In my role I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with institutions of all types and sizes to grow enrollments and launch new programs, despite limited budgets and resources. This creates an immediate need to make better use of what’s already in place and to get creative about lower cost, high-impact channels for outreach. Ultimately, every tool, resource, and communication in the enrollment arsenal needs to be optimized for conversion. Whether that’s a website, social media, content, or data, there’s an opportunity to make sure each tool is working as hard as possible, well before new channels of investment can be added to the mix.
We use the term “Conversion Marketing” to describe the process of turning qualified prospective students into enrolled students. In enrollment management, a conversion can be the number of prospects who filled out an inquiry form, completed an application, attended an orientation event, clicked on an email, or contacted an advisor—whatever action leads to accomplishing a specific goal. Ultimately, conversion rate is by far the biggest indicator of whether or not the marketing and enrollment management plan is successful. Knowing your performance along these lines ensures that you can eliminate wasteful spending, maximize your resources, and understand a roadmap for increasing student enrollment.
Here are 4 immediate actions you can take to improve your conversions.
#1. Make a Date With Your Website
Doing an honest assessment of your website’s overall health, content, and ease of use is the first stop on a path to better conversion rates. Think of your website as the front door to prospective students. It needs to answer three key questions quickly about any program, certificate, or course that you offer: 1) How much will it cost? 2) How long will it take? 3) What will I get? Having those details along with an easy-to-find form to request more information, are the two most important steps in structuring the content on your website. From there you should evaluate your site’s ability to drive natural search traffic using top keywords for your programs and institution.
And, don’t forget that your site must be mobile friendly and built with UX best practices in mind. Accessibility, clear navigation, load times, and cross-browser compatibility are all critical components to the technical health of the site and will have a direct impact on your conversions.
#2. Leverage Social for Conversion
Social media is a pivotal tool in showcasing your brand, personality and unique content to prospective students. Most schools take advantage of tools like Facebook and YouTube to share updates about activities, programs and events. But the key is to ensure that social media is also driving conversions. Consider how you can use social media sites to provide your followers with rich information about your program offerings, faculty, and other students’ experiences—but don’t stop there.
Be sure to put a structure around how you will bring this follower or prospect to an action. For example; taking a prospect from viewing a video or post on Facebook to register for an online event. Set your social media objectives along with Key Performance Indicators. Use a governance policy to outline how you’ll communicate through social media. And, be sure to leverage one of the many social performance-tracking tools to measure and refine your approach. I recommend considering HootSuite, Bit.ly, Google Analytics and Google Trends. Treat social media like any other important component in the enrollment management and marketing process.
#3. Measure & Improve
My team likes to use the saying “if you see it you can fix it.” By that, we mean if you have good visibility into what is happening across your enrollment funnel you can see where things aren’t working as planned. When you improve data visibility you can diagnose and proactively address pipeline conversion issues. That is one reason we consider analytics or tracking an integral component of conversion marketing. If schools cannot see they have a problem converting applications to admits, then they won’t know to fix it. The key metrics I recommend that you watch closely are: Click to Lead, Lead to Application, Application to Admit, and Admit to Enroll. When you can identify breakdowns in the funnel, then it is much easier to proactively address them, and in our experience, these small tweaks can really help grow enrollments.
#4. Be Proactive & Specific
Once you have a conversion, that doesn’t mean game over. Your first exchange with a prospective student is only just the beginning. Nurturing leads through the enrollment funnel is a complex process. But, once again, using the tools and data that may already exist, can help you push your inquiries forward. This is the time to get proactive and to contact those leads with a specific ask or call to action. Do you have a bucket of prospective students that started an application but did not finish? Do you have a group of students who enrolled previously but have not re-enrolled in the new term? Leveraging that data with an outreach campaign can be very powerful in driving results and doing so quickly. Outbound calls, emails, or texts are all ways to contact students who are stuck in the enrollment or “conversion” funnels, and move them along to the next step.
With these four steps in mind, you will be on your way to making your marketing and enrollment efforts more effective and efficient. In times when you’re constantly asked to do more with less, these techniques can quickly become your new best friends.
If you are looking at a longer time horizon and making strategic decisions regarding how to increase student enrollment for specifically online programs, please read my blog post titled 3 Important Steps to Achieving Online Enrollment Growth.
If you are interested in learning more about our work and how we can support your enrollment initiatives get started here.