In many of our recent conference presentations, we’ve asked the audience this question: what are two things that all of your applicants and enrolled students have in common? Usually there is a variety of responses from the room, all of which are correct. But the answers that keep coming up are “They’re online” and “They’ve been to our website.”
These are critical considerations as you think about those stages of the enrollment funnel and ultimately everything that leads to them in the months (and even years) before. The fact that prospective students are online and on your website at all different stages is a significant factor when thinking about your enrollment marketing efforts.
We’ll start with the fact that they’re online. What are some of the things you should be thinking about?
- They’re searching. So how are you appearing in their search results? When was the last time you put yourself in their shoes and searched for the keywords and phrases you hope you would do well with?
- They’re using mobile devices. A lot. So how is their experience with you and your site when they’re on a mobile device? Can they register for your events? Can they tell you who they are easily? Are all of your communications optimized for mobile?
- They do other things online. How can you find ways to reach and engage prospective students when they’re simply spending their time online? Think about this: every time you see an ad online, there’s a reason. And that reason represents the targeting capabilities that are available today, whether it’s a site you’ve been to before, your searching or surfing behavior, a list you’re on, content you’re reading about, or a number of different reasons.
Now let’s consider the fact that they’ve been to your website. What does this mean for you?
- Landing pages. What pages do you want visitors to visit and are they optimized for conversions? Have one goal for your landing pages and make it clear: “This is what we want you to do when you’re on this page.” Don’t distract visitors with a million other links and things you want them to do.
- Your analytics. Your website can serve as both a red flag and a crystal ball. Just like with attendance to open houses and info sessions, the traffic and activity on certain pages of your site can be a big indicator of what you might see in real life. If traffic is down on your admission page year over year, that typically means you should be worried about application and enrollment numbers. If traffic—and quality of that traffic—is up, then you’re likely going to experience better results. Analytics can tell you all of this and do so far in advance of getting caught off guard when it really matters.
- A competitive advantage. As prospective students are visiting your site, one thing that’s for certain is they’re visiting other schools’ sites. Another thing that is pretty certain is that they won’t be telling you who they are . . . at least not on their first visit. Retargeting can help with both of these issues. By staying in front of them after they leave your site, you improve the sticking power of your brand, stay top of mind, and increase your chances of them returning to your site and ultimately identifying who they are.
These are just a few examples of what you can think about how the students you need to deposit are spending their time online and on your site. So much of your enrollment marketing and strategy development can be reverse engineered with this thinking in mind. From the earliest stages of the funnel, these audiences are online, and your goal is to get them to your site to take action. The ability to reach them, get them interested in your institution, deliver an exceptional experience, and get them to convert can all point back to these two points. So the next time you’re talking strategy, start with those two facts and plan from there.
Follow Mark on Twitter @Cunningham527