Lead Nurturing To Increase Student Enrollment
Connecting education with traditional business marketing strategies is not always easy. "Leads" and "sales" are foreign terms to education marketers and admissions professionals who just want to grow their enrollment and help their students succeed. But, once you cut through the jargon, you begin to realize that many of the same concepts actually translate to similar goals.
Yes, we don't like to think of the enrollment process as building a sale. After all, we're selling education and a life purpose, not a convenience item that will be thrown out after a few weeks anyway. But that doesn't necessarily mean the process changes. The enrollment journey, once you boil it down, is actually very similar to a traditional buyer's journey:
- A student (or their parents) realizes that they have a need (education).
- They begin to do their research on options to fill that need.
- They narrow their list to a few options that fit their base criteria.
- The thoroughly evaluate each option to come to a 'finalist'.
- They make the final decision to lock themselves in.
Find effective touch points with your prospects throughout this process, and the chances that they'll choose you in the end increase dramatically. Inbound marketing can help you get there with valuable content, lead magnets, and more. Still, it's worth pointing out that attracting your audience to your content is only the beginning. In education, what happens after a prospect or parent becomes a lead is absolutely vital.
The Core Concept of Lead Nurturing
Lead nurturing is a crucial part of inbound marketing, for education and in other industries. If lead generation is built on value, that also means most of your newly gained prospects are not ready for a sales pitch. Nurturing messages (via email and other channels) help you stay in touch with these prospects as they slowly nudge closer to make a buying decision.
The same is true for the education industry. Your lead magnets may consist of financial aid guides, visit sign-ups, and more. But someone interested in these resources is often not ready to apply to your school immediately. They need a lead nurturing strategy designed to keep your school in their short list as they narrow it down before the application and enrollment decision.
That's why in education as in other industries, lead nurturing is not and cannot be promotional. Instead, it has to be a conscious strategy to add continuous value to your audience. Help them get to know your campus and community, or offer resources they might need based on their current class year and stage in the enrollment journey. Focus on relevance instead of pushing to the next step.
Lead Nurturing in a Higher Education Context
So far, all of the points made in this article apply to any industry. But, as we all know, education comes with a number of nuances and differences compared to other fields that require a more focused and adjusted marketing strategy. Lead nurturing is no different.
First, most schools already engage in some type of nurturing, even if it might be subconscious. When you get a new lead, through an SAT buy or sign up form on your site, chances are you don't go dark. Many schools already send follow-ups that include introductions to the admissions staff, visit prompts to upcoming events, success stories from current students and alumni, and more.
The same example also shows that, especially in education, lead nurturing goes far beyond email. An admissions counselor may pick up the phone to call prospects in their area. Chances are you send a view book and/or various other pieces of direct mail to potential students throughout the year. And of course, you hope to get your students to engage with your digital presence through social media, ranging from Facebook groups for incoming classes to Instagram stories.
The key, then, is not building your lead nurturing efforts from the ground up. Rather, it's evaluating how you are already communicating with your prospects before the actual 'apply now' calls start to intensify. In other words, it's time to re-examine your existing higher education marketing efforts in an inbound marketing context.
Lead Nurturing Throughout the Enrollment Funnel
Higher education is also unique in that the enrollment journey includes multiple stages of the nurturing process. When you first get an inquiry or buy SAT names, your goal is likely driving campus visits. Then, once they've visited, you need them to apply. Once they do, app completion becomes the goal. When they're admitted, you need that deposit. And, of course, even after the deposit, you have to avoid the dreaded summer melt.
All of these stages require lead nurturing efforts. At the same time, none of the messages can be the same. Naturally, the call to action will differ. But the spirit of the message and the type of outreach should also be tailored to your audience and their specific needs at a given time in the enrollment journey.
That, in turn, requires understanding not just the stages themselves, but the intrinsic needs and pain points of both students and their parents. It's the only way to make sure that you guide your audience through the entire funnel, hopefully with the result of increasing enrollment while, as some education professionals put it so eloquently, "putting butts in seats."
Building a Comprehensive Communication Plan
Given that lead nurturing is pervasive throughout the funnel, you might be forgiven for thinking that much of what you do in attracting students to your school falls under this category. That's not necessarily wrong. Other than awareness-driven branding campaigns, most of your marketing will be designed to guide your audience through the enrollment funnel. That, in turn, requires a comprehensive communication plan.
Most successful school marketing strategies are not just a collection of tactics, but guided under a comprehensive goal that allows them to make sense within each other. Communication plans, therefore, should consider not just the enrollment journey, but the various tactics, their timing, and the message each of them is most effective to carry. Only then can you build a lead nurturing strategy and communication plan that actually carries your students through the funnel.
If you would like to learn more about lead nurturing to increase student enrollment and how it can help you, we would love to chat.
Are you leveraging lead nurturing?