Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

Student recruitment email... a "Fast-Forward" application saga

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Student Recruitment... how many ways to say "we really need your application"?

One of our 6 secret shopping schools made a special impression these past few months... the "private college in update NY" that sent 44 emails from June 21 to the most recent received on February 16. That was many more than the 16 sent from the second most active school reported last week.

31 "Fast-Forward" application emails offer special perks... and deadline extensions

The 31 "Fast-Forward Application" emails that started on September 11 are what put the "private college in upstate NY" far ahead of everyone else. What to make of that? 

There is nothing wrong with telling a potential student that she is of special interest and that there is a way to fast-track an admission decision. Makes great marketing sense to make someone feel special. The perks offered were consistent from one email to the next, including a fast one-week decision and no essay. Nearly all noted that the director of admissions (the person sending the email) was extraordinarily interested in reviewing an application from a "clever" person like me.

It also makes marketing sense not to overplay your hand. In this case, what was especially intriguing was the constantly advancing deadline to receive an application. 

Was the hand overplayed? Judge for yourself. One way to let you do that is to show you the date and frequency, and the subject line for each email, with an occasional extra comment.

13 emails before the first application deadline...
 
  • September 11... "(College) chose you, Rachel"
  • September 16... "Admission decision from (College) in 7 days"
  • September 23... "(College) wants clever students like you"
  • September 27... "Welcome to your Fast-Forward Application"... odd title for the 4th email
  • September 28...  "Did you receive my email?"... 
  • October 3...         "Rachel, you're a top priority at (College)"
  • October 8...         "Re: Your (fast) admission decision from (College)"
  • October 22...       "You're cleared to apply with NO fee"
  • October 25...       "Your Fast-Forward Application to (College)"
  • November 1...      "Your (College) Application is Ready"
  • November 9...      "Your streamlined (College) application"
  • November 13...     "(College) deadline approaching!"
  • November 15...    "Fast-Forward Application Deadline Tonight!"
Rachel missed the first deadline but there will be more...

  • November 16...     "App deadline notification for Rachel"... new deadline of December 1
  • November 25...     "(College): less than one week left to apply"
  • November 29...     "Urgent message re: your app status"... special benefits only guaranteed until December 1
  • December 1...      "Important reminder: Deadline tonight"
  • December 2...       "Great news, Rachel!"... "one more day" to apply
  • December 8...       "Looking for your response"
  • December 14...     "Rachel, I'm still eager to hear from you"
  • January 4...         "A New Year's gift for you: Apply now!"... Apply by January 5 for special perks including a scholarship possibility that "won't last long."
  • January 9...          "I'm waiting to hear from you Rachel"
  • January 13...        "Rachel, only two days left"
  • January 15...       "(College) app due when clock strikes midnight!"
  • January 16...        "I was able to get you an extension"... "one extra day"
  • January 22...        "(College) wants more apps from students like you"... "more time" but no deadline
  • February 1...       "Urgent notice for Rachel"... new Feb 15 deadline     
  • February 9...        "You could be accepted to (College)"
  • February 13...       "Deadline Friday... watch your calendar"
  • February 15...       "Rachel, today's your last day"
  • February 16...      "Need another day, Rachel?"... the new deadline is midnight today
Integrated marketing communications?

You can't cultivate someone without showing continuing interest. And Rachel never said she was no longer interested. She started but never completed the Fast-Forward application. But it would make sense to ask her directly at some point if she had any intention of applying to this "private college in upstate NY."

The "regular" emails from the school started in June and continued through October. None were received after that until a final and curious one on December 5. The subject line was "Call us if you need application help" but the message made no mention of the Fast-Forward application touted in so many earlier messages.

The mix of emails arriving in September and October soon gave the impression that different offices were sending different communication streams without any scheduling coordination. That was especially true on October 8, when two emails arrived on the same day. 

An example of integrated marketing these 44 emails were not.

That's all for now.

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