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Author: Bart Caylor
Prospective students and families expect much more digital prowess than many schools give them credit for. Today’s prospects are savvy, smart, and understand how to use technology better than many higher education administrators. In fact, a recent study by Chegg and Uversity found that nearly 78% of students would remove a school from consideration if they had trouble finding information on their site. You can no longer put your head in the sand when it comes to your digital marketing.
With Their Feet on the Ground… in the Cloud.
Recently, two of my oldest boys had interesting homework assignments:
Ben, my high school freshman, was given a weekend project by his English teacher. His assignment: select a cause of his choice (for him it was animal cruelty) and develop a website about it using Weebly. After designing the site, he was to create multiple blog entries, complete with photos and other rich media, to illustrate his passion. But that wasn’t all: After the site was ready, he was told to create a QR code to place on flyers that were then to be printed out and distributed around the school on bulletin boards.
Nathan, my sixth grader, was required to complete an in-class assignment of researching a college that had a major of his interest and then tabulating the cost of tuition, room & board, and books. This assignment was part of his mandatory personal finance curriculum.
A Dose of Digital Reality
Students are using iPads and laptops in class, required to turn in homework through USB flash drives and Google Docs, and are nightly logging into Blackboard for assignments. They’re creating websites and QR codes as a typical assignment, and they’re researching your institution and tuition as an in-class project. If they’re doing all this, then you must believe that they are savvy enough to expect the best from the professionals at your institution; they expect you to present content in a clear and concise way to help them with their college research in the course of their high school careers.
Here are are ten things we recommend you do in order to clean up your digital marketing today and put your best foot forward as you market to these prospective students:
1. Update Your Website for Mobile
If your website is not responsive or mobile friendly, nothing else on this list will matter. From the earlier Chegg/Uversity survey, 99% of students reported that they research higher education websites on their mobile phones and tablets. Read more about the importance of responsive design, especially in light of Google’s recent “Mobilegeddon,” in our recent blog post “Google’s Mobilegeddon: Time to Clean Up Your Education Website.” Not only will a non-responsive site be nearly impossible to leverage on a mobile phone, it will also negatively effect your search engine rankings.
2. Organize Your Site’s Content
Navigation and organization are part of what we consider the “low hanging fruit” of website design and redeployment. Often, you do not need a redesign, but a reorganization of your content. Most sites can be liberally pruned. We have worked with private colleges with over 5,000 pages that were effectively able to trim their site down to about 750 pages. Less is more when it comes to enrollment-driven websites. Be sure to review “The Formula for Education Website Strategies” to learn more about the best formula for your navigation strategy.
3. Write Your Content for the Web
The web is not a repository for your printed brochures. Web content is different than print and should be written differently. Your site should use subheads, bullets, and lists to effectively communicate the content. Paragraphs should be limited to two to three sentences of copy and be simple and to-the-point. Remember that users scan content before they truly engage and read it.
4. Use Rich, Emotive Media
The web is more than photos and text. Take a look at the social network considered the coolest by teens: not Facebook, not Instagram. According to a June 2015 study, it is YouTube, and by a significant margin. Traditional, prospective students want to see rich media, including videos, infographics, virtual tours, and other engaging ways to tell your institution’s story. Creating rich content doesn’t have to drain your budget, either.
5. Create Compelling Calls-to-Action
Every page on your site should have the next step of engaging with your institution. As we explained in “Courting the Anonymous: Admissions Marketing to Those Who Won’t Commit,” prospective students need to be nurtured to the next steps in the funnel. Often, these are small steps rather than crossing the overwhelming chasm to filling out an application. We have to provide clear and accessible options to take the next action without requiring too much effort from the student.
6. Capture Leads
And, while you are creating those calls-to-action, be sure to provide valuable content in exchange for contact information. As the old adage states, you get more bees with honey than with vinegar. Provide a sweet offer such as an eBook with answers to their common questions about college shopping, something of value from your school, or a digital download that will be of use. The key to this digital marketing strategy is providing something truly useful to the end user, and not just a commercial for your institution.
7. Automate, Yet Personalize, Your Communication Flow
Prospective students have a keen sense of promotion and advertising. Today’s Net Generation rejects blatant advertising that may appeal to Gen X or Boomers, and they expect to have a two-way relationship with a brand. Keep that in mind as you develop your communications flow. Work hard to develop standardized, but personal-looking, email flow from your office, including personal notes interspersed with the standards. Use plain-text email as opposed to HTML rich formats and include dynamic variables to personalize experiences. And of course, an important part of the two-way relationship is the use of social media. Finally, digital marketing automation can help you accomplish all this and help you focus on what’s important.
8. Answer Questions
Jay Baer, in his book Youtility makes a compelling case for why the best digital content is designed to help answer questions that your prospects already have. Give them what they want through blog posts, gated content such as eBooks, and infographics.
Today’s students are savvy. Today’s students are smart. Higher education has to stay ahead of the curve and offer prospective students what they expect and create content and a digital marketing experience that will excite them about your institution.
To assist you with that effort, Caylor Solutions is offering a series of summer webinars to help your team sharpen skills and elevate your overall marketing efforts. Join our email list to receive the upcoming announcement with more details. With students completing the same work we regularly do as marketing professionals as part of their school assignments, it is time that we raise the bar on our communications and marketing.
This post was originally published at http://www.caylor-solutions.com/is-your-digital-marketing-smarter-than-a-ninth-grader/
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