Friday, 19 October 2012

The Open Day aftermath - the difference between success and failure

With the Open Day season complete, we can all collectively breathe a huge sigh of relief and reflect positively on what worked well and what didn’t work so well.  All in all, I think all the University’s Open Days went very well with some record numbers in attendance, and I would like to congratulate Anna Long and Mark Hoddell for doing a sterling job in co-ordinating these events.  Months of blood, sweat and tears go into ensuring these events run without a hiccup.  Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but they work flaming hard at making them a success.

Step in the right direction

In an earlier blog, I talked about the difference an Open Day can make to prospective students, with it often a determining factor on whether or not to apply.  With the encouraging numbers in attendance and the fact that so many departments put so much effort into making the Open Day experience a positive one, it would be an easy mistake to make to think that the task of marketing your course is now done.  Far from it unfortunately, but a successful Open Day is obviously a step in the right direction.

Indeed, it is important to remember that we are still in the very early stages of a prospect’s decision of whether to buy or not.  With almost a full year to go until the possibility of these prospects actually enrolling, not only is their decision making process a very long one, but one that is also riddled with risk and uncertainty.  The magnitude of this decision has only been heightened by the recent increase in tuition fees.  And despite many universities best efforts to reassure potential students on the new tuition fee structure, there are still many parents and students out there that don’t fully understand these new arrangements.  Many fail to see past that headline figure of £9,000 a year!

Out of sight, out of mind

With all this in mind, we must use the Open Day as springboard for the next stage of the recruitment cycle and ensure that the University of Chester doesn't become a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind.’  Steps have already been taken by the marketing team to follow up on any interest the University has had from the Open Day or otherwise.  However, staff from across every academic department can also play a major role in converting these enquiries into enrolments.

The personal touch

Due to the University’s background as a college of higher education, when it operated on a much smaller scale, the University already has a good reputation for its care of students.  This is certainly reflected in recent NSS student satisfaction scores that are currently above the national average.  Chester is good at its personalised approach with the friendly and welcoming demeanour of staff being a major contributing factor to this. Our feedback tells us that this is something that prospects notice at our Open Days and it would be a pity not to demonstrate this following the Open Day also.  A simple email from the programme leader, offering the prospect a contact within the University, is a good way of starting to build a more solid relationship with our prospects and showing them that we care.

Applications for 2013 have already begun and, before we know it, the Applicant Day season will be upon us.  A number of those who decide to visit us on an Applicant Day will have already visited us at one of our recent Open Days and, as such, will be treating this visit as another chance to help them decide.  It is worth being mindful of this when planning what you will be delivering on Applicant Days as it shouldn’t simply be a case of repeating the same old formula.  Applicants won’t necessarily want to sit through the same session they saw at the Open Day.

Make it count

We in Marketing, Recruitment and Admissions are obviously happy to advise on any of the above, but hopefully this blog will have stimulated some thought about how you can create a stronger relationship with your prospects (and applicants) following the Open Day.  It could be the difference between successfully recruiting to target and not.

With that, I’d just like to congratulate everyone who has been involved in the University’s Open Days in one form or another and thank you for helping to make them a success.

Until the next communication…


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