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Recruiting Intelligence

What Your Students Need Now Part 2

Last week, we put your prospective students’ SOS call on your radar.

Today, we’re going to show you exactly how to answer that call.

(Those of you reading to the end of this post, we can feel your thanks. You're welcome).

From the Naviance data we covered in Part 1 of this series, one thing is clear: your digital strategy and shifts in messaging are crucial right now. With COVID-19 agitating the waters, many students (domestic and international) are lost at sea in the college search and decision-making process. It’s your job to throw them all a life jacket. Metaphor alert: that life jacket is: engaging, informative, customized digital marketing content.

Students will be receptive to your messaging this fall. They want your guidance. Do you know what to say?

With the help of more Naviance data and our own market research, this week’s post is all about the how, where, and what of your digital marketing messaging in this unfamiliar time of COVID-19.

Our goal: helping you create messaging that will guide your prospects through those choppy waters…right to the safe harbor of your institution. Don't worry, we’re done with the ocean metaphors now. 

Read on for the digital tools and key topics your prospects need this fall and how to incorporate them into your admissions and enrollment strategy. 

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Short Form Video Players Set For a Showdown

When it comes to marketing, content is king – but distribution is queen and the right channel matters. Smart marketers know to go where their target student audience lives, learns, and connects online. 

With recruitment travel off the table for 2020, it's time to get creative in how you reach (attract) and convert student leads. Up-leveling your digital efforts will be essential as you plan for your Spring and Fall 2021 cohorts. Your challenge: translating those engaging IRL recruitment experiences, think on-campus tours, student fairs, sample lectures and the like, from people to pixels

Luckily, your Gen Z prospects have a particular penchant for a certain type of  content that lends itself very well to the digital reproduction of in-person experience: video.

According to Think with Google, 71% of Gen Z teens spend 3+ hours per day watching videos online. Competition for eyeballs is fierce, to say the least, especially in the newly crowded short form video arena. TikTok is the it-app. Instagram wants its Reels to be the vanguard of viral video tomorrow. Or, wait, will it be YouTube’s Shorts? Or Bytes? Knowing which content belongs where is key to brand awareness and conversion. 

We don’t have a crystal ball, but we do know a few things for sure:

  • Online video consumption is incredibly popular—232 million digital video viewers just in the U.S., in fact. And internationally? Consumption of video in China, many Middle Eastern countries and in South Africa, for example, are off the charts. as compared to other digital channels.
  • Video sharing is widely used not only to entertain, but to educate and inform. Several institutions that hopped on the short-form video bandwagon early are already using social platforms to engage their prospects with an authentic, #nofilter look at campus life. 
  • Considering your domestic recruitment channels, digital video penetration in the U.S. is projected to reach almost 84% in 2021, according to Statista.

We also know that the student recruitment and enrollment marketing rules have changed as of 2020. So, of course, we wrote an insightful ebook full of perspective and recommendations. The downloads have been pretty steady since we launched it a couple weeks ago. If you are not among them, click here.

There is no question that video is the future, but predicting where that video will live is still uncertain. Will TikTok users quickly adopt Instagram Reels? Maybe. Where should you invest your ad dollars? That’s a larger discussion. 

Read on for our perspective on each of these video-sharing platforms to help you weigh your options. 

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Deliver Ads That Deliver Value

You have your smiling student photos, a brief headline, and a budget — what could possibly go wrong?

Reality: if creating an effective student recruitment ad campaign were as simple as “insert pretty campus photo here,” digital marketing agencies like ours would be out of a job. And we know what happens when that pretty campus/smiling student photo gets in the way of effective advertising…those in control stem the flow of dollars to your digital marketing budget. Will the challenges to your student recruiting ever end?

Why is it so hard?

Content drives interest, from the first point of contact (attraction) to the conversion events that drive student enrollment.

Your prospective students face an onslaught of information. In a recent Facebook survey of its global users, 43% of Gen Zers reported that they find it difficult to choose what to watch, listen to, and read. With brands clamoring for digital attention on all sides, it’s harder for you to stand out and harder for your target audience to make sense of all this noise. Enrollment marketing is a highly competitive sport.

All the more reason that your ads need to add value to your audience. Your ads must capture the attention of the high-quality leads that convert, not those that click and go nowhere.

And in case you've missed our most recent publications (providing more ways to leverage that digital marketing budget effectively), you can download our latest eBook, The New Student Enrollment Playbook: COVID-19 Edition, as well as our recent digital marketing case studies (performance benchmarks for your digital marketing campaigns) for free. 

Read on for our 3 top tips for creating ads that resonate. We love talking about this stuff, so if you’re looking for more help on refining those campaigns, you know where to find us.

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Do You Understand You?

How well can you talk about you?

Quick! Give us your institution’s elevator pitch! Easy, right?

What if the other person in the elevator is a 28-year-old from Milwaukee? Now a 17-year-old from Miami. Now you’re in an elevator in Shanghai. How about Mumbai? Ho Chi Minh City? Bogotá?

If you’re an admissions rep covering one of these places, chances are you’re well-practiced at spinning up your strongest differentiators for your given audience. But for enrollment marketing staff and administrators looking at the big picture, understanding each of your target markets gets a little harder. We know, that whole “only-24-hours-in-a-day” thing makes it difficult to keep up with the entire global student population.

A little thing called COVID-19 hasn’t made things any easier for those of us in enrollment marketing. Your institution’s value, and how you deliver that value to your students, has changed. What your students, both domestic and international, want, has changed. Maybe just for the foreseeable future. Maybe for much, much longer.

Loyal readers of this blog (and Intead clients) know this: the most effective messaging is targeted messaging. Without a deep and nuanced understanding of your institution’s unique value proposition and which elements of that proposition speak to your segmented target markets, you are missing significant student recruitment opportunities. In fact, some of your marketing efforts are likely a complete waste of time and money. And if you don’t believe us, an analysis of the ROI on your digital ads will speak for itself…

Your institution’s journey to effective messaging begins and ends with an understanding of who you are.

Now before you spiral into an existential crisis, remember: as enrollment marketers, we’ve been leading these journeys of self-discovery for a long time. Read on for (some) of our secrets to understanding and communicating your value, no Eat Pray Love required.

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Go with the Flow: The How of Nurturing Leads

The first day of spring, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, is only 15 days away (not like we’re counting or anything.) Those few extra minutes of sunlight and that fresh feeling in the air got us thinking…about gardening. Taking our minds off the non-stop Coronavirus news.

With much of the spring international education conference circuit on hold, you just might catch us spending a bit more time in wide-brim straw hats with a gardening trowel. ; -)

But there IS something about the art of gardening — selecting the right plants, planting them in the right soil, providing them with the appropriate sunlight, water and food, that strikes a chord in our little marketing hearts.

Yes, we’re talking about nurturing.

If we consider your student leads as your fledgling flowers, how are you tending to them? Are you providing them with individualized care tailored to their needs? And, most importantly, are you guiding them towards a pathway to growth, or in our case, enrollment?

We’ve already discussed the power of segmenting your pool of student leads on this blog, as well as outlined different methods to segment in order to effectively develop content strategy around prospective students’ areas of interest. These posts are a few of our most read over time, getting consistent new readers each month.

Now, an important aside about email marketing...if you are among those who say, "Email is dead. Students don't read email." That may be because you are not putting any content in your email worth reading. We ALL delete useless sales emails on sight.

Reality Check (based on data): When a student prospect is engaged, they read your email. The onus is on you to engage them.

Segmentation is the first step to nurturing effectively, so make sure you have those defined audiences in place before you focus on today’s article: The How of Nurturing Leads. We’ll be offering you concrete suggestions for structuring email nurturing campaigns, as well as how to efficiently strategize your email topics and deliverables. Read on. 

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The Power of List Segmentation Part III: So You Want More Student Applications, Right?

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 info@intead.com, 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.

Register for the Webinar HERE

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.

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The Power of List Segmentation Part I: Are you already doing this?

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.

Read on...

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Compelling Content for International Recruitment

Have we talked enough about telling compelling stories lately? If we haven’t, here is a friendly reminder. Compelling content is key to engaging your target audience. And as a university, your target audience happens to have some of the most tech-savvy people on the Internet today…and not because of their technical training, simply because of their age. Seems like they were all born with a cell phone in hand.

What we’re saying is, your prospective domestic and international students spend a lot of time online and on social media. They visit university pages to find out more information about academics and programs, and they visit universities’ social media pages to learn more about the culture, campus, the surrounding area and student life.

They want to know, “Will I fit in here?” and then they go online thinking, “Let’s see what their social media feeds look like.”

Here’s the Pro Tip: When they check out your social media, there better be some compelling videos: Inspiring. Clever. Goofy. Engaging. Convincing.

Let’s check in with Emily who found some excellent (totally worth the click) examples to point us in the right direction. Congratulations to both of our winners: two more universities have won the coveted Intead Award for Creative Engagement. 
(Framable certificates are on their way!)

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Great Content Attracts International Students

You’ve probably heard this: Content is King. In the digital marketing age, this line is talking about the power of great content to draw customers. For example, if the Netflix library shows you the type of movies you like, you are likely to subscribe to the service.

And speaking of subscribers, a note to all of our loyal readers: Intead’s Recruiting Intelligence Blog will take its annual summer hiatus and be back to your inbox the first week of September. We hope you have a great summer.

Now, our intrepid blogger Emily shares her take on how great content can be created and used to attract international students. Be sure to wear your creativity cap as you read. What engaging, sharable content can your institution produce?

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