The writing is on the wall. When a prospective student visits your website and self-selects into receiving communications from your institution, the worst thing you can do is fail to interact with them.
Remember, they are not just “one more student”, they are about to make one the biggest and most consequential decision of their lives so far—and a significant financial investment too.
Lead nurturing refers to the follow-up work that is done to nurture each virtual visitor into an applicant—and then to an enrolled student. Lead nurturing is nothing new, but your competitors are getting more sophisticated in their approaches, so you need to as well.
Personalization wins the day.
That means no generic “Marketing Representative Persona” emails to a generic “Prospective Student.” There should be signs aplenty that you already know and understand his or her needs, interests, concerns and curiosity. Your team needs to be humans interacting with other humans.
That also means investing in software that will allow you to track each visitor to see when your prospect visits the website, downloads materials and views videos. You need to be able to see where she’s spending the most time on your website and when.
Using this treasure trove of information, you will be better able to approach each prospective student through one of the following 3 communications channels:
Channel #1: Nurturing Leads through Email
When communicating with adults—in this case, parents of prospective students—email tends to be the preferred method of communication. Remember that lead nurturing needs to be targeted. If your lead suspects they are receiving an email blast, they feel less of a responsibility to respond and engage with your institution.
You must personalize the email as much as possible. Establishing a genuine human interaction is absolutely vital—and it only gets more important the farther your prospect moves down through the admissions funnel.
Channel #2: Nurturing Your Leads on Social Media
With the majority of teenagers spending most of their waking hours intermittently checking social media, it’s pretty safe to say that the well-educated inbound marketer will make lead generation on social media a priority—you want to reach your prospects in the place they already are.
It’s a time-consuming approach, but you need to connect with prospective students who have interacted with your social media accounts. Answer the questions they tweet, engage with the comments they make on Facebook and thank them for liking or sharing an Instagram post.
You can even take it a step further with social media and really study your prospects’ behavior:
What other institutions are they liking and following? What topics interest them most? What do they want and need from the high education marketplace? What turns them off about college marketing? What keywords do they use that you and your team should be using?
Channel #3: Directly Nurturing Leads through Instant Online Chatting
Again, this is where you need to know how your leads prefer to communicate. For millennials, that’s typically through texting or other forms of instant online chatting. It’s less intimidating than a phone call (“kids these days” spend a lot less time talking on the phone than they used to) but it is more personal than a tweet or email.
Instant online communication allows you the opportunity to interface intimately with the prospect and answer their concerns and questions. Remember, this is not a time for a hard sell. You want the interaction to be professional, friendly and not at all pushy.
This is also a channel that will involve an investment to be successful. There are a variety of instant chat platforms available with different price points and features. Figure out which one fits best with your target demographic and consider implementing it as a direct lead nurturing strategy.
Inbound marketing can help you earn huge numbers of leads at a relatively low cost (when compared with traditional outbound marketing.) And by harnessing these channels and personalizing your approach to each web visitor, you will be much more likely to nurture your leads into future students.
But remember, not all leads are created equal.
While inbound marketing will give you much higher quality leads than traditional outbound marketing, you will still need to separate the leads into categories to determine which are most worth your time and energy. The next step to nurturing your leads is lead management, and more specifically, lead scoring.
But that is another topic to tackle another day. Stay tuned.
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