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Why your university needs a personalization strategy

Creating messages for everyone, can end up serving no one. We all expect brands, from our TV streaming services, to our banks, to power company to our universities, to speak to us individually, in a specific way, with an understanding of who we are and what we want. All with minimal effort on our own behalf.

The reality is we all experience nearly 3,000 marketing messages a day. We overwhelming demand a meaningful experience when we do decide to interact with a brand. But at the same time, we want 80% of that meaningful interaction to be self directed.


It’s really not surprising that despite the Cambridge Analytica style scandals and data breaches of late, 70% of consumers are still willing to share personal information as long as in return, they see a benefit or value exchange as a result (DMA). As long as we feel like we’re getting something back, or our lives are being made easier by providing data, we’re happy to give brands the information they need to personalise our experiences


In fact, further than this nearly a third of Gen Z will actually stop interacting with you if you don’t anticipate what they want, and make it as easy as possible for them to find. Personalisation is more than making sure that students who are interested in studying medicine see pictures of people with stethoscopes. It’s about making sure that users can find the information that they - specifically - are interested in, in the quickest time with the lowest amount of effort.

It’s about creating a frictionless experience, because if that information and engagement is difficult, people will stop paying attention.

A Fine Line between Creepy and Cool

However, there’s also a very fine line between creepy and cool. To avoid creeping your users out, you need to ensure that your personalisation is not noticeable. It should be an integral but invisible part of the experience. The best personalisation enhances the user experience without them questioning how or why it’s happening. It should go unnoticed, providing information in a way that feels effortless, adding value and making lives easier, without creeping people out.

There’s a definite difference between a prefilled form on a website giving easy access to content, and an ad on Facebook telling Sophie by name that you’re sorry she didn’t get the grades she needed and clearing can be a tough time, but you’d love to help her out if she’d like to come to an event that you’re holding near her home, in Finsbury Park, Ambler ave, Number 68… Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Cross Channel Cross Device

Often when people think about personalisation, they immediately think of their website and emails. But how you communicate and engage with prospective students, and where your personalisation strategy should reach, expands far beyond this. Not just across different channels, but also across devices. When it comes to personalisation, a consistent experience is important.

Think about Netflix, the kings of personalisation - You can stop watching a show on your phone, and immediately start where you left off on your laptop. Once you give them information to personalise they carry that across the entire experience.

Because once users start to give you their information, they expect you to use it to their benefit. When you’re competing for a prospective students attention you need to make sure all experiences are as engaging and frictionless as possible.


Time the Journey

Good personalisation is more than remembering to include someone's name in an email, or suggesting similar courses to the ones you already know they’re looking at. It’s about timing the journey. Anticipating key moments in the student’s user journey, and providing information at the right time specific to that student. To re-engage students you might be losing without having to wait for the next scheduled time bound marketing activity.

With Marketing Automation, personalising every stage of the journey, from a timing, channel and content perspective, becomes possible. Right from that beginning stage, when a student is still ‘unknown’  in terms of a name and email because they’ve only viewed your website once, down to the final stages when they accept an offer and ongoing, can be personalised.

It’s not just the content they’ve received that personalised, it’s the timing of when they receive that content, and the channel used to communicate the content as well.

Now or Never

In our Spotify, Netflix, Amazon world, we all expect brands to speak to us in a specific way, with an understanding of exactly who we are and what we want. With competition between universities only increasing, and user’s expectations for seamless consistent engagement growing alongside, implementing a personalisation strategy should be top on the priority list for all universities.


Kat is a Marketo Certified Expert, and a Marketing Automation Consultant with Squiz. Squiz is a digital consultancy, technology and services provider with 20+ years experience helping enable clients thrive in a world of digital transformation and rapid change.


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