What is it about marketers and marketing that makes us suddenly think we are the exception to the rule. What I mean is, we market our University in a way that we ourselves would never respond to. This may be a bit of a stretch, but let me offer a story to help explain my position.
You're sitting in your home either reading the mail, or scrolling through e-mails. There in front of you is an offer from a local car dealership (one you know well). The marketing piece goes on to explain that you can purchase a brand new car, with great features, mileage, styling for only $28,500. You, of course, have been thinking about a new car so you head to the dealership, walk in, tell the salesman you'd like one of their cars and put down your check for $28,500.
Interestingly enough, I doubt any of you would do this. You research the car, IS IT your style? Does it get good gas mileage? What is the repair history on the vehicle? Will it suit your family either in size or comfort? So you research, check to make sure that THIS is the car for you.
Now, let's fast forward to marketing your University. You prepare what you think is the perfect e-mail campaign, or postal campaign, You drop one message and expect people to flock to your door eager to plunk down $28,500 in tuition for an institution they may know of, but actually know nothing about. How do students actually make a choice as to what school to attend. Either to complete a degree or to get an advanced degree. They do exactly what you would expect them to do. They research, look at who attends your institution, what graduates have done, how much will it cost, will it fit in the family schedule or lifestyle.
There was a time when the expectation was that you needed three contacts before someone was willing to make a buying decision. Yet, most Universities market once, maybe twice and expect prospective students to sign up and attend. Today, the rule of thumb is more around 20 impressions. Now, don't get me wrong, but reality is more than 3, less than 20 for most people. But this includes all forms of impressions. Radio, television, billboards, web surfing, direct mail, e-mail, personal referrals, LinkedIn, Face Book to name a few. All of these give the prospect some idea as to what your institution is all about. So, why do schools constantly do a single, or two marketing campaigns, get few if any responses and then dub "direct mail", "e-mail" a failure? In fact, it's not a failure, you simply didn't give the prospect enough information or time to make an informed decision.
As with buying a car, students need to focus on their needs. For example, if a student is concerned about going back to school they may be asking themselves "Can I do it?". You should offer them a free course to take as a warm up. A course that WILL apply to their degree! You invest in them, they will invest in you. It's in a way, a two month free trial. It's time that schools focus on what it really takes to sell someone on attending their institution. Information, frequent contacts and understanding that THEY are the most important person attending your institution. Give them a free class, one that will get them used to coming on campus, sitting in class and I will bet they will keep coming back.