5 Digital Marketing Tips to Increase Enrollments in Your College
Marketing online can be overwhelming.
There’s a lot you need to know to pull off an effective digital marketing strategy, one that doesn’t just generate leads but delivers what really matters: enrollments.
But where do you start?
The last thing you want to do is invest additional marketing dollars and stress your budget without anything to show for it.
Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to predictably increase enrollments with digital marketing. We’ve organized some of the best tips you can implement straight away.
1. Make your prospective students, not the college, the focus of your messaging.
It’s a natural habit to speak to future students from the perspective of what’s great about your school.
However, one of the single most important lessons in marketing is this: communicate the benefits, not the features.
Instead of discussing what is great about your school, whether it’s your amazing staff or outstanding programs, talk about the personal and life transformation your prospective student will experience by enrolling at your college.
Here’s an example:
In place of “XYZ College has 10,000 square feet of newly renovated facilities, award-winning programs, and an experienced staff…,” which is all about features and doesn’t communicate clear benefits to the student, take this tip from UEI College
A quote on the UEI homepage from Mayra C., a medical assistant graduate of UEI, reads, “NOW, I HAVE A CAREER: The staff members at UEI really pushed me and motivated me. Career Services really helped me out. Now, not only do I have a job, I have a career.”
In addition, a collection of bullet points on UEI’s ad landing page outlines desirable benefits to the student:
The messaging is focused and targeted to speak directly to that prospective student, making it clear what he or she will get by choosing to enroll in this college versus a competitor’s.
A study by EAB Consulting of their more than 1.5 billion annual student interactions found that, by adopting this same small shift in how they spoke to leads, they were able to increase their response rate by roughly 50%.
The truth is, people don’t care about the college itself as much as what your program promises to do for them. So, communicating those benefits will increase the number of impressions that convert to leads, and leads to enrollments.
2. Make mobile a priority.
In just ten short years, mobile devices have taken over the planet and usurped desktop and laptop computers combined as the most popular way to surf the Internet.
According to Statista, more than 52% of web traffic and a majority of all Internet users are now using mobile, up from 16.2% just five years ago:
And yet, despite the mobile takeover, many colleges still have a less-than-optimized mobile presence.
Ever experienced the frustration of a mobile site where the navigation menu is microscopic or you have to scroll not only up and down, but also left and right, to see all the content? Those are the worst offenders.
Most aren’t that bad, but many colleges still run mobile sites that are difficult to navigate, along with ad landing pages and applications that obstruct the signup process.
This can have measurable consequences. Marketing and sales insight firm McKinsey & Company reported that 61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing. Arguably worse, 40% visit a competitor’s site instead. Ouch.
That means, if your website and ad landing pages aren’t optimized for mobile, you’re not just turning away potential enrollments, but you’re also sending them off to your competitors, a realm from which you may never be able to get them back.
What makes a great mobile ad landing page?
The name of the game with mobile is easy to use, with the most prominent information displayed at the top of the page.
Take this example from UTI, an automotive school:
The signup page is simple and straightforward. There’s a distinct box at the top where leads can call the school directly, the signup button is clearly noticeable, and all the essential elements fit on the page without scrolling.
3. Use the power of texting to increase response and show rates.
Once a new lead has signed up to receive information, you have another opportunity to take advantage of the growing importance of mobile marketing: text messages.
Texting can be used at several points along the prospective student’s journey, from scheduling and confirming appointments to answering questions.
But why would you text instead of call or email?
Everyone calls, and most colleges now use email as a useful automated tool for converting leads as well. Both are useful and even essential communication methods.
However, texting offers unrivaled response rates compared to other communication methods and has been shown to be especially useful in increasing both response and show rates.
By using text messages in your digital marketing lead nurturing strategy, you can gain a leg up on your competitors.
Texts draw attention better than email and phone calls.
Mobile Marketing Watch found that text messages have a 98% open rate, while email stands at roughly just 20%.
Another study by Pew Research Center found that 90% of text messages are read within three minutes of being received.
Smartphones are many people’s preferred method of not just connecting online, but also daily communication, because they’re just more convenient.
We already have our phones on us at all times, and mobile technology is progressing at a breakneck speed, so our phones are becoming faster and more responsive, and we are more dependent upon them each year.
As time continues, more of your prospective students will prefer mobile, and mobile’s ROI will increase further.
Use personalized text messages to remind leads of upcoming appointments and increase show rates.
Clearly, text messaging boasts much greater open and response rates compared to calls or email, but just how effective is text messaging for increasing enrollments?
One study published in Psychiatry Online found that participants who received text reminders were 50% more likely to show for their appointments than those who either didn’t receive a reminder or received a call or email instead. A meta-analysis of text appointment reminder studies found just the same.
Why, then, is texting so effective?
One study found that more than 38% of those who scheduled appointments forgot about them by the day of.
Text messaging is powerful because it’s a direct line to all those leads who carry their smartphones everywhere. As opposed to email or a phone call, there is no additional action that needs to be taken to see your message.
Most of your leads receive SMS messages straight to their home screens, which means there’s no need to answer the phone or open the email app. They simply need to tap their screens to see the reminders.
Daily life is hectic, and anything you can do to reduce the friction can translate directly to measurably increased show rates and enrollments. Texting gives you the power to do just that.
4. Utilize A/B testing continually.
Talk to any seasoned digital marketer and they’ll tell you, no matter how much experience or knowledge of a particular industry or niche someone has, it’s impossible to know what ads will generate the greatest response.
There are too many factors at play in digital marketing and advertising to know for sure what will work best.
You need to have a good mix of all the critical marketing elements, and A/B testing (releasing two of the same ad or page with one minor difference between them to see which performs better) constantly to find out what works best is a must.
Those critical elements include:
- Advertising and social media platforms: Google might be a given, but don’t overlook Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
- Ad types: Every ad platform offers half a dozen or more different ad types.
Copy: The words you use in your ads are one of the most important elements. Pay attention to what kind of messaging seems to resonate with your prospective students.
- Media: Similar to copy, different types of media, such as images and video, may be more appealing than others. Testing will help you find out which offer the highest conversion rates for you.
Across the board, each of these elements includes several (or a limitless number) of possible options.
The only way to know what works best for you is to A/B test constantly. The more A/B testing you conduct (and the longer you do it), the higher you’ll be able to push your conversion rate for every step in your signup funnel.
For example, Liberty University conducted A/B split tests on their online ads and landing pages, as well as testing for how many qualifying questions they should ask a lead during signup.
The result of testing click-through rates on their digital ads has more than doubled their number of students at a 108% increase, going from roughly 12,000 to 25,000 students in less than three years.
Leverage software to simplify A/B testing.
The great news is, there are countless programs that offer A/B testing functionality or simplify the process of optimizing ads.
One example is AdEspresso, which helps optimize digital advertisements and provides key insights:
Sites like AdEspresso can automatically filter through your Facebook, Instagram, or Google ads to help you identify your best-performing campaigns and automatically adjust your ad spend based on that data.
Services like this don’t negate the need for an expert to craft ads, test platforms, and review insights to make informed adjustments. However, they can help provide critical insights that inform you of what platforms, ad types, copy, and media are performing best for you, so you can optimize over time.
5. Don’t underestimate the importance of lead nurturing.
So far, we’ve talked strictly about front-end marketing strategies and tips for making the most of those efforts.
What is arguably just as (if not more) important is what you do when you get those leads. That’s because many of the simplest and most powerful factors to increase your enrollments are tied to improving your lead nurturing.
Lead nurturing allows you to get more from the ad dollars you’re already spending, as opposed to having to spend more.
Many colleges invest hour upon hour into marketing and advertising for lead generation but neglect to optimize their lead nurture process. As a result, they leave tens of thousands of dollars (or much more) on the table.
Call leads within five minutes.
One of the best examples of lead nurturing is response time.
How soon you contact leads makes a huge difference in the number of responses you receive. But just how big and how soon?
A study based on the research of Dr. James Oldroyd of Ohio State University and Inside Sales CEO Dave Elkington examined over three years of lead data for optimal contact rate and number of touch points.
They found that most companies (74%) take more than five minutes to respond to new leads and nearly as many take more than ten. That might not sound like a big deal, until you see Oldroyd and Elkington’s findings.
The same study discovered that contact rate drops significantly within just the first five minutes and again after the first ten minutes:
After just ten minutes, the contact rate dropped nearly 80%. That means, if you’re taking more than ten minutes to contact new leads, you’re passing on a significant amount of your lead potential.
Consistently calling all leads within five to ten minutes might be an unrealistic response rate right now, depending on your staff. However, it gives you something to shoot for and lets you know that the faster you can respond to more of your leads, the more return you’ll get from your ad spend.
Digital marketing can be complex, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.
There are many more moving parts to digital marketing than there once were for traditional ads, such as newspaper and radio.
However, digital marketing doesn’t have to be difficult—nor does it have to feel like you’re throwing the dice and hoping for the best.
These digital marketing tips can make both significant and predictable leaps in your number of enrollments. Contact More Students to learn how we can help you accomplish your enrollment goals even quicker and easier.
More Students serves colleges and only colleges.
By staying laser-focused we can help you avoid some of the money-sucking problems of working with generalist digital advertising agencies.