Student Personas and Behavior-Targeted Content

Date posted: July 3, 2014

Today’s colleges face the mammoth task of differentiating themselves in an increasingly competitive marketplace. It’s a noisy, action-packed space where schools jostle for visibility, forever searching out innovative ways to promote the relevance of their programs and connect with prospective students. And it’s the connecting part that has proven most critical when it comes to generating, engaging and converting new leads. Your school can’t hope to successfully attract new students without a clear understanding of their needs, hopes, objectives, and concerns. Taking the logic a step further, we now seek to understand their habits, building behaviorally targeted content that dynamically responds to – even anticipates – the way leads interact with college web platforms.

Building Student Personas

Website analytics in higher education delivers a wealth of information about visitors. Marketing teams can learn volumes by tracking how leads engage with web pages. But before schools can make changes to content, they must first know who the majority of their visitors are. Which different persona groups do they naturally fall into?

student persona targeting

Visitor data like this, arranged into persona groupings helps marketing teams craft content that truly addresses the interests and needs of their most common leads. By analyzing metrics like pages visited, time spent on each page, links clicked, and searches performed, colleges can begin to customize student recruitment messaging with specific behavioral characteristics in mind.

Personalized Content

So you’ve identified several key personas for your student leads. Now you can leverage this knowledge and make changes to how they experience your website and engage with your content. For example, when the First Time Student group returns to the program description page a second time, they should encounter content designed with their profile in mind. Topics could include:

  • prepping for college
  • selecting a program
  • living on campus
  • managing first-year expenses
  • community orientation events

When the Career Professional group visits your continuing education page again, they will encounter personalized content, such as:

  • second career strategies
  • retraining for a new career
  • upgrading your professional skill set

And when the International Student group comes back to your English certification page, they will find an alternate CTA (call to action) waiting – perhaps a downloadable brochure detailing your school’s support services for ESL students.

A College Case In Point

In collaboration with HubSpot, the Lauterstein-Conway Massage School designed a website homepage that features a prominent CTA:

customized content strategy

When targeting analyzed lead behaviors, the college could design this CTA to change, depending on the visitor profile – a financial aid package for students who have searched for funding solutions, or an e-book on re-training strategies for career professionals.

Beginning with a few simple tweaks, your school website evolves into a dynamic, responsive interface. Not only does this approach improve click-through-rates, engagement, and conversion, it provides the much sought-after personalized connection so critical to differentiating your school from its many competitors.

What’s Next: High-Tech Targeting

Soon, college and university websites will feature alternating homepages and landing pages, customized according to the behavioral profiles of visiting leads. Marketers will craft content strategies for schools that respond to specific search engine key terms, sending visitors directly to the educational resources they’re likely to find most appealing. Bucknell University heralds this evolution with their customizable homepage. It doesn’t morph on its own in response to visitor personas, but it allows students to optimize its contents to their liking – and that’s a sign of things to come:

student recruitment personalization
Admissions departments will continue to identify lead behavioral personas, breaking them down into increasingly specific subdivisions. Right now, Facebook creates profiles for advertising based on 11 identifying factors – from relationship status and ethnic affinity to purchasing habits. And each factor subdivides into countless more. Purchasing habits alone breaks down into 14 different behavior types!

Colleges will follow suit, striving to learn more about their leads, long before they actually visit their web platforms. Analytics will reveal the web journey of each prospective student, letting marketers know precisely what content to serve. Digital marketing trends point to a not-so-distant-future where no two leads see the same website. Everything is personalized. Everything is targeted toward amazingly detailed student personas.

Is your college prepared for the next level of behavior targeted marketing?