This is 4 part series on best practices on Education Marketing for marketing managers & progressive educators. The part 1 focuses on brick & mortars of lead generation for educational institutes.

Admissions are by far one of the most important events in the academic life-cycle of an educational enterprise. Last 2 decades have seen a rise in the number of higher educational institutes across the country along with a new breed of 21st century learners & their parents. These learners & parents are well informed, have diverse career options e.g. law, mass comm, liberal arts etc. & do a through research online.

So we have an educated audience along with an intense competition making the “Preparation for Admission” a very critical aspect in order to attract the best students. This preparation process can be divided into two segments respectively :

1. Marketing cycle – Generating leads & enquiries
2. Admission cycle – Converting or churning these enquiries adequately

In this blog we will focus on various techniques & the best practices to :

1. Generate high quality qualified leads
2. Strategies to target various priorities viz. hot, warm & cold.

The focus primarily on “Education Marketing” best practices.

This will help “Marketing Teams” & “Marketing Heads” make smart marketing decisions to ensure a higher return on investment.

Understanding the importance of Education Marketing

Most organisations correlate sales to marketing and vice versa. They are not! Marketing is the act of creating awareness whereas sales is the act of closing the deal. For an educational institutes sales is your admissions process and counselors are your sales reps. The latter is generally neglected for e.g. hiring qualified counselors with education domain expertise, right attitude & great communication skills is often underestimated. Here we have listed a few channels that need to be strengthened with TIME to achieve the best admissions year on year.

For better understanding we have categorized enquiries into 3 segments which can arise from various sources. On the basis of priority these are: Hot, Warm and Cold leads. Hot are the students that know you and want admission in your university/College. Warm are those students who have picked a few names out of which one is yours. The third are cold leads, i.e, students that are just looking for an admission in any college and are not specific about which colleges they want to be in.

HOT : Marketing lead generation strategies for Hot Enquiries

Hot Enquiries: Conversion rate – Around 80%

These are the students who will ask all the right questions in the first call. Generally come through any of the entrance tests and get admitted. Hot enquiries come mainly from Direct walk-ins, Telephonic calls, Website etc. They do not need push marketing. These are the students that come looking for you. An ideal situation is when an org is able to convert 80% of these enquiries. How do you do that? By optimising your Website, brand and the sales (conversion).

Website:

Website is the most important marketing tool for any organization in today’s online world. Think of your website as your online spokesperson which constantly informs the student about your offering & brand.

Prerequisites :

Hire the best & invest deeply in building a great website. Invest time and thought into it. It should resonate with the core value of the organisation. It should feel and emphasize the culture and the vision.

Some key must haves while designing your website;
1. Lightning fast loading times e.g. it should take 2-3 secs max to load website on a good internet connection
2. User friendly and easy to navigate layouts e.g. single page designs & responsive wordpress themes
3. Easy access to all the relevant information e.g. a strong CMS ( Content Management System ) for e.g. wordpress to keep content fresh
4. Neatly designed with HD images e.g. compressed for web views preferably .jpg enabling faster load times
5. Options of communication – Call, Chat, Email. Skype and Whatsapp if the college has an intake for international students.

Tools:

1. SEO – Search Engine optimisation
2. Google Adwords/ Keywords optimization
3. Instant response to the enquiries through automations and API’s
4. Chatbots
5. Push Notifications
6. Landing Pages
7. Student Dashboards
8. Online Payment options

Conversion Focus:

Senior counselors who have info at fingertips only should attend these enquiries. Timely response to email and sms queries and a highly professional approach.

Branding:

Brand in education simply put is the way students think about colleges, view their quality subjectively & the way parents seek admissions and the way counselors conduct admissions. In the world today from the first call to the last sms every aspect of an educational setup needs to be deeply thought of. Large setups and global organisations have already set up multiple software’s, digital media agencies and various tools to adapt to this change. For a College/University that has a predominant set of admissions coming from the regional students, this would be the number one mode of marketing.

Offline Channels:
1. Regional advertisement hoardings
2. Advertisements in newspaper, magazines
3. Leaflet insertions, Banners
4. TV & Radio
5. Advertisements

WARM : Marketing lead generation strategies for Warm Enquiries

Warm Enquiries: Conversion rate – Around 40% when done effectively

There are various paid and no paid modes, readily available in the market to generate these enquiries. Mostly coming from data backgrounds i.e. CAT, JEE data sold cheaply these companies will readily connect you to the equiries based on a preset criteria like area, course, fees etc.

Social Media:

Social media is the one of the most prominent online modes of enquiry generation today. This generates both Hot as well a predominant amount of WARM and a smaller portion of Cold leads. Simply put the age group of 16-27 spend on an average ~3.5 hours / day here so engaging them is imperative to lead generation & awareness.

Prerequisites :

1. Hire a good digital media agency. The same factor of branding plays a role here as well. Based on the primary target audience category decide on which are the primary websites you need to focus on.
2.Share all the necessary information periodically like events, last dates for application/admissions etc.
3. Use real institutes & events HD images
4. Personalize based on the region and enquiry types. If the ratio of parent enquiries are higher then the language and treatment should be done accordingly.
5. Target the Primary Target category relevant groups and audience in paid campaigns
6. Track, Analyse and Improve

Don’ts:

1. Avoid spamming
2. Avoid repetitive information
3. Avoid irregular postings it has to be a plan & not sporadic

Online Third Party Channels:

Data companies are in ample and change with time. One that is at peak today providing the best leads may not even exist for the net academic. There are various online and offline agents that help get leads and admissions. Again are different for different regions, courses, requirement etc. Some of the popular channels that suit most of the course in higher education are Shiksha.com, Justdial, HTCampus, Sulekha, Collegedunia etc. Some of them have become largely commercial and sometimes for certain courses and regions may not really serve the purpose for certain courses and regions. So a thorough research or a pilot would be required to understand which ones would help you achieve what you want before you invest largely in these.

Prerequisites :

1. Study about the better enquiry providers for your region and the authenticity or conversion rates provided by each service provider.
2. Select one or multiple service providers based on the budget, intake and existing conversion ratios of the organisation.

Do’s:

1. Start well in advance
2. Maintain zero response time with the help of automation i.e. a good Sales Software
3. Focus more on the conversion process for these leads
4. Send adequate email and sms followups

Don’ts:

1. Do not depend solely on these channels
2. Have a selective & not “I’ll promote on all possible channels” strategy
3. Know when to stop. Do not spam

Other Online Channels:

A few other online ways of generating traffic that could redirect enquiries to your website, placing ads in various portals, content marketing, blogs and promotions, online banners and paid ads in education marketplaces.

Other Offline Channels:

Some other offline ways of generating enquiries would be conducting academic seminars at various other colleges that do not offer the same courses. Collecting data through public channels such as surveys etc. Conducting events to invite various students from other colleges, to indulge in various skill building activities.

COLD : Marketing lead generation strategies for Cold Enquiries

Cold Enquiries: Conversion rate – Around 10% – 20% when done effectively

These can come from any of the above channels especially from WARM channels. The trick is to provide the basic information, trigger periodic email and sms campaigns to convert them to warm enquiries. Drip Marketing is your best bet. It is crucial to identify and segregate cold enquiries to a different list as these are time consumers and energy/motivation busters. These enquiries are one of the reasons why most organisations fall short of their numbers in the end. I have addressed this briefly in another article which is focused on the admissions cycle.

Generating enquiries is an ongoing process and needs to evolve hand in hand with the evolving thought process. This shall ensure long term sustainability of the brand in the market. Just the way Gillette continues to give ads in spite of being the number one brand in its industry for many years, the effort has to evolve with time! Marketing should always focus on facilitating how your institute’s brand is perceived by your audience and eventually lead to increase in sales aka admissions.

Your audience today is highly aware, conscious and selective! Bottom Line: If you want to get your numbers right – Keep you marketing REAL!

The below marketing video by a highly decorated company called “Dollar Shave Club” which sells razor kits for men illustrates the impact of marketing when done right.

Courtesy & Credits - youtube.com

About ExtraaEdge:

ExtraaEdge is a data-science backed cloud-based pioneer in Admissions & Marketing Automation software for the education industry. We are the category leaders when it comes to understanding education marketing & technology that powers educational enterprises. This blog is an effort to share our learnings from the Industry and help education marketeers, admissions counselors and all associated stakeholders of education enterprises learn and grow together.

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