Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

Student recruitment... Parents & Prices are Missed Opportunities

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Parents and Prices: Important Pieces in Converting Inquiries to Applicants

A few weeks ago I was writing a client report on the results of the secret shopping project that started last June and ended in February. Two omissions from the email and print communications flow stood out: parents and prices.

Do you hate helicopter parents?

The term helicopter parents was most likely coined years ago by a frustrated admissions person who didn't like the fact that parents were so closely involved in the college selection process. 

Smart marketers know that you should not ignore parents just because you don't like their behavior. Close your eyes, put your head under a pillow or in a hole in the sand, crawl into a closet and shut the door... parents will still be there when you come back to the real world.

And so it did surprise me that no communication for parents (email or print) came along from June until well into the fall. What's with that? 

Stand out from everyone else. Start by sending a letter congratulating them on their daughter's or son's interest in your school. And stay in touch with them at least monthly after that. Waiting three months or more to send a brochure or an email is waiting too long.

What should you talk to parents about? 

Do you remember that parents care about price?

You don't have to search far to find someone in higher education bemoaning the fact that parents and students pay too much attention to "sticker price" and just don't understand how financial aid results in a much lower "net cost." Whatever shall we do?

Well, one thing to do is make a contact early after receiving an inquiry and invite people (especially parents) to complete your Net Cost Calculator. Especially if you are marketing-savvy enough to use one that has 12 to 15 items to complete rather than one that amounts to a mini-FAFSA exercise. And make sure they know who to call with questions when the results of the Net Cost Calculator come back.

Do you have a merit scholarship program? Don't frustrate people by telling them when the calculator page opens that merit scholarship awards are not included. Especially don't do that if a serious competitor is not making that mistake.

Getting people past sticker price to net cost early in the inquiry conversion process just might result in more summer and fall visits and more applications. Without taking direct steps like this, can we still blame people who don't grasp the virtue of the financial aid system?

My 2-day "Writing Right for the Web" Workshop

May 30-31, Boston: "Writing Right for the Web: Improving Your Web Content," Academic Impressions Conference. Review the topics and register.

That's all for now.

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