A 2017 study of higher education admissions directors discovered an issue that has long been underreported. The report, delivered by Gallup and Inside Higher Ed, found that 66% of admissions directors fell short of their enrollment goals, which the report attributed to poor awareness of individual schools, and a lack of focused recruiting efforts.

Innovative admissions officials recognize that the days of tri-fold marketing brochures are no longer cutting it. Today’s colleges and universities have to act like marketers, and need a disciplined approach to lead-generation and nurturing that includes effective response, follow-up, and conversion optimization. Most schools have a compelling message and brand that can create enthusiasm and awareness for potential students. They key is to put together the right stack of tools and strategies to move those prospects from interested parties to members of the student body.

The good news for those who want to identify qualified candidates and engage with them is that the competition among schools for marketing-driven mindshare and lead generation is low. The vast majority of schools rely mostly on social media and websites to convey curated images of their schools, and to communicate calendar-driven milestones like admissions deadlines. What’s missing is a targeted approach that helps schools not only identify solid candidates, but nurtures them through the path from early engagement, through an educational process, to ultimately applying for admissions.

Engaging prospective students

The key to effective student recruitment is similar to what’s used to perform prospecting in any field: effective communication and authentic connections. Admissions officers are increasingly looking to create an experience for prospects that truly reflects the spirit of their school. Many higher education institutions are turning to Verse.io to do it effectively through a full-funnel approach that helps blend the human touch with the efficiency and effectiveness of automation.

It provides a variety of ways to connect, including chat, texting, and email, all using website intelligence to connect with the vertical market you’re targeting. Considering that the target demographic for higher education is digital-savvy teenagers who vastly prefer SMS messaging over all other forms of communication, the ability to deliver messages through these various digital channels is incredibly important.

For administrators, Verse also has the ability to weed out duplicates, competitors, or out of scope leads that don’t fit your target market. All of this is done through artificial intelligence that identifies leads by target characteristics (title, organization, geography, or any of a number of custom types that users can set up) and then initiates a nurture cadence of communications in a variety of formats, including texts, emails, and online chat. Considering a demographic that is accustomed to digital engagement, it’s important to have these different channels available through which schools can deliver their messages.

Leads coming from interested students are only one part of lead generation. The reality is that just acquiring leads is only part of the solution towards business growth. The far more important discipline is to move those leads through the “buyer’s journey” to become customers, or in the case of higher education, full time students.

Turning interest into leads

One important piece of the Verse process is visibility and coordination. These are often overlooked because many only want to get leads from acquisition to the end of the funnel as quickly as possible. Emphasizing speed may, however, can result in pushing through a lot of bad leads . Certainly there’s nothing wrong with speed, but as modern marketers know, speed is important, but having the RIGHT leads move through the customer funnel, and having those leads become more engaged and smarter about your service is what ultimately converts.

To support all of that for colleges and universities, Verse gives users a simple dashboard for sync’ing all the tools used to increase awareness and generate demand among potential students. This includes tools like marketing automation, student relationship management tools, and other lead sources. This helps create that single source of truth that all higher education institutions need to put marketing nurture workstreams into practice to maximize their ability to turn interested parties into potential students.

Beyond just the organizational advantages, a simple but comprehensive system like Verse enables deeper visibility into where hidden lead opportunities exist, and how to take advantage of them. It also initiates the multi-channel framework that is so critical for reaching prospective students.

Connecting with the future freshmen

Now, with data being identified and processed in a way that supports the lead framework, the most important piece of the prospect lifecycle starts — communication. This is where schools start to give target candidates a sense for what their school is truly like. It’s far more than just a brand message. Your school is a place in which students will invest many years, a lot of money, and has the chance to shape their lives in major ways. With that in mind, communication has to be authentic, meaningful, and purposeful.

The feeling at Verse is that each communication with a lead is the beginning of a new relationship. Our name (which you might have noticed, we recently changed from Agentology to Verse.io) comes from the suffix of the word, “converse,” because this is where conversations start. It’s also where first impressions are planted, and every organization wants to present itself in a positive light.

Students want to be part of something they can be excited about, and it’s the human touch that makes all the difference in demonstrating just who and what your school is all about. Verse provides a variety of ways to make this connection, and keep it going throughout your relationship with potential students.