The Kellogg School Finds the Right Mix of Paid and Organic Marketing on LinkedIn

March 9, 2016

In higher education marketing, the recipe for success is not so different from other verticals. Know your audience. Find efficient ways to reach them with a compelling message. Test towards success and scale what works.

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management is firing on all three cylinders with their mix of organic and paid marketing on LinkedIn that drives high performance for their Executive Education Program.

Kellogg’s Executive Education Program offers non-degree programs that range from broad topics like leadership to highly specific programs like supply chain management – enrolling more than 6,000 executives annually. LinkedIn helped solve two of Kellogg’s biggest challenges: finding the right people who are most likely to be interested in specific topics and educating them about the benefits of a non-degree program like this. 

“LinkedIn gives us the unparalleled ability to target the people that this program is designed to reach, maximizing our budgets,” said Gretchen Baker, Executive Development Advisor, Kellogg School of Management, Executive Education.

Know Your Audience: Understand Who You’re Reaching

When assessing their marketing mix to attract students for their Executive Education program, Kellogg’s marketing team knows that LinkedIn is home to a powerful business audience with unmatched targeting options. Through both organic and paid campaigns, they found the LinkedIn platform well-suited for keeping prospective students informed about the value of executive education in business.

Kellogg School of Management’s Sponsored InMail and Sponsored Update campaigns enabled granular targeting and testing to develop a dynamic communications approach — both reactively and proactively.

With this highly targeted approach, Baker and the Kellogg marketing team have the ability to fully understand and report the value of these marketing efforts. In a recent campaign, Kellogg’s Executive Education program earned nearly 40 percent additional media value from earned clicks, social actions, and follows.

“We consider LinkedIn a key partner in marketing any program. We’re using each message to discover if we’re getting in front of the right people, if they are opening the message, and if they are requesting a brochure,” Baker said. “We look at brochure requests. We even break leads out into the likelihood that they are to register.”

Baker added that, of the LinkedIn ad formats, “Sponsored InMail in particular gives us the right access to the right people to feed that pipeline.”

Efficient and Compelling Messaging: Connecting with the Professional Mindset

To actively engage an exclusive audience of senior executives, board members, and those striving to grow and improve specific skills, Kellogg relied on a combination of organic and paid content. “The mindset on LinkedIn allows us to write about our program, and the content is still relevant and valuable because it aligns with the aspirational mindset on LinkedIn,” says Michael Peck, Kellogg’s Content Strategist.

Organic posts build thought leadership through helpful career-oriented advice or timely industry articles. Regular engagement with organic content demonstrated immediately to Peck that the LinkedIn community was well-suited to Kellogg’s offerings.

After seeing results with LinkedIn’s self-service advertising platform, the school increased investment and worked with a dedicated account management team to implement A/B testing. Sponsored Updates extended their reach and effectiveness by delivering the right message to the right audiences with a strong call to action.

“In marketing it can be difficult to prove that your work is having a direct effect on business goals,” says Peck. “Sponsored Updates allow us to tie our efforts more closely to ROI than any organic content marketing.”

The resulting test data prepared Kellogg’s marketing team to create messaging and deploy highly specific targeting to best leverage Sponsored Updates and Sponsored InMail, building overall program awareness and driving quality leads among the right audience.

Strategic use of both ad units to build pipeline and deliver critical program details resulted in engagement and click-through rates two times that of LinkedIn benchmark data.

Experiment and Scale: A Well-Tested Marketing Strategy

Testing plays a big part in the marketing success for Kellogg’s Executive Education team. They consider every Sponsored InMail and Sponsored Update a test for evaluating messaging and targeting.

By testing what messaging works best with each product, Kellogg’s team discovered that offers and announcements are best served by Sponsored Updates.

“Sponsored Updates allow us to be both proactive and reactive. In terms of the reactive outreach, if we see that we’re going to have to put a bit more marketing muscle behind one program or another, we know we can get a well-crafted message out there quickly with Sponsored Updates,” Peck said. “I know I can put it in front of the right audience just as fast as I can type and click.”

Meanwhile, the marketing team found that news about open enrollment programs and long-lead communications were best delivered through Sponsored InMail. Sponsored InMail was used to introduce upcoming programs, deliver messages from instructors, or discuss the importance of Executive Education as a whole – providing a lead funnel to build future engagement with prospects.

Baker, Peck, and team rounded out this communications strategy with thought leadership content, delivered through organic updates. Sponsored Updates, Sponsored InMail and organic content each provide content specifically honed for a targeted demographic, directly leading to increased program awareness and lead generation.

The Right Strategic Mix for the Right Strategic Partner

Kellogg’s Executive Education marketing efforts for their roster of programs will continue to change and adapt — as most marketing strategies do. But they have a solid foundation built with LinkedIn to keep the pipeline of quality prospects flowing. And by testing and iterating towards creating more efficiency in the LinkedIn channel, Kellogg will continue to see industry-leading results from their marketing.

View the full case study to learn more about how Kellogg used a multi-product organic and paid approach to boost leads for their Executive Education program.

And for a deeper dive into how to deploy content marketing on LinkedIn and elsewhere, download the new book, The Sophisticated Marketer's Guide to Content Marketing today!