It is a marketer's dream to have all the contact details of potential customers who have expressed an interest in a product or service. This is precisely what student application data is. It is one of the most valuable assets that a college has. Therefore it is paramount that a campaign is devised to maximise final enrolments.
When you are building your applicant database, there are a number of things to consider:
- Are you collecting the appropriate information? As a minimum you should have the key contact details including home address, full name, mobile number and email address. To further enhance the dataset you may want to also collect and use date of birth (for happy birthday emails), current school and sibling details for future database marketing purposes
- Data Protection. Ensure that you are collecting all the appropriate opt-ins and opt-outs.
- Social media. At the time of application, try to collect social media details so that you can invite them to follow or like you on Twitter and Facebook.
- Priority. Try to establish at the time of application whether the student is choosing your college as a first choice or as an insurance choice.
- Interests. If you can collect behaviourial data at the application, it can be used to target information delivery.
- Broadly speaking, there will be broadly three categories of people on the applicant database:
- The definites. Those students determined to study at your college.The waverers. Those students who are undecided and have applied to a number of colleges to keep their options open.The reluctants. Students who have applied to college, but it is not their preferred choice.
- Each prospect type requires different message content and communication frequency as objectives vary. With the definites, we need to reassure. With waverers, we need to convince. And with reluctants, we need to persuade.
- In the protracted months between application and enrolments, students will be influenced by parents, teachers, schools, friends, siblings and your competitors' advertising. We cannot simply assume that just because your college is number one choice at the time of application, that it will remain that way right up to enrolment.
Building a Communication Plan
Constructing a communication strategy to "keep warm" applicants is a complex process. It is important to communicate through a variety of media such as email, post, SMS text messaging and social media to ensure your message is delivered. The emphasis and tone of the message should change dependent upon the prospect type. The timing of communication is important, not least to tie in with key calendar moments like exam results day.
The design of materials should be closely on-brand so there is no disjoint between student recruitment campaigns and the keep warm campaign.
Encourage interaction if possible by building in response mechanisms on emails, or by asking questions in social media. If you have collected behavioural information, use it in your campaign. For instance if someone has expressed an interest in sport, dynamically change the content of emails based on this information. The keep warm campaign should help applicants to imagine themselves at the college, reduce objections and create a feeling of inclusion.
John Wilford is founder and managing director of Rave, a specialist marketing agency providing strategic advice, creativity, media planning, social media and campaign execution to many FE colleges and sixth form colleges