Are You Earning Prospective Students’ Attention?
Each year, marketing your school to prospective students becomes more difficult. Potential students are bombarded by nearly two dozen emails from schools every day, and the sheer number of advertisements in their inboxes and browsers makes it difficult to cut through the noise.
So how can you ensure that your school stands out in a positive way?
If you want to get the attention of prospective students, you have to put in the work to deserve it.
You need to earn the right to be familiar.
You need to earn the right to ask big, deep questions.
You need to earn prospective students’ attention.
Use Marketing that Creates an Invitation
You want to communicate to prospective students the same way you would if you were building a new one-to-one relationship. New relationships require a bit of formality coupled with friendliness and approachability. This polite-yet-approachable tone is appropriate for marketing to prospective students, too. In the early stages of the relationship, students give their attention to schools that maintain social norms.
Some schools overreach and confuse friendliness with acting like a student’s best friend. Unfortunately, this approach often backfires by exceeding the appropriate level of intimacy and driving students away. Trying to capture prospective students’ attention by being too familiar too soon simply does not work.
You only earn the right to be familiar and hold a student’s attention once they’ve demonstrated some buy-in. Prospective students (like everyone else) want autonomy when it comes to making decisions. Present yourself as a potential option, and then give the student the opportunity to learn more by requesting additional information.
This approach is gentler and invites the student to pull more content in at their own pace. Your marketing efforts can be precise instead of going ad hoc on all possible channels—email marketing, outbound calling, banner ads—and hoping something works. When used judiciously, these tactics can yield the returns you’re looking for, but too much marketing can turn off prospective students.
How to Effectively Use Retargeting
Creating awareness for your programs takes multiple marketing “touches,” and retargeting is the most effective method for ensuring that the right people see the right ads. Review your outreach campaigns and find ways to make your approach appealing enough that students will seek out more information on their own.
Here are some tips to get started:
- Consider Frequency. How consistently are you reaching out to prospective students? Once a month? Once a week? Every day? Analyze your data to see how many of these students have sought additional information or committed to attend your institution. This will give you valuable insight into whether you’re contacting students too often or not frequently enough. Use this information to find your communication “sweet spot.”
- Try the “Burma Shave” Approach. From the 1920’s to the 1960’s, Burma Shave’s inventive advertising used progressive signage to tell a story. Today, the Internet is America’s highway, and using a series of digital ads to build a narrative can catch the attention of prospective students. Here’s a simple sequence to highlight three key factors of one school, each building on the next to create interest and tell a bigger story.
- Ad #1: Students Like You
- Ad #2: World-Renowned Faculty
- Ad #3: Successful Grads
- Refine Messaging. Once a prospective student has visited your site, you can use data to tailor your messaging to fit their needs. For example, if a potential student was looking at payment plans, you might retarget them with an ad or email about payment plans or financial aid.
Put Relationships First
Focus on marketing that builds and maintains good relationships with prospective students, regardless of whether or not they end up in your program. Sales decisions are made from both an emotional and logical standpoint—and building positive relationships with students gives them that “good feeling” about your school that may push them toward enrollment.
If a prospective student doesn’t end up in your program now, it’s still beneficial to leave them with a positive experience of your institution. They may return to your programs in the future, when their time, financial situation, or other circumstances have shifted. When that day comes, you want to be on the top of their list. So be kind, be honest, and let them know that you wish them the best.
Use Data to Drive Decision-Making
Once a student actively seeks more information, you can gather richer, more specific information about who they are and where they are in the consideration process. This information can then be used to modulate your marketing to address the student’s needs and concerns.
Keep in mind that there’s a fine line between effective, helpful retargeting and invasion of privacy. As you build trust with potential students, be mindful that your marketing efforts continue to support and invite them on the buyer’s journey without being pushy.
As you gather data, you’ll obviously be closely watching your conversions. With the right information, you’ll be able to tweak or modify your marketing tactics to boost conversion rates. Be sure you’re reviewing data about disqualified students as well. The most valuable thing you can do in marketing is effectively disqualify a prospective student. Accurate disqualification improves marketing efficiency by properly allocating resources—so you’re only spending money where it matters.
Unfortunately, many schools struggle to use their data effectively. They’re not sure what to measure, how to analyze it, or how to integrate disparate pieces of information into a coherent strategy. At MindMax, we’ve solved the problem of data efficiency with the Enrollment Intelligence (EI) platform.
EI aggregates all your marketing data in a customized dashboard, for simpler, easier marketing analysis. Schools with EI make data-driven strategic adjustments and use resources more efficiently to increase their enrollment rates. If you’d like to learn more about EI and what it can do for your school, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.