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Reaching and Converting Adult Students: Part II of II

Becky Morehouse

Becky Morehouse

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Last month, I addressed how to reach prospective adult students, Part I of a two-part blog series. Part II will take a look at how to convert adult students into being active inquirers.

Part II: Converting Adult Students

The key to converting students is to understand how their mindset has changed from being a prospect to being an active inquirer. As a prospect, more often than not, you are competing against students simply not making a decision. When a student becomes an inquirer, however, you are dealing with a student who is increasingly trying to choose between two or more competing programs.

Recognizing this reality, you need to transition from a high tech approach to a high touch approach.1

The key touchstones involve demonstrating that you:

  • can meet their educational (program) goals
  • can meet their financial aid needs
  • value them as individuals
  • want to actively partner with them as they strive to meet their goals (largely educational but often social)

At this point, you need to make another transition from being institutional centric to audience centric. In other words, messages and programs are created with the audience (students) in mind, and not you. It is less about what you want to say and do and more about what students want to hear and do.

Create personas

One great strategy is to break your prospect and inquiry pools down into a half-dozen personas or segments and then develop a personalized, even customized strategy for each segment.

Historically, segmentation strategies have been limited by academic programs (you treat adults interested in an M.A. in education different from adults interested in an M.Div.).

While this limited segmentation is of value, it is even more powerful when coupled with data around your specific student types. For example, a conversion strategy directed at adults interested in education would be more robust if it was directed at adults interested in education who also happened to be newly minted alumni of your undergraduate education program, or adults interested in education who were mid-year, mid-career teachers.

Other decision criteria

We know, too, that adults who are trying to decide between programs often compare programs on the following:

  1. What is the total time requirement?
  2. Which programs have cohorts? (This is especially important to students who are unsure of their academic abilities.)
  3. What is the total cost?
  4. Which will be least disruptive to my home life? Work life?
  5. Which program is more convenient in terms of drive time or online accessibility?

If yours is a branded program, adults will also consider:

  1. Which program has more cachet (prestige) in the marketplace?

Making sure adult students clearly understand how you are different from your competitors on those variables of most interest is a solid strategy.

Peer-to-peer conversations

At this point students are tire kicking. They are making active comparisons. And they crave inside information.

At this point you have chance to pull ahead of your competitors: Let them talk to students who are currently enrolled or recently enrolled in the program they are considering.

This strategy is amazingly powerful yet a little scary because you can’t really script these conversations. In fact, what you are doing at this point is relying on the overall experience of your current students to “sell” the prospect. This means, of course, that you delivered an outstanding student experience.

If you missed Part I of this blog series, you can find it here.

1One of the great ironies is that you will often use technology to help you be more personal.

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