Why Personalization is Essential to Student Recruitment – Part 1

Personal Mobile Experience

People place a high value on being acknowledged as an individual. They have increasingly come to expect a personalized experience from the brands they remain loyal to. Think Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Netflix — the brands consumers value most for their highly personalized experiences. Personalization is one-to-one marketing in the truest sense — one brand speaking directly to one person. When applied to the college student recruitment process, personalization helps to integrate prospective student information into a content delivery framework. The experience then becomes highly relevant.

Today’s tech savvy and mobile-first college bound teens expect a completely personalized experience. Without this approach, prospective students, who have so many college and career options, lose interest quickly. Ensuring each prospective student feels special is a critical change needed to meet ever increasing enrollment challenges.

While colleges and universities have evolved the methods that they use to identify and engage with candidates, including the use of email and in some cases texting, they are not adapting quickly enough. Successful consumer have embraced new technology and data available to connect with this generation of mobile first teen consumers. Colleges and universities need to follow suit with student recruitment practices to keep pace.

Shotgun approach vs. tactical

We have all experienced marketing campaigns that have no relevance to us. We have all received random telemarketing calls, a catalog in the mail, and emails promoting something that has no relevance to us whatsoever.

In these instances, your phone number, street address or email has most likely been purchased by a marketing firm trying to help a company promote its products and services. The same methodology has been used by colleges and universities for 50 years. The students on the other end of these calls, mailings or emails may have no idea why a particular college has attempted to connect with them. Students who sign up for the SAT, ACT, or use Naviance’s in their high school are likely not aware that their personal information is being sold to colleges. Once in receipt of these student lists, colleges then reach out in the hope that some small percentage of students will show interest.

This list-based marketing approach has been employed for a long time. The traditional marketing channels continue to get more crowded – delivering too much, too often, and often non-relevant “junk mail” or “SPAM email”. And these tactics are becoming less effective. It’s not just because the tech savvy student audience doesn’t pay attention to these outdated channels, but more so, the communications are not relevant or personalized.

Personalization holds the key to student recruitment success with Gen Z

Personalization is a proven method that is much more effective. It’s no longer a matter of pushing your brand, in large volume through all the channels at your disposal. Your suspects/prospects should and must receive the right content, at the right time. And it’s quite possible many prospects you might normally push content to shouldn’t even be receiving it, at least at the moment.

Maybe you just need the opportunity to gain more insight on these candidates first. Build your data bank first. Understand what is relevant. The bottom line is teens want to be recognized for who they are and what their needs are. They want to feel like whoever is marketing to them knows something about them. The days of random “junk” mail/email are gone.

Some hard facts about value of personalization:

  • 79% of consumers say they are only likely to engage with an offer if it has been personalized to reflect previous interactions they have had with the brand. (Marketo). Imagine if you could identify the right students in advance of an offer to visit campus, or a special tuition discount, or a waived application fee. Conversions will soar because the student feels like you better understand their needs.
  • By 2020, 51% of consumers expect that brands will anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before they make contact. (Salesforce). With today’s tech, its very simple to develop deeper insight on every candidate, and then deliver information and suggestions that the candidate will appreciate.
  • Accessing to this valuable data may seem like its infringing on privacy. However, more than half of consumers (57%) are okay with providing personal information if it’s for their benefit and being used in responsible ways. (Janrain)
  • Personalization works with 88% of U.S. marketers reported seeing measurable improvements due to personalization — and more than half reporting a lift greater than 10%. (Evergage). And, over 75% of U.S. Internet users said personally relevant content from brands increases their purchase intent. (Marketing Insider Group).
  • Another enormous benefit of personalization is related to a Call-to-action (CTA). Personalized to individual visitors have a 42% higher view-to-submission rate than generic CTAs that appear the same for every visitor. (HubSpot). This can be easily achieved with today’s tech and results in extremely high engagement rates of up to 91% based on our results at College Interactive.
  • Then of course, we can look at the ROI (return on investment) when personalization is employed. It reduces acquisition costs as much as 50%, lifts revenues by 5-15%, and increases the efficiency of marketing spend by 10-30%. (McKinsey & Company)

3 Advantages of Using Personalization for Student Recruitment

  1. Deliver Relevant Content
    Research shows almost half (47 percent) of consumers say the customer experience is the driver of which brands they decide to purchase from, beyond the quality of goods and price. Similarly, more than half (55 percent) state that they like marketing offers that include relevant products and offers. Let’s translate this to student recruitment. If the students you engage have a meaningful experience with your brand they will be more apply or enroll at your school.
  2. It’s all about the Experience and Journey
    Big consumer brands are realizing that customer experience has become the sole differentiator. Customers, especially when connecting on mobile devices, expect instant response, with relevant information, anytime and anyplace. They expect the brand that is engaging with them to recognize and understand them and treat them individually. The “customers” in higher education are prospective students (and quite often their influencers – parents, family, friends, mentors and counselors). If highly relevant content is delivered instantaneously and is analytically “thought through” to fit the individual, your conversions will improve.
  3. Increase Conversions
    Personalization can make a big impact on results. Data shows only one in four (26 percent) of marketers utilize email click-through behavior, and even fewer use website click path behavior as data points for message personalization. Personalization is a great example of a way to make something that seems disconnected seem more relevant. Relevant content results in higher engagement. Higher engagement leads to higher conversion rates.

Using Mobile to Gather Data and Deliver Personalized Experience

That leads us to the newest marketing frontier – mobile. Today, our mobile phones are a personal extension of ourselves. We use them for voice calls, video calls, taking pictures, sharing information, getting information, paying for services and products, and keep them by our sides 24/7. The information that is pushed to student recruits MUST be relevant and personalized to have any impact at all.

For example, if I’m searching for the right college, I’d like to see colleges that fit my preferences. At a high level first glance, this might include public vs. private, location, campus type, types of programs offered, and affordability. As I begin forming some opinions on schools and get deeper into my search, things such as class size, diversity, and academic requirements could affect my decision on where to visit, apply and enroll.

If a college knows nothing about me, other than a test score and my zip code, how can it possibly personalize my experience with their recruitment outreach?

Fortunately, there is technology to help gather this information from students and allow colleges to deliver a personalized experience on the platform teens prefer – mobile. To reach this next generation of recruits college admissions pros to adjust their traditional methodologies. They must embrace newer technology that’s designed to deliver a personalized student recruitment experience.

In part 2 we’ll tackle how to develop the insight needed on candidates to deliver a successful personalized mobile experience.

Learn how CiEngage can help you deliver a personalized mobile experience to students searching for college, and help you identify quality candidates to meet student recruitment and enrollment goals.