At the beginning of their enrollment journey, students typically research their field of interest and explore different options for pursuing or continuing their education. With the right marketing and student recruitment techniques, what starts as a simple search can transform into a full conversion—giving your school the chance to appeal to new prospects and boost enrollments. This is where TOFU to BOFU marketing comes in, also known as Top of the Funnel (TOFU) and Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU) marketing.
For these different marketing approaches to work, schools need to refine their admissions recruitment funnel. The admissions funnel flowchart below is a good example of what your school’s enrollment journey map might look like.
It starts at the inquiry stage, where schools do their best to attract new prospects. Once prospects discover a school they’re interested in, they move on to the application stage. Here, they learn more about the school and, in many cases, await an acceptance letter. However, the journey isn’t that clean and easy.
TOFU to BOFU marketing techniques ensure that prospects are funnelled from one stage to the next in a way that encourages the most conversions. This means students commit to your school after receiving their acceptance or paying their deposit, becoming new students at your institution. By using both TOFU and BOFU marketing approaches, you can effectively capture the interest of your prospects and motivate them to enroll.
Here’s how your school can align its marketing initiatives with the student enrollment journey for an even better student recruitment strategy!
Part 1: The Student Search and Top of the Funnel Marketing Strategies
At the top of the admissions funnel, prospects have become aware of a problem and have just discovered your school. Here, a prospect may be searching for specific topics or even different types of programs in their field of interest. Your school’s job is to present itself as the solution, inviting prospects to consider your program offerings and engage further with your content.
Usually, TOFU marketing targets the widest audience with the lowest value, since prospects in the awareness stage are the least involved in your school’s marketing. To counteract this and get more out of your TOFU marketing strategies, you can consider remarketing ads.
Remarketing is all about showing your school to prospects who have already visited your website. Since the first interaction is not enough to generate a conversion, remarketing can be used as a way for businesses to increase their exposure to a target audience and build familiarity. In fact, multiple interactions are needed to move prospects along to the next stage of the funnel. These interactions involve different types of messages and content designed to attract your audience and familiarize them with your brand. Your school can use this approach to appeal to its prospects as they browse the internet.
Example: The Google Ad below advertises the Canadian Academy of Osteopathy’s Osteopathic Manual Practitioner Program to prospects who have already interacted with the school. This ad appears on other websites on the internet, reminding interested prospects of the program while boosting awareness.
Attract Prospects with Personalized Content that Addresses their Needs
It’s important always to consider who your audience is, including their motivations and concerns. By developing student personas, you can create personalized content that better resonates with your prospects. This way, you can highlight what matters most to them and showcase how they can find what they’re looking for at your school—featuring everything from great programs and teachers to a vibrant community.
For instance, if your audience is career-oriented, you can showcase tips on acing interviews and building strong resumes. If you represent a boarding school, you can provide a glimpse into dorm life. In fact, this is what École Nouvelle de la Suisse Romande (ENSR) does in one of their blogs, targeting prospective families by showcasing the school environment:
For an even greater impact, you can combine personalized content with a high-fidelity content development approach. This means going beyond blogs and creating content that exceeds your prospects’ expectations. Your school can share compelling videos.
Example: In a short video, Randolph-Macon Academy showcases its unique student life experience. Here, catchy music and fun, high-quality shots pull the viewer in:
Another example of high-fidelity content includes attention-grabbing infographics. These infographics can be a way for your school to attract prospects more easily and convey information. Because of their visual format, infographics can serve as great additions to your school’s blog or social media content.
Example: Automotive Training Centres have created an eye-catching infographic that effectively summarizes the key benefits of pursuing a trade career. This content can appeal to prospects interested in automotive trades, pushing them to continue further down the admissions enrollment funnel.
Source: Automotive Training Centres
Connect with Your Audience using a Strong Social Media Strategy
Your prospects may turn to social media to discover your school’s community. With a strong social media strategy, you can draw them in and cultivate a keen interest in your school’s programs, community, and campus.
Social media plays a key role in your school’s TOFU to BOFU marketing, particularly when it comes to the top and middle stages. At the top of the funnel, it could be used to increase brand awareness—introducing prospects to your school’s mission and how it works towards achieving it. Towards the middle of the funnel, social media can be relied on as a tool for generating engagement and building trust. As prospects begin to seek out more information about your school, they can turn to social media for answers. This information can range from student life and campus atmosphere to student resources and program benefits.
There’s a lot you can do to attract prospects with social media, including spotlighting your students and faculty or promoting different programs and campus hotspots. You can even use it to generate engagement among your community by showcasing the love your current students have for your school to new prospects.
Example: The image below shows an Instagram post created by Webster Vienna Private University, asking their followers to share their favourite things about the school. The community delivers and leaves its positive feedback in the comments for other social media users to see:
Focus on SEO to Boost Your School’s Online Visibility
Undeniably, SEO is a key component of a strong digital marketing strategy—and it can contribute significantly to improving student recruitment. Creating SEO-driven content with high-gain keywords can help your school boost its visibility. Consequently, prospects at the top of the funnel become more likely to discover your website as they search for relevant content.
For example, prospects who are looking to improve their language skills can type “language schools in Toronto” into the Google search engine. Schools with a highly effective SEO strategy are more likely to appear on the first page, catching the eye of interested prospects:
Generally speaking, TOFU marketing is content-heavy and focused on your student personas. This way, you can improve your lead generation efforts. Here, your school should aim to appeal to specific needs and interests, all while focusing on broadening your reach and exposure. If you’re interested in receiving personalized support, then reach out to our team of industry experts to develop your inbound marketing strategy. Once you set up your inbound efforts, you can begin fleshing out the next stages of your TOFU to BOFU marketing strategy.
Part 2: Use Middle of the Funnel Marketing during Student Inquiry and Application Stages
Effective TOFU to BOFU marketing relies on strong middle ground. School marketers looking to maximize the impact of their college admissions funnel can use Middle of The Funnel (MOFU) marketing to bridge all of their efforts together.
At this stage, prospects are already aware of your school and have likely interacted with different marketing initiatives. The goal now is to keep them engaged by providing them with highly-targeted, relevant, and valuable information. That’s because prospects are entering the consideration stage of the customer journey for education, where they’re deliberating or preparing to send an application.
Lead nurturing is a key focus here. It’s about cultivating leads and fostering their confidence to enrol. In this stage, you’ll focus on anticipating your prospects’ needs and addressing their questions, concerns, and motivations to help move them closer to enrolling at your school.
Instead of presenting promotional content, your school will benefit more by showcasing its expertise and know-how. Blog articles and social media posts can feature your cutting-edge research, standout faculty, and student success stories. Since prospects are considering all of their options, you’ll want your marketing efforts to prove that your school is the right fit for them.
Nurture Leads in Your Admissions Funnel with Strong Landing Pages and CTAs
Creating landing pages for your school’s programs is a key way to achieve this goal. Landing pages can serve as the final destination for your inbound content as well as a way to guide valuable traffic to other marketing initiatives, completing your TOFU to BOFU marketing strategy.
Landing pages feature rich content that provides value to prospects—including quality images and compelling short videos. Doing so gives your school the opportunity to present its value proposition and cover prospects’ pain points. These web pages are all about driving conversions and generating leads, and it does this well by providing leads with well-structured content focused on a clear and specific call to action (CTA). As a school marketer, you’ll want to use this space to share high-quality web content that naturally guides prospects to a CTA that aligns with their interests.
Example: Carleton University has created an ad that appears to users searching for an online MBA degree in Canada. Upon clicking the ad, prospects are directed to a landing page that clearly outlines the unique selling points of its program:
At the top and bottom of the page, prospects are invited to request more information. This pulls up a brief form that allows them to leave their contact information:
Unlike standard web pages, these landing pages typically don’t include the same navigation system as a school’s standard website. That’s because a menu feature would draw the focus away from the main CTA and conversion—the whole purpose of the landing page.
By featuring a contact form and encouraging prospects to reach out, your school can begin developing its lead generation and capturing process—collecting the contact details of prospects who are more interested in interacting with more of your school’s messaging. In this way, landing pages become the perfect bridge between the top and bottom stages of your school’s admissions funnel.
Engage Your Prospects with Compelling and Relevant Email Messaging
With a list of leads, your school can begin cultivating an impactful email newsletter. In fact, you can use email marketing as a way to capitalize on the momentum of your landing page efforts and push your prospects further into the consideration stage. This is where email workflows and marketing automation can come in handy, particularly when developing TOFU to BOFU marketing strategies.
Your school can create email marketing workflows to follow up with your leads along a predetermined timeframe, nudging them towards consuming valuable content that can shape, guide, and persuade the student to consider enrolling. These workflows can spotlight relevant events or encourage your prospects to speak with admissions. They can even be used to share helpful resources for success in your prospect’s chosen career field or insider tips for applying to your programs as application deadlines approach.
Example: To engage its leads, the University of Cambridge shares an email focused on helping prospects better prepare for interviews at the university. A brief blurb informs prospects what they can expect by clicking the link, sending them to content that targets those closest to the bottom of the funnel:
Part 3: Rely on Bottom of the Funnel Marketing to Boost Student Enrollments
At this point of the student enrollment journey, prospects are ready to decide on their options, including proceeding to complete their application. They may have even sent their application and received an acceptance letter—deliberating between different schools before making their final choice and committing to one.
This is the time for your school to focus its efforts on closing prospects and driving enrollments. One way to do this is to involve your student community and share powerful student testimonials. These testimonials can be delivered in different formats, giving you the flexibility to choose between video content and blog post articles. Alternatively, your school can also share case studies, open house invitations, or even campus tours to more actively involve prospects. Here, your goal is to help prospects feel confident about choosing your school and starting your programs.
When it comes to organizing your TOFU to BOFU marketing efforts, online admissions software is a valuable tool to keep in mind. Using education-focused CRM software makes it possible for your school to funnel prospects easily from one stage to the next. It also gives you the chance to provide your prospects with dynamic and personalized interactions that are more likely to encourage conversions.
Embrace Lead Qualification and Scoring in TOFU to BOFU Marketing
Having a CRM is an instrumental part of lead qualification and scoring. Lead qualification is the process of deciding whether or not prospects are likely to become students, giving you an idea of how your team should invest its time and resources. The key is to look for whether they’ll be a good fit for your school and if they’ve shown a high level of interest in your program offers.
To help with this process, school marketers can turn to lead scoring. Here, you can assign different leads a numeric value based on a scale of 100. This score indicates their likelihood to convert depending on a set of factors that your admission team prioritizes. Taking this step can help you identify high-potential leads and revise your lead flow as well as lead conversion path. This way, you can better understand and optimize your college admissions journey map.
Example: In HEM’s proprietary CRM platform, school marketers can easily view a lead’s score (top right) as well as other information before deciding whether or not to pursue a lead.
Bonus: Optimize Your School’s TOFU to BOFU Marketing Strategies
Optimizing your TOFU to BOFU marketing strategies is a big part of ensuring your continued success. Your strategies and approaches shouldn’t be fixed. Instead, they should be adapted to reflect the latest trends as well as your student personas’ changing needs and expectations.
A lead conversion audit is a great way to optimize your admissions funnel, giving you valuable insights for lead nurturing at various stages of the enrollment management funnel. Some of the steps you can take also include:
- Reviewing admissions-related tasks for ways to improve productivity
- Conducting digital marketing audits and analyzing your competition
- Evaluating prospective student segments for marketing automation
- Assessing the impact of your automated workflows
Delight Students Even After the Conversion Stage
Schools with a strong digital marketing strategy create compelling content for every stage of the admissions funnel—and this extends to post-enrollment. Education marketing doesn’t just stop at the conversion stage. Instead, it should continue to target current students and deliver experiences that delight them.
Here, your school can create a drip email campaign that welcomes new students and provides them with handy resources. You can also choose to send a survey to showcase your active interest in involving your community and generating student feedback.
Some schools may also use this opportunity to schedule follow-up meetings with their students or upsell specific programs, like study abroad initiatives. Alternatively, they may choose to share unique discounts to encourage current students to return again for another course or program.
Taking part in all of these activities can help you better retain your students and strengthen your brand loyalty. It can also be a way to transform students into big supporters of your school. Through student ambassadors, you can more authentically promote your message and reach a wider audience, pulling in new leads to engage with your TOFU to BOFU marketing efforts.