There is a temptation that exists in higher education marketing and enrollment management to rinse and repeat the same student recruitment strategies and tactics yearly.
As progressive as the industry is, it’s shocking to see how hesitant enrollment marketers are when it comes to experimenting with new content ideas, new marketing channels, and new software tools.
If you’re looking for recycled ideas on bettering your email campaigns or hacks for optimizing the reach of your Facebook boosted posts, this article is not for you.
But if you’re looking to differentiate your school’s brand from the sea of sameness that enrollment marketing strategies tend to yield, then read on!
The following details a combination of new strategies, tools, and tactics that enrollment marketers should employ to attract more qualified traffic, convert those site visitors into inquiries, and dynamically nurture these inquiries into students.
1. Loom Videos That Help Explain to Users How to Navigate Admissions Website
I’ve yet to meet an enrollment marketer who has zero complaints about her institution’s website. More often than not, friction points and dead ends abound.
Loom is a free screen recording software tool that operates via a Chrome extension (you can also download the application to your desktop) and enables you to record yourself and your computer screen simultaneously.
The application also provides you analytics on who watched the video, how long they watched the video, and how the viewer engaged with the video’s content (via its emoji reaction toolbar).
If your site is architected first for internal stakeholders (students, faculty, and staff) and second, for prospective students, creating Loom videos that explain how to navigate your site effectively and efficiently is of utmost importance.
Furthermore, your communication flows should include Loom videos that make it crystal clear to the user where he should go to get answers to his questions, how the application process works, how he can book a meeting with one of your admissions counselors, etc.
2. Drift VideoBot to Engage Site Visitors While They Watch Student Stories
We’ve seen a huge uptick in the adoption of conversational marketing strategies at schools large and small.
Chatbots, for example, have been widely helpful for enrollment management teams from both a prospect-generation and “customer” support standpoint.
So how do you make your website experience standout? Drift’s VideoBot tool enables you to marry your compelling video testimonials or program highlight reels with the conversion power of a chatbot.
Imagine a user watching a video of a faculty member explaining their rigorous, research-based approach to course instruction while a chatbot — in the same frame — asks the user if she has any questions or if she’d like to access a detailed program brochure. The user could even schedule a call with the faculty member through the chatbot!
Drift VideoBot will revolutionize the way we think about the role video plays in inquiry generation...this simple tool empowers video as an asset for conversion and not just for awareness-building.
3. Use SparkToro to Discover Exactly Where Your Target Audience Eats, Sleeps, and Breathes Digitally!
SparkToro is Rand Fishkin’s latest venture. It is a market research and audience intelligence tool and the first of its kind to offer detailed insight into where your target audience spends its time digitally.
Let’s say you have an online MSN program and you want to discover which other digital resources your audience regularly taps into besides the popular DailyNurse blog. With a couple of clicks, SparkToro will reveal the other blog posts, websites, podcasts, and YouTube channels frequented by the folks who read DailyNurse.
Enrollment marketers spend tens of thousands of dollars on market research, persona development, and audience profiling strategies. And oftentimes, these projects yield incredible amounts of data at a high level that are hard to translate into something as specific as a custom target audience for a Facebook Ad promoting a downloadable version of your viewbook.
SparkToro makes it remarkably easy to know where the heck your audience really is — it takes a lot of the guesswork and “testing” out of the equation which, in turn, helps to ensure that your promoted content is being seen by the right audiences.
4. Co-Branded Student Recruitment Campaigns with Industry-Leading, Relevant Brands
What if an MS in Finance program partnered with Robinhood to give applicants $50 in investment cash?
Reduced Spotify Premium pricing for college students and MacBook discounts for new college students are just some of the strategies that non-higher ed brands are employing to reach the college student audience.
Brands realize that marketing to college students early on can result in loyal, lifelong customers. Which begs the question, why aren’t schools (specifically graduate schools) partnering with these brands to reach prospective students to create the same lifelong brand affinity?
Targeted promotions for college students, run in unison with brands that closely align with your program’s focus area, could create positive brand recognition among those students.
5. Use Rume & SocialHour to Make Your Virtual Recruitment Events Really Stand Out
Since COVID-19 has totally disrupted the event marketing space, enrollment marketing teams have struggled to effectively pull off dynamic, differentiated recruitment events. Schools can no longer rely on their campus facilities to sell prospects on their offerings.
In a sense, the playing field has been leveled and most recruiters are left with Zoom and a Powerpoint presentation as the tools at their disposal to convince prospects and inquiries that their institution is worth applying to.
Zoom fatigue is real — so how do enrollment marketers conduct virtual events that are truly engaging?
Meet Rume and SocialHour — these platforms allow you to organize virtual events by “topic rooms” and are remarkably easy for users to hop between rooms and join different conversations. You can also direct all users to the “main stage” for audience-wide presentations or communications.
Imagine a quick 20-minute presentation that ends with an invitation for users to join “round table-like” discussions around campus culture, financial aid, virtual happy hour (for those grad school prospects), faculty spotlights, and student panels. Once a user has gotten her fill of campus culture info, she can easily hop in and watch the student panel conversation.
6. Reverse Engineer Your Competitor’s Social Ad Strategy to Garner Insights for Your Promotions
Tools like Facebook Ads Library and Moat.com allow you to look up the digital ads that various organizations (including educational institutions) are running at any point in time.
One of the greatest challenges for enrollment marketers with small budgets and limited team resources is to effectively A/B/C/D/E/F test their copy and creative across social and display networks. The good news? You can do some (relatively simple) digging to uncover the lessons your competitors have learned along the way so you don’t need to recreate the wheel.
Here’s how this works:
- Head on over to Facebook Ads Library (for Facebook Ads) or Moat.com (for Google Ads).
- Search for a competitor school/program.
- Find an ad campaign they are currently running and make crucial note of the creative, copy, and offer associated with that ad.
- Now change the time period and have a look at the ads they ran 2 weeks before, 2 months before, and then 2 months before that. The goal here is to understand what tweaks they made to the copy and/or the creative along the way in an effort to garner insight into which tone/style/offer worked best.
- As you peruse the campaigns, if you are evaluating a carousel ad with different creative in each frame, but consistent copy and offer throughout, chances are the copy/offer are solid but the best image has yet to be determined.
This reverse engineering can be remarkably beneficial for determining which content offers, creative and copy appear to work best for a program or brand that is targeting the same audience as you.
7. No Designer on Staff? Use Canva Content Planner to Make Your Social Content Stand Out
Canva, a free web-based design application, recently launched a new offering called “Content Planner” which enables users to create beautiful social media posts and automatically schedule them to publish on the institution’s social accounts.
If you’re a team of one, and you’re responsible for crafting social content for your program, you’ve GOT to check out and experiment with this tool. It will save you time and make your organic content stand out from the noise.
8. Leverage ImpactHero to Determine Content Strategy for Each Stage of the Enrollment Funnel
SEMRush recently launched a brand new offering to help content marketers better understand which content performs best at which stage of the enrollment process.
ImpactHero provides you with insight into the blog content, pillar pages, and website pages that are most influential in generating new visitors, nurturing existing site visitors, and converting site visitors into leads.
Let’s say you have the following three blog posts hosted on your blog subdomain:
- How to Stand Out as an Applicant When Applying to Business School
- 8 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Studied Computer Science
- 10 Reasons Why I Chose to Pursue a Master’s in Organizational Leadership Over a Master’s in Business
ImpactHero will enable you to understand which post and corresponding post topics are best for generating new eyeballs to your site, nurturing existing visitors, and associating those visitor IP addresses with a name and email address.
9. Use CleverTap to Write Emotionally Persuasive Copy That Converts More Inquiries
Why I love copywriting, and why I strongly believe that enrollment marketers need to get better at it, is because it’s a tactic that doesn’t require more resources.
You may not be able to outspend your competition on PPC. You may not have the resources to create zillions of content pieces around targeted keywords and topics clusters to increase your SEO. But what you do have is power over your words.
You have influence over what headline is used on your Virtual Campus Visit Day landing page and the title text associated with your inquiry form, and the subject lines and preview texts you use in your communication flows.
CleverTap is a free digital resource that dissects your copy and identifies the emotion each word in your headline/paragraph connotes. From there, it enables you to play around with different words and phrases to replace existing content that more closely resembles the overarching “emotion” that you’re hoping to evoke.
I use this tool almost daily and it has dramatically changed the way in which I think about positioning words depending on the emotion I am trying to convey.
As promised, this post was filled with a stir fry of strategies, tactics, tools, and ideas. My hope is that the sharing of these half-baked ideas will spark curiosity and inspire you and your enrollment management or marketing and communications team to think boldly and creatively about how to approach student recruitment this fall.
Still stuck in a rut? Let’s chat.
If you’re looking for more ideas, let’s hop on a quick call sometime this week or next to brainstorm together! Book a meeting with me — I'm happy to help.
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