Over the least 35 years I have met with and worked with hundreds of enrollment managers. And there has been, and continues to be, a common theme amongst them related to student search and the source of “leads”. There are many data driven marketers today in higher education, but a very large percentage of them continue to place priority on “leads” and volume as the benchmark for successful marketing. As many colleges struggle to meet enrollment goals in an increasingly competitive market, admissions teams need to rethink their approach to recruitment to focus on generating qualified candidates vs raw leads.
Why Engagement, Not Lead Source, Should Drive College Admissions Marketing
We all know how easy it is today to purchase student lists by the hundreds of thousands from a variety of sources. The list purchase and blast approach has been employed by colleges and marketers in general for a long time, before the technology existed for a more surgical approach to student recruitment.
To get a sense of why the “source” of the student information is still looked upon as important we have to go back to the days when obtaining “mailing lists” (name and home address) of potential candidates was very difficult to come by. Prior to standardized testing, list purchases of high school students weren’t so readily available. Admissions teams prized those names and didn’t want anyone else to know who they were. Today, every college is buying the same names and bombarding these ‘leads’ as they are called with the same vanilla marketing including emails and direct mail – communications channels that don’t ‘speak’ to GenZ students (That’s a topic we explored in our previous blog).
A ‘list lead’ may never open a recruiting email deployed by the college. She may never open an envelope or read literature sent in the mail. And he may never answer a phone call made by the college. All of these mechanisms are intended to get a student to take action such as visit the campus or speak with admissions. Yet, if that student applies and enrolls, the value is put on the source of the name, not the steps it took to get them there.
There could have been so many contributing factors as to why this student choose to apply and enroll at a specific school which may have nothing to do with where the name originated in the recruiting pipeline. The student may have spoken to a friend that attends the school who graduated from their high school. There may be a legacy connection. They may have been told by their counselor that this is the school for them, and of course many, many other outside influencers that make an impact on a decision to visit, apply and enroll. Despite the many influencing factors that shepherd a candidate from very first contact to enrollment, historically credit is given the original source of the student data.
So, it begs the question why aren’t college admissions marketers focused on conversion point as the most important metric?
To start the recruiting mindset needs to shift. These are prospective candidates, not “sales leads”. They are young adults who need to be nurtured and engaged in a much different manner than a business to business lead – which is how traditional recruiting has marketed to students. Candidates are exploring their options for a long term (often more than 4 year) commitment to educate themselves for life.
Engagement is the Critical Metric for Meeting College Enrollment Goals
Student recruitment pros need to become less hyper focused on the “lead source” and pay more attention to what happens to that candidate after their initial interaction. If the “lead” or candidate dies on the vine, and never converts to a visitor, applicant or an enrollment, what good is it? Candidate nurturing is critical to identifying qualified candidates and achieving successful enrollment outcomes: Nurture from the point of first touch to sustain interest. Continue to engage and nurture to the point of a visit. And nurture all the way through application – and ultimately an enrollment. The key is being able to determine the quality of candidate from the outset, and nurturing qualified candidates to enrollment vs. generating a large quantity of ‘leads’ to measure success.
Successful, continued engagement with the right candidates leads to higher conversion at a lower cost. But email and direct mail are not the solution to successfully nurturing today’s mobile first college candidates. Mobile apps are where it’s at.
Not convinced you’re ready to adopt mobile as part of your recruitment strategy? Consider this fact: the average teen spends 3 to 4 hours a day on their apps. If you’re not interacting with them through apps, you’re likely not grabbing their attention in a meaningful way. And if you don’t start changing your approach now, recruiting will only get harder as future generations will likely be 100% mobile focused.
With mobile apps you can engage candidates with personalized content and interactive experiences based on their individual student profile and college preferences. They also allow you to track interactions at each stage of the recruitment funnel, pre-determine which candidates are most likely to visit, apply, and ultimately enroll at your institution.
Leveraging the Power of Mobile Marketing and Engagement to Generate Qualified Candidates
CiEngage is a mobile student search and recruitment platform that transforms the way you attract, engage and interact with prospective candidates. It modernizes and enhances your recruitment strategy to attract new applicants. Ci Engage allows you to drive brand awareness, campus visits, qualified applications, and increase yield of best fit candidates with rich student-built profiles. Directly communicate with candidates using our messaging app and chat portal for a personalized nurturing experience that drives qualified enrollment.
If you would like to learn how to leverage mobile marketing and drive better student conversions, contact us to learn more about CiEngage.