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For this next primer in the Enrollment Management 101 series, we’re going to explore a specific type of digital marketing that is critical to a modern enrollment division: inquiry generation campaigns.
What is an inquiry generation campaign?
Inquiry generation campaigns are marketing campaigns that are designed to find potential customers, in our case students, through opt-in inquiries. Outside of education, you might hear the term “lead gen,” which is the same tactic. They can be broad (targeted to a region), or specific (targeted to a major/program, interest, or age group) and can be single or multichannel in their approach. Finding the right fit for your institution will take some testing and honesty in terms of time, budget, and the assets available to segment.
Inquiry generation might be done with enticing content and a “Learn More” CTA approach, passively building interest and hoping users take an action. A more aggressive approach, that can have mixed results, is to offer gated content. Gating is the process of putting (hopefully) high-value content such as a course, downloadable content, or video behind a sign-up form. Free courses or samples of your experience (like a parent education webinar) are another way to provide a valuable service that people will opt in for. Referrals from existing students and families are another way to build your potential enrollments. While these tactics will likely earn you more inquiries, there are mixed results as to quality if the offering is attracting those who are uninterested in enrolling. A campaign offering a free shirt might get you a lot of names (who doesn’t love a free shirt?), but might also attract those who are ineligible to enroll or aren’t interested in enrolling.
Why should enrollment professionals invest in inquiry generation campaigns?
Inquiries are more likely to enroll than prospects, those who have not taken an action to indicate interest. An inquiry generation campaign can essentially “warm” your prospects to filter out those who do want to opt in and learn more about enrolling. Rather than having a long communication flow to prospective students and families, hoping to nurture them into visiting and applying, a much smaller inquiry generation campaign with remarketing might prove to be more effective at determining which of these students or families is more interested in your institution.
Casting a wider net to find students who will inquire is something that Marcom and admissions offices have done for decades. In the past, it could involve rental cars, hotel rooms, meals, recruiting fairs, and rolling bags filled with branded tablecloths, pop-up banners, and swag. Now, a wider net can be cast in a digital recruiting space for a fraction of the cost. These two tactics don’t need to be mutually exclusive either. Pairing in-person recruitment with geotargeted ads, supplemental print, billboards, remarketing, and other approaches can enhance your message and help improve conversion rates.
Planning your inquiry generation campaign
When it comes to running a campaign you will need to have a plan and goals in advance so that you avoid a directionless project that takes budget away from other tactics. Being able to answer these questions will help you plan out where you should put your messaging, what your message should look like, and whether you can do it all in-house or with a partner. You should clearly define:
- Who am I targeting?
- How long will this campaign run?
- What is my total budget?
- What assets do I have (or need) for my campaign?
- How will I evaluate success or failure?
Who you are targeting should address a model or persona. In higher ed, ideally this will be built from graduating students but retained students can also be used. In PK-12, depending on the campaign, your personas will be driven by information gathered about prospective parents/guardians or students. Beyond a demographic profile, this can include a campaign to bring in more inquiries for a major, extracurricular interest, or from a geographic location. This targeting will determine landing page content, visuals, and text used for the campaign.
The budget and length of the campaign are closely tied together. If only a few hundred dollars are available, trying to run a campaign over a longer period of time will likely prove frustrating, if it is even possible. If you have other digital marketing campaigns as a reference, you can use the conversion rates as a guide to setting your budget. If you convert 5% of those who click through, and an inquiry is worth $1,000, you can work backward to see that you should not pay more than $50 CPC (cost-per-click) for your ads. A well-targeted campaign will cost significantly less than that per click for most audiences, Niche’s most recent benchmarks place the median CPC between $1.00 and $1.50.
Your campaign assets should also be audited so that you have time to gather new photos, videos, testimonials, or copy if needed. Campaign assets should match the tone and targeting of your campaign. One of the most important things that you should do is to set up experiments so that you can optimize your efforts and get the most out of your campaign. If you haven’t run an experiment in the past, we have a guide to support your first test.
Once you have a plan, then you can begin planning the “how.” By this, I mean that you will determine where to place your digital ads and how, or if, you will have in-person or physical components to supplement it. Some offices may be able to manage all of this internally, but you may need to work with an outside agency or partner to take on some or all of this as well. Some will create graphics, videos, and manage the full process. Others, like Niche, can work with your existing assets and our own to create campaigns to reach students and parents while they’re actively searching. Finding the right management for your institution, internal or external, will help your inquiry generation campaigns succeed.