Communicating with the parents of your prospective students should not be an afterthought. Parents are more involved in their student’s recruitment journey than ever. They have more influence than ever. Their impact is felt earlier than ever. And they are more skeptical than ever.
That’s a lot of evers!
Recent studies have shown that three out of four parents consider themselves “very involved” in their student’s college search process — often as early as sophomore year in high school. But only slightly more than half say they receive communications from colleges directed at them. This means nearly 50 percent of parents who wish to be very engaged in their student’s decision process are not receiving any communication.
This is a massive, missed opportunity … because parents are the most important influencers for current prospective students — more than their friends, more than their fellow students, more than their high school guidance counselors. In fact, students who provide a parent’s email address when they inquire at a university are 45 percent more likely to apply and persist through to deposit.
Knowing all this, the question becomes: How can institutions effectively reach out to parents and other family influencers in meaningful, personalized and timely ways?
Know Your Audience
Just as you must understand the priorities, values, habits and needs of your prospective students, it’s equally important to understand their parents. Who are they? What’s important to them? As anyone over a certain age can tell you, parents and parenting have changed significantly over the past 20 years or so!
Here are a few things to consider you craft messaging to this current group of Generation X parents.
- They tend to be older parents than previous generations. Many waited until later in life to have children.
- They value transparency deeply. This can be a cynical lot. (Hey, they’re Gen X!) They grew up during a time of political upheaval and can be distrustful of institutions. Even if the honest answer isn’t 100 percent positive, honesty will win them over.
- They trust personal accountability over procedure. Tell them the person not the process. Give them the exact contact for housing, or for public safety, or for academic counseling, etc.
- They’re sensitive and skeptical about price. They need to know the value they will receive in return for the cost of their child’s college education.
Just like their Gen Y teenagers, these Gen X parents can be finicky when it comes to outreach from universities. It’s important to have an iterative, multi-channel and multi-touch plan that helps them help their students navigate the enrollment process. This is especially important during summer melt season when communicating about accessibility, affordability, application status, new student orientation and campus visits is so important.
Institutions have their own unique set of recruitment and enrollment challenges. Capture’s team of experts will work with you to create a parent communication plan that bundles:
- Email Marketing: Communicate to parents through Behavioral Email Series, Ad Hoc Emails, Triggered Emails with real-time Email Analytics.
- Google Display Ads: Stay top of mind and top of page when parents search for keywords and terms that align with your institution and programs.
- ENGAGE Dynamic Content: Deliver automated, personalized, 1:1 messaging automatically, when parents want it, using Capture’s marketing automation software.
- Social Media Marketing: Engage parents through highly targeted social media ads that increase your brand awareness.
- Social, Web, and Email Retargeting: Reengage your parent email database as well as those who have visited your website and social channels through retargeting digital advertising.
- Landing Pages: Facilitate a variety of web forms, documents, and other informational materials geared toward parent priorities.
To help monitor and guide your efforts, a Daily Visitor Report allows your counseling staff to see where and when parents are investigating on your website and other digital assets.
How and when outreach to parents is deployed depends on where their students are on their enrollment journey. For parents of seniors, the focus is often on key timelines throughout the fall and winter — FAFSA deadline, campus visit pushes, campus engagement offerings, etc. — before moving into yield messaging in the spring — understanding award letters, campus expectations, spring checklists, orientation dates, getting your child connected with campus, etc.
Since parents seem to have the greatest impact at the beginning and early stages of college search, Capture also offers parent outreach product bundles focused on the parents of juniors and sophomores.
Do you want to find out how Capture can boost your parent outreach efforts? Contact us today!
By Kevin Hyde, Senior Content Manager, Capture Higher Ed