Psychographic Segmentation: How Prospective Students Decide (Part 1)

April 15th, 2015 by Bob Longmire Leave a reply »

[Today begins a two-part post on the use of psychographic segmentation to frame your communications with prospective students.]

In the world of higher-education admissions, this is a very demanding, challenging and exciting time of year. You are in the final weeks of yield season for your 2015 incoming class and you are also beginning new efforts aimed at Fall 2016. With that in mind, I want to share some new information that can help you in both your short and long term recruiting efforts. It involves segmenting your pool of prospective students psychographically. It’s about finding out what’s going on in the student’s head, and how it will influence their college selection decision.

Eye_For_CollegePsychographic segmentation is an effective strategy that can be indispensable in higher education and can impact every stage of your funnel. By definition, segmentation simply involves dividing a broad target market into subsets of consumers (in our case prospective students), who have, or are perceived to have, common needs, interests, and priorities, and then designing and implementing strategies to make your personal and mass communications more effective to the various segments you have identified.

You may already group your prospective student pool into geographic and socioeconomic segments. And you might overlay additional data sets for the purposes of predicting outcomes (such as enrollment). Predictive analytics is fantastic. As a marketer, I love it. But my sales background makes me want more. I want to understand each person I’m talking to. I want to know what they want and why. I want to know how they make decisions. I want know how I can frame a value proposition that will most resonate with them. I want to know how they can be best served.

You can get this information from prospective students and it will dramatically improve the quality and richness of your communication with them. You just have to ask them for it.

We have. About 20,000 college-bound students have participated in our most recent national co-sponsored studies, Your Value Proposition and The Excitement Factor!

In those two studies, we uncovered what is going on in their heads as they search for the kind of college they want. We gained insight into how they make decisions. Multiple psychographic segments emerged.

For starters, The Excitement Factor! study uncovered three distinct segments of prospective students with regard to college selection: Those who make their decision based primarily on facts; those whose decisions are driven by their excitement about attending; and those who will make their college selection decision with an equal measure of facts and excitement. As it turns out, each group represents one-third of the total.

Within the facts and excitement segments there are students who are just slightly more inclined to make their decision on facts or excitement. And there are students who make their decision exclusively on facts or excitement.

In conversations with a prospective student, an admission counselor can ascertain which of the three categories the student falls into by asking a few simple questions. When you know where an individual student falls within this spectrum you can make every communication you have with him or her more meaningful. For instance, in conversations with a prospective student a counselor can present information (factual, experiential, or an equal mix) in the context that the student is most likely to absorb and find valuable. Campus tours can be segmented in a manner that will capture the student’s enthusiasm. Your emails will be welcomed and thoroughly read because the student will find them relevant.

A similar process of segmentation and messaging is possible on a mass marketing scale, as well. You may already have in place the technology to personalize by segment everything from brochures and viewbooks to emails and text messages. The key is to gather the type of prospect intelligence that will accurately classify a student as being a fact-based, excitement-based or balanced decision-maker. To do this, many of our clients use our Yield Enhancement System (YES) to uncover this buying decision segmentation. A segment code can be attached to each record in a CRM system, thereby providing the trigger to drive specific types of appeals delivered through conversation, email, on-campus interactions, and so on.

This blog post has focused on segmenting students by their fact-based or excitement-based decision making. In our next post, we will explore more psychographic segments in which students described their personality traits, and how those traits are associated with what they desire in a college, and what communications strategies are most successful in moving the needle of their excitement.

The release of The Excitement Factor! report is creating a great deal of thought-provoking discussion among enrollment managers and higher education marketing professionals. The project uncovered a wealth of highly valuable information on how your ability to create student excitement about your college can drive your enrollment. You can CLICK HERE  to receive an advance copy prior to its national release.

Continue the conversation on Twitter @LongmireCo. For more information about Longmire and Company’s Interactive Counselor Training Program, click here. Be sure to Subscribe to Versions of Conversion today so you don’t miss any of this highly-valuable information.

RHL_Photo_100x100Bob Longmire is President of Longmire and Company, Inc. He is a recognized expert on the topic of how prospective students and parents form their college selection decisions – and how colleges can use that knowledge to grow and control their enrollment. He can be reached at (913) 492-1265, ext 709 or at Connect with Bob  at Linkedin/in/boblongmire.

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