Audience segmentation and digital marketing, this is our third post of our three-part series. Our faithful readers dug into Part I (segmentation and parameters) and Part II (audience motivations) with relish. Today: messengers and lead scoring. Hold onto your hats, right?
This stuff is important— so while our blog series on the topic may end today, we hope you'll keep digging into the topic of audience segmentation. We're here to help. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with us in-person at the TABS Global Symposium on April 28-30 in Newport, RI. We'd love to talk with you about how you can use segmentation to up your enrollment game.
One other near-term, valuable opportunity to learn with us: Artificial Intelligence for Higher Ed Explained. An Intead Plus exclusive webinar with Ashish Fernando, CEO of iSchoolConnect.
This is a great opportunity. We will help you navigate the complex waters of AI and help you stay focused on your long-term goals. We're Intead, so we'll have some really cool data to share about online behavior, tech trends, case studies and the many faces of AI that can improve your student recruitment and engagement.
Here's the bottom line on audience segmentation. Yes, the process can feel daunting. You have a lot to consider: Which regions do you want to reach? What motivations drive your prospective students? Which messages will be most compelling, and to whom?
There is a ton of strategy to consider and content to develop. Nevertheless, this process is how you get more applications and boost your student yield. We imagine there is some internal pressure to achieve these goals, yes?
Different markets require different approaches. Ignore this reality at your own peril. For example, many institutions simply dump all prospective “international students” into a marketing bucket called “INTERNATIONAL.” We hear it all the time (“Let us show you our ‘international’ recruitment brochure!”) and it still makes us wince.
In today's competitive market, a one-size-fits-all approach simply doesn't cut it. Take the time to segment your audience and implement a marketing plan (message, content, dissemination channel) to each group you are targeting, and success will follow.
Part of doing audience segmentation well is choosing the best messenger at the best time. And another part is having your system set up to indicate or elevate the best leads - AKA lead scoring (those most engaged) so you know where to focus your valuable time and resources.
So without further ado, let's get to it.
We’ve discussed in our earlier posts how to segment and why. So now, which messengers should you use to reach your prospective students? Start by considering who is important to them, and then consider the question of when.
Who Has Influence?
University networks, family, friends, and agents can all be influencers (note: in our Fall 2017 Know Your Neighborhood report, we worked with FPPEDUMedia to ask students in 29 countries to report on their top influencers— a resource that might be a big help to you in your segmentation process).
Knowing who has influence over your prospective students matters in two big ways.
1) This info will guide decisions about who should be contacting your prospective student: for example, should the next email in your workflow come from an admissions staffer, a dean, or an alumni?
2) This info will allow you to communicate in a smart way with the influencers themselves. By cultivating relationships with the people important to your student prospect, you can affect the messages that your prospect receives.
Students value the opinions of their families. This means families, especially parents (a segmented audience!), need a tailored message. We've written before about the importance of connecting with moms and dads (a great blog post with awesome tips).
While many international students will continue to give their parents' opinions some weight well into adulthood, here's a general guideline: the younger the students, the more important family is to their decision-making. So, high school and undergraduate students need more parental focus in email marketing campaigns than do graduate or post-graduate students. Obvious, right?
For many countries, marketing to parents in English is a non-starter. Local language content is going to get you a whole lot farther, much faster. By communicating directly with patients, you ensure that they have the information they need to connect with their child about all your institution has to offer. Plus, there are the bragging rights that all parents seek. If they know about your institution, they will share that brand awareness at lunch with friends, on the golf course, at the local watering hole, etc. Give them the information they need in their language so they can share the pride they have in their child.
Side note: have you seen our latest research with Vericant about Chinese parents' perspective on US education? Timely. Valuable. Helpful to your marketing plans. Great blog post on Recruiting in China from last September is right HERE.
Chinese and Indian students do not have the same bias against recruiting agents that American admissions officers often hold. Other cultures find university representatives more trustworthy (more data from our research with FPPEDUMedia). So, it's important to cultivate goodwill with the people that your prospective students respect (or at least find useful).
Develop healthy relationships with agents so that these important influencers know and understand what your institution has to offer. Give them the info they need to send you qualified students. Consider the ways you can make it easier for agents to talk to students and parents about your institution: from shipping them hard-copy handouts that they can have on hand to distribute to families, to sending them a monthly email with academic and campus news, to simply being available to them by email when questions arise. Agents love prompt responses from you. Frustrated agents without timely info tend not to refer students to you. Again, seems obvious, right?
University Network (AKA: You)
As higher educational professionals, you likely know that the largest influence for students making a decision about where to apply is you, the institution! Most international students enroll in the first university to respond to them in a personal way.
Are you responding with emails that simply provide a laundry list of your website links to different departments and student services? Our mystery shopper experiences, with many different universities, show that this is standard industry practice. Mend our broken hearts! These laundry list emails are destined for most students' delete keys. A perfectly good lead, wasted.
When Does Their Input Matter Most?
Our Know Your Neighborhood report identified how students from different regions around the world weigh the trustworthiness of different messengers. We suggest you read it—and then take your investigation one step further by talking to your institution's own enrolled students. Buy them some pizza and sit them down to talk about not just who they would have most valued hearing from when considering your institution, but when. At different points in the recruitment funnel, different messengers make the most sense.
An email from a member of your admissions team might be most powerful at the top of the marketing funnel, when students are just beginning to consider your institution. When a prospective student has begun an application but not yet hit 'submit,' a text from a currently enrolled student may be just the motivating push they need. If you know their academic interest, how awesome would it be to have a message arrive from the dean of that department? And once you've accepted a student into your program, a personalized message from the president or chancellor might do a lot to sway the student's enrollment decision.
You want to make careful decisions about who is reaching out to your prospects at each stage of their consideration journey. Every time a representative of your institution reaches out to a prospective student, that contact should be a well-considered step towards enrollment—not a random call from whoever was available.
Another previous blog post addresses the importance of your CRM system (our CRM implementation guide is available to our Intead Plus members). When used correctly, your CRM will help you pinpoint where your prospective students are in the consideration process and how close they are to making a commitment to your institution.
Lead scoring is an art unto itself and not many institutions are doing it right from what we've seen. Points should not be assigned to a lead indiscriminately. Actions, a website visit, and inquiry, have value, but not a lot. You should be receiving lots of those. Which ones are truly worth spending time on, beyond the giving them the automated email workflow?
Points go to those leads that truly engage with your content and your campus. And here's the key, your content has to be attuned to the student decision process. There are micro-conversion points that indicate where each student is and how serious they are about your institution. Give the student the opportunity to tell you where they are in the decision process either directly or indirectly.
Want to know more? In May, Come see us present at NAFSA with Hillary Dostal from Northeastern University. We'll be diving into lead scoring and micro-conversions and giving you some of our latest thinking about how to use your recruiting systems for the best results.
If you do not have lead scoring in place, consider whether your CRM is doing all it needs to do. If you want to expand enrollment and improve yield, your CRM has to help you do the work. The Intead team is always happy to talk with you about how to evaluate your CRM efficacy. We can get under the hood and fix what needs fixing with you.
You've Got This.
Segmentation may seem complicated, but you can start small. Begin with what motivates your prospects and who influences them. Consider the region and cultural influences. Consider financial resources and level of education, testing, and past travel experience.
Take your email marketing campaigns to the next level, and target the specific audiences and students you really want, with the information they really want.
Take your time, pull a few colleagues into a room with some coffee (and some donuts would be nice. You know, the ones with sprinkles...), and tackle this stuff step-by-step. We've reduced the process to the streamlined basics. Depending on how many market segments you are targeting, it may take a number of these meetings to get through the process.
You're going to need some really great, creative writers.
Trust us. This works 😊.