Aim, steady, fire – how do potential postgrads want to be targeted?

Posted: 11 Jun 2019 - 09:49
How do postgrads want to be targeted
Are they waiting for information, or seeking it out themselves? Which channels are seen as the most valuable? Do postgrads look further into what they get sent? Is any of it worth it?

Students are a difficult demographic to reach. Often registered to multiple addresses, coming from every socio-economic group, from all over the world, with distinct and different interests. But at least the majority of undergraduates share an age group.

Postgraduates are another ball game entirely.

While it’s true that the most populous group are aged 21 – 24, those aged 25 – 29 and 30 – 39 are not far behind. And combined, they form a huge majority. Taking into consideration their vast societal differences, the postgraduate group clearly needs its own game plan.

Ready and waiting

So, advertising budgets aren’t what they used to be, and the GDPR has had its own impact on databases.

But the good news for marketing departments is that postgraduates are relatively open books. Of those we spoke to during our research, almost half were actively signed up to receive information about courses, with 53% of them rating the updates as useful in their search. Those looking for research courses, rather than taught degrees, were more likely to sign up, on the whole.

Students from both course types, overwhelmingly, preferred email as the channel for updates, either as alerts (67% used this method), or digital newsletters (52%). 

Universities are the go-to when signing up for updates, of course. Primarily through their websites, but also in person, at open days. UCAS comes in a close second, as the most popular non-university resource, followed by other course search engines. And it’s the university-sent updates that prove the most useful – particularly for those students looking for taught degrees. 

When it came to following up, 90% of students who received these opportunities looked into them. A healthy number, and one that would easily justify email marketing spend. But only 37% of students indicated that their final choice was influenced by this research. 

With more than 500,000 students at postgraduate level each year, this equates to 270,000 registering for updates, 220,000 following them up, and 80,000 being influenced in their final choice. 

How else?

A surprising finding, perhaps, is that online resources are more important to older students. Conventional stereotypes tell us the opposite, but findings from show a 13% point difference between how the youngest and oldest searchers view the importance of online resources. Almost a third of those over 30 rate online resources, whilst just 16% of those in their early 20s agree.

More specifically, prospective postgraduate students see Facebook and LinkedIn as the most useful social media platforms to find opportunities for study. LinkedIn is almost non-existent in traditional undergraduate marketing strategy, but is the most popular choice for students over 30. 

But offline methods are also becoming increasingly more important. The same report found that two thirds of prospective students rate online and offline resources as equally useful – a statistic made possible by a slight annual drop in favour for online, and a slight rise in favour for offline. 

This reinforces the need for a multi-channel marketing approach to postgraduate recruitment, and refers back to the one fifth of students who told us they sign up to receive opportunities at open days, in person. Just like the good old days.
UCAS research 2019: Mapping out postgraduate decision-making

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