How to attract, engage and retain students through marketing automationJanuary 10, 2019
Many nuances are important for students: the ability to better know their abilities, meet interesting people, get excited about new hobbies, acquire new skills, speed up career development or even completely change lives.
For those who are responsible for managing the educational organization, despite the functions of the formation of subsequent generations and the implementation of high-tech research, this occupation is a business, like any other activity that, in order to develop, must attract, involve and retain customers, that is, students.
This task is not easy, especially in times of economic instability, when graduates of even the best universities have no guarantee that they will find a profitable job.However, this does not mean that you lose.
Higher education institutions, e-learning platforms and other types of educational activities can achieve goals and attract, engage and retain students after they complete their studies. Educational organizations simply need to be more creative in their marketing efforts. Let’s take a look at how, with the help of marketing automation, you will achieve your goal in marketing.
Attracting Students – Step 1
One of the main business objectives of any university or institution is to attract “high-quality” students. Speaking of “quality”, I mean how much potential students will want to get new skills and develop their careers, how willing they will be to make efforts to achieve their goal.
How to find responsible students online? I suggest several ways:
- Create a landing page for each specific course (for example, an undergraduate program in International Business Management) or at least for a faculty (for example, for an economics department). State all the key benefits and attach an online registration form, through which you will receive information about your potential students;
- targeted advertising on Facebook, Vkontakte and other networks in order to find candidates who meet your requirements (for example, age, place of residence, etc.). With the help of advertising, you can send high school graduates to visit your landing page (or the official website of a particular department or course);
- the use of targeted Facebook ads Lookalike audiences (or user audiences / “Similar audience”) in order to find candidates similar to those who have already signed up for courses or completed training;
- retargeting campaigns to return applicants to your site. Create unusual advertisements that are combined with the pages that the candidates have visited and for which they have shown interest;
- Establish partnerships with sites whose audience is prospective students looking for information about career opportunities or universities. These can be sites with ratings, local forums, career development centers, or just websites of high schools or colleges. Introduce yourself to future students in sponsored articles or newsletters, organize an event offline or online (for example, a webinar) during which candidates can ask questions;
- content marketing – publish articles in an online magazine or newspaper, offer a free newsletter, write logs or standard blogs on topics important to students and about what happens in the environment. You can also organize online and offline meetings, during which former graduates or famous personalities will share their stories and will show by personal experience that education is a valuable asset;
- free online courses – through the mediation of both your own website and sites such as edX or Coursera. Thus, you will provide a valuable offer for a candidate who cannot afford to study at a university, and let the one who is planning to study feel the atmosphere;
- accounts in social networks – on your official website or in the mailings must be indicated buttons of your accounts in social networks. Try to engage your current and future students so that they become representatives of your brand.
Of course, one should not be limited to these methods. Attend offline events, organize open days, present your organization to students from even the furthest corners, become a partner of companies and establish scholarships or provide an opportunity to practice, use offline and other types of advertising.
During the marketing campaign, think about how your students make decisions.Analyze the proposals of your competitors . Perhaps you give up a simple listing of courses, and show the possibilities of step-by-step career development, for example, to achieve a developer position.
At the same time, make sure that the registration process is as simple as possible.Avoid creating pages that are oversaturated with details, speed up the site loading time, improve the mobile version of the site. Be present in those social networks where your future students are actively communicating and follow the latest trends not only in order to know how to promote your organization, but also your proposal.Creating a new program is a key element in many industries, especially in the field of IT and Internet marketing.
Student Involvement – Step 2
If students have already registered for a particular course or filled out an online form to receive information about your offer, you need to get them involved. Of course, the involvement of real, and future students requires the development of different approaches, since the goals are different, so we consider two situations.
Involving prospective students
Before prospective students register for courses, they need to make sure that the value gained is material and time consuming. You need to sell the idea of learning – it is not only the pleasure of obtaining new knowledge, but also the performance of work. The candidate must register, often pay and then hard work – this is a chip.
Then, how can you involve candidates who have already taken the first step towards education?
I will share some ideas:
- welcome email campaigns with which you can tell about life on campus, the experience that students receive, new friends or projects they will work on, that is, tell about all the intricacies of studying at a university. If you want to look more convincing, let your real students and graduates speak for you: show students’ opinions, their stories and career development, the reasons for which they chose this particular university, and how this decision changed their lives;
- various channels and forms of content. Each student is an individual and has his own way of perceiving information. Consider these differences and share information using (web) push notifications, social networks, email letters, videos, online documents, podcasts, photos that inspire and that young people willingly share;
- let your students say. I have already mentioned this, but this clause should be the basic rule. You can influence the popularity of accounts in social networks and the popularity of a blog by posting student stories. Let your students be responsible for some of the communication. They can take pictures or videotapes, create posts on Instagram and show how their studies are going on from a student’s perspective;
- Take care of relationships and be open to feedback. If you want to understand future students well, you need to communicate with them and monitor their reaction. Which communication channel should I choose: email, phone calls, social networks or live chat? This is especially important if your prospective students live in different parts of the world or even in different countries, as telephone calls can be very expensive or difficult. Ask and answer questions.This way, you can help candidates at the very moment when they need your help. And future students will be sure that they made the right decision by choosing to study at your university;
- stretch your hand. Do you know exactly who visited your site, subscribed to the newsletter and reads your letters? May ask for feedback? This way you can dispel doubts and learn more about issues of concern. Use received feedback to improve communication. Update the FAQ page, the landing pages with descriptions of courses or faculties, and make changes to the welcome campaign;
- Reactivate if candidates have fallen out of your funnel. If your welcome campaign is not established and you cannot convince candidates to register, this can also be solved. Use retargeting campaigns (Google AdWords, Yandex Direct, Facebook, LinkedIn, email or SMS) and submit the offer later.
Registration for the course is not a lightning fast decision. Provide prospective students with the opportunity to calmly think about, promote their interest, and even in a situation of minimal involvement, take care of a re-marketing campaign.
Following the above methods, remember to use tagging and scoring . Based on the information gathered in this process, you will be able to successfully segment candidates (for example, given courses or faculties, interests, level of engagement), personalize your communication and provide the most relevant and valuable content. Thus, your conversion and accordingly the number of registrations will be much higher!
How to involve real students
Real students are people who successfully entered (enrolled in courses) and this situation will continue for a certain period. Excellent situation, however, is not the final stage. You may want to maintain their involvement and activity, i.e. that in the future they continue their studies at your university, developing their career, they may become representatives of your brand.
And here are some ideas on how to achieve this:
- set the correct tone of communication. Tell your students about the training (courses) so that they receive the maximum benefit and pleasure. Promote the rapid growth of their emotional attachment to the university and to other students so that they wish to become a member of this community;
- provide support. Getting started can be hard. Familiarization with student life, e-learning platforms and other online materials may cause frustration and concern.Help students and accompany them on important issues so that they do not fall into the trap. Use email campaigns (trigger, behavior-based and standard autoresponders), welcome emails or live chat to provide support when they need it;
- send notifications and invitations. Are you preparing meetings, seminars and launching a new course? Notify your students and show how you can register.Send an email invitation and give them a landing page or other place where they can register.
- reminder and information about the last chance. Sometimes it is worth giving students a few chances to register. That is why you should take care of the marketing automation processes and send automatic reminders to those who have not filled out the form yet. Explain that this moment is their last chance to register and gain valuable experience or at least come close to achieving the goal;
- behavioral-trigger messages. If you have prepared the marketing automation and the platform correctly, you will be able to observe the behavior of the students and react in a timely manner regardless of whether they completed the registration process, attend classes or send assignments. Involve students and be on guard in situations when the moment comes to congratulate them on achieving the goal or there is a need to motivate additional efforts;
- recommendations. Discuss what students might be interested in, based on the history of the courses in which they participated or from the history of the points they received. And also analyze what fellow students have achieved and found valuable in the past. Based on the information collected, send recommendations that will encourage students to enroll in additional courses or more actively communicate with your brand;
- ask for feedback and use feedback as social proof in communication.Appreciate the potential of the feedback received from both potential and real students or graduates. Ask them to rate your university or school, facilities, resources, and individual courses. Thanks to the information received, you can improve service, and communication will become more convincing;
- community. Some students attend classes only to obtain a certificate or diploma.Others are due to friends, experience and community. However, the community is not formed independently, you must become a guide. Introduce your audience to other real students and graduates, reduce the distance between professionals and those who seek professional advice. Show students that graduation is only the beginning, and point out the benefits of constant contact with you, even a few years after graduation. Invite high school graduates to take part in communication, create a tradition to share what helped them get a professional education. Creating a blog or forum can help with this. Post interesting stories, start discussions and send automatic letters in order to get feedback that may be interesting to other participants in the dialogue. As I wrote earlier, remember to use various forms of content. Lightweight videos can be one of the best tools for engaging your audience, LongRid can work well for SEO, which will allow you to attract sponsors and companies that are willing to cooperate with you.
Start engaging your students from the very beginning to the very end. If you do it right, you can easily cope with the next stage, i.e., with the retention of students.
Student Hold – Stage 3
Last but not least, the retention of students. You want them to stay with you as long as possible, whether they register for new courses, visit your website, participate in discussions or even help prospective students find ways to finance their studies.
And here are ways to help you keep students:
- ask for feedback and finish the job. I already wrote about this above. Getting feedback is important for the business activities of the school. You do not want to conduct courses for the sake of courses, you probably want students to enjoy their studies and to benefit from them. If you are not sure whether you like the courses or not, how can you improve the educational offer? Send automatic email polls after completing training or hand in with homework. After receiving the information, finish the job and ask to answer questions about which elements of the program have been successful and what needs to be corrected. If the entire program is completed successfully, you will receive valuable information and be able to ask students to provide recommendations to interest others;
- send recommendations. In this case, this applies to students who completed their studies recently or several years ago. Recommend those courses that may be interested in your target audience. Regardless of which course it is, initial or MBA, make sure that your proposal is relevant and the advantages presented are in the interest of the target group;
- content marketing. A blog, a blog, a photo or stories from the life of the university or students will probably interest even those who left the campus some time ago. Talk about alumni in newsletters, update life information on campus. Information about the party may not be interesting to many, and the exciting story of a Nobel Prize winner who graduated from your institute will attract attention;
- announcements and updates. Every day something happens, some events are more important than others. Let your audience know about the latest events – about the new course that has just been launched, about the newly opened faculty, about the breakthrough in important research conducted by students and researchers;
- good old times. One reception that will probably work and engage your audience is a reminder of the wonderful period when students attended classes at your school. Organize an event, for example, a year or five years after graduation. Create more effective, personalized communication using available student data, for example, courses that they graduated, photos of course participants, release date, etc. If you do this correctly, you will see how important the response will be!
- club meetings and alumni meetings. Most students form small groups of friends that they meet from time to time. In the case of online courses, the organization of such a group is more difficult. You can come to the rescue, get alumni involved and make sure that they are members of the community by organizing offline and online club meetings. If there are a lot of foreign students among your graduates, try to organize meetings in different places, informing them in advance. Invitations, reminders and additional messages after the event, as elements of the process of marketing automation will increase the chances of success of the event;
- update information and donation. It should be remembered about the regular collection of data on graduates with a statistical purpose, and with the intention to get help to improve courses. Regardless of the reason, you can do this, for example, using an annual survey sent by e-mail or standard mail. You can also ask your graduates for donations to your university. And this is understandable, since they, too, have benefited, and this only means that you should not have any difficulty in convincing graduates to help other students who are looking for sources of funding. Such assistance may take various forms, which should also be considered, if you want the conversion of this tactic to be high.
As you have already learned, there are various methods for attracting, engaging and retaining students. What tactics to choose? The answer depends solely on the type of school – a traditional university or e-learning platform. Although the methods you use may vary, the ultimate goal and motivation remains the same. You want your students to develop, achieve their goals and build long-term relationships with your school.