Lead Generation and Nurturing
One of the keys to thriving or simply surviving for some schools, colleges, and universities is generating a stream of qualified prospects to ensure you are enrolling high-caliber students with enough full-pays to meet your financial goals. The ability to generate interest from an optimal mix of families and students through print, web, and social media marketing is covered extensively on other pages here - please visit our digital marketing, social media, and direct/database pages to start.
Staying Connected Is Imperative, Too
While enrollment marketing is hardly a walk in the park, its significance has ensured that virtually every institution performs the basic requirements: identifying solid prospects, creating ads and web content to attract those people to consider that institution; and ideally applying and enrolling if admitted. Less dissected by marketers, or seemingly considered by many admissions people, is how to create an effective and efficient way to stay connected with your prospects from the initial contact throughout the application process. This process of "nurturing" your target audience is critical at three major stages: after the prospects have shown interest, to ensure they apply; after application, to stay top-of-mind; and after acceptance, to distinguish your institution from the competition.
Marketing Automation: Higher Education vs. Schools
This is an area where higher ed is much more advanced than schools, as many colleges and universities are starting to invest in marketing automation systems that combine database intelligence with the ability to create content "trees" that enable highly personalized communications. Schools without the size, budget, and knowledge of a Phillips Academy or the like have not pursued marketing automation yet, and many never will. Some of these "customer relationship management" (CRM) systems such as Salesforce.com (when combined with a smart email platform) and HubSpot, started in the business world, while others such as Technolutions Slate were developed specifically for higher ed. In addition to nurturing potential applicants, many colleges and universities have fundraising-specific CRMs for their development and advancement management. To date, however, while systems like Raiser's Edge and Ruffalo Noel Levitz seem to be effectively deployed to track the donor's giving potential, optimal timing and projection of "stretch" gifts, such programs are not being used to factor in that person's interests or website activity.
How does lead nurturing actually work (Cliff Notes version)?
All of the industry leaders offer the technical capability to integrate a person's demographics, financial status, geography, and interests with that person's behavior on visiting web pages, opening and acting on emails, and related digital activities to produce highly relevant email and text content that nurtures the prospect in the key stages discussed. Think of it this way - your crack admissions team members know a student's passion and family's hot buttons, but your team can't spend time with every strong prospect throughout the enrollment lifecycle. Marketing automation can keep ace field hockey player Susie Jones updated on games, events, and news, while budding actor Jorge Ferreira receives links to YouTube videos of your latest talent show and alumni profiles of your graduate who just hit Broadway. All the individual's interactions are is tracked numerically in your CRM, enabling you to "score" the prospects and prioritize your best leads for a follow-up call versus continued emails or direct mail.
See our blog posts on "Energizing your enrollment with lead nurturing," part 1 (strategic) and part 2 (tactical) to gain a deeper understanding of lead nurturing and how you can (somewhat crudely) simulate it even if you don't have the money or resources to use marketing automation systems.
Interested in increasing your applicant/interest ratio and yield percentage? Are your Admissions people struggling to cultivate prospective students and families? William Bullard co-developed a lead nurturing system combining Salesforce.com and Silverpop to nurture wireless communications prospects in 2010, leading to a 30% increase in the effectiveness of the company's new business lead management process.