How to Plan Perfect Promotional Postcards for Prospective Students

In the world of higher education, recruiting and admissions season never stops. One application deadline simply means the start of connecting with the next class of incoming students. As students get more technologically savvy, the challenges of connecting with that audience grow each year.

One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is the ability to connect with these students through traditional means, like direct mail. 

A recent study indicated that Americans between the ages of 18 and 37 prefer receiving direct mail over email. In that study, this audience reported reviewing 67% of their direct mail pieces, while a stunning 83% prefer direct mail over telemarketing. And while the lower end of that age range is slightly older than the typical target market for colleges and universities, it’s a close enough barometer to indicate that direct mail still plays a key role in attracting prospective students.

4 Key Elements to Include in Your Postcard

When planning a promotional mailing for prospective students, there are several key concepts that your piece should include.

  1. Clearly identify the school sending the piece. Students considering colleges receive mailings from dozens, if not hundreds, of schools around the country. They may be familiar with some that are nearby or with some large state institutions, but many smaller schools or distant colleges may be completely unknown to a student. Being consistent with branding elements such as logos and colors can go a long way toward building a level of recognition of the institution in the minds of the prospect.
  2. Adapt your pieces for different stages in the prospect’s recruiting cycle. Once you’ve introduced the school to the prospect, move on to other aspects of the school that might be of interest. 
  3. If possible, personalize the piece. Simply sticking a mailing label with a prospective student’s name and address isn’t enough to truly make an impression. As a student expresses interest in your institution, it’s important to express a mutual level of interest in their candidacy. 
  4. Understand what makes your school unique. Consider conducting an alumni survey to understand what your former students think about the school and how they connect with it to understand the prime selling points of the college. If your alumni find a greater connection to their individual field of study over the university at large, focus your recruitment efforts on selling those individual departments as well.

Understand the Mechanics of Your Mailing

As with any marketing campaign, it’s important to use some creativity and uniqueness to ensure your piece gets noticed. Today’s college hopefuls are used to TikTok and Snapchat, platforms known for making a quick point, so you need to make an immediate impact.

Two quick ways to make your mailing stand out are size and shape. What is more likely to get your attention, a standard 3.5” by 5” postcard, or a piece that’s larger than normal? Would you more quickly notice a basic rectangle or some other odd shape? If you have a landmark building on your campus, consider a die-cut piece that outlines the silhouette of that building to intrigue your audience.

Another way your mailing can be different from others is to consider the weight of paper you’re using. Heavier cardstock can get noticed simply because of the differentiation in weight.

The Challenge of COVID

The past few years have presented a challenge to colleges and universities in their recruitment efforts. Restrictions aimed at providing a measure of safety on campus have resulted in images of students with faces obscured by masks.

When considering imagery for your mailing, be mindful of the impression of your institution that you’re creating with photos. Using recent images of masked students may be welcomed by students and parents seeking a safe place, but the emotion conveyed by seeing smiling, happy professors and students may make your campus a more welcoming place to be. Conversely, other members of your audience may be turned off by seeing images that do not convey the “right” level of concern for the issues of the pandemic.

Ultimately, the decision for what imagery makes the most sense for your institution comes down to the school’s choice of emphasis. If you’re creating a mailing on behalf of a department and not sure what types of images to convey, check with the school’s communications office to see what the school’s official stance is. 

Navigate These Waters With a Proven Partner

There’s a lot to consider when reaching out to prospective students, and for many schools, their admissions numbers are riding on the overall success of their recruitment campaigns. That’s why you need to partner with a vendor with a proven track record of executing these kinds of campaigns.
Associates International has worked with a number of colleges and universities of all sizes, helping them connect with prospective students through creative marketing campaigns. With full-service capabilities ranging from design services to specialty printing such as UV coatings, contact us today and we can bring your next postcard mailing to the head of the class.

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