In my previous blog post about student recruitment strategies, I talked about the importance of thinking like a student. To do this, it’s best to begin with a clear picture of who that student is. Considering the shifting demographics of today’s college student, particularly as the “non-traditional” adult learner becomes the new norm, there is no longer a typical or “traditional” college student. Meaning a one-size fits all messaging strategy will not work.
So how do you reach a wider, increasingly diverse audience and make the messaging more targeted and personalized? When my team works with institutions to formulate strategic marketing plans, we often go through an exercise of audience segmentation: the process of dividing a larger potential audience into smaller sub-groups in order to create personalized messaging and outreach strategies. Audience segmentation can help you identify and prioritize your target audiences, tailor your messaging in a way that speaks directly to their needs, target them more efficiently, and ultimately reach more students and grow enrollments.
To get started, ask these three questions:
#1. Who are they?
Conduct research both internally and externally to build a profile of your student population – your institution’s research and enrollment teams may be a good place to start as well as the US Census Bureau and NCES for demographic information. Think in terms of both demographics and psychographics. How old are they? What is their gender and cultural background? Where do they live? What are their beliefs and values, their hobbies and interests? Are they married or partnered? Do they have children? A single parent who works full time will have very different needs and motivations from a young working professional seeking an MBA.
#2. What motivates them?
Think about your audience’s motivations for enrolling. Are they a college graduate seeking an advanced degree to earn a promotion? Are they unemployed and in need of new skills or a professional credential to help them find a new job or switch careers? Or are they an older student who is returning to school for the personal satisfaction of completing a bachelor’s degree? Knowing the motivations and needs of your audience will help you hone in on what’s most important to them, and adapt your marketing messages accordingly.
#3. Where can you reach them?
By defining your students’ demographics and interests, you can start to understand how and where they look for information. What websites or social media channels do they frequent? There are many resources online to find out which channels particular demographic groups are most likely to use. For example, according to a recent Pew Research Center report, Facebook and Instagram users are more likely to be female, while men are more likely to be active on LinkedIn. You should also think about what technology they are likely to use. If they’re constantly on the go and most likely to read e-mail on a mobile device, make sure your e-mail outreach and other digital communications are optimized for mobile viewing. Sample Persona Profiles
Once you begin to answer these questions, a few distinct profiles of your prospective students will emerge. But don’t just think of them in terms of data and statistics– give each profile a name and even choose a picture to represent their motivations so that you can start to think of them as real people. Then, with this portrait of your students in mind – their unique characteristics, needs, and motivations – take a step in their shoes and think about what they want to hear from you… not the other way around.
To learn more on improving your student recruitment strategies, download our free e-book, Four Leading Strategies to Identify, Attract, Engage, and Enroll the Right Students.