Create a Student-Centric Journey with the Marketing Funnel
February 17th, 2022 by
- By creating a student-centric journey with the marketing funnel, universities can better understand the mindsets and behaviors of prospective students.
- When considering goals and tactics for your student-centric campaign, ensure your ask is appropriate to a student’s current mindset and behavior.
- To ensure your student-centric marketing plan yields real-world results, ask yourself during every step of the process, “Am I considering the mindset and behavior of my audience?”
For those who work in marketing, the marketing funnel is nothing new. Understanding the decision-making process of prospects is an age-old, effective marketing strategy. Like teenagers, adults in their mid-20s are still figuring out what they want to do with their career post-bachelor degree, all while learning how to budget their own money and make sure the laundry pile doesn’t get too high.
By creating a student-centric journey with the marketing funnel, universities can better understand the mindsets and behaviors of prospective students. When university marketers understand who would be interested in their graduate programs, they can create a user experience that drives prospects down the student funnel.
The Marketing Funnel From the Prospect’s Perspective
Looking at the marketing funnel from the student perspective allows marketers to open their eyes to the right types of content and the appropriate placement to have the most effective strategy. You can use the higher education inbound marketing funnel to create a map of the route a prospect takes from the time they first encounter your brand, to the time they register, and even through retaining them and turning them into a loyal advocate for your brand. This differs from the normal marketing funnel in that it allows you to gain a deeper understanding of a student’s habits and desires.
To fully understand the student-centric journey, you must take an in-depth look into a student’s mindset and behavior during the marketing funnel’s awareness, consideration, and decisions stages.
To better understand the mindset of prospective students in the awareness phase, you have to learn about their habits. These prospective students are working full time after earning their bachelor’s degree and probably feel truly independent for the first time in their lives. They are likely in their mid-20s, or maybe a little bit older, and have some sort of career plan but are still trying to figure it out a little bit.
These prospective students are also likely to understand the type of career advancement that interests them, but don’t have a complete plan yet. Prospective students in the awareness phase may wonder if earning a graduate degree would be worth it, as well as the potential ROI, their availability to take classes, and if they would qualify for their desired program.
While these prospective students are still figuring things out, they are probably consuming industry news and best practices and spending some time on LinkedIn and other job sites evaluating the career opportunities available to them after earning a graduate degree. Their web searches might include:
- How to get promoted
- How much money does [career/job] make?
- How to become a [career/job]
This information should inform your strategy by giving you insight into what your prospective students look like—from their possible age to their work life. To help them move onto the consideration phase, you should present them with information that makes them more confident that a graduate degree can elevate their career and earning potential.
During the consideration phase, prospective students’ mindsets have changed slightly. Prospective students want to collect information about their prospective university’s programs, culture, and what it’s like to attend.
Some problems they may worry about during this phase include:
- Their ability to meet application deadlines
- Their ability to meet school’s requirements for admission
- Unsure if the program is a good fit
Prospective students will begin to look to FASFA, articles about best programs, job titles of recent students, and available jobs for the program that interest them. Their Google searches will include things like:
- Master’s programs near me
- Best (program name) programs
- Affordable (program name) programs
- Online (program name) programs
- Jobs for master of (program name)
As a university marketer, you should use this information to inform the next steps of your campaign. This could be helpful in preparing your strategy for content, SEO, Facebook ads, and Google ads. To help prospective students to move into the decision stage, you should present them with information that shows the validity of your program and that your program can help them get the job they desire with a flexible schedule and affordable price.
Okay, you’ve made it! You’re now in the decision stage.
During this stage, prospective students have:
- Established their consideration set
- Formed opinions about the pros and cons of programs
- May have identified a first choice
But they haven’t made all their decisions yet so they need guidance. Students during this phase may need help starting the application process and may still be unsure how to pick the right university. They may not know the best semester to begin their program.
To help alleviate this uncertainty, they may start:
- Reviewing programs or universities
- Spending more time on the school’s website and social media
- Search university professors on Rate My Professor
- Use tuition/financial aid calculators
To help them find this information, they will start searching for things like:
- Branded searches (school’s name)
- Application deadlines
- Tuition information
- Financial aid applications
During this stage, you should center your ads and content around your universities application deadlines, tuition information, and financial aid applications to aid in their search.
Be sure to have all this information readily available for students during the decision stage. The easier it is for students to find this information on your website, the easier it will be for them to decide to attend your university. Make your website easy to scan through so applicants can find this information quickly.
Goals and Tactics
When considering goals and tactics for your student-centric campaign, When considering goals and tactics for your student-centric campaign, ensure your ask is appropriate to a student’s current mindset and behavior. For example, your ask in the awareness stage should require less of a commitment than your ask in the decision stage.
During the awareness stage, your program may help prospective students advance their careers. Your campaign should bring to their attention that your program answers the questions about their career problem.
The appropriate KPI to track this metric is website traffic. One tactic you can use to bring attention to your program is centering content around the expertise of your professors and programs on timely topics. This can be done through blogs and social media posts.
During the consideration phase, your number one goal is to get prospective students’ contact information. To measure this KPI keep track of all inquiries. To get contact info from prospective students, showcase your universities rankings, common graduate job titles, and success rates of former students as incentives to request more information.
Finally, during the decision stage, you should convert prospects into applicants. This is where you want to get started applications to become completed applications. To track this KPI, measure started applications and completed applications. The number one tactic you should use to ensure that students finish filling out their applications is making your application process as simple as possible.
Closing: Tying Tactics to the Funnel
To ensure your student-centric marketing plan yields real-world results, you should ask yourself during every step of the process, “Am I considering the mindset and behavior of my audience?” By keeping this in mind throughout your campaign, you can ensure your university’s programs are presented as a solution to your prospective student’s career problems. Remember, your audience is still trying to figure out what direction they want to go with their career, be sure your campaign informs them and helps them make that decision.
Use the steps above to create a well-thought-out and designed higher education inbound marketing plan. If you need more counseling on creating a campaign that can attract prospective students to your campus, contact the education marketing experts at Search Influence.