Right now in my household, I am conducting a very informal marketing experiment.
I have two high school juniors that are in the process of exploring colleges. For whatever reason, last week was a huge direct mail week in the house. My son and daughter must have both received about two dozen letters/packages for various schools (everywhere from Wake Forest, to UNC, to the University of Maine).
After sitting out on the counter for several days, I noticed that only one package was opened – the one from Wake Forest University.
Last night I gathered my “test subjects” and asked the question, “Why are you not opening any of the packages from the schools?” Without a moment's hesitation they both give me the same answer:
With increasing scrutiny, parents and students look at a college education as a practical investment. Articles questioning the value of college seem to be coming from all quarters these days, with the clarion call that a college education ought to pay off with tangible outcomes measured in salary, potential for income growth, and level of debt at graduation.
As a result, a growing number of online tools have emerged to help applicants and their parents shop for the best college ROI, return on investment. Often, these tools take the form of calculators that assess a number of factors, including:
When schools develop calculators like these and provide them with helpful content in highly visible website locations, they make it easy for prospective students and their parents to compare the value of education — without leaving their website to research somewhere else.
Providing decision makers with the tools they need to evaluate your institution should be the primary goal of your recruitment content strategy. It helps the process of converting visitors to applicants – while enhancing your school’s reputation for transparency, helpfulness, and trustworthiness.
Here are four examples of school-performance content that prospective students and parents are likely to look for on your website.
It’s been over a decade since I first stepped through those large oaken doors at Wentworth Institute of Technology, but I still remember it like it was yesterday. I remember the waves of anxiety, fear, social awkwardness, and (eventually) the excitement that washed over me during those first few critical days at college; I’m willing to bet you remember your first days at school, too.
Which is why it surprises me just how little school administrators I talk to seem to understand just what is going through the minds of high school students as they search for, and eventually enroll in, a college or university.
Articles will tell us that financing and payoff are the top two things on college applicants’ minds these days, and for sure, they’re big. But the underlying question that all college applicants have never seems to change: “Will I fit in here?”
Cast your memory back to when you first started thinking seriously about going to college. What is the one question that consumed you as a high school sophomore or junior pondering your future and contemplating the thousands of colleges and universities of all shapes and sizes that dot the American landscape?
For me, way back in 1996, it was a pretty simple question. I’ll bet you had the same one: “Which college should I choose?”
Inbound marketing in any field — higher education, business, non-profit, whatever — begins by helping people answer their most basic questions, establishing trust, and then sticking by their side, continuing to be helpful as they move toward making a decision.
No question is more basic for a potential college applicant than, “Which school should I choose?”
Those who are in the business of selling content to potential college applicants know this.
An Amazon search for “choosing a college” comes up with 763 results. And five years after its print magazine stopped hitting newsstands, U.S. News and World Report continues to churn out its annual and profitable Best Colleges rankings, attracting 2.6 million unique visitors and 18.9 million page views to its 2014 edition in one day.
There is clearly an opportunity for schools to attract college applicants to the top of their inbound marketing funnels with content that helps them narrow down their many, many choices for attending college. Yet, as far as I can tell, almost no schools are doing this.
Pay-per-click advertising (PPC) — and Google AdWords specifically — is a line item in just about every school’s marketing budget. Which is why it’s particularly shocking to me how so many schools are blowing their precious marketing budget on AdWords. I’m not saying that AdWords is a waste, I actually think AdWords and PPC in general are actually a great “rocket fuel” for inbound marketing (so long as you set your campaigns up strategically).
How much are you spending on AdWords campaigns for your school each month? And what’s the return you’ve gotten? Are your ads targeting the right audience and incentivising them with the right offers? How can you be sure?