COVID-19 surprised everyone and has affected virtually every industry – some more than others. The Education space definitely belongs to this group. This is especially evident in states that are in lockdown and/or currently experiencing school closures. To date, COVID-19 has resulted in the closures of at least 124,000 US public and private high schools, which accounts for at least 55.1 million students.
Many colleges have been impacted as well. This is where we will focus our attention, but the following strategies can apply to the entire education space.
Higher education institutions across the US tend to center their marketing efforts around getting prospective students to their campuses. They’ll start by utilizing Google and Bing Ads to drive traffic to a school’s website, where prospective students can fill out a form with their personal information so a representative from the school can reach out to them. This rep then provides additional program information and schedules an open house, where the prospective student can get an in-person tour of the campus. This is an effective strategy to immerse prospective students in your environment and provide a wonderful, unforgettable experience that influences the decision to enroll.
But now that your campus is closed, tours are no longer running. So, what can you do to continue enrolling students and retain current students who no longer have classes to attend?
The shift in strategy begins at the core of your institution’s infrastructure, and its ability to adapt to online learning. If your students need laptops to attend online courses, we strongly suggest ordering them as soon as possible, as the demand for these devices is expected to skyrocket. Thankfully, we live in a time where most students have all the technology they need to attend an online session.
As for institutions, many are already using online programs like Blackboard, where they can post assignments, tasks, and even exams. There may be a learning curve for some teachers that have less experience with teaching online courses, but some may already have vast knowledge depending on how many online courses they have taught throughout their career. If your institution currently has no online classes set up, there will obviously be more time and effort required to set up the proper programs and get all of your students on board. In the meantime, you can use free video chat programs like Skype and email invitations to all of your students explaining the upcoming agenda.
Let’s move on to the changes you will need to make in your Google and/or Bing Ads accounts. Many of our clients have specific goals or targeting based on how close the prospective student is to their campus. For example, you may set your CPCs higher or tCPA goals at a higher price for a radius that is relatively close to your campus. Institutions do this because leads that are located closer to their campuses are traditionally more valuable than leads that are farther away.
Indeed, data shows that leads that are generated within a closer radius to campus do have a higher lead-to-start ratio. But, does this rule still hold true during this strange time in history?
It is difficult to tell for sure, due to the long sales cycle of the education industry. But, there is one very important factor to take into account: The inability to book that student for a campus tour. With your campus closed, you will no longer be able to book an appointment for that prospective student to come look at the campus, get an in-person feel for the classrooms, and imagine themselves there. This is a major drawback and must be taken into account when analyzing historical data on lead-to-start ratios. For this reason, we suggest the following strategy & action points.
- Less emphasis on higher CPCs & higher tCPA goals for leads that are closer to your campus
- Ensure you are showing for your Branded name and highlight anything your institution is doing to help the COVID-19 efforts – donations, volunteer work, etc.
- Ad copy that highlights that your school is still running during these times and currently enrolling in Online programs
- Emphasize online programs – highlight any remote benefits such as a free laptop, programs, freedom of scheduling courses, etc.
- Invest more marketing dollars into online leads and programs – be the go-to online school for prospective students looking to enroll.
- Host online seminars or small boot camps for prospective students that you can later convert for full time online or campus programs.
- Host free online tours of your campus for students interested in enrolling for campus programs when all schools open back up.
Your institution’s response to COVID-19 will leave a lasting impression on current and prospective students, not to mention make or break your entire future. Remember to be sensitive to all and avoid predatory content that makes your institution look like it is trying to take advantage of the heightened need for online courses. Providing value is always key, especially since institutions are widely viewed as sources of critical knowledge.