5 Steps to Flawless Student Inquiry Follow-Up
Date posted: August 16, 2017
Digital marketing campaigns are an excellent way to generate direct student inquiries for your school, but it’s what you do with those inquiries that matters. In today’s interconnected world, prospective students expect fast, personalized responses from schools, and because most potential recruits shop around and look at multiple options, providing timely, effective follow-ups is essential if you want to make a lasting impression and reach your enrolment goals.
For some schools, following up with direct inquiries is a challenging stage of the student recruitment process. Whether your school is not used to directly managing student inquiries from the beginning, needs a refresher on follow-up best practices, or is accustomed to relying on agencies to do much of the heavy lifting, this easy-to-follow guide can help you fine-tune your efforts.
1. Create Lead Capture Forms that Encourage Student Inquiries
The first step in effective student inquiry follow-up is to create lead capture forms on your website and landing pages that encourage students to inquire about courses or programs, and provide their contact information and details about what they’re interested in. This will help to evaluate the likely level of interest each prospective student has in your programs, and to tailor and personalize your follow-up process to their individual needs.
Integrating lead capture forms throughout your website makes it easier for students to contact you and request more information, increasing the likelihood of them making an inquiry. Program, financial aid, and admissions pages are just some examples of important places where lead capture forms should live on your website. Every landing page you create for your paid advertising initiatives should also feature a lead capture form with an eye-catching and inviting call-to-action (CTA) that uses active words like ‘apply’, ‘call’, or ‘contact’.
Make sure to capture as much essential information as possible, without overwhelming the prospective student with too many fields to complete. Typically, asking for a prospective student’s name, phone number, email, the program their interested in, and their location, along with a question field, is enough information to get the ball rolling.
Example: Kean University’s landing page for its Architecture and Design degrees features a lead capture form that asks students for their contact information, as well as their level of education and program of interest.
Lead capture forms for schools promoting to international students, in particular, may require slightly different or additional fields. The potential applicant’s level of English, native language, and study visa status, for example, would be useful to know before attempting to contact them. In addition, you can use this information for lead scoring purposes.
2. Adopt and Integrate a CRM System to Streamline Your Student Inquiry Follow-up
If your school is still managing direct student inquiries with unorganized and time-consuming excel spreadsheets, you can streamline the entire student inquiry follow-up process by adopting a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.
CRM systems make it easy to manage and store important information about all of your student inquiries in one place. One of the main advantages of CRM is that it lets you record your contact history with students and take notes about each interaction. In addition, a CRM system can also help you remember at which stage in the buyer’s journey the prospective student is at, which is especially handy for teams with larger recruitment departments that may be sharing the responsibility of following up with students. By storing the information in one place, you ensure that no student inquiry will ever fall through the cracks and that your entire team has the information they need to guide students through the enrolment journey.
When a prospect completes a lead capture form on your website, the information is automatically stored in your CRM, and an email can be sent to them immediately. From there, you can manage individual leads, use a template builder to create emails, segment leads, schedule calls, track when emails are read, and even respond to student inquiries using SMS. You can also segment your contact lists so that each prospective student only receives communications in their native language, making it ideal for international recruitment.
Example: The Mautic CRM dashboard pictured below shows a graph demonstrating the number of contacts (leads) created each day for a month, and a map showing where the majority of the leads are coming from. Mautic is one of the CRM solutions HEM offers for schools.
3. Build a Lead Scoring Framework for More Targeted Student Inquiry Follow-up
Lead scoring is an important part of the follow-up process that involves assigning numeric values to both the qualities of prospective students and the actions they take. The more points a student has, the higher quality lead they are. You can also assign negative scores that detract from a student’s overall score if they take an action that indicates they may not be a good fit.
Lead scoring is generally based on two factors: implicit and explicit. You can rank students on a number of explicit factors such as gender, location, age group, and program of interest, and implicit factors like how they interact with your website, if they follow your school on social media, or if they open emails. Explicit factors are those you are likely to collect from the information provided by prospective students when they complete a lead capture form on your website. Thus, keeping your explicit lead scoring factors in mind when creating lead capture forms, or vice versa, is important to ensure you obtain relevant and actionable information.
A well-defined lead scoring framework creates a unified system for determining how to manage and rank leads. You may decide that all prospects with 50+ points should receive a phone call, while those with only 25 points should be contacted by email. Lead scoring allows you to deliver the right type of content at the right time and in the right quantity, so you don’t ward off hesitant potential applicants that may need more nurturing or mistakenly disregard prospective students who are ready to enrol.
4. Make Timely Phone Calls to Prospective Students
Building a personalized connection with a prospective student as early on in the recruitment process as possible is the key to success. In order to compete with the other schools your prospect may be inquiring about, it’s advisable to follow up on student inquiries by phone as soon as possible.
It’s also important to create a fantastic first impression of your school. The initial phone call made to a potential applicant is the first opportunity to begin building rapport and demonstrate how they will be treated by your school going forward. Ensure that any recruitment personnel following up on student inquiries is extremely knowledgeable about your school’s programs and any other pertinent concerns a potential student may have like study visa requirements or student housing. Contacting prospective students in their native language is also preferable, which can present a challenge for many schools.
Here are a few tips—which HEM uses for our in-house Dedicated Follow-Up Service—that schools can use when following up with prospective students over the phone:
- Try calling three times in the first week until the initial contact
- Address the student by name throughout the entire conversation
- Use a friendly, but sincere tone
- Ask many questions about the prospect’s reason for inquiring to your school to learn as much as possible about their interests and needs, so you can tailor your approach
- Provide your name and contact details, and let students know to contact you directly with any concerns or questions
By keeping these tips in mind, your school can ensure each contact made with the prospective student is pushing them closer to enrolment.
5. Use Email Campaigns to Follow Up on Student Inquiries
Emails are an important channel for following up on student inquiries. There are multiple types of email campaigns to consider, and which one you use should depend on your school’s needs, strategies, and target student personas. The trick is to provide the right information at the right time, without overwhelming the applicant.
One of the best tactics for following up with prospective students and encouraging them to take the next step towards enrolment is lead nurturing campaigns, which are an automated series of emails that provide key pieces of information students need as they move through the funnel, from awareness and consideration, to intent and decision. You can initiate lead nurturing campaigns immediately when a student inquires, when they reach a certain lead score, or whenever else you see fit.
Weekly or monthly newsletters are another great email tactic for keeping your school top-of-mind. You can use them to provide information about your school and upcoming events, distribute content, or provide useful industry information that the potential applicant will find interesting. When sending out newsletters by email, always ensure that each one is equipped with an enticing CTA that links to a designated landing page or web page.
It’s also important to follow up by email when a prospect signs up for an event at your school, such as an open day, webinar, or information session. After a student registers for an event, consider sending an email thanking them for signing up, and another reminding them about the event shortly before it occurs. Afterwards, ensure you thank the student for attending either by email or preferably by phone. Using email, you could offer a recap of the event and any additional information the prospect would need to take the next step towards enrolment. Students who have attended an event are highly promising leads, so it’s essential you are timely and on top of post-event communications to continue to encourage them through the funnel.
When it comes to student recruitment, well-timed follow-up is extremely important. Surprisingly enough, many schools don’t follow up with students as often as they should, and because of this, they lose out on valuable opportunities to recruit students. However, by devoting some extra time and resources to the process and following the methods outlined in this blog, schools can work to improve and bolster their follow-up efforts, and ultimately improve their conversion rates.