Is your inquiry development process helping you generate enrollments? Or does it stop dead in its tracks after your first contact with a prospective student?
Robust inquiry generation and nurturing strategies, combined with continual tracking and reporting, are the keys to a healthy admissions plan – and one that allows you to continuously zero in more tightly on your target audience. Allow us to explain in more detail.
To start, you have your initial points of engagement: the channels that first draw a student in. These span across both the traditional and digital spheres, and you need to have a number of different channels operating in sync in order to cast the widest net possible.
People are constantly barraged by digital advertisements, so it’s critical to vary your strategies to extend to more traditional routes like direct mail, TV ads or radio spots, and personal touchpoints like recruitment fairs and campus visits. These traditional methods not only create brand awareness, but they also begin influencing the prospective student through crafted messaging and highlighting your institution’s unique selling points.
At the end of the day, these channels all serve one ultimate purpose: to invite connection from prospective students. So, for instance, your blog content will include calls-to-action that send the inquirer to a landing page where they can fill out a web form for more information. TV ads offer a phone number or URL specific to your campaign, which can then be used to gain information from your inquiry and track where these inquiries are being generated.
From here, a person may choose to engage or not. If a prospective student does reach out (i.e., fills out your web form, calls your campaign-specific phone number, or sends an email requesting information), the inquiry data should automatically populate in your customer relationship management system so you can follow up – and the nurturing can begin.
The Retargeting Detour
Before we can talk about nurturing, let’s look at a very important digital strategy for when a student doesn’t engage. What happens if an individual sees one of your digital ads, follows it to your landing page, but never fills out your web form? Well, there’s good news – that person can still be reached through a robust retargeting campaign.
When a prospect turns down your invitation to connect, they’ll be set apart in your cookie pool. Then, when this potential inquiry next hops online, you can target them with ads based on their past visit. These retargeting ads may be videos, display ads, or social media ads.
Social media is an especially effective platform for retargeting, as you can use link ads to lead potential inquiries back to your site and invite them to engage yet again. Or, for the less motivated prospect, lead generation ads offer the opportunity to fill out a contact form without even leaving Facebook. These types of ads are generally used on mobile devices and carry that convenience factor that can make the difference between an actual inquiry and a dead end.
Remarketing lists for search ads (or RLSA) are another useful retargeting method, as they allow you to focus more closely on your market by targeting individuals who have both visited your website and are actively searching for certain keywords which you specify and bid on. In this circumstance, you can increase your bids based on certain criteria which you preset. For example, you can add increased bid modifiers for keywords when they’re searched by people who have visited your site and are therefore more likely to convert. Another strategic RLSA move is expanding to broader keywords that may only be worth bidding on when you’re targeting an individual who has already engaged with you in the past.
Now, this may sound like overkill – but this is one of those circumstances that warrants it. One recent study by Media Experts suggests that display ads need to be seen an average of 20-30 times for maximum effectiveness. Remember, in retargeting, your audience consists of the students who are on the fence. They’re not positive that your institution is right for them – they need convincing, and retargeting gives you the opportunity to convince them.
Now that we’ve had that little sidebar, we can move on to the nurturing process. So you have a healthy number of inquiries at this point and you’re ready to nudge them along into application and enrollment. One important step must be tackled before this, however: you need to prioritize and segment your inquiries.
Not all inquiries are created equal. Some are more interested in your institution than others, and these promising inquiries should receive more detailed attention so that resources aren’t wasted. This can be done by implementing a predictive scoring model.
Predictive scoring consists of gathering past student information and identifying patterns to determine the probability of conversion. Assessing high lifetime value students based on their demographics, programs completed, geographic location, channel they used to initially inquire, etc., allows you to create an algorithm with which you can categorize future inquiries according to their likelihood of enrollment (high, medium, or low probability of conversion). The resulting categorization allows you to focus your nurturing efforts on those students that are further down the inquiry pathway, saving you resources and lowering your cost-per-enrollment.
Segmenting your inquiries not only lets you know who’s more likely to convert – it also helps you target them with messages that suit their level of interest and where they are in the enrollment funnel. Keep in touch through a variety of channels – email, direct mail, phone calls, display ads, text messaging, and online videos that give an idea of what your institution is like. Consistent communication can be automated through your CRM to ensure that inquiries receive relevant and timely messages.
Once an inquiry becomes an applicant, the campaign doesn’t stop. Many students apply to several different schools before making their final decision, so once you have an applicant pool, the nurturing starts all over again, now with enrollment-focused follow-ups.
The Continuous Cycle
If you keep tabs on each student’s movements through this initial inquiry process and then on through their enrollment and program completion, you gain a wealth of information that can be used to target and nurture future inquiries. You can even track back to how much in marketing and manpower was spent to target, nurture, enroll and graduate each student and see what your school made in net revenue – giving you your return on investment and lifetime value of the student.
You’ll also discover statistical trends on geography, demographics and media channel usage habits to better inform your strategies for attracting students with the highest potential to succeed in your programs. You can predict potential challenges students will encounter and prepare for them. You’ll have higher returns that will allow for necessary upgrades, new programs and better facilities. Most importantly, you’ll have the ability to streamline your students’ experience and provide them and their communities brighter futures.