Every winning campaign starts with knowing your audience. Inside and out. But with thousands of data points and lead info, where do you even begin? We caught up with our Senior Research Consultant, Nat Gould, to run us through how to utilise market research to understand your university audience.

Understand your data

A first step in understanding your market lies in the data that you already have at your disposal. Application and enrolment data, as well as information on those prospects who didn’t go on to apply or enrol, is like gold dust – who did you lose? Do you know why? And from which countries? Using this data you can begin profiling your students and generate different personas to develop different marketing strategies for each. 

Get to know Google Analytics

Google Analytics is such a valuable tool to understand how your website and content is being used and engaged with; how are people navigating your site, what are the main entry points and which pages are your audience spending the most time on? Using this data and conducting this research will allow you to develop your content strategy with your audiences’ intentions and goals at the forefront. 

Utilise free and accessible tools

Don’t forget the wealth of free data that is readily available to anyone. From Google’s trends data to Google’s Keyword Planner, these handy sites are accessible and can provide you essential data to explore broader trends, country insights and stay on top of keyword trends. Using this data properly can help you to refine and optimise your campaigns and content and stay ahead of your competitors. 


From large scale research to concept testing, surveys can be used in a variety of ways to understand the opinions of a large audience of students, see what your target audience think of advert or copy concepts, understand the motivations or barriers to study in particular locations, or a specific course, and understand the market and where the best place to target your audience. Knowing where your target audience is and the types of media and communication methods they use will help you to drive your marketing efforts to reach the right people, at the right time and in the right way.

Qualitative research

Qualitative research is a great strategy to use when you want to delve into topics that you don’t want to set any restraints on by providing fixed response answers; perhaps you want to dig deeper into a survey finding or secondary data for a better understanding. For example, if you want to find out why people choose your university or why they choose to go elsewhere, gaining qualitative data will give you a more in-depth understanding.

Social listening

What are prospective students saying about your university? Which platforms are they saying it on? And what are they saying about your competitors? Using social listening data, you’ll have the answers to all of these questions at your fingertips. And not only that, if you’re keeping an eye on social listening data you’ll be able to quickly make changes to campaigns based on the reactions you see across social media should you need to. It’s a tool we always recommend using for campaign planning and analysis as part of larger research projects, and we’ve outlined some top reasons why in this handy blog post.

So, with such a selection of tools and market research strategies out there to understand your audience, how do you know which ones to use? The important thing is to encompass more than one data source. Bringing all of these data sources together will build the strongest picture of online and offline activity, and you’ll get to the bottom of what your students really think and need. And having plenty of insights from a range of data sources will be the pinnacle of any successful advertising campaigns.

case study

If you’d like to speak to any of our experts about how we can work with you to build a market research strategy that encompasses multiple data sources and really gets under the skin of your target audience, get in touch.

Article by


Natalie Gould

Senior Researcher