Thursday, 17 October 2013

Another Open Day... Another Blog

It’s been while since my last blog, so with the advent of a new application cycle and the passing of another season of Open Days, I thought maybe now was the time for another blog about Open Days, with some reflection on their success and some thoughts on where we go from here.

Seeing Double

Of course, given the inclusion of an extra Open Day in the calendar, since this announcement there has been much debate as to how sensible the addition of an extra date was, especially over two consecutive weekends. One of the main incentives for doing this was to enhance the visitor experience. In recent years, the numbers attending Open Days have been steadily increasing and it was decided that it was in best interests of the visitor to split the main Chester Campus Open Day over two weekends.

I'm sure, to a certain degree, this debate will continue, but with the overall numbers in attendance far higher and more manageable spread over two dates, there’s a strong argument to say that we should continue with this formula next year. In reality, the extra date has now created far more choice for the visitor and, therefore, helped to increase overall attendance. This is important for us in order to maximise our chances of converting enquiries into applications, and it’s also helpful to our prospects at a time of the year when the majority of UK universities are trying to cram in their Open Days. And, given the nature of the application cycle, to move to another weekend later in the cycle would now be far too risky a strategy.

Moving on…

So, with the Open Days now complete, what next? This was the subject of a blog I wrote this time last year, when I advised not to rest on your laurels and instead use the Open Day as a springboard for the next stage of the recruitment cycle. I’d recommend another read of this blog as, a year on, the points made are still valid.

With this in mind, here are my tips on how to maximise on the interest generated over the last couple of weekends.

1. Contact Attendees

Failure to follow up after an event is a massive missed opportunity. The Open Day isn't the end of the journey and it would be a pity, after you've gone to the trouble to ‘pull out all the stops’, to now neglect to engage further with these prospects and fail to sustain their interest. At the very least, you should ensure you contact all your attendees with an acknowledgement of their attendance and details of who to contact should they wish to know more. Encourage two way communication and advise them on where to go to find out more.

2. Contact Non-Attendees

We usually get somewhere in the region of a 50 – 60% attendance rate from those who have booked onto an Open Day. So it also makes a lot of sense to follow up on these enquiries. Again, offer them a means to communicate directly with you and, given that they missed the Open Day, inquire whether they need any further information and offer them alternative ways for finding out more. This could be presenting them with another opportunity to visit you or simply directing them towards our applicant space on the website.

3. Social Media

The Open Days may now be over but why not use this as an opportunity to tell your followers on your social networking channels about the success of these events. Use the Open Day hash tag, share photos from the day, encourage any followers in attendance to do the same and share some of your highlights from the day. And let your followers know that they can still visit us if they missed the Open Day.

4. Engage with all prospects

Speak to MRA about our enquiries database and ask for advice on following up on these enquiries. Now is the time to engage further with these prospects but remember that this ‘window of opportunity’ is very short as, within a matter of weeks, these prospects will be submitting their UCAS application. And don’t waste money advertising your course at this late stage in the game. Remember that your target market is likely to have been doing their research on their university choices for some time, so from here on out, it’s all about conversion: converting prospects into applicants and applicants into enrolled students.

5. Engage with all applicants

It’s obviously re-assuring that our Open Days attracted so many visitors, but don’t forget that there is still a long way to go before enrolment day. Again, ask MRA about our plan for conversion and consider how you can integrate with this plan to maximise your chances of conversion. To do this, it’s critical to keep engaged with prospects throughout the decision making and application process.

Start to consider how you can demonstrate the added value aspects of your course through your e-newsletters and how to make your Applicant Days a success.

Welcome Break

Enjoy your weekend off everyone! What with Induction Week, the start of semester and our series of Open Days, you've all certainly earned it.

Until the next communication…


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