Everyone knows data makes a marketers world go round. Data makes the marketing decisions. Surveys help determine willingness to recommend, awareness levels, reasons for exiting among others. Internal data analysis allows you to build profiles of primary stakeholder groups. External, third-party organizations provide insights that no other resource can and, in many cases, they distribute free data.
Reasons for Free External Data
- External data is often more persuasive as it is from a third-party;
- provided for free from local to international and private organizations;
- supportive of internal data;
- used to target and focus marketing initiatives.
Census and State Data Centers
Some of the most valuable free external data comes from the national census. It holds a lot of overarching population data. If you want more specific data by county with population projections, see a specific State Data Center.
Population data can provide useful insights. Your school should already have a solid profile of your current students and stakeholders and where they come from or a profile goal of who your school wants to target in the near future. Use the profile to target similar population strongholds. Use population projections to find where the profiled population will be in the near future by specific county. Instead of a “spray and pray” method of spending advertising dollars, you now have a more focused method of targeting your ad budget. Counties, states, and regions can then be prioritized by how closely they match your university’s current or aspirational stakeholder profile.
Both the census and state data centers also hold data on labor statistics – data in which general labor categories the population is working. If you’re a community college or a vocational/technical college, this data is a must in determining the programs that are worth spending vital resources for your home region.
Education data is important for many reasons. Similar to population data, if your stakeholder profile includes specific types of schools or school districts, you may be able to target efforts specifically to the schools and districts that match your profile. You may also be able to find a clear picture of how your institution or state stacks up to your competitors or other states and regions, respectfully. Lastly, several of these data centers have enrollment and graduation projections by state or region that may help target marketing efforts.
While some sites are more number crunching sites, there are some sites that provide more anecdotal data that place school’s into categories. These sites are helpful in finding out how your institution fares in certain categories against competitors. Many of these sites and materials are reviewed by prospective students, so it would behoove many to take note of how your college is being represented to your stakeholders.
- National Center for Education Statistics
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System
- National Student Clearinghouse Research Center
- Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education
- Princeton Review
- US News and World Report
- The Globe and Mail’s Canadian University Report
One note of caution; just because it is free or from an external source doesn’t mean the data is usable or reliable. Like all resources, use some caution in terms of the organization’s potential biases and reasons for publishing the data.
Third-party resources should be part of a regular analysis in order to determine market targeting efforts. Having free and useful data on the internet should be reason enough to, at least, regularly check it out.
More about data and research can be found at