The students you’re trying to reach today have grown up in a world in which nearly everything was an advertisement. When they were still in diapers they were bombarded with cartoon characters aggressively hawking sugar-laced cereals, and as they’ve grown older, the commercials, emails, texts, pop-ups and social posts crowding their view have only increased in volume.
As a result, education marketers concerned themselves with how to “cut through the clutter.” Unfortunately for students, the knee-jerk reaction for many education marketers was to produce more content. The logic—although flawed—was simple: “To rise above the noise, you need to be the one yelling the loudest.” But remember, this generation was raised in an advertising echo chamber, so you can scream until your throat is raw, and they’ll happily tune you out.
Keeping a constant line of communication with prospects is a good thing, but inundating prospective students with too many emails, letters, postcards and phone calls can be counterproductive. Most students know what they want and look for specific information (i.e., location, cost, degree program, etc.). When a university barrages them with many different types of content, which might not add value for the student or doesn’t specifically address what he or she is looking for, they are likely to mark these messages as spam or disregard them completely.
The key to reaching prospective students isn’t to produce more content, it’s to produce more relevant content, and deliver that content effectively using the channels students use most. To ensure messages don’t go unread or ignored, education marketers need to focus on quality and providing value in each engagement.
Brevity is Key
Many prospects, hurried for time, simply prefer a gist of what the message is all about. If interested, they will delve further. A report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project reveals that Twitter is increasing in popularity in comparison to Facebook. Sixteen percent of teens preferred Twitter in 2011, and this rose to 24 percent in 2012. This trend is a reflection on the preference for short and succinct messages.
The Need for Speed
An overriding priority for the education marketer is to guarantee web pages load fast. KISSmetrics estimates that if a webpage takes more than five seconds to load, a whopping 19 percent of visitors leave the page. With impatient, time-pressed and harried students, this figure could be even higher. Also, take a look at your web portals. Are they easy and seamless to navigate? Portals that deliver exactly what the visitor is looking for are the most successful at converting visitors.
Start with Simpler Forms
Research shows the longer a form is, the less likely someone is willing to fill it out. This is even more so in the case of prospective students. The first step to shortening forms is eliminating unnecessary questions. For instance, unless the college or university has gender-differentiated emails or policies, it might not make sense to ask prospective candidate’s their gender at the pre-application stage.
Don’t Go Overboard with Creativity
Having the most “outside of the box” content isn’t always a good thing. Sure, you may capture the attention of more visitors with content that’s outside the norm, but visitors are just as likely to abandon this content if it’s not relevant—leading to a low conversion rate. I can’t emphasize enough the power of concise and relevant information. And nowhere is it more critical than when marketing to prospective college students.
Keep Track of Communications
Smart education marketers need to keep track of the communication they have with the prospective students and watch conversion paths so they can more effectively increase enrollment. At what point did a student convert? How many communications did you have with them? Knowing what is too much or too little can make or break the deal, and student lifecycle marketing is the best way to keep track of it.
Education Marketers Need to Go Lean
Education marketers create content to attract the attention of their prospects, but too much content may simply serve to dilute attention. In today’s fast paced world, students are too impatient to sift through loads of data to get what they want, and they would rather abandon their quest than undertake a painstaking search. What matters is quality. Your marketing content, to yield the desired results, has to be easy to find and specifically address what the prospect is looking for. Nothing more and nothing less.
Education marketing expert Troy Burk is CEO of Right On Interactive