Data transparency and knowing the ins and outs of GDPR compliance. These are two of the main reasons why Jimmy Hart was interested in working with Net Natives. 

“I’ve worked with other vendors who don’t want to share any data beyond what’s absolutely required,” said Hart, who served as director of marketing for the University of Alabama (UA) Division of Strategic Communications from February 2017 to October 2022. (Recently, he left this role to become vice president for communications for Visit Tuscaloosa.) “But, I really appreciated that Net Natives provided data that other vendors will actively keep hidden. Also, when we started working with Net Natives years ago, you were already GDPR compliant and could navigate rules regarding protection of consumer data better than most of the competition. This has continued to be a big strength as we’ve collaborated over the years.” 

Recently, we sat down with Hart to learn more about how he connected with Net Natives, the projects we’ve collaborated on, and advice for colleagues when it comes to working on similar enrollment marketing projects. Read on to see what he shared. 

First off, tell us a few things about your university that we might not know?

We’re situated along the Black Warrior River, and the Tuscaloosa area is home to multiple bodies of water and public lands that are perfect for outdoor recreation. Our Adapted Athletics program (which includes men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball, wheelchair tennis, and paraswimming), has won 18 national championships across three sports since its inception in 2003 and is the first adapted collegiate program with dedicated facilities. Finally, the university has won seven straight NASA Robotic Mining Competitions.

How did you learn about Net Natives? 

In 2017, the UA Graduate School marketing team was small and really needed a partner with extensive digital experience to support our enrollment growth goals. Then, I got a call at just the right time from Net Natives where you basically offered solutions for our challenges. One of the biggest benefits was that we immediately found value in using your AI-powered client portal to assist with data collection. Over the next five years, our in-house expertise evolved significantly. But, we still chose to renew our contract annually, because Net Natives continued to add a lot of value to our marketing strategies. 

Tell us about the scope of your initial project 

We needed help with new lead generation for the graduate school. For us, this meant that Net Natives worked very closely with our team to ensure all of the measurement and attribution we hoped to accomplish worked consistently and effectively throughout our campaigns. For example, when it comes to measurement, we were interested in the cost-per-acquisition of the leads, as well as their yield rate throughout the funnel. And in terms of attribution, we were looking to get perspective on which combinations of images and calls to action were most effective. Since then, we’ve primarily worked with Net Natives on lead generation through avenues such as Google Search and Facebook. But, we’ve also worked with you to capture applications and promote online recruitment events. 

What’s one marketing idea that the Net Natives team introduced you to? 

I learned why it’s important to provide cost-per-acquisition metrics as a regular part of our reporting. (Cost-per-acquisition basically refers to how much you spend on ad inventory to achieve the desired outcome.) You need to understand these metrics to ensure that you’re not overpaying for impressions. UA really benefited from knowing this information, because we were able to make informed decisions to improve ROI at the top of our funnel, which helped us improve our profit margins. 

What are a few pieces of advice you have for colleagues undertaking a similar project? 

Know your definition of success. For example, if your leadership is expecting you to generate 10,000 applications, you need to make sure they know a $10,000 campaign isn’t going to be sufficient. One thing I do to help with this process on my projects is provide historical data to remind how much it cost to achieve similar results with other campaigns. 

Expect to make adjustments. If your campaign includes multiple messages or crosses multiple platforms like Google Search and Preroll Video, the performance data will almost always prove one of your assumptions wrong. For example, we discovered that recruiting to certain programs required that we provide brag points related to rankings and job placement metrics, while others enjoy more success when we discuss faculty mentor and research opportunities. Believe the data, make the change, and improve your results.

What has been the most enjoyable part of working with Net Natives? 

I think it’s that you respect and value our feedback and needs. For example, I’ve worked with vendors who expected us to bend all of our processes to fit how they prefer to work, such as only using capture forms from their systems or requiring the collection of data we don’t actually need or use, or to use the social media/marketing platforms they prefer to use. In one situation, I remember telling Net Natives that we had to integrate our UTM structure into their campaign execution. And they respected the request. At no point did you tell us what we wanted wasn’t possible or that we would have to change our business practices to facilitate how you wanted to do things. I also really appreciate the ongoing recommendations you provided on how we could improve our results by using innovative testing ideas like new ad features on emerging platforms or producing creative in different or interesting formats. 

Have questions for Hart? Email him at thejimmyhart@gmail.com. Interested in collaborating with us? Let’s start the conversation (https://www.netnatives.com/contact).