Change today, change tomorrow


Making an immediate impact on performance, while delivering long-term change

Heriot-Watt University has a rich heritage and a pioneering reputation for research. Despite this, they were down on applications. So, we immersed ourselves in Heriot-Watt’s world in order to gain in-depth insight that would improve their performance today, and support the creation of a more collaborative, purpose driven culture and commercially focused mindset for tomorrow.

The picture soon became clear

Everyone was working extremely hard to attract students. Yet there wasn’t a clear or consistent communication strategy. Lots of disparate media channels were being used but were not being mapped to the audience. Communication wasn’t segmented, there was messaging overlap between the various Schools and a general lack of clarity around outcomes. Added to which, prospective students were being encouraged to come to Heriot-Watt but messages didn’t consider what the student needed at different points in the cycle.

The creation of a more robust comms strategy was essential

We held a collaborative strategy session with their marketing team to identify changes that we could start to implement immediately and the cultural and mindset shifts we could start to work towards.

Quick wins were to:

  • Develop school marketing plans for the 2020 cycle
  • Enable a proactive approach for 2020 marketing activity
  • Provide oversight of all UG and PG activity
  • Identify overlaps and opportunities for central to support.

We also helped develop a set of strategic pillars to prioritise for the future, these covered:

  • Brand strength and differentiation
  • Key market and region focus
  • Targeted advertising and content
  • Seamless and engaging customer experience
  • Reputation development – academic peers, industry and community
  • Engagement and advocacy – students and staff
  • Product development and student outcomes.

We introduced a more data driven approach

Initially, we looked at the immediate need for attracting and converting Undergraduates and Postgraduates. By performing audience analysis, we began to better understand who Heriot-Watt’s audience was and how best to engage with them.

Using first- and third-party data sources we created pen portraits, based on student’s location, demographic, motivators, influencers and challenges and created a segmentation model based on location and behaviour. This enabled better personalisation by making subtle copy changes to create more relevant and personal messages.

We focused on events like open days and online webinars and analysed the conversion rate data – observing key differences between audience groups. This justified performing in-depth propensity-modelling to further define audiences, strengths and intent.

A process of gradual change

By working collaboratively with Heriot-Watt’s Marketing team, we helped them to upskill and think about sector’s best practice. We created templates, frameworks and a new way of planning their communication strategy, that they could follow. We wrote a lot of their new communication for them, ran workshops and importantly we helped to achieve a 15% uplift in applicant conversion.

Perhaps the most important change however was the cultural and mindset shift that we helped to influence. People now believe in the value of becoming more data driven and of adopting a more commercial and strategic approach to decision-making.

We continue to work in partnership with Heriot-Watt University in a consultative capacity, to help them benchmark and sense check their marketing activity across the Higher Education landscape. We’re incredibly proud to have helped them change their marketing approach in the long-term, while making significant immediate improvements and are looking forward to what fresh challenges the future will bring.