Fresh ideas for your student conversion campaign

Your university brand is strong, trusted, and has resulted in a bunch of UCAS applications, but now a new challenge begins. Ensuring offer holders convert and persuading those offer holders to make your university their first choice is ordinarily a tricky task, and with the last couple of years being anything but ordinary you may be looking for some new thinking to refresh your student conversion strategy. If so then read on.

1. Personalisation at the centre of your student conversion campaign

Personalisation is so much more than using a first name instead of ‘Dear Candidate’. Before you begin thinking about what your conversion campaign should look like, consider what data you have, how further insights can be garnered, and how that data can be best leveraged to create a truly personalised experience for your candidates.

It’s vital that you create student personas to help you understand the lived experiences of your applicants. Consider demographic information such as age and location alongside the goals and challenges of your candidates. Review sources of useful data, such as your current database, National Student Survey responses, any CRM data you have on your applicants’ interests and preferences, any insights from student interviews, Google trend data and other market research sources. You could even run polls on Instagram Stories for example, to help you ascertain what matters most to your existing and future students and understand more about what matters most.

With well-considered student personas and heavily segmentable data you can move away from generic communications and help your institution to stand out by offering your candidates a personal connection at each level.

2. Planning is key

Top-notch planning is the foundation for any successful campaign. From creating a joined-up approach across all faculties and departments, to ensuring each engagement has a clear goal with measurable results, a successful student conversion campaign has a strong basis in well considered strategy.

Your prospects are busy. They are flooded with a deluge of communications every day, so making sure each touch point has a defined purpose, with a clear call-to-action and measurable results, is key. With every communication consider what the benefit is to your applicant, and importantly what data you will receive and how that can be implemented to continue a personalised approach throughout your campaign.

3. Warming up at every stage

Keeping warm conversion activity is all about reminding your applicants why they applied and what your university has that sets you apart from the competition. Your communications should be nurturing the relationship of your candidates from outreach events before the start of the application process in September, through applicant days, spring conversion activities, through to clearing, that crucial first term and beyond. Implement a joined-up approach with your student support services to make sure your candidates don’t feel dropped once they’ve handed over the fees. And of course, don’t forget the experiences of applicants that choose to defer.

Each communication should cultivate a sense of trust and loyalty, with you showing that you understand the unique challenges and expectations of your student personas. Don’t be afraid to be creative or surprising, to boost conversion rates you’ll need to grab the attention of your applicants in interesting ways. Consider sending high impact direct mail to cut through the digital noise (of course making sustainability and waste reduction a key consideration). Influencers like parents need to be considered in the process too – how are you keeping them warm?

4. Help, Hub, Hero

 Put your institution at the centre of this big life change. Many of your applicants are making one of the biggest choices of their lives to date. Hold their hand through this journey and show that you are the university that understands their needs, wants, and dreams. At Something Big we’re strong believers in the Help, Hub, Hero (HHH) content strategy and know that this strategy drives brand awareness and conversions.

The HHH approach puts content into three clear categories that perform different functions:

  • Help: ‘how-to’ or ‘hygiene’ content, that answers questions
  • Hub: value-added content, thought leadership, community-focused
  • Hero: storytelling content to capture attention and leave a lasting impression

Base your content plan around this strategy, offering helpful content like checklists and guides, hub content like videos of your campus facilities and student stories, and hero content that inspires and draws your candidates in to the world of your university. By hitting these three categories you can ensure that candidates are guided through the sales funnel and feel supported by your content.

5. Building a community

Make it simple for offer holders to build a community online, helping them to begin the process of settling in before they’ve even started. One thing the pandemic eroded for many was strong in-person friendships, so online communities are now even more vital, and ubiquitous, than ever before. Consider inviting your students to a community group based on their proposed campus or faculty and foster an environment where students can start to build connections. You could consider platforms like Disciple, Slack, Teams, Discord or Facebook Groups. These communities do have to be closely monitored though.

Another aspect of community building is creating an open dialogue between your university and your applicants. You can consider running live Q&As to answer FAQs on Instagram Live or TikTok Live, or perhaps use the Stitch feature on TikTok videos to encourage engagement and interaction. And of course, don’t forget to feed any insights gained from these interactions back into your student persona research and overall strategy.

With the UCAS application deadline looming at the end of January, conversion season is just around the corner so it’s time to get prepared. If you’re looking for new and creative ways to reach your applicants, nurture your relationship with them and get them over the enrolment line, get in touch.

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