The Sales Cycle that Never Ends: Finishing Strong in the Education Funnel (Part 2)
Now that you’ve studied up on all you need to know about the early stages of the higher education sales funnel, it’s time to hit the books on how to achieve your end goals: applications, enrollment, and beyond. (Well, the metaphorical books, A.K.A. this blog post.) Let’s go!
Start with the end in mind
More students might seem like the obvious end goal for any educational organization, but it can differ depending on the college or university.
For some schools, enrollment may be the most important metric. For example, a startup that offers coding classes might want to fill their classes with students. Their end goal would be increasing enrollment. Meanwhile, an established university may need to widen their applicant pool because they’re looking for premium prospective students. Their end goal would be increasing applications. On the other hand, a cooking school may have a set marketing budget, so they’re looking to become more efficient. Their end goal would be reducing cost per enrollment.
No matter what your unique goal is, the #1 thing is to simply identify it. That way, your marketing efforts can be appropriately targeted.
Capture intentional traffic
After the initial research phase, prospective students continue along the education sales funnel. According to the ever-helpful search giant Google, journeys that end in conversions most often have 16+ page views, 4 conversions, and 10+ search queries.
Clearly, prospective students do their research. Not only do they perform multiple search queries, but they also change their search terms along the way. When they get closer to converting (i.e.: sending in an application or enrolling in a course), their searches are typically branded and more specific.
For example, instead of searching for general terms like “Liberal Arts Colleges,” they’ll start searching for your brand with more specific terms like “University of Kansas psychology degree program.”
These longer searches, known as “long-tail queries,” indicate the intent of the searcher. By capturing that traffic with paid search and SEO strategies, you gain the benefit of higher conversion rates at a lower cost. This means more prospective students for less marketing spend. Win-win.
Optimize to avoid drop-offs
Long-tail keyword strategies can bring prospective students to your site. But don’t forget about what to do once they’ve landed on your site. It’s so, so important to engage them immediately and keep them coming back.
Bonus tip: Check out DJ’s recent post on some of the most well-timed social media campaigns for ideas to help you create engaging content.
Once a prospective student has shown interest in your organization by visiting your site, filling out a contact form, or starting an application, you’ll have the opportunity to continue engaging them through various channels.
Drop-offs will happen at various stages in the funnel. You can minimize it by tailoring content and ads to meet the prospective students where they are. Let’s tackle some common scenarios together.
What if a prospective student visited your site but didn’t submit info?
If a prospective student visited your site but didn’t fill out a contact form, the best way to bring them back is through remarketing.
If you have a remarketing code snippet embedded in your website’s code, then it will collect a cookie pool. These cookies aren’t the chocolate chip kind (unfortunately); instead, they contain info about visitors to your site.
This information can be used to retarget prospective students who stopped by but didn’t spend much time on your site. You can target display network ads or Facebook ads to these prospective students encouraging them to return to the site and take action.
Further segmenting remarketing campaigns can also help prevent drop-offs. If a student began to fill out the contact form, you can remarket them with ads specifically reminding them to finish filling it out. If they haven’t started filling out a contact form, you can remarket them with more general ads or encourage them to with calls to action.
What happens once a prospective student submitted a contact form?
Yay! You must be doing something right. If a student submitted their contact info, this is a hot lead. Now that you have more info about the prospective student, send them tailored marketing aligning with their interests.
For example, you may have a field on the contact form where they indicate majors or programs they’re interested in. If you know a prospective student is interested in studying psychology, send them a marketing email full of info about the psychology programs at your university. You want the content they receive to be tailored and relevant to them.
Remarketing can also be employed at this stage; use your ads to remind prospective students to return to the site and apply.
Let’s say a prospective student started an application and didn’t submit it
If a student begins an application, that means they’re probably seriously considering your school. Now is a crucial time to keep them coming back for more.
Consider running humorous remarketing ads reminding them to finish their application while showing off your fun branding. Email marketing can also be employed at this phase. Tailor emails to remind students why they wanted to apply in the first place with engaging content, like videos of current students in the discipline they’re interested in talking about why they love that program.
A prospective student submitted an application! Success!
You did it! Give yourself a pat on the back for your amazing advertising chops. After celebrating, keep in mind that drop-offs can happen even after the application is submitted. So if your goal is to increase enrollment, you’ll need to continue marketing to students even after they’ve applied and been accepted.
Consider a welcome email campaign that helps them envision their life at your university. Make sure that if you’re remarketing now, it’s with ads relevant to an accepted student. For example, you may want to remarket with ads highlighting your amazing degree programs, particularly the ones they’re interested in.
Now that you’ve learned how to reduce drop-offs in the education sales cycle, don’t forget to look back at your advertising efforts to analyze where the prospective student first engaged with your school.
Did they come in through a paid search ad, an organic search, or did they find you on social media? As Anthony mentioned in his persuasive post about conversion tracking, this information can direct your next marketing investments. Who doesn’t love making data-driven decisions about marketing spend?
Do you have advice for succeeding at the end of the education sales funnel? Tweet us at @Perfect_Search.
Rachel originates from Kansas City, Missouri (go Royals!). She grew up riding her horse Tinkerbelle and she has a secret knack for making really authentic puppy noises. Two of her greatest wishes? Driving a Tesla and becoming fluent in Russian.