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Growth hacks for student recruitment

Tech startups and international student recruitment may seem like they’re worlds apart, but from growth hacking to disruptive marketing, the fast-moving world of tech lends itself to the competitive space of student recruitment. Here are three strategies that can reap rewards.

Get to know your audience through A/B testing
Knowledge is power. The first thing you’ll need to recruit more students is a concrete understanding of what they want. One way to learn this, and a relatively simple first step, is to complete A/B testing on your marketing campaigns. Startups often adopt A/B testing due to the low cost and potentially high rewards it offers. One startup – AreYouInterested? – used A/B testing on its Facebook app and generated 100,000 users in just one day.

In the student domain, A/B testing gives you the ability to test assumptions about the students you’re wanting to engage with. You can use this knowledge to create content that resonates with them. The first step to implementing A/B testing is deciding on what to test, and setting reasonable KPIs, with analytics allowing you to understand whether you’ve achieved your goals.

A good platform to give A/B testing a go is email marketing. You can learn what content was more successful with your audience by creating two different versions of a recruitment email. Test one or two elements in your email, try different subject lines, imagery or content in each. The EDM with the higher user engagement is going to tell you a lot about what your potential new students are really looking for. By measuring your open-rates, and more importantly your click-through rates and lead conversions, you’re able to take this knowledge and use it to drive the style of content you create in the future.

Challenge your audience perceptions through growth hacking
At its core, growth hacking challenges marketers to think differently by implementing tests and challenging assumptions. Similar to A/B testing, growth hacking works by conducting a series of experiments done over a short period of time. To begin growth hacking, you’ll need:

  • Access to data and an understanding of how to work with it
  • An understanding of which experiments to run and the metrics to track
  • Lines of communication and collaboration with other teams
  • Support and buy-in from management.

Many startups use growth hacking to conduct tests that are designed to grow web traffic. For them, it’s about looking for opportunities to grow and developing a marketing strategy with growth at its core. By brainstorming, creating experiments, and using data to drive decisions, growth hackers break down silo mentalities and resistance to information sharing.

Many education providers have large teams spread out across multiple divisions and locations, but growing student numbers is vital for each and every employee. The adoption of growth hacking has the potential to challenge teams to integrate more effectively; creating communication and collaboration across the whole organisation.

Hire a dedicated growth manager
It’s relatively straightforward to implement a on-off growth focused project, but ensuring long term growth across a business is not so easy. The best way to maintain momentum is by having a dedicated growth manager on your team. If you’re not able to hire for such a position, why not look to an existing team member to be your growth leader? The best growth managers are highly creative, strong influencers – able to rally a cross-functional team around a common goal – and understand how to design experiments and interpret, manipulate and visualise their results.

After Facebook’s growth team learned that new user retention was tied to its community being able to find and connect with friends, it implemented features that allowed such users to swiftly connect with friends already using the service. Learning what your users want and having a team ready to make changes accordingly is crucial to your business’ success.

In a high-tech world where international students are more connected than ever, student recruiters have plenty of learnings to draw from the experiences of tech startups adopting growth hacking techniques. By using data, understanding analytics and implementing a growth mindset, education providers are poised to benefit in the international student recruitment game.

Kirsty Jackson is Cohort Go’s chief marketing officer. She is responsible for carrying out the company’s vision by creating global marketing and communication strategies that drive growth and nurture the customer experience of international students.

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