In the highly competitive world of student prospecting, everyone is looking for an edge―but one of the simplest things you can do is to simply understand what prospective students want, need and expect, and align your actions accordingly.
Here are four strategies, taken from our popular Enrollment Marketing Management eBook, colleges and universities can employ to increase success related to prospective students.
1. Speed and consistency
Swift response matters. In fact, today’s prospective students expect it.
The most competitive schools make initial contact within 30 minutes of initial inquiry. To help improve your response time, you must either build an in-house contact center or hire a external contact center that can follow up in minutes, not days.
Another way to better establish a relationship with prospective students is to recruit current students to be part of the contact team. Connecting prospective students with brand ambassadors such as students, alumni, and educators will ensure that your team is well-informed and able to answer details that are likely to help support faster decision-making by prospective students.
Also, for the best return on your post-inquiry efforts, it pays to place the greatest emphasis on those prospects most likely to convert. An upgraded customer relationship management (CRM) system, or an inquiry management system that coordinates with an existing CRM, can enhance your prospecting efforts by identifying and prioritizing high-quality inquiries, while also flagging those that are underperforming.
2. Quality over quantity
Focus on quality vs. quantity of student prospects―gather information from prospects and also share information about program offerings to establish a stronger relationship.
Tailor your form to capture only critical data such as program interest, time-frame, scholarship/financial aid need, ability to meet the institution’s admissions requirements, etc. and maximize the analytics of your CRM or inquiry management system to be best prepared for the introductory conversation.
Once contact has been made, listen carefully to the prospect’s needs and clearly communicate your institution’s ability to meet those needs.
Further, consider deploying surveys to collect additional information to help guide future marketing and admissions’ strategies. Most surveys can now be administered directly via email and with the right higher education market research, you can promptly respond to changing student expectations.
3. Mirror your prospects
Let prospects dictate how and when they want you to communicate with them and then do it.
As part of your multi-channel marketing approach, develop a communications strategy and messaging that is equally effective for email, phone, web-based or print. The other key factor in contact success is to be consistent with follow-through: create a time-lined and/or event-driven series of contact points and make sure that these are followed without exception.
4. Your website comes first
Your website is often the first impression a prospective student has of your institution.
Creating an information-rich website that gives prospects multiple opportunities to interact with an institution and its representatives (students, instructors, graduates, etc.), helps prospects learn about an institution’s program offerings, as well as details about financial aid, tuition, and the admissions process.
Offer clear calls-to-action from your homepage and/or directing prospective students to a comprehensive school profile page that includes videos on academics, faculty, research, athletics and campus activities and organizations, as well as alumnae, counselor and faculty profiles and an interactive campus tour (with videos).
Additionally, special attention should be paid to the user experience – make sure that navigation is easy and content and design is consistent.
But this should be considered just the beginning of online efforts. You should commit to learning about and adopting social media tools (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) to reach students where they congregate online.
When implemented properly, these four strategies will provide a solid foundation for your prospecting efforts.
Lastly, be flexible. Consider opportunistic and creative approaches to connect with your prospects. Let your prospecting team know that you are open to exploring new ways to “get the message out” via technology and encourage them to present new ideas that use new tools or existing tools in new ways.
Giving prospects what they need and responding to them effectively at the start of the student lifecycle not only helps drive increased enrollments but also ensures students are matched with programs that best reflect their educational goals.