The pandemic forced the acceleration of changes that many educational institutions planned to implement gradually. The situation required a quick adaptation of the existing tools to new processes, and the development of a different method of implementing key tasks. Thanks to quick decisions and efforts made by all employees of the university, it was possible to maintain the smooth functioning of the units and ensure the safety of students and employees.
Over time, it can be seen that the solutions introduced to cope with unexpected changes, while fulfilling their role, do not fully reflect the needs and require further development.
One step ahead of the registration system
Currently, most people involved in the recruitment process are aware that it begins much earlier than at the stage of filling out the form and paying the fee by the potential student.
Building the university’s brand, its media and local visibility, are elements that facilitate the acquisition of candidates, but are not directly included in the recruitment processes, often managed by completely different people or departments and financed from separate budgets.
The situation is different when it comes to reaching the right people with information about the offer of specific faculties or providing education in specific fields of study. Financial constraints exclude the possibility of carrying out large-scale campaigns in the mass media. This does not mean, however, that universities have no chance of reaching the right recipients. A well-planned marketing campaign does not have to involve huge amounts of money, as long as it meets certain conditions. First of all, it is about the precise selection of communication channels and the adoption of an appropriate (attractive and personalized) form of communication. The key issue is to effectively reach the right audience in these media, which are their “natural environment”. This means, first of all, carrying out many daily activities in them, e.g. spending leisure time, seeking entertainment, organizing social or professional matters. These can be both online social channels and popular portals or thematic pages, reflecting the interests of candidates. It is worth noting that they should also be thematically consistent with the promoted offer of studies. Planning and displaying appropriately tailored messages in online and mobile channels is possible thanks to advanced digital marketing tools.
It is necessary to realize that the university’s offer starts in a race for the attention and interest of potential candidates on an equal footing with other content – sales, professional, entertainment. Decisions regarding the choice of a university and a field of study are not made by candidates solely on the basis of rational motives, and properly conducted communication can bring an advantage. Changes in shopping styles and the approach to education by young people have brought recruitment processes closer to shopping paths. In view of these changes, efforts to maintain high quality of education (even if they translate into high positions in the rankings of majors) and communication in own media (websites, social media profiles) are far too little activity. Such an approach nowadays does not guarantee obtaining the number of applicants that would enable the admission of potentially the best candidates to studies.
Our experience in cooperation with universities clearly shows that the recruitment process reflects very complex sales paths. This applies in particular to communication and marketing activities. Due to the current situation and the transfer of most life activities to the space of electronic devices, it is necessary to conduct campaigns on the Internet, with particular emphasis on mobile solutions. Such activities are also consciously undertaken by universities. From a practical point of view, good results are brought by the use of knowledge and commercial standards related to communication management and all processes that build the so-called “customer experience”. This approach allows to achieve very good results in optimizing recruitment activities in higher education.
One of the most important steps is to acquire knowledge about the needs, expectations and behavior of the recipient group and to understand the mechanisms related to the choice of the field of study and university. Communication management can be supported by advanced IT tools that offer analytics using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and optimize campaigns based on the data obtained. Thanks to their use, communication will be both automated and personalized. Precise configuration of marketing activity, supported by ongoing analytics and smooth implementation of changes in accordance with the received indications, will allow you to achieve a high level of efficiency. Of course, each university is different and requires an individual approach. Therefore, in addition to choosing IT tools, it is also important to use the knowledge of experienced consultants. Feel free to contact me, I will be happy to share my knowledge and experience.
Adam Czeczuk, Head of Consulting Services