When I’m not at ClicData, I teach Digital Marketing in an international business school and like many other teachers, I often wonder about ways to leverage technology to keep my students entertained. This series of articles will explore 2 of the great challenges which every university and school has to face: how to drive attention to their curriculum and attract new students’ applications and how to keep students interested once they are in!
In this article, I’ll focus on challenge number one and will try to share tips and best practice on how schools and universities and to proceed to recruit not only more students but the right students – the ones who will stick around. We’ll explore challenge number 2 in an upcoming article.
Keep your Business School and University attractive
I may be too business-oriented, but it seems to me that attracting students is very much like acquiring new customers and or recruiting team members.
Know your audience
In the broadest sense, recruiting is a process that involves finding, selecting and then integrating new employees into an organization.
In higher education, the Admissions Officer searches, selects and integrates new students from a school.
Recruiting students could be summarized in a three-step waltz: SEARCH – SELECT – INTEGRATE.
This article focused on the first step. The notion of research is essential here. How are we going to look for new students if we don’t know what we’re looking for? Extending the question: how do you find new students if you don’t know what they’re looking for?
The # 1 mistake in higher education marketing is to want to “cast a wide net” to reach as many prospects as possible. To want to reach everyone, we don’t talk to anyone. This is actually what I teach in my marketing class, the more targeted your prospection is, the more specific is your promise and thereby convincing!
If a school wants to stand out, it must target specific profiles. This is where the notion of student persona comes in. The marketing actions that will be carried out must respond to what the future students are looking for. By carrying out well-targeted actions very quickly, you will generate commitment and set up a virtuous circle.
However, to aim correctly, you have to know the issues of your target customers. Personas are semi-fictitious representations of target customers. Each student persona corresponds to a population of prospects sharing common issues.
Here is an example of a student persona: Lucie is a brilliant student, very academic and rather anxious about the idea of moving from high school life to student life. She loves math and is interested in purchasing. The following questions arise:
- What are the opportunities in purchasing?
- What can be the career development?
- What does the timetable look like in 1st year?
- Are there internship periods?
- How do you find an internship?
- Is there a period abroad?
- How do you find accommodation on-site?
- What level do you need to be in mathematics to enter school?
- How is the admission procedure?
Now it’s up to you to create your own personas!
To put it simply, the general message of your content offer should be as follows: “We understand that your problem is this. This is how you can solve it.” In the background: the solution is to enroll in our school.
In the context of student recruitment, there are two main specificities:
- The prospect’s double temporality: what do I do next year? –what training?– What do I want to do with my life? –what job?–
- Double validation prospect/parents: I want to do that but are my parents okay? My parents would like me to choose this path, but does it really appeal to me?
As a result, each student persona is actually a triple persona. For example Lucie – Future Lucie – Lucie’s parents.
Develop communication for each step of the acquisition process
At first, Lucie is in the discovery phase. She becomes aware of the challenges of orientation towards higher education.
In the consideration phase, the prospect refined his objectives. Lucie is looking for information related to her goal and interests. She is interested in purchasing. You will, therefore, develop educational content on purchasing professions.
For example purchasing explained to a high school student, the guide to purchasing professions –content to download-, etc.
Then, Lucie enters the evaluation phase. She knows she wants to take purchasing training and assesses the different options. You will guide her, educate her to allow her to assess her selection criteria.
For example: How to choose your training in purchasing? Business School or university studies: what is the best solution to access purchasing professions?
In the decision phase, our school is in Lucie’s shortlist. We must now convince her to choose us. We will use for example the testimonies of alumni and current students, statistics of professional integration or any other element of reinsurance for Lucie and her parents.
Generate qualified leads
To create a personalized relationship with the leads of your school, you must first collect sufficient and relevant information.
Upstream, you will, therefore, offer content responding to various issues and corresponding to different positions in the purchasing cycle. Thus, where the lead comes from and the point of entry to your data form will already provide information on the profile of our contact and what is important to him.
Since you have varied the entry points, this means that you should also offer more specific content than the generic brochure. Insofar as the downloadable content is specific, Internet users will accept an additional effort when filling out our online form.
You can add one or two specific questions to learn more about our contact and then contextualize the interactions.
At this level, as at other times in the process, I insist on the fact that it is necessary to leave quantitative logic to look after quality. The more relevant our content, the better your leads will be and the better you will be able to transform them.
Send personalized messages
The structural error of the quantitative approach to recruiting students is to think that more contacts = more registrants.
This equation is false because we do not know how to treat leads individually and we remain on stable conversion rates.
You’ll only influence a prospect’s decision-making process if you offer them a series of conversations that confirm, build, or change their vision. No salvation with neutral and generic content. We have to get into the heads of our prospects.
This is played from the start. The first impression is essential. The first content should already make a difference. If the prospect does not say that there, yes, it is something else, if he does not feel understood, heard in his problems, we will not get there.
If this first contact is successful, the door opens. We will then feed the relationship with personalized content in a logic of lead nurturing. On a large scale, we will automate interactions with a marketing automation solution. But it only works if we put people at the center of the initiative.
It’s about fueling the conversation, gathering data to get to know our prospect better and maturing your thinking step by step.
Track your performance
Key Performance Indicators should support your prospection process. Here are the essential KPIs to keep tracking this process:
- Traffic volume and conversion rate per recruitment channel
- For each piece of content: number of clicks, number of downloads
- For each new page of your website: number of unique visitors, conversion to the completing the form, time spent on the page
- For each student fair: number of brochures distributed, the number of students registered for more information, the number of emails collected
Within universities, the program’s effectiveness is traditionally managed with 3 key rates:
- Pressure rate: measures the attractiveness of the training by a ratio between the number of applications and the reception capacity, 100% is a maximum attraction and 0% is a zero attraction (see national ranking).
- Success rate: measures student success by the ratio between the number of graduate students and enrollment, 100% is a total success and 0% a total failure.
- Insertion rate: measures insertion at the end of training by the ratio between the number of graduates and the number of students who find a job or pursue a study, 100% integration of all students and 0 % a null insertion.
The higher these three indicators, the more effective the training will be. They are therefore crucial in the negotiations which govern the distribution of resources within universities: a teaching position will more readily be allocated to training with high pressure, success and integration rates, than to training that is not in high demand, where students fail or find themselves unemployed. However, training has little grip on these indicators:
- Increasing the pressure rate through advertising has a significant cost and results in the public sector have so far been inconclusive;
- Increasing the success rate can be done by lowering the requirements, but this leads to a decrease in the other indicators, or by improving teaching, but this requires means whose perspective is politically ruled out;
- Integration depends essentially on factors external to training, such as the number of jobs available in the training sector …
Here are a couple of dashboard examples which can help layout and easily share these KPIs within the business school staff or team at the university.