29 April 2017

GREAT reviews matter for marketing courses. How to get them?

I’ve written about why marketing courses are so different from marketing anything else a short while ago. One of the points I made was:

Your “clients” are not just investing money, they’re also investing time.

It’s not a matter of “I’ll try this, and if it doesn’t work out, I’ll just return it and buy a new one.” There is a real risk of wasting time. The opportunity cost for a wrong choice of education can be truly huge.

Prospective students do some serious digging into the institutions at which they are thinking to enroll. And this means that to truly win your ideal students over, takes more than just showing up as a possible choice.

Showing up as a possible choice (e.g. through SEO, listing sites, education fairs etc.) will land you in the consideration set; the first step in the consumer decision journey.

But what will prospective students find about your institution if they start digging? If what they find isn’t particularly impressive, they’ll simply drop you from the consideration set.

A strong showing comes in many parts. It’s about ratings, how your website looks, how approachable your team is during education fairs; the list goes on.

An often underrated aspect is word of mouth, and it’s online equivalent: reviews. Prospective students will trust your institution to provide verifiable information about location, grants available, admission procedure etc. But to make their final choice of where to apply, reviews and other third party content command more weight.

GREAT reviews don’t just happen. At least, not at the rate that you’d like. Making students very happy is an important start. You have to ask for them as a matter of routine.

Here’s what you can do to get a steady stream of GREAT reviews:

  • Have someone accountable for identifying happy students / potential reviewers and approaching them personally. A search for your institution name on social media may reveal students who already have an online following. Certainly, reach out to them. Their are social listening tools that can alert you when stuff gets published. But also put out feelers more widely with academic and other front line staff – so that they alert the marketing team when a student does something remarkable – and you can reach out to get their story, and help it spread. Pay attention to get reviews from students from as many backgrounds as possible (it also won’t hurt to get foreign language versions), and from a wide spread of different courses / faculties.
  • Provide guidance. A good review is a story. Happy people are more than willing to provide a GREAT review. But not everyone knows how to do this. Provide a few questions, which, when answered, make a compelling story. This is not telling people what to write. It’s helping to make their task easier. Some example questions: (1) what did you think about [HEI name] before you started? Did you have any concerns / reservations? (2) What’s your experience at our school like today? (3) How do you expect your time at [school name] will affect your future?
  • Repurpose and distribute. If someone writes a great review and posts it on a course comparison site, can they also post it on Facebook; other sites? Can you pick up a snippet and add it to your website? If you know who the student is, can you meet up for a short video for your YouTube channel (which you could also advertise on Facebook)? Getting a person to tell a story is the hard part — when the review is there, put it in as many places as you can. A review is only as valuable as its number of views!

This article first appeared on Linkedin