Marketing Automation for Higher Education

By Susan Vanselow | @vanselow_writes


In today’s social digital world, higher education marketers face stiff competition. Prospective students of all ages and diversities have literally hundreds of school choices at their fingertips: public and private. Online, on-campus or blended education.Opportunities for scholarships or tuition breaks.

It comes as no surprise that students are extremely selective about where they choose to go to school. Continuing education is one of the biggest and most important investments people can make. They want the best value, the right fit, and personalized service. More and more often they turn to digital channels to gather the information they need to make decision, a process that may stretch out over weeks or months.

Higher Edu marketers are tasked with offering students the right information at the right time, while standing out from the crowd.They are often forced to do this using limited resources, such as budgeting and staffing. That’s why marketing automation is an essential tool for higher education. It can help you reach the greatest audience and nurture prospective students to enrolled, and re-enrolled students. With marketing automation, you can improve your results, build solid relationships with personalized messaging, gather information to help you target future students, and prove the ROI of your marketing dollars.

Personalizing messages with advanced segmentation

Marketing automation is an invaluable tool that helps schools reach a large amount of potential students while still offering a personal touch. For example, a university could generate 300,000 leads a year. It would be difficult for even a large marketing department to handle that volume! So how can a typical small- to mid-size marketing department give personalized attention to each of those students?

With an automation tool, however, you can engage thousands of students just as effectively – and efficiently – as you can one. You can even send targeted messaging specific to the students’ needs.

They key to this is advanced segmentation capabilities. Segmentation allows you to do more than send an email to an inbox and hope it gets read. Instead, it allows you to group messages based on preferences, such as degrees of interest or if they are a returning student. This helps ensure messages are relevant to the recipient, which can increase response rates.And by delivering a personalized message, you engage potential students, increasing the likelihood that they will convert from leads and attend your school.

How does it work?

For example, a student visits your website. They fill out a form expressing their interest in the school and thus become a lead. Shortly after the visit, they receive a message detailing how they can easily apply to the school.

What if a student has expressed interest in a particular field of study? By using segmented messages, they can receive a personalized message directing them to a landing page with information about degree options in that field.

You can also capture and compile this data and market to leads based on their online activity. This can help you predict behavior of future student leads and respond to their inquires with more specific, targeted messaging.

As with all emails, a strong call to action can also help encourage the student to take action, sharing more information so you can better meet their needs going forward.

Added benefits of segmentation

Many of us work with limited budgets and unlimited to-do lists. Marketing automation and advanced segmentation streamlines repetitive tasks.Not only will you increase your staff’s efficiency, but you’ll allow them to focus on building long-lasting relationships. After all, sometimes the process from “expressing interest” to “enrollment” can take time.

Nurturing leads

What if the student isn’t ready to enroll just yet? School is an investment and the decision-making process may take weeks or even months. Don’t be discouraged and don’t let the lead get lost. Instead, nurture these leads with minimal effort and marketing automation.

Through your automation tool, you can set up functionality to trigger future communications based off of behaviors (such as visiting your website) or demographics (such as graduating in a certain year).

(It’s important to note that in this digital age, automation often boosts human interaction, by allowing leads to move through the process at a pace comfortable to them, with support from your staff.)

Enhancing student-university relationships after acceptance

Once a student has decided to enroll at your college or university, automation can foster a continued, strong relationship from initial registration to graduation.

Helpful reminders of things such as deadlines for financial aid (FAFSA) or answers to frequently asked questions can offer a personal touch without seeming pushy.Marketing automation software also allows you to continue that personal touch and stay in contact after students graduate. For example, if an alum has recently visited your website, you can contact them about donating time as a mentor or making a monetary donation for a scholarship.

Investing in education

Higher education is a wise investment. Today’s students are small shoppers, taking time to decide where and how they want to invest in their learning. That means gaining new students is a process—not a one-time event. The right marketing automation partner can help you best assist your audience and convert these leads to students. By offering personalized information when and how they need it, you can be confident they will make the right decision to invest in your school.

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