The Good, The Bad, and The Non-Traditional: A Guide to Multiple Personas in Higher Ed Marketing

target-audience-featured June 12th, 2017 Posted by Marketing No Comment yet

You’ve learned a little bit more about honing in on your higher education persona—a semi-fictional representation of your ideal student that is so important to success in inbound marketing. You’ve been thinking outside the box about your alumni, admissions team and the utilization of previously-acquired data to help stand out to ideal people looking for your school. Now, it’s time to think about the variety of people (personas) to which these factors and practices will apply.

Because higher education is so mainstream, there will undoubtedly be multiple personas to consider. Other than the general student persona whom we have deemed “traditional” (just out of high school, technologically inclined, a heavy researcher, etc.), there are a few others to take into account. Moreover, understanding who not to waste time and resources targeting will be a beneficial expansion on this concept.

To begin, let’s break down some additional personas and identify where and how they fit into your higher ed inbound marketing strategy.

The Parent Persona

The parent persona is another logical persona looking for tactile features and benefits from a prospective college or university. But, where a prospective student may be focused on clubs and campus life, parents may be more interested in post-grad employment rates and career services.

Parents tend to want to assess whether or not their child’s future major is particularly emphasized at the school of their choice. They want evidence of all-encompassing programs with notoriety and networking opportunities.

Furthermore, they are probably considering the financial side of things—and with more clarity. Parents are bringing their experience to the table and they are shopping for value. In general, their child’s future is the major focus. They are seeking stability, credibility, and real-world application.

The Non-Traditional Student Persona

The non-traditional student can almost be described as a mixture of the traditional student persona and the parent persona. This particular group is over 25, is either going to college for the first time or going back to school with a different career path in mind, and is definitely their own advocate in terms of career services and desired return on investment.

The concerns of the non-traditional student persona are likely going to be vastly different from those which fall in the traditional category. They could have waited to pursue an education because of financial issues, family, or just plain indecision. This group is thoughtful, dedicated, and experienced. They want value and job security from the program in which they enroll.

The Negative Student Persona

Now that we’ve outlined the personas for various types of people you want to attract to your college or university, we should now consider who not to target. You may be thinking, “why wouldn’t we want someone to be attracted to our school?” There are actually plenty of reasons to exclude a identifiable population from your higher ed inbound marketing outreach.

But first, what is a negative student persona?

A negative student persona is an additional semi-fictional representation—except it’s of your non-ideal prospective students. When using inbound marketing practices, a negative student persona is almost as important to your higher ed inbound marketing strategy as having a regular student persona.

You want to make certain that you are attracting your ideal students—the best way to gauge this sometimes is to be sure you’re avoiding your negative persona.

Here are a few personas that you would find in the exclusionary category:

The Indiscriminate Student

This student is applying to 5, 10, or even 15 schools and being rather impersonal in their approach to higher education. They don’t have a clue what they’re going to major in and have a lackadaisical mentality on longevity—they aren’t putting a lot of thought into it because if they’re not thrilled with their choice of school, they’ll just transfer. This student is not concerned with finding their niche at your school or becoming invested in any programs.

The Baited Student

Higher education, with its emphasis on yield rates, should be focused on attracting students who will not only apply, but actually enroll after acceptance. The baited student has applied to your higher ed institution and possibly even clicked on a content offer or two from your university website before that. But, even when they get in, they won’t enroll because they’re really hoping for an acceptance letter from their first choice school.

Having a high rate of applicants is a good thing, if your school can balance this out with a proportional enrollment rate. If not, the higher the applicant rate, the more skewed the ratio becomes.

You want to spend the time, money, and effort targeting students who have a future at your school, not just those who seem as if they might. You want those who, provided that they’re a good fit, consider your school to be their first choice rather than a back-up plan.

The Wrong-Fit Student

This student might not be a bad fit for your competitor, but at your school, they will struggle to find their place. Maybe this student’s inclination toward science, math, or a trade will be quelled by your large liberal arts college’s focus on the humanities. They won’t use your institution’s resources to their full potential, and when people ask him/her about their college they’ll remark that the experience has been “so-so”.

Or, more quantifiably, the student’s financial aid needs don’t fit well with the offering that they got from your school. These are areas on which to inform and educate prospective students before they find themselves espoused to your university and in over their head. Plus, in attracting a “wrong-fit” student, your school might have accidentally excluded a prospective student who is actually a better fit.

The Bottom Line

As a higher ed marketer, your goal is that every student you draw in finds success at your school. You want them to be always envisioning the graduation finish line but also simultaneously invested in their journey to it.

Using inbound marketing practices to create multiple personas—including negative personas—allows higher ed institutions to anticipate and attract prospective students that are a better fit academically, financially, and culturally while excluding those who do not meet this sensitive criteria.

Free Toolkit - Create Student Personas For Your School

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