One of the most common questions in Higher Ed is "How can I convince students to choose my school?" The answer to this question isn't simple. There are multiple steps involved. Steps that have to be planned out, strategized, researched, and executed. Luckily, we've done the research for you! The following 4 steps will help you attract and engage with prospective students and parents, while making current students and alumni promote your school. Let's get started!
1. Set up a plan
First, you have to decide what is your overall goal. What do you want to change? Why do you want it to change? Who are you targeting? Set up a brainstorm session with your colleagues. Getting multiple perspectives and ideas can help you be creative and innovative. Now, you can develop a plan for how to execute that goal.
One tool to use is a content calendar. This resource allows you to visualize and organize how your content will be distributed over time. You can also schedule posts ahead of time so you won't miss any important events or dates.
Using the Inbound Marketing Methodology (Attract, Convert, Close, and Delight) is always an effective way to achieve your goal. Strategize each step and find creative ways to accomplish them.
- Attract- Using blogs, social media, and other content channels will help you create awareness.
- Convert - Once you have their attention, you can now turn visitors into leads. Gathering their contact information through landing pages, messages, or forms allows you to continue the conversation and address any questions or concerns they may have.
- Close - Turning your leads into customers is the tricky part. Paying close attention to their interests and nurturing that relationship is key! Supply prospective students with the right information at the right time through emails and meetings.
- Delight - After you close students, don't leave them out to dry. Keep the conversation going. Make sure their experience is everything they hoped it would be. If they feel successful, they will become a promoter for your school and help you reach future prospective students.
2. Identify your audience
Knowing your audience is key! If you don't know your buyer personas then you won't know how to effectively engage and communicate with them. In a previous blog we said, "Just because you aren’t selling a product doesn’t mean you aren’t selling something. Your "something" is just more abstract, but still has the need for marketing, growth, and relationship building." You have to build and grow those relationships with students and parents, which takes time and effort.
Your audience should include incoming students, present students, alumni, and parents. You might be wondering, "Why should we target current students and alumni?" Students and alumni can be your biggest promoters. Making sure they have a good college experience can lead them to talk about your school in a positive light. They could have a younger sibling who is at the age where they're thinking about what college they want to attend. If they hear their older brother or sister talking about their school and how great it is, that could persuade them to go there.
Make sure to research! Researching the trends, what people are interested in, and what people are concerned about will be beneficial when knowing what content to target to each audience.
Content should be published constantly. More than 90% of teenagers are on social media every day. That means that the vast majority of your prospective students are on some form of social media searching for content. When creating content, it should always be original and relevant. Think about what would make you click on something if you were in their position. Blogs, videos, podcasts, and Facebook Live are all sources of content that can be used to promote your school. You should aim to be one of the schools that pop up when future students and parents are researching.
Highlight your most successful programs. If your school has a great marketing program then make sure people know that. Include statistics such as, " _% of our marketing students receive a job offer right after graduation." You should also highlight any programs that are rare and that many schools don't have. Show how diverse you are, so that every student will feel like they have a place to fit in. Also, showcase your involvement programs. Many students love to be involved to meet people and be a part of something especially because they are away from home.
Content for out-of-state students needs to be different than in state students. One of out-of-state students' concerns is out-of-state tuition. Highlight ways to make their tuition less expensive such as scholarships, financial aid programs, or acquiring residency.
4. Social Media
Social media content is vital when attracting students. A study showed that 50% of prospective students research universities on social media. It is a great resource for students to see what school would be right for them and where they would get the most out of their college experience.
Every social media platform is different, so the best practices for each platform should be different:
- Facebook posts should be short, specific, consistent, high quality, and include visuals. Facebook Live is an effective tool to engage with students and also with parents. It should address concerns like tuition, safety, and housing options. Parents want to know that their children will be safe when they are walking on campus, sleeping in their dorm, and when they are hanging out with friends.
- Twitter is great for reaching incoming and current students. Posts should include headlines, hashtags, and visuals. Headlines should be original and specific. Hashtags should always be relevant. Not every post needs a hashtag, especially if it doesn't make sense to add one. And remember, always research to see what is trending and to gain new ideas.
- Instagram is all about creating the perfect video or image. It needs to be eye-catching so when they scroll through their feed they will want to stop and look at it. Instagram is for a younger audience, so target your content to incoming students, current students, and recent alumni.
As you can see, there is a lot that goes into making your school stand out. Attracting, converting, closing, and delighting are the best ways to persuade prospective students to choose your school. Through content and social media, you can achieve the Inbound Methodology and see results.
Wait, there's more! We have a free guide that will teach you the 5 Core Services of Inbound Marketing for Higher Education. Not only will it help you reach the next step in marketing your school, but it will help you create quality content that will attract and engage with students and alumni.