March 21

7 A+ Ingredients for Inspiring College Tours

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College tours are the holy grail of higher ed marketing. Prospective students are much more likely to enroll once they have visited your campus at least once. 

That’s why it’s so important to make your campus visits an inspiring moment.

It’s easy to think of college tours as informational trips where you point out the history or function of the various places across your campus. 

However, inspiring college tours help prospective students see themselves on your campus for the next four or so years of their life.

Inspiring college tours not only give prospective students information, they give them a feeling of belonging. 

Here are seven ingredients I’ve seen work over and over to make college tours an unforgettable experience.

Anticipation

Inspiring college tours anticipate the guest’s questions before they arrive.

This is important as it’s the key ingredient to making them feel welcome. 

  • Will they know how to get around your campus when they arrive?
  • Is your signage visible and sufficient to guide them?
  • Will they have to pay for parking? Lunch? Lodging?
  • Where do they go for answers?

When you anticipate your guest’s questions, it makes them feel welcome. 

They feel like they belong on your campus because the people here really get them. 

Anticipating questions is about thinking like an outsider, with all their questions and uncertainties. 

Be sure to answer questions before the college visit through your email and other communications with your visitors telling them what to expect when they arrive.

Answers

Have answers ready to the questions you’ll be anticipating from visitors. 

This is about training your tour guides with well-crafted responses to the most asked questions. 

Tour guides could answer these questions in any way they feel like during the campus tour, but more than likely, their response will be off-brand.

Make sure tour guides are giving answers that reinforce your brand voice, values, and language.

Give them easy-to-learn scripts or talking points to help them navigate the common or the tough questions they’ll receive like…

  • How much does an education here cost?
  • I don’t see a lot of students like me. What’s your college’s diversity policy?
  • Are their scholarships available for students like me?

Acknowledgement

Finding ways to acknowledge how important your visitors are shows them that they are appreciated.

At a deep level, we all want to feel affirmed, to be acknowledged for who we are. 

Gift packages, perks, backstage tours, one-on-one meetings with VIP faculty and staff can inspire visitors to feel like this could be their home over the next four years.

Even before they’ve made the deposit, they’re already being welcomed into the inner circle.

Afterwards, thank them for giving you a chance to show them your campus.

I also recommend acknowledging the parents in some way. 

Consider a gift or package for the parents who come. If you can get their contact info, be sure to send them a thank you note as well. 

Recognize them for the role they’re going to play in the student’s college decision.

In this image, I got to meet Blue, the star of Butler U's marketing mascot program and see how they use their live mascot to create school spirit and strengthen their education branding..

If you want to go the extra mile, you could also acknowledge the family pets!

In fact, acknowledging our pets partly inspired my son’s college choice.  

Attention

Think through every minute of the campus visit. Organize activities, meetings, and experiences lined up so there’s little to no “dead time” in between.

Make sure your tour guides or any ambassador students are well acquainted with the campus tour plan so that they can keep the tour moving along at a perfect pace.

Attraction

While programs, history, and job placement rates are important, the way your facilities look is perhaps more so when it comes to inspiring students to enroll.

During a campus tour, the…

  • cleanliness of your bathrooms, 
  • freshness of the decor, 
  • condition of your lawns and gardens, 
  • illumination and campus security features
  • environmental marketing (signage) and 
  • overall look of your auditoriums, dorms, and halls 

…are all part of the marketing message. 

Make sure it’s a positive one.

Action

Inspiring college tours don’t end when the student goes home. 

Following up with campus visitors is where you’ll be able to reap the benefits of all your hard work. 

You can use automated marketing messages and high-touch follow up strategies to inspire students to take the next step of making their deposit or turning in their admission packet.

Aptitude

At some level, everyone is involved in enrollment marketing.

From the executive suite to janitorial services, everyone should be prepared to greet guests, give directions, and share the vision, values, and brand language of the institution.

There should be an aptitude among all faculty and staff on the campus in how they treat visitors.

Just think of Disney World’s famous process for customer service, and you’ve got the idea.

They train each “cast member” or employee in how Disney the brand treats each and every person.

In doing so, you can create a unified, inspiring experience for your college tours.

Would you like more insights and ideas for higher ed marketing?

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