Now, maybe more than ever, personalization of outreach is key to engaging a college-bound student population that is shrinking in terms of both size and attention span. Personalization, however, is easier said than done.
To focus personalization efforts, we encourage institutions to adopt Eduventures Prospective Student Mindsets™ to guide messaging based on student priorities and hopes for college. But with limited staff and resources, attempting a mindset-driven segmentation can seem daunting to recruiters.
Fortunately, even small changes to your communication flow can have a big impact.
You Are Not Your Thoughts
Eduventures’ Prospective Student Mindsets, based on our annual Prospective Student Research™, categorizes college-bound high school students into one of six ways of thinking about college. Each of the six Mindsets provides a student profile based on the hopes and dreams for a college experience.
Mindsets – or ways of thinking about college – are fluid, influenced by many factors, and evolve over time. As students move through the enrollment funnel, we can often observe shifts in their priorities.
Figure 1 shows the priorities of students with a Social Focus Mindset vs. those with a Career Pragmatist Mindset at the application stage (left side) and at the enrollment stage (right side).
In Figure 1, 72% of Social Focus students said that the social environment is paramount in their application decision. At the enrollment decisions stage, however, the social environment—while still important—was surpassed by affordability and core academic experiences.
In contrast, Career Pragmatists care about affordability above all else – at both the application and enrollment stages. But core academic experiences, which did not matter much at all in early search, became more important at the time of the enrollment decision.
In both of these cases, what happened?
Simply put, at the application stage, students will select schools based on their starting priorities – in this case, the social environment for Social Focus students and affordability for Career Pragmatists. As they move toward the enrollment decision, however, they are deciding among a group of schools that meets at least minimal requirements for this top priority. This allows them to deepen their understanding of other factors that should matter as well.
Much of this is influenced by the messaging students receive from schools. This means that toward the end of college search, messaging can converge, and most students are open to messages about the other important factors they had not previously considered.
But you will need to attract their attention in the first place. Therefore, in early search, Mindset-focused messaging matters the most. But how do you manage a comm flow for six different Mindsets?
Two Approaches to Mindset-Based Email Campaigns
Imagine you have tagged the prospective students in your inquiry pool based on their Mindsets and now you want to create email campaigns for each of the six—or maybe focus on fewer—Mindsets for your institution. Also imagine—which may not require much imagination—that you are short-staffed and need an efficient process.
We suggest that you decide on a general comm flow you will stick to. Maybe you already have one built, or maybe you already have content ready to go. A few tweaks will help you address your target Mindsets. How so? Here are two approaches.
1. Identify a couple of key emails
Not all your outreach needs to be Mindset-focused. Rather, put your efforts into two or three key emails that address priorities for each Mindset, and implement them within your regular comm flow, as Figure 2 shows.
You do not need to make dramatic changes either. Tweaks in subject line, sub header, or images can have a significant impact. For instance, an Encoura-designed email campaign saw a 23.1% open rate for emails with only a general subject line but resulted in significant lifts for the same email with Mindset-specific subject lines. That is, open rates were 28.6% for Experiential Interest, 29.1% for Career Through Academics and Grad School Bound, and 29.3% for Social Focus subject lines.
Small changes with select emails can have a significant impact. If you are not sure about your own efforts, consider doing A/B testing with generic and Mindset-focused content.
2. Reorder the general comm flow to best fit each Mindset
Alternatively, use the same emails for each Mindset, but change and prioritize the order of email topics by Mindset interest (Figure 3).
Instead of crafting six completely different comm flows by Mindset, craft one set of emails with each email addressing different topics. Then, send them in different orders for each Mindset, starting with the topic most likely to catch the attention of the recipients and working your way down to their potential blind spots.
For example, when working with Social Focus students, send an email about social life first, and save emails about affordability for later. But do send the affordability email first to Career Pragmatist students. This way, you can still talk to each Mindset with little extra effort.
The Bottom Line
Personalizing your recruitment outreach is an effective way to catch the attention of your prospects, and in the current enrollment environment, it is an absolute necessity. But the actual process can seem intimidating. The examples above provide a framework for addressing Mindsets in your comm flow that is not daunting or unnecessarily complicated. Before you can get started on adjusting your comm flow, however, you need to cover a few basics:
- Qualify prospective students into Mindsets: Perhaps you are using Encoura prospect data with Mindset tags or have your own way of identifying student Mindsets within your inquiries. Understanding the students in your funnel is an important first step.
- Consider your bandwidth: What can you realistically take on? Can you address all Mindsets or is it better to prioritize two or three within the context of your institution? Can you implement a Mindset-specific comm flow across the entire funnel, or do you need to focus on prospects and inquiries?
- Review your existing material: Review all your existing content to see which Mindsets you are already talking to. Chances are, you already have solid content to appeal to at least a few Mindsets. Create additional content for specific Mindsets that might be currently missing.
With a few extra steps, you can refresh your recruitment outreach and add the so much needed personalization.
How to Leverage Student Mindsets to Improve the Quality & Volume of Your Funnel
Getting your brand in front of the right fit students and standing out is now more important than ever. How can you be sure that you are dedicating your marketing resources to the right audience and on the right channel? Eduventures Senior Analyst Johanna Trovato shares how you can utilize Eduventures Student Mindsets™ to speak directly to your students motivations and preferences in their college search process to best support and engage with them.