Time to elevate your student relationship management game.
GUEST COLUMN | by Jennifer Wiles
It’s all set up to impress: the perfectly manicured lawn bustling with student activity. The state of the art gym. The recently renovated dorms. College campuses are some of the most beautiful pieces of real estate in the country, and touring one is a massively important moment for interested students.
As many as 31 percent of students make a decision on a university based on a campus visit. Colleges are spending big money on digital lead generation, but if it’s not leading to sandals touching the quad, it’s not likely converting into an enrollment.
Facebook ads are a new phenomenon within the education sector, and they’re leading to campus visits and conversions.
Here are three keys ideas to keep in mind when developing a marketing strategy to get prospective students to your campus.
Meet students where they are so they’ll meet you where you are.
The current batch of high school juniors and seniors are the leaders of the first truly digitally native generation. And while they weren’t born with a smartphone in hand, they don’t know life without one. Universities still allocate a large portion of marketing spend on traditional forms of advertising like print, direct mail and outdoor. And while these are still effective branding tools and can inspire follow-up searches, they aren’t tools to drive visits in and of themselves.
Students want information quickly and they know how to snuff out a sales pitch. Personalized, simple social media strategies are the most effective way to non-invasively enter the younger demographics conversation space. Facebook ads are a new phenomenon within the education sector, and they’re leading to campus visits and conversions. In fact, 62 percent of students recently surveyed said that they are most likely to follow a college on Facebook over any other channel.
Encouraging prospects to schedule an appointment on a college’s website is a regular strategy used by four-year universities. But rather than forcing potential students to click away from their social feeds to navigate a maze of forms to register, Facebook ads now feature popups within the ad itself that allow users to input contact information without ever leaving their news feed. Then, all you have to do is have an admissions rep (also effective: a current student close in age to a prospects peer group) follow up with a phone call, email or text the same day and you’ll make a lasting impression.
Do the work behind the scenes to make students feel unique.
Just like with any good customer relationship management program, you can use information potential students provide to go all-out before, during and after their campus visit. Every step should feel personal and tailored to the individual student. Some small colleges have seen first-hand the magic of a custom experience, with visit rates spiking by as much as 20 percent and enrollment and retention rates displaying a similar trajectory.
Following up with your prospects to encourage a two-way dialogue is key for setting up the visit. A smart re-targeting campaign is another way to stay top of mind and grow excitement in students. Use the information you obtain through your follow-up conversations to build a customized experience for students and their families, including email, social tactics and microsites that showcase campus events related to students’ interests and reminders of key enrollment dates and materials
Don’t forget about the twenty-something-and-above crowd.
With all the emphasis placed on converting high schoolers to enrollees, it’s important not to lose sight of a significant demographic with different concerns. Continuing education students and adult learners account for as much as 75 percent of the general college campus population, yet are often ignored or misunderstood by marketers.
The reasons for this are varied. Because the concerns of adult learners are different than those of new grads, marketing strategies that promote campus culture, amenities and social life won’t be as effective. This is where targeted banner campaigns with nuanced, vocational-based messaging and placement can have the most impact. You still want these individuals to visit your campus, but your conversion will happen in the unglamorous admin office rather than the majestic quad.
To this end, admission reps need to be trained to ask the right questions when meeting with continuing education learners. How can you work around their schedules? Do they prefer online vs. on campus? How are you going to demonstrate that your curriculum will meet their set of unique needs? For adults, the decision cycle takes longer and there’s more risk involved. As a result, a majority of adult learners enrolling in college over the age of twenty-five fail to last beyond their first year.
Making contact with students, regardless of age, and showing continued understanding of their busy lives and education needs is key to building a relationship that will drive campus visits and will one that will last.
Jennifer Wiles is Senior Digital Account Manager, Agency Services, for G/O Digital. She has more than nine years in digital marketing, along with more than six years of account management experience, partnering with small business owners, medium-sized operations and multi-national accounts in a wide-range of industries. Her passion is building education brands and at G/O Digital, Jennifer uses her nearly five years of experience leading the strategy for education accounts. Write to: [email protected]