When advising institutions of higher learning, we find that there are two key strategy areas that most often ignored. Interestingly, these two areas require similar tactics. Both require a keen eye on interaction between the University and its audience. Both are served by the widely praised and often poorly executed content and engagement strategy. Both serve to strengthen the sentiment of the institutional brand in a person-to-person way.

MOVING FROM AWARENESS TO CONVERSION PHASES

In our firm’s experience, the biggest gap in university strategy exists when the engagement phase of recruitment is skipped. Most institutions value a robust traditional media strategy. Direct mail, Out of Home (Billboards, other outdoor), TV or radio are all broadly utilized traditional media selections, and all of them fit in the Awareness stage of the decision journey. One cannot click to call from a television ad or phone an advisor after seeing a billboard. These tactics are broad awareness efforts. Direct Mail, phone canvassing, high school visits/fairs and high-pressure measures to gain RFI’s or campus visits move immediately to the conversion stage. The Engagement Phase, filled with ‘get to know us’ efforts, is broadly ignored. This blind spot in the decision journey is extremely influential.

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Create a Post Enrollment Strategy for Retention

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Remaining In Touch Post Enrollment

In this material, we’ll dive more deeply into the second of these concerns, the post-enrollment activity. Also filled with engagement and more personalized interactions, the post-enrollment experience will make the difference between a University among the recruit’s “top three” and where that student will appear on day one. Melt is a painful reality for many recruitment teams, often representing the difference between aspirational models for the future and harsher budget realities.

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Application Received

Your team celebrates! You have a new prospect in the fold. Now you wait for the next step. Communications center largely on what to do next—dry, step by step instructions are sent, that cover the bases.
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Enrollment

Students have successfully been recruited. Your team celebrates!
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Fingers Crossed!

What Percentage of these students will actually attend classes? The team lays in wait to see what percentages can be reported, and how successful recruitment will be.
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Week One

Students Are Numbered and Enrollees become a Head Count, that becomes a sense of actualized revenue. Enrollment yield is configured.

When we celebrate prematurely, we often ignore the most important stage: ensuring intent of our new recruits.

Effective Communication Post-Enrollment

You have connected with these students. They have committed to taking a step that brings them closer to joining your alumni prospects (on day one of classes). At this stage, forging a personal, lasting connection is more important than ever. Consider these personalization stats:  63% of consumers are highly annoyed with generic advertising blasts, and 80% say they are more likely to do business if it offers personalized experiences. Knowing that to be true for the purchase of a television or service, it’s likely even more so with their choice of alma mater. Because you “know them” now, there’s simply no excuse for making your interactions as personal as possible.

Give Versus Ask

Inevitably, your enrollment department will be connecting with prospective students with dry, how-to communications that drive their class selections, residential decisions, even parking and dining instructions. These are deeply impersonal, and rife with boredom, but extremely necessary for a successful transition to campus life. These are all examples of “ask” style communications. They are filled with checklists, calls to action, deadlines, and must-do’s.

Give content doesn’t benefit the University in any tangible way. Instead, it’s meant to entertain, educate, or inspire the recipient. It makes the audience better, happier, or feel closer to you. This content must equal or outnumber the “ask” communications, or your relationship already feels transactional rather than emotional.

GIVE

Content that gives only benefits the consumer. It’s meant to entertain or educate, making the consumer better or happier, while steering your brand narrative. Use your organic feed to GIVE to your audience. Boost your post to increase visibility.

ASK

If it has a call-to-action, you are asking your consumer to do something in response to your post. Your ask content belongs in ads, and is targeted to your audience and those like them.

GIVE + ASK

Drive revenue while providing a consumer benefit with this combined post type. It could appear organically or in paid media, depending on the tone and appeal of the content.

GIVE

Content that gives only benefits the consumer. It’s meant to entertain or educate, making the consumer better or happier, while steering your brand narrative. Use your organic feed to GIVE to your audience. Boost your post to increase visibility.

ASK

If it has a call-to-action, you are asking your consumer to do something in response to your post. Your ask content belongs in ads, and is targeted to your audience and those like them.

GIVE + ASK

Drive revenue while providing a consumer benefit with this combined post type. It could appear organically or in paid media, depending on the tone and appeal of the content.

Sample Content for Post-Enrollment Communications

Map and Recommendations for Local Attractions and Restaurants within walking, biking, or busing distance of campus.

Pro-Tips from sophomores for first time freshman. (Doubles as a great hashtag campaign that crowd sources content from existing student body in the public view)

Affinity-based communications about cultural events, faith-based community, or other

Video Profiles of 5 Campus “must-know” items

Social Media Cards that feature unsung heroes on campus (RA’s, TA’s, Librarian, Food Service)

Podcast Series with Research Project Leads Across Campus

Sponsor Content in Local Media featuring University Life

Transparent Summaries of Pandemic Protocols

Where to Find Lists: Lunch under $6; The best spot to study; a support group

Detailed stories on off-campus things, like Alternative Spring break and Philanthropic Groups

Take Action to Avoid Depressed Yield

The post-enrollment experience will make the difference between a University among a recruit’s “top three” and where that student will appear on day one. It’s within your power to influence this decision with more “give” than “ask.” Do this better than your competitors, and you’ve made the critical difference.

Other content you may find helpful is linked below. Your students aren’t a “sure thing” at this stage. Remember that you are still wooing them! Consider how your strategy for connecting with these enrollees and what will make them feel even closer to your brand. (Gifts are never a bad idea, either.)

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