26 50

CMO50 2016 #26-50: Andrea Turley, Australian Catholic University

  • Name Andrea Turley
  • Title Director, marketing and external relations
  • Company Australian Catholic University
  • Commenced role October 2014
  • Reporting Line Chief operating officer
  • Member of the Executive Team No
  • Marketing Function Not disclosed
  • Industry Sector Education
  • 2015 ranking New to CMO50
  • Brand Post

    Winning the hearts and minds of customers needs to be at the core of business strategy. And it is the role of the CMO to represent the voice of the customer and drive customer-first thinking, according to Australian Catholic University’s former marketing leader, Andrea Turley.

    One of the ways she sought to achieve this during her time at ACU is through a segmentation strategy to better define the ACU customer including their drivers, behaviours, motivators and expectations. Three priority market segments were identified, and an evidence-based approach using qualitative and quantitative inputs informed the strategy.

    Using social media and online forums, ACU then tested messaging and design during campaign activity to determine impact on the market, validity, and ability to influence.

    The review of customer behaviours informed the business’ understanding of path to purchase, creating a more informed go-to-market strategy for brand and acquisition campaigns. It also led Turley to proudest moment in the last 12 months: Building and leading an enthusiastic and passionate team to deliver innovative and effective marketing strategy.

    “This was done by working across the business to deliver superior customer and stakeholder experiences, and representing the voice of the customer to inform and influence business strategy,” she says.

    From the CMO50 submission

    Innovative marketing

    Extensive research on customer needs and wants, behaviours, pain points, and path to purchase were key to the rollout of an Australian Catholic University (ACU) customer acquisition and relationship management strategy, commencing with a key acquisition event, the University Open Days.

    Recognising the need for a cultural shift within the organisation from siloed delivery to coordinated and superior customer experiences, the University’s 2016 Open Day events were used as a change agent, leading with a digital-first approach to deliver an Open Day microsite, app, and customer engagement strategy.

    A big challenge was rolling out six Open Day events across campuses located in Queensland, NSW, ACT and Victoria. Turley says geo-mapping, social media insights and customer preference information allowed the team to tailor content to be delivered in relation to location and preferred product.

    The mobile app supported this journey, providing customers with the option to design their day and plan their itinerary, take personalised campus tours, participate in event highlights and activities, develop social connections with ACU staff and students, and engage in real-time chats and instant messaging.

    In advance, customer engagement was driven via an email and social strategy. In order to maximise customer retention, the app provided information on the University application process highlighting key milestones and delivering push notifications.

    On the day, digital innovation was also apparent through the use of state-of-the-art EED technology. Event visitors could engage in neuromedic activity, which reads brainwaves to identify how an individual responds in an emergency situation. Digital pods were also set up on campus containing headsets and a monitor, allowing participants to engage in the game, receive a report on their interaction, then share these across social media.

    All of this led to double-digit percentage increases in attendance and unpredecented app and website engagement, Turley says.

    Empowered business thinking

    Upon joining ACU, Turley identified a need for the organisation to commit to two key business initiatives: Brand and digital transformation.

    In 2016, ACU launched a digital transformation strategy aimed at delivering personalised, seamless and meaningful experiences in order position itself as the institution of choice. Turley says the organisation recognised the need for digital to be integrated within the business driving and supporting the core activity and initiatives including brand experience, operational activity, finance, customer relations and other areas.

    Using an evidence-based approach, research was undertaken across brand and digital, and a broad stakeholder base was consulted including prospective students, current students, influencers, alumni, industry, sector and youth experts, and staff.

    Buy in from the vice-chancellor, board, senior executive, senior management and the marketing team then ensured the broader organisation was involved via a top down and bottom up approach. Internal stakeholders were engaged in all phases of work, and Turley says an emphasis was placed on increasing staff understanding and capability. This has resulted in a digitally aware and savvy workforce.

    Data- and technology-driven approach

    A key deliverable of ACU’s digital transformation was to review and enhance the customer relationship management plan, develop a vision and strategy, and define the role of technology as a critical tool to house and consolidate multiple data sets.

    A change in culture towards the CRM was required to achieve such success, Turley says.

    “Previous implementation had been led by siloed organisational business unit access to and interaction with the system,” she explains. “In 2016, this changed to a focus on identifying key organisation-wide functions enabled by CRM and a plan for delivering on each.”

    To date, the tertiary institution has lifted the focus on the functions of customer acquisition and engaging with the University’s alumni community with intent to increase philanthropic activity.

    Fostering capability

    To successfully embed marketing across ACU, Turley undertook a review of the role of the function within the organisation, staff capability and the marketing strategy. She then led an internal engagement strategy to develop a marketing framework that defined the role of marketing and key deliverables over three years.

    “Staff were engaged throughout this process, ensuring they were empowered to own, drive and innovate in their area of responsibility,” she says.

    Internal staff surveys highlight the success of the initiative, with a 40 per cent increase in feedback from peers highlighting a favourable/positive response to the work undertaken by marketing.

    A focus on real-time insights informs the marketing strategy, supported by a culture of test-and-learn. Using agile methodology delivered through sprints allows for beta testing of digital initiatives from first prototype to multiple releases, Turley says, while real-time insights inform each phase of deliver, ensuring a superior product.

    “Customer demand for product is tracked across in market activity and course application numbers, and the sales funnel is used to identify key pain points in the path to purchase,” she continues.

    Off the back of this, a review of product line was initiated due to decreasing customer interest over a two-year period. In-market activity was reviewed real time, with adjustments in channels, messaging and design to better target the market. Social channels are also monitored continuously to determine customer sentiment towards the ACU and competitor product.


    The higher education sector is an increasingly competitive global marketplace, making a clear value proposition and unique customer experience an imperative, Turley says. This requires customer-led creativity.

    The launch of the digital and brand transformation strategies showcased the need to drive an experience design approach and helped align ACU staff to a common vision and approach.

    It’s also important the brand story gets delivered through meaningful customer experiences across digital and physical, and digital is now recognised as a platform of choice for the ACU customer, Turley says.

    “Customer journey mapping highlighted the key pain points and opportunities informing the digital roadmap,” she says. “Steered by a prioritisation matrix informed by customer insights, business readiness, impact, and resourcing, the roadmap outlined of a program of work to enhance core activity and deliver on digital innovations.”

    *Turley left ACU in August 2016.

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