12 Things to Do Now to Enroll More Students
Attention Colleges and Universities:
What Happens to the 95%+ of Your Website Traffic that Doesn’t Convert?
Where do they go? And, How to Fix it.
I’ve been in Higher Ed Marketing for 20 years and I’ve seen a lot of changes over that time. One of the biggest changes comes from students and their enrollment preferences. The days of figuring what drives Millennials to enroll are replaced with how best to enroll digital natives Gen Z.
Gen Z were born between 1995 and 2015. They are currently between 5-25 years old (nearly 74 million in U.S.)* source
Gen Y or Millennials were born between 1980 and 1994. They are currently between 26-40 years old.
- Younger Millennials = 26-30 years old (31 million people in U.S.)
- Older Millennials = 31-40 (42 million people in U.S.)
Those younger Millennials are much more digital natives than some of the older Millennials who probably learned to type on a typewriter and didn’t get a cell phone until college.
While non-traditional students, those who are 26 and older, still make up a large portion of college students, we need to start adjusting how colleges are enrolling students or risk losing out on more and more enrollments to more innovative colleges and OPMs.
Today’s students expect schools to engage in meaningful and consistent ways across various channels. Let this sink in.
In my 20 years, I’ve secret shopped over 200 college programs and I have observed that providing meaningful touchpoints in a consistent way has been challenging for colleges. Many colleges have lean marketing teams or their departments are increasingly siloed without clear ownership of the student enrollment journey.
Liberal Arts College Example
I visited a liberal arts college website the other day. And, it was challenging to find a way to contact their Admissions’ department.
Do you ever wonder where 95% of your website visitors go? Unknowingly, many schools put up too many friction points, which ultimately frustrate visitors, causing them to leave without engaging in your enrollment process.
When I finally found the information request form and submitted my information to this college Liberal Arts College, I received an auto-email that said the best way to get to know this college is through a physical tour. I can only assume they haven’t changed this approach since Covid-19.
This school needs to quickly change their Admissions process and adjust, not only to this new generation’s preferences for communication- but also for the pandemic. I never received a call or another email from the school. And, that was the end of my enrollment process at this Liberal Arts colleges. If I wanted to enroll, I would need to figure out a new way to engage with the school. This unintentionally added friction to their enrollment process.
But you may be thinking, but this school is still enrolling students, so it can’t be all bad. Well, that’s right; it’s not all bad. The school relies heavily on relationships they built with High School Advisors and student referrals. But, what if they could rely on Advisors and also improve their online Admissions experience? Maybe this school can drastically exceed their enrollment goals instead of just meeting them?
Reduce the Friction
Why not reduce the friction in your enrollment process so you don’t lose this prospective student who has self-selected to visit your website to learn more about your college?
For most schools, no matter how much friction gets added to their enrollment process, a certain number of prospective students will persist no matter what obstacles you put in front of them. But, sadly, there are only so many of these students.
Now, it is our turn to convert more of the other students who are not as vested in enrolling in your institution. You need to sell them on why your university is worth it. But, you can’t do that if they leave your site without engaging in your enrollment process.
Why not try harder to capture the 95%+ percent of your visitors that leave?
What if you could get another 5-10% of them to become inquiries? How would that change your yield? Keep reading to find out what you can do.
Build More Value Before Asking Students to Apply
More schools need to build value before asking prospective students to apply or come to the campus for a tour, especially now with Covid-19.
I will touch on several ways’ colleges can build value for their institution in order to grow enrollments and to drastically improve yield. And, yes, I just said drastically!
Check out ways to reduce summer melt and improve retention.
What is your Admissions process, and how can it be improved? Let’s set up a strategy call to discuss. Request a demo.
How Do We Fix It?
Let’s start with….
Be careful not to create an Admissions process that works best for your school. You need to create an Admissions process that works best for enrolling the best and the brightest students.
Have you put yourself in your prospective student’s shoes? Do you have empathy for their experience, fears, and concerns? Does that reflect in your enrollment process? And, your enrollment process starts the moment someone sees one of your ads or visits your website. What does your prospective student journey look like? And, can it be improved? Read on to find out how.
Many colleges view the enrollment process through their own eyes as employees. It is important for colleges to figure out ways to increase operational efficiency, but it can be executed differently so that your prospective students are being engaged the way they want to be engaged with. And, in a way allowing your team to manage the workload on the backend.
Marketing Automation is an amazing way to streamline the enrollment process and create operational efficiencies while also engaging in meaningful dialogues which correlates to increased enrollments. And, yes this comes full circle.
Through Marketing and Enrollment automation, your prospective students will feel they are getting a custom enrollment experience. Your school will be able to better build value, tell its unique story, and differentiate from other schools through a set of lead nurturing trigger communications. And, your team needs to create this one-time and set it in motion. So, every new lead that fills out your information request form will be put on a lead nurturing track. You can specify how granular you want to be. Maybe they are put on a nursing track with videos, entrance exam information that pertains just to nurses, and other students are put on criminal justice or business tracks.
And you should be able to power up your Admissions Rep Productivity with enrollment automation. Stay tuned for future articles.
Let’s now address how your school can better capture more of that 95% of visitors that leave your website without learning more about your college.
Make sure you have click-to-chat on your website. You can use a well-trained automation bot too. It doesn’t need to be a live person. Make sure your chat provides a good enrollment experience and doesn’t just capture their information to pass it along to a Rep. That is a huge missed opportunity and I see countless schools doing it.
The goal is to engage prospective students when they’re most interested in talking to you – that is when they are on your website, not 30 minutes later, or after they’ve filled out a form. And, what if the person came in after hours, how long can it be until they hear back from someone? Prospective students want to engage with you when they want to engage with you, not when your Reps are available. A well-train chatbot can help you run a 24-hour engaging enrollment process, along with lead nurturing. Check back for future articles on click to chat.
2. Request More Information Form
Create a request for more information form on your website, and not just an Apply link/button. Not everyone is ready to apply. Your school may need to build value to help show prospective students on why they should enroll at your institution.
If you put up too much friction and ask them to do too much, before building value you may scare them away. If the prospective student self-selects to not fill out your Apply now then you’ve lost contact with this person and the ability to try to enroll him or her in the future. You will not be able to lead nurture them or build a relationship.
3. Make Your Form Easy to Find on Your Website
Make your new request for more information form is incredibly easy to find on your homepage and on your inner pages. It is a better user-experience if someone can see the short form instead of having to click on a button to visit a new page to fill out the form.
Make your form above the fold and also available on your inner pages, especially your academic program pages and tuition page.
4. Ask as Few Questions as Possible on Your Form(s)
Make sure your web form nicely designed, and that your form has as few questions as possible. There is no need to ask for someone’s birthday or mailing address until the application. If the field is not required, don’t include it at all. The shorter the look of the form– the better. These extra fields are hurting your conversion rates. See this graphic below.
The conversation rate is the rate of how many people came to this form compared with how many filled out the form. Each time two additional questions were added, the conversation rate dropped.
Remember, if people do not give you their contact info, then you cannot develop a relationship with them and try to build value for why they should enroll at your institution.
And, if you need more examples to bring back to your IT department:
5. Make sure your form is one column and not two.
Each question should go under the last.
6. Get their cell phone numbers
Start a text message lead nurturing campaign. See below on why you want to capture their cell phone numbers and use them.
7. Lead nurturing is More Important than Ever: Use Email and SMS/MMS Drip Campaigns
Use marketing automation triggers to kick-off a communication drip sequence that helps:
- Tell your school story
- Build value for your institution
- Take them on an enrollment journey
- Provides social proof
Even though students say they do not want to be called, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Please do call them. It just means you need to tweak your approach. Call them once or twice and leave an awesome voicemail and then start texting them too. With most cell phones, voicemails are now transcribed, so leave some compelling reasons to call you back on their voicemail. Don’t let your Reps be vague when leaving a voicemail. I’ve heard countless Reps say things like, this is So and So from blank university calling Renee. Please call me back.
For one, many Reps leave mumbled voicemails without a lot of excitement in their voice. What if automation could help with this too? Schedule a demo to talk through these strategies.
Send text messages and MMS messages. See the example below. In this example, the first text message is plain text (SMS). The second message is a short video with a link to schedule a meeting on my calendar (MMS).
MMS is a multi-media text message type. Send a short video about your school. Or a quick introduction from your Rep encouraging them to schedule a call or visit your campus.
8. Send text messages.
Text messages are opened 98% of the time! Check out how text messages compare with other marketing channels.
9. Speed-to-lead still matters.
According to InsideSales.com, waiting just five minutes to respond reduces your chances of connecting with a lead by 10x. When leads come into your website, don’t let them sit idle, or, worse, leave.
This is where Enrollment automation can be so powerful. For example, if a lead comes into Ynot CRM, the system can immediately call the lead- and if the prospective students picks up, Ynot then immediately transfers the call to the next available Rep logged into the system. Imagine how many hours your Reps will be saving by not having to dial all day. The system does it for your Rep.
And, then don’t let your lead nurturing stop with a phone call. Send an email drip and text message campaign. If done right, it won’t come off as pushy or desperate. You may need to change your team’s thinking about using more lead nurturing. If your communications are about adding value and making the process easier for them, and not just trying to enroll them, which is self-serving. Ultimately, we should consider ourselves in the service industry. How can we be of service to prospective students?
10. Remove the friction points.
Go through your process and identify what can possibly be friction points. For example, if there is a lot of back and forth with prospective students to schedule an Admissions appointment- then use a Calendar service where someone can click on the link and schedule their own appointment. Your lead nurturing and SMS nurturing can just include a link for your Rep’s calendar to make it a seamless experience. This removes the back and forth and the frustration that comes with scheduling a call.
Make sure to use marketing automation to remind people of an upcoming appointment. Or if an appointment is missed, use marketing automation to automatically send another link to your calendar to reschedule the appointment and update the student lead record of the event.
Do a secret shop of your school to identify other possible friction points and correct them as quickly as possible.
11. Don’t miss an opportunity to do better.
Create a special email sequence for after-hour leads. If the student fills out more information on a Friday night at 8 pm, then he or she doesn’t want to wait until 10 am on Monday to hear from a Rep.
12. Tell Your Story at Every Available Touchpoint.
After someone submits their information and receives your thank you page, use this as an enrollment opportunity. Add links to your most important content, such as your tuition calculator and add some powerful videos about your college. Start telling your story and building value for your institution at every opportunity.
Imagine how much more meaningful the conversations will be when they finally do speak with a Rep. Check out this video from UCLA and get inspired to tell your colleges’ story visually.
Don’t waste your auto-reply email with messaging that says, we received your information someone will be contacting you soon. The first email you send, will most likely be your most opened and engaged with email, don’t squander it. Let your CRM send out a meaningful and engaging communication that builds value and encourages someone to take the next step because you touched them on an emotional level. Removal your transactional communications and replace them with engagement opportunities.
More About Marketing Automation
Ynot allows you to set up a marketing communication triggers. These triggers tell the system to send out a communication on your behalf based on a set of rules your team sets up.
With marketing automation, it won’t matter what day or time the inquiry is created; Friday night, no problem. Ynot’s marketing automation kicks in and starts your communication sequence to get the prospective student ready to speak with someone on Monday morning. Use automation to get leads more enrollment ready when they do speak with a Rep.
You can send different sequences of communications based on-campus locations, a program of interest, type of study (transfer vs freshman) and the list goes on and on. Have a special form for parents, where they can get involved and receive lead nurturing related to being a parent of an incoming freshman.
Set-up triggers throughout the enrollment process. Each prospect will be followed-up according to a sequence of communications that your team sets up, allowing you to personalize the candidate’s journey along the way. No more mass email blasts, unless you want to (Ynot does this too). By sending one-on-one personalized communications, you have an opportunity to grow your enrollments and increase your yield.
Why You Want to Invest in Marketing Automation or Improve What You Have
Relevant emails delivered through marketing automation drive 18 times more revenue than email blasts. With Ynot can do both! -Jupiter Research
Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost. –Forrester Research
Nurtured leads produce, on average, 20% increase in sales opportunities versus non-nurtured leads. –Demand Gen Report
You made it to the end of a very, very long blog post! You should be proud of yourself. Now, let’s figure out how to apply these fixes, asap, and impact your next start.