Climbing Gear: How to Scale the Enrollment Cliff, Part 2 – Campus Visits, Virtual Tours and Relevance

When I compare my 25 years of service on college campuses with what I see happening today, I notice one item in the recruitment cycle has remained unchanged. If you get your prospective student to engage with you — during high school visits, or college fairs, or via email, or on your website, or during campus visits — you know you have a fighting chance.

With more channels at your disposal than ever, it’s crucial to engage these Gen Z students and their Gen X and Millennial parents wherever you can.

As higher education stares up the face of a demographic cliff, the ability to identify students earlier in the enrollment process, build brand affinity with them, and engage them increases the likelihood of them enrolling. Speed-to-relevance when it comes to communicating and providing impactful communication opportunities for these students has never been more important.

In this week’s blog, we discuss the importance of traditional campus visits, meaningful online campus tour experiences and convenient self-guided campus tours. We’ll also talk about how marketing automation lets you guide your prospective students along a digital journey that answers their questions while nudging them along the way.

Connect on Campus Tour
Campus Visits

The campus tour has evolved.

The campus tour used to be rather standard. Students and their families arrived on campus at certain times and are paraded around as a group while listening to a student tour guide pretty much say the same thing every time. But the campus tour has evolved over the last two decades. There are now more options for families. And, in some instances, students and families can tour from the friendly confines of their dining room tables or from their vehicles as they drive themselves around the campus on a self-guided tour.

In a recent blog, we discussed the use of student ambassadors as social media influencers in the enrollment process. Current students are a top-three influencer when it comes to communicating with your prospective students and their families. The campus tour is an ideal time to connect your ambassadors with your prospects.

Do you have campus tour guides with a strong social media game? Consider having them connect with their student tourists on the university’s social media channels. Those connections can go a long way. The key here is to elevate your student voices by letting them share experiences through photos, videos and written content.

Give GenZ that authentic perspective they so often crave and respond to.

Virtual and Self-Guided Tours

In 2020 and 2021, when the pandemic hit our campuses hardest, institutions found it difficult to welcome families to campus. But families near and far still wanted to see and hear what it was like on campus before deciding where to attend. This necessitated building virtual and self-guided tours of campus. Universities scrambled to created short videos on social platforms or partnered with vendors to create unique yet relevant digital content to build that affinity. 

Campus Visits

Be innovate when showcasing your campus.

These practices have become the norm. You must recognize that GenZ wants to access information about you at all hours of the day … when it is convenient for them. One great way to showcase your campus is to have different video tours for different areas and facets of your campus. The best scenario would allow students to move about your campus in an interactive map and guide themselves virtually through different short videos highlighting facilities and areas of campus.

Be innovative! This British university even gamified its virtual tour. (Caution to “Animal Crossing” fans: The tour can be rather addictive.)

Relevant and Personalized Enrollment Journey

The need to coordinate university recruitment and marketing efforts has become paramount to enrollment in recent years. While the pandemic created a sense of urgency to enhance this relationship, the need for the partnership to expand certainly became clearer as the demographic cliff rose into view.

With the number of students graduating from high school and entering higher education dropping (in some regions dramatically), it’s imperative for colleges and universities to provide a relevant and personalized enrollment journey. This personalization started a long time ago with mail merged letters, printed on-demand brochures and the popular PURL (Personalized URL). 

While most any enrollment department uses email, texting, and the website to deliver content, most universities utilize these platforms passively and with little regard for student behavior on the platforms. This needs to change. Marketing automation can focus your recruitment efforts in this new enrollment environment. While CRMs are a good source of data and reporting, they lack the ability to manage, predict and deliver the necessary behavioral intelligence required to be successful. 

GenZ is the first real generation to be considered digital natives. This means they have been marketed to electronically since they turned on their first cell phone or tablet. They expect it. To their credit, members of this generation accept the notion that everyone is selling to them all the time. But their expectations around what they pay attention to has evolved.

Speed to Relevance 

We hear the marketing term “speed-to-lead” quite often today. It typically refers to the average time it takes a business to respond to a qualified sales prospect from the moment they become an inbound lead. At Capture Higher Ed, we think about that term differently. Choosing a college is a personal decision. We say “speed-to-relevance” … because it should be your goal to build initial brand awareness and true affinity over time with your prospective students. 

Delivering your relevant and personal messages when the student is engaging with you (24/7) — not a drip campaign from your CRM — is how you build speed-to-relevance. You can accomplish this using Capture’s Behavioral Intelligence Platform, which allows you to measure in real-time a student’s journey, deliver appropriate messages along the way, while always being ahead of the student’s next move.   

[Gen Z students] accept the notion that everyone is selling to them all the time. But their expectations around what they pay attention to has evolved.

The enrollment journey for students hasn’t really changed. They still identify where they think they will be the most comfortable, complete applications, visit campuses, speak with professors and current students, and attend events. What have changed are the channels in which students and their families are making these connections.

Your ability to manage those channels and help guide their journeys is the strategic step that leads to your success.

In the third and final installment of Capture’s blog series, Climbing Gear: How to Scale the Enrollment Cliff, we will cover using better analytics to focus your budget and your staff. If you missed Part 1 of the series, you can read it here.

By Christopher Harris Ed.D., Senior Enrollment Strategist, Capture Higher Ed