Guest Blog by: Kristen Oliver
Colleges can increase engagement exponentially by creating customized content for their target market.
The goal is to spend more time on messaging for different segments of your target audience, and less time on people who don’t fit the audience profile.
Finding the right time and way to contact your audience can make all the difference to response rates. I know from personal experience how much of a difference. Let me share with you my story.
After college ended in 2010, I started my first job in marketing and advertising, along with my first student loan payments. In the mail, I received donation request letters from my college on expensive paper with glossy photos. Work-study students called me a few times a month, encouraging me to help fund new programs.
Being asked to give when I was underwater in student loans wasn’t something I was interested in. The donation calls I received from my school’s work study students began to feel like stalking, and I actively avoided them.
I began getting contacted by professors and chairs from the business administration department with customized email surveys on how to make the college experience more rewarding for students.
The surveys included questions about my own college experience, major, most rewarding experiences, internship opportunities, and how quickly I found a job after graduation. The next survey even had questions about whether my college major prepared me for the job I was doing, and whether I was underemployed or had a job in the field I desired.
After a couple of years of generic outreach, the college finally acknowledged that job placement was just as important as a well-rounded liberal arts experience, and it was something they needed to work on.
The questions asked were insightful, and struck a chord with me. I was interested, and responded back quickly – there were tons of students who had graduated in my year that had trouble landing a job, and it mostly stemmed from a lack of real world experience. I took the survey, and then another one—the last survey I received asked about my opinions on women’s equality, compensation, and maternity policies.
The survey took into account my major, gender, and age to ask questions that were extremely relevant to me, about social and economic realities I experienced daily. I felt like my school took the time to talk to me about issues I cared about, and that made me much more likely to respond.
Colleges that understand how to harness the power of relevant, timely content are capturing more prospects/donors/engagement than those that use a generic message. If my university had waited until I was more established before asking me to donate, their odds of success would have been much higher – I became engaged with their outreach when they realized who I was within their larger target audience.
My university knew who I was based on alumni data, so they were able to target me specifically. Programmatic RTB(real-time-buying) media has the ability to build several profiles for students, alumni, and community members, and run a specific set of messages created for that person based on who they are, where they are, what they’re looking at, and their behavior online.
In 2016, an additional survey came from the President, thanking me for my feedback. Over the coming months, I saw news in my alumni magazine that the college had begun a new focus on internships, entrepreneurship, and interviewing/business development skills.
I felt like I had added value to the University, and began to engage with their alumni groups on LinkedIn. If I received a called today and was asked to donate to my university, my answer would no longer be “definitely not.” It’s heading in the direction of, “most likely in the future.” I even have plans to attend our class reunion this fall.