February 28, 2020

Combatting potential student poaching with digital nurturing

The economy is booming. Certificate, non-credit, and non-degree programs are experiencing explosive growth. Tuition costs are rising. All of these factors, plus several more, are contributing to a decline in enrollments for schools. These declines mean that many admissions departments are not hitting their student acquisition goals. A recently revised student recruitment process is now adding to these enrollment struggles. 

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) revised its ethics code in late 2019. This revision removed a provision that barred the recruitment of students attending other institutions. That means a process known colloquially as “student poaching” is no longer taboo. Schools are now free to start reaching out to students that are enrolled at other institutions and entice them to switch. As many as 35% of enrollment leaders polled in a recent survey by EAB have said they are considering trying to poach other colleges’ students. So how can marketing teams help their admissions teammates and work together to combat potential poaching? Invest in digital nurturing strategies.

Know who is at risk for melting away

Going to college is a huge decision and involves a lot of steps. The number and types of actions required to complete enrollment to a school can be daunting. Research says that the melt rate – number of students who enroll but don’t show up to class – can be as high as 40% for fall semesters. But you may not even know that one of your institution’s newly enrolled students is struggling, so how can you help them? Start by utilizing your data. 

If your school has a CRM, make sure you have enrollment journey milestones set up. Tracking the steps it takes for a student to get from initial interest to classroom is crucial. If you have this student journey map, you can utilize the data to see where potential pain points are with students. Pull lists from each milestone group and segment out those who haven’t yet moved on to the next stage. These people could be the most at risk for melting away before classes start. They are the perfect group to begin your digital nurturing efforts. 

Personalize and customize messages

Your marketing team can use your CRM information to build out custom message flows based on what the next enrollment step is for each milestone group. For example, there might be a group that has completed paperwork but not signed up for orientation. A testimonial from a current student about how much they got out of orientation might be helpful. This content could point out how valuable the orientation experience is and nudge a student to schedule. It is good to have a bank of varied content to draw from – testimonials, campus tour videos and imagery, school reviews, FAQs and tutorials, etc. 

Your marketing team can now use the contact info for each milestone group to build custom audiences. These audiences can be used on all major social and search ad platforms. They can be shown specific ad messaging, specific to their milestone group, that helps them understand and move to the next enrollment step. Added bonus – it will also make these prospects feel supported by the school. These personalized messages feel less like a sales pitch and can instill trust and comfort in the school. Sometimes all that’s needed to get a student to the next enrollment step.

Invest in a chatbot

Many steps in the enrollment process are lengthy and can be confusing. Getting the answer to a question might make the difference between someone completing a financial aid form and making it to class. Or not. People attending college today are used to getting answers to questions they have about other things in their life nearly instantly. So why not give them that same experience in the enrollment process?

Consider investing in a chatbot. Chatbots are a resource that can be loaded up with the right information and used to quickly and efficiently answer questions for students. Not only can a chatbot help students, but they also help admissions teams. By not having to address every question that comes in, admissions teams can better allocate their time to students who really need some extra help.

Don’t forget the parents

Getting a student to college isn’t just overwhelming for the student – it can also overwhelming for parents. This is especially true for students who are in families that are going through the higher ed process for the first time. Filling out financial aid forms, signing up for housing, and buying textbooks that need to be done before a student is in the classroom can be enough to make parents want to give up on the process. That’s why they can benefit from their own digital nurturing plan during this time. 

Take a second dive into your CRM and pull lists of parent contact information. Work to put together personalized content for their parallel journey on the student enrollment process. Just copying and pasting what you have for students won’t resonate with this audience. Really understand what channels work for them to receive info – whether that is email, digital ads, or more traditional methods. Messages that focus on how to support their student at this time can work to help parents. Testimonials and content that show the benefits of your school, in particular, are extremely powerful. By speaking specifically to this group you by proxy give your newly enrolled students an extra layer of nudging to make it the final step to the classroom. 

Competition for students will only increase with the new NACAC rule. By investing in a solid digital nurturing strategy for your newly enrolled students you can build trust and support that lets them know they made the right choice – and to stick with it. 

Want to learn more about how post-lead nurturing strategies can help you retain students along their enrollment path? Let’s talk.

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