What types of enrollment problems does your college or university face?
Understanding the college-bound audience can be challenging at times, because let’s face it, we keep getting older and they stay the same age. Every couple of years, this audience changes drastically. Many of these changes are propelled by technology, but the teenage and young adult population has always been known to drive trends. You can’t afford to sit back and wait to discover these trends on your own. If you don’t keep up with them, you’re going to miss out on key opportunities for communicating with your dynamic audience.
Wait! There Was a Time When the Internet Didn’t Exist?
One aspect that we must realize about today’s youth is that they don’t know a world without the internet. They have grown up online and are no strangers to text messages and emails. They keep in touch with family over Skype and social media. They complete research on the internet and test on computers. Whether it’s homework, socialization, relaxation or even basic skills like paying a bill, applying for a job or signing up for an activity, tablets, laptops and smartphones are at the core of everything they’ve ever done.
Google Has Replaced the Library (and pretty much everything else)
When a high school student has a question, they go to Google. They don’t go to the library. Why does this matter? Because when it’s time for this student to apply to college, they’re not going to be looking up your school in a book or magazine. They’re going to start their search online. They probably won’t search for your school directly, either. Instead, they’ll search for terms related to the programs they’re interested in, such as “bachelor’s programs for engineering” or “engineering degree programs.”
If your school doesn’t rank for these keywords, then it’s going to be much harder for the student to find you. If they can’t find your school, they won’t have the opportunity to see what it can do for them. Also, they won’t have the chance to fill out an application, and this can hurt enrollment numbers.
Marketing Tips to Solve Common Enrollment Problems
Let’s talk a bit more about some of the biggest enrollment problems that today’s colleges and universities struggle with, as well as some practical tips to help with them.
Problem: College prospects are wary of traditional marketing.
Solution: Use inbound marketing to give your school exposure and visibility. Let students come to you when they’re ready.
Has anyone ever really liked being interrupted with advertisements? No. Not really. But it was all we knew. Today’s young people are accustomed to ignoring these types of advertisements. When they want to know about a particular product or service, they find out what they want to know, in their own way and on their own time.
To avoid being shut out by prospective students, utilize inbound marketing as much as possible. Publish great content, update your website frequently, engage students in conversation on social media and more. In other words, be around and be available. But let students come to you. When they’re ready, make sure you have the proper personnel in place, such as admissions counselors. You will need to secure your relationship at this point.
Problem: Prospects are doing most of the research on their own.
Solution: Maintain your online presence and give students many opportunities for engagement.
When a prospect sets up a phone call or sends an email, they probably already know a lot about your institution. In the past, a phone call would have been the first way to meet a student, and you would have the opportunity to share information about your programs. Today, this would be a waste of time because students generally go through most of the college steps on their own.
Use your time with prospects wisely. Maintain a strong online presence so that students stay engaged and aren’t turned off by your school. This includes updating your website, contributing relevant content to your blog and responding to feedback on social media. Also provide plenty of opportunities for engagement such as setting up webinars or Google Hangout sessions. Remember that many of the applications you receive will be from students who you have never talked to personally but have interacted with through other channels.
Problem: Your website looks great, but it’s not converting.
Solution: Provide valuable, attractive content that gets visitors to stay on your site longer.
It’s not enough to have a great looking website anymore. It’s not even enough to have a great looking website AND a great looking blog. With more schools successfully managing their online presence and contributing to their blogs each month, the competition is higher. You need to do an ever better job of standing out.
To get visitors to stay on your site a bit longer, you must provide them with an enjoyable experience. This includes seamless site navigation, high-quality photos and interactive content. Your content should answer popular questions that college-bound students have such as “how to fill out a college application” or “top 10 things to bring with you to college.”
The purpose of this is to bring students to your website when they are involved in the research phase. When they land on your page and see that you have a ton of great information, they’ll be more likely to stay on your site longer. In short, SEO practices bring the right students to you at the right time.
Problem: You’re interacting with all students in the same way.
Solution: Take the time to build trust with your prospects and then convert them into leads.
Each student is unique, which means each student journey is, too. Take the time to learn about your audience and the different segments of it. You may have great programs for the typical 18-23 year old college student, but you may also be branching out to adults returning to college. Know who you are speaking to.
Also, don’t forget the various stages of the student journey and where prospects are when you interact with them. Don’t just offer the application at any given time. Nurture your leads through the funnel, build up a relationship and establish trust. Focus your efforts on one particular stage of the process. This is more work, but it yields a much better return.
The world is constantly changing, and today’s young people are a product of our highly tech-savvy environment. They don’t remember a world without the internet. When they need something or want something, they head straight to Google. Being available, responsive and engaging is the way to their hearts – and the way to better enrollment numbers.