Education marketers know where their advertising dollars need to be spent. As college students spend more time on their mobile devices, marketers are shifting their focus to mobile-friendly marketing tactics such as mobile PPC advertising, mobile-friendly websites, mobile apps and SMS campaigns. Yet even within the mobile audience are targeted audiences to reach. That’s why more higher institutions are utilizing geo-fencing in some of their campaigns.
What is Geo-Fencing? How Does it Work?
Geo-fencing is a location-based service that sends messages to mobile users within a certain demographic area. Think of it as a digital fence. Once users enter, they can receive messages regarding products, services and information. The purpose is to engage users who are located close in proximity to the product or service so that they can follow through with the desired action. Customers may be targeted based on their country, region/state, city, zip code, organization, IP address and more.
Let’s look at an example of how geo-fencing works.
Pretend that your school is hosting an open house for incoming freshmen. The event is taking place over the weekend, and you’re accepting last minute RSVPs. You send out an SMS to reach students within a certain mile radius from your school. There’s no need to send out a message to everyone because some students live far and won’t be able to make last minute arrangements.
As students within the certain radius receive the SMS, they can choose to attend your open house or not. By reaching this very specific audience on their mobile devices, you can also offer location-specific incentives such as bus service to your campus or a gift certificate to early arrivers.
As you can see, geo-fencing is an excellent way to reach a certain audience and offer specific information or incentives.
What are the Best Practices?
There is an art to using mobile geo-fencing. Though it’s used more commonly in the business sector, it’s emerging in the academic setting. Watch for new geo-fencing tools to enter the marketplace and streamline the way you launch your mobile campaigns. In the meantime, here are some of the best practices to follow when launching your higher EDU campaign.
Give the Option to Opt-in
Always give your prospects the option to opt-in to receiving your messages. Not only are there anti-spam laws you must abide by, but also you want to get off on the right foot. If you send students a message without them opting in, they probably won’t have a good feel for your school. Rarely do students say, “I’m so glad that School X found me instead of the other way around!” Make a good impression with your content and give students the choice to receive messages from your university.
Prompt Direct, Immediate Action
Geo-fencing is hyperlocal marketing, which means your messages should only be going to people who are no more than a few minutes away from your campus. Your campaigns should also include direct, immediate requests that users can act on right away. This allows you to see immediate results that have a quick impact on traffic and engagement.
Use Within a Larger Marketing Strategy
Geo-fencing isn’t something that is used on its own. It should part of a larger content marketing strategy that includes understanding your target customer. The content you deliver is what will get students acquainted with your higher institution, the programs you offer and what sets you apart from other schools. When students opt-in to your messages, you can reach them using targeted offers, information, reminders and more.
When sending out messages, you’ll want to determine if there is a link between location and behavior. Perhaps some zip codes have a better response than others. Use these results to optimize future campaigns. Even though some areas may be located closer to your school, you may find that other areas yield a better return on investment and therefore are worth sending geo-targeted messages to.
How Can You Use Geo-Fencing?
Geo-fencing is nothing to fear. It’s easy to use and offers immediate results, allowing you to track which locations bring you the most engagement. The only factor to keep in mind is that geo-fencing should be part of a larger marketing strategy, so make sure that you have good supporting content and a strong understanding of your target student. Once you have your strategy in place, you can use geo-fencing for the following:
Recruit students who may be interested in a specific program on campus. Students who are visiting the art museum for the afternoon may be interested in your college’s art program, for example.
Connect with transfer students at local two-year colleges. They are likely living in close proximity to your school and are familiar with your program.
Reach out to prospective students with information about campus tours, open houses and other events. This allows you to engage with students and encourage them to visit your school.
Encourage alumni to get involved with certain activities such as a homecoming game or theater play. The more alumni that come back to visit your college, the more fundraising opportunities are possible.
Colleges are in competition with one another, and no student is off limits. As prospective students visit other local colleges, send messages inviting them to visit your campus.
Geo-fencing has been successfully used in the business industry and is now making its way into the education sector. As your school tries to reach new territory, geo-fencing is a wonderful way to connect and engage with prospective students who are nearby your campus. A quick message could prompt them to stop in for a visit or one-on-one interview, and this could lead to strengthened enrollment numbers for your higher institution.