Arkansas 529 Marketing Case Study
Utilizing Technology to Market to New Audiences
Technology is an important tool to communicate with target audiences. But how do you know what technology to use, and more importantly, how do you measure its effectiveness in meeting your state’s business objectives? In today’s internet age, online tools like social media, in-bound digital strategies and apps are effective ways to reach key stakeholders. As with all marketing, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Different technologies should be deployed depending on where audiences are in the marketing funnel.
Are your key publics at the awareness phase, the consideration phase or are they ready to open an account? What tactics and KPI’s are you using? It’s important to be strategic with your marketing resources to ensure your Program is moving audiences from awareness to consideration to action.
In 2016, Arkansas 529 approached Mangan Holcomb Partners/Team SI (MHP/SI) about raising awareness with prospective account holders in Arkansas. To achieve this goal, MHP/SI created an integrated marketing strategy utilizing traditional media, social media, digital media and public relations efforts to engage with audiences in authentic ways.The following case study identifies online technologies that should be considered for reaching target audiences at each phase of the marketing funnel:
Business Goal: Arkansas 529 wanted to raise awareness with prospective account holders, parents of children ages newborn to eight and grandparents 50+. In order to achieve this goal, MHP/SI recommended utilizing social media, as well as owned channels and paid digital media strategies as tools to reach target audiences across the state.
Communications Objective #1: Launch a Facebook page and gain 5,000 followers.
- MHP/SI created an organic and paid social media strategy, with a key focus on creating authentic, engaging content.
- Tools Utilized to Raise Awareness: Facebook, Instagram, Website, Paid Social Media Ads
- KPIs: Social Media Followers, Increase in Engagement, Website traffic generated from social media.
Communications Objective #2: Better utilize Arkansas 529 website and online tools to raise awareness and garner interest, ultimately increasing new accounts.
- MHP/SI conducted a website audit and prescribed a formula to reach audiences via Arkansas 529 owned channels.
- Tools Utilized to Drive Web Traffic: Display ads, behavioral targeting, Search Engine Marketing, retargeting ads.
- KPIs: Impressions, Clicks, Website Traffic, Fillable Forms
How to Utilize the Power of Social Media
There is a reason marketers say “content is king.” Audiences are hungry for authentic, engaging content. People seek out authentic content and dismiss any content deemed as dull and unoriginal. Plus, authentic content is a great way to raise awareness and capture audiences attention to move them through the marketing funnel.
So how do you break through the noise of all the online content and make your 529 program stand out? MHP/SI worked with Arkansas 529 to create a social media formula balancing engaging videos and photography, as well using the power of storytelling to tell real stories about real people underlining why they chose an Arkansas 529 plan. The agency developed a content calendar mapping out a mix of user generated content, industry articles, Arkansas 529 thought leadership articles and news stories.
When creating a content calendar, it’s important to plan in advance, but still leave opportunities for fresh, engaging and in-the-moment content. User-generated content is a great way to keep content fresh and authentic. Knowing this, MHP/SI worked with Arkansas 529 to develop a social media contest for the Kids of Summer, where Facebook and Instagram users would submit photos of their kids enjoying summer for a chance to win an Arkansas 529 scholarship and other great prizes. The agency used a mix of organic and boosted posts to expand reach. As a result, Arkansas 529 achieved its goal of securing 5,000 Facebook followers within the first year!
Why Owned Media Channels Are Important
When marketing to prospective account holders, don’t dismiss the power of your owned media channels, such as your website, app, e-newsletter, texting platform, etc. These are powerful tools to engage with audiences, raise awareness for your program and provide breadcrumbs to move audiences through the funnel. Because these tools are so powerful, and in fact essential it today’s internet age, it’s vital that programs understand the user experience/user journey to better understand how a Program can use its owned media channels to market effectively to prospective account holders.
Because owned media channels are essential to marketing efforts, MHP/SI conducted an audit of the Arkansas 529 website to take a deep dive look into how audiences use the site and identified opportunities for improvement. Using Google Analytics, the agency was able to determine which pages had the highest bounce rate, determine the type of content people were most interested in, identified Search Engine Optimization (SEO) shortfalls that were impacting organic rankings, identified how users were getting to the site (whether organically or through marketing efforts). Based on the audit, MHP/SI prescribed a strategy to improve website content, prioritized pages based on traffic and bounce rate. As a result, bounce rate decreased to 20% (performing better than the national average) and time spent on site increased month to month.
Harnessing Paid Digital Media Strategies To Move Prospective Account Holders Through the Marketing Funnel
In 2016, Arkansas 529 and MHP/SI focused primarily on raising awareness. In 2017, the objective evolved to moving prospective account holders from awareness all the way through the marketing funnel to action. To do so, the agency created a digital strategy comprised of display ads, retargeting ads, behavioral ads and geofence ads driving traffic to the Arkansas 529 website, landing pages and fillable forms. As a result, 63% of website traffic to the Arkansas 529 website were new visitors, and Arkansas 529 saw an increase in new accounts by 15%.
- Increased awareness by more than 800% via Social media
- Increased new visitors to the website to 63% on average each month
- Increased overall website traffic by 10% on average month over month
- Maintained a bounce rate of 20% each month, performing better than the national average
- Increased new monthly accounts holders by 30%
Interested in achieving similar results for your 529 organization? Click here to learn about our 529 marketing services and reach out today!
Contact Emma Willis at [email protected]
Emma has been with the Arkansas State Treasurer since 2009 starting in IT and eventually moving on to work with the Arkansas 529 GIFT College Investing Plan. For over 10 years, she has dedicated her skills to the expansion of the state's 529 college savings plans. Her approach to this comes with an eye for marketing and knowledge as a Business Administration student.
Originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, Emma holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Philander Smith College. Her mission is to help grow our state's economic infrastructure by empowering families with the financial tools and knowledge they need to empower their families and surrounding communities.