Guide to Brand Awareness

Have you heard people call themselves Cornhuskers, Fighting Irish, Crimson Tide, Tarheels or Buckeyes?

These are perfect examples of where brand awareness and people’s lifestyles intertwine. They wear their school colors with pride and are the greatest brand ambassadors. This is brand awareness.

Our goal for this post is to help you better understand brand awareness: why it is important to all institutions, and how it helps your community grow and thrive.

What is Brand Awareness?

Brand awareness shows how familiar your key audience is with your brand and how well it is recognized. Institutions with a strong brand awareness are often associated with popular athletic programs or have a long-standing history of famous alumni and collegiate accolades.

Brand awareness might seem like an ambiguous concept and in a sense, it is. It can be difficult to see the correlation between brand success and its impact on your Return On Investment (ROI). Although this might not be easy to defend to your President of Enrollment, that doesn’t mean it does not have value. Brand awareness is essential to the success of your enrollment numbers and your overall marketing and fundraising goals. Here’s why.

Brand Awareness Establishes Trust and Loyalty

In an era where prospective students rely on extensive research, their parent’s input, and their peers’ opinions before they make a simple decision, can you imagine what it takes to feel secure about their college choice? Brand trust is everything. Once a prospect forms an emotional connection in some way to your community (i.e. your brand), they are more likely to want to be a part of it; bridging the gap between trust and loyalty.

By establishing a proverbial face to your institution’s name, prospects find it easier to trust. Your brand awareness efforts give your brand a personality and an opportunity to be sincere, tell your story and receive feedback. Which in turn makes them feel heard and special. This is innately human nature.

Brand Awareness Creates Community

Brand awareness for institutions associates actions, values, and programs with a school. Positive brand equity develops when prospects observe a supportive and energized community on social media or in your email communications. A little effort truly goes a long way – you can easily develop strong brand equity by consistently promoting positive student experiences with your school and in turn build brand awareness.

Once a prospect is familiar with your brand, they start to recognize it without assistance, seek it out to learn more about specific programs or events, then they begin to prefer it over some of their other college options. Which is ultimately the goal for your student search initiatives.

How to Establish Brand Awareness

Brand awareness among your audience and the general public doesn’t happen overnight. It also doesn’t happen from a simple advertisement or marketing campaign. Strong brand awareness is a result of multiple simultaneous efforts that extend beyond trying to get a student to apply to your institution.

If you expect to raise awareness of your institution by running a few advertisements on Facebook, you won’t get very far. Here are some ways to establish a solid brand awareness foundation and make a lasting impact on your prospects.

Be Personable

When you are getting to know a new person, what do you like to learn about them? Maybe you like to learn about their hobbies, passions, likes, and dislikes, maybe their goals? You pay attention to how they speak, what gets them excited. These are attributes about your institution that should be promoted. Make them feel like more than a tuition check, show them how you want to include them in your community.

Socialize

Introvert or extrovert, outgoing or quiet, all humans benefit from social contact and spending time with one another and being in a community where they belong. It’s how we stay connected, learn new things, and become known by others.

The same goes for your brand. If you only attempt to connect with your audience when trying to get them to apply or raise money (don’t forget about your alumni) you will be known as the school with a singular intention.

To raise awareness of for your institution, you’ve got to be social. Interact with your audience by asking questions, commenting on posts, or retweeting or sharing content you like. Treat your social accounts as if you were a person trying to make friends, not a business trying to make money.

Be a Storyteller

Storytelling is an incredibly powerful tool for student search and brand awareness. Why? Because it gives something real for your audience to connect with. Developing a narrative around your school and its values humanize it and give it depth.

People love hearing stories about each other. Authenticity is impactful, and it can lead to a big boost in brand awareness.

Make Sharing Easy

Whatever enrollment strategies you are using, it is important to make it easy for your audience to share your content. This could be videos, social media posts, campus events, or alumni news. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s shareable.

Word-of-mouth is the most effective way to establish trust and familiarity among your audience. If a prospect sees a friend or family member is sharing your school’s content, they will take notice. It could inspire them to explore your website and check out your offerings.

How to Measure Brand Awareness

How do you know if your brand awareness efforts are working? How do you know if you need to change direction, top the competition, or fix a crisis? Just like any other marketing metric, you measure it.

Although, brand awareness can’t be measured in the traditional sense. But, you can still review activities and metrics that’ll help you gauge where your brand stands in terms of popularity.

Quantitative Brand Awareness Measures

These numbers can help you paint the overall picture of your brand awareness. To measure quantitatively, check out these metrics:

  • Direct traffic. Direct traffic is the result of people intentionally typing in your URL and visiting your website. Your direct traffic number will tell you how much your marketing is prompting students to visit your website. If you have a single purpose admissions website (digital viewbook) this could be an excellent indication of brand awareness and prospect interest.
  • Site traffic. This number reflects overall site traffic, which will tell you how much (and how long) the general internet population is checking out you. It won’t necessarily tell you exactly where they came from but that doesn’t matter because they are aware of you and are landing on your website.
  • Social engagement. Engagement can refer to followers, likes, retweets, comments, and more. It’s a reflection of how many people are aware of your school and socialize with it, as well as how impactful your posts are.
Qualitative Brand Awareness Measures

This step is where your brand awareness “score” gets a little muddy. But these tactics can still help you gauge who and how many people are aware of your brand. To measure qualitatively, try:

  • Set up Google alerts. Doing this gets you up to speed with how your brand is being talked about online. It will alert you to any news or mentions by third-party press. Plus you can set it up to give you convenient daily or weekly emails. If you set aside just 15 minutes a week to review the alerts, you will have great insight into your brand awareness.
  • Social listening. Who is tagging your institution, mentioning it in comments, or using your hashtag in their posts? The more your audience is discussing your school on social media, the more they’re aware of it.
  • Brand awareness surveys. This process involves getting direct feedback from your students, prospects, and alumni. This can be incredibly helpful with understanding who knows of your brand but also what they think of it.

Utilizing quantitative and qualitative metrics will help you understand your brand awareness among your audience and the general public. It will never be a precise number, but keeping your pulse on these metrics will help you craft campaigns that help you stay connected.

Building and growing brand awareness is a never-ending process, so don’t get frustrated. Boosting your brand awareness through campaigns gives you a chance to explore different techniques in marketing and advertising opportunities you’d otherwise not invest in — meaning new, powerful ways to connect with your audience. So have some fun, be creative and curious, and show your audience what you’re all about!

Bring Your A-Game on the Road

One thing that comes with Fall – aside from pumpkin-spiced everything – is traveling to college fairs and attending conventions.  This can be a demanding environment for even the most skilled counselor: long hours on your feet, moving pubs around, and gauging a slew of interest levels, not to mention personalities, on the spot.

Here are some tips to help you take control of stressors that can have a crippling domino effect on you and your career while setting you up for success to shine with any prospect.

24 Hours Pre-Event

Human performance is affected by two dominant items in our control: hydration and sleep.

Hydration

Did you know temperature control units dehydrate you?  Having the luxury of air conditioning or heating depletes our bodies of their resources just by being inside.  Now picture what you should prep your body for the next day. Bigger spaces such as convention centers or high schools blast cold or hot air to keep temperatures comfortable.  That means you need to think about what you put in your body the day before.

Get your hydration on by making a few changes the day before:

  • Cut back on the caffeine – a little goes a long way.  For every cup of coffee or caffeinated soda, you should drink two 8 oz cups of water.
  • Up your water intake by 50% –  Preferably you want to double your usual water intake the day before, but that can be challenging.  Upping your intake by a couple more bottles of water can really pay off and give you an energy boost the next day.

Sleep

Sleep is a key indicator of how you will perform the next day, so make sure you get at least 7 hours of sleep.

Here are some tips to ensure a good night’s sleep:

  • No screen time at least 30 minutes before bedtime
  • Limit as much light as possible in your bedroom (either natural or artificial light from electronics)
  • Soften lighting during dinner time to signal your body to start winding down
  • Don’t look at your clock
  • Avoid napping throughout the day
  • Stop caffeine intake at 2pm to aid a good night’s sleep

During the Event

You’ve done your pre-event work by hydrating and resting; now it’s game time.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

Mentally prepare a plan to continue to take care of your mind and body throughout the day:

  • Arrive at least 30 minutes prior to your event to give yourself plenty of time to set up and run through your key talking points.
  • Make sure you bring:
    • Healthy snacks
    • Two pairs of comfortable shoes (ladies avoid heels)
    • A bottle of water you can refill throughout the day
    • Cash in small bills for parking and food just in case
  • Plan at least two 10 minute breaks every 45-60 minutes during setup time.
    • Tip: review the event program or venue schedule – when are program times that will leave the vendor hall empty or when are students in class?
    • You’re going to be surrounded by stimuli that will drain your brain’s energy levels. It’s important to step away either to a restroom, out in the hall, or even better outside for a breather.

Remember those extra pair of shoes we recommended you bring? Switch out your shoes about halfway through the event to avoid foot and leg pain. Make sure you’re working in some easy stretches such as rolling your ankles, neck, and wrists when the vendor space clears out. Encouraging blood flow throughout your body is key to helping you think on your toes… literally.

Don’t forget to eat and hydrate. Sometimes it can be difficult to get a proper meal, but you can set a goal for yourself to eat a snack every hour or two if that’s the case, as well as how many bottles of water you’re going to drink. This goal is especially important to set and stick to if you have a multi-day event.

Good luck out there road warriors!

Don’t Have a Meltdown! Understanding Summer Melt and How to Fight It

May 1st has come and gone, and college recruiters are now turning their attention to the dreaded phenomenon known as ‘Summer Melt.’ Here are a few facts and takeaways to help you prepare for (and reduce) melt for your incoming fall class.

How do you rank?

Although summer melt rates fluctuate from year to year, we find that our partner institutions experience melt as low as 5% and as high as 30%, depending on the institution’s student body and financial requirements.

What are your primary predictors?

While there are many reasons, here are the primary factors for melt this year that we’re seeing:

  • Affordability: Students struggle with finding additional sources of financial assistance, securing loans, and often don’t reach out to the institution for help or don’t know how.
  • Safety: Students often experience anxiety – the fear of being away from home, making new friends, and facing new experiences.
  • Diversity: (Or lack thereof) Students may not perceive that they fit in with a particular institution.
  • Barriers to information: Students may struggle with completing college registration forms, making housing decisions and registering for orientation programs. This could be a particular issue for first-gen students, where the parents themselves may also lack information and not know about resources available to assist them.
  • Second choice: When students are removed from a waitlist they often will decide to attend their first choice school and forfeit their deposit or other commitment to attend their second choice school.

What your top strategies for preventing melt?

The goal of an anti-melt campaign is to make the individual student want to attend one particular school to which they have made a commitment more than any other school to which they have also committed (deposit or otherwise).

  • Offer ways to connect with students on a personal level, letting them know they are wanted and already a part of the community. For example, offer students a discount at the bookstore to purchase their very first piece of spirit-wear so they feel invested in the brand.
  • Take the time between making a deposit and enrolling in classes to learn more about that specific student, engaging them in online with personality and interest surveys.
  • Send a newsletter to parents and students to keep them apprised of what is going on at your institution in the spring and summer months. Who is your commencement speaker? What new internships are you offering, what are your current students planning for the summer?
  • Leverage social media channels with informal invitations and posts.
  • Engage students online by encouraging them to post photos from their summer life. It is essential to connect with students starting June through August, showing them what you can do together can’t happen anywhere else. Create an exclusive relationship.

What are you doing differently from prior years, or different from other institutions?

  • From a marketing perspective, create content that is authentic.  An example would be student ambassador-made videos/ social media vs hiring professionals.
  • Put less emphasis on National Decision Day, and more emphasis on individuals to help students find the institution that is the right fit for them, and why. Personalization is key.
  • Focus on financial resources and ways to reduce debt.
  • Make every effort to stay connected throughout the summer.
  • Students who decide to attend your institution expect to be in constant communication. At this stage, they welcome calls, emails, and text.

Summer melt can be stressful, so remember to keep your cool! Treat your incoming class like family and continue to remind each student that they are a valued new member of your campus community. At TWG Plus, we know the benefit of establishing a personalized, one-to-one connection with each student. Ask us how we can customize an anti-melt plan for your institution!

Focus Your Search: A Guide to List Buying

With tight budgets and increasing goals, searching for the right students can often seem like an uphill battle. You know you should purchase a list, but where do you start, and how do you narrow down your options? We’ve put together a list of concerns you may have, to help focus your search efforts.

Geography: Before buying all names in your state, consider your past enrollment data. What zip codes yielded actual enrolled students? Start your marketing efforts there.

Feeder Schools: What high schools have historically contributed to your incoming classes? Start with these in your buy and begin visiting them.

Score Ranges: What is your sweet spot in terms of score ranges, both for the SAT and ACTs? Start with a wide range of students that live close to your campus. The further away from campus you look for prospective students, the narrower the range of test scores should be.

Special Preferences: Consider your brand, your achievements, and your history. Does this appeal to a particular type of student?

Denominations or Religious Beliefs: On this topic, is your school a secular institution, or are denominational services part of your curriculum? Students who have expressed interest in a similar lifestyle are often a good fit.

Majors Preferences: When pushing a specific college, program or strength your school may hold, it is important to market to students who are also interested in that specific area of study- especially if those students will have to travel to visit you.

Extracurriculars: You may want to push enrollment to students who engaged in specific extracurricular activities. For instance, a religious university may want to designate ‘1 year of activity in a religious organization’. Other examples might include ecology and conservation, equestrian arts, worship and ministry, aviation, student government, or many others.

Athletics: If you’ve got a strong athletic program or you’ve recently started competing in a specific sport, it makes sense to search for prospective students who have also competed in, or would like to compete in that sport.

Alumni: Friends and family are your biggest proponents. Leverage that free marketing by identifying the purchased prospects who share a last name and address with alumni. We call it legacy matching!

Transfer students: Transfer students are often an untapped resource. Purchasing a list of ready-to-transfer students provides a unique cross-section of prospects that are most certainly going to transfer to a four-year university. While it is expensive, it may be your best resource.

In all your list buying and search efforts, research and discovery are key. Knowing where you’ve been, how you’ve historically performed, and who the “likely to enroll” prospects are, is vital to unlocking your prospects. Don’t be intimidated by the entire list buying and search process. Taking it one step at a time will get the job done, and TWG Plus is here to help. Reach out to us anytime to discuss how we can offer assistance, or even create a custom list purchase for you!

Donor Appreciation Season

‘Tis the season for giving! Gifts of time, talent and treasure are precious, and this time of year provides a great opportunity to recognize those who give back to your institution. We’ve assembled some of our favorite ways to say ‘Thank you’ to your donors- some of the most important people in your campus community.

‘Thank You’ cards written by students.
One of the easiest and most elegant ways to say thanks is with a handwritten note, particularly one written by someone who benefitted directly from that gift: a student. Make a practice of sending a handwritten thank you following each donation, and your institution will earn a well-deserved reputation for good manners and gratitude.

Donor appreciation garden.
Dedicate a space on campus and cultivate a beautiful garden in recognition of your donors. Your campus will benefit from the aesthetic, and donors will appreciate a living tribute to their generosity.

Unique campus art.
Your donors give because they love your institution. Thank them with a gift that will be close to their hearts. Commission an artistic image of the entire campus, your flagship building or a special campus location. Whether it is a rare aerial shot, a drawing, photograph or other rendering- create a numbered, limited edition print to send to donors to let them keep a little piece of campus at home.

Personalized ‘Thank You’ video.
Time to get creative and have a little fun! Create a personalized video that can be emailed to your donors. It’s a fun way to showcase your institution’s personality and keep your donors engaged.

Year-in-review piece.
Design a sophisticated publication depicting and describing the ways in which donations have benefitted your institution that year. This piece can be printed or digital (or better yet, both!). Include images of improvements, additions, and student groups who have been impacted to show your biggest fans that their donations have been put to great use.

Invitation for a VIP tour of campus.
Remind your donors that they are always welcome on campus. Encourage them to visit and offer a literal trip down memory lane with a tour designed just for them. Hosted by specially trained student ambassadors, the tour should focus on historical areas of campus, discuss updates and renovations, and include a commemorative photo at the donor appreciation garden (see above!).

Call!
Engage your students to call donors just to say thank you. A thank you call without a solicitation is a wonderful way for donors to feel connected. The opportunity to speak with a current student will give your donors a unique perspective of student life, and will help them to know that their gift has made an impact on a personal level.

Showcase your talent.
Utilize your campus music groups to record a nostalgia-inducing rendition of your alma mater or fight song! Send your donors a link for a digital download for a one-of-a-kind thank you they can add to their favorite playlists.

Whatever method you choose, just remember to always say thank you. A feeling of gratitude from your students, faculty, staff and administration goes a long way in making your donors feel special and appreciated. For more creative higher education marketing ideas, or help on any of the above, be sure to contact TWG Plus for a custom-designed solution to fit your needs.