Macro-Personalization: Why Personalizing The Student Journey Has Never Been Easier

I was in a conference breakout session a few weeks ago, and heard a term from a speaker that I had never heard before: Micro-Personalization. 

As someone who thinks a lot about personalization in marketing, I was intrigued. 

The speaker’s experience was that personalization was so challenging, that at scale it is almost impossible. But if you could find a way, even the smallest attempts at personalization made huge strides in building relationships with families. 

She suggested that small gestures–flowers, hand-written notes, information on specific teachers or clubs, etc.– were the key to nudging families into long-term relationships with schools.

I listened intently, but it took everything I had to not raise my hand and let her know that we’re living in a new world, where large-scale personalization is not only possible–it’s easy; and that every interaction with a student or parent can feel like a chapter in one long hand-written note. 

We’re living in a world, not of Micro-Personalization, but of Macro-Personalization.

Why K-12 Schools Understand Personalization

K-12 schools have deep personal relationships with their students and the families they serve. The initial connections they make affect who fills their classrooms for entire generations, so they’re experts at cementing those relationships in the early stages.

Part of that means building a comprehensive outreach and orientation experience, complete with one-on-one campus tours and meetings with high-level personnel. But getting families to this face-to-face stage of the relationship can be a challenge, especially when it comes to making those early interactions personal. That being said, with Macro-Personalization, building relationships has never been easier.

Personalizing Your Website Experience

Schools with a wide range of students–like the average K-12 school–struggle to create websites that lead families easily toward the information they’re looking for. With under 2 minutes to create a connection before visitors bounce off a site, many prospective families and students are lost before they’ve even really started learning about a school. Even worse, is when a family finds what they’re looking for, but are not given the pathway to make a move, interact or engage conveniently. 

Think of your local Apple store; a beautiful facade, glass walls, an inviting, knowledgeable and expert team inside, but NO DOORS to get in. You’re likely just like your peers, all proclaiming “we’re re-doing our website”.  The colors, fonts, design and layout all are critical to the brand experience, but meeting a family in the moment they’re in, the moment they land on your digital doorstep reigns supreme.  Tailoring the web experience to EACH family’s needs is absolutely critical to the family’s experience.  

There are a few ways to do this:

Personalization tools are efficient, easy to implement, and can turn your website into a tailored content experience for each student and family. AI-powered tools ask families what they want to know, then draw from a website’s existing content to provide clear, on-the-spot answers to their questions. These easy-to-implement tools can boost lead capture 300%-500%, and drive families to take meaningful actions, like attending open houses or scheduling campus tours.

Here’s what this kind of interaction can look like on a K12 school’s website:

Halda dynamic landing page

Families respond to the prompts in these interactive tools, then they are served with in-the-moment tailored content based on these responses. It’s a symbiotic, efficient way to take a tired, unfulfilling web experience and reshape it for your potential students. And you can even try out these kinds of tools here.

Another, more complex intensive personalization option is to create adaptable web pages, where page designs and content change based on certain triggers. In these systems, schools essentially build webpages for different student populations, like high school, elementary school, kindergarten, even Pre-K. Then families, through measures like UTM tagging and click triggers, are served the web pages that fit them best. This works well if schools can pull it off, but there are a few issues that can complicate the delivery process:

  1. Highly complex system to set up
  2. Difficult to create and update enough content to build out
  3. Heavy lift when it comes to content updates 

It’s a big step that requires a fairly sizable reconfiguration of your current systems, but some schools do find that the personalization it provides can be worth it.

Personalizing Web Content that Converts

These personalization tools can only convert potential students to their fullest potential if you have content that converts; and video content consistently converts at a higher rate than everything else.

The problem is that even generic videos are usually hard to produce, so how on earth are you supposed to create personalized ones at scale?

Fortunately, a few relatively affordable companies are finding ways to help. How this usually works is that you, or the company you’re working with, record video segments that address specific topics families might be interested in. Then, when families interact with certain content on your website, that interaction triggers the video platform to mash-up those segments into a complete piece of content tailored to that student. 

These tools build videos that address each aspect of a student’s interests, so you aren’t creating bespoke content for that student who, for example, wants to be an engineer, play lacrosse, and try out for the school musical.

And the best part is that you can embed these videos within personalization tools and send over email to create the most tailored experience possible for each student.

When Macro-Personalization Goes Old School

Those nice touches–the postcards, the flowers, the school t-shirts–are still powerful when it comes to connecting with students and families. People will always think it’s awesome when you put a cool piece of swag in their hands.

Of course every school is different when it comes to budget and student population, so there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for that perfect swag experience. There are, however, a few fundamentals you can focus on:

  1. Every Second Counts: Don’t give families time to wonder if you felt as connected to them as they did to you. Send them something shortly after they start interacting to cement the relationship.
  2. Have a Range of Items on Hand: Buying a solid array of different things in bulk, from hoodies to umbrellas to branded blue-light glasses, gives you the flexibility to have promotional options that appeal to each family (or even family member). Also, you’ll save money in the long run.
  3. Have Swag Triggers: Whether it’s the day after a campus tour, after they’ve applied, or been accepted, instilling a consistent cadence to your promotional outreach is key to taking advantage of big moments and making sure no one falls through the cracks.

I’ve been in the free stuff game a long time, but these fundamentals have always helped me connect with students. This tried and true personalization strategy combines with innovative technology tools to nurture a connection at every stage of the process. And by the time students enroll, you’ll find that all those tiny personal touches add up to a deep appreciation for how you build relationships.

About the author 

Bentley Folkman

Bentley Folkman has spent nearly 10 years in education marketing finding the most innovative ways to connect with students. He currently works as the Student Experience Manager at Halda, Inc., a company that personalizes the website experience for students and families. He spends his days researching how students are researching schools, what they’re looking for, and how to give them the best experience.

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