Take a second and remember the first time you stepped on your alma mater’s campus. You’re nervous and excited; anxious, but ready to start this new stage in your life. The sights, the smells, the emotions–memories that will stick with you throughout your life– create that once in a lifetime experience. What challenges did you come across? What do you wish you knew back then to make it a better experience?
Now, take that experience and try to express it with words and images. How would you capture that emotion in a phrase or in a photo? What would be the one thing that you would want the future generation to cement in their memories? The challenge: you only have 15 seconds to capture the attention of your prospect and inspire them to take an action.
Easy, right? Well, maybe not so much.
So, what do you do? How do you jam-pack all the important information in your messaging while keeping your target audience captivated and engaged? How do you move them through the funnel and keep them eager for the next step in the process?
The key to engagement is understanding the prospect experience and empathizing. Branding is all about stepping away and seeing your institution through your prospect’s point of view. This ensures that your brand not only stays relevant but also that you’re attracting the right students for your community.
Forget your deadlines and goals for a minute. When was the last time you stopped and asked what the hardest part of the enrollment process is FOR THE STUDENT?
Where do you even begin? The answer: research.
Perception is reality. Therefore, a successful brand campaign begins with a thoughtful, proven perception study process. A perception study will put your brand to the test and evaluate how both your prospects, as well as your internal audience, perceive your school (and your brand). A simple online survey can provide critical insight into the beliefs and behaviors of your prospects and stakeholders, and lay the foundation for successful enrollment marketing strategies.
Who should make up your internal audience? Current students (undergraduate and graduate), faculty, staff, administration, and alumni are indispensable resources. Exploring the extent to which your stakeholders understand and embrace your mission, vision and institutional strengths are key. Remember that they are the ones living and advocating your school’s brand on a daily basis.
Don’t stop there!
Is your messaging resonating with your key audience? A survey of your prospective students will help you answer that. Getting prospects to respond can be tricky, so consider incentivizing them in some way. The farther along they are in the funnel, the more likely they are to respond, so applicants and beyond are ideal candidates to leverage. Research with prospective students will identify issues related to your reputation, image, and awareness, perceived strengths, and weaknesses, as well as overall academic reputation. You’ll gain insight into who they are, where they are, and what influences their college decision-making process.
An online study also provides the quantitative analysis necessary to establish baseline metrics and engage a larger campus community in the quest for the right students. The more data you have, the better. Information is a powerful tool that will make every communication you have with a potential student personal and inviting, establishing the trust that is needed to make a decision as big as choosing a college or university to attend.
It’s simple but takes time, reflection, and thought on your part. Put your brand to the test and see how it measures up. Did it pass the test this time? Does it need some work? Remember to keep checking in on your brand to make sure it’s working for your institution.
If you’re uncertain whether your current branding is helping or inhibiting your enrollment goals and you’re seeking a data-driven answer, research is key. If you have any more questions about how to get started evaluating how your institution’s brand measures up, the TWG Plus team would be happy to help! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a time to talk.