Make It Yours: How Personalization is Paving the Way for Better Student Engagement

Personalization is critical for engagement on the web. For a modern higher ed institution to present the same information to each prospective student is a disservice to itself. It’s limiting what people can see, and in turn, limiting the amount of time and traffic on the site. This often results in fewer enrollments and less revenue for the school.   

Today’s students want to feel like they’re being talked to directly, not presented with the same information that everyone else is. That connection can be the defining factor in a student’s enrollment decision.  

Stephanie Geyer, the Director of Digital Strategy and Innovation at the University of Montana, sits down with Illumination  host Amrit Ahluwalia to chat about digital marketing personalization in a postsecondary environment and share advice for marketing professionals whose work may be overlooked. 

So how can postsecondary institutions effectively market their content to prospective students in an engaging way?   

Geyer believes the answer is to personalize the experience. Just as a campus tour should be a personal experience, including back-and-forth discussions with the guide — about which students are in what programs and the best spots on campus to get away from the crowds, a visit to the school’s website should not be all that different.  

Previously, Geyer worked as one of the first marketing professionals at Wilkes University. She now works in a content strategy role at UM, fully engulfed in the personalization world.  

 “I’ve been preaching for 31 years that in higher ed web development, you have to spend a lot of time in architecture in the context of your market personas,” Geyer says. “We really have to dig in there and understand the pathways they expect to find, and the pathways that they’ll take once you present them with the right link names and the right prompts.” 

Thinking like the customer—or the student or their family members—lets marketers and designers better understand what information needs to be front and center. Being in the mindset of someone with specific questions enables the designers to present the right answers. 

It’s possible, however, that this work goes unnoticed.  

Website building and exceptional marketing will be notice by some, but not all. There is a process, however, to help marketers ensure their content is seen by both customers and higher ups alike.  

“Focus on key performance indicators, analysis and performance on a few levels,” Geyer says. “One, how are your programs performing to get students into the careers they want? How are stackable credentials working to get a recent graduate into the next phase of their career, and measure the value, results and connectivity of your work?” 

Going beyond internal marketing, the University of Montana was featured on an episode of The College Tour, a series that showcases some of the biggest, best and most beautiful campuses across the United States.   

Building on the episode, UM also launched a virtual tour of their campus for prospective students from around the country, and the world, to get a feel for what life on campus is like if they’re unable to book an in-person tour.  

“This virtual tour is so adaptable and measurable,” Geyer says. “It’s going to grow with us for years to come. I’m able to pluck those individual segments from the college tour show and put them right into the virtual tour. Now, I don’t have to depend on someone seeing The College Tour episode, either on our website or Amazon Prime. If they do a virtual tour, they’re getting that introduction to our school.” 

Both the show episode and the virtual tour are critical for building engagement to push students toward enrollment. Having the two work in tandem to drive that idea further for students works like magic, Geyer says.   

Geyer is part of the organizing committee for the eduWeb Conference in Philadelphia this July, an opportunity she says she has been given a ton of freedom to tear the mold apart and make it her own, and share her ideas on how schools can better their marketing and personalization process.  

 “I’ve spoken at this event for probably 15 years, and even just with the last few years being virtual, I saw a mixed bag in terms of how they worked in terms of sponsors, people, and operations,” Geyer says. “I am delighted to have a real conversation about my own experience with professional development. When I started with Wilkes University, I was sent to AMA Higher Ed Symposium, which was transformational and foundational for my career.” 

By speaking at the conference, Geyer can provide invaluable insight into what makes personalized marketing an integral part of the enrollment process, and how to further develop a content strategy built around personalization. 

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Last updated: March 4, 2022


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