Enrollment marketers face some big challenges. Here’s how a high-touch enrollment marketing strategy can level the playing field.

Recent studies by the National Student Clearinghouse show that enrollment for many private colleges is declining at a rate of almost nine percent since 2011.

Perhaps you’ve already felt the pressure of tightening budgets. But the good news is that highly effective enrollment strategies don’t have to cost so much.

If you need to find ways to do more with less, you should consider downloading my Marketing on a Shoestring Budget ebook. It’s full of actionable advice on implementing proven marketing techniques that won’t bust your budget.

In today’s post, I want to talk about a way to boost the effectiveness of your enrollment marketing without adding a single dollar to your already stretched budget: high-touch enrollment marketing.

What is high-touch enrollment marketing?

At a high level, high-touch enrollment marketing happens when a private college, university, or independent school makes the effort to get to know its prospective students on a personal level.

High-touch enrollment marketers start first by creating marketing personas so they can get a better understanding of who their target audience is. But they don’t stop there.

They go well beyond the marketing persona by taking the time to get to know the individual right in front of them, whether they become a current student or not.

Why It Works

There’s something powerfully alluring when a person treats us like a human being rather than a statistic or demographic.

We are hardwired  to give our attention and preference to education brands and admissions officers who recognize who we are as individuals and what our unique needs, interests, and desires are.

“Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” – Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

It’s true. We all feel special when someone (even someone who’s trying to move us to a decision like enrolling to a certain school) uses our name. But high-touch enrollment marketing is much more than using merge tags to personalize emails and direct mail packages.

High-Touch Enrollment Marketing Is More than Automation

As you know, I’m a big fan of marketing automation. In fact, in this previous post, I recommend that all enrollment marketers consider tools like:

  • Buffer – schedule posts, analyze their performance, and manage all your social accounts in one place
  • Hootsuite – schedule posts, manage multiple accounts, send targeted messages and monitor brand mentions
  • CoSchedule – communicate in one place, integrate tools you use regularly and have a unified calendar for your team
  • HubSpot CRM – organize, track, and nurture your leads and customers with ease
  • Sharpspring – powerful marketing automation that helps you increase the leads you send to the enrollment team
  • Salesforce – get a unified view of every interaction with prospects, students, alumni, donors, and affiliates
  • Marketo – engage students based on their individual interests, and respond appropriately based on their stage in the student lifecycle

BUT… high-touch involves a human touch. Your touch. Your time. Your personality.

High-touch enrollment marketing approaches marketing like a human relationship.

Human relationships begin at a vague level where all you talk about are general things you have in common.

The weather, the economy, celebrities or pop culture – all of these are safe topics that people engage in when they first meet.

This is the kind of lead generation content you create at the beginning of the enrollment cycle. It’s about the general needs and questions that prospective students and their families have.

At this point, your content shouldn’t be too personal. But it can’t be too formal or cold either.

High touch enrollment marketing treats relationships in a natural way with steps.

High-touch enrollment marketing is a way to take your relationship with prospective students to the next level.

But as you get to know people, you begin to invite them into your inner circles. Perhaps you invite them to a public event you’re going to or you go out for coffee and begin to explore each other’s interests.

This is much like the way you treat prospective students in the middle of the enrollment cycle.

By using automation in your email marketing and other more direct communications, you help them get to know your school a little better.

Your texts, emails, and direct mail campaigns will merge personal pieces of information like their first name, academic field of interest, etc. into each of your campaigns to give it that one-on-one feel.

But there is an even deeper level of relationship where someone you know becomes a part of your inner circle.

It’s at this level where you can use high-touch enrollment marketing to set yourself apart from the other schools that are courting your prospective student.

Personal Touches that Set You Apart

High-touch enrollment marketing works best when you remember things about your prospective student that your “competition” doesn’t catch.

Also, you need to care about the things your prospective student talks about that other schools don’t care about.

Then, in a personal and genuine way, you talk or ask about these things with your prospective student. Things like…

  • What hobbies are important to them?
  • What’s their family like?
  • Do they have kids?
  • What causes do they care about?
  • Do they have pets?
  • Have they lost anyone they care about recently?
  • Is something (besides the academic decision they’re making) worrying them?

Take notes on everything you can learn about your prospective student along these personal lines that may or may not have anything to do with their enrollment decision.

Then allow your genuine interest and care to come out in your phone conversations, one-on-one visits, handwritten notes, and texts.

“How did it go being Belle in Beauty and the Beast?” Or, “How is your mom doing?” are examples of personal touches you can make with your prospective student.

And if you get really creative, you can do something as big as visiting prospective students with a real-live school mascot.

Social media interaction can also count as a personal touch if it’s a private message or about something personal or emotive. For example, you can post on their public wall a “happy birthday” wish or a “good luck” wish.

High-touch enrollment marketing is going above and beyond to be personal.

To get the margin in your week to do relationships in this way with your prospective students, you’ll need to get much of your communications flow to be automated using the tools above.

By automating as much of your comm flow as possible, you can make the room to do the high-touch strategy that makes the difference when your prospective student is towards the end of the enrollment cycle.

Who gets the personal touch?

As beautiful as high-touch enrollment marketing sounds, there’s no practical way that you or your enrollment team can give every prospective student this level of personal touch.

You just don’t have the time in the day or the energy to keep up with them all.

But you HAVE to do it on the most interested of your prospective students. I would also place strategic “touches” in the parts of your enrollment funnel where you’re experiencing the most friction like Incomplete App to Finished App or Admit to Deposit.

There must be a real difference in the amount of time, care, and personal touch that you give to the prospective students at the end of the enrollment cycle.

The better your enrollment team gets at leading students to higher and higher levels of personal touch in the enrollment cycle, the higher chances you’ll have of increasing your enrollment numbers.

Despite the growing challenges facing private educational institutions today, you can beat them – and more often than not, you can do it without blowing up your budget.

But you can’t do it without a personal touch.


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Featured image by Vasyl via Adobe Stock
Next Level image by Tierney via Adobe Stock