The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown practically every industry into a tailspin, but none more so than higher education. In the first days and weeks of the crisis, graduate programs scrambled to accommodate students and move classes online, but now it is time to turn the focus toward future enrollment during what many are calling, the “new normal”.
Historically, in times of economic distress, many unemployed or underemployed workers turn to graduate education to wait out the storm and better equip themselves for when the job market bounces back. During the Great Recession of the early 2000s, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, there was a 15.85% increase in Master’s degrees and 9.8% increase in Doctor’s degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions between the 2007-2008 and 2010-2011 school years.
Let’s face it graduate school isn’t for everyone. There is most likely going to be two pools of prospects out there. Change-seekers looking to switch or enhance their careers by acquiring the necessary skills to push them ahead. Or recent grads who are early in their careers but faced with limited job prospects. By returning for a more advanced degree, they can credential up with the hope of accessing better jobs upon completion.
Here are three ways you can capture these types of prospects quickly since time is of the essence.
1. Generate demand by meeting students where they are in their homes.
No one enters into a graduate program search lightly. It is a carefully planned, highly researched endeavor that is often influenced by family. Put your institution front and center with a highly targeted digital marketing strategy that meets them head on. Give your digital ad strategy a boost with an In-Home Router Targeting that matches a prospect’s mailing address to the router in their home. Ads display on all devices connected to that specific IP address so that the prospect, their parents or their significant other can all influence the decision to go to grad school.
2. Automate the process of scheduling virtual meetings.
Once you’ve captured interest consider how you will convert prospects virtually. The tried and true school fairs, campus tours, in-person info sessions and open houses are gone for the moment. How will you capture the feel of your program without a tour of your hallowed halls? Virtual tours and sneak peek lectures are just some of the ways that you can insert a prospect into the learning experience. Automate the process with an online scheduling tool that allows prospects to instantly schedule a “visit”. The system will send reminders and prep them on what to expect keeping them interested and engaged while your admissions team is free to do what they do best!
3. Nurture demand with relevancy and personalization.
Technology has brought us leaps and bounds forward. Generic emails are now considered not only passé but treated as spam. Personalization is key to making the recipient feel wanted and connected. Marketing automation allows you to change content based on a prospect behavior and what you learn about them. Altering content and creative based on selections and observations builds a rapport with the prospect and increases response rates.
Provide relevant content. You want to receive information that matters to you and be spared irrelevant content. How annoying is an email for dog food when you’re a cat lover? So why email prospects irrelevant content about a program area that they aren’t interested? Give them a reason to feel they are being heard not ignored. Leverage digital to find out what to the prospect cares about. Start by surveying them or tracking and scoring their behavior. Don’t send content they will ignore.
COVID-19 will leave an indelible mark on higher education. The best way for institutions to adapt to the upheaval is to leverage digital to engage prospects and arm your admissions team with the best information to work their craft. The effects of the pandemic will be felt long into the future and its best to start thinking of how it’s going to impact your F21 budget now. The tools are available, the strategy is clear, and our mission has not changed—keep enrollment and prospects engaged.