April 20, 2020

How to Engage Prospects Now That Everyone is at Home

Enrollment marketing has always required a multi-channel approach. Your school’s prospects, especially the younger generations, are using more devices, apps, and networks than ever before. You have likely used demographic, geographic, and device usage data to further hone your marketing messages to make sure they are reaching the ideal target audience. But what happens when your data go-to’s aren’t reliable because everyone is staying at home?

COVID-19 has made it so that high schools, and other feeder institutions that would supply your school, are closed down. Events are canceled, too. And suddenly schools who relied heavily on marketing tactics like geofencing and in-person recruiting are scrambling to adjust their enrollment strategies to this new normal. Here are some ways you can actually expand your digital tactics to reach your prospects while they are at home.

Expand your remarketing lookback window

If you’re running digital ad campaigns for student acquisition, there’s a good chance that you’re also running some remarketing campaigns. But if you haven’t adjusted those remarketing strategies to account for this unusual time, you could be missing out.

We have already seen, in just a few week’s time, that prospective students are far more hesitant to make a decision. They are turning to info-gathering more than directly applying or inquiring, due to the uncertainty every school is facing right now. This potential elongation of the student journey means your remarketing touchpoints need to expand. It may take longer to engage prospects and push them through the enrollment journey and may require more touchpoints. 

  • Make sure to expand your remarketing lookback window. If you’re on a tight window like 14 days or even 30, consider going to 60 or beyond. 
  • Don’t assume that just because a prospect doesn’t apply within 30 days anymore they aren’t worthwhile. In this age of uncertainty and with more time on everyone’s hands staying at home, a research journey that once took 30 days can now easily take double. That timeframe could also be the same for the number of touchpoints a potential student may require before enrolling. 
  • If you have a frequency cap in place, consider relaxing it to allow more daily remarketing touchpoints per user. Give the new ad frequency cap a few days to populate data and then measure the impact on engagement and conversion to find your ideal number.

Use mobile ID targeting

Targeting ads based on mobile IDs is an advanced way to enhance a typical geofencing effort. Normal geofencing uses mobile location data to serve ads to devices that are physically in a location at that time. Unfortunately, this does you no good when every prospect is at home. 

That’s where mobile ID targeting comes into play. Every mobile device has a unique ID. Third-party ad platforms are able to tap into this ID, using geofencing to grab mobile IDs from a specific location and then serve ads to those users at a later point. The best platforms (Statwax recommends looking at Q1 Media or Factual) can look backward and grab mobile IDs from locations historically. For example, you can identify mobile IDs that were active at a large high school over the past six months. You can then serve ads to those devices now, even while they are at home and no longer at that high school. This digital marketing tactic takes the best parts of geofencing and removes the need for users to actively be in your ideal physical location.

OTT streaming video ads

If you haven’t explored OTT as a top-of-funnel tactic for your school, there may be no better time than now to test it out. OTT, or “over the top,” refers to streaming video like Hulu, SlingTV, etc. Younger generations have already been flocking to this type of media consumption. But now during COVID-19, usage of streaming services has predictably risen. Some studies are already seeing streaming video usage rise by more than 12% in just the first full month of this pandemic. 

With that kind of rapid gain on streaming, now is the time to explore video ads on those services. Video content allows you to build awareness about your school. It can be used to supply updated information about new class start dates, waived fees, and online offerings. 

And OTT campaigns aren’t nearly as complicated as they once were. Many third-party DSPs allow you to bid on inventory in the major streaming services. Even Hulu, once relegated to expensive direct buys, is looping itself into self-serve ad platforms, many of which also allow demographic and behavioral targeting. All of this combines to give your school a chance to showcase visually engaging video content to a relevant audience on platforms that are seeing some of their most rapid growth yet.

Interested in other ways to continue engaging your prospective students during this challenging time? Our higher ed marketing experts are here to help – talk with us today!

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