Case Study: Paid Ads for Lighthouse Labs
Lighthouse Labs was created in 2013 by a group of Canadian software developers to provide students, graduates and professionals with industry-driven coding education. They offer part-time and full-time programs specialized in web development and data science. Their team differentiates themselves with a passion for coding, mentorship and transforming technology education.
Lighthouse Labs (LHL) reported a 95% employment rate post-graduation. A number of alumni are in web development positions in well-known companies such as Nike, Hootsuite, and MEC.
Between March and June 2020, COVID-19 sparked a shift in many educational businesses. For Lighthouse Labs, they had to pivot their in-person-based education model online to meet the new needs of prospective students. With the switch to online classes, LHL could no longer rely on their city- and event-based marketing mix. By going online, LHL’s target audience opened up to students all over Canada, but they had a reduced number of channels (and reduced budget) to reach them.
Flywheel’s mission was to increase applicant volume while maintaining benchmarked acquisition costs on that reduced budget. The pandemic wasn’t going to put a hold on LHL’s classes — so Flywheel needed to transform their online ad funnel.
To capture the online market during COVID-19, we had to shift the overall ad strategy to meet the new budget and strategy. Our task was to create a new, sophisticated account structure that still meets the long decision cycle of LHL’s students. We made changes across their entire funnel, including awareness, consideration and decision.
Before COVID-19, LHL’s paid advertisements targeted a specific geographic audience: people who were interested in coding and lived within 25 kilometres from a Lighthouse campus. Since online classes did not require students to attend physical classes, we had to segment away from geographic targeting.
In the awareness stage, our most important metric was driving new traffic efficiently to the site. To do this, we looked at how we could increase LHL’s CTR.
To achieve this, we opened up the geographic area and instead segmented our awareness campaign into niche occupations and behaviours that also indicated their interest in technology, coding, and data. For example, specifically reaching out to designers, marketers, and other relevant segments (below).
By presenting content for both courses, we also were allowing users to indicate to us whether to move them into our data or web development funnel.
Pre-COVID-19, LHL’s ads were broken into two stages: awareness and decision. The decision stage focused on urgency and course information. However, we identified a need, especially during COVID-19, to add a consideration stage that focused on providing info around financing and credibility.
In this new stage, we focused our ads (and our KPI) on LHL’s email-gated content downloads. Not only did these content pieces capture new subscribers, but the pieces, including curriculum & financing packages, COVID-19 scholarship opportunities, student outcome reports, and even free coding courses (see below) provided crucial context for prospective students in making a decision.
Once the consideration phase was created, we were able to make our final decision retargeting drive even more course applications by creating audiences specifically for people who downloaded multiple content pieces or started an application. These audiences were made using the Facebook Pixel and conditional, event-based audiences.
We used the creative to highlight start dates, testimonials, and even more financing information to make sure every possible hurdle to applying that a student had was addressed.
We established KPIs and objectives relevant to the funnel stage associated with each campaign. Our results are based on the first month post-campaign launch from June 1st to 30th, 2020.
In the awareness stage, CTR increased by over 30%, which contributed to an overall 20% increase in link CTR account-wide.
Changes in the consideration stage drove content downloads at an increase of over 74.4%. We saw this large increase in content downloads despite only a 5% change in budget.
At the bottom of the funnel, applications increased by 13.2%, and there was a significant reduction in CPA by 17% compared to the same period in the previous quarter since LHL runs on a quarterly sales cycle. Our overall performance allowed our client to continue to scale their paid marketing efforts profitably during the pandemic.