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Today’s recruiters need to find new ways of attracting a prospective undergraduate student who is now more skeptical than ever about whether a college degree is worth the time and money. This shift in American public sentiment is reflected in the 1.4 percent overall declines of current higher education enrollments. What’s more, the prospective undergraduate student population is not expected to show any growth again until 2020. But how did the balance ever tip in this direction anyway? Perhaps the biggest factor is that the national student loan debt will climb to 31 billion in the fourth quarter of 2016, as predicted by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. So how do you grow enrollments during a time of public dissent and enrollment declines? Recruiters simply need to tailor their recruitment strategies and marketing messages to the evolving preferences of today’s prospective students. This boils down to alternative strategies such as optimizing your search lists or creating personalized promotions. This way, you not only connect with prospective undergraduate students but you also demonstrate your value. As an added bonus, many of these strategies are available to you at no upfront cost. Let’s take a look at the four strategies that you can implement today, taken from our new eBook: The Definitive Guide to Undergraduate Recruiting.
1. Making the most of your search lists
Whether you build your marketing lists through content and SEO or purchase your lists from a third-party vendor, there are three tactics you must implement to maximize your lists’ effectiveness: IP targeting, geofencing, and in-feed social media ads.
IP targeting allows your institution to match a prospective student’s IP address with his or her home address. This can be incredibly useful when sending relevant and timely information to not only prospective students, but also their parents. For example, an IP targeting campaign may consist of a display ad about your institution’s programs to prospective students, while simultaneously displaying an ad about your average alumni salaries to parents. Each ad is personalized to the preferences of the audience viewing it, thereby increasing its effectiveness.
Geofencing (also known as mobile or location-based targeting) allows you to segment your list based on geographical region (big or small) and to interact with each group of students in a way that is familiar and welcoming to them. For example, a geofencing campaign displays images and copy that are customized specifically for prospects in the New York area, while their users in Texas will consume a totally different set of images and copy. Through location segmentation, your lists become manageable and focused.
In-feed social media ads match email addresses from your marketing lists to their respective social media accounts. As a result, institutions can target the exact student prospect, right where they hang out the most. In fact, 49 percent of the 1,500 prospective students surveyed for the 2016 Online College Student Report found social media to be either “effective” or “very effective” in making them aware of a potential program. For example, you can target a certain group of prospective students who you know are interested in your engineering program with an advertisement that showcases your institution’s engineering programs.
Promotion in higher education recruitment is a term that refers to increasing the prospective student’s awareness of a program or institution, generating enrollments, and building brand loyalty. If you want to target prospective students—and make sure they take notice—then they need to know your message is worth their time. Enticing prospects with promotions helps to justify their investment of time in your institution. Promotions may require strategy and creativity, but you can learn a lot by simply examining some recent examples of promotions that schools used to attract new undergraduate students. In the classic example of a freebie promotion, the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) provided free Apple iPads to all incoming undergraduate freshmen. Not only did this allow the institution to integrate new technologies into the classroom and foster education innovation, but it also generated buzz among prospective undergraduate students considering IIT. In the first contest of its kind, National Louis University ran a promotion on the popular deal coupon website, Groupon. The promotion offered a three-credit-hour Intro to Teaching course for only $950, nearly 60 percent off the normal price of $2,232. “This is a way for potential students to say, Let me find out if this is really a profession that I want to pursue,” said Nivine Megahed, NLU’s president. While we don’t know if the Groupon promotion yielded the enrollment results Megahed was hoping for, we do know NLU received a lot of publicity from it. Don’t forget about Facebook promotions in the form of contests—because who doesn’t love a contest? For example, Misericordia University gave prospects and incoming freshman gift certificates and prizes if they changed their Facebook profile photo to the school logo. By capitalizing on the networking functionality of social media, Misericordia not only increased interest from prospective new students, but also was able to build brand loyalty among their incoming student body. And isn’t that what promotions are all about?
3. Reach out to international students
Over one million international students enrolled in the U.S. during the 2015–2016 school year, so there’s no question that recruiting international undergraduate students can be a great source of new enrollments. The benefits of recruiting international students includes cultivating your global brand and reputation, gaining potential revenue increases, and providing your domestic students with new cultural perspectives. Here are five tips for increasing your international enrollments:
Understand your value proposition. A college or university must assess and acknowledge its strengths and weaknesses to determine how it will effectively differentiate itself from the competitors.
Identify existing internal marketing and recruiting assets. Many schools that are new to the international recruitment arena may not realize that they’re likely to already have “free” resources they can leverage within their institution.
Research your target market. One of the most important and sometimes overlooked components of a strong international student recruitment strategy is to truly develop an understanding of your target audience.
Create your strategic plan. In order to build buy-in for an effective international recruitment campaign, you must be able to demonstrate your institutional need for international students as well as the value that international students bring to the table.
Execute and continually assess. You’ll have to constantly optimize your international enrollment marketing strategy in order to identify weaknesses and make the necessary improvements.
4. Don’t completely abandon traditional recruiting methods
It’s a multichannel marketing world, and the three strategies above work best when paired with active traditional recruiting methods. The effectiveness of a traditional recruitment method such as hosting an open house or visiting high schools cannot be understated. And though there now exist live event college recruitment platforms that are more efficient than visiting high schools, you should never eliminate a recruitment channel entirely, since they provide marketing diversification, which can be used to shield your institution from risk. The methods listed above are to be used in tandem with traditional recruiting methods. When they are used correctly, you will connect with prospective students who would have otherwise gone unnoticed. For example, printed communications may be more expensive, but they give you another avenue of communication with prospective undergraduate students when you combine them with a digital campaign. It’s best to reserve this higher cost method for the higher quality prospects who are most likely to enroll in your institution. These four tips are only part of a complete undergraduate recruitment strategy. To learn more ways to effectively recruit undergraduate students, download our free eBook: The Definitive Guide to Undergraduate Recruiting.