Throughout the life cycle of a student, it is important that you are able to provide them with important and meaningful information and engagement - that's where marketing software for universities comes in. Students are more likely to be very tech-savvy and they expect the institutions they are interacting with to be able to provide the level of technological engagement they have become accustomed to from other organizations.
In considering how you can improve your educational institution's communication and engagement strategies with students at all stages of the student journey, it is important to remember there are online tools available to help automate and streamline all of your communications and strategies. Marketing automation for universities and colleges can help you optimize each stage of a student's life cycle from when they are a prospective student all the way to when they become an alumnus.
Marketing software for universities can allow your post-secondary educational institution to track engagement with each prospective student and have a complete report of all records you have with them. Learn their interests, see what messages they are engaging with, and automate the communication process to alleviate some of the manual work from your staff.
At each stage of the student journey, marketing automation has benefits that continue to aid in future stages as more information about each student is collected. The first stage? Brand awareness and competitive positioning.
Brand Awareness and Competitive Positioning
This stage comes before the student life cycle even begins. In this stage, you have to establish your school as a place students want to go for an education, somewhere where they can get a unique experience. So, before any students can even be interested in your school, they first have to hear about it. The act of getting your school in front of the eyes of potential students is an exercise in marketing. Being able to build your brand and set yourself apart from other schools is an important part of recruiting potential students.
At this stage, there are still important manual tasks your staff may do in order to get in front of students. Things like putting flyers in high school guidance offices are still very important. But, reaching students themselves is a more digital task as more and more young people spend time on the internet. Creating a dynamic, mobile-friendly website with good SEO ensures students will find you online when they are doing their own research.
"How can marketing software for universities help with my website?" you may ask. The answer lies in the multi-channel abilities of a marketing automation platform. If you were to choose the correct platform, you would be able to access a web tracking tool that would monitor your visits and clicks and create a profile for every website visitor, even if you don't have their name or contact information. Once they make themselves known to you, their name and contact information is added to the anonymous platform the system created for you. This becomes important in the next stage of the student life cycle.
Think of the other things your staff does right now to build brand awareness for the school and set it apart from other institutions. It's likely you have staff that attend school fairs or visit high schools, which is great as it really puts a face to your school. But, do you collect information from the connections made there? Online forms allow you to have a tablet at your event display to gather information from students who want more information from you, which is also helpful in the next stage of the student life cycle.
Prospective Students and Recruitment
Congratulations! Your efforts at brand awareness and creating a competitive advantage over other schools has worked and now there are potential students interested in your institution. At this stage, you may have a few interested students, but will likely still need to continue with active recruitment as well.
Remember the information we were gathering from school visits and your school's website? Now is when we can use that information to engage prospective students and really appeal to their unique interests. For example, if you have a student interested in science, you may not want to send them the same information you would send someone interested in liberal arts.
Your marketing software for universities can take this information and automatically personalize your communications with prospects so each individual student feels like they are being catered to. The best part? These communications are sent automatically so you are lessening the workload on staff while increasing personalization.
Another important part of student recruitment is having a presence on all communication channels prospective students use. Most prospective students no longer anxiously await mail delivery for communications. Instead, they are on social media, texting, and occasionally checking email.
Being able to communicate with prospects through their preferred method of communication will give you a huge advantage when it comes to personalization because now you are not only personalizing your communications based on interests, you're also personalizing the method of communication based on what each prospect prefers. Marketing automation allows universities and colleges to personalize content and communication channels automatically for each contact, thus increasing engagement and personalization capabilities.
From your pool of prospective students, you want to be able to pick out the ones most likely to apply to your school so you can give them more specialized treatment. Marketing automation allows universities to capture lead information, learn about individual interests, send targeted communications, and tag and score the most engaged prospects so you always know who is the most engaged automatically.
Being able to know who is engaged and who is not provides two benefits: you can cater to the engaged prospects and identify those who became disengaged in an effort to try to re-engage them.
Applicants and Determination
The time between being a prospective student and becoming an applicant requires encouragement on the part of your school. Luckily, with marketing automation you can automatically send reminders of application due dates to all interested students. If you have students who have partially completed the application, you can even automatically reach out to them and encourage them to complete the process.
After connecting with prospective students and encouraging the completion of the application process, you will have received applications from individuals wanting to join your school for the upcoming year. Of course, reviewing applications is an important task wherein students must meet your school's criteria for admittance. During this process, it is still important to stay in touch with these students. It is a well-known fact that students apply to multiple schools, and if a student is accepted to both your school and another one, you want them to choose yours.
This is another opportunity to create competitive positioning. Send automatic updates on the determination process, send automated SMS messages so students don't forget about the status of their application, and even just check in to see if applicants have any questions.
Doing all of these things increases your touchpoints with students so they feel valued, and can all be done automatically with marketing software for universities. Perhaps the most important thing about marketing software for universities is that it allows you to increase your touchpoints with students without adding more work to your staff. In fact, marketing automation increases the effectiveness of your communications while lessening daily work by automatically personalizing and timing your messages.
New Students and Admission
From the plethora of applications you received, you have determined the students who will be joining you for the upcoming semester. At this point it is still important to know that students may choose another educational route. Ensure they select your school by continuing to engage them by sending reminders of upcoming milestones: move-in day, orientation week, course selection, etc. Messages like this build excitement for incoming students and their anticipation to join your institution increases.
Specifically, a lot of students look forward to Orientation Week as it is their chance to meet new people, get a feel for your school, and really start to spread their wings. Orientation week is a busy time for first-year students. Help make the experience enjoyable to all students by distributing schedules ahead of time (automatically, of course) and send reminders as events get closer.
Remember that through all the stages up until this point, you have automatically been gathering information about your students. From their contact information and preferred method of communication to their general interests and course options. With this information, your school can now offer each student customized services.
Has a student mentioned an interest in a specific sport? Automatically send them an email about the upcoming try-outs. Do your records show any students with medical issues? Direct them towards to the campus clinic so they know how to access its services. New students are not always aware of all the resources available to them and may require additional direction. Give it to them before they ask with weekly "tips" about your school's resources to make the high school to post-secondary transition smooth.
Academia and Extracurriculars
As your students mature and proceed through the years of their degree, you must still continue to engage with them. This is where the engagement may divide into specific groups and departments now that students are more established. Marketing software for universities allows different departments and groups to customize and automate their communications — messages do not always have to be sent from your school as a specific entity. Instead, allow different groups to access the marketing automation platform to engage with the students they directly interact with. Your student union can send out voting reminders, sports teams can gather RSVPs for upcoming games, the campus bar can organize events — the possibilities are endless for how your university can use marketing automation to engage students no matter where they are in their student journey.
Importantly, the longer your students are at your school the more you get to know about them. From here, you can offer them academic services they may not have previously known about: study groups for their classes, instructions for graduation if they're at that point, etc. Students are busy with their classes so the more information you can provide to them that is pertinent to their interests, the better. Even after a student has been at your school for years, it is still important to engage them and prioritize their needs.
They say the most engaged alumni are those who were the most engaged as students. If your student engagement has worked this far into the student journey, it should easily transition to your alumni students. If you think in terms of this mindset, your whole school experience leads to having students engaged before, during, and after their time at your school.
So, don't let your graduated students fall off. Continue engagement after graduation with updates on what's going on at the school or with other alumni. Since you have a complete record of each alumni's interests from their time at your school, you can continue to personalize their messages post-graduation. If someone graduated from your biology program, prioritize those updates over those from architecture.
Engagement doesn't end with graduation, neither should personalization.
Try Marketing Software for Universities
If you're interested in seeing how marketing software for universities could benefit your post-secondary institution, sign up for a 14-day free trial of SimplyCast 360.