From undergraduates and graduates to continuing education candidates and certificate seekers, each group of higher education prospects has a unique set of needs when it comes to choosing the right institution for them. Schools who understand those needs can effectively use multi-channel marketing tactics to nurture prospects from awareness to consideration to decision.
But how do you identify those needs? By creating detailed student personas for each of your key target audiences. Personas are ideal representations of the type of individuals that you’re trying to reach with your marketing efforts. You can create personas with the help of existing data, insights, and even anecdotal observations about your prospects.
Not sure where to start? As part #1 of our 4-part Back-to-School series for higher ed marketers, we’ve developed this checklist to help:
1. What are the demographics of your student personas?
While you don’t need to craft an entire life story for each student persona, you do need to be aware of any demographic factors that may affect how students interact with your school. Are they traditional students or adult learners? Passionate overachievers or pragmatic survivalists? Do they live in-state, out-of-state, or in another country altogether? Are they underrepresented in terms of gender, race, or income? These details will have an effect on what they’re looking for from you and what you can do to support them in the decision-making process.
2. What are your student persona’s goals & roadblocks?
As you research your student personas, it’s critical to identify their overarching goals and any roadblocks that may prevent prospects from achieving them. Are they struggling with the need to take pre-requisite courses? Are they concerned about balancing career, family, and the pursuit of a degree? Do they require certain career services to help them achieve success after graduation?
Don’t forget to examine the challenges a student might face in the final stages of deciding on a school. Do they need financial aid? Online courses? Disability services? You’ll need to know the answers to these questions and make this information available (& accessible) when they are ready to decide.
3. Who influences the student’s decision?
In the social-media-rich marketing landscape, there is a lot of talk around gaining the attention of prominent micro and macro influencers, but some influencers can be found even closer to home. For your student personas, consider who might influence the decision to go to a specific college or university. Parents? Peers? Current students? Teachers? Guidance Counselors? It may even be all of the above. List out these influencers as part of your student personas and include outreach to them as a part of your marketing strategy.
4. Where does your student persona hang out?
Understanding your student personas’ stomping grounds can help you divvy up your marketing tactics accordingly. You may find that one student persona interested is pursuing higher education for career advancement and most likely to frequent LinkedIn. Another persona still in high school and considering undergrad options may favor Instagram. The same goes for websites, publications, and even in-person events.
Think about the factors that may influence where your personas spend time. When you know where your personas hang out, you can ensure that your marketing strategy leverages the channels required to meet them there.
5. How does your student persona prefer to communicate with schools?
Students often reach out to you for help along their journey. You should know their preferred methods of communication so you can incorporate them into your strategy. Do they prefer to communicate through email? Over the phone? By text? In-person? And who do they consider a trusted person to communicate with at your university? Admissions counselors? Professors? Other students? Identify a few different ways that your personas might like to reach out and incorporate those methods into future outreach.