What do shopping and enrollment management have in common?

by Belfort Group | Thought Leadership
March 13, 2017

Patience, persistence and creative content.

Most of us have experienced this before. You’re in your favorite clothes retailer or home improvement center, perusing the aisles and are approached by a sales person who wants to be helpful. You politely decline, but moments later, you run into the sales person again. Which prompts the question, are they stalking me? Typically, if you knew what you were looking for, you’d ask for help so you could get in and out of the store quickly. But in this example, you’re in “just browsing” mode. This familiar experience is similar to how enrollment marketing campaigns unfold.

If students knew which school they wanted to attend, they would visit the website, talk to the pop up chat person or admissions counsellor and fill out the intake form for more information. These days, students – whether undergrad, MBA or continuing ed – aren’t always fully committed to a particular program type and like to check out their options. These stealth shoppers want to browse anonymously, just like you were trying to do.

This poses a challenge for marketers. How can we get SMART about getting students comfortable with inquiring and applying? Students know they are being targeted—they get mail, email, tweets, video ads, texts, personal calls—and until they are ready, all this communication seems to be in vain. But is it?

Let’s go back to the store for a second. Whether it is Bloomingdales, Macy’s or Home Depot, consumers are inundated with snail mail, emails, coupons and even aggressive sales people who call you to let you know about the latest spring line or discounts on flooring. Sometimes you’ll even get surprised with text messages.

In the end, we have to ask: how do all these communications affect decisions? Based on our annual Most Memorable media survey, consumers take it all in, but may not make a trip to the store until something spurs their interest—but then something catches their eye.

When it comes to enrollment marketing, we believe the process works the same way. It’s critical to properly communicate relevant content and opportunities to the right persona audiences for your program. After setting the stage, you need to be present when the prospective student returns looking for information or help. When students are ready, you need to SMART about how you interact.

Here’s a “SMART” way to make this happen:

Social Media—one thing is for sure, today’s students are not reading the newspaper, watching network television or listening to mainstream radio. They are online—and on social media—so marketing to them, while complicated, is easy. Just because the enrollment team may not listen to Pandora or Spotify, or use Snapchat, doesn’t mean that these channels aren’t viable. They are—because gen X, Y and millennials are using them and those are our targets.

Multi-channel marketing is critical to reaching and connecting with prospective students. Since you are not exactly sure where they “live,” you need to be visible in all types of media that reach your psychographic and demographic personas. If you understand your audience, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to reach them digitally.

Analytics are the key to understanding if you are reaching your target audience. The good news is there are so many social and analytics platforms that provide data to track your message, understand sentiment, monitor the competition, measure your traffic, identify where your traffic is coming from, and enable you to understand what content is working and what’s not.

Reporting tells the story. Armed with analytics, you have facts about what parts of your campaign are driving traffic and interest. You want to amplify effective messaging and share campaign insights with your marketing, enrollment and admissions teams to ensure messaging is consistent. Additionally, reporting shouldn’t be a static exercise. Rather, it should be fluid and happen regularly.

Texting is the best communications tool to reach today’s student. Whether they are undergraduate, graduate or degree completion applicants—everyone texts. If you can connect with applicants via text, you have a much better chance of ultimately engaging them in a meaningful live conversation.

We hope these SMART tips encourage you to continue your multi-channel marketing effort. Creating content that motivates people to try and buy is an art—and a science—we know because we are balancing both each day on behalf of our higher education clients. Reach out, and maybe we can offer some SMART ideas for your program.

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