Like undergraduate students, adult students use a panoply of information sources when exploring prospective colleges and programs. Not surprisingly, these sources include a blend of:
Digital and non-digital information
Channels controlled by the school and channels independent from the school
University Website The most powerful owned media, not surprisingly, is an institution’s website. Recognizing its importance, here are a handful of best practices:
Consider creating an area in your website for adult students. This will allow you to develop content that is of immediate interest (think personalized content) to this audience. It will also communicate the importance you place on adult students at your institution.
Make sure your navigation, and navigational aids are intuitive, jargon-free, and current.
Commit resources to a comprehensive, sustainable demand generation strategyand use research to measure effectiveness.
Use SEO, and SEM to heighten the presence and “searchability” of your site on the Internet.
Use your analytic tools (Google Analytics being the primary one for tracking web traffic) to determine where prospective students land on your site, how long they stay, and where they go next. Make sure these pages are continually refined and updated.
If your adult students struggle with using the internet or the college-choice process make sure the “contact information” or a similar call to action button is readily available; alternatively consider adding an online chat application.
Other Web Pages Focus on your inbound marketing channels to drive traffic to your website. Some best practices include:
Use paid search advertising strategies to drive students to your site when students are conducting a general search.
Make sure information and all contact information about your college on earned media sites is current.
Highlight specific program information rather than more general “this is us” kind of content.
Continually evaluate the efficacy of leads generated by paid campaigns (owned media) and adjust your keywords and landing pages accordingly. Eventually you want a specific cost-per-lead and a cost-per-enrolled student. This is especially important when considering your future digital marketing budget.
Family/Friends This channel is both influential and problematic. It is influential because second-party endorsements are much more believable than information disseminated by the university. At the same time, they are problematic because you have little control.
Some best practices:
Make sure you are providing the student experience you promised.
Continually monitor chat rooms and other social media and web gathering places (Rate My Professor) to see what students and others are saying. Carefully address clearly errant information.
Develop consistent, forwarding-leaning communication to alumni, parents, and other influencers.
Program Brochures The fourth channel is program brochures. Both online and in print, these communication tools should focus on specific academic (usually) and co-curricular (sometimes) programs.
Some best practices:
Keep information current. This is especially true of high-demand programs.
Include the following must haves:
Sample schedules for various programs, including part-time and full-time options
Average/typical time to degree (and associated caveats)
Easily discernible tuition/costs
Brief/relevant biographic information for each major professor
List of any prerequisites
Types of jobs this major qualifies students for
Job placement data
Program specific support services and other resources
Focus on what students want to hear and less on what you want to say.
Balance the verbal and visual vocabulary, utilizing bullets and underlining to highlight key information.
Compare your program brochures with those used by your competitors
This handful of best practices should help you focus on the channels adult students turn to most. Keep in mind, however, that it is always best to use specific research and your own data points to refine your communication efforts with adult students.
Becky’s strategic supervision and consultative skills drive a number of engagements ranging from qualitative and quantitative research projects to website redesigns, brand refreshes, and elaborate communication programs.