If you build it, they will come.
In marketing, the above quote isn’t always true. You can’t just cast a line and catch fish without having some type of bait on the end. However, in higher education, there is a catch to our catch, and it starts with branding. We launched our new website in November 2016 and within days we knew we had a great problem on our hand – leads, lots of them. The facts are that we had traffic to our site that was getting lost in the architecture of our site. Going into the redesign and along the year and a half that it took us to launch, my team had it in the back of our heads that we were going force traffic down very narrow funnels of content. Ultimately, this would provide our users with a point of contact. The first question became, how we will manage that flow?
A CRM is Your Best Friend.
We knew we needed something to help organize, track and communicate with each lead. I am not a fan of traditional higher education marketing materials. The viewbook, search piece, brochure – kill them. They don’t work. Just because someone takes the piece doesn’t mean that it is helping them make the decision to come to your school. We know that any leads to our site are from people that are genuinely interested in our college, so we have to treat them as such. Every single lead gets a personalized email response within 24 hours of submission. The email includes their name and the program page they submitted from. It’s also from someone – in our case, “Nick at YSU”. Nick is actually a Nick, and he’s also a student.
The CRM we use is Zoho, which has a built in email system that is tracked per user, right in the back end. We can look at each communication, update status and automate emails out to those that respond, don’t respond, or somewhere in-between there. Zoho is easy to setup, and also easy to manage with a small team.
Personal Contact is a Win
The first thing we noticed when we started responding to users is how many actual questions they had, and not just about our college or the program they were interested in. Some prospects wanted to know about the surrounding area. Where to hang out, what religions were available to practice, what kind of food we had – anything you can think of. By having an actual student respond, it allowed us to immediate humanize our brand. Nick is the first person some of these students get to meet from our college. With two months of communication under our belt, it’s already paying off. The responses of “no one has helped me like you” or “I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to respond to me”, we know this is the right way to communicate.
The Secret is There is No Secret
Literally, we started to get leads without any form of marketing or advertising going out. We are doing that now – looking for leads that may not know our brand. But once we ‘went live’, the contacts started flowing in, and it didn’t cost us a thing. We were routing existing visitors down a funnel that made sense to them, gave them enough information to request more, and then nailed them with a personal response. If you are looking for a formula that works, this is it. The next step will be connecting all this data together. Tracking our leads to our applications, and then to our enrollments. If we can match those, we now have ROI, and knowing that cost per student, we will pay for ourselves and our efforts with only 5 students.