Creativity is essential in our field, and today we talk about how to apply that creativity to the right leads. In fact, we are going to give you plenty of details over the next few weeks on the power of segmentation as you recruit international students. (ProTip: you may want to share this 3-part series with a few key colleagues responsible for your recruiting - domestic and international.)
When we talk about segmenting your audience, it is critical that you understand your institution's differentiators. Our recent blog post on getting creative about differentiation really resonated with our readers. Did you catch that one? (Read it here).
Bottom Line: by segmenting your international student leads based on geography, academic interest, TOEFL scores and other demographic information, your creative content will engage in a way that stands out from the competitive crowd.
But wait, there's more!
This post is going to take you into an important set of segmentation processes and parameters. A very important one, lead scoring, will be addressed later in this 3-part series on audience segmentation. You and your team won't want to miss any of these posts.
Come see us present at the TABS Global Symposium on April 28-30 in Newport, RI, and we can talk all about the digital marketing we love so much!
Here's the thing: You are going to need some help to do this kind of work. You need the tools and the skills to make it work effectively. Don't shy away from that. In a competitive market, your enrollment numbers are going to fall if you are not keeping pace or pulling ahead of your peer institutions. You know this. The headlines have been screaming about enrollment declines for the past three years (and then some).
So fire up the CRM platform that gives you the ability to design flexible landing pages quickly and easily. Pull in that person on your team who knows how to write great content to your different segments. And get ready to recognize the person who knows how to manage lists and track results. You'll need them (or us) to make this process hum.
In the past, we’ve touched on the fact that email marketing to prospective students is essential. We know you've read about how today's students don't do email. And yes, they are consumed by their social activity and you NEED to be there.
So, here's another thing: students will open their emails if you've engaged them. In past blog posts, we talked urgency, making the message brief, planning the timing of the email, making the message emotive and prompting a response. We even discussed making the message personal.
And here's an important caveat: email is a much tougher sell in China. Remember, we are talking about list segmentation! So prospects from different countries get different approaches, right? Well, there you go. Let's communicate on the right channels in the right locations! WeChat anyone? (Yes, we have past blog posts about that as well).
The processes we are talking about for international student recruitment are equally important for domestic student recruiting. We discussed the importance of understanding the changing domestic market and where to allocate your marketing investment in a past blog post.
Let’s dive a little deeper into tactical list segmentation and applying it to email marketing. Let’s focus on making emails personal—tailoring emails to get the attention of the kind of students you aim to attract to your campus. Why is this so important? Answer: Who doesn’t notice a little special attention? In fact, it can be hard to ignore.
Personalization in the form of segmentation may seem daunting, but our tips will help you see the rewards. So, let’s start with the basics.
Definition: Email segmentation is simply the division of people (leads and engaged prospects) into different groups by demographic, psychological and behavioral differences. From there you will decide which group creates the biggest opportunity, making that group your target and creating an offer for that group.
Email segmentation focuses on creating specific market offerings for your specific target groups. Not so hard, right? Just takes some time to think it through based on your institution’s strongest selling points (what differentiates you from the competition). Consider what prompts someone with specific characteristics (audience persona please) to take the next step at their particular place in the recruitment funnel (micro-conversions -- which we are presenting on at NAFSA this year in D.C. Come talk to us! Register here).
It is going to take some time to write all that really convincing copy. But that's the job...recruiting students...with something more than dry, long, link-filled emails. We started this post by talking about creativity. We were serious about that.
Once you have the content, you can feed it to your specific target market segments as you develop and classify your leads. Once the system is set up in your CRM, your segmented email marketing will continue to produce results. You'll see it happen because your team will track everything. Open rates, click rates, application rates, enrollment rates, graduation rates, employment rates, alumni participation rates...
But, let's stay focused on segmentation...
How You Already Segment
Emails can be tailored to students in many, many ways. The best part of audience segmentation is that most recruiters are already doing it! It is almost automatic to tailor your message to the type of student you are contacting. And, it is an essential tool for ensuring that the student you are in contact with fits with what your university has to offer.
Below, we offer the primary segmentation categories for student recruiting – many of which you are probably already doing. Along the way, we offer a few creative ideas to get you thinking beyond the basics. What can you add to truly engage your prospects?
Segment by Demographics
Demographics can be broken down into family size, income, age, race, religion, level of education, and more. The way you choose to interact with a student may be based on specific things about them, and this may help you relate to them better.
- You know the student you are emailing is working part-time, so you discuss the options for night classes (convenience messages).
- Since the student you are contacting will be a first-time college student you go in depth about different campus activities and ways to get involved on campus (welcoming messages about ease of integration).
- When you know a prospective international student practices a specific religion your communication includes a testimonial from a current student who participates in that religious community on campus (welcoming messages about ease of integration).
Segment by Geography
Geography is rather self-explanatory and since you recruit globally, you are incredibly familiar with the subject! Recruits from different regions often have different informational needs and so your offers to engage them will vary.
- You are hosting a live question and answer session adjusted to their time zone and with a translator participating. Your message needs to allay all fears that the participants will be judged based on their English proficiency – a major concern of most international student applicants. Pro Tip: since many students want this kind of forum but are too timid to talk, be sure to have a plant in the group who will ask the common questions and try to foster discussion. Don’t have all the questions/information come directly from your admissions team.
- You are attending a college fair in a certain geographic location. Be sure to send that advance and follow up email that invites and then reports on the visit to all of your contacts in the region.
- You have a lecturer or an artistic performance with cultural ties to an international region. Be sure to send an email to contacts in that region with a photo from the event and a message about the connections your institution has to the contact’s home.
Need some help? Our latest Know Your Neighborhood report can help you get started identifying key messages for each region.
Segment by Interests
Segmenting according to interests is segmenting according to what your target market likes. Do your leads like campus activities, arts and culture, and of course, specific academic programs? Are they interested in research opportunities? A dual major? Learning English?
Knowing the interests of recruits can help you communicate convincingly. Keep them reading, engaging, clicking.
Pro Tip: Create a series of emails addressing just one interest at a time. Often we see emails that are overloaded with information on many potential student interests. The length of the emails and the quantity of information is simply too much. These emails lose their audiences.
Email marketing is about engaging and drawing the reader in. Too much information all at once is not effective.
Ok, One Last Thing
Engaging content (giving your audience special attention) leads to better email open rates. Tactical email marketing and list segmentation will get you there. In our next posts, we will review in-depth research into international student segmentation and the ways in which information should be shared with these segments.
In the meantime, share your best practices in email segmentation. What kind of results have you seen in your email marketing efforts to-date? Comment below. We’d love to have you join the conversation.