Reaching the Elusive Transfer Student

Carnegie Higher Ed Apr 25, 2013 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

Those elusive transfer students: how do you reach them? It’s important not to cross that proverbial line between well-crafted messaging and outreach that could be seen as (dare I say) poaching. More than ever, many schools are focusing on growing their percentage of transfer students, and if not growing, then certainly nothing less than maintaining current numbers. For most schools this is a familiar question and an annual challenge. In a perfect world, all students could afford (financially as well as academically) to commit to a four-year school right after high school, but as we all know that isn’t the case. Nevertheless transfer students continue to be an important part of the incoming class and one that shouldn’t be overlooked.

The million-dollar question I get asked again and again by clients and non-clients alike is “How do I reach potential transfer students?” Up until a few years ago, schools would rely solely on community colleges in their surrounding area that were considered consistent “feeder” schools. Coupled with some well-placed branding (billboards . . . old school!) and a few local recruiters, this would usually yield a fairly steady stream of local students. But, as they tend to do, things changed.

About five years ago, Carnegie added a Transfer Edition of Private Colleges & Universities to their long list of recruitment services. By utilizing an aged list of student names, they are able to reach students who have been out of high school for one to two years with monthly “e-newsletters.” The articles are geared toward choosing the right career path, living on your own, and, of course, “schools that are transfer friendly.” For many enrolled students looking to make a change, it is a nice way to explore their options, while providing schools with a nice way to reach beyond those traditional feeder institutions. So far, it has yielded well for both students and clients! Print copies of the publication are sent to all community colleges and two-year schools, so client branding in those areas remains consistent as well.

As the Transfer edition allows you to reach a national audience and instill brand messaging, the need to be able to deliver targetted messages to specific areaas has never been greater. California is an excellent example and one that most of us are familiar with: many schools are now welcoming residents of California who want to leave the state for their education with open arms—and incentives. But what about students currently enrolled at community colleges in California? The expense to put recruiters out there, as well as massive branding efforts throughout the state, is usually not something schools have in their budget (after all, California is pretty big!). If you are a college in the Southeast with a moderate budget allotted for transfer recruitment, how do you stretch your dollar the furthest and produce results at the same time? The answer comes back to geography and, more specifically, latitude and longitude.

Online advertising + Geodemography = Audience-specific, targeted messaging!

This strategy is the backbone of any good online marketing campaign. However, Carnegie takes it one step further and can target your messages by location—even latitude and longitude. Where am I going with this and why am I so excited about it? (As I write this, sitting on a plane, I really am on the edge of my seat!) Well, this is big news!

Let’s take the above equation and change it to read “Online advertising + Latitude and longitude + Community colleges = Transfer-student specific, targeted messaging!” Imagine drawing a line with a three-mile radius around each community college in areas where you are working to recruit transfer students. Once they cross that “border” to go to class, every time they are online, they will see transfer-specific ads for your school! So whether they are checking their e-mail, reading the news, or watching the latest cat videos on YouTube, they will see ads for your institution, ads that tell them you will welcome their credit hours with open arms! When students visit your website by clicking your ad, or even through a search engine, they are “tagged” by a strategic Retargeting pixel . Now when the student goes home and crosses back over the magic three-mile radial border, they will automatically start to see ads for your school on the other websites where they are spending their time. There you will be, in the back of their mind, reminding them: “We want you! Transfer hours accepted!”

Reaching the right audience at the right time with frequency is the formula for a successful digital campaign. Coupled with the ability to completely pinpoint that audience by exact location and messaging only strengthens your efforts and positively impacts your yield, thus making that elusive transfer student a thing of the past.

You can follow me on Twitter @JLawnchair or on Google Plus as Jennifer Lonchar.

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