The Three Types of Students That Fill Your Class (and how to recruit them)

Guest Author for this post: Gil Rogers, Chegg Enrollment Services
Chegg is a Platinum Sponsor of the 2016 TargetX CRM Summit

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn on April 25, 2016

Ah … spring.  The time of year when we start to try to look ahead to our next class while keeping one foot in the fires of yield for this year’s class.

Considering the emphasis on yield this time of year, I started thinking … “What if we could take extra steps today to ensure we didn’t need to stress so much about yield this time of year next year?”

Then it hit me.  Aside from flooding our applicant pool to fluff application numbers, I believe there is one main contributing reason to the fact that we end up so stressed heading into May 1.  We’re focused on the wrong students.

A while back I wrote about squeezing water out of a rock with respect to search lists.  I’ve also written about yield and how many institutions are “doing it wrong“.  Hindsight being 20/20, I feel it’s important to respect that while many of the things I post tend to be on the extreme, we have to remember that higher education is the Connecticut of industries.  Both are the “land of steady habits“.

With that in mind, what I WILL NOT be doing today is proposing abandoning your traditional search strategies or completely abandoning print … What I WILL be doing is providing some thoughts on how you can focus on and double down on what works (and what you are comfortable with) while optimizing your efforts to ensure you are getting the most out of your investments.

With this in mind, here are the 3 student groups that can help you fill their class (and how to recruit them).

Group 1: Students With an Active, Demonstrated Interest

These are the students you love.  They’re the ones that come to every campus visit … They reply to e-mails (shocker!) and like and share every Facebook and Instagram post you put out.  They’re sold … But you don’t want to lose them by not showing them affection, right?

This group of students may yield well, but the volume won’t fill your entire class.  Anecdotally I’d say that students in this category can make up anywhere between 15-20% of your class.  Why isn’t this higher?  Easy … Group #2.

How to Recruit Them

Working with companies like Chegg you can identify students who are actively researching you and connecting with your brand across the web.  Learn more here: http://edu.chegg.com/#driveinquiries.

Additionally, you can use things like Interest-Based Retargeting to ensure you are engaging students digitally within minutes of when they indicate an interest in you.

Group 2: Students Researching Your Peers

This group, frankly, can have heavy overlap with Group #1.  Students know they have choices … and let’s remember we’re dealing with an audience made up of 16-18 year olds.  They change their mind.

This is also the group of students that we attend college fairs and visit high schools to reach.  They are undecided, talking to our neighbors, but may not have us on their list quite yet.

How to Recruit Them

One of the limitations of traditional “search” is that while you can segment by score and location, you cannot segment by that student’s consideration set of schools.  Match+ enables you to focus your name buy strategy on students who are undecided, researching your peers and aspirational peers, but do not yet have you on their list.

Imagine a steady report of students actively researching your peers during the height of travel season. It’s like being at all of the high school visits your competitors are hosting and knowing which students were there so you can focus on introducing yourself to them.

Combined with Interest-Based Retargeting, focusing ad impressions on students viewing the online profiles of your peers, you can now introduce yourself to students who are in your neighborhood but not looking at your house.

Group 3: Students Who Meet Your Strategic Priorities

Since the early 1970’s colleges have been able to buy large lists of names of students who have taken a standardized test.  The benefit of this tactic, of course, is the ability to introduce your brand to students who may have never heard of you before.  The drawback, of course, is diminishing response rates.

Even with diminishing response rates, the fact is that until recently “search” has been the only way to reach a large volume of prospects to build your pool.  On top of it all, most predictive models that institutions build in house or through a consultant rely on large populations of students to be able to build their communication flows.  Frankly, I don’t blame institutions for being hesitant to change … Call it the “land of steady habits” thing I mentioned above.

How to Recruit Them

Understanding that “search” is a familiar method, what if there was a way to do a process similar to it … but rather than focus on students at the tip top of the funnel simply taking a required test … focus on students who are undecided, proactively researching schools online, meet your specific enrollment priorities (and predictive models) and introduce yourself to them?

That’s why we built Match.  Using your strategic priorities and predictive models, Match allows you to segment the prospects you want to reach based on those criteria.

In combination with Groups 1 and 2, Match can be a great way to fill your class by focusing on students at the height of their interest while using a system and a strategy you are familiar with.

Optimizing What Works

Imagine a world where when you take all of your prospect lists (be it search, Match, inquiries, college fairs … whatever) and identify those students where they are across the web?  Using first party data advertising you can identify all of the prospects you want across social media, desktop, and mobile … serving sponsored content to them in support of your goals.  Here are a few examples:

  • A robust awareness campaign for 2 weeks before your search piece and e-mails hit their mailbox.  Students are consumers.  Consumers are more responsive to brands they are familiar with.  Build the brand affinity before the print piece hits the recycle bin.
  • A focused yield campaign for admitted students who haven’t committed yet.  Picture yourself as an admitted student browsing Facebook or Instagram in search of the “inside scoop” about the schools they are admitted to and all of a sudden an article about you, encouraging them to visit and picture themselves on their campus appears in their news feed.
  • An application push campaign to students in the groups outlined above who have not yet submitted an application.  A clear call to action encouraging a student to apply in the fall is much stronger than traditional brand awareness display advertising, particularly if you know the student is interested in your institution.

Where Are We Now?

Hopefully this overview provides you with some fresh perspectives on how we as enrollment leaders can craft a thoughtful search strategy for 2017 that doubles down on tried and true strategies that work while focusing on high impact tactics that will boost response and yield at each phase of the process.

View this special presentation that outlines these strategies and more in greater detail.  As always, comments and questions are welcome below.

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