Humanize your enrollment funnel for the post-traditional student by getting a little personal

According to the Direct Marketing Association, personalized marketing has become the most important objective of a data-driven marketing strategy. And in today’s appeal to the post-traditional student, higher ed institutions would do well to get a little personal.

It is scarcely news that today’s higher ed landscape has become saturated by the post-traditional student (or nontraditional student, if you will). And while many institutions have adapted their learning environments to accommodate the changing needs of today’s students, the enrollment practices of these institutions often don’t reflect these same accommodations. Before helping post-traditional students succeed to graduation, it is imperative to get students to see themselves succeeding at your institution. Yet for the post-traditional student, a number of factors are perceived as barriers to success in higher ed, factors related to the “high likelihood that they are juggling other life roles while attending school, including those of worker, spouse or partner, parent, caregiver, and community member.”*

With these mental barriers in play, the post-traditional student has an uphill battle when making the decision to return to school. To help prospects build a vision for themselves at your institution, enrollment marketers can personalize messages to address the particular priorities of each individual. Message personalization provides an opportunity for institutions to connect with a prospect on a deeper level and help nurture an inquiry through the enrollment funnel.

This customization can take a number of forms, and marketing automation software is your best friend in getting these messages out. Through tools like Marketo, you can customize both the design and the copy of your communications to engage potential students with relevant information at the right time. By identifying certain indicators such as employment status, family size, income, and program interests for each prospect, your marketing automation software can auto populate the communications with information that addresses their personal realities. Does the prospect have children? Perhaps he would be interested in learning of the on-site childcare center and online program offerings. Is the prospect financially independent? Inform her about the myriad options for financial aid and scholarships. Is this a prospect’s second attempt at higher education? Introduce him to your success coaching program designed to help learners succeed through to graduation.

Like many other enrollment best practices, one of the biggest hurdles to implementing a personalized enrollment marketing approach is the integration and consolidation of data. To understand the pain points that cause hesitation for a prospect, institutions must gather enough data for each prospect looking to enroll. Interactions such as an initial discovery call/meeting or even an application can provide much of the data needed to identify potential barricades to enrollment. And it isn’t enough to simply gather this data, the data must be accessible and usable by all involved in the enrollment process. By streamlining the data collection and analytic processes, institutions can take a personalized and proactive approach to enrollment communications.


To learn more about how message personalization fits into your larger enrollment growth goals, download our free Enrollment Growth Playbook.



Danielle Caldwell

Danielle Caldwell is the Content Marketing Manager at Helix Education. Prior to her work with Helix, Danielle served as a full-time faculty member with Westminster College’s Master of Strategic Communication program in Salt Lake City. Danielle brings nearly a decade of experience in research, communication, and higher education, and she currently still teaches graduate courses in organizational communication and research methods as an adjunct professor at Westminster College.