Mastering the Higher Ed Enrollment Funnel (Part 2): How to Engage Your Prospective Students

So, you’ve developed your program’s core messages, you’ve got your digital ad and social campaigns running, and you’re tightening your SEO strategy, among other things. And, you’re actually seeing more interest in and discussions about your program from prospective students. Congrats! You’re definitely building awareness. 

Hint: If you missed our Part 1 post about building awareness for your higher ed program, read that here first.

But, where do you go from here? How do you keep those students interested in you, and how do you convert them into leads when there are so many other competing programs out there? Fear not! In this post, we’re going to continue our journey down the higher ed enrollment funnel and talk about the next few stages – consideration, decision, and engagement – and how you can continue leveraging your digital marketing tools (with a more targeted engagement strategy, of course) to keep prospective students’ interest, turn them into trackable leads in your CRM, and get them interacting with you.

Consideration, Decision, and Engagement: Turning Awareness Into Interest

We talked about the various tactics you can use to make students aware of your program and all that it has to offer. The only problem is that there are a lot of other programs out there using the same or similar tactics. That’s why converting the prospective student into a lead and being able to directly connect with them, tracking their journey down the funnel is so integral to driving higher enrollment numbers. These stages are where a student will actively make a decision to learn more about your program and begin engaging more with your social media, your website, or – better yet – your admissions staff. Therefore, how do those touchpoints with your prospective students evolve from awareness to consideration? Let’s explore. 

  • Optimized Landing Pages: Optimized landing pages are one of the most important tools you have in your belt as a higher ed enrollment marketer. A well-designed landing page with lots of targeted content and specific calls-to-action will encourage prospective students to start interacting with you and will also get their contact information into your CRM. We mention landing pages before everything else because landing pages are ultimately where your digital marketing tactics will lead the student when they take action (clicks, follows, etc.). So, it’s essential that you put lots of thought into your pages, and it’s important to remember that you don’t have to have just one. You can create main landing pages for your program or even landing pages for different segments of it depending on its structure. Or, you get more specific and create landing pages for program information requests, campus visit registration, campus events, and webinars that will incite the student to begin engaging with you.
  • Remarketing: Remarketing can be a valuable tactic for converting a prospect into a lead. Say a student sees an ad for your program on a relevant website for the first time and they decide to click over to your site. Perhaps they get distracted by something else while browsing, or they aren’t that serious about looking into programs just yet, so they click away after a few minutes. As they continue browsing on the web, you can ping them with remarketing tactics, such as targeted display ads or paid search tactics, that will lead off to your optimized landing pages and remind them of their initial interest in your program. 
  • Targeted Social Media: Using targeted social media campaigns can be a very helpful consideration and engagement tactic. Where your social media awareness campaigns promote your program’s core messages or give general, eye-catching information, your consideration posts can be centered more on student engagement and can drive out to landing pages, such as registrations for events or webinars. Also, when students register for these kinds of events or request to speak with a counselor, you have the opportunity to collect their email addresses or phone numbers to follow up with email marketing or phone calls. 
    • You can also use social media for editorial content that talks about fun things going on on your campus, spotlights on student life/culture, or even short pieces on achievements by students who are currently enrolled in or who have graduated from your program. We’ll talk about how you can also use editorial content in your email marketing strategy below, but it’s definitely worth noting that lively and engaging editorial content on social media can feel less produced than curated and targeted emails, meaning that it may seem more authentic.
  • Email Marketing: Speaking of emails, email marketing is a great tool to help engage prospective students. Email marketing allows you to aim specific content at segmented email lists, ensuring that you’re sending students information and content that is relevant to them. For example, you can use emails to notify students of upcoming application deadlines, or you can use it to create dynamic editorial content that highlights noteworthy or exciting events happening on your campus, news items, faculty or student spotlights, long-form information about specific programs and more. It’s also a great way to promote virtual or in-person campus tours. 

A Quick Note About Graduate Programs

Because of the differences between the application processes of undergraduate vs. graduate programs, you’ll need to take a slightly different approach with your consideration and engagement marketing. First of all, undergraduate students will typically apply to a larger number of schools because they are casting a wider net covering both their “dream programs” and their “safety programs.” Plus, undergraduate students typically have less rigorous criteria for their potential program choices. 

Graduate students, on the other hand, may only apply to the one or two programs that are the closest matches to their future study plans. That’s why targeted social media and email marketing is so important during this stage of the enrollment funnel. Where undergraduate students may frequent platforms such as Snapchat, TikTok, or Instagram, you can leverage other, more career-oriented platforms such as LinkedIn to target graduate students. 

Social media and email are great tools to use for putting a spotlight on your most important or distinguished faculty members in certain disciplines, to highlight job placement data for your graduate and professional level program, or to talk about attractive and unique academic resources that are available to graduate students. Remember, prospective graduate students are especially hungry for information, so make sure that your digital marketing efforts meet their needs and give them all they need to know.

The Takeaway

Making students aware of your program is just the first step. You have to keep them interested by showing off all of the great things that make your program unique, and the good news is that there are lots of ways to do that! Targeted ads, social media campaigns, and email marketing set up to inspire and motivate prospective students to take action are your most powerful tools.

If you want to ensure your higher ed digital marketing strategy is as effective as possible, check out our Higher Ed Digital Marketing Plan Checklist. 

About VONT Performance Digital Marketing

At VONT we believe that change is the only constant in the digital world – and that excites us. When tools and environments are constantly changing, new opportunities to help our clients achieve success are constantly arising. Each new advertising technology, social platform, or design approach allows us to improve on the results we achieve for our clients.

We believe in this idea of continual fine-tuning so much that we named our company VONT, which means to achieve exponential improvement in incremental steps. It is our core belief, and the reason why we are not simply a web design company or simply a digital advertising agency, but rather a long-term, single source partner providing a comprehensive array of web development and digital marketing capabilities.

LM Durr
Written By

LM Durr

Inbound Marketing Strategist