Filling the Funnel With the Right Prospective Graduate Students

Scott JeffeVice President, Research (Graduate and Online)July 27, 2021

How do you ensure that your precious marketing dollars are spent in a manner that is most likely to result in prospective students that are the best fit for your programs? My colleague Charles Ramos has been working with colleges and universities on just such strategies for more than a decade, and he says it all starts with understanding the how today’s graduate students search for their programs and what they expect from the institutions in which they enroll.

“Filling the Funnel With the Right Graduate Leads” was the subject of a session he hosted at the 2021 RNL National Conference. He was joined by our colleague Chris Zagar who manages dozens of clients in our digital marketing agency, and Nicole Hitpas, who serves as Chief Marketing and Communications at the Goizueta School of Business at Emory University.

How are today’s graduate students searching for programs? Our new Graduate Student Recruitment Report indicates that four of the six most frequent sources cited by prospective graduate students are digital channels, and all of them were cited by more than 70 percent of respondents. Charles presented other RNL survey data from a study of graduate marketers that indicated that about half of their leads are coming from SEO and digital lead gen. That same study indicated that effective graduate schools and programs are getting the message – they are (on average) allocating more than 60 percent of their total marketing budget to these two methods.

Connecting with them. At this point in the conversation, Chris Zagar made a simple, but thought provoking statement based on his experiences in working on these strategies day-in-day-out: “We’ve all got to remember that as much as we are looking for them [graduate students], they are also looking for us, and if we don’t make it easy for them to find us, they will find another program.” Since they search online, successful institution need to have a comprehensive presence online – with messaging that speaks to their preferences. Listen to the session to hear more about their preferences.

Why do marketers love digital? Nicole Hitpas is responsible for marketing the business programs of one of the most successful institutions in the south (Emory University). She has a range of programs from a part-time MBA to various MS degrees to a full-time traditional MBA. To say that Nicole believes in digital marketing, may be an understatement. In fact, she said that while she thought the average allocations that Charles presented were a good start, she dedicates even more resources at Goizueta to digital marketing and SEO – upwards of 70 percent if you count only advertising dollars. Why? She couldn’t have been clearer: “Better targeting, unparalleled measurability, more flexibility.” She elaborated on each of these, but she made clear that in terms of value for dollar there is no better expenditure than one that can be measured almost in real time, and changed “on a dime.”

Action Planning: The session closed with perhaps the two most interesting segments: Digital Marketing Action Planning and SEO Action Planning. The three speakers, each representing an essential player in the process, discussed each essential step from their perspective – leader, strategist, and evaluator – in a manner that will help marketers advance their efforts. Nicole again made an incredibly important remark: “…and remember that this planning process has to be done for EACH program you offer and based in research on what work. If you apply the same strategies to all your programs – in order to save time… you won’t be saving time.” Watch the video (starting at 35.49) for this segment and look for a more detailed blog on the topic next month.

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About the Author

Scott Jeffe, RNL

Scott Jeffe has worked with more than 200 institutions in 40+ states to apply market data to strategic decisions. With a focus on profiling the demands and preferences of nontraditional (adult, online, etc.) students, Scott...

Read more about Scott's experience and expertise

Reach Scott by e-mail at Scott.Jeffe@RuffaloNL.com.

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