Higher-Ed Marketers: Stop Thinking about Leads and Start Thinking about Students

Higher Education MarketingHigher-education marketers, I have some tough love for you. Stop thinking about Google’s algorithm. Stop thinking about lead aggregators. Stop thinking about Facebook’s Edge Rank.

Start thinking about your students first.

As more and more prospective students turn to non-branded search to answer the questions they have in their journey to enrollment, the colleges that win big at the end of the day are the ones who meet the needs of the prospective students searching for information and help them through to enrollment.

I challenge you to put yourself in the searcher’s shoes whenever you make decisions about your digital strategy or changes to your website. When prospective students get the right information at the right time and don’t run into speed bumps along the way, they will be more likely to find you at the start of their journey and convert at the end.

Optimizing the Student Journey

Higher-education marketing strategies that focus on leads often get stuck on digital tactics affecting the end of the digital funnel, because that’s where marketers see the leads convert. But if we take a step back and focus on students in the top of the funnel, we see even more leads make it through to the end without dropping off. Check these 5examples of how you may be neglecting part of the prospective student’s search experience throughout the digital marketing funnel:

  1.  You’re Missing Content for Prospective Students Researching Options

 If I’m in high school and I’m thinking about becoming a teacher, my first search probably isn’t going to be for the “___________ degree program” that your school offers. It’s going to be, “what do I need to do to become a teacher?” or “what degree do I need to become a teacher?” If all you’ve done is optimize your site for your degree program name, you are missing opportunity at the beginning of the searchers’ journeys to become the authority in their minds. Be sure to create informative content on your website or blog to answer research queries (what?, why?, how?, etc.) that align with the degrees you offer students.

2. You’ve Neglected The Mobile Experience

One in four searches online are conducted on a mobile device. If a prospective student finds you from a mobile device and lands on a page that isn’t mobile optimized, you can bet that he or she will bounce and won’t be back again. Go the extra mile to make sure your entire site and your landing pages are mobile responsive. Be mindful of the mobile experience for students.

3. You Don’t Find Time For Social Media

When a student is doing research on your school, you can bet they are going to check out your social media accounts. Do your social accounts show what students experience at your school? Do they prove your academic excellence by touting awards, notable faculty, and prominent alumni? If you answered “no” to any of those questions, then you have some work to do. Not only is social media ideal for attracting potential students online, but it is essential to nurturing leads. If you ignore this channel, don’t be surprised that prospective students ignore you!

4. You Don’t Truly Nurture LeadsEducation Digital Marketing Funnel

People are busy. Lead nurturing is all about sending the right messaging at the right time without interrupting people’s lives (read: without being annoying and creepy), to create demand for an education at your school. If you think you are nurturing your leads but aren’t sure if you are sending the right messaging at the appropriate time, then you need to take another look at your strategy. Fixing messaging and timing in your lead nurturing efforts can greatly increase your enrollments. You can’t fix your messaging and timing without truly understanding the needs of your students.

5. You Don’t Utilize Big Data

By analyzing big data in student recruitment to understand the touch points and content that lead students to convert, you can make your digital marketing to recruit new students incredibly efficient. With big data, you can create a seamless experience for students as they progress from lead to enrollment. You can also use social data to better understand your online audience and communicate more effectively with it. Expect students to pay more attention to you when you speak their language.

Mapping out the digital student journey can help you identify pain points for the prospective student as well as points of success for higher education marketing strategies. It’s worth stepping back and taking an empathetic look (at least once a year) at the student journey to make sure that you’re doing everything possible to appeal to your students’ needs online while minimizing friction in the student journey.
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About Stephanie Pflaum

Stephanie Pflaum is a Senior Digital Marketing Strategist for Fathom Education, a higher education marketing agency based in Cleveland, OH. Stephanie specializes in higher education recruitment strategies that include SEO, Social Media, Content Marketing and Online Reputation. She is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University where she studied Marketing and Statistics. Follow Stephanie on Twitter @StephPflaum.

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