Since our webinar a few weeks ago, Breaking Through: Web Strategies to Win Over Millennials, we’ve received some terrific follow-up questions, a few of which we’re addressing here. To those of you who attended, thanks for your time and all the great feedback. If you missed it but are interested in downloading the presentation, you can find it here.
Now let’s get to those questions.
You spoke about the need to differentiate the university in the mind of the millennial, but we’re a medium-sized liberal arts school in a state with lots of other liberal arts schools. How do we begin to differentiate our institution?
While this topic could easily be another webinar, we’ll try to topline it. Every marketer, no matter what the category, really must be able to answer the essential question: Why would a consumer choose my brand over my competitor’s? First, understand who your key peer schools are based on where your target students are applying. From there, do some honest analysis of your relative advantages and disadvantages against these schools on a whole range of components including things like location, size, facilities, rankings, social opportunities, career factors, etc. Since emotion plays an important role in college selection, include both tangible and intangible components in your analysis. Also, be sure to monitor your online reputation closely. It’s a terrific way to see where you stand in the competitive landscape. These online conversations also provide valuable insights into what’s really important to students. If you’re presuming now, or if you’re relying on older data, you could be missing important opportunities. Regardless, it’s always best to test your assumptions. Convene some focus groups – they don’t have to be formal, but you need to talk to enough students that patterns emerge. At that point, you should have a clearer picture of your key differentiators so that you can adjust your brand messaging accordingly.
We’d love to have a virtual tour with all the bells and whistles like the one you highlighted in the webinar, but that’s just not doable with our current budget. Any ideas for a strong Plan B?
Designing and developing a virtual tour for your school does not necessarily require a large financial investment in a third-party application. A creative, interactive approach can be conceived using readily available resources such as Google Maps combined with high quality photographs of your campus and facilities, videos and effective text descriptions. The key is to stay focused on a strategy that gives students a real sense of what your campus looks like and a view into places that would be part of their day-to-day experience. This can be done successfully with something as simple as a slideshow of images, but by connecting these images to locations on a map you add another layer of dimensional data that helps put everything into perspective for student explorers. There are many ways to take advantage of the Google API to produce interactive features that allow students to click on location points and view related images or videos. Developers with experience working with Google can also create multiple layers of data to help students customize their view of campus. For example, they could designate categories of location data around student life, athletics or classroom facilities and allow students to select which types of information they would like to view. This also reiterates a point that we spoke of often during the webinar – creating opportunities for students to have a personalized experience.
More creative, internally produced approaches such as these may actually be more cost effective in the long run. Applications that are developed by external parties may require costly updates if information on your facilities changes or your campus grows. It is important to consider how you would envision your virtual tour evolving in the future when you select a design approach that will be the most appropriate for your school.
Thanks for the valuable insights into millennials, but non-traditional target audiences are becoming increasingly important to our marketing efforts. Can we extrapolate any of what we learned in the webinar to, for example, adult learners?
Great question. In fact, part two of our higher ed white paper which will be released in the next few months gets very specific about why you shouldn’t be putting all your eggs in the millennial basket. So while we’ll defer an in-depth answer until spring, it is important to recognize that millennials represent much more than a distinct marketing segment. As the first digital natives, their habits and preferences regarding technology and communication have necessitated a whole new world of marketing as a two-way relationship, which will transcend their generation. That means that older target prospects for continuing education, for example, will follow the millennial lead in the way they interact with brands and what they will demand from a higher education institution. That includes things like greater customization and personalization overall, demonstrated career relevance and reliance on social media as a marketing channel.
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