Freed-Hardeman University is a private Christian university with over 20 graduate programs, including one of only three Doctorate of Behavioral Health programs in the country. While the graduate admissions team made efforts to get the word out and reach prospective students, their marketing strategy felt like it was missing something. After enlisting the services of the Genius Monkey platform, the immediate results even took other departments in the university by surprise.
Reaching prospective students is a tall order when you don’t have big budgets and name recognition; most online graduate students search for a program within 150 miles of where they live, and FHU is located in rural West Tennessee.
In 2023, nationwide graduate student enrollments were declining. As a smaller private university, resources for fighting the decline were limited for the FHU graduate admissions department. Trent Adams, Director of Graduate Admissions, said “the market we’re in is so competitive; there are a few players out there that can afford to spend three times as much as we do on digital marketing efforts.”
Outspending the competition wasn’t an option, and setting up their own marketing team would rob them of precious ad spend; they decided to outsource their digital marketing efforts. Efficiency and flexibility were of the utmost importance, so they wanted to avoid costly long-term contracts and secure a positive ROI.
Freed-Hardeman University focused on these primary goals with their programmatic vendor:
- Build Awareness to Students
- Increase Applicants and Enrollment
- Work Within Restricted Budgets
Right away, it was clear that Genius Monkey’s pricing model was a perfect fit for FHU. Our platform operates on a pay-per-engagement system, which makes quality ad placement just as important for Genius Monkey as it is for the client.
Advertising to the right audience is just as important in efficiency; Genius Monkey set up FHU’s ads to target people who:
- Are looking for online graduate programs
- Are searching for Christian universities
- Have recently looked at competing school’s websites
- Live in locations near other students
- Have attended self-help style seminars
- Are doing some kind of graduate prep work
At first, Genius Monkey only deployed general display ads for promoting the graduate programs as a whole – this eventually shifted to advertising specific programs like the aforementioned Behavioral Health doctorate. It did not take long for the university to notice the results of embracing programmatic marketing.
After one month with Genius Monkey, graduate admissions saw:
- A 108% increase in visits to the graduate program page
- A 56% uptick in conversions
- A 57% increase in total site traffic
The increased traffic came so quickly that other departments in the university took notice. Shortly after beginning the campaign with Genius Monkey, an IT specialist at FHU noted “I don’t know what Graduate Admissions is doing, but the traffic they’re driving to the site is crazy”.
Nine months later, the university’s cost-per-conversion was down 89%, and continuing to grow more efficient the longer they use the Genius Monkey platform. Adams noted that interest had not only increased, but the conversion rate held. “That tells me that these aren’t just any leads, these were quality leads: the right-fit students who needed to find us.” He added, “The detailed reporting lets me easily see what kind of ROI we’re getting. Through the dashboard, I can track the campaign and see all the important metrics; CPC, click-through rates; anything that’s vital, you can see it.”
An independent, private university needed to optimize and maximize its marketing resources to build brand recognition and drive potential students to apply. Using the Genius Monkey platform, they were able to smartly place display ads in front of a specific audience who were looking for what FHU was offering. By working with the Genius Monkey team, their cost-per-conversion greatly decreased, the number of applicants rose, and the overall quality of generated leads increased.
Above all, Adams felt “like it was a genuine partnership. Nobody knows the advertising space like Genius Monkey, and no-one knows our students quite like we do. It’s been a great back-and-forth and combining our expertise has really made these campaigns effective.” Adams concluded, “I feel confident with Genius Monkey knowing they’ll spend what we give in a way that gets the best returns for us… it really feels like they’re just as invested in making this work as I am.”