The education industry has fallen fallen behind in the marketing world and they don't even realize it. Go to any school or university website -- what are the ONLY calls-to-action that you're guaranteed to see? Apply Now or Register Now.
This is a common problem for all kinds of industries, but especially in the education industry as we discussed in Education Marketing for Student Recruitment. At a charter school conference we spoke at, an attendee said, "We have calls-to-action to register on every page." That is a very bottom of the funnel call-to-action. Schools and education organizations are very good at making sure that they give visitors on their website the ability to apply or register, but that's the only call-to-action on most school websites.
What if website visitors aren’t ready to register or apply? What if they need to know more about your institution than your name and location? Let’s compare it to something else -- would you expect a dating site to show a personal profile and have the connection button say MARRY NOW? Seems a bit FAST don’t you think?
If every person that came to your website had only one school they were researching and were ready to begin the application process, i.e. they were immediately ready to buy, this would be a fine strategy, but that just simply isn't the case.
For decades (maybe even centuries) educational institutions have been focused on creating quality education with tenured professors/teachers and banking on those aspects to bring in students because, “everyone needs an education” and most want the best education! We are thankful for the quality education that has been built, but consumers are more savvy these days and they look for schools in the same way they’d look for a new technology device. They typically do tons of research online prior to the determining which handful of schools to which they'll apply. But are they finding the information they need to support a buyer's (or student's) journey -- to properly research, consider and make a decision?
The education marketing industry has been completely ignoring top and middle of the funnel prospects and leads. They’ve adopted a very arrogant process that expects people to apply solely based on their name and reputation. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If school and university marketers would embrace the inbound methodology and educate consumers along the way (seems like a no brainer. I mean education is what these institutions are passionate about, right?), these savvy consumers would be able to determine the best school fit before being asked to Apply Now!
Let's take a look at why and how your school or university can include your mission for educating into the recruitment of students and start generating top and middle of the funnel leads that you can nurture into students instead of losing them completely because they weren't ready to apply from the first moment they met you.
WHY: Enrollment power has shifted
In today's almost completely digital world, the enrollment power has shifted from the school to the student. In fact, 57% of the sales cycle is complete before a customer ever reaches out to a university.
What does this mean for your marketing? It means that people are doing their own research before determining that they have a problem (standing out in applications or resumes, career or pay advancement, corporate ceiling), before figuring out what their options are (discipline specific education, degrees, or certifications), and before deciding on a school or university to attend.
In order to get your share of these more savvy students, you've got to take a more helpful approach. Education is now the way that you can get in front of these consumers while they're doing their research and help guide them to your solution and your school or university. If you're only focusing on an "Apply Now", bottom of the funnel offer, you're completely missing the 57% research portion of the buying process.
WHY: Stay front of mind
How many of your website visitors land on your website and never return? Are you doing anything to track, nurture, and close those visitors? Probably not. And like we mentioned above, you are not alone in the education marketing industry.
If you're only focused on bottom of the funnel leads, those that visit and are in the top and middle of the funnel are never identified, tracked, or nurtured. This means that once these people graduate to the bottom of the funnel and are deciding which organization to work with, your school/university is likely not even in the running. Adding these prospects to your pipeline gives you the opportunity to nurture them and stay front of mind with them so when they are ready to purchase, your name is the first they think of.
HOW: High value content offers
So what can you offer someone that is the top or middle of the funnel in order to help get them into your database? By now we understand that the “Apply Now" offer doesn't work on these people because they're not ready for it yet, so we've got to provide them some value. This can come in many forms, but they're all typically some sort of high value content offer like mentioned in our post The Power of High Value Content Offers. These can be eBooks, white papers, checklists, calculators, infographics, quizzes, or anything else that you can think of that provides value and helps them realize they have a problem or help them see solutions.
What's important to understand here is that you are not going for the sale right now. Your job when someone is in the top or middle of the funnel is to educate and inform. You have to provide information that they want and need, but you need to do it in a genuine and non-sales focused way.
HOW: Lead nurturing
Once you've got someone in your pipeline because they've filled out a form for a piece of your content, you've now got the opportunity to nurture those leads into customers through a lead nurturing campaign.
Again, in order for this to be successful, your approach should be one of education and focused around being helpful to your prospects. Just because someone has identified themselves as a lead for you doesn't mean that they are ready to be bombarded with your sales material.
PRO TIP: Understanding where the content that each prospects has downloaded falls in the sales funnel will help you identify where they are in the process and what kind of content you should be providing them.
So, now it's time to take a look at your marketing strategy. Are you embracing top and middle of the funnel leads or are you only concerned with bottom of the funnel leads? Opening up your institution and your calls-to-action to these leads will fill your pipeline and increase your enrollments and your bottom line.
Not really sure where to start? All great marketing campaigns start with a great strategy. Get a detailed, executable, and customized strategy just for your school/university!