A Cookieless Future: What That Means for Higher Ed Marketers

Jun 10, 2021 11:30 AM12:30 PM EST

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Key Discussion Takeaways

For decades, cookies have been a ubiquitous and effective means of data collection. They’ve been seen as a necessity for digital marketing for years, but now the tides are turning. Consumers want more control over how their data is used, and new privacy laws are narrowing how companies can collect it. This has led to alternative methods and improvements for most industries, especially higher education.

Higher ed is a massive digital market with a need for accurate data to target specific demographics. For this kind of outreach, first-party data has proven to be a powerful tool for universities. Moving away from cookies and embracing this emerging form of data collection may actually improve engagement. So, how does it all work?

Eric Fullerton, Lead Product Evangelist of Acquia, talks with Aaron Conant about how moving away from cookies will impact higher education. They explain how you can effectively target potential students and how new privacy laws will affect your marketing. They also talk with higher ed professionals to see how they are responding to the recent changes in data collection.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:


  • Eric Fullerton of Acquia explains what a cookie is and how it works
  • Where is data collection heading in the future?
  • How new funnels are being used in marketing for higher ed
  • What are some of the best practices when targeting prospective students?
  • How do you get the most out of your current CRM system?
  • Balancing effective data collection with privacy concerns
  • Eric talks about cohort models versus individual models for data collection
  • How is Acquia helping marketing efforts in higher education?
  • Navigating digital marketing without the use of cookies
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Acquia is the open source digital experience company that empowers the world’s most ambitious brands to embrace innovation and create customer moments that matter.

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Guest Speaker

Aaron Conant LinkedIn

Co-Founder & Managing Director at BWG Connect

Aaron Conant is Co-Founder and Chief Digital Strategist at BWG Connect, a networking and knowledge sharing group of thousands of brands who collectively grow their digital knowledge base and collaborate on partner selection. Speaking 1x1 with over 1200 brands a year and hosting over 250 in-person and virtual events, he has a real time pulse on the newest trends, strategies and partners shaping growth in the digital space.

Eric Fullerton

Eric Fullerton

Principal Product Marketing Manager at Acquia

Eric Fullerton is an experienced digital marketer and the Lead Product Evangelist at Acquia. The company is built around Drupal, giving businesses an open-source cloud platform and the tools they need to optimize their digital experience. Acquia works in a variety of industries, from eCommerce to healthcare to higher education.

Before Acquia, Eric worked as the Manager of Global Web Experience Programs at Akamai Technologies and the Digital Marketing Manager for the Boston Bar Association. Now he enjoys helping customers and partners alike with his expertise in SaaS technology.

Event Moderator

Aaron Conant LinkedIn

Co-Founder & Managing Director at BWG Connect

Aaron Conant is Co-Founder and Chief Digital Strategist at BWG Connect, a networking and knowledge sharing group of thousands of brands who collectively grow their digital knowledge base and collaborate on partner selection. Speaking 1x1 with over 1200 brands a year and hosting over 250 in-person and virtual events, he has a real time pulse on the newest trends, strategies and partners shaping growth in the digital space.

Eric Fullerton

Eric Fullerton

Principal Product Marketing Manager at Acquia

Eric Fullerton is an experienced digital marketer and the Lead Product Evangelist at Acquia. The company is built around Drupal, giving businesses an open-source cloud platform and the tools they need to optimize their digital experience. Acquia works in a variety of industries, from eCommerce to healthcare to higher education.

Before Acquia, Eric worked as the Manager of Global Web Experience Programs at Akamai Technologies and the Digital Marketing Manager for the Boston Bar Association. Now he enjoys helping customers and partners alike with his expertise in SaaS technology.

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Aaron Conant

Co-Founder & Managing Director at BWG Connect

BWG Connect provides executive strategy & networking sessions that help brands from any industry with their overall business planning and execution.

Co-Founder & Managing Director Aaron Conant runs the group & connects with dozens of brand executives every week, always for free.

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Discussion Transcription

Aaron Conant  0:18

Hey, everybody, Happy Tuesday. My name is Aaron Conant and Co-founder and Managing Director of BWG Connect. We're networking and knowledge sharing group, but 1000s of organizations that do exactly that we network and knowledge share together to stay on top of the newest trends, strategies, whatever it may be, they're shaping the digital landscape as a whole. I talked with 30 to 40 organizations each week on digital strategy as a whole, when the same topics come up over and over again, we host an event like this. So thanks to everybody who was able to share those seems like this is a resonating topic as a whole. So I don't think anybody's you know, shocked with somebody Yeah, with a staple of digital is going away. A lot of people have questions on what the future looks like, as a whole. As we get started here. Just a couple of housekeeping items. At any point in time, if you have a question, you can just, you know, raise your hand, you can drop into the q&a, you can drop into the chat, you can email me Aaron, aaron@bwgconnect.com we want to get as many questions answered today as possible. So we're also going to jump around to people that have dialed in as well, we'd love to hear their perspective on this space and how they're tackling the issue. So, you know, we'll just, you know, ask to unmute ahead of time until you kind of have a heads up, but would great, it would be great to have a lot of people jump in and just have a great open discussion. So just a heads up there. The last thing, as I was noting, we're going to wrap up with three to four minutes to go in the hour as well. So if you're looking at your watch, just know, you know, just you know, before the end of the hour, we'll give you plenty of time to get to your next meeting, maybe grab a cup of coffee along the way. And with that, I'm gonna go ahead and kick it off. So I'm planning for cookieless future. You know, it's we have a lot of conversations on this on the retail side, we've had on the finance industry side, and obviously, then huge impact on the higher ed side as well. And so a lot of people, a lot of organizations, you know, asking about this over and over again. So we just thought we would host an event on it as a whole, we got some great friends, great partners, great supporters of the network, both through these educational informational calls, but also for a lot of different higher ed organizations that are out there as a whole over at Acquia. And so we asked Eric to come on the line today kind of give us an overview of what's going on. How are they seeing, you know, people they're working with prep for this? What are the big things people need to be aware of, if they're stumbling blocks, if there's great things that are going to come out of it, whatever it may be. And just a reminder, if you have questions about what's going on, drop in the chat the q&a, and we'll tackle them for sure. With that, you know, Eric, I'll kick it over to you. If you want to give a brief intro on yourself. Acquia? That'd be awesome. And then we can kind of jump into some of the higher level information around what's going on to kind of set the baseline for the conversation. All right.


Eric Fullerton  2:55

Yeah, sure. Sounds good. So thank you. My name is Eric Fullerton, Lead Product Evangelist at Acquia, which is a fancy title for saying that I've talked to lots of customers and prospects about what's going on with their digital transformation and trying to help solve their problems, essentially. And one of the things is Aaron said that, you know, we're continually hearing and seeing is this concern around what's going to happen when we see cookies go away. And to have that kind of the way that we've kind of traditionally, or at least many marketers have traditionally, you know, kind of cool the top of their funnel, with leads or with opportunities, is going to be fundamentally shifting and changing a little bit. So Acquia is a company we have over 4000 customers. But higher ed is actually one of the core parts of our business, we got our start really helping people build really great websites, and we really moved into the digital experience space. So we're having lots of conversations around customer data around personalization and, and how that's really going to look in a world where the way we've been engaging and using cookies is going to change. And we know that but we have to figure out exactly how that's going to happen. So what I would love to hear and I'd love to get a little bit more context on from the folks on the line is some of the ways that this is going to impact you. I have a sense based on some customers that I've had conversations with, but Aaron, as you know, interrupt me anytime asked questions that that come in, because I think it's always better that way. So to start, you know, we think about the entire landscape. And I actually, I've had this conversation a couple of times, and I always think it's good to just make sure we're starting at exactly the same point. And you know, what, what is a cookie? And it's, it's, um, it's something that we've all heard before. This is actually a question that I get a lot. So I figured I would just make sure we were all on the same page really, which is what a cookie is. It's a very small piece of data stored on the user's computer. And it's stored by that web browser when browsing website. And there's different types of data that can come from cookies. And let's maybe just take a minute for those as well. So when you think about third party data, this is data that will come from outside your organization, oftentimes organizations will buy third party data, or they'll collect it from other areas and try to use that as a way to bring people into their funnel. So it's data from outside the organization, it's, you know, collected by that, that traditional web cookie, and you get it from multiple different sources. And we'll use it for helping move folks around the browsing and advertising space, right. So just kind of moving them through that process. First party data is really data that is gathered, it's really from observing on a website, but like one that you own, right, so this is your data you've collected it, it's engaged, it's it's collected from different types of experiences that have taken place, either your website or potentially some other piece of digital that someone has engaged with, and they're able to collect some information there. And then there's a new term kind of in the space around zero party data, this is really just a, a more detailed version of the first party data. And it's really when that data is upended, moving towards, you know, having really knowing someone their behavior, their communication preferences, like what channel they prefer to engage on, maybe it's even what time of the day they would prefer to receive or to, to traditionally engage. And so, you know, the the more powerful the data is really around this, like the this focus is coming around first party data and zero party data. And a big part of that is because, you know, we're seeing this change in the way that different privacy regulations are taking place data regulations, how people are collecting data, and then how they're actually responsible for activating that data, there's kind of like three specific areas that the market has, is really pushed towards changing the way that we're going to collect and use cookies. The first is actually from consumers. Um, you know, I think I just threw up a couple stats here. But, you know, 84%, say they want more control over how their data is being used, and 79%. So we can maybe, maybe not call it 80. But nearly 80%, are concerned with how their data is being used by companies. So they want more control. And they're concerned on how it's being used. But at the same time, 80% will say, you know, they're comfortable sharing information directly with a brand, if it leads to a more personalized experience. So it's kind of this, this, it's a little bit of a conundrum, which is I want more control over my data, I'm concerned on how people are using it. But if I received some level of benefit, and improved experience, something that's more targeted, something that helps cut through that digital noise, and I am willing to share my personal information with a brand or with an organization. Simultaneously, I'm a compliance front, we're seeing a lot of movement towards regulation GDPR, a couple years ago, in the EU, really, really reorganizing and structuring with, you know, with regulation, the way that people are allowed to collect data, to use data to store data and to activate data. And now we're seeing these come in the United States as well, they cut the CCPA, California Consumer Privacy Act. And there's a couple other acts that are regulations that maybe are specific to industry, or just that will be taking place. And I've actually had conversations with prospects or customers who are looking to solve for these data challenges, even if those regulations don't maybe directly impact them, right. So they're, they're looking towards making decisions to solve those data challenges in the future. And then also, what's happening is Google and 2022 is taking the cookie away, essentially moving to kind of like a cohort based model. It's really intended to limit that very, like invasive targeting that we see sometimes. But this is also something that Safari has already done that Firefox has already done. So the adjustment that is going to take place, it's still we're seeing is kind of three pronged, right. So consumers the way they engage and think about data is changing. There are more laws and regulations and rules around how we can use data. And then larger tech giants really, and Google and Apple are starting to make their own decisions around how we're going to be able to collect data safely and effectively on the web. And we we kind of have the experience today. It's It's very, we think a lot about journeys and what that experience is like and it's, of course, a lot of different touch points and a lot of different engagement points. And there's kind of an opportunity to collect that little tidbit of information about someone at multiple different stages and phases. But this doesn't really give you like a holistic view of maybe who they are, what their preferences might be, you're kind of just like piecing things together as best you can. And in this way, we're kind of like, following like a breadcrumbs of trying to just really figure out exactly who this person is and how to engage with them effectively. And what happens is that we kind of just send out lots of messages and communications all the time on a lot of different channels. And it's what I like to call is like an activation first approach, which is like, I just got to do more, I have to buy more ads, I have to send more emails, I have to do more campaigns on social, and I want to do more and more and more, and I have all these systems that will help do more, I was putting out a lot into kind of like the the ether into the the experience for for end users. And in this case for for students, or for faculty, or for alumni or for prospective students. And we're just doing a lot of stuff because the answer is always to do more. But what we're really trying to move towards, and this is really the shift around first party data and even into zero party data, which is the best way to engage is go once someone has actually passed that threshold and identify themselves in terms of who they actually are. And when you're able to understand that and you're able to bring in some other data and information and unify it. And this is something that a customer data platform can do, which is to take multiple different systems, it can take information from online, it can take information from something that's like a homegrown system, it could do anything from offline, you can take information really from anywhere, bring it into one place, and then kind of unify that structure that data. So it's going to help you understand users a little bit better. And when you're able to do that, there's a lot of good things that you can do, because it means that you don't just the answer isn't always to send more, right, we want to send fewer, better communications that are more targeted to the right channel to the right people at the right time. And that's really this, this shift in this focus that is being brought on by all these kind of different aspects that are taking place in the market. But the benefit actually, I think, is going to be positive for end users, because they're not just getting these, these constant flow of messages that were they need to kind of like, figure out how to cut through this digital noise, we can all talk about or think of an example when we got like 15 emails from one brand in a single day. And that's because they don't really know who you are, they're not really sure, like what your preferences are. And it's just like, let's do more stuff. And let's buy more ads. And then all of a sudden, you see target, you know, quote, unquote, targeted ads for something that you may be clicked on once on every single browser that that you look at. And that's not really ideal. And historically, you know, when it came to collecting user data, and figuring out kind of this data first approach, it was like, we'd love to, but we're too busy, there's too much going on, we have things we need to do in this given quarter, we really, you know, we're preparing for the 2022 student body to come in, there's too many priorities, we're going to build it, we're building a new website, we're doing x, we're doing why we're doing z. But because of these market trends and forces that are being brought on by regulation by consumers, and by the industry at large, this is kind of the time to really to do this really, really effectively. And it'll have very positive benefits and impacts. And I think we can talk about what all those may be. And I'd love to hear from folks on some some ways that they're thinking about this strategy. But you know, it's going to help improve your effectiveness and your efficacy. So you're going to have to be a little bit more operationally efficient, maybe it's because it's sometimes it's about sending fewer things. And it's going to help you know, with your with your ad spending, if you are doing a lot of digital ads, make sure you know and increase your return on ad spend. So with more insight into who people are being able to build a more comprehensive first party data strategy. And at the end, it's really about giving customers forgiving students giving people the relevant experiences that they require and that they really crave as we saw, you know, 80% are willing to give their data and information in response to that. And there's a financial benefit to that you can see here from BCG. I'll talk really quickly just about use cases and I'd love to hear some of the other use cases that we see in higher ed and I think we can kind of map a little bit of those To hear, but like, there's all these different areas and aspects of what a funnel could look like. And there's so many different types of campaigns and strategic business decisions that you're going to be able to do. Once you have adopted and really built out this first party data strategy, the benefits are very significant for organizations, not just in terms of knowing who people are, but being smarter about how they can engage with them. And it's not just like to bring people on, right? It's not just to put them in the top of the funnel, it's not just to have them attend the University in question, or it's not just to get them to donate one time, it's about loyalty. And it's about retention. And it's about re engagement. And that is the biggest benefit to this first party data strategy and approach, which is, you know, making sure that at multiple stages and phases of their experience, you're able to re engage them effectively, because what we're seeing is more people have to do more with less, they do have a good group, or they have they have a lot of users or students or alumni or a population that they're trying to target. And oftentimes the most effective campaigns that you can run are the ones to reengage your existing list, rather than bring in a lot of new or unknown people into the top of that funnel.


Aaron Conant  16:21

Yeah, I mean, you hit an interesting point here, because it's from the funnel aspect, right? It's, it's in the higher ed setting, right? It is prospective students, its incoming students, its current students, its alumni. Right, and then potentially donors as well outside. So it's a completely different, you know, look, and feel, hey, you know, and I want to jump around it to some people as well. But thoughts on that perspective on on how you're, like capturing it, or you're bringing them in and the flow that goes through it?


Eric Fullerton  16:53

Yeah, I mean, ideally, you'd be able to have a kind of a different funnel for each of them, right? Because and that's because like, right now, like, if you are doing if you're using a lot of data that's like unknown, or is an anonymous, it's gonna be hard to actually parse through the who is the who in that scenario, just because someone clicked on one thing doesn't mean that they are a student, or it doesn't mean they aren't alumni, or their prospective students. So getting that knowledge to kind of identify like, how to effectively move them through that experience is going to be really important. So it's actually kind of at the top line, that knowledge and then you're not just doing things that maybe are a little bit, I don't want to seem you know, but like almost a little like wasteful, because you're not sure who's who so any engagement is good engagement. But the best engagement is when you actually know the types of people or the cohorts of people that that you're engaging with. So it's, it's definitely different than a lot of other industries. I like I'd love to hear from some folks too, on how they're kind of seeing that or thinking through that, and how it may change the way they're seeing their kind of funnels or the way they're going to be engaging with different groups in response. I am very curious about that.


Aaron Conant  18:08

Yeah, this Yeah, I mean, if we want to go through, I mean, let's jump out to call people right now. And we can jump back because I want to see the funnel stuff. But I'd like to jump out to Catherine from Columbia, Catherine, can you jump in, you know, brief intro on yourself and the organization would be awesome. And then, you know, is how aggressively are you, you know, adapting your current, you know, track for marketing for using, you know, adjusting out third party cookies, first party data, you know, is there is more on prospective students current, you know, we'd love to hear your thoughts there. And then obviously, if you have any, any questions for Eric, feel free to ask away. But thanks, Catherine, for jumping in.


Catherine  18:45

Well, it certainly is a very confusing and interesting time. For us at Columbia. A lot of times the perception is that we don't need to find prospective students or you know, people just naturally come to, but the fact is that we spend a tremendous amount of time, effort and budget on media and advertising. And we are incredibly agitated and confused and coming together as diverse teams from within the entire university at this time. So different schools of study are coming together, Columbia University, main campus is coming together. And because nobody actually specializes in all of the changes, we've just been, you know, kind of, I don't want to say set it and forget it as if we don't pay attention to any of this. But we're not really sure what the best practices are. In continuing to target identify prospective students really hard because what we want to do is find more people like the ones that we already know, who are interested in our product. So I would say if anybody can shed any light on best practices and work arounds and how to have in telogen conversations with your team when nobody is actually a specialist in in this area, that would be extraordinarily helpful.


Aaron Conant  20:08

Yeah, awesome. Yeah. And, you know, Eric, I'll bring you in there. But then others if you want to jump in, feel free, we can we're gonna keep jumping around for sure. But I mean, you know, Eric, I'm, I talk to 30/40 organizations a week, and that's not in the higher ed, you know, area of expertise. That's not an uncommon thing that I hear. I mean, it's part of the reason we had this call, right? It's like, Hey, wait a minute. Like, it's, it's been fairly easy. It's not set it and forget it, right, Catherine, I completely get that it's not, it's, hey, it's working. So all of a sudden, boom, the the, you know, the keys, the ignition were pulled out.


Catherine  20:48

Like we we are at a certain thresholds, and we know what's working is working. But we don't trust that it could be working better, because we're satisfied with the results that we're having. So it's, it's frightening to think that this could change for the worse, and we don't have complete confidence that it could change for the better. And I think a lot of people in my peer groups feel that same way to 100%.


Aaron Conant  21:13

Yeah, Eric, sir.


Eric Fullerton  21:15

I mean, I guess I have a lie. I think it is definitely a challenge. It's not like there's a lot of I mean, I talk to customers all the time, and they're trying to figure out, like, how do I have this conversation effectively with a lack of expertise within my organization. So it's definitely a difficult challenge. That's, we have some people that will go engage with us in like workshop type activities, we have some that will engage with like partners who can provide strategic advice on how to overcome this. It's not, you know, maybe it's something that you think about hiring for, but like, not in like, not in a couple of weeks, right? Like, maybe you have to think about that a little bit down the road. In terms of trying to find people that are more like that are similar to the groups that you're already targeting, there is an ability to do some things around like, like a look alike type campaign. And this is like, help me target and help me reach people that are similar to the people that I've already engaged with. And so you can run an algorithm around machine learning that will help you say like, Alright, so I want people who look like x, y, z, because these are the high quality prospective students that we're able to target with these campaigns. And that's something that you'd be able to do that would be potentially additive. But you know, beyond that, I mean, it may just be about how do I more effectively engage with the students that I do have, or more effectively engage with my alumni. So you may have to think about that a little bit to like, all the different areas may be Yep, please,


Catherine  22:47

We actually do use look alike campaigns, and we find them incredibly helpful. And we do look at our applicant base frequently, actually, because we find that it changes so quickly, in this day and age that you can't even rely on the profile of a student from five years ago. Fine. Um, but I think that, um, what we're trying to do is find prospective students who aren't necessarily considering Columbia Business School. And that's a really that's like a four throwing net, because it how do we not concerting as if they don't about us, and we don't know about them. So it's this round and round spiral that we seem to go through, you know, we certainly have enough applications for the number of seats that we have, but they're at a highly competitive level where we can't afford to dilute that student profile, even by a, you know, a GMAT score or GPA or an outcomes, you know, on the other end. So it's, it's, I thought that coming to Columbia would be how hard could it be impossibly fine students? But yeah, another world of challenges that, from my days at another university, where we were just begging for anybody to write, it's just a different world.


Eric Fullerton  24:07

Yeah. And it's, it's a different problem to write. It's. Yeah, that's really interesting. I mean, I think I'd have probably and I don't know if we want to do it on this, I think we'll probably have to dig in a little bit more about like, what your what are the things you're doing today? And I mean, obviously, you shared some stuff around lookalike campaigns, but like, I don't mean, it depends on what your database looks like. It depends on you know, are you? Are you doing a lot of targeted ads? Are you doing a lot of mailers? Are you trying to get people to sign up to stuff? Are you trying to get them like, Where are you trying to just, you know, like you said, it seems like you're trying to cast a very wide net, to get the hooks and other high quality for lack of a better word prospective students to even almost bolster that the application pool, right. I there's that kind of sense that I've got


Catherine  24:59

Yep. And we Do you do all those things except for paper mailings? We don't do that. Very, very little print advertising, digital, digital, easy to track. And, you know, having a an array of supervisors of the past few years and now report to someone who is a data analytics professor. So luckily, we can prove ROI as we go along. It's not something that we need to do. But you know, somebody anecdotally says in a meeting, well, why aren't we seeing more students from Indiana, that doesn't mean that all of a sudden my marketing spend shifts to prospective students in Indiana. So I think the conversation that we're having here is a really great start. And it really needs to be elevated up to leadership levels so that they stand, that it's not just flipping a switch, and it's not as easy as you think it is. We happen to use Slate as our application management and CRM system. And I'm not a big fan of Slate, I find that it's clunky and intimidating. And, you know, I just, I pray to the CRM gods that one day that that the I'm sorry, that-


Eric Fullerton  26:14

It's not the thing you use anymore.


Catherine  26:16

I just don't like it, but you can't change it, if that's what admissions is using. And I understand that I do wish that it could manage electronic campaigns a bit more.


Eric Fullerton  26:29

A little bit better. Yeah. I mean, the other thing would be, and again, you'd have to look at your invest like what what if anything, you're able to actually invest in that would potentially take data from Slate or from other areas, and actually pull it into a place where you can get like a clean view, like you'd be able to have like, me and me amazing to have like a view of like every single like applicant with their channel preference or, you know, their their engagement, their you're like there's a lot of data that you could pull into a single-


Catherine  26:59

And it would be great to aggregate that right now, as I know, it's per, you know, per lead, or per record, which is clunky, we did manage to custom build a, an analytics dashboard that includes admissions and Slate information and pulls in our digital media from our agency. So we raise it to and see if it's being, you know, as effective as we want it to be. And it's you know, there's so many gray areas. And when you deal with data, data experts, like the professor who I report, they don't like that much gray area. So-


Eric Fullerton  27:39

There's too much gray or there's not a lot of certain insights, the feeling is that like the data is like pretty good, I think. But it's definitely not perfect. And it's like, I talked to a lot of people who lack a little bit of confidence in the data. Like they say, like, this is a good like this is a good start. But I don't have the highest level of certainty that I would like.


Catherine  28:03

I was fortunate to have an assistant director who reported to me who got her degree in data analytics, her MS from Columbia. So she was really great at extrapolating data from Slate and having it make sense that she spent an inordinate inordinate amount of time on it, because it wasn't the best system that we can have. So we have like, like, it's almost at our fingertips, you know, 90% of the time, but it's just chasing.


Eric Fullerton  28:31

One of the biggest problems that we see people run into is when they're using tools that are designed for other things, and they're trying to like almost like customize or retrofit them to a little bit of a different use case, that it becomes extra extra clunky, it takes a ton of time, a lot of work. And then like if that person goes to another department or moves on, then you lose all that expertise, all that customizability. And it's really hard to actually view a specific individual individual report. I mean-


Catherine  29:01

You're reading my mind right now, she just won to another company. And for the past month I have I know what I need. I know what I want to get it unless I can react to it. But I can't fetch the data.


Eric Fullerton  29:13

That's it's the most one of the most common things you deal with, especially when people are trying to use like CRM tools or other applications like to view because I mean, that's not exactly what they're for. Right? They're not analytics tools, or they're not dashboards. They're not, they're not like designed to run marketing campaign campaigns right there. There. It's either around leads or it's around managing applications. That's their primary use case. So there's a natural tendency to say I have to use the thing I've already invested in, but you know, to what end and for how long. So there's, there's some big challenges associated with that. So I feel I feel your pain a little bit or a lot, but I mean, and I guess the only good The only positive is that there's there's a lot of people that are trying to deal with this and overcome it and You know, I think I would love to hear from anyone else to if they have been working on some of this stuff or thinking through it, or if they've tried to bring in other tools, you know, we work with a lot of higher ed customers, we primarily are still doing things like, you know, helping them build websites, and maybe doing like personalization or marketing automation on their sites. We do have a customer data platform, and we're getting a lot of interest from EDU and a couple bites on that. But it's, it's a big investment, it's requires a lot of people. So there's, there's some barriers there, I think for people adopting it.


Aaron Conant  30:36

Got a great, just a comment that comes in here that I want to make sure we tackle then just based off of Catherine's comment around, you know, funnel as a whole, I know, you'd click to that one slide. So I want to get back there. But if Gina says a comment here, you know, an admissions, you know, afraid of privacy breaches when using existing prospects and students create look alike campaigns. You know, it's frustrating, we'd love to hear, you know, your thoughts there. I mean, when you get into first party, you know, you have data, you have real data from people. Any any thoughts on the privacy side?


Eric Fullerton  31:07

I mean, only that I mean, I, I understand that hesitancy to some degree, I think it probably depends on how you're using and creating a look alike campaigns, like, are we talking about like a privacy like a breach like someone hacking information? And I'm a little I'm not sure how that would be maybe different than if you do a look alike campaign versus just like storing that data? Or how that might be different? Or what way that data might be exposed through a lookalike campaign? Or if there are just concerns? I don't I'm curious, it's kind of like breaching or is it regulations or like, Where's, where's the fear?


Aaron Conant  31:44

I just bring Gina, it'd be great if you want to jump in quick and can explain and then you know, if you're looking, you know, then carry on the conversation around like tools that you use in to get data out of the CRM, it's kind of related to this as well. But again, if you want to jump in, that'd be awesome.


Gina  32:00

Or Yeah, this is Gina, I'm from UNC School of the Arts in North Carolina. And when Catherine mentioned Slate, I couldn't stop my eyes rolling, because it is my least favorite thing to work with. And part of the battle is kind of a, we do have a little bit of a disconnect between our admissions department and then our marketing team. And despite trying to help them understand how the data will be used, there still a lot of fear that somehow Facebook or Google or whomever is going to somehow get that data and somehow, you know, I don't know, create an identity, do something. And it's somehow come back to us, despite, you know, my trying to help them understand that that data is not used in that way. And frankly, I'm not even targeting these people. I'm making a look alike. audience. So it can just be difficult. So I was mainly just griping because I don't like Slate either.


Eric Fullerton  32:56

So all right. I mean, you're trying to use a tool for marketing that is designed for something else.


Catherine  33:02

And we feel the pain points that you're expressing as well there. Sometimes there can be a little bit of friction between admissions folks, and they are so valiantly defending the data. And, and it took me 18 months to even get access to Slate. So let's just say that.


Gina  33:25

Oh, I know I got-


Aaron Conant  33:29

Isn't it? A lot of it is well, and Eric, you can probably jump in here, just an educational, you know, maturity curve around what's happening in digital is, all of this has happened. You know, it's been happening for a while. But you know, with COVID, you know, and every other industry that's out there, this drastically accelerated the reliance on digital and data. And at an executive level in corporate America and EDU and, you know, health care. You know, it's it's they, there's a executive level education that needs to take place that needs to get them to a comfort level, like Gina was saying, I'm using this data here, I'm not using it like this. So there's no way this is going to happen. Yeah. But they almost need somebody on the outside to come in and say that.


Eric Fullerton  34:21

I know, right? Maybe because it's it's like when I emphasize because it's hard to say like, I understand what you're saying, but that's not how it works. That's like a tough, so it's sometimes it could be around either bringing in someone who can provide additional expertise or to do some type of, you know, training around data privacy, that may be helpful. It may be trying to just getting some, you know, some good assets and materials together to share with folks to help. But but it is a process, right? And I think that even when we look at those statistics from the beginning, right 80% or want more control 80% And how their data are being is being used. So in addition to there, there being fears of like we're protecting this data, you know, with with, you know, I mean, ruthlessly almost, and have fear about it being used. There's also the concern about them as actual consumers have other products and experiences, that maybe has changed the way they would think about that, like, you see one article that talks about how Facebook's data is bought, sold and packaged up somewhere else. And then that maybe will change your thinking for somebody. And that may not even be relevant to what you're talking about at all. But it's such a complex space. I mean, it's part of the reason we're having this, this conversation, where it's like, by a little bit of it is education, if you have the opportunity to do that. And I mean, I'd recommend it if possible, but it's, it's not always the easiest thing to say, like, hey, I want to teach everyone how data works. You're gonna have to navigate that accordingly. And how that that so but part of it is by, you know, gaining a little bit more of an understanding on those types of things. So I empathize with the challenge of trying to do education, on how things actually work. It's it's not the easiest thing to do. Yeah.


Aaron Conant  36:22

Awesome. I want to get a peek at the next slide. And I want to bring some more people into the conversation as well, if you if anybody wants to just jump in, feel free to. But I mean, this just because of the funnel piece, because kind of what Catherine was commenting on earlier, is this broad, broad funnel, I saw that and it made me think, what is the new funnel look like?


Eric Fullerton  36:44

Yeah, so when you think about the older funnel, it's like, we're going to try to do a bunch of maybe it's ads, maybe it's other targeted activities, maybe there's other, you know, campaigns that you're doing. And you're trying to get as many people into the top of the funnel as possible. And then you're trying to nurture them throughout the funnel with different campaigns, different activities, it could be, you know, email campaigns, it could be additional ads, it could be other, you know, kind of personalized activities on a website or other channels, it could be trying to have them download something, or to sign up for something specific, and there's kind of all these steps to it. But when you have a lot at the top of the funnel, the reality is that not all those people kind of don't belong there. Because they were never going to actually drive down to the bottom anyways. So what you see is like, there's a lot of cost associated with this. So you'll buy a lot of ads, you spend a lot of money or effort on campaigns, that were never really targeting the right people anyways. And when we think about a funnel that is cookieless, so to speak, the top of the funnel, the people that you're bringing in, because you're able to do things like look alike campaigns, because you're able to know, you know, you if you have this first party data strategy, you're able to know a little bit more about them, you're able to get those those preferences and those interests aspect that parts of them, like, you know, what is their, you know, preference on specific things, what type of behavior do they exhibit, Where are they from, and then you're kind of able to actually target them down much more effectively so and you actually end up with a larger group that would eventually purchase anyway. So I think this is useful and helpful, just because it kind of thinks about the who, and we're really kind of moving overall. And even Google's moving to more of a cohort model, which is a more targeted approach means you're gonna be a little bit skinnier at the top, but but essentially, quote unquote, fatter at the bottom of the funnel, because you're engaging the right people from the start, which which can be it's just, it's a big shift, especially for I'm sure in higher ed as well. And, I mean, when I talk to people from other companies and other industries, they've always like, yeah, we always pack the top of the funnel, we spend a ton of money and then we try to nurture them all the way through. And I mean, I've actually done this as a practitioner marketing practitioner myself, and it doesn't always feel like that the most effective approach to that first party strategy that that known data being able to unify unknown and unknown users and understand who is who so that you can actually kind of map and match those together. That's that's something we have a lot of our customers seeing a ton of value and because now they're not sending or buying more ads than they would need or that you know, doing almost too much or too many things are really just focusing on on the things that are most important and the audiences that are most likely to convert and in the end awesome.


Aaron Conant  39:45

Yeah, no, it's great. I think it's that is the way so a great so any items a comment if third party data cookies are going away? Does that spell the end of remarketing retargeting, and if so, does that perhaps elevate the need to go back to ask For email addresses, perhaps or other info in exchange for content.


Eric Fullerton  40:04

Yes. So to what I will say is that there is a move, it's not like, there is still going to be some level of information collected on groups, right. So what they're moving to Google's moving to specifically is a cohort model, not an individual model. So previously, you'd be able to get your individual people, maybe you knew who they were, maybe they were still anonymous accounts, but they had done something that would put them in a specific, you know, that they would have done some activity online, that activity they would then sell, they provide you with maybe their ID, or they provide you I mean, ideally with an email address, but probably not at the third party rate. And then you'd kind of do and this is why the targeting can be super invasive, because it's so one to one, but Google is really trying to move towards is is really a focus on kind of, like cohorts, generally. So there's kind of like still some aspect of cookies that are around, but just, they're just different than the way that they used to be. But what I will say is that the second part of this is 100%. True, in my opinion, which is the ability to either it's it's trying to get an individual to known, and that may be an email address, that may be a login that maybe, you know, there's multiple different types of things that could be an address, or the ability to, to match and bring together multiple profiles under one is something that's really important as well, you could have someone I mean, especially in, you know, in higher ed, you probably have a lot of people with very similar the same names, and you maybe have a lot of duplicative profiles, being able to kind of unify those and understand who's actually who engaging where, and what, but what I was trying to get at earlier. Matt is kind of that the by focusing more on known, and maybe it's through email address, maybe it's to login, maybe like you said, there's another type of info, as an exchange for content, I think is going to be more important. And it's also part of that, that agreement, right? So when things are invasive, it's like, how is this company even targeting me, like I clicked on something? How would they know what what that is, but when you when you give something, and this is kind of what I'm talking about, when we look at this funnel, right, I've provided something my information to you to this university. And by doing that, like I've kind of, there's kind of an agreement here, which is now I want a better experience, but I'm also I made an active choice. And by focusing on those groups, and by optimizing that group, that's really what a first party data strategy is focused on. So the more people you can get to known, the more you can unify profiles that from from known accounts and from unknown and bring them together, that that's I think it's absolutely critical to get more and more known, because from an effectiveness perspective, it's it's really not close, right? When when someone's already gone past that point of agreeing to engage with you, I think you have a much better chance at getting them to the bottom of that funnel. So So there's some kind of nuance on the top around, you know, cookies going away. But there are some, you know, ways that you're going to be able to do some level of retargeting more around groups and individuals. But I still think that need to, to get to known is really much more important than ever, especially with this, the amount of digital noise that is going on. today. It's just everyone sending lots of things. There's, you know, there's ads, there's emails, there's pop ups, it's, it's just there's a lot, and it's hard for people to parse through. So focusing and on being and then beyond that, just like the reengagement and reconnection with people I think is really important. And it's much better to do that when you know who they are versus trying to do some more anonymous ad buys and things like that.


Aaron Conant  44:18

Awesome. So next question that comes in. But how are you engaging with universities? How is Acquia? Higher Ed as a whole?


Eric Fullerton  44:27

Yeah, so I mean, we have I mean, I would say we probably have hundreds of customers in in higher ed. We work with lots of great universities across across the US, I mean, really, actually across the world to primarily like the origin of our business was around helping people build websites, right. So that's what we've worked on. Acquia works with an open source software technology called Drupal and then what we do is make that easier to use. safer, more secure, more reliable, and we help organizations, specifically in higher ed, you know, build their digital properties. So we've helped, I mean, from UVA to Ohio State. So I mean, I could list I mean, we have hundreds, I'm happy to send or share a link to those to see we work with lots of great case studies here. But what we've seen expand is now that I have a digital property, that's like kind of the earliest thing, right, I want a better website, I want people to be able to find things, I want good content, I want effective navigation. And that's where we come in, we'll do all the workshops, we do content audits, we help them build that digital experience. And that's the first part of it. And that's where a lot of our higher ed customers are today. And some are a little bit more, I would say I don't want to say mature, almost, maybe they have multiple different properties that they're trying to bring under one platform. Some of them have some of our customers have, you know, hundreds of different sites that that they operate under us. But the next piece of that is trying to do more effective personalization on the website, perhaps we have some solutions that help people do that, being able to run and create effective campaigns or marketing campaigns, that would be a little bit more multi channel, so from beyond web, but to email or to SMS, or to other campaigns as well, to actually create user journeys and have that journey builder to actually help map through what that experience can be like. And then, you know, one of the biggest areas that we have now is customer a customer data platform, a solution that really is about solving a lot of the problems that we talked about here today. And it's not something that I mean, this is something that many many, like retail companies have invested in already. I mean, we've had customers for for over a decade, who have who have used this specific solution. But what's really interesting now is that this move towards cookies, the lack of being able to collect things in the moat, in the more traditional way, has really put an increased focus and emphasis on solutions, like customer data platforms, which we offer to really, you know, that we're getting a lot of really unique interest there. And maybe they don't need everything that a kind of large scale. I mean, we work with Lou lemon, for example. And they maybe you don't need exactly all the same things. But what are those use cases? What are those look like campaigns and retargeting campaigns? How do you unify the data from all your different students and alumni, and maybe, you know, could be faculty as well, and be able to send communications to them that are really effective? So that's a really long answer for how we've engaged but you know, we the origin was around helping them build websites, then moving on to multiple different sites and platforms, then moving into automation, marketing, automation, and personalization. And now the last stretch of this is really around harnessing and controlling that, that student data or that customer data, or whatever you'd want to call it to to optimize all the other digital experiences that that build out.


Aaron Conant  48:05

Now, awesome. Yeah, I love it. Now, I'm going to jump out to James, Marco. James, I don't know if you can jump in. That'd be great, brief intro and yourself in the organization. You know, and just we'd love to hear, how are you tackling this space? It's so new, it's changing so quickly. You know, that I should say what's new is that the loss of third party cookies, but you can jump in? That would be awesome. thoughts. Here are questions for anybody on the panel.


Jim  48:32

Sure. Jim Marco with New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, New Jersey. I'm the executive director of marketing and social. This has kind of been a long time coming, but like a slow burn. Yeah. So we've kind of done a little bit of the opposite approach on the cookieless funnel model is we did a major shift, particularly during the pandemic, towards some more broadcast media OTT. So some old school, at least on the awareness level, and that's something that NJIT de NJT in the previous decade hadn't really done. So when we elevate that kind of awareness level, we found that there was definitely obviously, you know, a lift during some of those ads, you know, that shift has been really, really recent. So our previous marketing cycle for our incoming freshmen class, you know, we were still using, you know, that kind of third party to data. One of the walls that we hit is one of the vendors that we had used in the past was, you know, doing some geo targeted ads towards, you know, cell phone pings around community colleges. So to hit a transfer market. Even without even still with cookies in place. It didn't work during the pandemic because nobody was going there. So they'd have to do like a year back Look at that. So interesting enough, our web servers or web services team is an Acquia customer. So we probably might want to look at I was unaware of some of these kind of marketing options and tools that are there. So that's why Something that we'll look at. Yeah, I just heard her and I would like to shout out to my fellow marketers who are paying by Slate we are as well admissions keeps convincing, as they keep trying to tell us that no, no, no, it will do a, you know, marketing, you know, automatic marketing against Facebook and other audiences. But I've yet to see like, an explanation, a video or anything that shows me how to how to leverage that. So I think we're all you know, we're all in a big boat, and we're all in kind of, like different places on the journey. And there's a lot of there's a lot of different things to do. You know, so far, you know, we're doing okay, but we definitely want to look on how to maximize that first party data that we have. And like I said, that's, you know, there's a lot of questions going to, you know, come up like, Hey, is that data gonna match with a Facebook look alike? or What does a Facebook look alike alike? Audience gonna look at if they haven't opted in on their iPhone?


Aaron Conant  50:57

Right off super interesting. Yeah. Eric, thoughts there. And Thanks, Jim, for for jumping in. Yeah, you know, Eric, like some quick thoughts there. And then we need to jump to key takeaways, because I promised everybody we get out with three to four minutes to go on the hour. And we wouldn't we wouldn't be part of the, the the meeting run over, that a lot of people run into, you know, five minutes, five minutes, five minutes, but we'd love to hear your thoughts there. And then kind of key takeaways as a whole.


Eric Fullerton  51:26

I mean, only that I mean, it seems like the questions are the right ones. And it's, it's a difficult scenario, right? You're working and having to retrofit tools that you didn't choose to try to solve marketing problems. So I mean, it's more of a I feel I feel the pain. But I think it's, you know, I wouldn't The only thing I would just says that this is not a problem that's unique to higher ed. Right? This is not a challenge that is unique to higher ed day, this is a pain that even some of the largest and most well funded organizations that are happened, some of them happened to be our customers as well have. So not only are you guys in a similar boat, but this isn't necessarily easy for everyone, and are for anyone, really. So I think that it's just important to remember that the No one's really only very few have actually kind of, quote unquote, figured this stuff out. So I just, I mean, it's more of a empathize. And it seems like, you know, James is asking the right questions and thinking about about the right things in terms of how they want to think through the the different data strategies that they could employ. And, you know, I, I'm happy to chat as as an Acquia customer, first of all, thanks, I appreciate that. But then there's other conversations around marketing solutions that we can have. But we also work with lots of other vendors to do lots of other things. So as a customer, we you may, we may have a recommendation for something that actually isn't something that we sell, and those sometimes are good ones as well. So I would definitely think through some of that stuff and and make sure you're talking to the right people. And the more expertise you can get to to make the right decision, I think the better. In terms of overall takeaways, I just think, I mean, I kind of just summarized it a little bit, right, which is, seems like a lot of people are doing, thinking about the right problems. They're trying to think through the right things. And it's about finding the right solutions. And the more you can engage with other people to help find those best practices and EDU but you know, also when it comes to data, when it comes to marketing, when it comes to those other types of activities that you can do in terms of your technology vendors, some of them will try to sell you a bunch of stuff, some of them will talk to you about things, and I prefer the latter personally. Because I think it's really about solving your overall digital goals, not just buying pieces of software when because it's beneficial for somebody. The only other part is, you know, you'll never regret focusing on data, regardless of how pain, some aspects of the experience will be. Because this is a trend like that is only going to continue there are only be more regulations, consumer concerns are going to continue to increase. The the tech giants are the people that are managing and collecting these things, they will still be doing these types of changes that are fundamentally going to impact us like the the market tears in this situation. And there's only going to be more data. There's more channels, there's more information to collect. So by focusing on a data challenge and trying to take it on, a little bit more head on. You'll never regret it, but it may be Yeah, I think it'll be sometimes it's a little bit of a longer journey too. So I would I would suggest, you know, strapping up and trying to do that, as some folks online have already hired So that's really all I got.


Aaron Conant  55:02

Awesome. Well, thanks, Eric, for your time today, thanks for being such great friends and supporters the network as a whole. Once again, you know, there they are great friends, great supporters work with a lot of, you know, higher edu. Organizations as a whole. That's how we got connected with them. So 100% worth of follow up connection with Eric and his team over there. If you have additional questions more than happy to put you in touch, it's worth a half hour hour, however much of their time you can grab just to kind of do a deep dive as a whole what the prep for. So encourage anybody, you know, take them up on that offer. And with that, I think we're gonna wrap up here with just a couple minutes to go once again, thanks, everybody for dialing in. I hope you have a fantastic week, everybody, take care, stay safe and look forward to having you on a future event. Awesome. Thanks again, Eric. Thanks, everybody. Already, we'll be in touch.


Eric Fullerton  55:48

Appreciate it.

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