It’s been a busy few months developing university clearing campaigns with our agency partners. As students start to receive their results, applications will soon be flooding in. Here’s 5 things we’ve learned so far….
- Clearing is not as scary as people think, so communicate that
Clearing can seem daunting to students who don’t understand the process, whereas in actual fact the whole point about clearing is that it allows students to talk directly to universities. They’re able to quickly find out what courses are available to them and apply straight away, sometimes there and then over the phone.
Clearing cuts red tape and makes it easier for students to apply, meaning more students in the right courses, and more places filled up for universities. It’s up to marketing teams to get this message across to potential students.
Some of our best performing headlines and articles have been reassuring pieces, helping guide students through the process. At the same time, long form content gives institutions the ideal opportunity to position themselves as a viable option and provides potential students with the confidence to contact clearing teams.
- Consider your audience groups
Universities spend large budgets targeting potential students and signposting key courses, but should they spend more time thinking about who their audience is?
Whilst students will ultimately make the final decision on where and when to apply through clearing, they don’t have to do this on their own. Parents, teachers, tutors and heads of year all have an impact on a student’s decision, so universities also need to be engaging with these influencers and giving them the best possible information for them to pass on. It’s certainly worth considering producing bespoke content for these groups.
- Don’t just focus on traditional school leavers
This year we have seen more universities expand the audience of their content campaigns to engage with mature students who are considering returning to university (or attending for the first time) to change or progress their careers.
The messaging to these potential students has to be really eye-catching and inspirational to encourage consideration and cut through the wealth of marketing aimed at more traditional clearing audiences.
Unlike school leavers, mature students don’t have parents and teachers drilling key application dates into them, so they often don’t realise its application season or fall foul of the ‘there’s always next year’ syndrome. Universities need to reach these students, often found in the local catchment areas, and explain the benefits of career focused courses. We’ve found messaging around career changes or progress have had the biggest impact across our network.
- Be strategic with your budget
We know results day is an incredibly important time to reach students as they have a very short window to make a decision. As a result, advertising spends on results day have become mind-blowing due to the sheer amount competition driving up the prices of biddable media.
With a click on Google sometimes costing upwards of £100 have you considered other DR channels like Native Display to diversify your results day strategy?
Another option to take the pressure off a very narrow window is to engage with students in pre-clearing. This gives universities a chance to get their message across with longer form, less DR based content.
That way when students reach clearing, they have already engaged with the university, have some understanding of its offering / courses, and see it as a viable option. Therefore, pre-clearing brand engagement can massively increase performance of your activity on the big day and get more out of your overall campaign.
- Try out different content approaches and react to performance
Every university is different in their approach to the content they create. You often hear that copy needs to be authentic, and written in language that students will engage with, but what does that mean?
There’s no silver bullet when it comes to producing content – whilst we’ve a wealth of experience writing for student audiences – it’s still worth trying different approaches; analysing and optimising towards what’s performing best.
For us, that might mean testing an advertorial article full of facts about courses, campus locations and teaching against a softer content-led approach, written to engage students with the brand.
Both have their place in the recruitment cycle, but looking at engagement with the content, CTAs from the article page and back end data from clearing landing pages, you can understand which approach works best for your audience and optimise towards those articles, giving you the best value for your advertising spend.