"We are not going to send out prospectuses this year because we can't supply them to our usual places so we need to know what to do with our budget."

Sound familiar? Covid-19 has accelerated the digital-first approach to the student recruitment process, with many institutions facing the demise of one of the most loved (and hated) traditional marketing assets - the prospectus. 

But it’s something to celebrate, not mourn, and we’re going to show you why: that budget (and time) you usually spend on production, print and distribution? Now’s your chance to try out some exciting new digital innovations, and capture more data to supercharge your advertising and conversion.

Choose personalisation over print 

A digital-first approach can lead to better personalisation, better conversion rates and more data capture points. 

Ditching the traditional print prospectus, and directing your prospective students to a digital-first experience allows you to build your first-party data right from that initial touchpoint, which can then be used to tailor the rest of the user journey. Something you wouldn’t be able to do if your prospectus was picked up and read in a common room.  

The data you collect can then be used to turbocharge your advertising to greater performance heights. For example, remarketing to those prospective students who have frequently visited your landing page, but not yet enquired, allowing for a more comprehensive nurture funnel and, in turn, more conversions (treat this as your bible). See, we told you it wasn’t bad news.

Something you can do brilliantly, that the postman can’t? Segmentation. Say goodbye to the mass distribution and send lists, and hello to online segmentation and targeting. Reallocating your prospectus budget to online allows you to incentivise resource downloads by segment, capturing more lovely data and boosting your campaigns. Did you know, effective segmentation can improve advertising performance by 300%? 

And talking of segments, don’t forget about this one. Now is the time to invest in and focus on parents and influencers with tailored, targeted messaging to grow your data and marketing lists for this key segment. Parents are the biggest influencers for students in Clearing, and building this segment now will pay dividends later in the recruitment cycle, while providing a bespoke digital experience for parents and students alike who are engaging with your institution right now.

The magic is in the integrated

This all sounds great, right? But as we all know, budgets can’t stretch to everything. Which is why using this opportunity to move away from traditional print and try out new ideas, new ways of working and new approaches is a smart and savvy way to find out what works and makes an impact.

All the research shows that a multi-channel, integrated digital advertising plan is the most effective in terms of university and college marketing recruitment. Now is the time to expand your channels and promote your campaigns on the platforms we know students are on, like TikTok (did you miss our friends at Akero’s TikTok advertising masterclass?), which perhaps you wouldn’t have previously been able to justify. 

Here’s a sneak peek into our recent research into student digital behaviour; more than one in three students are using TikTok daily. TikTok is a fantastic awareness tactic and, even if it doesn’t lead to direct downloads of your course info, it will drive traffic to your site, providing an opportunity to capture more data and boost your marketing lists, which you can later use to remarket to students on a more intent-driven platform later in their journey. 

But there is still a time and a place for traditional printed marketing assets. They are of particular value for parents and families that want something to take home with them after meeting with a provider or education agent. Also they can be valuable for non-english speaking students to help them absorb the information, for example in China and Latin America. So whilst a full printed prospectus might not be necessary for some institutions, depending on your audience an integrated approach of printed and digital marketing may be the best option. 

And if you are going down the digital first route, it doesn't have to mean starting from scratch. If you’ve been tracking your leads from advert through to enrolment, why not invest your prospectus budget into platforms that are already working for you, and increase the volume of enquiries using your most tried-and-tested techniques? And if you’re not sure which platforms best fit your brief and budget, we’re offering a free personalised digital advertising plan, recommending you the best possible media selection according to your brief, with guaranteed predicted performance outcomes from an award-winning AI, and your leads plugging straight into your CRM. 

But whatever you do, leave space to think bold

So where should you allocate that prospectus budget? Our advice: invest in the digital experience (take a look at our virtual open day whitepaper for inspiration). Students have told us that they still want that university experience, so make sure you’re providing it. 

Immersive experiences, such as experiential gifting, campus gamification, drive-in events and ‘meet the influencer’ online meet-ups can all help to attract and engage your prospective students and push them towards downloading your digital prospectus.

“With the obvious shift to digital and a whole new wave of restrictive lockdowns, digital fatigue is very real (No more Zoom quizzes, please). People are also longing to connect with others. I would recommend building a digital in-home immersive experience that captivates the attention of prospective students and incentivises them to engage their parents or friends in the activity.”

- Joe Gualtiere, Net Natives, Head of Campaigns

And then? Make your out-of-the-box, forward-thinking work for you. Increase your conversions at every stage of the funnel with a solid, personalised digital nurture strategy from all the data you have captured. This is called ‘progressive profiling’, where you’re using your forms to slowly build up a picture of your audience, enrich your lead data and enable you to create more personalised journeys.

Use workflows to keep your students engaged and keep the conversation going, and tailor them to what works for your institution. Whether that’s with a simple ‘thank you’ email, or opting for a more intricate, detailed workflow that is filtered and staggered, offering different resources and links at different stages, with nudges and reminders peppered throughout (specialist software like Akero can help you here). It’s up to you, just make sure you keep on nurturing.

And there you have it. The traditional prospectus may be dying, but through pivoting to digital, you can reclaim that hefty print budget and invest it in activity that truly works for your institution, helping you to make those authentic, personalised, data-driven connections. 

If you would like to speak to our experts about your next steps, get in touch

Article by

Nicola Jones

Senior Marketing Manager