Your alumni are your biggest, organically-growing marketing resource. Every term, your students finish their courses as your greatest advocates. We’ve already discussed what alumni engagement can bring to your marketing strategy to attract first-time enrolments, but what about re-enrolments? How do you entice your former students to return to your college for additional courses?
In this article, we discuss the key ways in which you can create a culture of lifelong learning amongst your alumni, turning your satisfied customers into loyal patrons who keep coming back.
Analysis of the 900,000 alumni in our database from 25 Colleges shows that its’s likely that your alumni fall into one of several of the following groups:
- Students who have taken a lower level course who could progress to a higher level
- Students who already have careers and might take a professional course to supplement their skills and progress in their industries
- Students who want to change their careers and could return to either part time or full time study to make this happen
- Students who have taken a ‘leisure’ course who may consider taking another course purely for enjoyment
There are several approaches your college could adopt which, when combined, target all of these groups and could inspire them to subscribe to the lifelong learning ethos.
Keeping a dialogue open with learners after graduation ensures that they continue to have a relationship with your college. This strategy is all about keeping your alumni ‘warm’ until they are ready to re-enrol, using channels such as email, social media, alumni associations and networking groups, both on and offline. A recent study of our database shows that 5.6% of all 2015 enrolments across several of our clients came from alumni that had opened and engaged with our emails. Maintaining awareness of the college in this way increases the likelihood that when your alumni do think about taking a course, they will think of you first.
Brand-building and the ‘Bigger Picture’ strategy
This consistent contact with alumni can also serve as a brand-building device. By providing engaging and inspiring content you are presenting your college as a valuable resource. Your alumni engagement material can be used to promote the benefits of upskilling; such as articles on salary and career progression, as well as advocacy content for the college such as inspiring testimonials and case studies. Recent statistics from our alumni content reports demonstrate that our most-read subjects are careers advice and student success stories.
Course promotion is of course, a vital part of re-enrolling your students, but is most effective as part of a ‘bigger picture’ strategy, combined with a wider package of brand-building content. The idea is not to bombard your alumni with marketing material, but to strike a balance between push tactics (sales) and pull tactics (branding) – it is the pull tactics which create loyal customers.
Ultimately, however invested your alumni are in your brand and ethos, conversion is still the end goal. So how do you bridge the gap? Conversion can be improved by using destination data to target your marketing to the right alumni, making campaigns such as reminders about new courses, open days and enrolment dates much more effective. You can also use the data gained from click rates within communications such as newsletters, for instance, to target further emails.
Our results have shown that targeted emails have both better open rates and click rate than standard ‘broadcast’ emails. For example, a recent client email focusing on apprenticeships was sent to all of their contacts. After targeting a second email to everyone who had opened this email, plus any other contacts who had shown previous engagement with ‘apprenticeship’ content, we were able to increase the open rate by around 400%, and the click rate by around 300%.
Similarly, a targeted email sent for a client recently had a 50% click-through rate to a new Level 5 course page. The email resulted in 3 new enrolments, and was the driving force behind the course being able to go ahead. The client reported: “the interest generated [in the course] so far has come solely from the emailing that [Think Alumni] did for us.”
Through a combination of brand-building, engagement and data you can turn you can put your college in a position to promote your courses to alumni, and have them respond positively.
Next time, we’ll talk about the different types of comms, and comms strategies you could adopt to target the four main alumni groups.