NACCAP 2023: It’s all about trust.

Summary

Earlier in June I had the pleasure of presenting a session at the annual conference of the National Association of Christian Colleges (NACCAP) in Charleston, South Carolina. If you have yet to visit Charleston, I couldn’t recommend it more. The conference was held at Charleston Southern University, a picturesque campus - worth googling. ‍
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Earlier in June I had the pleasure of presenting a session at the annual conference of the National Association of Christian Colleges (NACCAP) in Charleston, South Carolina. If you have yet to visit Charleston, I couldn’t recommend it more. The conference was held at Charleston Southern University, a picturesque campus - worth googling. 

The Session was titled: Gen Z, video, and the future of enrollment comms. After reflecting, what the session was really about, and what the bulk of the post session conversation focused on, was trust.

At Goodkind, we are sending over half a million messages to prospective students around the world every month. So, we know a thing or two about what it takes to acquire focus, maintain engagement, and ultimately execute on communications that increase positive outcomes (ultimately yield, but before it, inquiry form fills, app starts and completions, campus visit attendance and onwards). 

So, what does trust have to do with it? 

Really, trust is all that matters. 

A lightning rod graph I shared at the conference was this one:

It’s now the first slide we show to new customers joining the Goodkind platform. 

This graph measures the trust in institutions from generation to generation. Alarmingly, Gen Z has 40% less trust in institutions than Millennials, 60% less than boomers. What that means for us in enrollment management and enrollment marketing is that the default position of our customers: Gen Z, is one of mistrust. 

A useful analogy to share with your team is that of the trust battery. Imagine the battery icon on your cell phone or computer. When the battery is full, trust is at it’s highest, the opposite when it’s empty. 

When we kick off a new enrollment cycle, or a student enters our database for the first time, that battery is empty or near empty. In prior generations, that battery was half full, or near full. An empty trust battery is low open rates, incomplete form fills, reluctance to meaningfully engage, ‘ghosting’, no/low event attendance, ghost applications and more.

It’s our job, with each and every communication (particularly the early ones), to fill that trust battery. We need to show students that we care before we ask for things. Asks would qualify as requesting a cell phone number, inviting for a visit, completing an application etc. In 2023 what is the best way to show you care (and refill that battery)? I believe there are three guiding principles:

  1. Be personal, individual (no, a merge field is not personal :).
  2. Use the right mediums (video)
  3. Use the right channels (messaging, these days)

To quickly break these down.

  1. Be Personal. I make the merge field joke with some irony. Merge fields are important, and they go a lot further than {first name}. But, using a first name merge field on a blast email to 5,000 students, is not personalization. To us at Goodkind, being personal is much more about context than it is about savvy merge fields. Are you communicating with the student in the context of their actions, activities and engagement with your institution? If so, you are on the path to winning. Delivering a message with their context in mind is personal, and shows you care and are listening. A cheat code to being personal is good timing. If the timing of the communication is good (it will be if it is triggered), you’ve got the first key ingredient of success in place. 
  2. The medium. Gen Z (and frankly, the rest of us non-gen zer’s too if we’re being honest) live on video. It’s crucial we meet students “where they are at” and participate in the present (video), not the past (direct mail, email newsletters and drip campaigns, outbound phone calling etc). Students want to see the real you. You being the recruitment team, the faculty (if possible), the institution. Not the glossy viewbook version, the real version. Showing your face and introducing yourself is the next best alternative to a face-to-face meeting, which is the preferred communication method for Gen Z.
  3. The right channels. I’m sorry to be the one communicating this, but your Youtube channel isn’t going to blow up, and social media, while key, is a branding and marketing function, not an enrollment communications one. Messaging channels are where students hang out digitally. Whatsapp, SMS, WeChat etc. New ones like ‘Discord’ are emerging from the depths of gaming culture to mainstream use every month (200M 17 year olds log-in everyday). 

At Goodkind, we are ultimately building technology that aids our customers (recruitment, student success, financial aid, advancement)  in showing their constituent groups that they care. It sounds simple, but is quite hard to do at a meaningful scale. It happens only with a delicate dance, and balance, of those three central principles … and a bit of elbow grease of course :).

Justin Rotman is the co-founder and CEO of Goodkind.


You can find him on LinkedIn

If you would like a copy of the presentation, please email maria@goodkind.com.

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