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Leveraging the “When” to Engage Prospective Students

When are students interacting with you?

In previous posts, we covered the secret to crafting an effective graduate student engagement strategy: leveraging the 4 Ws to recruit best-fit students. We’ve gone over the Who, What and Why in great detail and that leaves us with the fourth W: the When.

Over the past 25 years, our culture has changed dramatically in its relationship to time. For example, banks and grocery stores have adapted to the increasing demands of a growing 24/7 culture by expanding hours of operation and adding greater online accessibility.

Institutions have been doing a lot of adapting as well. A generation ago, students would typically send letters or make phone calls to institutions requesting program information and admissions materials. In return they would receive a packet of information in the mail — days, if not weeks, later. If they had questions after perusing the printed materials, they could write back, or call on the phone during office hours.

Today, students can access most of the information they need at the exact moment they need it. They can peruse university websites for program details and download brochures, program resources and applications to their desktop at home, or the even to their cell phone while they’re on the go.

But is all that enough?

Times have changed. Technology has evolved. Why are we using the same engagement strategies?

Recent research into how graduate schools interact with prospective students highlights a concerning trend: Many schools have not updated their engagement strategies to meet students’ expectations for targeted, relevant and highly customized communication.

In fact, Liaison visited the web pages for a sample of graduate schools who are members of the Association for Graduate Enrollment Management (NAGAP). We searched for inquiry forms and ways to indicate interest, submitted inquiry forms and tracked responses from each school for a period of four weeks, noting dates and times email, print and phone communication was received as well as the level of personalization on each piece.

26% of schools did not have a form for requesting information that we could find. Only 14% had such a form on their home page, and over 50% required two or more clicks to request information.

Not only is the way to request more information more complex than it needs to be, but what happened when we submitted the easily accessible forms also left a lot to be desired. 55% of the schools that we requested more information from responded to interest with a generic thank you page. The technology exists to customize — more on that later — but these schools are not utilizing it to show prospective students how important they are.

Furthermore, only 17% of these schools’ inquiry response strategies included print, and 13% used only one email to respond to our inquiries. Only 5% responded with a personalized phone call.

The takeaway: It’s time to pay attention to which way the technological winds are blowing. When you’re working out your engagement strategy, remember that 35% of students are looking for information about your program (and possibly sending email requests) from their cell phones, and that could be at any time of the day or night.

There’s a better way to engage

Remember, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Prospective students aren’t just shopping for a program; they are looking for a place where they feel they belong — where their needs will best be served, not by facts and figures, but by real-life experiences.

Whatever strategy you create needs to be flexible and adaptable to the ongoing evolution of student needs. Effective engagement is all about nurturing relationships with students, and healthy relationships are organic and fluid. That means your engagement strategy should be as well.

In order to ensure that your strategy is working effectively, you need the right tools in place to track and measure behaviors and outcomes. Technology partners like Liaison provide the structure and expertise required to ensure that you are staying ahead of the tech and trend curve, in the ways that work best for your program’s unique needs.

Liaison can help

Liaison offers a range of services and solutions like our Enrollment Marketing Plan (EMP), which helps you to personalize communications across the multiple channels that prospects are using every day — including email, websites, texts, print and even voice messages.

Designed specifically to meet the ever-changing needs of today’s prospective students as well as institutional administrators, EMP gives you the tools you need to create an engagement strategy that is immediate, personalized, automated and trackable.

EMP will help your program:

  • Easily launch personalized multi-channel campaigns.
  • Engage with prospective and admitted students more authentically.
  • Track all communications from an easy-to-use interface for a 360-degree view.
  • Be more effective with robust time management features like event management tools for campus visits, open houses and virtual tours.

Our experienced enrollment consultants will work with you to create and maintain an engagement strategy that capitalizing on prospective student interest, transforming inquiries to enrollees.

Your first step? Contact Liaison today.

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