Educators, Here's How to Find Your Ideal Student with AI
How an artificial intelligence-fueled marketing strategy can match universities and students to give both the best chance of success.
Marketing and education don't seem to belong in the same sentence, do they? Add artificial intelligence to the mix, and you'd be forgiven for thinking the lesson has gone completely haywire. But there is in fact a very strong correlation among these three elements, one that's set to change the face of the education space for students and institutions alike.
Find your ideal students, and help them find you
Marketing is all about figuring out who your ideal customers are and then understanding how to target them, and marketing in the world of education is no different. Students are your customers, and student success is the ultimate goal. They use a multitude of resources to find the institution they eventually enroll at, and the key is figuring out what those paths are, how often they lead to graduation and what your ideal student looks like.
With only 60% of all college-enrolled students successfully graduating (according to Mark Kantrowitz's 2021 book, Who Graduates from College? Who Doesn't?: How to Increase College Graduation Rates without Sacrificing College Access), it's clear that there is work to be done in streamlining the recruitment and enrollment process. By using AI, it's possible to track commonalities among students who enroll, persist and graduate from an institution, so that you can start to replicate that sequence time and again.
There are a great many data points on a student's road to graduation, and that road doesn't just start with enrollment. It would take a person far too long to wade through this mass of information, but AI has the capability to systematically parse through data to make predictions and gain surface insights in a fraction of the time.
The sales cycle in the education space is far longer than in most industries. As a result, to methodically track all data over time, you also need a system that doesn't wear chronological blinders. A brief snapshot of a customer's activity might be helpful in businesses with a shorter sales cycle, but in education, what a student did a year ago may directly impact their choices today.
So, marketing in this space must be linked back to a customer relationship management (CRM) system. Your CRM-derived data provides information about the commonalities between the students whose journeys you wish to replicate. How did your alumni find you? What courses did they choose? How did they fund their studies? All of this, combined with the mass of AI data insights, can be converted into a powerful marketing strategy guaranteed to find the right students and improve their success rates.
Peel the onion… in reverse
Marketing in education is a complex process. You're not just focusing on enrollments. There are many touchpoints to keep in mind between the point of signing on the (digital) dotted line and receiving a diploma, and you want to track all of them to maximize revenue. At the core, though, is the center of the onion, the ultimate goal: graduation. To ensure we don't miss any of the lucrative layers in between, we market backward, peeling back the layers until we get to the point of first contact. Then we replicate.
This is slightly different from the standard process of sales attribution that a single-use product company might use, for example. Attribution tracks the customers from their first point of contact and seeks to understand each of their online and offline touchpoints along the way. While we certainly still need to understand this in education, we aren't just looking for enrollments. A successful "sale" in the space is one that not only moves through enrollment but continues all the way to graduation.
For a long time, an educational institution could safely rely solely on its reputation and course portfolio to attract the students who are right for them, but times have changed. Why would you not use the tools at your disposal to supersize not only your enrollment rates but also (and more importantly) graduation numbers?
If you think you know who the ideal student is for your institution, you may be surprised at how much information you're missing. AI can help you to harness the mass of data at your fingertips and identify, secure and keep the right candidates.
Find, enroll, educate, graduate and repeat.
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