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The Most Important Metric For Higher Ed Marketing Teams

Brian Ruhlmann  |  December 14, 2017

‘Tis the season for college enrollment and marketing teams to connect with thousands of high school juniors and seniors. 

It’s a very exciting time for students, whether they’re learning if they've been accepted, planning campus visits, or hearing about new programs or majors.

For higher ed marketing teams analyzing the engagement, they're looking closely at open and click-through rates, analytics to evaluate demonstrated interest, and seeing who has signed up for events or placed a deposit. There are so many different metrics to track, but which one is the most important?

All these efforts can lead to amazing results and exciting conversations for both the student and college, but when all is said and done, where does the influence happen? Almost all the time, it happens during the conversation.

It’s convenient for colleges to use lead forms or buy names and then bucketize prospective students using marketing automation to send them different emails or mailers, but conversations cut directly to the student’s core interests, concerns, and educational goals.

For college marketing teams, their number one goal should be tracking the number of quality conversations with students.

Conversation can take place on any channel, like email, phone calls, SMS, or Facebook Messenger. However, you must remember that the medium is as important as the message, particularly when it comes to engaging Generation Z.  At AdmitHub, we find that text message and Facebook Messenger (which most students already use everyday to talk to their friends) are the best environments for real-time conversation.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that having lots of quality conversations is easy, but it’s what students prefer.

It’s important to remember that the key activity of every successful conversation is not talking, but listening -- specifically listening and responding!

While email, SMS blasts, and Facebook updates are effective at broadcasting information, their one-way nature means they are not (and never will be) conversation. Conversation is a give-and-take, and it’s the listening and responding that is particularly difficult to accomplish at scale… until now.

It’s impossible to anticipate the exact time a student will want to engage in their own college process. If it’s 4pm on Sunday when they have a question about the FAFSA or finally decide to resolve a transcript issue, it should be possible to capitalize on that enthusiasm. Instead, this is what most student support chat transcripts look like when messages come in at off-hours:

Conversation AI chatbot.jpg

Whatever the time of day a student asks a question, the thought is fresh in their mind. That is the moment when he or she is most receptive to a response. Instead, a response is typically sent during normal business hours -- at which point the student is likely back in school and the cell phone is tucked safely in a locker. When the conversation finally resumes, the energy and momentum of the conversation has been lost.

This is where conversational artificial intelligence comes in. AdmitHub’s AI assistants can answer thousands of common questions 24/7 without supervision. A good virtual assistant can also follow up with questions of its own (when necessary) to learn more about a student when the opportunity presents itself.

In contrast to the manual example of even the most dedicated college enrollment staff, here’s what a quick AI-enabled conversation might look like:

Conversation Artificial intellegence higher ed.jpg

In this example, the AI assistant responds within six seconds to support a student through a quick question. It also engages in friendly conversation to further build a positive relationship. Finally, instead of ending the conversation there, the AI assistant can also continue to engage the student on any other topic area that is important and urgent (e.g., a deadline, registration hold, late library book or much more) to that particular student.

Of course, an AI assistant is not able to handle every situation without human support. But AdmitHub’s system, for example, can already respond to thousands of questions and follow up with dialogs to support students through the most common situations… and it only continues to grow using AI.

Conversations establish connections with students, and conversational AI allows you to listen and respond at scale. As a result, you can create more positive experiences with students, build relationships, and free up staff time for the high-leverage work that can never be automated. You could even say that AI helps you and your staff be more human in your everyday work (instead of simply copying and pasting the same FAQ answers into your email inbox).

If you’re curious to learn more, drop us a line. We’d love to have a conversation with you!

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Topics: messaging, texting, marketing

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