Western Sydney Uni's evolving personalisation approach

Uni talks through how it's revamped its digital marketing and engagement approach

In the increasingly competitive world of higher education, marketing plays a vital role in driving recruitment of new students.

And when the target audience is one that has grown up with an expectation of personalised service, that raises the bar in terms of not only the quality of the offers universities make to would-be students, but how those offers are made.

For Western Sydney University executive director of marketing and communication, Damien Bellew, meeting the expectations of would-be students has led to significant investments in the Adobe marketing technology stack.

"A lot of effort goes into planning how we make that experience as seamless as possible," Bellew says. "We had worked with some partners over the years to help us develop an experience we think is very solid and something to be proud of, and then we also acknowledge there is room for improvement."

Keen to ensure the offer process was as smooth and compelling as possible, Western Sydney University turned to its trusted marketing technology partner, Anchora, and its chief growth officer, Nick Jia, to lead an examination and revamp.

"We needed a partner who had a necessary depth of talent and a pragmatic delivery attitude to help us fill in some of the capability gaps that we had within our team," Bellew says. "And second, we had a really strong aspiration to do something bold and be in market six weeks early than we previously had been."

Traditionally, Western Sydney University had made offers to students in the period immediately prior to Christmas, to coincide with the main round offers being issued. Now, however, a decision had been taken to be in market by November 11, while also revamping the offer process.

Bellew says the goal was to provide much greater personalisation, such that the university better understood who it was interacting with, and to provide them with appropriate guidance.

"What we were looking to do was add additional steps to the marketing automation piece, so we could have a sense of confidence that we would be targeting the correct students in the correct audience and be delivering the correct message such they could respond, interact, and complete the journey – or if they needed additional support, that was available to them as well," Bellew says.

"We think that is a really compelling proposition which reinforces the notion that Western has a genuine care for our students and their wellbeing."

As a result of the work completed so far, Bellew is confident Western Sydney University is delivering a strong experience with broader reach, backed by greater levels of marketing automation delivering content that is better tailored to the needs of individuals.

"Those activities are tactical elements of a broader strategy to support the student as they prepare to study, and for us, that is measured in the extent to which students choose to study with us," Bellew says. "It is building on this increased expectation from an audience that has grown up with an expectation that you should know them and be able to tailor messaging and an experience that gives them a level of comfort that you are going to support them on this journey."

Bellew has had a somewhat unorthodox path into his current role, having originally joined the university in 2015 with a background in technical project leadership with the Commonwealth Bank and Accenture.

That background had made him the ideal person to assist with the initial implementation of the Adobe Marketing Cloud, and over time his responsibilities have expanded to take on an operations role within marketing, ahead of his most recent promotion in April 2020.

"There is some value in it (the technical background), because you have an understanding of the challenges that the delivery teams are going through," Bellew says. "You also have a sense of understanding of when someone perhaps isn’t clear on expectations and what’s required, so you can jump in an assist."





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