In 2016, record numbers of students – 52,100 – applied to higher education through clearing, a rise of 3% on the previous year. This trend is likely to continue and we are making plans to support both students and universities, to make sure that all the students who contact us in clearing in 2017 gain a place on a course and with a provider that best matches their requirements” according to a UCAS spokesperson.
For Rebecca Griffiths from UWTSD Swansea, Clearing is viewed as an unmissable opportunity in their marketing calendar as “the latest UCAS data shows acceptances to higher education through main scheme Clearing have increased by 16% over the last 5 years. Clearing continues to be a key time for UWTSD and, as a Marketing Unit, we have adapted our approach accordingly. We work very closely with our faculties to ensure all relevant courses are marketed and the university remains at the forefront of applicants’ minds throughout the cycle.”
So what are the steps universities can put in place to ensure recruitment targets are hit?
1. Keep talking to existing applicants
Reaching and engaging potential students as they move down the path to conversion, from research to consideration through to application and enrolment presents both a challenge and opportunity.
The majority of university marketing teams do this very well, implementing email and social strategies as well as regular events to continually engage students throughout the cycle.
2. Identify relevant target audiences through intelligent prospecting, informed by data.
Data-driven personalisation delivers five to eight times the ROI on marketing spend and lift conversions by 10% or more, according to research from McKinsey.
By employing your rich data into your programmatic strategy you can segment and target potential students with the highest propensity to convert with total precision and cost efficiency.
One audience segment worth consideration are parents, who are becoming more involved in the research and consideration phases as attending University becomes a bigger financial obligation.
3. Getting granular with hyperlocal targeting
Target students’ schools and colleges based on their geographical location down to postcode level using geo-targeting technology. Layer in highly relevant contextual targeting to ensure your brand is visible in the right environments, whether that be when the potential student is researching where to study or reading the latest music or fashion news. This type of upper funnel engagement activity is essential in feeding the rest of your programmatic strategies closer down the conversion funnel.
4. Brand, brand and more brand
The majority of Clearing students will apply to a university they are already aware. Taking an integrated marketing approach through ensuring brand-led messaging is consistent across marketing channels is essential. The most successful awareness and engagement campaigns typically focus on areas like student experience and promoting the town or city as well as employability and the calibre of teaching. Any notable or influential alumni are well worth highlighting.
Whilst consistency is key, messaging must be tailored to each audience segment for relevancy. Eg. Parents would be keen to see employability whilst students from abroad would be interested to learn about student life. Programmatic targeting enables these messages to be delivered at scale.
5. Extend your programmatic strategy to content and video
Millennials are widely considered to consume more digital video than the average person, and according to a Comscore study they have a higher brand and advertising receptivity too. With that in mind, university marketing teams not embracing programmatic video are missing out on a trick.
Similarly, programmatic native advertising is an area that should also be explored. Native is a form of paid media where the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the website. Placement examples include recommendation widgets, in-feed and in-video.
Together, these technologies can be incredibly powerful in captivating students on the channels and at the time when they are most receptive.
6. Personalisation & testing through Dynamic Creative Optimisation (DCO)
If content is king, relevancy is queen. Dynamically repurpose content as potential students move down the funnel. Dynamically change messaging depending on conversion stage, from research and consideration to application and enrolment.
Relevant messages can be shown according to levels of engagement and can be set to display sequentially, ensuring that the users regularly see new and engaging messages. Social sharing, time spent on site and content consumed can influence decisions.
Using browser behaviour on site you can consolidate your programmatic strategy by retargeting the user with specific course information.
Whether your own student recruitment figures are on target, a cause for concern or somewhere in the middle, it’s certainly worth exploring different programmatic solutions in the market.
By Keely Williams, head of client direct at Admedo
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