Is Your School’s Website Driving Inquiries or Stealth Consumers?

December 4, 2014

avoid-stealth-applicants 

Request information. Visit us. Apply now. Go to any education institution’s admissions page, and you’re likely to see these calls-to-action. Click one, and chances are you’ll be taken to a lengthy inquiry form where you’ll be asked to provide a litany of personal information.

A Brief History of Secret Shoppers and Stealth Applicants

At some point in the history of online marketing in education, these conversion opportunities became industry standard. While there is nothing inherently wrong with them - if a prospective student or parent is willing to provide their information for any of these, let them! - they appeal only to the “lowest hanging fruit” in the marketing and admissions funnel. For many prospects, and especially ones who are just beginning their research process, these offers are mistimed, and not compelling enough to drive an inquiry submission. As a result, these prospects don’t click the call-to-action to fill out a form, and instead become “secret shoppers” or “stealth consumers.”

When it comes to secret shoppers, the best case scenario is that they become stealth applicants – prospects who enter the funnel at the point of application. Unfortunately, these applicants have not been properly nurtured, may not have received what they need to make an informed decision about a program or institution, and often yield at lower rates than students who have had the opportunity to be properly engaged and educated. As any enrollment management professional can tell you, they also make projecting enrollment much more difficult.

The worst case scenario, and often the most common one, is that these prospects will poke around for information on an institution’s website, not find what they are looking for, and leave without ever engaging with a member of an institution’s staff.

Reach Prospects That Are Not Yet "Admissions Ready"

Developing new content, or repurposing existing content, into appealing and appropriately timed conversion opportunities aimed at prospects who are not yet “admissions ready” can be a solution. To target students who are at the beginning of their search, this content should be informational and have broad appeal. The subjects should be aligned to an offering of the institution or program (it would not make sense for a culinary school to have content around the benefits of a career in nursing), but they should not be promotional materials either.

Some examples of this type of content include:

  • Readiness checklists
  • “How-to” guides
  • Subject matter ebooks
  • Career guides
  • Industry information

...And Give Them Opportunities to Convert

While creating these compelling content offers is great, it is only the first step in the inquiry conversion process. Making this type of compelling content easily available to prospects, and properly gating it with informative landing pages and forms requiring an appropriate amount of personal information allows schools to grow their inquiry base by drawing would-be secret shoppers into the funnel.

When delivering the content, it is important that it is not available only on lightly travelled pages, or hidden among a series of pages that can only be found through extensive site navigation. Content that appeals to prospects who are just “dipping their toe in the water” as it relates to their search should be easy to find on the pages of the site prospects frequent. This will make useful information front and center for them, and drive more inquiry conversions for admissions, allowing for appropriate nurturing activities to take place.

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