What Higher Education Marketers Can Learn From Black Friday

Black Friday is the World Cup final of marketing. The day itself, and those surrounding it are a flurry of business activity and a masterclass in efficient marketing. While there’s nothing quite like it in the HE sector, apologies to students looking for flash-sale degrees, the phenomenon still offers plenty of lessons for education specialists. Let’s take a look at some of the strategies commercial marketers have learned throughout years of Black Friday events. Lessons, which if applied correctly, can make a measurable difference on your student recruitment targets.

The Build Up to Black Friday

The lead up to an event is often just as impactful as the event itself. While in the past companies opted to keep their deals a secret, others have pulled information forward. This is because the longer you can stay top of mind for your customers, the higher consideration they’ll have. Get your customers excited and word of mouth can help do the work for you.

Let’s examine Results Day and Clearing through this lens. While not an exact match, this period is the closest we get to a single anticipated date in Higher Education. You can’t disclose how many places your institution will have available. You can however use the time to cement your brand as the number one choice. Provide information on support offerings, career outcomes, campus culture and more. Treat that Clearing reveal like it’s the most exciting moment in a person’s life, because for many incoming students, it is.

Understanding Audience Behaviours

Understanding the nuances of your audience’s behaviours is the key to connecting with them. Black Friday offers a perfect example of leveraging human insight to do exactly that. What is a universal truth of Black Friday for Americans? It always follows Thanksgiving Thursday. This means a large bulk of non-retail workers have two days off work, with ample time for shopping. Better yet, marketers know that after a big turkey dinner, many people will spend time scrolling on their phone. What a perfect time to let them know about offers and how to purchase within the next few days.

Knowing what your audience is doing to reach them at the times they’re looking? That’s human-centric marketing insight that can’t be topped! Connecting this back to HE, try to hone in on when your students look for information.

Data Capture and Customer Segmentation

One thing the most savvy brands have in common is how they use data to inform choices. Black Friday is a huge opportunity to not only bring back recurring customers, but gain new ones. The thing is, they know who is who.

This is because there’s value in understanding the phase of someone’s consumer journey. Are they new to your brand and need information on it’s values? Have they purchased once before and are interested in other products.

For Higher Education the best example is current year of study. Are enquiring students in year 9 and thinking ahead or are they in year 12 and ready to make a decision? It makes a big difference in your communication approach. There’s no point asking a year 9 student to head to UCAS to complete their submission. You need to ask and retain this information to include it in personalised messaging. Adjust your copy to speak to the specific phase of their unique journey. Meeting audiences at the right moment with tailored messaging can unlock huge potential and reduce inefficient spending.

Faster Turnarounds and Reduced Friction

The last lesson we’ll take from Black Friday is how smooth the whole operation can be. For a five day span that generates half a year’s revenue for some brands, it’s incredible there isn’t more friction involved. This comes down to two resources; tech and personnel.

With regards to tech, it’s important to build a website and CRM system which can handle traffic at peak times. Any shopper will tell you it’s incredibly frustrating to go through the motions only to fail at the final transaction phase. It’s similar for students looking for information on sites which crash, contain broken links, or lose previously entered information. You need a tech stack that is up to snuff even at the busiest times.

Adequate staffing is equally important. Recent survey findings from Keystone Education found 59% of students expect answers to questions within 24 hours or less. This can only be accomplished with a properly resourced team. Looking to install a chat bot? That might help fill the gap, until students ask a question it isn’t equipped for.

Keep your customers happy and reduce potential friction through proper resources that can handle any task, even during the crazy periods.

Black Friday Is All It’s Cracked Up to Be

Black Friday is an exciting event, but the concept doesn’t need to be limited to the commercial world. We can apply these lessons to the world of HE to improve the experience and ROI for all. By building anticipation, relying on data, reducing friction, and understanding your audience, you too can have the benefits of Black Friday marketing.