The Future Is Personal: Marketing Automation’s Crucial Role in Helping Universities to Attract Students
UCAS’ 2017 End of Cycle Report found that last year, the number of university applicants in the United Kingdom continued to fall compared to previous years. This isn’t such a shock — while university offers countless benefits and can propel people into hugely promising careers, the bottom line is that it’s expensive.
On-the-job learning and apprenticeships offer alternative routes into the working world away from higher education, and an increasing number of people coming out of school are opting for this fast-tracked entry into adult life as a result.
It’s quite clear that the idea of university doesn’t have the pull factor that it once did, and never has it been a more crucial time for higher education institutions to find a way to grip potential students, and turn their heads towards undergraduate studies. But how can that be done? The cost of a degree isn’t negotiable, and there’s only so much an institution can do to try and set its courses apart from those of the rest. The answer is through marketing; personalizing the customer experience can play a crucial role in attracting students.
It’s All About the Experience
The customer journey is long and complex. From the initial stages of desk research into specific institutions to finally enrolling with the perfect one, there are many factors along the way. Ultimately, though, students select their place of study based on where they feel welcomed and valued — they’re hoping to be happy there for the next few years, after all.
Because of this, marketing teams for these institutions need to tailor each message towards a prospective student’s needs or desires in a highly personalized manner — which tends to be resource-intensive. However, this can be achieved even more successfully by leveraging marketing automation.
While it would take an army of people to manually gain insights from a wide variety of channels, including paid adverts, email, web targeting and interaction with field salespeople, automating this process can allow higher education institutions to targets individuals who are entering the pipeline every day, seamlessly, and at speed.
From here, a marketing team can use a marketing automation platform to draw insights to then address the particular needs of visitors. For example, an institution’s website landing page can be personalized in real time towards customers depending on the geographical location of the visitor, and what stage of the application process they are at:
- If a visitor is in the very early stages of the process, perhaps the focus would be on enticing them to sign up to an open day.
- Conversely, if they’re further along their application, the website might point them in the direction of financial help.
This personalization, and ability to nurture every single lead throughout the entire customer journey, can consistently put a specific institution at the forefront of a student’s thoughts, and ultimately, help the school or university to improve conversion rates and applications.
When combined with real-time A/B testing, cross-channel marketing proves highly effective; as has been proven with Sommet Education, who have managed to double conversion rates from visits to leads through this personalized automation method.
The ‘Waiting Room’
When it comes to recruiting students, using field sales to convert leads into applicants — and then to students — is typically a tough task, with low conversion rates. Marketing automation can be used to create a virtual ‘waiting room’ that houses portal visitors while they’re being sent different nurturing emails and incremental forms. Only once these visitors are deemed to be interested enough in the university, do the sales team to follow up manually.
This automated waiting room can be hugely beneficial. Focusing on existing leads rather than wasting time blindly attempting to qualify unqualified leads hands Marketing and Sales teams a much better chance of increasing conversion rates. Less time and resources spent on calls, less money spent on advertising; yet a much more efficient system in enhancing conversion rates.
Profit from Personalization
As an institution — especially on a global scale, which many universities are — delivering a highly personalized marketing strategy can become hugely complex: content, messaging, tone of voice, assets, visuals. It’s tough to fully comprehend, and even harder to manage on a manual basis, whatever size of institution you are.
Marketing automation takes much of this struggle away, all while cutting costs and manhours, and this enhanced personalization makes a visitor feel more welcomed by a university. It makes for a highly efficient platform on which an institution can attract more students, completing the main goal at the same time as saving money.