March 31, 2020

Yield Marketing for Higher Ed – Using Digital to Engage Accepted Students

There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the landscape of higher education in a short amount of time. Recently, financial firm Moody’s downgraded its view of the education vertical to negative, citing factors like declining enrollment and financial stress that have come from campus shutdowns and delayed starts.

Enrollment and yield marketing disruption

This is an unpredictable time for all of us, and it will wholly change your school’s retention and enrollment-generation strategies. Current and future yield rates have probably been especially top of mind for both your admissions and marketing teams in the past few weeks. Keeping your enrolled students engaged for the foreseeable future without the ability to have campus visits, talks with counselors in person, and the prospect of online-only classes is daunting. With uncertainty around these more traditional enrollment marketing strategies, one of the best ways to keep your school healthy right now is to turn to digital. Here are six digital strategies to help tackle your yield and enrollment marketing challenges. 

Taking your marketing online

Online mediums enable you to better engage those students who are already close to becoming students. Nurturing their trust, calming fears and anxieties during this time, and using digital to further push accepted students to an actual enrollment will help your school at least hit short-term goals while seeing how the long-term will play out.

We have already shown how to ensure your paid search efforts are adapting to COVID-related changes. Now, here are some tips to make sure your digital strategies are properly engaging accepted (or already enrolled) students to make sure your yield rate stays high at the next start.

Market virtual tours as an immediate alternative

Campus visits and tours are traditionally one of the most important parts of a prospect’s decision process, even after acceptances go out. With prospects often choosing between a number of schools, this can be the final push to convince a student that life on campus would be better at your school than any other. 

Coronavirus has made on-campus tours nonexistent for the near future, thanks to full campus closures. But that doesn’t mean stop showing off your school to accepted (or prospective students). Virtual campus tours are seeing a spike in interest now and can be just as powerful at convincing students to enroll. 

Some schools are going all-out and using 360-degree videos to show off key campus locations, interactive elements to provide additional information, and chat features to answer questions. Don’t worry if you lack these resources. Pull together sharp photography that shows off the campus, drone footage from past marketing efforts, and any other media collateral. Use free apps or software to compile it into slideshows or short videos, and host it on a landing page dedicated to virtual tour information. Add the virtual tour to any outbound email marketing, as sitelinks in paid search ads, and as components of other enrollment marketing efforts.

Put accepted students into custom audiences

When you can’t get accepted students to campus one final time for an enrollment push, digital marketing efforts provide a great way to bridge the gap. Custom audiences, or matched audiences, allow you to engage those accepted prospects specifically across a number of ad platforms. This way, you can deploy special messaging that speaks directly to those accepted students and pushes them to make their deposit.

All the major platforms – Google, Facebook, etc. – will allow you to upload a list of information to create an audience. If you have a pool of prospects who are already accepted, it’s a good bet you have information from them such as an email address and phone number. Use this to create an “accepted prospects” audience across the platforms and deploy a specific messaging strategy designed with yield in mind. 

Think about what aspects of your school will convince someone to attend it over any other, especially in the current climate. Highlight online class abilities and the flexible scheduling of them, if you can. Use past student testimonials, link to virtual tours and push for live chats with admissions reps who may be working remotely.

Highlight your online learning

If there is one change to higher ed that COVID-19 has created that may be permanent, it’s the focus on online learning. Many schools have found themselves ill-equipped for the sudden move to distance learning. If your school is ahead of the curve for online programs, use it to your advantage immediately to draw in accepted prospects and improve your yield.

Even those who have been accepted now find themselves looking for different things in a school. In order to keep those prospects interested, you need to call out those factors and address them head-on. All outbound messaging to accepted prospects should highlight online learning opportunities.

The ways to do this vary across ad platforms, but all of your digital strategies should easily allow you to make the messaging adjustment. On Facebook, consider carousel ads that point out multiple online programs or online value propositions at once (such as flexible schedules or financial aid). Use paid search copy to call out the online aspect in headlines, and turn to sitelinks to promote specific programs or informational pages. And lengthier formats like email blasts allow you to fully explain how your school is transitioning to online, what the offerings and infrastructure is like, and what answers you have to frequent questions.

Share how you are adapting traditional deadlines

You don’t want a potential student to skip enrolling just because they thought they missed a traditional May 1 deadline that you actually extended. If your school is one of many that are now pushing that deposit deadline, make sure to overcommunicate that fact. Custom audiences can once again offer a quick solution. An audience of only accepted students can be engaged with specific messaging. Run ads to this audience calling out the extended deadline, building urgency behind getting a deposit in while also informing prospects that they still have time if they’re working on their decision. Because this information could be so key in the decision-making process, a short email blast to all of those accepted prospects that announces the deadline change is also encouraged.

Engage parents

And don’t forget about parents! Parents have always played a key role in enrollment marketing. But now more than ever they will be helping their kids make the right higher ed decision. With all eyes on how things play out post-COVID, parents will want reassurance that their child will still be able to take the program they want, get a healthy college experience, and be financially smart. Messaging to parents to address these concerns can help you elevate your school above others when it comes to decision time.

Hitting yield rate goals is tougher than ever in this new time for higher education. Check out more ways you can use digital to improve your school’s yield, and get in touch with us if you want to talk more.

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