headline of this case study goes here test

Apex Technical School is an adult vocational technical school in New York City located in Long Island City, Queens. Apex offers seven 900-hour certificate courses designed to give students basic trade and labor skills to help them reach their goals in an entry-level position.
With trade programs that can be completed in as little seven months, Apex helps students prepare for careers in a variety of industries, including automotive service repair, auto body repair, HVAC, welding, electrical, construction,and plumbing.
Jackie Cann, Assistant Vice President at Apex Technical School, works with Fathom’s experts in search engine optimization, paid media including search and social media, and organic social media to drive new student enrollment.
challenge headline
As an accredited for-profit institution, Apex must take a measured approach to promotional messaging when it comes to their programs, financial aid opportunities, and average career outcomes. After all, Jackie and her team have witnessed competitive institutions get shut down over the years for making promises they couldn’t keep.
This messaging challenge was magnified by a traditional approach to digital marketing that prioritized engagement metrics over business outcomes. As many marketers know, years of reporting on impressions and clicks can have that effect. Furthermore, leadership was pushing Jackie to get the most from her marketing budget despite increasing compliance scrutiny.
[insert quote from Jackie –key outcomes, expected results, and the need to do more (potentially with less)]
approach headline
Jackie and her team at Fathom decided to refocus efforts in 2018, prioritizing a deeper, more personal experience for prospective students no matter where they interacted with the school—be it search results, social media profiles, or apexschool.com.
The Fathom team started by investigating specific opportunities for Google Quick Answers—blocks of text Google pulls from websites directly into search results to answer frequently asked questions. This research highlighted both strategic opportunities for organic search optimization and prospective student behaviors that the team could address—across digital channels.
[insert specific examplefrom Fathom team]
With a better understanding of prospective student research behavior, the Fathom team connected their findings to the experience on apexschool.org. Missy Williams, lead SEO strategist on the account, knew search engine optimization strategies would only be as effective as the student experience Apex created.
“In search, we found that prospective students were trying to understand if a school like Apex could help them further their careers, they were early in their research process,” recalled Missy. “At the same time, the only calls to action on the website were Apply Now and Contact Us—neither really spoke to the individual trying to figure out if Apex could help them in their career. To help top of funnel prospects collect more information without feeling obligated to commit, we introduced a Schedule a Tour call to action.”
To further take advantage of the deepened audience understanding, the Fathom team developed a content strategy that hit on key prospective student motivations and pain points. For instance, prospective students were interested in picking up a trade, but they were unsure of which trade to choose.
The content strategy Fathom developed in conjunction with insight from Jackie and her team at Apex focused on connecting the school’s programs to areas of personal interest for prospective students. For example, someone interested in cars but not sure which trade allows them to tap into that passion might find the blog post 4 Signs Auto Body Repair School Fits Your Goals. Each post answers commonly asked questions tied to personal interests among ideal students and closes with a clear call to action.
To extend the content strategy and reach prospective students where they are, the Fathom team re-imagined a paid and organic social strategy that focused on two things: continuing to engage individuals who found Apex via organic search and leveraging lookalike audiences to find prospects most like past leads who turned into students.
“Our big question in social was: how do we get the most from our existing resources?” explained Deanna Fleming, lead social media strategist on the account. “Our strategy is all about efficiencies and connecting the content to relevant audiences. We launched new ad formats, improved budget optimization, and ultimately maximizing the impact of each individual impression.”
[insert quote from Jackie –increase in lead quality on top of volume]
outcomes headline
The combined efforts to align digital marketing efforts and on-site experience to student expectations paid dividends in the short-and long-term. In the first year the strategy was implemented, Apex Technical School received 28% more leads than the year prior.
From an organic search perspective, the focus on improving keyword rankings and organic traffic by creating and optimizing relevant content resulted in a 14.5% increase in organic traffic compared to the previous year. Not only did traffic increase, but organic leads improved by 9.7% during the same period—including numerous net-new conversions from the Schedule a Tour call to action.
Improvements were particularly noticeable across social media channels. An increased focus on remarketing, refreshed creative approach, and improved budget efficiency resulted in a 37.1% increase in link clicks, proving the heightened focus on audience relevance yielded meaningful engagement.
[insert quote from Jackie –early read on 2019 performance]
critical perspective headline
As a marketing leader in higher education, you might find yourself in an interesting position. That is, prospective students are getting savvier, conducting much of the research process on their own, without officially signaling their interestto the institutions they’re considering by way of an information request or campus visit. This has turned the traditional view of the funnel on its head –there isn’t a linear relationship from inquiry to applications or applications to enrolled students.
To address this, you must commit to proving to prospective students that you understand their unique motivations and pain points. Through that understanding, your institution demonstrates fit. You might think this requires major investment in marketing automation tools and an overhaul of messaging strategy to deliver personalization at scale. While that is certainly an approach that could prove fruitful, it’s not the only path forward.
Make a commitment to listen to your prospective students and take advantage of the signals they’re already sending. For Apex Technical School, this meant search and on-site behavior. With that understanding, make consistent and meaningful efforts to deliver an experience that anticipates expectations and proves to prospective students that you get them, that your institution is the best fit for their circumstances.
In short, be your prospect’s champion, their guide, before you ever know them personally –the results will follow.
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If you’re interested in approaches you can take to better understand your prospective student, you might be interested in the yield assessment we conducted in partnership with Indiana State University. Within a year of implementing the resulting strategy, new freshman enrollment increased 12%. To learn more, read the case study.