IUPUI Degree Completion Office: Leading with Audiences

March 23, 2016

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) has been diligent in earning recognition as a college that offers a top-notch, traditional experience for undergraduate students—even recognized by U.S. News & World Report for putting an emphasis on teaching undergrads! So when IUPUI created the Degree Completion Office (DCO) to support returning adult students (read: nontraditional students), it was critical to provide a welcoming, supportive, and intuitive experience in their interactions with the university. How was this possible? By leading with their audiences’ needs, of course!

We Started with Empathy

To effectively solve for any audience's needs, it’s crucial to always begin by understanding the folks you are serving—in our case, a very wide range of nontraditional students. This can involve many different processes and tactics. We led an audience mapping session with the DCO team, teamed up with the IU marketing department for audience interviews and an extensive survey, conducted competitor audits and keyword research, leveraged existing field research, created audience profiles, and did a whole lot of synthesizing throughout. After putting together a four-pillar marketing strategy, we dove into two hefty solutions: a new Degree Completion Office website and a digital ad campaign.

A New Website 

The goal of the website was two-fold: to create an intuitive experience that would act as an effortless entry point for a potential student to connect with DCO. Most prospective students require these key pieces of information that needed to be easily available on the new site:

  • degree program options,
  • overall cost,
  • financial aid availability.

IUPUI DCO website homepage


There is no one-size-fits-all solution for the adult student demographic—that’s why it was crucial for us to lean on our audience profiles and engagement cycles to drive site content, in addition to structure. For example, returning to the classroom, whether digital or in person, can be intimidating to someone who hasn’t had formal education in decades. To emphasize DCO’s commitment to personalized support for returning students, we included short biographies and photos of each success coach and career consultant. Two of those team members wrote resources with real examples and advice from their years of working with returning students. And to drive it all home, we interviewed three IUPUI adult students to highlight their unique college experiences and how finishing a degree is possible! (Rumor has it there are videos in the works.)

A Digital Ad Campaign

Our adult student, geo-targeted campaign was the first of its kind for the Degree Completion Office, and even for IUPUI. We started with the big three: Google Adwords, the Bing/Yahoo! Network, and Facebook. As always, we used our engagement cycles to shape our campaign themes—awareness, research, intent, etc.—and followed up with remarketing campaigns.

IUPUI Facebook targeting

Retargeting ad Google retargeting ad

We’ve continued to collaborate with DCO's team to iterate and test our campaigns by experimenting with visuals and language, in addition to optimizing the usual PPC variables, such as keywords, bids, and targeting.

Since launch in early November, our combined efforts have brought in 85+ potential leads through the website form alone. We’ve learned that an adult student’s decision-making cycle can span weeks, months, or years; we look forward to seeing how IUPUI’s brand will continue to grow in the nontraditional education space for years to come!

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