We spend all our time with them. We teach them, we answer their questions, we help them with their visas, we book them from exams, we talk to their parents – you’d think we would know what a student looks like. It turns out that we don’t. Start student profiling to discover your future customers.
Well, it turns out that we have some idea of what they look like. But that is our idea of what they look like. When asked to describe them accurately, we sound like a shaky witness to a crime scene. Yet, every day we collect loads of information that should tell us what our student profiling really looks like.
– Getting to know you – building a basic student profile
– Get yourself a student avatar – a what?
– Where you should start making a profile
– What’s important in a profile
– What did I learn – what student profiling revealed about my students
Why do I need to bother working out what a student profile looks like? Simple – you don’t want to waste your resources – time, money or human. You want to take the guess work out of knowing what a customer looks like so that you can accurately target your future customers.
You can read a lot about the use of Avatars in marketing. What is an avatar? Well, it’s not blue. I can tell you that much for free. In marketing speak an avatar is a representation of your customer. They are also referred to as Buyer Personas. In essence they are an idealised descriptor of your customer or customers. If you want to read up more about the use of avatars, then Viral Solutions have a good blog post about it – Viral Solutions – the Customer Avatar
Before the Avatar
As you will see when you start working on a student avatar, there are some basic building blocks to get in place. You need those blocks there before you even start thinking about pain points and values. Those blocks come from the information you have to hand right now.
Creating the blocks to build on
At UK College of English (UKCE) we have two main data sources that we can draw on for student profiling: our booking system and our CRM (customer relationship management) software. The booking system is a much richer source of data than our CRM. The very process of enrolling people onto programmes throws up a whole host of information. Start looking in your booking system first.
It is not really a question of what I am looking for, but more, “What do I have?”. That is the easiest place to start. You will find the collation of the data very interesting because it can challenge your assumptions. Before you start digging try and visualise what a student looks like and then make comparisons to the data you uncover.
Before we started profiling, we knew we had an idea in our heads about the ‘typical’ student, but as you will see that soon gets finessed and enriched through data.
Where do I start?
As I noted above, you start with what you have got. When I started the last round of student profiling at UKCE I wanted to really get a picture of the actual customer.
As a school we receive approximately 60% of our students direct and 40% through agents. My first jumping off point then was to isolate the direct student data. Remember I am building a model for my recruitment purposes. I am trying to find the ‘fit’.
Once you have found your source you can then ask yourself “What do I know about those customers?”
There are some pretty obvious features that every service organisation can pull through into their student profiling workbooks. The two most obvious being sex and age. For a school pulling through their first language and or nationality can also be very interesting. This is probably less so for agencies operating in one market.
As noted above, UKCE has a high percentage of direct students but most of those are recruited locally inside the UK. Understanding features like passport nationality and/or first language are important to us.
As it is for agents, so it is for us at UKCE, we also need to understand exactly where those students are coming from – down the to the level of post code. We can talk about our local market, and most schools would, and they would mean their city, but where in their city?? For agents this could be targeting by post-code and wealth demographic (you can get that data from the latest census)
While you are trawling through your customers’ details you also need to be tying that simple biographical detail into the products that they purchased. Do women in a certain age range buy longer or shorter courses (UKCE Short Courses) Do men aged under 25 tend to buy summer courses? The data you hold will tell you so much more about your customers than you thought you ever knew.
What did you find out?
Me? Oh, quite a lot more than I thought I knew. My pre-research image of a student was fairly simplistic. I thought they were in their mid-twenties, and that there wasn’t much difference, male or female. Let’s have a look at some of that data.
Based on a sample size of just under 1,000 students we started to find out some really interesting things. Let’s look at sex:
– Overall, the ratio of women buying courses to men was just over 1.5
– However, in some nationality groups there was parity between the sexes – notably Turkish, Italian and Brazilian
– Whereas Russian, Spanish and Colombian tipped so much more heavily in favour of women purchasing courses
When we move on to look at age, we found that:
– 74% of Direct bookings fell within the age range of 19 to 35,
– 31 % of female bookings were aged between 22 and 26
– 35% of male bookings fell into the 23 to 28 age range
A really interesting revelation came when we looked at the level and the sex difference. Sorry to say this, chaps but it is women who test into higher levels on purchasing.
– At levels B2 and C1 women outnumbered men on a ratio of 2.67 to 1 – women are almost three times more likely to be buying higher level courses than men.
At the point of purchasing, we also noted from the statistics that:
– Women booked more shorter courses
– Extended more often than men
Of course, it is not clear if that is a gender issue or a level issue, but it is certainly and issue to consider when you are designing your re-enrolment campaigns
Finally, we moved on to look at the spend value both by age and sex. Interestingly, there seemed to be little difference in the spend value when you took sex as the determinant. What was crucial though was age.
The age bracket, across both sexes, of 17 to 22 was by far the most consistently highest spending band. On average this band spent nearly 40% more on courses than the average. Of course, this may be because of the bank of mum and dad, but still worth considering in your marketing plan.
Not to do down my fellows ‘silver agers’ but it was those in their 50s who were tightest – spending 70% of the average.
Where from here?
What was apparent to me was that this was only the beginning of my journey in truly profiling my students. For example, I have all this great data on my actual students, but I can’t use that to ‘fit’ potential students, because I don’t capture simple data like age and sex when I collect leads. That is a wasted opportunity that I now am fixing.
I also didn’t structure my forms or campaigns to hook people into giving me more of their data while they are leads.
– Run campaigns to get people to share their birth dates or gender
– Run simple language tests to ascertain their levels
Then you can get into the more subtle understandings of likes/dislikes, pains and pleasures.
Profiling your actual students so that you target potential students is not a big job, but it is an important one. You’ve got the data already, don’t let it go to waste.