As high school students get closer to applying to college, your admissions campaigns need to adjust to their new reality. Applying knowledge from last year’s campaigns gives you a great start. Here are some tips for analyzing—and capitalizing on—what works best:
1. Look at The Big Picture
Simply put, did you get what you wanted out of last year’s efforts? Did you hit your goals for applicants, good applicants, and deposits? While there may be other factors at play in how well you hit your numbers, your outreach strategy is essential to conversion. And if your numbers were right where you wanted them, there’s still plenty you can do now to find out why you succeeded and emphasize those points.
2. Take a Closer Stage-to-Stage Look
Segment your conversion funnel–how your prospects move from stage to stage–and see where you can improve. Did enough prospects officially inquire? Did enough inquiries apply and deposit? If you’re finding a pain point, there should be an adjustment to your campaigns to better support that phase of conversion. Schools that neglect specific phases of conversion in their campaigns have difficulty hitting their benchmarks, even if they’ve converted well prior to those points. The best way to see if this is an issue is to define your version of the conversion funnel, and then map any associated campaigns. If you locate an under-supported phase, this is an excellent opportunity to revise and enhance.
3. Examine Email Performance and Segment Metrics
Analyze your year-over-year analytics. Which emails had the highest open rate? The highest click-thru/conversion? The highest opt-out? Did the students you targeted with certain incentives convert more reliably than others? Were students who supplied parent emails more represented in your final enrollee tally? Find your outliers—highly successful collateral or the outreach effort that fell flat—and evaluate why they performed the way they did.
4. Lead with High-Performing Tactics
Once you’ve located your best performing messaging and collateral, move it to the front of the line. Statistically, you lose a portion of your target base with every marketing touch, so the earlier you send a high-performing email, the more recipients will see it. Campaigns with a specific call to action should be designed to win over the majority of students in the first touch. Similarly, if you’ve tracked an email that resulted in a large number of opt-outs, remove it from the cycle. It’s better to have a concise campaign of proven outreach touches than one with excess padding that weakens your message.
5. Update Your Messages
Now that you’ve identified your best performing outreach, take a second look at it—is everything up to date? Do you have new accolades or programs to tout? Are there dates for events from the previous year buried in a content box somewhere? And remember, every new class is a little different from the preceding one. In addition to reviewing previous campaigns for quality content and ideas, your new efforts should always target students with up-to-date, relevant content specific to that target audience.
6. Make a Campaign Timeline
Your campaigns are updated and ready to deploy—but when should you send them? Create a workflow featuring a “model” student and identify any bottlenecks or gaps. Even though some campaigns launch on a conditional timeline—those based on date of inquiry for example—many of your emails carry absolute send dates. With application drives, deposit drives, visit invitations, you can move the pieces of your campaigns around more clearly with a single-student timeline. If you’re messaging to parents, coordinate the send date with student messaging so both iterations hit inboxes on the same day, ensuring that you’ll be the topic of dinner conversation.
7. Plan for Next Year’s Success
Plan ahead for next year. For starters, segment your recipients clearly and track their performance. It’s much easier to set up A/B tests ahead of time than it is to go back and parse students retrospectively. Think about the variables in your student segments—location, major of interest, how much messaging they’ve already received from your school—and base your analytics on them. These metrics will provide a clear path of successful renewal with each passing year.