We recently released research of how adult learners prefer to learn about colleges and universities. In this DemandEngine study, we partnered with 10 institutions across the country offering professional and continuing higher education.
Some 6,000 learners from ages 18 – 50 + responded, reflecting the diverse nature of these programs. Adult learners were asked to: rate their preferences among seven one-to-one channels across the prospect, inquiry, and applicant (credit)/registrant (non-credit) enrollment stages; indicate their level of participation in a number of online activities; and provide recommendations to colleges and universities to improve their enrollment marketing communications.
In over 2,600 qualitative responses representing learners ages 22 - 50, we found a number of recurring themes in their comments. Here is a sampling directly from survey respondents:
Professional and Continuing Higher Education is a Considered Purchase
•“With graduate programs especially, I think it's important to start updating/sending information well before the program starts, but after they have been accepted. Once you've been accepted, you want to know everything about the program and make connections and learn about classes. Because communication does not generally start until near the beginning of the semester there's a lot of nervousness and doubt about fitting in or feeling comfortable.”
•“Once someone contacts the college, the college needs to keep contacting the prospective student through all available means of communication. If I were not contacted my the school then I would not consider applying to the school because I would not feel needed or wanted. If the college kept contacting me I would feel needed and wanted and would give more thought into applying to the school and looking more at the school to see if it fits my educational needs/program of interest.”
•“I like hearing directly from a representative that can answer my questions and give me more information.”
Relationships Matter: What’s Your CRM Strategy?
•“More up to date information. When something is needed to be addressed, most people expect a prompt reply. Regardless of what the outcome is, communication should always be established.”
•“Faster response to emails and calls. Also adviser should be able to provide better information about classes needed and programs. I was just referred back to the website just to read information that I already read but didn’t understand.”
•“My main advice would be "stop passing the buck". When I was deciding where to finish my education, I would call and constantly be passed to someone else, who subsequently had no idea why I was passed along to them and so on. It seemed no one knew the easy answers and weren't willing to try and help.”
•“Keiser University has done a wonderful job working with me through the recruitment stage, my phone calls are returned promptly, questions are answered clearly, and the paper work has been handled smoothly. Another university I was considering was a 15 minute phone call with a list of things to look at on the website (which I had already looked at on my own) and few of my questions could be answered. If you are going to put someone in charge of "selling" your school they need to be competent and able to answer questions or at least find the answer in a timely manner and return your call. Good communication will make it or break it when your "selling" your school.”
Communication Channel Thoughts for Higher Education
•“Don't overdo the communication highway with students. They are already very inundated so having 10 methods of communication is definite overkill.”
•“Some things have to be done the more traditional way. Everything cannot (should not) be uploaded. Some things have to sent by mail. Also, be more accessible by phone. Human contact is very important when students are enrolling for the first time.”
•“Nicely printed catalogs and brochures are what get my attention and cause me to seriously consider an option. Education is an investment. I wouldn't by stock via twitter or text or email, why would I do that with my education. An no one likes unrequested phone calls - it's like telemarketing. No thanks.”
•“Avoid sending the exact same announcement each month if you have an emailing list or through status updates- it's noticeable and more interesting when different information is offered each time an advertisement or notice is sent out about a program.”
•“Mass emails and texts are a hassle and a disruption to personal communication. There is a difference between personal communication and professional communication. Please consider placing educational institution communication in the professional communication arena.”
•“Update the information more regularly on the web. The program I was definitely interested in and excited to find online, was no longer offered once I actually talked to someone from the university. “
•“Don't just automatically call someone unless they specify to do so online or if they leave you a voice message. If someone wants to talk to you, they will call. Sometimes, when people are searching for information, it does not necessarily mean they are ready to talk to a representative.”
•“Make sure that students interested in a particular program can see what the goals of the program are. What the 4 year course plan looks like so that students have an idea of what classes they will need to take. Example careers and salaries that can be achieved with the degree they are interested in. “
•“Keep a log of the contacts made -- I am still getting emails and letters asking me to attend a university I am currently enrolled in. I also would get multiple phone calls from admissions, etc, when I had already spoken to a person.”
Are your enrollment marketing efforts relevant? Does your marketing treat the enrollment decision process as a journey, not an event? Are you responsive?