2024 has arrived and with it a chance to reflect, project, and build resolutions for the year ahead. For higher education marketers, it’s an opportunity to review what tactics are resonating with students and improve on those which don’t.
With this in mind, we’ve put together a few resolutions the higher education sector should adopt for 2024.
There’s a LOT of information we convey to incoming students; course details, programme requirements, application dates, costs, and student testimonials. It’s all important stuff, but it’s often organised like a pile of clothes on the floor. All the items are there for you to find, but you might mix up some socks along the way.
We also fall into a trap of arrogance. That is, we overcomplicate this information with unnecessarily complex language and industry acronyms we expect the audience to understand. We overestimate our audience’s knowledge prior to reading our marketing materials. This creates a barrier of entry that alienates prospective students. From their perspective, if they can’t understand your communications, what hope do they have with course work? The remedy is to pull things back. We can’t outright cut critical information but we can re-evaluate how we communicate it. Reduce the grade reading level of your information and provide definitions for acronyms. If nothing else, prevent the use of obscure course titles that won’t be considered for a simple Google search.
Speaking of simplification, our second resolution involves how we organise data and information. This includes the layouts of your website and prospectus, and how many steps are required to move through them. You want to avoid a “choose your own adventure” click scenario that forces students to jump through multiple hoops.
We also need to consider how we organise information in the back end, particularly in a post cookie digital era. Do you currently have the systems in place to accurately monitor the student journey? If customer service reps can’t pick up where previous conversations left off, there’s room for improvement.
To address these issues we need to put ourselves in the mindset of our users. How do you personally interact with online systems? Are the current methods intuitive and easy to follow? Could you figure out how to apply to various programmes in a reasonable time? How many clicks before you abandon a typical online journey? Do you know how to reach out if you run into trouble along the way? Start to streamline the entire experience. Look for opportunities to better organise information within the prospectus, course listing sites, and especially your website. Adopt systems which allow for the compliant storage and retrieval of user’s data. In short, make it as easy for your users as possible.
Provide Individualised Service
Our final resolution is all about addressing challenges. There are those macro industry challenges we all face, cost-of-living, reduced immigration, which are far too vast for a single blog post. Instead we’ll hone in on those within our power to address. Items such as academic, professional, and personal support.
There’s a new mindset that technology can and should address all our current problems. While AI, can help solve many issues including data organisation, chatbots are not the way to help move students through the funnel. Today’s students want to be seen as individuals, acknowledged for their specific challenges. They are seeking more authentic interactions, not more chatbots. This is not to say that new tech should be thrown out altogether. Continue to solve barriers using real data and implementing fixes on a policy level. Just leave the day to day interactions to caring professionals. Resolve to protect those one on one interactions as much as possible. The impact of personalisation is simply too big to ignore.
There you have it, our three main resolutions the HE sector should adopt in 2024. We’re sure you will have some of your own, specific to your institution, but hopefully these are a helpful place to start. Best of luck in the year ahead!