Every institution generates inquiries one way or another, but how each institution develops its inquiry prospects into applicants, and ultimately enrolled students, varies tremendously from school to school. Indeed, the third stage of the applicant journey through the enrollment funnel is arguably the most important stage of Inbound Marketing for higher education! (although, I am open to entertaining comments to the contrary ;)
This key action verb involved in step 3 of the Inbound Methodology is "closing" - as in, closing inquiries into applicants, and closing applicants into enrolled students. But alas, most higher education professionals do not like the word "closing" because, frankly, it just sounds to sales-like. That is true...the term "closing" is borrowed directly from the B2B and B2C sales and marketing world. And so are similar terms like "suspects", "prospects", "soft leads", as well as many of the best practices used in "recruitment"!
Regardless of whether or not you like the word "close" we can all learn a lot from the Inbound Marketing way of engaging inquiries and applicants. Here are 3 methods for closing inquiries that can help your enrollment team:
1. Lead Scoring
Lead scoring enables you to assign values to different actions taken by your inquiries. This is important because not all inquiries carry the same value. Yes, you can certainly decide to give all of them the same exact treatment, but then you're doing what just about every other institution's enrollment management team is doing. Remember how your institution is supposed to be "different" ;)?
There are many different ways to score your inquiries and assign values to various actions. The actual method you use does NOT matter! What matters is that you are consistent and that you apply scores to actions of real value to your recruitment goals.
Here are some examples of the kinds of actions that might be worthy of scoring for your prospective students:
- Multiple visits to landing pages or website pages that have content related to consideration-stage and/or decision-stage topics. (e.g., a prospect with multiple visits to the financial aid or application requirements page of your site is likely considering applying in the near future).
- Social sharing, liking, re-tweeting, favoriting, or some other posting of content put out by your institution (especially content related to admissions!).
- Length of time watching your video content (you can use awesome tools like Wistia that enable you to track exactly what parts of a video someone watched, skipped through, or replayed).
- Frequency of total activity within a short period of time (e.g., an inquiry may not have spent a long time on any one page or social site, but he/she may have performed 10 actions in 3 days, and that shows increased interest).
Again, you need to define for yourself what actions are of high value vs. others. The bottom line is that lead scoring can help you determine which inquiries to focus on and nurture using...
2. Email Nurturing Sequences
Email nurturing is the process by which an institution sends a series of relevant emails designed to ease a prospect towards the next step. In the case of an inquiry, that next step is applying. In the case of an applicant, that next step could be coming to a special event.
Notice the emphasis on the word "relevant" - if you don't send relevant content in your email series, then you're not really nurturing your relationship with your prospective students. You're just sending bulk emails that everyone else sends. But if you send relevant content, then that juicy content enables you to also nudge the interested person towards the next step in his or her decision process (which is what closing is all about).
That's why you need powerful marketing software that enables your enrollment team to see exactly what each inquiry and applicant is clicking on, watching, sharing, downloading, and filling out. A solid email nurturing sequence will use that information to trigger various marketing automation actions, such as a series of emails.
And that brings me to my final method...
3. Marketing Automation
Email nurturing sequences aren't the only thing you can do with a good marketing automation platform. You can also do things like:
- send SMS Text Message triggers
- notify admissions counselors with alerts to certain activity (so they can follow up in a timely manner)
- send a direct mail package that is personalized to a specific prospect (e.g. Variable Viewbooks)
- add only certain inquiries to a specific marketing list
There's a lot more involved in closing the loop with prospective students, and I am really only scratching the surface with these three methods. But the bottom line is that, no matter what your situation, you do not want to be stuck sending the same communications that went out two or three years ago. You need to consider Inbound Marketing tactics to help attract, convert, close and delight students through the enrollment journey.
For more information about how to close inquiries with Inbound Marketing, you can download our Guide #3 in our 4-part serious on Inbound Marketing for Higher Education: