You know better than anyone that higher ed is a saturated industry. It can be difficult to set your college or university apart from the rest.
Not too long ago, I was going through the college admissions process and it was tough to narrow down what I wanted as an 18 year old. Compelling programs and generous scholarships were not enough for me and they are often not enough to attract other prospective students.
As a student makes their way through the college search and application process, I try to recognize the emotions and thoughts they experience during that journey.
A tool that helps me understand a student’s pain points is a Customer Journey Map or, in this case, a Student Journey Map. A Student Journey Map is an illustration of all the brand touchpoints a student experiences when they come in contact with your college or university. By focusing on the student’s needs, I can implement a student-centric marketing strategy.
Here’s how I create a Student Journey Map to better understand prospective students.
1. Define user personas that are most valuable to the organization.
When I’m thinking about what kind of first-touch messaging will resonate with a student, I strive to first conceptualize who I’m reaching out to through a mental persona exercise.
User personas are fictional profiles created by using actual characteristics of your target market. First I look at data gathered from website analytics, email surveys, event and newsletter registration, past enrollment data, and more.
I begin by stating the persona’s demographic traits. This includes age, sex, education level, income, and race. Then, I dig deeper to write their psychographics traits such as personality, lifestyle, interests, beliefs, priorities, etc.
Questions I ask myself include:
- What motivates them?
- What frustrates them?
- What do they value in a college?
- What goals drive their behavior?
- Where and when are they searching for a college?
- Where do they get information?
2. Identify user touchpoints
After I understand the students I am targeting, I determine each point a student may come into contact with the institution’s brand. Students may come across an institution for the first time via the website, email outreach, social media, or a school event. Other typical touch points include advertisements, counselor outreach, and internal events. I identify touchpoints that generate genuine interest and prioritize them in my map.
3. Trace the map
The final step is to combine the user personas and touchpoints into a Student Journey Map. I trace the journey of the user persona as they come into contact with different touchpoints. The journey begins at the persona’s first interaction with an organization and ends with their deposit. I’m sure to state certain touchpoints where some users may unsubscribe, fail to finish an application, decline admission, etc. This helps clarify what messaging may resonate with a prospective student.
Now that I’ve created a Student Journey Map, what do I do with it?
- Look for opportunities for improvement within the student journey
- Re-evaluate the channels that lose students
- Hone in on the high-converting channels
- Identify who, within an organization, can ensure improvements are made
Once I complete your Student Journey Map, I have a better understanding on how behaviors vary based of a target audience. Delivering one-to-one authentic experiences is not realistic for most organizations. However, Student Journey Maps allow me to treat students like the unique person they are. Using your Student Journey Map to tailor messaging to a diverse student population can be the difference between an inquiry and a deposit; between a melted student and a future student.