Higher ed has always been one of the most competitive markets and the 2020’s pandemic outburst made the conditions even more challenging. And so the pressure for a frictionless higher education marketing strategy has never been higher.
Therefore, buckle up and stay with us to explore how to effectively leverage conversational marketing and chatbots in higher education.
Of all ways to go about digital marketing, why chatbots?
It's true that marketing is not the only way to use chatbots for education. However, it is the first touchpoint that shapes how students and parents view and think about your institution.
Well, the answer hides in the world-shaping events of 2020. The failure of public and private organizations in the face of a tsunami of queries and their inability to swiftly adapt has shown that the traditional forms of inquiry are dead. Or, at the very least, not responsive and agile enough to keep up with the world.
Traditional websites crushed, forms mastered the art of frustration; emails stayed unanswered for days if not weeks and phone calls kept consumers on hold… if ever answered that is.
The pandemic forced education into the online space. Hence, even traditional colleges and universities relying on a plethora of face to face activities had to focus all their efforts on the digital.
In a domain where gaining or losing even a single customer makes a difference of thousands or even tens of thousands in funds available for your institution, you can’t afford to put your prospects through a search quest across hundreds and hundreds of pages. Nor can you afford to have an army of employees ready to answer all the questions at a moment’s notice.
College or university is one of the most significant financial and live investments for a person and their family. A stressful application process is not really helping. Especially in times of raging pandemic.
To respond to students and their parents appropriately to the importance of the decision and stress of the circumstances, educational institutions need to be able to connect and communicate with them in real-time.
At Landbot, we often discuss the importance of chatbots in the customer journey - from lead generation to customer support - that is customer-centric not only in definition but also in practice. In terms of marketing strategies for education, it means both speeding up and improving the experience between a prospect learning about your school/program and applying.
It’s not just about going digital but going digital in a way that feels human.
Conversational Marketing: Full-Cycle Chatbot Adoption
The secret to success lies in adopting a conversational approach across the entire acquisition cycle: engagement, qualification (understanding), recommendation, and support.
- Engagement is all about making it easy for prospective students to interact with you instantly wherever they are, be it your website, campaign landing page, social media, or a messaging app.
- Qualification is a very marketing term but it really is about understanding your applicant pool as a whole as well as on an individual level. It’s about learning who they are, what they are interested in, and what they need at a given point in their journey. It’s about asking the right questions in order to guide prospective students and their parents to the right resources or people.
- Recommendation is all about trying to leverage what you learned in the qualification process to get the prospects to take the desired action such as booking an interview with or submit their application.
- Support occupies the last place on this list, however, it’s present at every step of the journey. Using conversational marketing enables you to answer questions and doubts instantly whether the prospect is in the engagement, qualification or recommendation stage.
So, how does this translate into a marketing strategy for your higher education institution?
5 Ways to Leverage Chatbots in Higher Education
Chatbots are powerful companions that can help you streamline your marketing efforts on multiple levels:
1. Learn More About Your Audience
With a website, you can easily track:
- how many prospects landed there
- how did they get there
- how long did they stay
- how many pages they visited
- Where are they from
You probably have a general idea about your target audience, though this data tells you little about their true needs and preferences. A higher education chatbot, a conversational assistant, present on your website, landing page, social media account, or a messaging app is able to open and carry out thousands of conversation collecting qualitative data such as:
- How much a prospect is interested in your institution/course
- What is it they are actually looking to do or accomplish (e.g., browse courses, talk to someone, check references, learn more about the environment or professors)
- What are the pain points they are experiencing at that instant or see in your proposal
Asking them in the instant when it’s fresh and most relevant is the easiest and most accurate way to go about it.
Perhaps you are thinking a simple form could do that job. However, you are forgetting, people, in general, aren’t that fond of forms. The longer they are, the less likely they will be completed.
Chatbots work because they don’t wait for the prospective students or their parents to make the first step. They open the conversation and in return for collecting data, offer information back instantly. Using conversational marketing elements empowers you with the flexibility to answer the most common queries instantly. It enables you to direct your prospects straight to the most relevant resources no matter how specific.
Plus, this approach is not useful and attractive to potential students but also their parents and high school advisors. The more information you’ll learn about your visitors, the more specific and personalized you can make their experience and the more likely you are to create a lasting impression among competitors.
2. Approach Your Audience on The Right Channel
Having a deeper understanding of who is interested in your organizations and what are the questions on their minds the first time they visit your site, it’s time to look beyond those pages.
The most efficient communication strategies come to their prospects instead of waiting for their prospects to come to them. In other words, you need to start communicating with your prospects on their terms.
Start with reviewing your traffic metrics. While many leads can reach you via Google search, you will notice a lot of social media plays a significant role as do direct entries. When it comes to education, other than demographics and course selection, word-of-mouth is the best and most powerful marketing. Today, that word of mouth passes through social networks and messaging apps such as messenger or WhatsApp. Yet, email remains the most common communication channel for most educational institutions.
Sure, ask for the email address but don’t stop there. Show them you are willing to and capable of meeting them in their comfort zone. Higher education chatbots can help you reach prospective students on Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp or any other messaging app with API. Today, having their phone number or Instagram handle might be more valuable than having the email address.
We are not saying to give up on the website and traditional email marketing. Don’t. But don’t be afraid to go beyond and use conversational tools to reach out. Be where your prospects are… and use what you learn from them to improve your traditional channels like the website and email communication.
3. Boost Engagement the Most Human Way Possible
University and college websites are known for having pages upon pages of content. Content that is often either too vague, too lengthy, or too disorganized. Characteristics that make these websites really frustrating to navigate.
Chatbots in higher education are able to clean up your content marketing and give it the engagement boost you need to persuade and convert.In point number one, we mentioned how you can leverage conversational assistants to learn more about your audience. The next step lies in using this knowledge to improve prospective students' experience by restructuring the site to reflect the needs and preferences you collected or simply creating a complete conversational experience.
For instance, you can find out which pages matter the most for your prospects and how do they behave once there. Based on that you can design a conversational experience that enables them to frictionlessly proceed to the next step such as meeting with an admissions counselor.
Alternatively, after you’ve identified the key pages, make sure you substitute the online forms with chatbots instead. That way, clicking on a CTA will result in a conversation with immediate implications, instead of having them fill out a form without knowing when they are going to hear back from you.
Last but not least, you can also use chatbots to connect students and parents with your staff in an intelligent way. In this scenario the bot acts as a receptionist finding out what the visitor wants and, based on that, directing him or her to the right person/department. This way, all interactions with your staff are efficient, time-saving, and high quality. The bot answers the most common questions or, if unable to do so, makes sure the prospects talk to the right person from the start.
The important part of every marketing plan is engaging as many people as possible. Higher education chatbots can do just that. The difference is, they can do so on an individual basis, engaging every person in a way that matters to them.
4. Remove Friction from your Application Process
Application season is the busiest time of the year with everything happening at once.
Conversational technology can help you manage and accelerate that process.
For instance, you can leverage conversational channels using rule-based or AI bots to send automatic reminders or follow-ups to your prospects that expressed interest in the application process. They can help them get started as well as complete the process by answering questions and providing guidance on channels they access daily.
Furthermore, higher education marketing bots can always be available to talk to a prospective student… even be able to distinguish between applicants who are more likely to succeed and thrive and become ambassadors.
Chatbots, in general, do a great job of helping visitors complete tasks on a website quickly and easily. They are masters of providing information instantly without piling additional burden you’re an administrative team. Prospects and their parents are satisfied having obtained information swiftly while your team has more time to devote to more complex tasks and cases.
5. Bring Your School Spirit (Brand) to Life
Regardless of the size or nature of your educational institutions, your marketing strategy needs to stand out among competitors.
Marketing campaigns have a tendency to bland together. However, conversational marketing gives you a unique opportunity to go beyond the school logo and colors to express your identity, your brand. Conversational assistants have the power to convey emotion and personality that best captures your organization and the student experience they are about to buy into.
This personality and emotion can be present from the first touchpoint throughout the entire process, ensuring there is a unique connection from the getgo.
How Can Landbot Help You Implement Chatbots in Higher Education Marketing?
Landbot is a powerful no-code chatbot builder and communication automation platform. Its main advantage lies in the “no-code” aspects as it allows university marketers to create chatbots themselves.
By removing the coding barrier, Landbot brings conversational marketing to the people who know most about it and so can design impactful dialogues and experiences instantly, without having to depend on the IT department.
The agility gives away an important advantage as changes, updates, and adjustments to campaigns and bots can be applied instantly and on the go. Thus, your college or university can be present, truly present everywhere from the web to social media platforms to messaging apps by empowering your marketing team and without putting additional strain on your budget.