You Can't Recruit & Retain if You Don't Know Your Audience
Aug 15, 2016
Know you audience! A fundamental element in successful student recruitment and retention. Yet we continue to hear the following statement oh so often…
“We’re struggling to hit our new student enrollment goals…and we’re seeing attrition rates increase too.”
So, let’s take a step back. We ask them to tell us about their target audience. Who are they? What are their needs, wants, expectations, perceptions? What is their decision making process? What is their criteria for selecting a college and degree program?
Why is all this important? For many organizations, they target too broadly – which generates lots of inexpensive leads while also creating a lot of wasted resources that include manpower, money, technology….
Then they watch large numbers of “customers” go elsewhere and wonder why when the reason, in many instances, is tied to attracting the wrong people that have wants, needs, expectations that you cannot met.
For colleges, most don’t ask a great many questions – and more aren’t looking for reasons to say “Hey, you have needs that we can’t meet – you might want to take a look at other options.” The focus is on getting them to apply, enroll and…well, hope you stick around because that’s now the responsibility of the faculty. (And by “responsibility” they mean “assumption that if the faculty is great, students will stick around because no other factors exist that would motivate them to leave.)
Step 1: Start with the data you have.
For example, over the past 24-months, rank your student body by [a] how recently they were enrolled, [b] how frequently they were enrolled and [c] how much tuition revenue they generated for you. If you’re feeling adventurous, also rank them by their [d] GPA.
Based on the scores earned, take the top 20% and look at the data you have in terms of [a] demographics, [b] psychographics, [c] behavioral and [d] geographic factors – and determine if it makes sense to work with a company that can help append data to your records or if it makes sense to gather the data yourself via surveys.
Step 2: Add More Data
What you have probably pales in comparison to what’s available – so give some serious thought to what else you need to know and what the fastest, cheapest way to gather quality data.
If you work with an external firm and append the data, you will receive details you need to develop and test messaging, offers, and media mix for identified segments within that larger data set. You will also receive a projected size of the segments and maps that show you where they live down to the household.
In other words, everything you need for targeting more effectively and attracting those most like your best students!
If you decide to do-it-yourself, you can start with surveys and/or modifications to your application forms/processes.
What kinda of data? Well, that depends on what you’re trying to understand so you can leverage that insight and improve performance. But if I have to make a suggestion without knowing your circumstances my recommendation would be to on psychographics and geographic factors.
What do they do and why along with where are they located. The first helps you understand their attitudes, aspirations, and other psychological criteria. The second lets you know where to find them and, ideally, how many there are so you can set some realistic goals.
Step 3: Develop Personas and Test
At this point, you’ve learned a lot about your audience as a whole and the segments within it – so develop written personas (samples are available in our free eBook, Content Marketing:Doing it Right). Then set up tests so you can uncover how to best use this insight…message testing, offer testing, channel testing, creative testing…
Step 4: Repeat Above Steps
The one thing that’s constantly true about marketing and target audiences and segments and personas is that they change. So you need to continuously gather information, evaluate, test and repeat. Never rest on your laurels.
Patrick McGraw is VP of Higher Educaton Marketing Services and has more than 25 years experience in market research, competitive intelligence, business intelligence including database marketing and CRM, strategic planning, brand development and management as well as operations/campaign management. His work has consistently helped his clients and employers develop and implement more efficient ways to attract and retain profitable customers, enter new markets and launch new products. His areas of focus include the education, hospitality, travel and tourism, hi-tech, telecommunications, financial services, and retail industries on both the agency and customer sides.