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The 48 Hours After Inquiry are Critical. Many Schools are Missing the Boat

Eduvantis “secret shopped” nearly 300 Part-Time and Online MBA programs nationwide to gather the most current and thorough data set available on lead capture and nurture practices. In our most recent blog, we assessed how many of these programs may be unknowingly restricting the top of their funnel – check out our findings and recommendations.

In Part 2 of this series, we analyze how universities engage prospective students within the first 48 hours after they “inquire” by filling out the RFI form. Why is this important? Our digital agency finds that, on average, effective paid digital Google ads get clicked around 2% of the time, then may convert those clickers into inquiries on their landing page another 2% of the time – so only 1 out of every 2,500 searchers may actually inquire into your program. These people are precious!

Ultimately, how you nurture these leads down your funnel will greatly impact if they enroll in a competitor’s program or yours.  The first 48 hours of their journey may be the most pivotal of all.  Think back to a recent major purchase decision you made, if you provided your contact information to get more information, didn’t you expect to hear back quickly, personally, and professionally? The same is true of your MBA candidates.

So, You Have an Interested Prospect?

First, a few initial observations before diving into some of the meatier findings from this study:

  1. This should be obvious but, after RFI completion, there should be at least some sort of follow up. Surprisingly, 17% of the programs we inquired into left us hanging for days with no contact, and 9% didn’t reach out at all!
  2. If you request a prospect’s phone number, use it! While we expected to receive more calls from Online programs than PTMBA programs, we were surprised at the discrepancy (21 to 2) and, in general, how few PTMBA programs seemed to prioritize using this important tactic.
  3. Online programs are also way ahead when it came to texting prospects. We received more than a dozen text messages from Online programs and none from PTMBA programs. This is certain to increase in the near future, and those who get ahead of the curve are likely to benefit.

Does Your Prospect Feel Valued?

When a prospect fills out your RFI form it’s more likely than not that they are also actively engaging with other programs in their consideration set, so setting yourself apart by establishing a meaningful, authentic connection is important.

This is your opportunity to provide the prospect with a personalized experience – one they will view as a proxy for the type of experience they will have if they have enrolled in your program. We found that most communications from the programs into which we inquired did not accomplish this.

Many (just over 10%) “first contact” emails did not address the prospect by name – a small touch that sets the tone for the entire relationship – and a basic CRM auto-generation feature.  Similarly, we found that nearly 50% of all programs failed to establish an actual, personal, point of contact for the prospective student. Instead, they sent emails from multiple sources including the university, business school, business school dean, admissions team, and recruiter.  This can be extremely confusing for a prospective student – who are they supposed to reach out to with any questions? Establishing one specific point of contact (not a general email address i.e. [email protected]) can go a long way.

Are You Providing the Info They Asked For?

While communicating with the prospect within 48-hours is key, the content of your communication is just as important to build a meaningful relationship.  Remember, these prospects just filled out their personal information to “request information” or “learn more.” While a simple email confirmation at the time of RFI submission is fine, it’s a best practice to also provide new and relevant information about the program into which they’ve inquired in those first 48-hours. Surprisingly, only 65% of the programs did this, with the other 35% often providing generic, relatively unhelpful, information about all programs within the business school.

The best communications we saw incorporated a few program strengths and/or differentiators into an easily digestible introductory email – basically, their elevator pitch. 31% of PT programs and 56% of Online programs included “selling points”, providing a ripe opportunity for them against their competitors.

The % of PT and Online MBA programs that within the first 48-hours after inquiry did not…

chart showing outreach percentage of part time and online programs

So, What Do You Want Them to Do Now?

Lastly, we want to revisit the main purpose for lead nurturing: creating opportunities for additional engagement to actively move prospects down your enrollment funnel.

At this stage of the customer journey, it’s vital to provide a prospect with multiple ways to engage, reducing barriers, and allowing them to pick the avenue down which they are most comfortable to engage further.  It was shocking to see 65% of the programs did not include any call to action in their emails during those crucial 48-hours, likely inhibiting their opportunity for conversion.

We would be remiss to not mention the most common call to action we did see: “APPLY NOW.” Sure, your ultimate goal is to have the prospective students apply to your program, but this is called a customer “journey” for a reason, and you can’t just skip to the end! We recommend including more stage-appropriate such as “schedule a time to connect with an advisor” or “watch a video about our student experience.”

To summarize, within 48-hours Eduvantis recommends:

  1. Establishing a meaningful connection. Personalize the process by establishing a point of contact for the prospective student.
  2. Providing new and relevant information. Convey the differentiated value proposition of your program, while reducing barriers to engaging further.
  3. Allowing prospects to choose their journey by providing multiple paths. Ensure stage-appropriate calls to action are included to move prospects down your enrollment funnel.

If you are not confident that you know what happens to your inquiries in the first 48 hours, please reach out to us and we’ll let you know what we found.  We don’t want your marketing ROI to diminish because your communication plan is not well executed.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of our series where we analyze how universities stay in touch with prospects after the first 48-hours.  We’ll discuss how much is “too much”, and how long we think you should be staying in touch with a prospect after they inquire. Spoiler alert, we never heard from ~15% of the institutions after this initial time period, we hope you don’t find yourself in that group!