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5 Ways to Make Digital Personal

Recently, I had the fantastic opportunity to present at a regional conference for graduate admission and marketing professionals. I felt like Ariel the first time she stepped foot on land or Jasmine when she took off on the magic carpet. (Yes, I have Disney on the brain thanks to the upcoming Carnegie Conference!) Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that graduate admission is a whole new world!

As someone who worked in undergraduate admission, I can speak to the hundreds of high schools visits and all those phone calls with Mom and Dad…but when it comes to the graduate world, I’m still a newbie. So I did what any newbie should do: I kept quiet and listened. :) I absorbed everything like a sponge, and it was amazing.

One topic that came up over and over again was the idea of making the admission process personal for graduate prospects. Ten years ago, graduate admission was all about the personal touch. Each prospect would have long talks with their counselor about the program and application requirements. And every e-mail was sent specifically to each prospect. Well, with a growing amount of graduate programs and a need to fill more seats with less budget, I learned that it’s becoming more and more difficult to build those personal relationships with prospects.

That’s when the light bulb went off.

Digital marketing would be the perfect way to scale those personal interactions to a larger audience. Here are the top five ways to do just that:

  1. Segment your audience with Retargeting. If you’re an avid Carnegie blog reader, you’re probably sick of hearing about Retargeting, but I’m sorry to say it isn’t going anywhere! Retargeting continues to prove itself as a strong conversion driver and perfect way to segment your audience. Why not bucket your different program pages so that your MBA prospects see a different CTA than your Psychology prospects? Same with your part-time versus full-time prospects. The more personal your ads can be, the better your prospect will respond. 
  2. Retarget in search. Remarketing Lists for Search Ads, also known as RLSA, allows you to create different paid search ads for prospects who have already visited your site. Not only can you use a stronger CTA, but these ads are generally less expensive. Personal ads for less money means happy higher education marketers!
  3. A/B test the bejesus out of your ads. The absolute best way to learn about your audience is to test, test, and test again! Sometimes changing something as simple as an image or CTA in your ads can have a huge impact on your conversions. Discover what your audience wants and deliver it to them!
  4. Get social. Social media platforms are a great way to mix organic content with paid and truly home in on your audience. You can target specific majors, geographies, age ranges, and interest areas to serve content and ads specific to that audience. Talk about personal! 
  5. Use your lists. Have a GRE, GMAT, or LSAC list? Or maybe a list of alumni from the past five years? Use them! By IP Targeting your lists, you can reach these populations with specific messaging directly into the home. The technology allows you to ride in through the WiFi, which means you get the added benefit of exposure to family and friends in the household.

All of these digital marketing strategies will allow you to reach a larger grad school–bound audience in a more personal way. But, as you know, the ultimate goal is to connect them with a person to start building a real relationship. Graduate programs are a big commitment and can often compete with other life priorities like work and family life. Keeping the personal touch is critical, even in this whole new world of digital marketing.

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