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June 8, 2023
December 13, 2022

5 Ways to Improve Student Enrollments Through a Data-Driven Approach

5 Ways to Improve Student Enrollments Through a Data-Driven Approach
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As of today, there is nothing more important than curating and delivering personalized experiences. 

This is especially true when it comes to marketing. In fact, a Statista report states that over 60% of online shoppers would switch to a different brand when faced with non-customized content from their current vendors.

In other words, in a world driven by data and subliminal messaging, the importance of delivering highly curated promotional material has never been any higher.

But how do you do that in education? More importantly, is it possible to customize an experience for hundreds of thousands of potential students and alums?

The simple answer is yes. And the secret lies in Customer Data Platforms (CDPs).

These packaged software tools create a unified view of a prospect or consumer by pulling the data from multiple touchpoints. Then, the information is collated, cleaned, and fed into other marketing channels.

The result? A persistent customer profile that works across all promotional avenues.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about how a CDP can help educational institutions and marketers improve their enrollment rates. 

How can you use a CDP to improve enrollment rates?

Notwithstanding the technological advancements that have made CDPs possible, these platforms are essentially tools at the end of the day. And, just like any other tool, what matters is how you leverage them.

So, here’s what you can start with: 

Defining the initial student cohorts

Like all global verticals, Education (ED) marketing is defined by its market segments. The only difference is that a specific term is used to refer to such groups—cohorts.

Simply put, a cohort is a broad student group currently or will be enrolled in an institution. Now, each of these groups has particular behavioral patterns. 

For instance, batches from a school in Massachusetts may prefer Ivy League colleges. As such, the cohorts from that institution could have a high initial drive when sending applications to Brown, Colombia, or Harvard.

Conversely, Texan students, with their robust community colleges and public university systems, could prefer local institutions. 

That’s just one example, though. The idea here is to analyze the broader digital footprint, including past enrollment rates, annual application volume, and graduation rates, and then feed that into your CDP. Following this, you set parameters to define a cohort’s response to your ED marketing pitch.

Now, this is easily achievable through Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) platforms. In fact, QED42 provides services that cater to this specific need, helping set up a system that incorporates the collected information into a consolidated channel.

Remember, you aren’t just dealing with data from public directories or records in this instance. Most of this information will come from the internet. And that requires a single, streamlined approach to navigate it effectively. 

Establishing a standardized prospect profile

Now that your cohorts are defined, it’s time to create a general outline for the prospect/student lifecycle.

Your CDP will already have the necessary information to do this. In short, all that data you collected in the pre-enrollment funnel, including the number of direct from-school transfers, and overall course competition rate, will help you here.

For instance, say a specific student group comprising adults aged over 25 (Group X) has a low graduation rate. This could be due to factors you have no control over, such as individual professional and personal commitments, lack of financial resources, etc. 

However, that doesn’t mean that this cohort is beyond retention. By leveraging the data in your CDP, you can identify the touchpoints that Group X used in initially contacting the related institution. Then, you compare those access points against the prospect profile that you have already built.

While you are at this, ensure that you check a few things. So, is there a disparity between what Group X seeks and what the course offers? Does the site content even provide enough clarity on the syllabus?

These elements are the primary determinants of prospect retention in ED marketing. More often than not, advertisers tend to emphasize campus facilities and accommodation amenities while pitching a particular institution. These are also crucial deciding factors, but they are secondary considerations regarding what the modern-age student wants. 

Understanding engagement metrics

Successful ED marketers always have a comprehensive overview of what type of promotional material is most effective. More importantly, their campaigns deploy different kinds of content based on where a prospect is in the conversion funnel.

So, say a potential student is just beginning to consider a particular college. What will be the first point of contact for that prospect? It will probably be site material, brochures, and other written content.

As that prospect progresses further down the funnel, their requirements may change. Now, they might desire a more insightful look into the institution. This will primarily come from campus tours, in-person events, virtual faculty, and batch meetings.

Whatever the case, the truth is apparent: the data from your CDP for specific market segments will only work in designated stages. To circumvent this challenge, you need to ensure that you are consistently updating the collected information from your current engagement metrics.

This shouldn’t be too difficult, considering that you have already established a standardized prospect profile based on cohort behavior. 

Enforcing data privacy compliance

A prominent concern in most marketing campaigns is the issue of data privacy compliance. In fact, 93% of Americans want more control over their personal information.

This is where a CDP truly shines.

Typically, these systems have integrated support for several privacy regulations, laws, and policies, including CCPA, GDPR, and CPRA. But that’s not all! Prospects have complete control over the information they submit due to the affiliated touchpoint being opt-in channels.

Essentially, marketing teams get access to relevant prospect details while being assured of their responsiveness to promotional material. There’s also the fact that incorporating a CDP into your ED campaigns will enable you to deploy strategic protective provisions, including the Right of Disclosure and Right of Deletion, for all your leads.

Finally, a CDP allows marketers to consolidate prospect preferences across multiple channels. This is especially useful when tracking what a potential student has opted out of and then curating a pitch based on that.

Of course, it also helps institutions and related marketing teams avoid legal liabilities when adhering to data privacy policies. 

Curating diversified programs based on prospect data

There’s no such thing as a ‘perfect’ course. As of now, each cohort, down to its very last member, wants something different when it comes to educational offerings.

In short, the need to create more engaging modules to provide an enhanced learning experience is higher than ever. Fortunately, a CDP can help you tackle this challenge.

Consider what has been discussed so far. You have defined your cohorts, set broad standard prospect profiles for each of them, understood what material they engage with, and finally, have a consolidated view of what they have opted out of.

These four elements will help you create course modules that appeal to specific groups. Take the example of Group X from earlier. This particular cohort has a low graduation rate, has external commitments outside the institutions, and only relies on touchpoints that offer clarity.

Now, by combining and analyzing those factors, you could start a new 6-week course on any given subject that caters to Group X’s behavioral patterns. It’s as simple as that.

What should you be mindful of when adopting a CDP?

It’s easy to get carried away with all the enhancements that a CDP will bring to your marketing funnels. However, there are specific things you must guard against.

First, your institutional departments need to recognize the necessity of sharing the collected data. Most often, departmental members tend to be somewhat reluctant when it comes to this. However, failing to analyze every bit of information against the data collected from other sources will only lead to redundancies in your current strategies.

Second, it never helps to isolate a CDP into one specific group. In short, the generated reports should be available to all members across the organizational hierarchy. That way, everybody has a single view of the truth.

Finally, it is imperative not to view a CDP as being a tool for merely improving statutory rankings. Doing so would be detrimental to fostering an inclusive educational experience in the long run. And no amount of creative and collaborative marketing can remedy that issue.

There is a simple example to understand the importance of all three mentioned elements.

Say, University Y is nearing admission season. Now, each department, including the admission body and marketing team, has different data sets they rely on to create their strategies. Additionally, the board of directors is the sole governing body with access to the reports generated by a CDP.

Do you see where the problem lies? If this specific instance persists, it will translate to a fragmented ED marketing pitch. And that, undoubtedly, will not help your enrollment rates. 

Delivering exceptional experiences through data

From consolidated prospect profile and cohort parameters to driving better engagement and ensuring data privacy compliance, a CDP will deliver on every aspect of your ED marketing campaign. The best part? It’ll even tell you which courses work best without you even attempting to foray into that area.

However, it's essential to understand the common pitfalls associated with implementing such platforms. In short, beware of siloed databases, departmental or otherwise, avoid isolating a CDP to one group, and always ensure that the data is being used to do more than just drive enrollment rates and college rankings.

Remember data and volume go hand in hand. If you are looking to enhance student experiences at your institution, bring these two together in a single streamlined system with intelligent and innovative digital solutions.

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