Monday, 14 May 2012

A Guide to Conversion: Engaging and Maintaining Student Prospects through Relationship Marketing (Part Two)

The Saga Continues

In my last blog we talked about the importance of implementing a successful relationship marketing strategy and began to look at how this works in practice.  You may recall that I introduced you the model shown below.  Let’s now take a closer look at what is happening at each stage.

The Decision Making Process

Unaware Prospect

First and foremost, Marketing, Recruitment and Admissions (MRA) work really hard to raise the awareness of the University to its target audience.  The Outreach team work closely with schools and colleges within our region to promote higher education opportunities and the provision of courses at Chester.  The Marketing team link in very closely with this remit attending higher education fairs the length and breadth of the UK.  The team also target schools and colleges with poster mail shots and, through Shai Vure, our Digital Marketing Officer, attempt to increase our web presence through search engine and web advertising. Further to this, every summer we implement a major marketing campaign mainly through means of a mass mail shot with prospect data purchased from UCAS.

The aim of this campaign is to raise the awareness of Chester and encourage prospects to begin to engage with us, but this is all reinforced across several media platforms as described above.  Every engagement should always have a call to action: at this early stage we would usually be driving enquiries to our website and encouraging the prospect to book onto an Open Day.

This really shows how running a successful marketing campaign requires a cross media approach, drawing upon the expertise available from all sections of our department, from the web and design team (currently headed up by Neil Martin and Marc Kneebone) to the Outreach and marketing teams (lead by Sean Williamson and myself, Adam Bodger).


Central to an effective relationship marketing strategy is a centralised CRM database that allows
the prospect to be tracked throughout their decision making process.  Much of our data collection will happen at the early stages of the student’s decision making process, but once a prospect has applied, the data we gather from their application is invaluable to us.  With most of our marketing campaigns being built around a direct marketing, good data collection is of paramount importance.

Prospect details are collected at every opportunity possible:

Prospectus Requests
Higher Education Fairs
Campus Tour Bookings
Open Day Bookings
Open Day Registration

Enquiry Form

Prospectus Request Form

One of our biggest resources for data collection is our prospectus request form hosted on the website.  This shows the importance, not only of the prospectus as a marketing tool, but also the website.  So it is important that you keep your web pages up-to-date and engaging to the user.

Every prospect within our enquiries database is included in our pre-application mail shot usually implemented during the summer.  The aims of this campaign are to encourage the prospect to visit the corporate website; attend an Open Day; and apply.  Further to this, we encourage all prospects to continue to engage with us through social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Applicant and Offer Holder

Once a prospect has applied this isn’t the end of the process.  We are one of possibly five choices and, assuming an on offer is going to be made, must work hard to convert an applicant into a student. By this point, we should have already established some sort of connection with the prospect and given them a broad understanding of the University’s service delivery and how it can add value to their life.

Post application, the emphasis is on developing and enhancing these existing relationships, reinforcing the values of the University’s brand by sustaining any themes previously communicated. As before, this is done through a series of channels: direct mail; email prompts; social networking; and web updates.  Interview Days and Applicant Days are another key marketing tool aiding conversion, so many of our communications at this stage concentrate on trying to get an applicant to book onto one of these days.

At this stage, applicants will be comparing closely what one course can offer them that perhaps another can’t, so it is essential to point out to the applicant any benefits and USPs of the course, both through our marketing communications and during the course (no pun intended) of an Applicant Day.  Never assume, just because of our prior engagements with an applicant, that they already know everything there is to know about the course and the University.

Decision and Enrolment

By this stage, an applicant will have decided whether to make us their Firm choice, Insurance choice or whether to decline their offer altogether.  Should we have successfully convinced an applicant to choose Chester, we mustn’t take this for granted.  Especially given the complexities of the UCAS system, where an applicant can request to be realised into Clearing or ‘trade up’ through Adjustment, the exclusion of AAB students from number controls  and the uncertainty now surrounding the raise in tuition fees, it is essential that we continue to engage with applicants throughout the entire application process.  The tools for doing this will be much the same as earlier in the cycle, but by this point MRA will be looking to build upon the applicant’s anticipation of coming to Chester at the same time as trying to reduce any reservations they may have.

Your Marketing Journey has just begun

Although this might be the end of the applicant’s journey, hopefully your journey into an enlightened marketing world has just begun.

Until the next communication…


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