When prospective college students begin their search for the right institution of higher learning, they are engage in information gathering and make general comparisons between various schools—casting a wide net in their initial school search process. At this early stage in the game, they are not ready to select schools for their application process, meet with admissions counselors, apply for financial aid or even visit schools. Unfortunately, school admissions marketers often ignore these prospective students and the top-of-the-funnel content they would be most interested in. Instead, a great deal of school admissions marketing only focuses on providing late-stage offers to the prospective students visiting their websites. If they happen to be searching for a particular academic program or general campus information, and the information is not easily found, prospective students will quickly shift gears and cross your college off their list. School admissions marketers cannot afford to ignore the top of the funnel.
There are common faux pas in school admissions marketing. By learning about the mistakes admissions offices and college websites often make in an effort to attract prospective students, you can prevent your school from taking the same missteps. Avoiding or rectifying these mistakes will help you gain more applicants and ultimately boost your enrollment. Kyle James published a great post, 4 Detrimental Don’ts in Higher Education Marketing, on the HubSpot blog that presented great insights on school admissions marketing, which I will share and discus with you now.
1. Not Focusing on the Top of the Funnel
While admissions appointments, placement tests, financial aid applications and campus visits are all valuable marketing tools, they occur toward the bottom of the marketing funnel, when prospective students have already narrowed down their school options to just a handful. At this point, your school has likely already been selected for the application process. However, the top of the funnel is a critical marketing juncture—where college admission marketers can capture the undecided student. Prospective students at this level of the funnel just want basic information so that they can start creating a short list of schools. One of first things they research is whether or not a particular college offers their desired academic program. This information needs to be clear and prominently displayed on your website. Prospective students are highly unlikely to contact an admissions officer, if finding this information is not quick and easy.
2. Making Assumptions about Application Readiness
Not everyone is ready to file an application the first time they visit your school website. Many factors contribute to a prospective student’s application readiness, including finances, family needs and work priorities. All these factors could affect the timing of applying for college. Just because some prospective students do not apply the first time they access your site does not mean that they are uninterested in your school. School admission offices must realize that these students are testing the waters and are likely to apply for admission eventually. At this juncture, school admissions marketers should begin to build a relationship of trust and credibility with undecided prospective students and act as an informational resource.
3. Ignoring Content Creation Opportunities to Stand Out
The vast majority of prospective students are just searching for the basic information about a school, including information on majors, the campus, student life, tuition costs and scholarships. They are determining their criteria for choosing which schools they will pursue further. You should provide as much of this general kind of information as you can, including programs of study, what makes each program unique and data about careers and projected salaries. If your college provides all the information a prospective student needs and offers all that they are looking for, they may not need to look elsewhere. To rise above your competitors, you need to create engaging, original content.
4. Not Engaging in Lead Nurturing
Most prospective students will provide their email address to a school they are interested in. This provides a crucial opportunity to grow a prospective student email list and engage in lead nurturing. Via this email list, you can send prospective students:
- General Information
- Deadline Reminders
- Information About Student Status
- Campus Life News
You must engage prospective students early on in their school search process to earn credibility and trust, ensuring that your late-stage offers will be well received. Providing engaging, educational content at the top of the top of the funnel will help you attract a captive audience of prospective students. Start early and build relationships of trust with prospective students—coaxing them to jump down the funnel and ultimately land at your school to begin their college experience.
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