Attracting new students to a college or regional community college is extremely important to the health and growth of any institution. But is having the best courses, resources, and programs all you have to rely on to attract new students? In this hyper-competitive market, simply having good programs is not enough, especially when there are so many online universities and certification programs competing for the same market.
3 Strategies for Finding New, High-Quality Students
Just because you have a great program, does not mean everyone knows about it. I honestly have no idea what programs my community college offers. Even though they have locations all over our region, I have no clue what they provide. They are doing very little outreach beyond their current student base and workforce development to build awareness. So here is the basic, level 101 strategy that should be implemented.
Strategy 1: Build awareness that is relevant to your target market to increase interest levels.
If I, as a consumer, don’t know what your programs are and how I can take advantage of them in my career and growth, there is very little reason for me to try and discover more. There are many ways you can accomplish this task. First, you need to get to know your current student base in order to find similar, high-quality students in the future.
Strategy 2: Create Relevant Campaigns For Your Best Qualified Candidates
Usually, when our parent company Click Laboratory is analyzing the marketing performance of a school, the majority of advertising consists of billboards and radio ads. These tactics are useful and highly recommended but are only a small part of the overall picture. Everyone has a different reason for continuing education or going to college. Every person’s circumstances are different. As an educational marketer, it is your job to understand these so that you can appeal to their unique reasons for considering enhancing their education. Whether they are wanting to start their career on the right foot, enhance their career or just wanting to learn a new skill, there are lots of different life situations that will bring them to that point.
The more personal you can become with a prospective student, the more likely you are to get them to pay attention to what you have to offer. We are talking a much as a 5 times improvement in engagement and at least a 10% overall improvement in interest (at the lowest level). This type of personalization shows a student you are truly interested in them, their success and that they are not simply a number.
What can you personalize? There are several things you can very easily personalize whether it is a direct mail campaign, email campaign or message campaign. There is a lot more information that you can gather, but these are the easiest.
- Inserting their name in actual copy.
- Geographic information like distance from campus
- Financial situation
- Age of the prospective student
- If they are a past student, the courses they have taken and when (in case of certification renewal)
Strategy 3: Squeaky Wheels Get The Most Students
Marketing is not a one-time thing, or once a year thing. There are many triggers throughout the year that can entice a prospective student to become more and more interested in enhancing their education. A college has many opportunities to interact with prospective students in a cost-effective way, digital being one of those. Content development should be part of any campaign strategy that can regularly be put in front of them. As they interact more with your campaigns and content, they may feel like they are compelled and realize the benefits of education.
Without those squeaky reminders though, like anything else, it can easily be forgotten. People are constantly being inundated with distractions, marketing pitches and other things throughout their day, week, month and entire year. To attract new students, you must be able to break through that noise and get their attention. Be consistent without being annoying. Be useful to your student’s journey.
Recommended Campaign Strategy
Okay, you now have a good grasp of three strategies to use to attract new students. This means your marketing has transitioned from passive to active. What is a good initial campaign strategy you can easily implement to get things kicked off? Here is the outline you can use. Of course, you’ll want to tailor it to your needs, but it will work.
Step 1: Get the Data You Need and Create Segments
Get consumer data (student data) you can actually use in your campaigns. You’ll need name, address, demographic and any student relevant data. You want to use this data you can put into different segments (primary language, age relevant, degree/certification relevance, attendance history). You will have much better conversion rates if you can organize your campaign into the right audiences.
Step 2: Setup Your Assets
Be sure to collect all the content and images you’ll need. You’ll want landing pages on your website relevant for the campaigns. You’ll want your IT/Marketing staff to setup any tracking and analytics needed to track the performance of everything.
Step 3: Setup Your Remarketing
When prospective students visit your website or landing pages, be sure you have remarketing all setup for Facebook and Google. This way, you’ll be able to continue to market to them and ads will follow them all over the Internet. Make sure the ads are relevant to specifically the pages they visit.
Step 4: Personal Outreach with Direct Mail
Use direct mail to reach your audience. Not just any mail though. Make it as personal as possible. Sign it personally (not just a fake signature) if time allows. Be sure to direct them to learn more online so you can remarket to them as well. Maybe provide a video or downloadable brochure online. Something to continue the engagement.
Step 5: Digital Outreach
When you send out that direct mail, start your ad campaigns on social media and Google. That way they are getting hit from multiple angles at the same time.
Step 6: Second Direct Mail
Now, 2-3 weeks later (or whatever you deem best), send an eye catchy direct mail peice. Make sure it is tailored to each person uniquely so that you drive up engagement rates.
Step 7: Digital Ad Change-up
Change up your digital ads once the second mailer goes out. This helps them get new insights and reduces ad fatigue. Make sure all these ads and landing pages have conversion actions so that they can register to become students at any time.
Step 8: Second Personal Outreach
Now it is time for one last personal outreach via mail. If the prospective student at any point in any of these steps has registered, be sure to remove them from this funnel otherwise you’ll annoy them.
Step 9: Digital Nurturing
On a weekly basis, start changing the social media ad content. Try different angles such as the campus life, related degrees, activity on campus, awards, press releases. Test to find out what content works and what doesn’t.
Step 10: Content Marketing
If you get any of your target audience to engage with you, but they don’t convert, use content generated to post on email and social media to continue your outreach. Just because they haven’t converted yet, doesn’t mean you haven’t had a big impact on their decision-making process.
Where Do You Find Good Student Data?
Finding good data can be tough. There are a LOT of sources of demographic data out there, but only a few are higher quality simply because it is hard to get good data.
Here are some sources you can look to find good data to create the segmented campaigns.
- Your Own Data. Even though it may need to be cleaned up, your own data on existing students can be a great source to start with. As mentioned, that is where you should probably begin.
- Publications. Associations and Industry publications can sometimes be a good source of data. They may not give it to you, but running campaigns with them to their audience can be an effective method.
- Lumentis. Of course, I have to mention that Lumentis has a lot of household demographic information for education that can be used to reach a wide range of prospective students in your area.