Students’ changing expectations around recruitment and admissions are putting more pressure than ever before on universities and colleges to communicate using individually tailored messaging and customized remote service. Since COVID19 hit and most schools have taken student support operations and recruitment efforts entirely online, higher ed institutions can continue to transform the student experience from a distance and work to convert prospects into students by maximizing your Salesforce email marketing automation.
FOCUS ON LEAD CAPTURE
Now is the perfect time to take a step back and evaluate your website and opportunities to optimize and expand your prospect capture for targeted follow-up.
At Tidewater Community College, we introduced a series of web forms incentivizing a free downloadable guide on our newly redesigned website to help transform our interactions with prospective students.
Using the Pardot API, these forms capture key data for recruitment and admissions, including name, phone number, email address, in addition to tracking which pages a user-entered on (whether it’s an intended program of study or another interest like military benefits or financial aid).
After submitting their information, a user will immediately receive an automated communication, customized with their personal information, requested guide and information directing them to get started or get in touch with a member of our New Student Support Team.
Salesforce Sync then allows us to pull this data from Pardot directly into Salesforce than to Marketing Cloud, where we use it for journeys and ongoing enrollment communications ranging from outbound calls to postcards. This information is consolidated to determine whether they’ve already applied or completed additional admissions steps, so a student isn’t receiving conflicting or out-of-date enrollment information.
We are currently exploring the use of a Salesforce Cookie, which would actually further customize the forms to solicit additional or different information based on a user’s return visit to the site. Essentially this feature would customize a visitor’s web experience to reflect past visits and optimize our data collection efforts.
And we don’t just rely on our forms to collect data and capture leads from our website. Our New Student Support Team is trained to record all contact information from inbound calls generated from our marketed phone number.
Still, looking for new ideas? Our Chat is another lead capture tool on the website, requiring name and email to initiate a conversation with a representative. TCC launched Salesforce’s Chat feature on every page of TCC.EDU in March of 2020 to expand service options to prospects while also increasing data capture.
Our New Student Support Team closed over 1,400 chat sessions in our first-month post-launch, which grew our lead capture 24/7 by continuing to offer chat support via an Einstein Bot even during off-hours. The lesson? Investing some development time and the creation of simple marketing collateral for Salesforce integrations on your public-facing site can have a huge pay-off in terms of organic lead capture.
PERSONALIZE YOUR COMMUNICATIONS
All students are individuals with unique needs and desires. And they want to be treated as such. Generic bulk emails that are transactional don’t work and neither do messages that appeal to a wide diversity of interests and programs. If a student has told you what their intended program of is or has attended an event on campus, use that specific, personalized information in your communications helps build a sense of community and increase the success of your email campaigns.
Above, I talked about TCC’s CRM-informed email autoresponders. We have hundreds of automated email templates that offer tailored messaging related to a student’s individualized interest.
Templates mean scalability, which is essential for higher ed marketers struggling to magnify their impact and decrease their administrative burden. Pardot’s drag-and-drop, user-friendly templates allow your institution to generate hundreds of automated communications with consistent branding, design and messaging to increase your communication options and target your emails for the exact students you are hoping to reach.
Marketing teams can also use this data in Marketing Cloud to fill and nurture your pipeline with prospects and launch personalized journeys based on potential students’ interests and/or location in the enrollment funnel. Remember, the goal is to deliver results. By giving your interested prospects information that is meaningful to their unique interested and tailored to their circumstances, you will build rapport, increase your open rates, and optimize your service interaction.
BUILD A STRATEGIC PLAN
When it comes to successful email campaigns, one-off communications aren’t enough. Ongoing communications are essential to keep your institution top-of-mind and help a potential student weigh their options.
Studies show that once a prospect visits a college website, they’ll stay in the consideration phase for an average of two months, and for as many 18 months. For non- traditional students, a demographic we see a lot of in community colleges, that phase can be even longer. And, with college debt in the news, higher education is a huge financial consideration for many prospects. Make sure that your plan takes into account the long deliberation process a potential student might have. Nurture, nurture, nurture: keep those students engaged through the funnel with a variety of engaging and fresh communications.
Email campaigns, while an important part of any college or university marketing strategy, will only go so far to recruit today’s prospective students. Today’s student expects to communicate across many different channels, including social media, text, email, phone, chat, and within the apps they download.
Recruiting students on just one of these channels is not enough; a comprehensive strategy that offers service and support through various channels, emphasizes lead capture and leverages the marketing automation available through your Salesforce instance to help alleviate administrative burdens is your best bet for moving them down the enrollment funnel and into the classroom.