Geofencing Helps College Target Students

By Ellen Ullman

Northwest Iowa Community College shares its experience with marketing’s latest trend.

Last year, when Kristin Kollbaum first heard about geofencing — the use of global positioning or radio-frequency identification to define a geographic boundary and send messages to smartphone users — she was immediately intrigued.

“My budget was set for the year, but I knew I wanted to try it, so I put the idea in my back pocket,” says Kollbaum, director of marketing and communications for Northwest Iowa Community College (NCC). “When some grant money became available later that year, I knew right away that I’d earmark it for this.”

Four months later, Sioux Center Hospital (SCH) reached out about creating certified nursing assistant (CNA) classes at the hospital. Because of the area’s low unemployment rate, the positions are tough to fill.

With a vendor, Kollbaum created a marketing campaign that used geofencing. She set it up so that when people who lived within 60 miles of SCH went online, they would see ads about the CNA courses and job placement.

“You can get very specific,” she says. “I picked the times I wanted the ads served and also geofenced workforce and development centers a little further away from the hospital.”

Kollbaum developed a landing page that advertised a CNA informational meeting, which was attended by 35 people.

“The click-through rates [CTRs] for this campaign were 0.73 percent, which is unbelievable,” Kollbaum says. “The whole campaign cost $1,200, and we ran two full CNA classes. It was fantastic.”

Since that time, Kollbaum has used geofencing in CNA campaigns for two other hospitals. She had a little less freedom with the campaign messaging but still generated CTRs of 0.66 percent and 0.39 percent.

Other opportunities for geofencing

Kollbaum also used geofencing to recruit students for three-credit courses at NCC during the winter break. To current students at Iowa State University, South Dakota State University, the University of Iowa and two local liberal arts colleges, she fenced messaging about picking up a class they couldn’t fit into their normal schedules.

Most recently, Kollbaum used geofencing to recruit students for the college’s five smallest programs. She worked with the alumni department to develop 15-second pre-rolls (the short video that plays at the beginning of a video) featuring successful alumni from each program.

Through geofencing and data mining, she was able to serve the pre-rolls to young adults in a handful of ZIP codes who searched for YouTube videos and other select websites.

“In March, the pre-rolls were shown 28,209 times, and 472 people clicked for more information, for a click-through of 1.67 percent,” Kollbaum says. “We’re very happy with that.” The average CTR for geofencing campaigns is 0.82 percent, based on data from 10,000 real ad campaigns gathered by analytics company LSA Insights.

Tips for successful geofencing

Since geofencing is the latest marketing buzzword, many vendors are trying to sell it. Kollbaum, who worked with one vendor who didn’t execute properly, suggests interviewing vendors’ past and current clients to be sure the company can do more than just use the proper jargon.

“I spent two to three months interviewing companies to find the right match,” she says. “Some of them don’t have the expertise needed for this work.”

Kollbaum also recommends regularly reviewing the analytics to ensure your ad is driving the action you want. If your numbers aren’t where you want them, consider revising the ad.

“With shrinking budgets, everyone needs to be more accountable,” Kollbaum says. “Geofencing lets me see what my marketing dollars are going toward; it’s tangible.”

Ellen Ullman

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.

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