Best Practice and Market Segmentation Advice for School and College Alumni Websites in 2019

Most of us are aware that the internet has made it easier to keep in touch with old friends from school and college nowadays. So many of us have been delighted at the opportunity to join other alumni from our school days and find out what they are up to and how their lives have turned out. It’s also become much easier to find people from our past that we’ve lost touch with over the years due to the vagaries of lifestyles that have seen us moving away from the area where we grew up, finding our fortunes in far-off places that once meant leaving behind our old lives. The internet is now connecting all of those people in a way that was not possible in times gone by and schools and colleges can take advantage of this to promote their educational establishment as a seat of learning to be proud of.

Schools and colleges nowadays have websites that can be used by parents and pupils alike. School announcements can be easily made online, ensuring that parents have the information they need about opening times, events, notices and news from school. Homework notes are often available online, busy parents can keep up to date with what’s going on at their children’s schools and have more access than ever before when it comes to staying aware of what’s going in in the lives of their kids.

Alumni websites are often created and maintained by the schools and colleges themselves as it provides them with a pool of past pupils to whom they can turn when planning fundraising activities that are vital to the success of the school or college.

Alumni from schools and colleges represent a ready-made army of brand advocates who are often the most loyal and generous of supporters to their old alma mater. Alumni often generate invaluable word-of-mouth marketing within their social and professional networks, raising the profile of the educational establishment and generating interest from future parents and pupils.

Alumni may also act as effective role models for current students and are often in a position to offer practical support to students who are starting their careers. Alumni take with them knowledge of your establishment to their hometowns and countries as they conduct their professional and social lives, so your relationship with them when they leave campus is vital. Maintaining communication channels with them enables you to keep them informed of news and developments so that they can share your achievements and keep them as part of your institution’s future, not just part of its past.

Regular newsletters, reunion events, open days and other social get-togethers are now much easier to plan than ever before. Finding and reaching the right people to ensure that these events are well attended and provide an enjoyable and interesting experience is essential for success. This will help to attract even more ex-pupils to register on the alumni website, increasing the number of potential supporters in an organic manner and making your alumni group a powerful force that will benefit your school or college in the future.

Supporting your alumni in their professional and personal lives through activities like the facilitation of social and professional networks, preferential access to on-campus events and facilities and negotiated benefits with third party suppliers is a recipe for success, so making sure your alumni website offers a great user experience is essential for your establishment both now and in the future.

Your alumni website will be the site visitor’s first impression of your alumni community, so it should act as an introduction to your community and the benefits that they will enjoy by registering with the group. The homepage should feature an attractive header and logo, with the text search engine optimised to make it easy for alumni to find you easily.

Navigation should be easy and intuitive, with subpages featured at the top of the page as links or drop-down menus. The website should have a “clean” appearance with text kept to between 200 and 500 words, interspersed with white space and professional quality images.

Make sure that there are several options for a visitor to contact you with inquiries, including a Contact Form or Registration Form that make it easy to join your organisation. The footer on the homepage should contain basic information such as a Privacy Policy or Terms & Conditions.
Integrating analytics into your site (whether through a third party analytics service or installed on your own server) will allow you to see where your visitors come from and how much time they spend on your website.

Using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) will enable you to use the data you collect from communication channels (such as your website, email, telephone and social media channels) and provide you with more information on your target audience so that you can cater for their specific requirements.

When it comes to market segmentation best practice, these are some effective activities that can be used:

1. Set Out – your goals and objectives so that your digital marketing activities and segmentation procedures are more likely to achieve a successful outcome.
2. Determine – the specific objectives of your marketing activities so that you can establish milestones to measure the success of your outreach campaigns.
3. Identify Your Target Audience – this is the group of ex-pupils who attended your institution and are likely to become great ambassadors for your school or college.
4. Understand – the issues that are important to your target audience so that you can develop a realistic view of any opportunities that exist within the group.
5. Segmentation – this involves using data analysis combined with intuition to deliver an effective outreach strategy. The target segment will be a group of ex-pupils who have similar attributes in terms of their desire and ability to register with your community.
6. Don’t Be Afraid – of developing clearly defined target segments and focus on one single or a select few of these.
7. Vital Information – on your target audience can be gathered using your website’s Analytics. Location, age, income and current profession, etc., can all be used to tailor your activities towards what your audience is looking for.
8. Prioritise Efforts – by focusing on a few key characteristics of your ideal target ex-pupil and concentrate on these to deliver an effective and accurate market-style recruitment campaign for your alumni community.
9. Insights – should be used to gain an effective understanding of the issues that currently drive your target audience and develop realistic projections of any fundraising opportunities that exist within any particular target segment.
10. Monitor Your Successes – to determine whether additional details, new segments or the adjustment of existing segments will be necessary to achieve your goals.
11. Identify – current and future growth opportunities within your target audience using the information you gather.
12. Use – Models and tools to prioritise your resources and outreach efforts, especially where these are limited.
13. Consider – your segmentation efforts as an archery target with the bullseye being the perfect ex-pupil. The next ring will contain ex-pupils who have similar needs and inclinations as your bullseye group, whilst the outer ring will contain those who are actively looking online for your alumni association.
14. Gather Information – on the size of your bullseye segment and on the size of the other rings in your target to ensure that you offer sufficient outreach activity to meet your targets.
15. Establish – a consistent ex-pupil profile data collection and management process. Use this information to support the ongoing definition and refinement of target segment profiles to achieve an increase in registrations.
16. Qualification Attributes – from potential registrants in the outer rings can be used to make sure that their needs are similar to the requirements of ex-pupils in the target segment.
17. Do Not – waste time and resources in supporting those who are not ex-pupils and are therefore not in your target segment.
18. Understand – that as you move further away from the bullseye, you should avoid investing in activity to attract opportunities that are not worth pursuing.
19. Make Sure – that your outreach efforts towards groups in the outer ring do not negatively impact your ability to focus on the bullseye segment.
20. Clear Segmentation Criteria – will be necessary to prioritise leads and increase registrations.
21. Create – unified ex-pupil data profiles that can be used to enhance the website visitor journey and increase registrations in the long term.
22. Expand – your outreach efforts into other segments by harnessing the information and guidance you gather from the archery target as your community increases in numbers.
23. Be Aware – that you may need to use multiple target segments right from the start if your target segment is large. For example, if you’re covering an international community, your geographies may need slightly different strategies due to regional compliance or another regional requirement.
24. Keep it Simple – if you do need multiple segments, try to keep them similar and consistent to avoid being pulled in several different directions at the same time.
25. Avoid – establishing too many targets as this is likely to negatively impact your ability to focus properly on how advertising resources are allocated.
26. Use this Approach – to optimise your outreach and advertising activity and concentrate on an existing target segmentation strategy. Take a similar approach when expanding your activity in future.
27. Optimise the Website Experience – by using a combination of developing personas and website journey mapping to personalise the content for your target audience and deliver a great website visitor experience.
28. Targeted Personalised Strategies – will allow you to cut through content overload and stand out against the crowd. Develop a holistic understanding of your alumni personas so that you can deliver content that is uniquely tailored to appeal to them.
29. Commercial Marketing Strategies – can be adapted to be used by alumni associations seeking to increase the size of their community of ex-pupils.
30. Don’t Miss out on Opportunities – by limiting your outreach to a particular location or demographic. As an educational establishment, you may be surprised to find that ex-pupils can be found in all parts of the world and employed across a wide range of industries.

Alumni websites are not commercial entities as such, but in order to increase the overall size of the community, will need to adapt and use some commercial marketing strategies to reach a larger number of ex-pupils. It’s also the case that many educational establishments need to attract funding for extra-curricular activities, new equipment and new educational programmes.

Ex-pupils are often a valuable source for schools and colleges, providing a group of people from all walks of life, many of whom would be only too happy to help their old school or college that put them on the road to success. Some will prove a valuable source of funding, others may want to participate in other ways, for instance volunteering their time and expertise to coach and mentor current pupils as they approach adulthood.

Others may not have the financial resources or opportunity to offer specific help in these ways but would be happy to act as ambassadors for their old school or college, promoting it as a centre of learning to prospective pupils and their parents in different parts of the world. This can be considered a great source of “free” marketing for the institution.

Marketing is considered a job in and of itself and, as an educational professional, your expertise is in education and learning, rather than promotion. If you don’t have the time or marketing expertise to create an effective outreach campaign based on the advice we’ve given (and don’t want to hire a full time marketing professional to do it for you), why not get in touch and let the marketing experts at Emarkable create the digital outreach plan that will help grow your alumni community?

Richard Coen

Richard Coen

With over 17 years experience in Digital Marketing, 25 years in sales and 22 years business development, Richard assists companies develop key growth strategies on a local or international basis.

He can assist marketers achieve balance in their approach to key areas affected by the growth in digital marketing.

Richard Coen