Remarketing: Turning Past Prospects into Students

© This article was reprinted from Recruitment and Retention Newsletter with permission by The National Center for Student Life, A Division of Magna Publications, Inc.


We’ve likely all had a parent, teacher, coach, or boss say to us at some point, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” In life, in school, on the field, or on the job, this philosophy encourages perseverance. For an enrollment marketer, it’s the basis for a results-driven strategy.

Not all students who enroll in a higher education program do so the first time around on a query, but that’s not to say that they won’t at some point. In fact, our research tells us that approximately 80 percent of prospective students who inquired about an institution, but did not immediately enroll, indicated that they intend to go to school in the near future. If you don’t try and try again to engage and enroll the students you’ve already connected with, it’s a missed opportunity for both of you.

Re-engage to remarket

Remarketing—that is, a strategic re-engagement program utilizing your unconverted inquiry database—can be one of your most valuable marketing tools. This database of unconverted inquiries can be defined as prospective students who expressed interest in your institution but then became unresponsive and did not enroll. While remarketing has proven to be very successful for our clients, we find that many institutions today underutilize this segment out of preference for new inquiries.

Consider that more than 60 percent of institutions we surveyed said they have no formal process in place for re-engaging unconverted inquiries. About one-third of the surveyed institutions said they thought it was easier to buy new inquiries than nurture unconverted ones.

For some institutions, remarketing is a critically strategic engagement channel. While it requires dedication and time, remarketing has the ability to enroll more prospective students at a higher conversion rate than do other channels. For these institutions, remarketing is more than an occasional postcard or email sent to prospective students in the unconverted inquiry database. It is a data-driven initiative that has been optimized and tested to yield impressive results.

How does remarketing work?

A successful remarketing program typically begins with segmentation. By applying data analytics, you can score, verify, and categorize your inquiries into a tiered structure based on each prospect’s fit within your institution and the likelihood that he or she will ultimately enroll.

To identify high intenders, we recommend using your existing students and graduates as a model for success. Next, match the unconverted inquiries in your house file that most closely fit the profile of your successful student model and then score them accordingly to create a hierarchy of highest to lowest intenders.

These tiers will then fuel your outreach strategy. For example, inquiries who fall into your top tier may receive a higher frequency of outreach, whereas others may receive less frequent communications if they’re already less inclined to engage based on your scoring. It’s this strategic cadence that we find often helps drive results and allows institutions to use their budgets most effectively.

Personalization in remarketing messages is also important. It is interesting to note that roughly 48 percent of institutions that have a remarketing strategy in place said that all unconverted inquiries are treated the same. Remarketing presents an opportunity to tailor and test outreach by tier and by student to determine which messaging is the most effective. For example, when it comes to remarketing through direct mail, tier A inquiries could receive a personalized letter and tier B inquiries could receive a standard direct mail piece.

Why remarketing?

It’s simple. Remarketing drives results. In fact, we have seen programs where remarketing inquiries generated a 20 to 30 percent higher conversion rate than first-time prospects. One client institution saw 25 percent of its overall enrollments over a two-year period come directly from remarketing.

Remarketing can also help you increase revenue. We have seen institutions that use remarketing realize a 20 to 25 percent increase in enrollment, which translates to an increase in tuition dollars. Plus, when institutions maximize the potential of their existing database investment, they can then reinvest their remaining budget into other marketing channels and campaigns.

We refer to prior prospects as those students who are “inclined, but inactive.” For whatever reasons, they need additional outreach and support to progress through the enrollment phase and become active students. Whether it’s a one-time message or a series of communications, often it’s as simple as giving these inclined-but-inactive prospects an easy way to reconnect with your brand and reminding them why they inquired in the first place. To re-engage these prospective students, you need to try and try again, leading to successful outcomes for both your institution and your prospective students.

Brett Tippetts is vice president of client services at Helix Education and has nearly two decades of marketing and advertising experience developing brand strategies and delivering campaigns that inspire action.

© This article was reprinted from Recruitment and Retention Newsletter with permission by The National Center for Student Life, A Division of Magna Publications, Inc.
Posted on May 18, 2015

Kara Snyder

As the Director of Corporate Marketing, Kara brings nearly a decade of education marketing insights and experience to Helix Education. Before joining Helix, she worked in enrollment and affiliate marketing, undergraduate and graduate admissions, and student affairs. Kara earned her bachelor’s degree from Temple University.