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Recruiting students requires a robust multichannel marketing approach. Mailers, college fairs and phone calls used to comprise a complete education marketing plan, but now reaching prospective students must include a fully digital strategy, inclusive of robust engagement and retention strategies, particularly since the targeted audience is the most tech and advertising savvy in history.
Attracting Students Through Mobile-First Strategies
Generating inquiries should meet the expectations of the audiences being targeted. For enrollment marketers, a mobile-first strategy must be implemented, because prospective students are using their phones for search, inquiries, event registrations and applications. Seamless mobile access to lead forms and contact information is expected by many prospects, who may walk away if they hit a bump along the road. According to Gene Begin, VP of Marketing & Communications at Wheaton College, “we need to pledge to focus less on how digital strategies, tactics and designs ‘look’ on desktop, and focus more on if and how they perform on mobile.”
Despite the ubiquity of smartphones, audio conversations are, at times, taking a back seat to non-verbal communications. Online chat is becoming more commonplace and allows higher education recruiters to quickly answer questions that may be the push prospects need to complete an inquiry form or take other next steps toward enrollment. Similarly, Click-to-Messenger ads on Facebook have been shown to increase qualified lead volume, because they meet the need audiences have for immediate responses.
“We’re providing a better service to our students. As opposed to them [students] emailing our general inbox, they’re getting a real-time response,” said Joyce De Jong, Director of Recruitment at Washington State University, who uses UChat to connect with prospects and students.
Achieving Both Quality And Quantity
Every higher education institution is in search of student inquiries from high-intent students, but often the highest-quality media sources are also the highest-priced and lowest-volume channels. As a result, many enrollment marketers find themselves choosing either a low volume of quality student inquiries or a high volume of prospective students with lower intent.
Achieving both quality and quantity requires multi-channel marketing efforts and a willingness to test new opportunities and think beyond the cost of media. Especially when generating external student inquiries, many enrollment marketers set maximum lead prices they are willing to pay. But with enrollment (and graduation) the goal, the marketing cost must be measured at a later milestone in order to effectively evaluate the impact a channel or student inquiry source has on marketing success.
When cost per enrollment (CPE) is used as the gauge, and the cost per lead (CPL) metric is allowed to shift higher, enrollment marketers often find themselves with the opportunity to scale their higher-quality sources of student inquiries.
Following Up After Initial Contact To Encourage Enrollment
Whether schools have generated leads externally or internally, creating a full-bodied process for regularly following up with leads is fundamental to nurturing prospective students along the conversion path. Immediate engagement is the first, most critical step (reaching a student before other institutions do can significantly boost conversion rates), and this step may require cross-channel efforts including phone, email and text. After initial contact, there should be a plan for regular follow-up contact, with the prospective student’s desires informing the channel selection for continued engagement.
Automated SMS and email workflows, at a pre-determined cadence, triggered by time elapsed or enrollment path movement, should follow early outreach. Nurturing communications should be personalized as much as possible based on topics that resonate with prospects, potentially including financial aid options, student life, job placement programs, sports or alumni success stories.
Maintain Engagement After Enrollment
Once a student is enrolled, it’s important to continue engagement, making sure students attend the first day of class. After classes begin, the transition of communications from the enrollment team to the student success team must appear seamless to the student, with personalized messages helping keep the student on track through to graduation.
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