To Develop A Digital Personalisation Strategy…

‘Personalisation’ has been the big buzz word in digital marketing for some time and continues to be a major talking point within the industry… you’ve probably heard that personalisation can massively help user engagement, conversion and overall brand loyalty.

How can you use personalisation in your School, College or University?

Here are 8 tips for launching a personalisation strategy in your institution:

Tip 1 – Understand your audience

Personalisation means offering relevant content to your users at the right time.

In order to serve users with content personalised to them you need to know who they are and what they’re motives are for visiting your website.

So… the first thing you need to accomplish on your personalisation journey is getting to know your users.

This can be most effectively achieved quantitively and qualitatively.

Quantitively look at your data, what is it telling you? What are your most popular pages? Do different target audiences behave differently? Males? Females? Old? Young? Do demographics change the needs and behaviour of your audience?

Qualitatively – book some ‘user testing’ sessions if you have the opportunity. These are unique opportunities to get to know your target audience well, and to understand intricate needs that manifest themselves over the course of the user testing sessions.

Tip 2 – Create Personas

Once you have a deeper understanding of who your users are, you can begin to have some fun. A great way to start a user (customer) personalisation strategy is to create Personas for each type of (target) customer… parents, pupils/students, alumni etc.

Taking the learnings from your customer research it is useful to find similarities between users and then segment them accordingly. For example, how might basic Persona’s (of parents, pupils/students etc) differ further? Would a parent/student from an affluent background be looking for the same content as a parent/student from a less affluent background?

Play with your Personas… begin to focus and refine the relatively generic Personas you created initially, developing more specific Personas.

Once you have a number of Personas that you and your team are happy with, run them past other people within your School, College or University before finalising them.

Tip 3 – Define your goals

As with any project, you need to understand what you’re hoping to achieve from implementing personalisation across one or more of your communication channels.

Ask yourself what you want to achieve?

For example:

  • Increased user engagement?
  • Email subscriptions?
  • Increased retention?
  • Increased applications?

What does ‘good’ look like?

Tip 4 – Review your data

Data has to drive your personalisation strategy. The more you know about your users, the more you learn, the more relevant and engaging the content you can present to them.

It is important to understand what data you currently have available. Where does it come from? What does each feed of data contain and how is this relevant to your audience? If you have more than one source of data, will you use just one or a combination of each?

Identify the data that is most relevant to your audience and the goals you identified at the start of this process. Ask yourself how this data will be useful and ‘park’ any data that doesn’t offer a benefit to personalisation.

Tip 5 – Pick your technology

When all the hard work has been done understanding your audience and the data that’s available to you it will be necessary to pick a suitable platform to deliver personalisation.

There are a vast number of options to choose from, and this process can easily become overwhelming.

I would suggest selecting a platform that’s most ready to use personalisation.

If you are already using an advanced email CRM system then this is a great place to start.

Or if you are already using an A/B testing tool such as Dynamic Yield or Optimizely, then you might start with the web.

Alternatively, and depending on available budgets and in-house expertise, creating your own personalisation engine could be an effective approach.

Tip 6 – Define your rules

At this point you should know who you are going to personalise to and how you’re going to reach them.

The next step is to determine how you will target them. For this you will need to define some rules. At a very basic level a rule might be:

“When segment X visits the website serve them content Y.”

Here are some tips to get started with defining some personalisation rules:

  • Start small – maybe focus on just one segment first.
  • What triggers the personalisation? A page view? A specific action?
  • When triggered, what content should be presented?
  • What design will it have?
  • What will be the frequency of the content presentation – avoid repetition.

Tip 7 – Identify the ‘quick wins’

Given that Rome wasn’t built in a day… if you try to launch a fully featured personalisation engine from the start you will be setting yourself up for failure.

Instead reflect on your plan. Remind yourself what you set out to achieve and the results you hoped to see.

Take a look over your intended deliverables and decide on which piece of work requires the smallest amount of effort for the largest impact. This is most likely your starting point.

Tip 8 – Launch, test and learn

The beauty of starting small and building up a personalisation strategy iteratively is that you’re constantly learning and adapting your approach.

You should launch a minimum viable product, test it, learn from the results and adapt your roll-out plan appropriately.

To this point your personalisation strategy has been based on research and theory, but starting small you can then learn from how the users interact with your new technology and adapt your strategy accordingly.

Reaching your final goal may take slightly longer this way but you may find your end goals changing, based on user behaviour.

As long as you continue to learn and evolve your personalisation strategy you should find success.

Digital Personalisation Strategy – Masterclass workshop

For more tips and techniques, insights and ideas please join us for the EMCdigital ‘Digital Personalisation Strategy’ for Schools & Colleges half-day Masterclass workshop I will be delivering as part of the EMCdigital Masterclass programme.

For information and to book your place please see the ‘Digital Personalisation Strategy’ for Schools & Colleges workshop description.

See you there.

Steve Cathcart
(Digital Personalisation Consultant and Head of Digital Marketing at The Student Room Group)

Do join us for our expanded Masterclass programme and book soon (places are limited to small groups for the benefit of all participants).

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