It’s a Saturday morning and I’m having coffee with a few friends. As I sip on my cappuccino, I hear about the most tender and juicy ribeye in history; and how it was prepared. My interest is peaked. What would it take for me to make perfect steaks?
5 minutes later, I am the proud owner of a Sous Vide precision cooker which will be delivered to me on Monday.
It took me 5 minutes to go through the buyer’s journey:
What were the contributing factors to this? And, could those same techniques be used to make it easier for prospective students to participate in your admissions process.
Higher Education Buyer’s Journey
Before answering that question, let’s start by looking at the buyer’s journey for applying to college. What are the common steps for a candidate who isn’t meeting with you in person?
Step 1 – Interest
The first thing a candidate needs to do is to have a goal that drives interest in solving a problem. “I want to work in day care.” That goal causes them to start the process of determining whether they need additional education.
Step 2 – Qualification
The candidate then starts looking at institutions and degree programs that will help them achieve that goal. In most circumstances, they will use the internet to do this – and will ultimately land on your website to qualify your institution. They will learn your approach, what degree programs are available, your reputation, and what is involved in completing the program.
Step 3 – Action
Finally, the candidate will either take action or not. If he/she takes action, he/she will submit an application to enroll in the institution.
What’s Amazon's Secret?
The technique that Amazon uses to accomplish this is to bring together the qualification and action pieces of the buyer’s journey. At every point in the research / qualification process (searching through the catalog, comparing similar items), Amazon lets you take action on purchasing. Amazon even has a patent on removing all friction from the process – performing a single click to buy something.
So, the important question is, can colleges do something similar? Can they reduce the friction of going from research and qualification to applying? The answer is, of course, YES.
Tying this to Admissions
So, how do you put this into action? The key is to break down the silos between the website (where people use to get information about your degree programs) and the systems to perform actions (such as enrolling). Capella University’s website has an excellent example of bringing this together visually (apply, talk with counselor, etc.).
However, one key difference between Amazon and Capella is that Amazon remembers your context when you took the action. When clicking to buy on Amazon, the item you are reviewing automatically becomes part of the order.
As a college, imagine a similar scenario. Candidates browse your website to learn more about your degree programs, the work involved, and how each one translates to getting a job. The candidate clicks a link to apply for enrollment at that point and the application is tailored to completing the application for that degree and program.
Even if all the candidate does is register, you know who he/she is and what he/she wants to study. This allows for a number of avenues of engagement to move things forward (which are techniques that we will discuss in other articles). In most circumstances, however, the candidate will have overcome one of the biggest hurdles in applying – getting started in the right direction.
To accomplish this requires linkage between an organization’s website and their other systems, such as the online application and routing software (in the event that you adopt a white glove treatment).