A New Approach to Graduate School Marketing in the Post-COVID-19 World

by | Nov 13, 2020

There is no doubt that our world is a very different place than it was three months ago. Before COVID 19 swept across the globe, you had a road map for the rest of the year if not two or three years ahead laying out how you wanted to proceed with your marketing efforts. Well, throw that map out the window, because as we fast forward to today, these are different times and how you communicate to your audiences is most definitely changed for the foreseeable future if not forever. Building and maintaining relationships in a time of crisis presents an entirely new set of challenges and how you approach them will determine your success.

Reassess Goals & Priorities

Recruitment and enrollment have been completely altered. In order to best identify where you need to focus your energies, start by taking a look at your revenue stream, goals and objectives. By turning the funnel upside down, you’ll start with a different perspective then when you first created them pre-pandemic.

Factors to consider here are:

  • Marketing Budget
  • Leads
  • Applications
  • Admitted Students
  • Matriculants
  • Revenue

Your marketing budget and revenue are closely intertwined. Making a change to one will have a direct effect on the other.

Identify New Communication Channels

It’s time to get digital. Maybe you’ve been hesitant to put any more eggs in the digital marketing basket but there is no better time to explore what new channels await you.

Event and travel budgets are up for grabs due to pandemic restrictions. Before you had a healthy mix of print, digital and in-person opportunities but now you need to look at where you can reallocate funds to best reach target your audience. Without direct access to students at in-person events, the money allocated for interpersonal interactions is wasted. Converting that amount to digital allow you to meet students where they are in the digital space.

“It was essential for us to pivot from LSAC sponsored forums,” said Shannon Sevier, Assistant Dean of Graduate Programs at the St. Mary’s School of Law. “With those off the table, we had to come up with a new approach to reach people where they are.”

Anticipate New Objections

Not only have your circumstances changed so have those of your students. The typical objections to applying and enrollment you once heard have gone out the window. People are concerned about economic and social impact on traditional education. Anticipating questions like, “What happens if there is another disruption in the future? How can I continue to afford this when my wife lost her job? How do I apply when I can’t take the LSAT or GMAT test?” are part of this new challenging era and having helpful, concrete answers identified in advance will show that you are sympathetic to current circumstances and ease concerns.

Get Creative

Here are some examples of what people are doing now to reach students:

Virtual Open Houses – Set up a series of Virtual Open Houses, be sure to make the process as easy and painless as possible. Consider using an automated RSVP system for a streamlined registration and reminder approach to decrease your risk of no-shows. These work for both group and individual sessions.

“It’s a miss if you’re not finding your prospects online,” said Sevier. “Using polished, professional tools is critical to inhabiting the online space.”

Behind the Scenes Look – Provide students with an intimate look at what they can expect from the learning process. Share sample lectures with prospects or have them sit in on a virtual classroom discussion. Here’s an example of how UC Hastings is implementing this plan.

AMAs and Video Check-ins with Current Students – Turn your current student body into evangelists. They know better than anyone how your programs work and can answer questions with a candid, peer-to-peer approach that is reassuring.

Activate Your Alumni Network – Tap into your alumni network by gathering digital messages and videos to send to prospects. Create a collage or video segment to prospects with their well-wishes and hopeful messages for the future.

Bridge the Gap from Senior to Grad Student – With an uncertain job market looming ahead the Class of 2020 are now turning to graduate programs earlier than they anticipated as a means to stave off student loans, keep themselves engaged and learning new skills. Launch a digital marketing campaign with personalized landing pages directed toward their needs and concerns.

These are just a few of the examples of how you can adapt your marketing efforts to accommodate the “new normal” of our world today. The challenges are real, but the solutions are attainable and can be executed quickly. Time is of the essence. By identifying your needs and addressing them now you can maintain momentum going into the crucial Fall semester enrollment period.

Need help getting started? The experts at MF Digital are here to assist you.

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