Elliance, a higher education enrollment marketing agency, has increased and significantly grown graduate student enrollment for more than 50 colleges and universities. Founded on the principle of right-fit matchmaking, our recommended strategies revolve around four core beliefs. First, if they can’t find you, they can’t buy you. Second, if they do find you, you can’t bore them into buying from you. Third, the students must be able to see themselves at your institution. Fourth, you must pursue right-fit students at all cost. All our recommended actions revolve around these core beliefs:
1. Know that you become the story you choose to tell. It’s how institutions make meaning from the arc of their history, and operate with a sense of destiny to create purpose that propels them into the future. This story is what students and employers buy into. You must articulate your story so it’ll appeal to your right-fit students.
2. Celebrate students, not the institution, as the real heroes of your story. The best programs realize that students, alumni and faculty — not the institution — are the real heroes of a program’s story. Celebrate their journeys and the consequential problems of humanity they are solving.
3. Prove your brand claims. Buyers are both intelligent and skeptical. Persuade them by providing proofs in the form of stories, stats and third-party validations. Gather them and go long on proofs and short on claims in your messaging.
4. Romance prospects with high-fidelity websites story landing pages. Higher-fidelity academic and story landing pages attract higher quality students. They are the “money pages” used by value-minded prospects to make their program choices. Build them with the right balance of persuasion architecture, science of conversions, and beauty. Assure the prospects that the value of their degree far exceeds its cost. Inform, persuade, engage, inspire, delight and convert prospects.
5. Pursue right-fit students. Invert the admissions funnel by marketing your students and alumni heroes to attract more like-minded prospects. This will create admission pipes, not funnels. Expect these right-fit students to go on to become engaged citizens, brand ambassadors, recruiters, partners and donors. Hunt like sharks; don’t feed like whales.
6. Surround and engage prospects and influencers where they hang out. Fish where the fish are. Allocate marketing investments in digital channels where students roam. Invest marketing dollars in digital channels where influencers live.
7. Deploy A/B testing and AI smarts in targeting. In your paid advertising, use methodologies like micro-segmentation, look-alikes, machine learning, big-data algorithms and affinity groups to generate high-quality right-fit leads.
8. Claim your thought leadership. Weaponize your content based on your program’s natural wellspring of ideas, innovation and thought leadership with a thoughtful search engine optimization strategy, keywords and social sharing. Insist that each and every piece of content your department produces is “juiced” with keywords, so your program can secure its rightful Google page 1 rankings. Don’t surrender top search rankings for your program to competitors and lead aggregators.
9. Measure what matters. As management guru Peter Drucker said, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Create a culture of disciplined accountability with a shared dashboard of key performance indicators. Define a set of essential metrics that truly matter. Gather them and be decisive in taking action based on data.
10. Reinforce integrated marketing with boots-on-the-ground efforts. Boots-on-the-ground efforts include forging partnerships with undergraduate programs, stimulating alumni networks, cultivating relationships with corporations, giving webinars, attending industry conferences, nurture feeders, follow-up with prospects on a timely basis, and a whole lot more. When integrated marketing and boots-on-the-ground efforts mutually enhance each other, they liberate fresh new growth. It takes a combination of air game and ground game to grow graduate enrollment.