In the world of digital, or what we now simply refer to as ‘the world,’ the prospective student is in control. There are more ways than ever to access higher education content, reviews, and different school offerings. As a result, students are paving their own path to enrollment. According to Google’s “Education Insights” team, the average higher education enrollee encounters 10,000 digital touchpoints on their path to enrollment! This includes searches, social media encounters, email blasts, etc. Schools who inefficiently interrupt a prospects’ journey are likely to be met with annoyance, agitation, and distrust. On the other hand, those that make the trip more personal and information-filled at the right steps are likely to be rewarded with a strong relationship and potential inquiry or start.
Your students are unique. Your students are complicated. The key to success isn’t asking them to understand you – it’s understanding their journey and how you fit into it. To do that, you have to map the path out. Find out not only where the points on the map are, but how they get from A to C. Attribution modeling can transform you into a conversion cartographer. By addressing where your prospective students are – whether they know you exist, they’re researching competitors and exploring student life, if they have a life goal your school solves, or they’re in your funnel already – you can eliminate wasted touchpoints and spend. Let’s take a closer look at the key stops along the prospective student experience route.
So you want to widen your base of potential students. Looking at the data, you know your current reach is scattered across social media, paid and organic search, review sites, and the list goes on. It’s not enough to throw your ads at the digital wall and hope something sticks – you need to investigate behavior, demographics, and opportunities to avoid wasting ad budget and build valuable connections. The goal isn’t to buy impressions, it’s to make them. To do that, even the first introduction needs to be strategic.
All ads are not created equal. Depending on your school and your students, there are varying levels of distance and acceleration required to get to an inquiry or enrollment. Scour your data and look for the number of touchpoints, the lead time, the time of day, the landing page, the messaging – all the influencing factors that actually lead to a conversion. And don’t stop at the inquiry! Your CRM is a wealth of information fit for a data scientist. Investigate the key pieces that tie together starts or alumni. Finding the common threads in an eventual student can help adjust marketing efforts to bring in better inquiries on the front end. Find the link among these prospects and turn it into a strategy supporting their needs, rather than your perception of them.
It’s not enough to supply the information anymore. With the student in control, and with mobile on the never-ending rise, it means an additional prompt is pertinent to closing the deal. Maybe your prospect is ready to inquire, but the train pulled up to their stop as they were finishing up their competitor comparison on their phone. Maybe they weren’t expecting to provide as much information in an RFI form and are hesitant to move forward. In any case, it’s not enough to get your prospects to consider inquiring, you have to prompt them with the action and value when the time is right. To keep them flowing through the funnel, allocate part of your ad strategy to leaving no conversion behind.
From the first click to the last, your prospective students are telling you what they want, where, and when. To take advantage, a conversion funnel is paramount. Build a multi-channel approach as unique as your school and your audience. Focus your strategic touchpoints not on simply being present at each stage of the college search, but on serving the purpose of keeping the funnel flowing. It’s the only way to prevent waste, in the form of potential inquiries, starts, and your ad budget.
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