Direct Mail Tips for More Effective Student Recruitment
Jun 12, 2017
Research has shown that direct mail is very effective with millennials - but for many colleges, direct mail isn't all that effective. Here are some tips that can help you increase the effectiveness of your direct mail efforts.
Let’s focus on direct mail used in the early stages of recruitment – specifically just after that prospective student makes themselves known to you but before they have started the application process.
Segment the list – be relevant. Congratulations, you just got 100 prospective students asking for information about the program they are interested in. But you are sending them the same package which doesn’t address their stated program of interest – instead it’s some generic copy about how wonderful your institution is and how you have ‘caring faculty and staff’ along with ‘more than 10 degree programs’.
Your first response needs to be about their program of interest and the benefits they will enjoy only through your program. (See ‘Benefit-rich copy’ below.) And make an offer that is relevant – make the offer more than “to apply now, visit www.schoolname.edu/apply”.
What do they need at this point of their decision making process? What about a “free simple checklist for identifying the right college and program” or “information about how to balance school, work and family” or “why they need an AACSB accredited program to help make your career goals come to life"?
Make sure everything works together. All too often, direct mail turns into "...what else can we get into the envelope..." and the recipient winds up with a lot of unrelated papers that have no logical order/prioritization. This tends to leave the reader overwhelmed, confused and uncertain about what they should do. And that has a negative impact on your response rate - especially with adults who will then use their time to respond to someone else's more focused communication.
Use the Envelope for more than your logo, their address and a stamp. Stand out from the other pieces of mail and entice the recipient to open the envelope! Stop looking like another bill or those annoying letters from real estate agents and lawn service companies. (Just kidding real estate agents and lawn service companies – love your stuff!)
Understand the power of a Johnson Box and P.S. That copy at the top of the letter, before the greeting and body, is referred to as a Johnson Box. Both the Johnson Box and P.S. help increase response rates – learn about them, test them and enjoy the benefits!
Understand the power of bold, underline, bullet points and color. Make key copy points stand out for those of us that prefer skimming than reading the detail!
Benefit-rich copy. Most write about features and fail to address benefits – and prospective adult students buy benefits because they are all about what’s in it for them. Great to hear your program is AACSB accredited – but what does that mean to the student that will help them achieve their goals?
Your offer - focus on one thing you want them to do. All too often, we try to get everything into one letter and the end result is a confusing mess that the reader walks away from without having responded. (This is repeated from earlier in this post because repeating the important stuff is another valuable technique for getting your message understood!)
Provide multiple ways to respond – and track them. Make it easy for them to respond anyway they feel is best – phone, email, landing page, walk-in, response card – and make sure you can track it so you evaluate performance at the end of the day. Check out this article. (https://www.salesforce.com/blog/2016/06/phone-calls-customer-journey.html)
Use the opportunity to gather more information that helps you qualify and prioritize. You start off with program of interest and desired start date – but you need more information to qualify and prioritize the lead. For example, the individual has told you that they want to start your MBA program next terms but the program has admission requirements such as GMAT/GRE – have they taken the test? Did they earn a high enough score? Have the registered to take the test in time for their desired start date? Or are they a little bit too optimistic?
Test. Test. Test. Things change and you want to constantly find more effective and efficient ways to achieve your adult student enrollment goals – so test. Try different sized envelopes. Different copy on the envelope. Different copy in the Johnson box and P.S. There’s a lot to test so do it properly so you can constantly improve!
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.