Creating a Funnel: Digital Advertising for Increased Enrollments in Your College
Sales funnels are relevant in almost every business.
The term describes the process buyers go through, from awareness to interest to consideration to conversion, before they finalize a purchase.
You can imagine it like a real funnel. A substance is poured in at the top, then it filters down to its destination. The only difference between a literal funnel and a sales funnel is that not all who enter will emerge from the other end. Many interested people will wander into the sales funnel, but only a smaller number will make it through the entire journey and become buyers.
So, how does a sales funnel apply if the goal is to increase enrollment at a college?
When it comes to marketing for education, one of the most important questions is:
How do potential students go from not knowing that your college is an option to signing up for classes?
Education Marketing is Competitive
These days, students are carefully considering their options and looking at many factors when they choose a school, including location, cost, how they will finance their education, and which programs will likely result in stable job opportunities. This is a major decision for them, one that will likely determine the trajectory of their careers—and therefore their lives.
This means that the funnel journey is a deep, slow process. It usually takes months for students to decide where they want to enroll. Plus, with more choices than ever, the playing field in the higher education market is highly saturated. There are many schools the student can choose from, as well as other options such as online learning and study abroad programs.
While they are making these considerations, your digital advertising funnel can guide them along and help them connect the dots from beginning to end. Ideally, by nurturing this relationship with prospects in the consideration phase, you can lead them toward a conversion.
It’s essential to stay at the top of their minds with frequent retargeting and communication. A strong enrollment funnel will attract potential students who are a good fit for your school and convert as many as possible into happy students on their way to their first class.
Components of a Strong Enrollment Sales Funnel
An effective enrollment sales funnel will be a multi-layered approach that addresses the right audience. It should provide them with information that is relevant and compelling, along with helping them make the decision to enroll. You’ll need to focus on the needs of the student and think about the questions your audience is asking at every step of the way.
Stages of the Funnel
1. Awareness: The student is hearing about your school for the first time and is just starting to look into it as an option.
2. Interest: The student is familiar with your institution and is looking for information about what you have to offer.
3. Consideration: The student is narrowing down his or her options, researching your school, and comparing it with your competitors.
4. Conversion: The student makes the decision to choose your school and enrolls in classes.
Let’s take a look at what a powerful enrollment sales funnel should include.
Choosing Your Audience
First of all, are you targeting the right kinds of students? Before you start building your funnel, you need to understand who you are building it for.
Take the time to determine your ideal applicant. Where are they from? What are their interests and behaviors? Where do they spend their time online? What are they looking for when it comes to their education?
Knowing as much about your audience as possible will allow you to determine what topics you should cover and how you should distribute your content. The best place to start is to look at the students who are already thriving within your school.
A smart strategy will use data about your most successful students in order to help you reach groups of people like them. With Facebook ad targeting, you can specify the age, interests, location, and other factors of the people who will see your ad.
When you target the right audience on Facebook, your ads will not only be more effective, but they will also earn a higher “relevance score” on Facebook (which will lower the cost of your ads).
Retargeting Your Content
Targeting is a great way to make sure the right people see your ad, but you can go one step further with retargeting. If you have a remarketing snippet in the code of your website, it will automatically collect a cookie. These cookies contain information about visitors to your website. It can be used to retarget Facebook ads to those who visited your site previously but didn’t submit their info.
With retargeting, you can make it so that someone who has already visited your website will see different content than someone who has never been to your website. This way, you can create specific messaging and offers for that segment of the audience and address their concerns.
No matter what, whenever you are creating content at any stage of the funnel, it’s essential to know who you are creating it for and what is important to them.
Creating a Good Ad
The next step will be creating a powerful ad to capture the attention of this audience. At this point in the funnel, you are addressing potential students who are in the “awareness” stage of the sales process. They may not know your school is an option or what you have to offer.
Your goal will be to educate them and position your institution as a potential solution for their academic goals. The best way to do this is to educate your prospects about your offerings, while also providing them with value that helps them solve a problem.
Here are some essential factors to remember when putting together your ad:
- Make sure the message matches the audience you are trying to speak to, both in content and tone.
- Consider the medium. Facebook ads are different than Google ads or Instagram ads, and the same approaches won’t work as well on every social media platform. Research what type of content works best on each.
- Use your ad to highlight the unique selling points of your educational institution. What makes you different from other schools?
- Sharing success stories can be very effective. You can use photos and quotes from current students who are happy with their education. Using real students in your ads will humanize your brand and help potential students imagine themselves attending your school.
- Your ad should also include powerful images. For example, images of your campus, attractions in the area, school events, students, etc.
- The photos you use in the ads should always be high-resolution and original content, rather than stock photography.
- The ad should offer a clear value proposition so the reader knows exactly what you have to offer.
- Make sure the ad has a strong call-to-action button that will let the reader know what to do, such as booking a meeting, registering for an event, or filling out an application.
- If someone comments on your ad, take the time to reply. A thoughtful response will get a conversation going and show that you care (especially since many other schools don’t reply to users who engage with their ads).
Building a High-Converting Landing Page
When the interested student clicks on your Facebook ad, they will be taken to a landing page on your website. This page should contain engaging content that is targeted to the audience and offers value. It is specifically designed to drive conversions. In other words, after reading the page, you want the student to take action, whether that means applications, inquiries, open house attendance, etc.
Also, it’s incredibly important that your landing page matches the style, tone, and aesthetic of your social media ad. If someone clicks on your Facebook ad and the next page they land on looks and feels different, alarm bells will immediately start ringing. People notice these subtle discrepancies (even subconsciously), so it’s important to keep everything in your funnel consistent.
There are many different elements a landing page can contain, but one of the most important is social proof and testimonials. Show the reader real quotes and stories from students just like them who have achieved success at your school.
Another crucial element is video. A powerful, engaging admissions video will captivate the visitor and show off what your school has to offer. The viewer will start to imagine the possibilities for their future success, which means you can present your educational programs as the key to unlocking those goals.
Last but not least, your landing page should have a short form built right into the page itself. It shouldn’t be too long, or your prospective students will get frustrated when filling it in and might give up. (Around five form fields is ideal.)
The ultimate aim of this step in the funnel is to collect email addresses. There are a number of ways you can do this, whether that means offering a free guide, some helpful materials, or some other valuable item to download. Give the reader a clear call to action with a generous offer that will benefit or help them in some way.
Lead Nurturing at Every Stage
Once a lead has offered up his or her email address in exchange for the valuable download, you have the opportunity to move the dialogue forward and build a relationship via email. This is known as “lead nurturing,” and it involves connecting with your potential student at every stage of the sales process.
Every phase includes consistently staying in touch with your audience so they will keep the school in their thoughts. Over time, lead nurturing can convert interested prospects into applications. After all, you’ve already spent money getting these leads into the first part of your funnel, so why not focus on them all throughout the journey?
The students who are already in your funnel have moved past the “awareness” stage when it comes to your school. They may be in the “interest” stage and eager to learn more about what programs you offer, or they may be in the “consideration” stage and might be comparing your school with their other options. Now is the time to explain what makes you different from your competitors.
Do you have better facilities or instructors? Top-notch programs and placement opportunities? Do you have stronger industry links? A fantastic on-campus environment? The “eternal nurture” content you offer in your funnel should highlight your unique selling points.
This is the time to talk about what makes your school special. There’s no end point to this content, so you can keep sharing it on a regular basis indefinitely.
When you communicate with students, it should be very personal, helpful, and reassuring. By sharing this content consistently over time, you’ll show the students in your funnel why your school is the right choice.
Follow Up After the Appointment is Booked
So, a student entered your funnel and eventually booked an enrollment meeting appointment? That’s great! The next step is to respond to them right away. This will help the students feel like they are a priority for you.
When you follow up after an appointment is booked, you open the door to an opportunity to speak more in depth with potential students about their interests.
At this stage of the funnel, they have already done some research and have begun to solidify their interest in a particular program or course. They are eager for more specific information about what your school can offer and what they can expect when they enroll. This is a key opportunity to build trust with these potential students.
Make sure your content offers plenty of information about the courses you offer. Highlight how they are engaging, relevant, and applicable to a successful future career. Also, information about what they can look forward to about life on campus may be relevant at this stage.
Effective Enrollment Meeting
An enrollment meeting is also an important stage of the funnel. Your priority should be to guide students proactively at every stage and encourage them to complete the steps to register for their classes.
At this stage of the enrollment process, the student has narrowed down his or her options and is looking to determine whether the school is a good fit. This meeting will provide a chance to build trust and move towards a decision.
Pay attention to students’ challenges and needs and offer them custom support during this stage of the sales process. For example, some of the questions they might have include:
- How to register for their classes
- How to sign up for a study abroad program
- How to pay their balance or apply for financial aid
- How to apply for internships
This information can be offered during the enrollment meeting, or it can also be sent digitally. Creating a “Welcome Pack” like this with important information will be very helpful for ensuring the student takes the crucial next step.
Follow Up Before the First Day of School
Once students apply and are accepted into one of your programs, your work is not done. It’s important to keep following up and sending them additional content. This will help reassure them that they made the right decision, and it can even help build a sense of excitement and anticipation.
Here are some examples of the type of content that would be ideal to send out before courses begin:
- Advice for newcomers to your location, such as a guide to local neighborhoods or recommendations of local attractions
- Clarification on any questions students might have before they start their first day
- Information on what they can expect from dorm room living and what to pack
- An event calendar and notices of clubs, groups, and other extracurricular activities
Also, make sure you give students an easy way to reach out and ask questions if they need to. This will go a long way in making sure your students feel welcome and accepted at the school.
Start Building Your College Enrollment Funnel
The higher education industry is highly competitive and saturated. Student have more choices than ever before when it comes to where they earn their degrees. Most students will spend a long time researching their options and will have a lot of questions before they reach a decision.
In order to attract and retain students, institutions must communicate with their students in the most effective way possible, addressing their needs and conveying the unique value proposition of the school. A digital advertising funnel is one of the best ways to do this. After all, almost all students research their education options online these days.
When you take the time to understand the motivations and challenges of the people who are enrolling at your school, you can speak directly to their needs. You’ll be able to guide them through the enrollment process by answering their questions and listening to their needs. The key is to offer them useful, inspiring content that encourages them to imagine a future at your school.
More Students can help you create a powerful, ROI-driven funnel to increase your college enrollment. Fill out the form and our team will create a custom plan for you.
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.