What Open Colleges did to bolster marketing profitability

Head of digital acquisition shares important lessons in his latest efforts to grow the online provider's student conversion funnel

When you have more than 100 different products on offer, how do you decide which ones to focus your market efforts around? You can promote those that have the highest margins, but doing so might come at the expense of higher sales volumes from lower cost products.

This is the problem that faced Rakesh Vemu, head of digital acquisition for Open Colleges, an Australian online provider of more than 100 TAFE and other nationally-accredited courses.

Vemu’s role is to acquire active leads that are then passed over to a sales team to be converted into student enrolments. In recent years, however, that task has been made more difficult by a desire within the organisation to reign in its overall marketing spending.

“We spend up to 90 per cent of the budget on search, and it has proven itself over the years as a great channel for driving leads,” Vemu told CMO. “When I joined the business about a year ago, I wanted to make sure we are doing everything we can to make this and other channels as profitable as possible.

“The easiest way would be to put more budget to the most expensive products, but then there may not be as much demand for the most expensive products.”

A solution was needed that would enable Open Colleges to determine the ideal allocation of spending across its numerous courses. So Vemu briefed Open Colleges’ primary search advertising partner, Google, to help build a simple AI model that would enable him to weigh up the various internal data points, and enrich those with some external market data provided by Google.

“It was not humanly possible for myself and my team to cover all those data points, so we needed a layer of AI,” Vemu said.

An algorithm was created that could examine all data points and provide an output on how to spread the marketing budget to maximise profitability. This was ready in time for Open Colleges’ peak conversion period at the beginning of the following year, and was first deployed in January this year with immediate uplift to profitability on a year-on-year basis.

“For January we had a 90 per cent improvement in profitability,” Vemu said. “And then for February it was around the 60 per cent mark, because we had more competition in the market. It led to higher revenue and higher profitability from a lower budget, essentially helping me derive more from less.

“And that is where data democratisation was critical – in that, I was able to allow the right parties access to confidential business data along with Google providing the external market data that was used in the algorithm to spit out an ideal allocation of budget.”

By the end of March, however, improvement had fallen to 4 per cent. While this was still a good result from a decreased budget, Vemu said it provided an important learning. In both January and February, Open Colleges had been regularly feeding internal and external market data into the model during the month, but it only did so once in March.

“In a way it was good, because it proved the point you have got to be more real time with this,” Vemu said. “The real-time aspect of this whole exercise was manual, and my team had to put in that data and run the model to get the most real time recommendations out of it. What we are doing now is looking at building a more automated way of looking at the signals, and I am working with Google to automate that part.

“You’ve got to trust your partners. And if you empower your team and your partner with the right amount of data you can achieve some good results.”

Read more: Open Colleges weighs in on Salesforce Google Analytics partnership

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Latest Videos

More Videos

fdgfd www.google.com

Caroline Natalia

How WW shifted physical engagement to virtual success in 5 days

Read more

I found decent information in your article. I am impressed with how nicely you described this subject, It is a gainful article for us. Th...

Daniel Hughes

What 1800 Flowers is doing to create a consistent customer communications experience

Read more

Extremely informative. One should definitely go through the blog in order to know different aspects of the Retail Business and retail Tec...

Sheetal Kamble

SAP retail chief: Why more retailers need to harness data differently

Read more

It's actually a nice and helpful piece of info. I am satisfied that you shared this helpful information with us. Please stay us informed ...

FIO Homes

How a brand facelift and content strategy turned real estate software, Rockend, around

Read more

I find this very strange. The Coles store i shop in still has Flouro lights? T though this would have been the 1st thing they would have ...

Brad

Coles launches new sustainability initiative

Read more

Blog Posts

9 lessons from 7 months of relentless failure

The most innovative organisations embrace failure. Why? Because it is often through failing the most creative out-of-box thinking happens. And with it comes vital learning opportunities that bring new knowledge and experience into teams.

Jacki James

Digital product lead, Starlight Children's Foundation

Why conflict can be good for your brand

Conflict is essentially a clash. When between two people, it’s just about always a clash of views or opinions. And when it comes to this type of conflict, more than the misaligned views themselves, what we typically hate the most is our physiological response.

Kathy Benson

Chief client officer, Ipsos

Brand storytelling lessons from Singapore’s iconic Fullerton hotel

In early 2020, I had the pleasure of staying at the newly opened Fullerton Hotel in Sydney. It was on this trip I first became aware of the Fullerton’s commitment to brand storytelling.

Gabrielle Dolan

Business storytelling leader

Sign in