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Stage 1) Information Gathering: Get Ready to Reply Quickly
When students are in their information gathering phase, a large advantage goes to the school that can respond quickest to an inquiry. In our surveys, we found 49 percent of undergrads and 57 percent of graduate students enrolled in the first institutions that replied to their inquiries.
Most colleges (65.5 percent) are relying on their CRM software to send an automatic reply email to a prospect within one day. Just over 20 percent have a member of the admissions staff send a personalized message.
Almost all students (94 percent) said a response within two days was reasonable, but 30 percent expected a response within 24 hours even on weekends. Some students were even more eager: About 10 percent of prospective students wanted a reply within an hour of submitting an inquiry.
Also, consider that 68 percent of students submitted their applications within four weeks of starting their college search. Being able to follow up quickly with a personalized response can help college convert prospects into enrolled students.
Stage 2) Narrowing Down: Personalize Content to Draw in Prospects
Now that they’re gathered information, students enter the narrowing down phase. The fact is students are most likely to enroll in regional public schools, but there’s still a lot of decision making facing students. What students want is to picture themselves on campus and the best way to facilitate that is with customized content.
Students are less interested today in highly polished, lengthy overview videos and more interested in short, targeted videos that showcase the personality of the school. When it comes to social media, live video can help you capture an intimate, personal portrait of your school while also boosting engagement. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are prioritizing video. By posting live video content, you can expect these social media platforms to push your content in front of more people.
Millennials and Gen Z are likely to reduce social media use if ads are overbearing, they’re also quick to block pushy ad content. With the younger generations more aware of web advertising than their predecessors your expensive ad campaign can be DOA if it comes across as too pushy and too polished. Almost two thirds (61 percent) of prospective students say they want to discover info independently and don’t want to rely on ads.
Instagram is a great option when it comes to getting your messages across to prospective students without appearing pushy. A massive 66 percent of teens and young adults use the photo and video-based social media platform.
Stage 3) Application Time: Be Flexible
During the application phase of the enrollment lifecycle, students are going to have more in-depth questions about things like costs, programs, student life, and more. We know students want to find their own information, so they’re likely to ask you these questions through a number of channels, including your website and social channels. That’s why schools like Princeton and the University of Michigan are active on Snapchat where prospective students directly message admissions staff with their questions. Make sure your staff is prepared to respond to inquiries that come in through the private messages of all your social media channels.
Another great tool for getting inquiries over the application submission hurdle is the use of webinars to keep students engaged and also show expertise from your faculty (and even current students). Topics can include anything from current trends in the field of study, a presentation on expected outcomes, or even just an overview of the syllabus and courses the student can expect. Webinars are super easy to market and produce with your basic email tools and a subscription to Webex, Adobe, or even YouTube live. Be sure to record the show for future use!
More Colleges are Seeking Help with Marketing and Enrollment Management
As the need for more complex and personalized marketing campaigns increases, more schools are turning to agencies for help with the enrollment management strategies and execution. We found that 31 percent of surveyed schools reported they were working with agencies to manage at least some of their web-based advertising and promotions. Large schools with 5,000 or more students were most likely to seek outside help and that likelihood increased as the number of marketing channels a school used went up. Using an agency also allows schools to tweak their marketing efforts more frequently, with 25.9% of schools who work with agencies making weekly changes to their marketing.
Keeping your students engaged throughout the enrollment lifecycle requires quick responses to students, unfiltered and personalized content, and marketing materials that let students really picture themselves at your school. Students today are growing increasingly wary of advertising campaigns, so making sure you’re active on social media and frequently posting engaging content is critical to converting prospects to enrolled students.
Want more Enrollment Management Best Practices? Download our free 19-page report: Best Practices in Enrollment Marketing Management.
* Download the full reportL Higher Education Digital Marketing Trends, 2017