Austin, Texas: We work with a number of universities and colleges to help them improve their college recruitment efforts, so I spend a great deal of time doing market research in this field.
Now, as my youngest child begins to explore his college options for himself, I see firsthand what is lacking the most in most campus recruitment programs: follow up and follow through.
A college selection is one of the most important decisions a student can make. Not only are the financial costs incredibly high, but the decision may take the student out of town (or out of state) and it will have a tremendous influence on their future career plans, career options and career possibilities.
Choosing the right college is not a simple decision, both for the student and their parents. How can this decision be made in a three-minute presentation by a campus recruiter or at college fair?
Too many recruiters are just going through the motions when it comes to these college fairs. My son filled out twelve postcards for colleges that he was interested in last month at a college fair, and to date, we have received a total of one e-mail from just one college since then. And it was a generic email at that.
Where is the follow up?
No, a ballpoint pen or a window decal is not enough to sway any college student to make a $100,000 college decision.
College recruitment needs to be a multi-pronged approach.
1) First gather email address, phone number and find out what major the student is most interested in pursuing.
2) Offer an incenitve to visit–either online or in person. We have done a large number of digital rewards for students, especially free music download cards or i-Skins for their phones or colleges in return for visiting a particular website.
3) Load them up with swag. That’s right, let them wear your school colors, with team caps, travel mugs, water bottles, T-shirts, lip balm, bumper decals, etc. Welcome them with these items, either when they make a campus visit, or in a staggered approach, with one piece sent at a time, once they complete more information, go further in the interview process, etc. I guarantee that the the investment in college promotional items that are worn (not thrown in a drawer) will yield a great deal of ROI,while getting the school mascot and logo advertised around high schools for a very low price.
4) Build school pride. This goes along with the school swag mentioned above, but include facts about school rankings and why your college might be the best option for he student.
5) Send them email newsletters of interest to the particular student, not just generalized and generic emails.
6) Have alumni call the student to answer any questions or see what type of reservations the student may have.
Remember, most of these steps cannot be achieved if you do not constantly seek and gather information from the student. Don’t be afraid of asking questions. It is a sales process, after all.
Find their interest level. Know what they are thinking of majoring in. Inquire about their funding and scholarship needs. See what other schools they are seriously considering and why.
Constantly strive to gaher pertinent information and share solutions with the student. If they are not a good match, then have a planned strategy for that, or at least for just keeping in some contact with the student.
If they are a good match, then continue the dialog until a college decision choice has been made.
Have a set formula for followups. Rank the students based on their likelihood of pursuing your college or not.
If you feel that your college is the best choice for a particular student, then Influence, Reach and Motivate.
Stay in touch.
High school students have a number of issues on their mind, and college is just one of them.
Don’t expect that these 17 or 18-year old students are great at follow up.
If your strategy is that the student will follow up with you if they are interested, then you are wasting your time. Do you know how hard it is to get a high school student to send a thank you note to a relative for a birthday gift? It’s not much different for college applications.
Make it easy for the student to participate.
Offer them incentives, like I had mentioned, with music downloads, free movie tickets, free pizza and other items that a student will want to receive-all which can be delivered to the students as digital rewards through their email account. If you do not think it is worth $5 to you for a student to register online at your site and answer a few questions, then you are not serious about your campus recruiting.
If you do, then you will be light years ahead of your competition.
Robert Piller is President of GeekTechBranding.com, the leader in promotional products aimed at a tech audience. Since 1981, Robert Piller has worked with Fortune 500 companies, as well as startups and other organizations to market and promote their businesses using the latest and most cost-effective marketing strategies and incentives.
He is a frequent writer and speaker on marketing topics and loves to share and exchange ideas. He can be reached through LinkedIn, Twitter, by email (robert [at] geektechbranding.com) or through this blog
GeekTechBranding.com offers the latest hi-tech promotional products –including imprinted speakers and ear buds, tablet and cell phone cases and bags, promotional stylus pens, imprinted chargers, USB drives and hubs and more — all imprinted with your company’s name and logo.