July 27

Leveraging AI Powered Text Marketing to Engage With Leads


by | Jul 27, 2023 | Featured, Podcast, Tools

Successful enrollment marketing is about your ability to scale the number of authentic relationships you have with more prospective students. Automation technologies like AI powered text marketing are a cost-effective, powerful way to boost engagement with prospective students. 

You might have already experienced this scenario. 

Your lead gen strategies are kicking in and you’re generating hundreds of prospective student leads.

Maybe your long-term content marketing strategy is beginning to pay off, or perhaps a well-timed SEM advertising campaign is driving traffic to your landing pages.

But this leads to yet another problem (albeit a really good one!). How do you cultivate authentic relationships with all the new leads coming in?

Managing an ever-growing database of relationships can be an arduous task.

Enrollment marketers often find themselves lost in a sea of inquiries, follow-ups, and comm flow messaging, with each student requiring personalized attention to foster a relationship.

The sheer volume of interactions can lead to the loss of potential students because of inconsistent or delayed communication, creating a frustrating environment of missed opportunities and inefficiency.

Additionally, the complexity of managing these relationships increases when you factor in the various stages of the student journey.

Each stage demands a different communication strategy, and for hundreds of students, it takes a lot of effort to ensure a personalized, timely, and relevant approach.

Scaling up relationships takes a toll on productivity, and often results in a compromise on the quality of interaction with prospective students.

David Tal of Verse.io helps us understand the benefits of AI powered text marketing in this fascinating conversation. While working in real estate, David Tal, Co-founder and CEO of Verse.io, experienced these frustrations firsthand, and his solution was to create an AI powered text marketing tool.

In our conversation with him on The Higher Ed Marketer podcast, we got to hear how it all began and just how AI powered text marketing can help boost engagement with prospective students.

When I was in real estate, I quickly learned that it was really difficult to stay on top of every new opportunity or prospect coming through the pipeline to follow up efficiently and effectively. [I didn’t want to waste] all the money I was spending on leads. [That’s when I] realized there was a real opportunity here to leverage some automation and some best practices. 

SMS is a really powerful new engagement communication channel, arguably the most powerful engagement communication channel in the world today. 

[I decided to] leverage [this technology that’s already] out there to put something together that can automate “follow up” that improves the experience of business [owners] who want to get a hold of more people and turn more prospects into deals [as well as the experience of] consumers.

[As a consumer myself], I realized there’s nothing more frustrating than putting in your information, looking for a service or a product, and not hearing back, or hearing back with dozens of phone calls from numbers you don’t know. So later you’re going through voicemails, and now you have to call them back. But it’s the weekend! [So you can’t get back with the company.]

There has to be a more efficient way! 

[With today’s technology], you push a button, you can get a car. You push a button, you can get a pizza. We should be able to engage people quicker and in more respectful, efficient ways. 

At Verse.io, we built a platform entirely around helping businesses, universities and other industries engage prospects. In education, for example, [you have] prospective students inquiring [about] financial aid. We help schools leverage SMS engagement today to reach out to alumni for fundraising opportunities and other ways they could engage their own communities. 

Verse.io is a conversational texting platform built to help brands engage, qualify, and nurture their prospects at scale in a fully automated way. 

Right away, you can see the potential for AI powered text messaging to continue reaching out to prospective students.

Beyond increasing the number of times you can follow up with more leads, AI powered text marketing also can give your comm flow a more consistent process and voice across all the relationships you’re cultivating.

Improving Comm Flow with AI Powered Text Marketing

David pointed out a serious challenge that all enrollment teams face when it comes to following up with prospective students: frequency and consistency.

According to the going wisdom, it often requires an average of seven to eight follow-up attempts before a prospect is ready to make their college decision.

But how many times can enrollment officers realistically reach out to prospects given the workload they have?

We work as a partner to universities. We’re not there to replace internal teams. We’re there to really give leverage to internal teams to be able to do far more with less by automating a lot of the mundane things that need a consistent follow up experience. 

In-house teams struggle the most with this piece. They’re dealing with current opportunities [with whom] they’re actively engaging, and at the same time, they’re trying to follow up with other opportunities coming in. 

The average enrollment counselor will make 1.3 attempts to reach a student or a prospect before they move on [to other prospective students]. They say, “If this person is interested, they’ll call back.” 

And it’s not that they’re lazy. Everyone cares about their job. It’s just that they’re being flooded with so many leads all the time, and you can only make a few [attempts at follow up] and [then you have to] move on. 

The math here doesn’t look good. 

If each prospective student needs an average of 7 “follow-ups” to make their decision, and enrollment officers are following up with them an average of 1.3 times, that means there are a lot of relationships dying on the vine.

But let’s go on to the second challenge.

AI Powered Text Marketing Brings Consistency

Enrollment departments are a team working together, but they’re not always working in sync with each other.

In the end, this means inconsistent interactions with prospective students and poor results.

If you ask 100 [enrollment officers] what they’re doing, they might be doing things 100 different ways—saying things differently, calling at different times, following up a different number of times, some may be sending a personal text from a phone, some may be emailing once or twice, and maybe making a call to somebody’s voicemail, some don’t. It’s sort of a wild west. 

What we think is important [is consistency]. 

Just like you would optimize an ad campaign, you have to run it all through the same system so you can learn, educate yourself, optimize, optimize the copy, optimize the cadence, etc. 

Once you can do that, you can actually scale that and continue to optimize it at scale. But you can’t optimize [your follow-up strategy] if [you have] 100 people running 100 different ads in closed rooms. 

Scaling Authentic Interactions with AI

But can AI powered text marketing give a personalized, intelligent kind of follow up experience? 

This goes beyond mimicking human interaction to imitating human ability to understand the importance of timing in a relationship.

It’s not just about artificial intelligence. It’s about authentic intelligence and authentic automation. 

Because it’s not just, “How many times can you drip someone something until they engage?” 

It’s not just about the number of times—it’s about what you say, how you say it, and when you say it.

As well, it’s about leveraging other data you have on someone to make it more personalized and authentic. There are a lot of factors. 

[There is also the reality of] diminishing returns. If someone hasn’t responded after 30 times, you’re wasting your time. 

We’ll make on average, about a dozen [all the way up to] two dozen attempts over [a time period of] months. 

Most of them [convert] over the first week or two, as you’re trying to get the majority of interest from people that are interested in [your school right] now. 

Then we more respectfully ping people with more days in between [messages] as the cycle gets longer out. [In those cases,] we also adjust our messaging to more of “education and value” [content] as opposed to “get you in touch with somebody now” [copy]. 

All of that plays into a proper [automated] campaign.

Discover more when you listen to the podcast!

Like all of our blog post reviews of The Higher Ed Marketer podcasts, there’s so much more to learn in the podcasts themselves.

Listen to our interview with David Tal to get even more insights into:

  • Automating mundane tasks for in-house teams (6:19) 
  • Differences between SMS automation and traditional chatbots (14:17)
  • Success stories from two universities using automated texting (21:36)

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Featured image via verse.io

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