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Recruiting Intelligence

Ben Waxman and Mia Ballan

Getting Started with Email A/B Testing Part 2

Email A/B testing tests exactly what again?

Last week we shared the 3 easy steps to the A/B testing process:

  1. Define what you want to optimize
  2. Develop a hypothesis
  3. Choose your sample size

If you didn’t catch that post, check it out here. It will be particularly helpful for those on your team who get into the weeds of your email campaigns. This is part 2 in our 2 part series.


Come with Questions. Leave with a Plan.

If you are attending the AIRC or ICEF Conferences - here is a huge plus opportunity. 

The Intead/San Diego State University One-Day Workshop on December 13th will be a hands-on opportunity to learn from an awe-inspiring international student recruitment faculty.

  • A full day of international student recruitment strategy and execution discussion
  • Two luminary keynotes
    • Luncheon on Social Justice with Dr. Jewell Winn and Dr. Adrienne Fusek
    • Dinner on Chinese Student Influencers with Dr. Yingyi Ma and Brad Farnsworth
  • At $200 for the day (inclusive of all meals), this learning opportunity is a steal. (Pricing goes up to $350 on October 24, 2022).

And for those of you going to NAFSA Region XI, be in touch so we can chat. 3 super Intead presentations coming your way during that event.

As we mentioned in last week's post, the creative art of email marketing has everything to do with knowing your audience and tapping into your recipient’s curiosity. Your recipient has to think there is something of value to them because of the sender or the content.

This week, we move on to the next important aspect of developing and tracking effective email campaigns: What to test. 

In simple terms, the A/B testing process pits two slightly different versions (version A and version B) of an email against each other. Each is sent to a different sample group on your distribution list. The email with the best results wins and gets distributed to the remainder of your list. “Best results” has everything to do with what you want to prioritize (see last week’s post).

Almost any aspect of your email campaign can be tested: copy, design, timing. But, how do you actually decide what to test? Read on to learn which aspects of an email campaign we find most helpful to analyze to achieve the results that really matter.

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Getting Started with Email A/B Testing Part 1

Email marketing isn’t a matter of simply hitting ‘send’ and hoping for the best. The best email campaigns develop from multiple rounds of A/B testing. Not news to you, right?

While this is basic (and easy) stuff for some digital marketers, there are still many institutions struggling to actually putting it into practice. Staffing challenges anyone?

 


Come with Questions. Leave with a Plan.

How confident are you with your selection of international student recruitment markets right now? 

The Intead/San Diego State University One-Day Workshop on December 13th will be a hands-on opportunity to learn from an awe-inspiring international student recruitment faculty.

  • A full day of international student recruitment strategy and execution discussion
  • Two luminary keynotes
    • Luncheon on Social Justice with Dr. Jewell Winn and Dr. Adrienne Fusek
    • Dinner on Chinese Student Influencers with Dr. Yingyi Ma and Brad Farnsworth
  • At $200 for the day (inclusive of all meals), this learning opportunity is a steal. (Pricing goes up to $350 on October 24, 2022).

And for those of you going to NAFSA Region XI, be in touch so we can chat. 3 super Intead presentations coming your way during that event.

Getting back to the discussion of email marketing, the fact is, most enrollment marketing teams have limited time to review their data and modify their approach and content based on what they see. Those taking these steps are ahead of the curve.

The creative art of email marketing has everything to do with knowing your audience and tapping into your recipient’s curiosity. Your recipient has to think there is something of value to them because of the sender or the content.

This week, we take a closer look at email A/B testing, also known as split testing – the process of sending two slightly varied versions (version A and version B) of an email to two different sample groups of your email list. The email version that receives the most opens and importantly, valuable clicks (conversions), is deemed “winner” and gets sent out to the remainder of your list.

This approach is the best (and simplest) way to optimize your email marketing campaigns and quickly pinpoint what’s working and what’s not. Often it is the subject line that has the most power. But also you can test whether your prospective students click more on buttons or link text? What color button works best? Do parents respond to subject lines with emojis, or should you leave that to your student segments?

And given that you have so many important student segments to consider (domestic regional, domestic distant, international by country, non-traditional, first-year, undergraduate, graduate, transfer, program of interest, financial capacity, ethnicity), the testing you can be engaged in can become a bit complicated. So, it’s important to have this done with a bit of rigor and careful tracking.

Yes, of course, we are here to help when you are ready to truly adjust your content to maximize engagement and conversion. The results will justify the effort.

Read on for some of our best practice tips just to validate that your team is on the right track. And, be sure to share this post with the copywriters on your staff. It's a great primer for the newer marketers on your team. 

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When Traditional Student Markets Weaken, Look to Africa: Part 2

All eyes on China is not a winning international student recruitment strategy today. Not that it ever was. The stronger approach: diversifying the pool of countries your institution pulls from. We’ve been saying this for more than a decade. Institutional budget allocations have not always heeded the advice.

We get it. Student volume and confidence in achieving enrollment targets have driven academic CFOs and others who manage risk to take the more conservative path. Over the past decade+, our clients are typically those interested in pushing beyond the conservative global recruitment path. They are the institutions that recognize the value of building a broad range of relationships to feed their student enrollment.

This diversification, both domestic and international, provides for more long-term stability. That strategy is becoming far more attractive to many more institutions today. And that strategy takes time and investment to execute well, to build a reliable and diverse supply chain as it were.

Last week we wrote about the three key things to look for in markets ripe for international student recruitment: a growing youth population, rising incomes, and employment opportunities for returning graduates. And a growing list of countries in Africa is meeting the short(er) list for institutions seeking international students. It may be time you take a closer look at this region.

Here’s the link to Part 1 in this 2-part series (in case you missed it). Today we offer student recruitment insights for Ethiopia, South Africa, Morocco, and Tanzania.

And for more African student recruitment insights from our pre-Covid research (still highly relevant as you develop your recruitment plans), check out:

With a nod to last week’s post (with many useful links for the careful planner that we know you are), important to note that there is competition for these students from attractive and less expensive institutions in Russia (before the Ukrainian crisis), France, Germany, China, and some Middle Eastern countries.

In our discussion of 7 African nations, we cite a variety of useful sources to demonstrate how varied information sources will add to your country and cultural perspectives. Hopefully through this post and the next, you will find some new research sites to support your planning. (We love participating in that broader teaching mission as well).

Read on for tips on recruiting students from Ethiopia, South Africa, Morocco, and Tanzania

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When Traditional Markets Weaken, Look to Africa: Part 1

The best markets for international student recruitment have three key things going for them:

  • a growing youth population, 
  • rising incomes, and
  • employment opportunities for returning graduates.

The African continent has a number of under-utilized recruitment hubs that boast all three.

The three bullet points above are useful generic perspective applicable to pretty much any institution – higher ed and private high schools. But what about your specific institution?

How do you make headway in the new(ish) student recruitment markets that African countries represent? Will your differentiators resonate there? Which channels will reach your ideal student segments?

Perhaps start with some of our analysis with helpful, still valid insights compiled prior to Covid. You’ll appreciate the discussion of recruiting agents, creative partnerships, and other valuable recruiting channels:

To be clear, African countries, as sources of international students will not replace the flow of students coming out of China. So, if your enrollment goals are all about achieving target numbers and not about diversifying your campus, you may hesitate to invest here.

And yet, the thing about hitting your enrollment goals is that you win by building strong relationships and pipelines. Clearly, China and India have the volume and the larger accessible market size, but your institution needs student recruitment opportunities where you can be truly competitive. And diversifying your campus has rewards that speak directly to your institution’s broader teaching mission. Seeking less common sources of international students is one way you do all that.

An increasing number of institutions are approaching the Intead team to explore further afield. A welcome and important mindset. While regular readers of our blog know we continue to share perspectives on, and implement recruitment strategies for, traditional student sources (China, India, Vietnam, Brazil, S. Korea). With more institutions seeking new markets, it is a good time to revisit the approach to Africa as a valuable source.

Obviously, the pandemic slowed the inflow of international students from all parts of the globe, and Africa is no exception. But now, as pandemic restrictions ebb and economies recover, smart institutions are bringing Africa back into their awareness as a prime source of engaged, qualified students.

In fact, more than a few African countries have achieved the World Bank’s “middle economy” status and are expanding their leadership in sectors such as agriculture, oil and gas, and tech. These industries offer promising careers but tend to demand higher education degrees. Foreign degrees draw attention to job candidate resumes. Many US institutions offer long-established degrees and certifications that African higher education institutions are still developing.

Important to note that there is competition for these students. While the US has a strong draw (the US brand and all that), Russia (before the Ukrainian crisis), France, Germany, China, and some Middle Eastern countries have been courting students from African countries for a while with less expensive degrees than are typically found in the US.

Also interesting to note that over the past 5 years, both the US and China have each invested in the African continent at around $40B annually. Much of the investment has gone toward construction (roads/transportation) and mining.

According to The Brookings Institute, “China’s influence goes beyond the trade relationship: It is also the top investor in infrastructure, and now is the first destination of English-speaking African students, outperforming the U.S. and the U.K.” (source cited below).

In our 2-part blog post about 7 African nations, we cite a variety of useful sources to demonstrate how varied information sources will add to your country and cultural perspectives. Hopefully, through this post and the next, you will find some new research sites to support your planning. (We love participating in that broader teaching mission as well).

Read on to evaluate some of the strategies that we have found effective for recruiting students from the African continent.

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Getting Started with Snapchat Marketing for Universities

In an era where most social media platforms focus on curating an aesthetic feed, Snapchat stands out. It launched in 2012 as an app where messages “self-destruct” within seconds and has since added a variety of formats and filters. The platform quickly attracted young teens.

We published tips for academic institutions to make the most of this social tool back in 2016 (we waited to see if their ad platform was going to stick around). Since then, a lot has changed. You've noticed that too, we bet ; -)

Important to note, this social channel has a history of trend setting. SnapChat developed one of the original AR (augmented reality) filters and they continue to lead in many aspects. This is their lane and universities and private high schools using the platform should keep in mind that SnapChat tends to set the trend periodically in this area. Good to watch and learn here.

Overall, Snapchat's impermanent nature nurtures casual, free-flowing conversation, making it an enticing way to connect with students. Done well, it’s your ticket to getting in on prospective students’ conversations. And that’s precisely where you want to be.

Snapchat is where you show off your culture -- the feel of your campus as opposed to the specific features (programs).

Why your institution should be on Snapchat:

  • It’s young. 59% of Americans between the ages of 13 and 24 use Snapchat.
  • It’s global. 58% of Snapchat daily active users are based outside of North America, with India, France, and the UK leading the pack.
  • It’s growing. In Q2 of 2022, Snapchat had 347 million daily active users worldwide, a 22% growth year-over-year. Almost of all of that growth has been in international users while US users have remained fairly steady.
  • It’s unique. Not many high schools or universities are using Snapchat (yet), making it a way to stand out to prospective students.
  • It’s authentic. Snapchat offers a personalized way to share content and interact with students.

Ready to snap it? If so, read on to learn how you can incorporate this popular platform into your recruitment game plan and differentiate your institution. Be where your audience is.

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Get Started with Instagram Marketing Strategies to Boost Enrollment

The last time we wrote about Instagram marketing was in 2016. A lot has changed since then. But not everything. It resolutely remains a visual communication tool. But is it still relevant? (It is.) Aren’t kids these days on TikTok? (Yes, that’s true, too.)

Here are the facts: 57% of Americans aged 12 to 17 use Instagram each week, and 63% use TikTok according to Forrester. Just as important are the 48% of 30-49 year-olds and 29% of 50-64 year-olds – many of whom are your prospective parents – who use the platform. Anyone still wondering if it’s relevant for student recruitment and enrollment? Didn’t think so.

If your institution is only doing organic posts to Instagram, or your Instagram paid campaigns haven’t reaped the return you’d hoped, read on for a look at how your team can use this platform to boost enrollment. This post will be beneficial for those ideating and managing your campaigns. That means, pass it on to others on your team responsible for this stuff if that's not you.

As with any social platform, there are two ways to work it: the free way or the pay-to-play way. We’ll take a look at both.

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Getting Started with TikTok Marketing for Ed Institutions

Marketing Rule No. 1: Be where your target demographic is. If your audience skews toward ages 16 to 24, then your audience is on TikTok. Know anyone focused on this market? We thought so.

TikTok is no longer exclusively a place for teens to post cutesy dance videos. When done correctly, this A-list short-form video platform is the perfect way for institutions to connect with prospective and current students in a format that makes sense to them. There’s a reason, after all, why TikTok is the first non-Facebook app to achieve 3 billion global downloads.

Your job: it’s all about getting the user experience right. If your university or private high school is not already on TikTok, we have to ask, why not?

Wait, we can probably answer that! Is it staffing shortages? (That's another blog post altogether).

We’ll go further out on the limb and suggest you may be struggling with developing a strategy for the platform (what behaviors are you trying to push?) and the challenge of creative execution (who has time to create all that fun stuff?). You know this already: TikTok is no place for drab, factual, instructional content.

You probably know this as well (or at least have sense of it): TikTok has 1 billion monthly active users, making it one of the fastest-growing social networks globally. It also has 50 million daily active users in the US, meaning 18.68% of Americans log into TikTok every day.

Due to its eerily intelligent algorithm pushing content onto its “For You” discovery feed (the page you see when you fire up the app), it’s easier than you may think for new viewers (aka prospective students) to discover your institution’s account. To boot, content created for TikTok can be repurposed for Instagram Reels, Twitter, and other platforms, making it a time-effective investment.

Read on to learn how your enrollment marketing team can develop and execute a savvy TikTok strategy that will get you noticed and help boost your enrollment…

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Getting Started With Building an Audience

In the higher education space, your institution is competing with so many options that prospective students have. We know that most students attend a university within 50 miles of their home while large state institutions and the elite options have a stronger draw from coast to coast and beyond.

With these realities in mind, today we consider a foundational marketing goal: building a receptive audience so you can nurture prospective students from the point of awareness and inquiry to enrollment, no matter where they reside.

To state the obvious: virtual tours and informational webinars have taken on a bigger role (fewer campus visits), so a robust and engaging digital presence has never been more important to your recruitment process. Has your team evaluated and adjusted your approach to the student journey? Meeting them where they are in each step of their decision-making process?

We’ve offered a number of educational posts on student journey mapping processes you may want to read (for reference: our recent series Tracing the Student Journey Part 1 and Part 2).

We'll be talking about these enrollment management and student recruiting approaches and so much more at #NAFSA22 in just a few weeks. Let us know if you'd like to schedule a coffee with one of our team. We are leading 4 NAFSA sessions this year and one of them received the honor of being selected for live broadcast. Watch this space for details and we hope you can join us.

For now, read on for our top recommendations on how to build an audience online.

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Text Message Marketing for Universities and High Schools

Surveys from Mongoose (a popular SMS provider) tell us that a full 80% of students want to receive text messages from academic institutions. The caveat: they only want messages that matter. No fluff. We get it. We bet you do, too. And, the return on well-executed texts is more than worth the careful content planning effort.

SMS marketing is proving to be a direct, cost-effective way to recruit and retain students. If your institution hasn’t explored SMS marketing, now is the best time to start. It’s a little like the question, “When is the best time to start exercising?” The answer is always, now!

For those of you in the know, Slate added text messaging in early 2020 as one of their marketing features. There’s a reason for that. Important to note that the feature will not allow you to send messages through WhatsApp at this point.

Read on for the answers to Why do it? How to get started? And, what are the best practices for effective execution? The short answer: spot on content drives results.

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5 Lead Nurturing Best Practices for Universities and High Schools

For enrollment management professionals, the next few months are all about watching the applications come in and then pouring everything into nurturing them toward enrollment.

In an ideal world you would personally guide each lead from application to enrollment, but that’s just not feasible for most academic institutions. Instead, you need a strong and efficient lead nurturing strategy to engage your prospects and boost enrollment. (You do have one, right?)

Strong lead nurturing strategies take into account each stage of prospective students’ decision process and gives them relevant information along the way.

In fact, the best strategies anticipate student questions before the student (or parent) even knows they are going to ask them. When you’ve done this work for a long time, you tend to know the general flow of the journey of most consumers.

You see how the family starts with a few obvious questions, learns a few things, and then realizes the next questions that need asking. Not unlike the way students progress in the classroom as they come to understand a subject. Learning is an iterative process of inquiry that builds on itself.

In nurturing students selecting an institution or degree program, you are looking for a meaningful alternative to the one-on-one conversations you wish you could have over the course of the admissions journey. Rather than literally holding each lead’s hand, your role is to champion a rock-solid lead nurturing strategy for your institution.

If you’ll be attending the 2022 AIEA conference in New Orleans (Feb 20-23), be in touch and we’ll find time for a coffee and an exchange of ideas.

To learn the 5 key tactics that will help your team create a lead nurturing strategy that works, read on. This post is a great primer for any recruitment team interested in strengthening enrollment yield.

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