This is part two in our series of the challenges Higher Education folk face. Check out part one here.
In part one, we doffed our caps to all the challenges that Undergraduate student recruitment professionals face. In part two, as promised, we bring you some good news.
Strap in, there’s a metric tonne of exciting opportunities for universities. And, like the career decline of Haley Joel Osment, it’s all down to AI.
AI is going to be absolutely HUGE in UG HE. There are all kinds of opportunities in student retention, course development and NSS. But today, we’re going to focus on Student Recruitment and Marketing, and how AI is about to completely change the way it’s done.
1. Watch the decision-making process happen
The decision-making process for students is long and complicated, with more factors involved than Ed Sheeran’s suncream. It’s a decision with so many moving parts that it’s incredibly hard to establish the real reasons your courses are succeeding or struggling.
The good news is that, more than ever before, students are going through this process out in the open. On forums, review sites and social media, students are talking about the courses they’re interested in, the unis they’re trying to decide between and the factors at play when they make these decisions.
But making sense of what people are saying as a whole is a lot more challenging. Until now. AI can help you to collate and understand these decision factors, and turn them into actionable insight.
And in actioning it, you can…
2. Build up an evidence base
Last time we bemoaned the structure of HE, where your boss’s boss is probably an academic, has no understanding of marketing and is normally invested in the status quo. To be clear, most academics are incredibly clever and wonderful people generally. But when it’s your opinion against theirs, and you want to try something that hasn’t been done before, it can be hard to advance your ideas.
But here’s the thing about academics: they tend to respond really well to data.
AI won’t just help you in your decision making, it will also create an evidence base for your decisions, and helping you innovate in a structure that often discourages it.
And getting that data early means you can...
3. Listen before it’s too late
A University once came to us with a problem with a specific course. For years they had been turning away good applicants from it, when all of a sudden, without warning, application numbers dropped off a cliff. We went through an analysis process and uncovered reasons for the decline in the course offering, new market entrants, and pressures on the subject area as a whole.
But that’s not the really exciting part.
The really exciting part is: we would have predicted it. You could see the change in attitude towards the course long before the applications came in.
One of the truly hard parts of UG Marketing is that you can’t make changes based on sales. But you can use the process of social listening to see how courses are doing before it’s too late. And AI can collate that information, and show you new ways to find a market before it’s too late.
And thinking in new ways will help you to...
4. Know the competition better than they know themselves
The competitive landscape is getting more and more cut-throat in HE. Fewer 18-year-olds, more new courses, more options for students beyond a degree - getting a competitive advantage could be the difference between a course succeeding and failing.
We sometimes describe the internet as the world’s largest focus group. But it’s also the chance to sit in on the focus groups of every single competitor in the market. You can understand who are the main competitors in each subject area, what students like and dislike about them.
If knowledge is power, the data that you can get from AI is a turbo-charged rocket tomahawk made of dragon glass. And if you don’t use it, you better believe that some of your competitors will.
And once you have the edge on them, you’ll be able to...
5. Convert convert convert
It’s after the applications come in that the fun really begins, of course. Once students have an offer from you, how do you get them to select you. Increasingly, universities are offering more and more unconditional offers in an endless race to the bottom.
But AI has a better solution. The tailored marketing messages you can produce using AI are astonishing, and it means that students feel like individuals rather than numbers being pushed through a process.
And that’s what we love about AI - for all that it’s new technology, and can feel a little sterile and uncomfortable, when it’s done well it allows you to treat people as individuals, at a scale where this wasn’t previously possible. AI may have you conjuring up images of scary robots, but you can use it to put the human back into marketing.
And we still haven’t told you the best part! There is one thing that all universities have at their disposal for marketing, and pretty much none of them ever use. It’s accessible, unique to HE and we think it will be the big game-changer in HE Marketing in the next five years.
We’re so excited about it, we want to be very, very careful about who we tell.
If you want to know, drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “HE game-changer”, to arrange a chat. We promise you, we’ll give you something to think about.