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Strategy, tactics, ideas and tips from Creative Company.

How do stealth applicants find and choose you?

Student recruitment challenges: Part 3

A high school student who qualifies as “stealth” is doing his or her own research into colleges or universities. They’re avoiding direct contact.

He or she is likely starting online and searching multiple sources of information—websites, reviews, magazine articles, social media, blogs, chat rooms and much more–to choose which schools meet specific criteria or expectations. Stealth applicants choose on their own, without input from you.

  • The consumer need to research more sources of information before talking to anyone is rising dramatically – 5.4 sources on average in 2010, and more than 16 sources in 2012. Students are big consumers, of course.

Perhaps a friend or family member made a recommendation. Or the student is looking for schools close by. Whatever the trigger, he or she is likely to start their search online.

Content marketing helps them choose

Content marketing provides valuable content, not just recruitment information, to website browsers. Content that will help them understand how to make a choice, not information that directly promotes a particular institution.

Valuable content is integral to an effective inbound marketing program, which captures interest and email addresses of stealth applicants by giving them information that helps instead of sells.

  • Content marketing is not offering the school’s fact sheet as a .pdf for download; it’s providing an objective checklist of points to consider when choosing a college (without promoting that particular college experience)
  • Content marketing is not a video testimonial about life at a particular college; it’s a funny video showing the things you’ll need to pack when you move into a dorm, any dorm
  • Content marketing is not a page of faculty honors on the website; it’s an overview of career opportunities in the next ten years, and the courses and education required to get into those careers

By providing information and content that is engaging, useful and focused on what the searcher is looking for, potential students are more likely to connect. If they continue to find information and ideas that entertain, educate and help them choose, they’ll come back and be further engaged in your school’s story. Stealth applicants choose the institutions that match what they’re seeking.

student applicantsLet’s look at the communication characteristics of this millennial generation.
  • They rely on technology as a primary means of communication, often avoiding face to face contact or phone calls
  • They keep their mobile phones close, more than 80% sleep with their phone within reach
  • They communicate via text, Facebook and some email
  • They like to do their own research, because they don’t want to be “sold”
  • They want to be in control, so they resist direct communication and prefer to be anonymous as they are exploring options

Offering content for free, when the only requirement is to fill out a simple request form, (which captures their email and one or two other factors), gives visitors something useful, and gives the school basic contact information.

A careful lead nurturing email campaign can follow, using the same perspective—help them choose, don’t push recruiting. Help them see the possibilities for their life, in their terms.

Multiple offers at multiple levels

These online offers of helpful information can take the form of simple one-sheet downloads or e-books, videos or webinars. When student recruitment focuses on helping and guiding, while tying into the key ideas and characteristics that set your institution apart, you’ll be able to reach those who are comparing multiple options but resisting a one-on-one connection with admissions.

Read more about connecting to stealth applicants online in Student Recruitment Challenges: Part 1

Then consider how key differentiators are integrated into your institution’s brand in Student Recruitment Challenges: Part 2. For many schools, it’s time to extend the investment in the brand into a stronger, more integrated, online presence. Because, after all, that’s where students (and their parents) start their research.

To summarize:

  • More potential students are doing their own research, just like the average consumer, without contacting schools directly, beginning online. They become stealth applicants choosing online.
  • Inbound marketing is a methodology designed to cultivate interest, engage browsers and offer support and assistance on the website during the review and decision process. It’s a perfect fit for higher education marketers looking for ways to capture stealth applicants.
  • The investment in distinguishing key brand messages that summarize and differentiate a school must be integrated into the online brand, as well as the offline brand as it appears in recruitment publications. If not, your school may not come up in an online search by a potential student looking for what you offer.

It’s time to optimize the higher education brand online, and integrate inbound marketing into higher education marketing programs.

Drop me an email if you’re ready to talk further about integrating inbound marketing into your recruitment program. I can conduct a no-obligation audit of your recruitment messages and reach and make specific recommendation for aligning around your key differentiators.

About the author

Jennifer Larsen Morrow

Jennifer's four decades of work in the industry, starting as a designer and adding marketing, copywriting and digital marketing, has generated response for clients since 1978.

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