Appendix B
Episode 018 -

Not today, Summer Melt

Appendix B Episode 18, text is present that reads, "Not today, Summer Melt"

How can Higher Ed marketers deal more effectively with summer melt? It starts by maintaining some continuity in content strategy during the summer months. Marketing materials that incoming students are receiving should be similar in tone to what they’ve been used to. If we treat the new student experience as “onboarding,” we can create a strong foundation for the incoming class.
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Carl Gratiot:
From Bravery Media, this is Appendix B. On this week’s episode, we’re gonna tell you more, tell you more, tell you about summer melt, tell you more, tell you more about the tactics that help, sorry about that. And now here are your hosts, Kristin Van Dorn and Joel Goodman.

Joel Goodman:
Kristin, it’s summertime in Higher Education.

Most places at least, I’m pretty sure. The majority of commencements have already happened and you know, everyone likes to think that summertime in Higher Ed, on college campuses are, it’s just a quiet time where you can just relax and spend, you know, two and a half to three months doing very little until students get back.

But that is not the case.

Kristin Van Dorn:
Are you sure? I’m not doing anything. LOL.

Joel Goodman:
I have worked on campuses before and, this is the time of year where, especially in admissions offices, they’re very concerned about summer melt and making sure that the students that have been accepted for the next term stick around through those quiet months after high school graduation, before college starts up, you know, when they’re getting their summer jobs or going off to summer camp, or you know, whatever it is, that they stick around, that they complete all the things they need to do in order to become full fledged, matriculated students at your institution.

And there are a lot of different ways to do that. I mean, melt for a lot of institutions, is extremely real. Some lose a lot of the students that have been accepted, and there are a lot of different tactics out there and at bravery, we’ve done some work in the past with institutions to try and prevent melt.

I have some very strong opinions about great strategies and tactics to take within, within that, and in my mind, this is basically when onboarding starts. Onboarding doesn’t start at orientation. Onboarding starts during that summer melt period when you’re trying to not melt anything. And if you can do the onboarding well and keep them engaged, just like with employees, just, just like when, you know, a big corporation is hiring on a new class of employees, like you want to keep them engaged during that onboarding.

Same thing in Higher Ed, you want them to feel an affinity, to feel like what they’ve done is making a difference, and to start building a bit more on top of that brand promise that attracted them in in the first place. To make sure that they feel connected to your institution.

And also a little bit feel like they haven’t, feel like if they, if they went to another school that they were also accepted to, they would’ve wasted a whole bunch of time and a whole bunch of effort filling out your forms and engaging with your content and make sure that they don’t wanna do that.

What do you think?

Kristin Van Dorn:
Yeah, so I think if you look at the traditional college student, their high school experience leads to applying for college applications, and they might not think that closely about what it is they want for their college career till it’s right on top of them. You know, they’re just going through the motions of completing assignments and going through the rigamarole of setting up the next year, but they haven’t transitioned mentally or emotionally to what that’s actually gonna be like in person in practice.

And so part of that summer melt, anti-melt strategy is to help them sort of get onboarded into what it’s gonna be like for them, get them through some necessary processes before they get to campus. To help them feel ready, but also meet that sort of intellectual and emotional need of now they’re going through this big life change.

Not to mention, I do also wanna say that the summer after your senior year of high school, or the summer before you go to college tends to be really stuffed, jam-packed with anxiety, but also a lot of activity. So like you said, a lot of students have summer jobs. A lot of them have, this pressure to make special memories with their friends before they all disperse into opposite directions.

And I think when you put all those things together, the idea about engagement, when you have your future students right there, that are probably not checking their email or not interested in engaging. How do you get them to feel that enthusiasm and excitement for what’s about to happen while they’re still trying to manage that weird tense part of life where there’s a lot of pressure on them to have fun, to make memories, and to feel fulfilled?

Joel Goodman:
A lot of times on, on college campuses, we forget that students that are coming in have no idea about our structures. They have no idea about where offices are or who they’re supposed to talk to or why, or what even, you know, a records office is or what it means. And finding ways to ease the friction that’s inevitably gonna happen when they come on campus to give them more information, to draw them in.

You know, even, even with more engaging content, it’s not, you know, you don’t wanna be dry and and dull and it isn’t just like, here’s a bunch of how-to stuff. But you do want to be able to start to form some sort of cultural bond with the institution through that communication. It’s more than, you know, a welcome from the dean of the school or college that they might be going into.

It’s more than here’s how to pay your deposit. You know, like you, you need to have, and, and it’s more than just the marketing videos that you have online, you know, being reposted to your email or your social or whatever, there’s gotta be some intention behind creating content that answers the fears, answers the questions that makes incoming students feel more secure and more confident in the move that they’re making and the more confident they feel it, you know, attached to your institution.

The more confidence it’s attached to your institution, the easier it’s gonna be for them to not melt away. The easier it is for them to make that transition into your school in particular versus a competitor they may have gotten accepted to.

Carl Gratiot:
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Kristin Van Dorn:
Yeah. I think so often in digital marketing strategy, we think about the end result as getting them accepted. And really the end result is getting them on campus. So there’s a whole three to four months of marketing that needs to take place. From the time that they hear that they’re accepted and they say, yes, I’m coming to you, to the time you get them into the door, and that process has to match tonally.

Like what you’ve been saying all along for there to be that brand trust. And so if you go right into like some really knotty and like difficult to understand processes, you are going to scare a lot of your students that are incoming, you’re going to freak 'em out because they have been used to your friendly brand that’s been escorting them through the process of discovering your institution and then applying to your institution, and then right away you hit them with a bunch of things like, these are the processes that you need to complete before you can arrive on campus to feel like you are ready to go.

If that changes in voice and tone, if that changes in process, like just what they’ve grown accustomed to, they’re gonna feel alienated and the goodwill that you built up with them is going to dissipate.

So what you want to do is actually focus a lot of the content strategy that you’ve already had to get them to the point where they wanna apply and then make sure that that transition period lasts through the entire summer through that whole anti-melt cycle. Because if you just throw them a bunch of like, here’s your immunization form, here’s your placement exam, here are the steps you need to take to pay your housing deposit, but you don’t give them the kind of content that they’ve come to expect. Student stories, access, right to support systems, or even just a, we’re really excited that you’re coming and we can’t wait to see you, they’re gonna feel like something’s changed and they’re not gonna trust you.

Joel Goodman:
Yeah, and I think it underscores a disconnect that we see on institutional campuses a lot. There’s a breaking point when it comes to that onboarding period, right? It’s marketing has handled everything up to the application process, and then admissions does a little bit, but as soon as it comes to that, getting onto campus, that lead up to orientation and orientation is taken over by student affairs, which isn’t necessarily bad, but your student affairs organization needs to have strong connections with your marketing organization in order to make sure that that messaging, that that level of content is, is continuous. It has continuity. Right? And, you know, it’s, I mean this is, it’s all systemic because we could, we could talk for hours probably about how like marketing needs a stronger role on campus as well as in front of campus,

And how it makes sense for CMO to be an actual cabinet level position, like needs to not be underneath, you know, an admissions or enrollment marketer, or enrollment management. It shouldn’t be under advancement, you know, that sort of thing. But this is another one of those data points that kind of indicates where that often happens if you have better communication and better ties between the way that more internal facing organizations talk, the messaging they use, if your marketing and brand promise is actually deeper than just the front end, marketing of the institution, that makes it a lot easier. But if not, then marketing needs to have a hand in this onboarding process. And a lot of times that’s not the case.

A lot of times, an accepted student will hit something, hit a portal, you know, be accepted, they’ll hit whatever CRM, you know, kind of junk portal exists within your CRM and it’s just a list of things. And that’s because marketing stepped aside and it’s only focused on the student affairs, who in a lot of cases don’t have the marketing education or, or the staffing to, to do the sort of, content marketing that actually does need to happen to, to make these things really stick.

Carl Gratiot:
Thank you so much for listening to Appendix B. If you enjoy the show, please let us know about it. You can do that on LinkedIn. You can do it by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or you can just reach out. We would love to hear from you. Thank you, and we will talk to you next week. Bye bye.