Online student recruiting platforms have become an industry staple and the proclamations of power and reach among them as they battle for market share is reaching a crescendo. They promise to find you leads and/or enrollments. They talk about customized approaches while their business model is all about rinse and repeat, cookie cutter marketing.
Is their automated customization going to get you the results you want? Will they draw the valuable student click? You know, the one that is serious about pursuing your institution? Or simply the click that looks good on digital reach reports but never converts?
More importantly, are these platforms your only option for digital student recruiting? You actually have a DIY secret weapon that so many have lost sight of.
Read on to learn how your institution just may have all the tools it needs to be its own digital student recruiting platform (spoiler: it starts with your website).
First, consider the pros and cons these platforms offer:
- Easy to gather student contact and academic interest information at top of funnel
- Wide potential reach based on the platform’s marketing spend on SEO and other online promotions that draw student search clicks
- Hyper-definition of institution’s desired student profile to enable more valuable leads
- Translation of your content for desired market accessibility
- Time saver for students, agents, schools — ease of use, one-stop shopping
- Some platforms now offering lead nurturing and enrollment qualification services (human, not automated)
- Some platforms offer scholarship portals, visa support, advice for living abroad, etc. (again, human, not automated)
- Many platform tools yield volumes of unqualified leads (platforms can miss your target audience or funnel students with little actual interest — just browsing, not serious)
- Limited ability to differentiate your institution on a platform designed to present many institutions with similar programs via a common template
- “Featured Institutions” (meaning those that pay more) get front page visibility. Will that produce leads truly interested in your institution? Or inattentive, lazy clicks? What about institutions not paying the extra fee?
- The number of institutions on the platform all receiving the same leads at the top of the funnel creates the same challenges as list purchases -- your institution does not stand out among the many, many marketing messages each lead receives
- Institutions have less control over maximizing recruiting quality over quantity
- The online digital recruiting space is full of flux with acquisitions, buyouts and mergers, leading to brand confusion and service redundancies (for example, in the last 12 months, Keystone Education Group alone acquired Uniquest, EMG, FindAUniversity, College Scholarships USA, and AGM Education). Are these mergers about growth? Or, are other market forces at play that should raise a few eyebrows?
We bet you’ve been hounded by ads and emails from these platforms promising easy, cure-all solutions for your institution’s international recruitment strategy. Yet, many of our readers have put their marketing budgets into student recruitment platforms with results that don’t seem to compare to the hype.
Here is a limited list of platforms that cited their monthly website traffic:
*Platform focuses on India and abroad; its unusually high traffic citation is worthy of further evaluation. **Platform simply reports visitors (vs. unique visitors), further obscuring the value of what it might offer
While online student recruiting platforms certainly have menus of features, the question remains: can they really provide you with the qualified leads and student enrollment conversions that you want?
Surprise, you’ve been developing this alternative for years and it is at your fingertips right now.
- You’ll be investing in your brand’s growth in a way that you own and can adjust quickly as you develop new opportunities
- Higher quality leads (though far lower volume) - which produces higher conversion rates and more focused prioritization of your recruitment staff and other resources
- A bit more up front work -- you’ll need to flex those marketing muscles
The DIY Option
About 20 years ago, your institution invested in building a more robust website to meet a whole host of organizational needs. It has undergone a series of upgrades, overhauls, and tweaks ever since. No one is ever satisfied with it. At least not satisfied enough.
Nevertheless, your institution’s website conveys your brand, your level of sophistication, your differentiators. A lot of time and resources have been poured into it over the years. Back in 1995 you had a Webmaster and by 1997, that individual had a few staff on their team. Look at that team today!
And along the way, most institutions recognized that their website is a driver of revenue (beyond all the internal operations and collaboration it fosters). And your web marketing team knows that your target audience, your prospective students (and potential new hires -- an entirely different story) don’t always enter your website through the front door (your home page). In fact, they typically enter through an interior page and only choose a homepage link if they become disoriented by your content and navigation.
Why is all this perspective important?
Your website can do everything online portals can do. The value of DIY is that you own everything, control everything, and the leads you draw and engage are there because they are interested specifically in you and your degree offerings. That is far more advantageous than sharing a platform with 100s or 1000s of other institutions all drawing the same leads.
The funds you invest in DIY student recruiting are building institutional capacity, experience (internal knowledge), and reusable infrastructure (creative assets in landing pages, ads, downloadable pdfs). You will need to invest funds into media campaigns to drive traffic to specific, lead capture landing pages. And when you run those campaigns on your institution's social channels, all data, all results, all creative assets live within your system setting you up for future growth and success.
DIY is a Misnomer
The work you could be doing to build internal capacity does not need to be DIY. There are specialist marketing agencies in this field that understand student markets and digital marketing. We actually know a few of the most talented marketers in this field ; -)
Consider the value of a strong partner able to work closely with your team and share deep learning while building exactly what your institution needs with your student user experience and defined marketing funnel at the forefront. Imagine all of the digital assets living within your internal systems. Imagine all of the data and reporting streaming out of your servers and your institution's cloud-based accounts.
The funds you invest in this digital marketing work can draw more sustainable results with high value leads.
- See the value of adding a powerful video of your extremely inspiring president or provost to your landing page? Great! No additional fee. Shoot the video and get it up there.
- Want three more videos with student and alumni testimonials representing specific audience segments? Awesome! Add those with some great graphics. Develop ads to attract that specific audience.
- See the need for some eye catching downloadable content offers that cater directly to students seeking a specific academic program? Perfect!
- Can you keep adding to this list of student engagement options on your own recruitment focused landing pages? Absolutely!
- Can you do this on automated, template driven student recruitment platforms? Probably...for a fee. But, maybe not.
The team at Intead has been doing this kind of customized marketing for a range of institutions for more than a decade. From some of the largest public state institutions to community colleges and top 50 ranked institutions around the world. Ready to explore how your website, paired with targeted digital marketing, can take your international student recruitment to the next level? Be in touch and we’ll share some of the results that make the case. We’d love to help.