Dwyer Education Strategies, Inc.

 

 



Multi-Channel Marketing for Enrollment Development
April Clark | Volume 5, Issue 1 - January 2009

CAS is a full service direct marketing service bureau that handles all data processing services from direct mail to telemarketing to email marketing.

Direct mail services include list acquisition, list hygiene, database enhancement, letter shop services, data entry and database building.

Telemarketing data processing includes adding telephone numbers to databases and lists, scrubbing lists for “do not call” flagging, eliminating deceased people from databases and other related services.

Email marketing services include providing email prospect lists and broadcasting, appending/adding email addresses to databases, ECOA to update email addresses and handling the broadcast of email messages to your database email addresses.

My goal today is to define each channel, share how to use each channel effectively, discuss measuring results and talk about how colleges and universities can use these channels to build enrollment.

Direct Mail gets your actual marketing piece into the hands of your prospective students. Direct mail success is defined by three components working together: The mailing list, the mail piece itself and the offer. If any one of the three is incorrect, you lose one third of your effectiveness.

It is important to take the time to design an effective mail piece with information on your institution that entices and excites the recipients, resulting in a request for more information or an appointment to see the school. It is imperative to define your goal  for the mailing. Disseminating information/ educating, inviting a school visit, giving additional information, telling about a single facet of your offerings or an overview of all programs are all options. Design your piece to fulfill your goal.

The mailing list can be an ACT, NRCCUA, CBSS or SAT list aimed at a certain segment of the junior class or the graduating class. The segment must match your goal for this mailing (you may be targeting high achievers or mid-range scorers). On the other hand, you may be testing a geographic area for adults who have some college credits but no degree for a continuation program. In this case the list would be specifically fgeared to a certain age group and education level to generate responses to the offer of degree completion.

The offer is equally important and again must be designed to appeal to your marketing target. It should be designed to catch the attention of the group and tell them what action you wish them to take. If you want them to pick up the telephone and talk to THEIR enrollment representative, then the offer must clearly instruct them to do so. If you want them to send back a postcard to get their free catalog and free keychain, then the offer must tell them to do so. If they can make more money by finishing their college degree and you want them to call for a  free sample class schedule, then you must tell them what to do and how to do it. We have all received mail pieces that told a great story but never said, “This is how it benefits YOU” or, “This is exactly how you can get involved.” You do not want to fall into the trap of getting so wrapped up in your story that you forget to ask them to do what you wish they would!

There are direct marketing “words” that can make or break your piece – whether you are marketing for a non-profit or for-profit. Use good words like: FREE (the most powerful attention-getter) ,YOU (lets your prospect know they are important), SAVE (time or money), NOW (creates urgency in decision making or response time), and EASY (what everyone wants – easy to register online, easy to get answers, etc.). Don’t be afraid to incorporate the tried and true. Avoid bad words like COST, PAY (try “and you get all this for…” ), CONTRACT and BUY in your piece and avoid the conflicting feelings they generate.

The final step is measuring the results of your direct mail in order to adjust and fine-tune your plan. Make sure someone is responsible for collecting and tabulating this information. That person needs to know at a minimum: which mail piece generated the response, the name and address (or a code from the mail piece) of the responder, what element enticed them to respond and the date they responded. When done correctly this can inform the marketing team what lists work for what purposes and then they can tweak the list orders and the content of the mail pieces accordingly.

When the list, mail piece and offer are balanced and match your goals for the mailing, you will succeed and get the response you desire. It is a proven formula for successful direct mail.

Telemarketing is a channel that more and more college and university enrollment departments are using successfully. In many cases they send out the mail piece to prospects and then follow up with a home telephone call. Often the instructions to the prospect in the mail piece or accompanying personalized letter will let them know that a phone call will follow to answer questions or to add to the information. This is about as effective a follow up plan as you can have. It requires a dependable mail house that will get the mail out on time and a trained follow up telemarketing crew that gets across the message you are trying to convey. Again, this message must be tailored to the target audience you are trying to influence.

Since many colleges and universities are non-profit organizations, they do not come under the “Do Not Call” federal regulations. As responsible community citizens, many institutions preface their conversation with the prospect with a respectful request to talk.  When you seek to add telephone numbers to your purchased list, you may have the service bureau “flag” or identify any “Do Not Call” telephone numbers. That way your telemarketers are aware of the recipients’ preference.

The telemarketing channel can be used very effectively in conjunction with direct mail. Phones are also an effective “warning device” to let recipients know to look for your mail piece. You can either leave a voice message before the mail piece arrives saying, “Please watch for an exciting mailer to arrive in the next couple of days….” or you can make actual calls to talk to the prospects.

This prepares your prospects to “feel” expectation when the mailer arrives. They are subconsciously expecting it and welcome it  because they “know” it is coming. This multichannel marketing method also may work well for you. The key as always is to test, test, test to find out your best combination of channels. Be sure to measure the results of the telemarketing campaign so you know without a doubt which channel works for your message.

Email Marketing is a natural addition to your communication plan. Today’s high school students are technically savvy; they email, text and IM as normal ways of communication. If you include email in your marketing arsenal, you will find they respond well to it. The big challenge is first capturing correct email addresses and second keeping the addresses updated. The process of adding emails to your database is fairly simple but can be expensive if you have a small database because of project minimums. If you are part of an association of schools, you may be able to combine databases with other schools and run one job. If you join with other schools that are not looking for the same prospects then perhaps there would not be a conflict. Each school can upload their database separately to the service bureau in a standard format. The service bureau can “key code” each database, format them and combine them together. After the append is complete, the job is split by key code and returned to each school.

The key is to analyze your response to the emails and how many students you anticipate enrolling, then compare the cost; if it makes sense proceed to the append. You should run your email database through ECOA (Email Change of Address) to keep it cleansed. We recommend this be done every six months, which on average will update 15% of your addresses.

The creative component of the email message must capture the attention of the recipient in the subject line. Most unexpected emails are deleted after one second (or less) of consideration. The value of multi-channel marketing in the “email open war” means they have received a mail piece, gotten some sort of phone message or call and now they will recognize your email and open rather than delete it. That is another requirement of multichannel marketing – branding consistency between your different channels. If you send a mail piece, make a call or send an email message, all communication sent from your institution must have a common thread throughout. It might be the same colors. It might be the same tag line used in the mail piece, the voice message and the subject line of the email message. You will use this constant to brand your marketing.

One value of multi-channel marketing is your prospective student will indicate with which channel he/she is most comfortable. This information will become part of that person’s database record. If you have a prospect respond via email, perhaps a return message asks, “Would you rather communicate with us via email?” The person will let you know. Then future communications  may center on the email channel. This is valuable and cost-effective information for your marketing department to track.

Blogging and Twitter are two additional channels that today’s college prospects appreciate. Here are some definitions that may help you decide if a marketing “Blog” or “Micro-blogging” or “Twitter” are channels you want to utilize.

Microsoft's Encarta Encyclopedia defines blogging as the frequent, chronological publication on the Web of personal thoughts and opinions for other Internet users to read. The name, coined in the late 1990s, derives from “Web logging.” The product of blogging is known as a “blog.” There are millions of blogs on the Internet. In addition to thoughts and opinions, many bloggers also use their blogs to recommend books, music and links to other sites on the World Wide Web. Blogging predates the late 1990s. People kept blogs long before the term was coined, but the trend has gained momentum with the introduction of automated publishing  services.

Tens of thousands of people use these services to publish their blogs. Among the notable publishing services are Radio and Blogger, which was bought by the Internet search company Google in February 2003. MSN offers a blogging service known as MSN Spaces.

The form of a blog is very much dependent on the institution that keeps it. Most blogs are a mix of what students and prospective students report when they participate in your blog and how they feel about things they see on the Web. In this respect, they are a kind of hybrid diary and guide, although there are as many unique types of blogs as there are people who keep them. The popularity of blogging has given rise to a number of tools that can remind you about blogs you read or that generate more views of your blog.

Universities set up blogs to share information about their schools. Current students comment on life in the dorms, the administration, the registration process, etc. Your prospects can be directed to the university blog to see these comments and to find out information on their own. It is very personal and very interactive. It may or may not be a channel your marketing department wants to pursue. Although primarily for personal expression, there is a trend to use blogs as aninformal discussion medium. Some schools have used blogs to provide a forum for discussion of new ideas and products. You can see how unedited blog discussions between your current students and prospective  students can lead to relationships that bring students to your school.

Stephan Spencer in the August issue of MultiChannel Merchant defines Twitter as an off-shoot of blogging: “ Twitter is micro- blogging – the practice of making frequent, short, unedited, unrefined message posts. Twitter refers to these as “tweets”. As blogging matures and bloggers take their work more seriously, blog posts have become longer and more burdensome to produce. Thus was born the micro-blogging subculture – part blog engine, part social network.” He also says that Twitter starts with sending out updates but can also be used to engage other Twitter users. Businesses use Twitter to pass on links to interesting web pages to clients or colleagues, to meet or keep in touch. Colleges and universities who have embraced the world of Twitter use it to share web sites and other academic links with students and prospective students. It takes some skill, but you can promote new classes, new offerings, special programs and various other happenings in a way that does not sound like promoting the school but imparting information.

The first step to getting started with Twitter is to go to www.twitter.com and register. After that the rest is up to your marketing department. Track keywords to discover if a certain segment of your prospective students will respond positively to this channel in your enrollment process.

How do you tie all these channels together to increase the effectiveness of your enrollment marketing? The best way is to thoroughly investigate each channel and assess its value to your overall marketing plan. You may already use direct mail and telemarketing and may want to add some email marketing by asking your prospective students to provide you with their email addresses and permission to communicate that way. You can start slowly and gauge the level of interest. As for blogging and Twitter – talk to your current students. See how excited they are about the prospects of a university blog. Perhaps work with a committee of students who already communicate in these channels. Be sure to oversee what they plan and make sure the blog they envision is appropriate to  your overall program. You need to educate yourselves in these new channels or risk being left behind.

We find that having a number of channels available to your prospective students allows them to choose the method of communication that is most comfortable for them. When their comfort level increases, there is a higher chance that your school will be high on their list of choices! 



 

 

 

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