The Educated Marketer


Identifying Prospective Students

by Vicky Lynch | Feb 28, 2017

 |  college recruiting strategies, social media recruiting strategy


Are you marketing what you're actually being paid to market?


Sure, you know your institution backward and forward and you can give an elevator speech about its unique benefits and qualities in your sleep. You probably do that on a regular basis! You have a message about your school that you’re always ready, willing and enthusiastic to share.

But it’s precisely this point of view that gives rise to traditional marketing. For inbound marketing to work well, higher education marketers have to understand their institution, yes, but they also have to understand their prospective students and their parents (in marketing speak, their buyer personas) just as well.

Forbes magazine compares creating and using buyer personas in inbound marketing to fishing. Does it make sense to just cast your reel anywhere? Or do you want to decide what types of fish you want to catch and go where you know they are swimming at the correct time of day?

Top bloggers, writers, content curators and creators agree: to capture the imagination and attention of a wide audience, you have to put their needs and interests ahead of your own.

“Audience first, audience first, audience first” is the mantra of the most successful bloggers and social media users.

First, you will need to understand exactly who your audience is. You’ll need to do a lot of research and chances are you will need special software to help you discover more about your demographic.

Here are 5 questions you must ask to discover who your leads really are:

  • Step 1: What makes my prospective students tick?

What are their interests?

  • Step 2: What are you prospective students looking for in a college or university?

What pages have they visited on your website? What content offers have they opted in on? Perhaps you have a student interested in studying abroad, or athletics, or dance. Once you know this information, you can custom tailor your communications with them.

  • Step 3: What are my prospective students fearful of and what are they enthusiastic about?

Spend a lot of time reading comments and interactive via social media with your prospective students. The feedback will be candid and invaluable.

  • Step 4: How are my prospective students spending their time online? What are their go-to websites, apps and social media platforms?

As I mentioned above, you will need special software to uncover the answers to this one, and it will take time and research. But knowing this information will identify the best way of reaching out to your audience whether it’s social media, emails, blog posts or content offers right on your website.

  • Step 5: How and when do my prospective students prefer to conduct research and consume content?

Again, the answer to this question will help you to identify when to contact your prospective students. Timing can be everything.

One thing to keep in mind—Inc. magazine cautions marketers to be careful when you are defining your buyer personas that you don’t narrow the field too much. While you want to target who your prospective students are, remember this is probably several groups of people, or an umbrella of groups. If you narrow your field so much that there are only 50 leads left, you obviously need to increase your scope.

The process of getting to know your prospective students may seem tedious and incredibly specific, but if you are not able to answer these questions, you won’t be able to create the kind of content that will draw in the right students at the right time. If you can’t answer these questions, you won’t be able to effectively generate organic search results. If you can’t answer these questions, you won’t be able to do inbound.


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