As Hobsons admissions and advising consultants, we encourage institutions to increase their student engagement efforts by leveraging technology investments to communicate more personally. Learning more about your students and prospective students and engaging on a personal level will help strengthen your relationships with them.

According to ITSMA, a research-based organization for Fortune 500 marketers, 85 percent of marketers say understanding buyers is their No. 1 responsibility over the next two years. Why? Content overload.

In 2013 and 2014, according to the TrackMaven (The Content Marketing Paradox), output of content per brand increased 78 percent, while content engagement decreased 60 percent. Take a look at your personal email inbox from December, busting with holiday sale attention-getters, and you’ll know what I’m talking about. There’s a lot of noise in the marketplace competing for consumer attention and the same is true for students. 

However, efforts aimed at personalizing outreach can miss the mark if the mark itself is missing or unclear to begin with. Without a clear understanding of your institution’s target market, efforts at personalization and engagement result in wasted expense all the way through the recruitment funnel, delivering lower than hoped enrollment and potentially higher than hoped numbers of stop-outs and drop-outs. The consequential “pain chain” plays out as follows:

  • Marketing return on investment is low because there isn’t enough information to strategically allocate marketing spending in the right channels, resulting in either a low response or inquiries from students unlikely to succeed at your institution.
  • At the inquiry level, recruitment resources are inefficient and overwhelmed because there’s little information to focus efforts on what seems like an unmanageable inquiry volume. 
  • Among enrolled students, there may be an increased risk of transferring out or withdrawing due to a poor match between the student and the school.

So how do you make your engagement more relevant, and how can you make sure you make the most of your existing marketing and recruitment budgets? Here are two suggestions that we will elaborate on in future posts:

Build a student persona: Based on a tactic referred to as a “buyer persona,” the student persona aims to inform institutions about how their students arrived at their enrollment decisions and can help schools learn more about their ideal students, where to find them, and how to speak to them.

Track conversion efficiency: Track the sources and geographic regions of your inquiries and enrollments, determine which convert most efficiently for you, and allocate your efforts accordingly. At Hobsons, we have worked with institutions that travel across the country to attend recruiting events, only to find out after a geographic inquiry to enrollment analysis that those locations perform well on leads, but not on enrollments. Low conversion efficiency.

Don’t increase marketing spend allocation unless you know how to effectively convert those inquiries to enrollments. Conversely, other areas where you may not be spending much time, effort, or resources might surprisingly convert a much higher percentage of the inquiries or leads –-however low they may be –- to enrollments. Even a small additional investment in those channels, sources, or regions will likely have promising enrollment outcomes.

In my next post, I’ll dive deeper into the steps for building a student persona in order to make the most of your marketing and recruitment budgets.

Learn more about how Hobsons can you help you optimize your institution’s communications with prospective students.


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