Open Days: Drive Attendance and ROI with Marketing Automation

Open Days Drive Attendance and ROI with Marketing Automation
Laura Ortiz-Garrett


Marketing teams pour money and time into running open days – so make the most of your student recruitment strategy using digital marketing and marketing automation to drive the success of your event.

Open days are a crucial part of any higher education recruitment strategy, and there’s a good reason for that: they are a great opportunity for your institution to stand out. Students that attend open days are much likelier to know more about your institution’s products and services and to build a connection with your institution. Plus, they’re much more likely to convert than those that don’t attend open days. 

Clearly, there’s tons to gain from holding open days, but they are hard work and can be a real budget black hole if they aren’t targeting the right students. And we all know that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for any events marketing or for email marketing – in fact, it doesn’t work for ANY digital marketing strategy.

So don’t let your open day events turn into a cattle call! You can use your marketing automation platform to personalise the way you promote your events AND create efficient models with smooth marketing tasks – all the while gathering meaningful data about your leads. 

Here are ten tips on how marketing automation can help you run your open days more efficiently, from first contact to follow up:

Personalise your emails to your prospective students.  Sure, you can start with personalising by adding names to email subject lines, but the possibilities go well beyond that! Consider personalising emails by subject lines, area of interest, and location.  And, speaking of personalisation…

Use lead nurturing campaigns to keep the conversation going and keep your institution’s name and brand top of mind. Send your leads varied, interesting, engaging content through their user journey so they can gradually learn more about your institution and be prepared to buy from you over the course of what is often a months-long (sometimes even years-long) buyer’s journey.

Personalise your web pages according to who is viewing them. You can deploy real-time personalisation to show your potential students content based on their previous interactions with you. This makes the content unique to each lead, addresses their particular questions, and further nurtures them with relevant content.

Set up custom audience campaigns. Segment your audience according to interests or level of readiness and use targeted content to drive engagement. The more engaged your leads are, the likelier they are to undertake the travel and time away to attend an open day!

Run omni channel campaigns to target social media and all your digital channels. Integrate your marketing automation platform to your institution’s social media accounts so students can interact with you about open days (or any other aspect of your institution!) easily and from the platform of your choice. You’ll then be able to track social media data from these channels and funnel it back into your platform to build a better profile of your leads.

It’s not just your prospective students or leads who benefit from marketing automation in the run-up to open days – your team benefits too:

Build a profile of each lead. By having leads complete forms as they progress through your webpage and communications, you’ll be able to gather more information about their interests and likelihood to buy – which enables you to better tailor the content you provide for leads. By the time they arrive at an event, you’ll be able to provide them with a much more in-depth and personally relevant experience of your institution – and you’ll have the basis for a lead scoring system in place, too.

Manage event communication.  Send invitations, reminders, and SMS before and after the event, inviting leads that fall within certain guidelines (location, academic interest, stage in the recruitment process, etc).  You can also follow up with documentation after the event, attaching guides and infographics to your emails after the event and gathering feedback through forms.

Track event participation. Automation platforms do much more than just send emails; they can help you keep a constantly-updated list of attendees and track attendees on the day of the event as they go from one activity to another. As a result, you’ll be able to fill in the gaps for potential students for any activities that they may have missed at an open day event (and thus keep communication and engagement going).

Streamline your digital marketing processes. Set triggers within your platform to move leads along the user journey based on which events they attend at events and on their communication with you so you can provide them with relevant feedback and content as they go through the recruitment process and through the marketing funnel. You can even set up “interesting moments” in your marketing automation platform to alert your team to actions or trigger points at which they can get directly involved in communicating with potential students.

And one more thing to remember: 

Leverage your data to discover your marketing ROI. Email campaigns are just the tip of the iceberg of what your marketing automation software can do for you. By tracking all your marketing efforts in an automation platform, you can quantify and track how much budget goes into each marketing initiative. You’ll be able to track exactly how well each initiative, campaign, and channel worked so you can keep doing more of what works and adjust your attribution model – and strategy! – accordingly. 

Marketing automation can’t provide students with the feel of being on campus and speaking to members of your institution’s community – but it will nurture your leads towards attending your open days and getting that in-person experience while creating a meaningful link with your institution and your brand.