If I had to come up with an analogy for eMarketing, it would go something like this, eMarketing is like standing on a pier, watching a school of fish swim by, and trying to dive in and catch them with your bare hands. You can see them, measure them, know where they are, but without the right tools, skill and knowledge they will continue to slip away.
30th October 2008 – the first time I ever used online advertising; it was Facebook, Vietnam, 16 to 24 year olds, you know the drill! Successful if the measure was clicks, but a dismal failure if the measure was quality, convertible leads. So 5 years on and after many continued attempts at catching those online metaphorical fish, I am sorry to report that this approach still proves to be a challenge. Leads will always find a way to flip back into the water or simply be inedible..!
Despite this frustration I have learned a trick or two when it comes to casting the recruitment net. So instead of diving head first into the complex business of catching cold fish from the pier, let’s looks at ways of hooking your already warm leads and scooping a few extra fish away from the red oceans of the online education market.
I firmly believe the majority of institutions are too caught up with generating leads, as opposed to utilising eMarketing to ensure the conversion of existing leads and access high quality referral opportunities from students that have enrolled via traditional means. What I mean by this, is that before you attempt to generate fantastic online campaigns you need to ask yourself the following: “Do we have an application to enrolment conversion strategy that makes the most of e-marketing opportunities at every enrolment stage?” If your answer is no or if you are unsure then I believe this needs to be your first port of call.
To set the tone; more often than not an international student has applied to you because:
- They meet your entry requirements
- They want to study abroad
- They want to study with you and your brand (or you’ve at least made the shortlist) &
- They have financial capacity to pay tuition fees
Any student with the above attributes is absolute gold dust to a recruiting institution and I am confident (actually let me rephrase, I know for a fact) many would pay big bucks to access them.
The reason for this is that the majority of international students who apply mix in online circles with other prospective students exhibiting the attributes of points 1, 2 and 3 above. Therefore with many institutions hovering around 25% to 35% conversion rates – it is extremely important to EFFECTIVELY connect with your prospective students and their friends fast!
There are many ways this can be done and what I would like to do today is provide a simplified example of the type of experience from application to enrolment a student should (in my opinion) experience, centred on the use of online / technological strategies.
Application Stage – This is your opportunity to form a tangible relationship with your prospective student. Therefore, students should immediately receive a (very short) email & mobile text message, both thanking and acknowledging their application. Via these 2 channels it is imperative to invite students to join official social media via your Social Media Dashboard. One of my favourites is the Harvard Dashboard, they have made it extremely easy to navigate and connect, taking all the hassle out of finding official / relevant social networks. Check them out and if your institution doesn’t have one – get one!
Offer Letter Stage – This is your chance to really hook your student, by increasing both their knowledge and personal investment in your institution – two ingredients vital to eventual conversion! Many institutions unfortunately use an offer letter in its most basic form, i.e. name, pleasantries, basic programme / institution details, T&C’s etc. THIS IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH! Especially when students are often holding 5 of them at once.
Therefore, it is extremely important that your offer letter is optimised to not only address key points, but most importantly, via interactive links highlight exciting key selling points from both a course and institution perspective. Think of your offer letter as an information hub, with a selection of both general / bespoke links and interactive options that prompt the offer holder to dive deeper and deeper into your institution.
I am not suggesting you turn your offer letter into a Christmas tree with excessive social media logos and pictures, I am merely suggesting you think outside the box. But remember, it is important to align your offer with the brand image you are trying to portray.
Acceptance Stage – This is your chance to connect with the peer group of your newly recruited student. Therefore you need to utilise this opportunity to publicly celebrate the fact that a student will be joining your institution. Again, how far you go with this is up to you, however the longer you leave it the less chance you have of reaching your future students immediate and extended network. Social integration, an online group or something that allows the student and your institution to celebrate publicly what is going on!
Enrolment Stage – At this point you need to ensure that your international students have joined / signed up to all official online social media channels. This is your spring board to continually promote your institution to a network, of on average, 250 people per student. Select certain students to start blogging on their experience (pay them if necessary and allow them to be honest – click here for a sample), run photo or video competitions with themes linked to their course / institution or simply use the network to promote visits by staff / International Officers.
The above is just the tip of the iceberg with many possibilities, therefore I am not saying you should do them all or that this is conclusive. What you do need to do is develop a strategy that suits your institution, is sustainable and most importantly utilises your existing offer holders / student base to spread the word about how great your institutions is. Then, and only then, may you look at online strategies seeking to generate new business!